Shorebirds have been showing up over the past few days, but today was the first time I got good looks at any that aren’t typically seen over wintering in the area. There was a single Black-bellied Plover (though 3 were reported yesterday, I didn’t get a chance to see them), a couple of Dunlin, and a couple of Greater Yellowlegs.
I think the interaction of mountains, clouds, snow, and light have many different moods, but some recur in such a way that they become familiar and recognizable. Last week I had that feeling of recognition which caused me to stop and take a couple of pictures as I was heading in to class over at UAS.
The fresh snow on the mountains fading with the still falling snow to the grayness of the clouds behind. With colors muted at best in the dim light, the technically green coniferous forest seems to run through shades of gray, from the dark slate gray of the lower slopes to a lighter ashy color where a thin layer of snow rests on the branches. A thicker layer of clouds overhead makes a darker band to match the darkness of the snow-free trees at lower elevations, providing a frame for the relative brightness of the snowy reaches.
This is one of the darker winter moods in Sitka. It’s not the darkest, I would say that distinction goes to those days of exceptionally heavy, mountain obscuring overcast where, especially in December and January, the low elevation sun can push so little light through the clouds that the ‘day’ is not much more than an extended gloomy dusk. Rather, this mood is the one where the clouds are a bit thinner, or the sun is a bit higher, the snow visible on the mountains lends a little more brightness, but there is still a sense of chilling dampness.
Sometimes it’s not clear why a relatively common occurrence resonates in a particular way, but I think in this instance it was because it’s getting late in the year for this mood to show up. Indeed, as the sun rose higher later in the morning, the mood largely dissipated. Unless there is another last glimpse some morning, It will probably be November before I see it again.
I suspect there are many other moods I recognize, but for whatever reason I just haven’t usually thought about in those terms. I’ll try to pay more attention going forward and see what I notice. I’m also curious what moods others recognize. Feel free to share in the comments.
Despite overcast and light rain, I decided to see if the hybrid duck would be up along the shore with the high tide around noon. It was there, but never came particularly close to me during the time I spent on the beach. At one point I saw over a dozen American Robins fly up to the trees from down the beach, and there were several Varied Thrushes calling from the forest behind me. A few Ruby-crowned Kinglets were singing in various places, but I was a little surprised to see half a dozen or more flitting about the large-ish willow near the ceramics building on the Sheldon Jackson campus. They are constantly moving, so hard to get pictures of, but I managed to get a handful I decided were worth keeping.
During my time out today, I noticed at least four different species of moths, Epirrita pulchraria, Cladara limitaria, Anticlea vasiliata, and a Eupithecia sp.
Today was also the first day I saw a salmonberry blooming, though as I write this, I can’t remember where I saw it. I guess that’s why I record observations as I wander, it will be in the database for future reference. There are also many plants getting going, including a bunch that look like seedlings on the beach. I suspect they are Atriplex, but they’re coming in thicker than I might have guessed, and it makes me wonder how so many seeds managed to not get washed away by the high winter tides. Perhaps they aren’t really seedlings? Now that I’m reflecting on this, I wish I had taken some pictures, so hopefully I get back down there before things get too far along.
I visited the park again this morning to see about getting photos of the hybrid duck in better light. The tide was out quite a ways, but many ducks were feeding along the shoreline. I walked out on the flats, and despite trying to stay relatively far from the water, I noticed the ducks swim down the beach a ways. I picked a spot a little ways up and sat to wait for the incoming tide to bring the ducks closer.
I ended up waiting about an hour, during which time the ducks did come closer, and I was able to get better pictures in the morning sunlight. Unfortunately, about this time, someone in a kayak with a dog keeping pace on the beach (and occasionally swimming) came from the direction of Sage Beach and that was the end of the ducks for a while. At first they flew part way down, but as the kayaker and dog kept on, they flew over toward Eastern Channel. I did not go down later today, though Connor did. He saw quite a few ducks from the sounds of it, but didn’t happen to find the hybrid (though he didn’t have binoculars, either).
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It was a lovely spring day today, though I did not end up spending much time out and about enjoying the weather. Last night I was up until after 2am taking pictures of northern lights (which hopefully I’ll get posted before too long), and had to get up relatively early this morning to record a conversation for tomorrow’s radio show. I did go for a short walk this evening, and was able to get a couple of shots of a male Belted Kingfisher perched on the pilings at the outflow of the Science Center.
While continuing down the boardwalk, I noticed quite a few ducks out along the shoreline (perhaps feeding on herring eggs that were deposited there). I suddenly remembered that I had heard about a hybrid duck a couple of days ago, and thought I would walk out to see if I could find it. Luckily, I was able to get a couple of pictures of one, even though conditions by that time were not optimal (and the ducks weren’t too fond of my approach.
A high overcast haze was moving in from the northwest as the evening progressed, but it did not seem thick enough to completely obscure the waxing moon.