Swan Lake Sparrow, Cemetery Epiphytes

By the time I got up and going this morning, the winds  that came up overnight had significantly died down. Although there were some dark clouds, it was not a solid cover, and the sun shone through in places.

I decided to sit for a while at the upper end of Swan Lake – not so much because I thought the rail might still be around (though I would be happy to see it), but because I thought it was an interesting place when I visited there previously, and I think I might try to spend a bit more time there.

I ended up sitting at the edge of the marshy area for the better part of an hour (I think – I didn’t keep close track of time). It was a spot where I could feel the sun when it came out from behind the clouds. I could also feel a light breeze coming across the marsh.

The lake is still mostly frozen, but the edges have thawed, and at the upper end there were several Mallards. I think a Green-winged Teal was also there, though I never saw it (just heard the cricket-like calls).

The most intesting thing that happened was a Song Sparrow that seemed to be alarming. It started on the far side of the estuary making the shweeping calls that Song Sparrows do. It sounded mildly aggitated, and the other birds I could hear in the general area mostly did not seem to pay it much attention. One exception was a Pacific Wren on my side of the marsh (but further down, closer to the lake) which kept chipping for the whole time the Song Sparrow as going.

Song Sparrows regularly do this sort of alarming, and often it seems there is no particular reason for it. What made this sparrow stand out to me was how it gradually moved across the estuary (above where I was sitting). From where it started, it moved to a shrub and kept calling from the lower branches of it. It was too far for me to be sure, but I had the impression the sparrow might have been looking at the marsh grasses and sedges that surrounded the bush.

Before long, it flew to another bushe and continued alarming. I think it made three or four hops from where it started before ending up (as best I can tell) at the far upper corner of the marshy area. I was really curious if the sparrow was following something slinking through the marsh vegetation. If so, I saw or heard no evidence of it other than the sparrow’s behavior.

Rather than go directly home, I stopped by the Baranof Street Cemetery to get my iNaturalist observations for the day. I got a handful of epiphytes (today’s photos are from that part of my outing).

I’m not sure why the cemetery is such a good place for epiphytes. I am sure part of it is the number of mountain ash and alder, but there are other places with those trees but without so many epiphytes, so I’m not sure why the cemetery area is so favorable.

This evening I experimented using my phone to take pictures of the view through a microscope. It worked better than I had expected – I included a photo of a Porella had collected a couple of weeks ago.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Totem Park and Baranof Street Cemetery

For the third day in a row I went down to the estuary, once again arriving near the time of high tide. 

I found a spot to sit on a log at the very upper edge of the estuary and watched the wigeons feeding. They never came especially close, but it was interesting to watch them and the movements of the water through the estuary grasses.

One thing I’ve noticed in these trips to the estuary is the Mallards are mostly resting, while the wigeons are almost continuously feeding. Presumably the wigeons rest at some point, but I don’t know. Maybe the ducks are getting more food from humans (visiting Swan Lake for handouts?) or something else about their diet gives them more time to rest?

I also wondered what the wigeons were eating. Since they are dabbling ducks, it is not surprising they don’t hang out in the deep water, but I do wonder why they prefer to feed from water rather than on the land. I can think of some plausible explanations, but I don’t really know.

The water currents were also interesting – they were not as regular as I might have guessed. Out in the deeper water at the lower end of the estuary there were waves coming in, but those were dampened out by the vegetation. Still, there seemed to be significant multi-second surges of water come through, then drop – even after the tide was really starting to drop. I was curious about the dynamics of this.

The Spotted Sandpiper (which I had heard and caught a glimpse of briefly yesteray) was also out foraging in the flooded estuary grasses. It seemed capable to more or less walk on water, as the semi-floating (but anchored) remains of last year’s sedges and grasses were sufficient to support it as it picked around.

This afternoon Connor let me know there were Pine Grosbeaks at the trailhead for Gavan Hill. They were gone by the time Rowan and I got there to look, but she and I walked around the cemetery loop just in case they might show up again.

We did not see the grosbeaks, but there were some interesting things to see (including a couple of lichens which I’ll try to go back to look at) and Rowan was pretty sure she saw a flicker fly by.

The winds continued through night – officially gusts got up to the high 50s, though I’m not sure they were that strong here. Even so, it got loud and I think may have woken me up more than once. The forecast rain did not really come. In fact, it was interesting to see how dry some of the bryophytes were at the park – I’m wondering if the wind helped dry them out. 

There’s another wind advisory for tonight. Winds are supposed to build through much of the night with peak winds are forecast from 3-5am. It’s not supposed to be quite as windy as last night, but more rain is supposed to fall.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Return to the Estuary

I went back to the estuary this morning, today opting for the other side of the river, where I could be partially obscured by the trees.

The tide was still rising when I arrived shortly before full flood, and I could see the ducks feeding along the edges or resting on the patches of higher ground in the estuary.

The Eurasian Wigeon was not far from where I had chosen to look out through the branches, once again feeding with the small flock of American Wigeons.

Before I could get too focused on getting pictures, I got a phone call for work. I ended up sitting there talking and listening for quite some time. 

I was amused when the swans came to visit me – I think they must have heard me talking – and one of them even pushed into past a couple of branches to a pool before deciding I was not that interesting afterall (perhaps recognizing me from yesterday?). 

By the time I was finished with the call, the tide had dropped a bit taking the wigeon further out, and I needed to go home for lunch.

Along the way back, I stopped to take pictures of a fungus or two, and happened to notice a slug on the same standing dead elderberry branch as the fungi. I think it was one of the native taildroppers (Prophysaon sp).

There’s a high wind warning tonight, and the wind is already howling pretty good as it nears bed time.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Rainy Walk Around the Park

Connor saw a male Eurasian Wigeon at the park this morning, so in the limited time I had to get out between work calls, I decided to walk around the park to see if it was still there.

On my way out, I noticed a stump covered in Pelitgera lichens, mostly P. membranacea, which seems to be the most common around here (now that I’m actually paying attention), but also something else (probably P. neopolydactyla). I’ll have to return to investigate more closely when conditions are more suitable.

When Connor had seen the wigeon this morning, the tide was up, but it had fallen significantly in the intervening hours. I did finally find a handful of wigeons, including what I think is a female Eurasian Wigeon, but the male Eurasian Wigeon did not seem to be around.

Temperatures were warmer today, and despite the rain falling while I was out, I felt like it was a pleasant time to be out for a walk. 

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Silver Bay and Whale Park

Weather today was heavy overcast, rainy and chilly (snow level down to 200 feet or so). No doubt were it not for the big year project and my intention to get at least three species a day, I would have just stayed home. 

Considering where to go, my decision was influenced by seeing some photos posted on Facebook that had been taken from along the bike trail out at Silver Bay of whales breaching.

I did not see any whales in Silver Bay, though I could see some birds out on the water. There were more birds and whales out in Eastern Channel, so I headed back to Whale Park. 

I took the trail down to the shore at the far end (furthest from town) and saw a group of sea lions not far from shore. Further out there were loons, and I think murres as well. Conditions were not the best for viewing, so it was hard to say what all was out there.

Further in the distance several whales were surfacing and divingbelow again. 

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Japonski Island Walk

I spent part of today walking around Japonski Island and then back home.

Connor had reported seeing a Common Redpoll or two mixed in with a small flock of Pine Siskins yesterday, so figured it was worth looking around. I did not end up seeing many birds at all.

While I was out, skies were mostly cloudy, with a pretty good wind blowing (that I mostly noticed while walking over the bridge).

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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