Sunny Day, Crescent Moon

Although the weather cleared up again today, I was busy with multiple calls for work, and only had a short time outside. In order to have a comparison for an odd Lobaria I picked up yesterday, I walked up to the Baranof Street Cemetery to get a piece of the only Lobaria pulmonaria I’m currently aware of. While there, I made observations of a couple of bryophytes that are familiar to me, and spent a little time investigating the epiphytes on pines near the start of the Baranof Street connector to the Cross Trail (f.k.a Gavan Hill Trail).

Although clouds were forecast to move in this evening, I was hoping they would hold off long enough for me to check out the sunset at the bridge. It was not to be. I’m not sure if the sun is setting behind Kruzof Island yet, but it’s got to be pretty close. This transition marks the end of green flash chasing season for me. I’ll try to do a write up of my efforts this year. It was my best year so far, and I learned quite a bit about the movement of the sun during the two months after winter solstice. A nice consolation was seeing a thumbnail crescent shortly before it dropped behind the encroaching clouds.

This evening I took pictures of collections from prior days.

This morning Connor saw a Pine Grosbeak down on the corner of Park and Biorka Street. I was a little put out that I did not get notified of this fact until a couple of hours later (I had mentioned to Connor several times this year I wanted to see a Pine Grosbeak). This isn’t the first time I’ve been annoyed when Connor (or Rowan) didn’t let me know about a bird in a timely fashion. I told them (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) that they’ll look back on their growing up years and say the only time their dad got upset at them was when they didn’t tell him about a bird right away.

iNaturalist observations for today

(many more photos to come)

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Sitka Nature Show #125 – Nick Pyenson

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The 19 February show featured a conversation with Nick Pyenson, curator fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian. We talked about his work with whales, both ancient and more recent, as well as other interesting finds and some of the possible interpretations and implications of this work. Check out the Pyenson Lab weblog to see photos of some of the things we discussed. Nick was in town as part of the SSSC SIRF program.

If you have questions or observations you want to share, please feel free to leave a comment here or on the page I’ve set up for that purpose.

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Sitka Nature Show #124 – Andy Szabo

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The February 5th show featured a conversation with Andy Szabo, director of the Alaska Whale Foundation. We spoke primarily the Center for Coastal Conservation – a scientific field station located in Baranof Warm Springs, some of the monitoring projects that have already been started, and the ongoing work to continue its development as a station to do long term ecological monitoring for eastern Baranof, Chatham Strait, and Fredrick Sound

If you have questions or observations you want to share, please feel free to leave a comment here or on the page I’ve set up for that purpose.

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Sunny Day, Bird Observations

Sun was once again the order of the day, though today the winds started to pick up a bit more than they had. The forecast is for an arctic outflow event heading into the weekend, and this seemed like a precursor.

I helped a friend move a shelving unit out to her island house (and got a more intimate experience with the sharp waves the wind was pulling up). Out over the island, the wind was more steady, and I was interested to see several eagles soaring nearly in place on the breeze.

As we returned to the harbor, there was a Marbled Murrelet right at the mouth of Crescent Harbor. It was quite cooperative, though with both of us wanting to take pictures, the limited space afforded by the breakwaters and shoreline made it more difficult. What would have been my best winter Marbled Murrelet picture was not to be when I discovered the camera had focused on the water just behind the bird. This is not an infrequent occurrence, but it still leaves me with that minor frustration about what could have been.

I had intended to get all my species for the day during this outing, but ended up having a phone call for work start just after getting back to shore, so I went home instead. 

By the time the call was done, I had limited daylight and time, and decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood to pick up a junco or one of the wintering birds I have not yet photographed. A walk down to Etolin Street revealed reasonably cooperative White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrow, as well as junco. So today was one of the few so far this year where all my observations have been birds. 

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Sitka Big Year, One Month In

With one month down in the Sitka Big Year Project, I find my personal list well ahead of my 2012 pace. That year I had only 60 species, with all but four of them birds. In 2012, I was not photographing everything I counted, nor did I observe (for the list) winter plants. So it’s unsurprising that I have many fewer birds so far this year (it’s a lot easier to observe them generally than photograph them), but many more plants and lichens. So far I have 99 species (identified to species) with quite a few more observations that are not identified fully to species. Bryophytes and lichens were a big miss back in 2012 (I had far fewer species than I could have – including missing many common and relatively easy to identify things).

More generally I’m excited that with minimal advertising so far we’ve managed to have 13 people contribute over 500 observations of over 200 species (again, identified to species – with many additional observations of things not yet identified to that level). It’s been a lot of fun to see the observations come in from folks.

For the first day of the second month, I tried to keep up with the pattern of at least three new species. Today I took advantage of a little time this morning before my day filled up with calls to check out the channel in the morning sunlight. It was calm, and I was able to pick up Barrow’s Goldeneye, and both species of scaup.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Lincoln Street Shore

With a little bit of snow and ice on the ground, prospects were limited for upland observations. However, Rowan had noticed a strange sounding insect earlier in the day down near the Science Center. Although she had picked it off the sidewalk and put it in the grass, I had a little hope she might be able to refind it.

She and I walked down after lunch, and spent a little time looking. Based on her description, I was able to determine it was most likely a Scaphinotus  ground beetle larva. We did not end up finding it, and she continued into the park, while I went down to the shoreline rocks.

With the sun out and minimal wind, it was pleasant along the shoreline. There are many lichens and bryophytes that inhabit the splash zone and just above it, so I spent some time looking and photographing.

By the time Rowan was returning from around the park, I had made it only a very short distance down the shoreline. After talking to me briefly, she continued home. I ended up spending the better part of another hour in that small area before heading home myself.

When I was nearing home, I was struck by the fresh snow on Verstovia. Through my binoculars, I could see tracks in the snow below Picnic Rock, and was thinking that it would be nice to spend some time up there. Not that I would expect to see many species this time of year, but it’s there is stunning scenery to be seen. Of course it helps to be in decent condition (as it’s a strenuous hike), and when I can spend nearly 2 hours travelling only a few meters, that doesn’t lend itself to increases in strength and conditioning.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

(more photos to come)

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