Sitka Nature Show #143 – Ben Burford


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The October 29th show featured a conversation with Ben Burford, a PhD candidate studying California market squid at Stanford. We spoke primarily about California market squid, their natural history, and some of the interesting questions raised by their presence around Sitka the past couple of years. (Conversation is introduced at 3:10.)

K. Johnson started a map to track squid sightings around Alaska – check it out here

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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Two Rainy Days

Over four inches of rain fell yesterday and today. The 2.44 inches recorded yesterday at the airport station represented a record for the date (today’s 1.6 inches is just shy of the record 1.7 inches). Despite the rains, monthly totals are still slightly below average.

I was somewhat relieved that the dock construction didn’t involve any pile driving or removal, as it would have been a very wet time out on the boat.

After pushing to get observations pretty much everyday I was in town so far this year, I let the rain demotivate me and took it easy while mostly catching up on other work inside.

Today I did go check Indian River (I had been tracking it online) – it was down a few inches from the high water mark for this event, and well below the highest I’ve seen the river.

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Fall on Harbor Mountain

I was a little surprised to wake up this morning and see clear blue skies and white frost covering the ground. I guess I hadn’t paid enough attention to the forecast (focusing instead on the call for heavy rains in the next couple of days).

After getting some work done this morning and eating lunch, skies were still sunny with clouds to the south. The forecast for called for rain after 4pm, so I figured Rowan and I had time to get up Harbor Mountain to take advantage of the sun and still open gates (they are usually closed for winter around November 1st).

The transition from clear to overcast happened a lot faster than I expected. Despite leaving with blue skies overhead, the clouds had started to move over by the time we were halfway up Harbor Mountain road. The peaks of Harbor Mountain were still framed by blue, but when we arrived near the top, it was completely overcast and clouds had even started to obscure the rocky peaks.

Snow levels dropped fairly low within the last week, but much of that had melted. We first passed snow along the trail at the top of the slope above the parking lot, but only a little bit, and not on the trail.

Rowan and I walked to the talus fields before turning around. Along the way, it was interesting to see several blueberry bushes still holding on to many berries, despite having already lost their leaves. I suspect in most years, many of these berries would have been picked by local folks. This year the road was closed at the second gate during prime berry picking season, and the 3+ mile walk up the road no doubt demotivated would-be pickers.

On the way back we could see showers in the distance, and one of them appeared to be moving our way. We hurried down the last stretch of gravel trail as a bit of rain started to fall. Fortunately (we had dressed more for the sun), the heavier showers didn’t occur until we were in the car on our way home.

Trip timing: Hour and a half round trip, about 30 minutes from the talus field to the car.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Jellyfish and Young Growth

After yesterday’s wind and rain, today’s dry overcast and calm was a welcome change for my time out on Silver Bay. I spent the better part of three hours out watching while the construction crew worked on getting the first of the large piles for the new dock anchored into bedrock.

Unlike yesterday, there were no whales in the bay, though sea lions and a seal were once again near the same little nook on the east side of Sugarloaf Mountain.

The many jellyfish were easier to observe with the glassy calm, and I even managed to get mediocre photos of one swimming near the surface.

While out near the mouth of the bay, I was struck by the wide strip of young growth forest on the hill separating Thimbleberry Lake from Silver Bay. I’m not sure what happened there, but am curious. It could have been logged, or perhaps there was an extensive blow down. An on the ground look would probably make it clear one way or the other, so perhaps I’ll try to investigate further at some point.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Windy Day

Today’s gusty winds didn’t hit town evenly. It was breezy with some intermittent gusts here at the house, but when I went out to sandy beach and SeaMart, it was interesting to see relatively calm water, with minimal swell making only small waves coming into the beach. I did notice cats paws blowing across the surface in places, but the rougher waters were clearly further out. From the bridge it appeared there was much more wave action in Crescent Bay, with even more out towards Eastern Channel.

My dad is in town and he went cranberry picking with the kids. They had some success as they picked nearly a gallon in a morning and afternoon trip.

Tomorrow the dock construction projects starts driving new piles (previously it’s just been removing of old ones), so I will start the boat-based part of my observation work. It will be interesting to see if I can wear enough clothes to stay warm for the multiple hours out on an open skiff. Hopefully conditions are calmer than they were today.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Sitka Nature Show #142 – Brooke Schafer and Kari Sagel

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The October 15th show featured a conversation with Brooke Schafer and Kari Sagel, two of the hosts of the Library show on KCAW. I was the guest on their show this morning, and we followed that up with a Sitka Nature featuring them as my guests. Kari shared some passages from Henry David Thoreau, while Brooke told us about some of the experiences she’s had while out adventuring over the past few months (including a close encounter with humpbacks, and meeting a pika).

If you’re interested in hearing the Library show with me, you can download it here.

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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