Starrigavan Creek

We went out to Starrigavan to walk the estuary and see if any birds had been blown in by the weather (windy and wet – though temperatures were back up near 60). There were several thrushes (robins, varied, and hermit) at the Old Sitka parking lot, but other then gulls and a few ducks, it seemed mostly fairly quiet. Perhaps part of that was just due to the wind and rain keeping things hunkered down. After initially seeing it from the footbridge over Starrigavan Creek, Connor and Rowan spent a little time trying to get in a position for better pictures of a Belted Kingfisher, but it didn’t cooperate too much. While they were doing that I walked down the road and got some pictures of gulls. One in particular seemed like it must be one of the HerringXGlaucous-winged Hybrids that are probably not that unusual around here (though I don’t know of anyone here in Sitka who has spent enough time studying the gulls to say for sure).

I was interested to see Starrigavan creek running muddy. I wonder if there was additional slide activity, or perhaps some of the mud washed out from the slope(s) of the slides that occurred last month.

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Cooling Off

After increasingly unseasonal highs of 60F, it finally has started to cool off in the past couple of days. With yesterday afternoon’s dusting of snow and this morning’s frost, it seems like we’re finally headed into more fall-like conditions. Much of the ground did not seem to have frost on it, I imagine because there was enough heat still there to keep it from cooling off to that point. However, there was a nice display of frost patterns on the roof of the car. So much so, that I decided to take a moment to grab a photo before we headed out the road.

The big adventure of the day was a return to the landslide at Starrigavan. Despite Rowan’s protestations, we made it up to the upper side of the slide area, then walked up slide slope a bit along along the water course there. I’ll post more about the trip separately when I get a chance to process the photos.

On the return, I took a quick look at Sealing Cove to see if I could see any evidence of the sea star wasting disease that’s now shown up here (after devastating populations in other places along the west coast). While there, I also grabbed some shots of the brilliant white fresh snow against the deep blue sky. It seemed especially striking, I think in part because the air was quite clear.

This afternoon we spent an hour or so enjoying the sun at Magic Island. Originally the kids considered swimming, but after a little bit of wading, they thought better of it. All the sea temperatures have been warm (by which I mean in the mid-50s), there was a definite chill in the air today, and even ‘warm’ water doesn’t really seem too inviting without the warmer air. The sun still felt quite warm, but I noticed that if I had my legs up (as I was laying down) so part of them were shaded from direct sun (or its reflection off the water), the shaded parts would start to feel cold before long.

There were quite a few gulls and cormorants (mostly pelagic) just off of Magic Island when we arrived. They started dispersing shortly after. I had noticed a similar gathering near SeaMart within the past few days, as well. I assume there is some sort of food they’re finding, but I don’t know what it might be.

I also heard about a bunch of whale spouts in Eastern Channel from someone who has a restricted view (suggesting, they were all very concentrated together).

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Morning Light

As they days are getting shorter, I’m finding the sun lower in the sky each week on my way to class. This morning clouds dominated, but there were a few breaks, including one that allowed filtered sunlight through back over by Cross Mountain. The rays shining through the clouds and mist made for a very nice view. It would have been nice to have had time to find a better location to appreciate and photograph the scene instead of just grabbing a couple of shots before getting in to class. Of course had I not had class to get to, it’s quite likely I would have missed it entirely, as I would not have been out and around.

Temperatures were noticeably cooler today, and this afternoon as the clouds broke up a little, I saw the lightest dusting of snow on the higher peaks (over 4000 feet, mostly). It’s supposed to be clear tomorrow, so perhaps it will be easier to see the snow level.

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More Hummingbird Action

I was walking down DeGroff street a little after 5pm this evening and at the intersection with Baranof Street noticed the distinctive sounds of an Anna’s Hummingbird calling/singing. On multiple prior occasions Connor had told me that he had seen/heard Anna’s Hummingbirds at this location, but this was the first time I had. I was able to catch sight of two hummingbirds (I’m assuming both Anna’s) as they took off back toward Merrill Street. I wonder if one of these is the one I saw yesterday while up a little was on Gavan Hill Trail. Given the presence of these birds throughout the spring and summer, I wonder if they nested here this year.

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Lower Gavan Hill

Of course the highlight of today was getting to photograph a Northern Mockingbird (which I posted about separately), but before that there was a wander around Lower Gavan Trail looking for mushrooms and whatever else turned up. There were a few mushrooms around, but I was also interested to hear an Anna’s Hummingbird that was singing. At least I think that’s what it would be called – it doesn’t sound especially melodic. I tried to record it (though haven’t listened to see how the recordings turned out yet). It seems like an odd time of year to be territorial for a hummingbird that presumably doesn’t have a lot of competition, so I’m not sure what was going on. Also of interest to me was that the bird wasn’t especially close to nearest neighborhoods (where there would be feeders), I’m thinking maybe 1/5 to 1/4 mile.

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Northern Mockingbird

Last Friday I was visiting with Larry, another pizza-day regular, over lunch at the Backdoor and he happened to mention that there had been an unfamiliar bird in their yard. From his description of a bird with white outer tail feathers and white on its wings (he thought primaries), it didn’t sound like a very good fit for anything I could think of. I got an e-mail from him today that mentioned the bird was still around and he had attached some pictures that his partner Martina had taken which made it clear that the bird was not one typical for Sitka. I was able to get over there with a few other birders keen to see it. The photos with this post are ones I was able to get during that visit.

The bird is kind of ragged looking, and my best guess is that it’s an immature bird undergoing molt. I would certainly be interested in hearing other thoughts about it in the comments.

As far as I can tell, this is the third record of Northern Mockingbird for Sitka. There were a couple of them reported in two different years in the early 1990s, one in July the other in August. Marge Ward told me one was at Starrigavan, the other up at the Kimsham landfill (which is now the site of ball fields). There are scattered reports from elsewhere in Southeast Alaska, but the normal range of this species appears to be no further north (in the west) than the southern portions of Oregon and Idaho.

Many thanks to Larry for mentioning this bird and Martina for getting pictures!

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