Wind, Rain, and Birds

Today was the Christmas Bird Count for Sitka. Unfortunately there were strong winds and heavy rain for most of the day. Despite this I managed to walk over 10 miles and tallied over 30 species of birds. I’ve had a bit of computer trouble this evening, or I would offer a better summary of my results. I didn’t really find anything unexpected, but it was nice to find the things I figured were around but would be easy to miss, such as the two coots.

I may write up a more thorough account later, but right now I think it’s probably time to get some rest and let my body recover (it’s been quite sometime since I walked so much in one day).

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Return of the Sun

The forecast was for cloudy to mostly cloudy skies with a chance of snow. Instead it ended up partly cloudy with the sun only occasionally being partly obscured by a small cloud. After lunch I was thinking the kids and I would go for a walk around the park, but the sun was nicely warming … Read more

Snow Returns

After catching the free brown bag concert put on by the Jazz Festival the kids and I got caught in a little snow squall. We waited out the strongest of it at the Crescent Harbor shelter as the snow, mostly in the form of graupel, fell. The forecast had called for snow with no accumulation, but by the end of the day the snow on the ground was approaching an inch deep.

The ice at Swan Lake continues to retreat. There were three Ring-necked Ducks, quite a few Glaucous-winged Gulls, at least one Thayer’s Gull, as well as Mallards and scaups. Today’s mix of scaups was different than yesterday’s, with two male Greater Scaups hanging together while another group of 5 Lesser Scaup males dove repeatedly at the edge of the ice. After the Greater Scaups moved around the peninsula to where the Lesser Scaups were, it was interesting to be able to compare them more directly and see some differences.

I noticed a Common Ragwort (Senecio vulgaris) with flowers still present. It was under a pine tree at the town end of the Lincoln Street green belt. Presumably the cover provided by the pine kept the plant from being significantly damaged by the frost. It seems unlikely the flowers will be able to produce seed, but I guess as temperatures rise in the coming months it will be interesting to see.

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Swan Lake Visit

The kids and I stopped by Swan Lake again today to see if the swans might be there. The weather was much more pleasant than yesterday, so we stayed a little longer, but did not see the swans. We did find three Ring-necked Ducks and around 10 Lesser Scaups hanging out in the open water near the peninsula. All but one of these birds seemed fairly wary of us (the exception was a scaup who swam up close to shore near where the kids were sitting on a bench) – but the relatively small area of open water kept them close enough for a decent chance at observing them.

Scaups can be difficult to identify, and I’ll probably write up a separate post on why I think these were Lesser Scaups. I mentioned earlier in the week the mystery of the Ring-necked Ducks, but I suppose it’s also fair to say the Lesser Scaups present a similar mystery. I guess in the case of the scaups it’s easy to imagine they are just blending in with the Greater Scaups in the channel while the lake is frozen – they’re usually far enough out that it would be difficult to identify them – but I don’t really know that this is the case.

After the winds of yesterday, the prevailing calm today was a nice change. There were periodic showers, but nothing too extreme. Temperatures were in the lower 40s for much of the day. This afternoon the dew point was up between 39F and 41F, only a couple of degrees cooler than the air temperature. As a consequence of this and the lack of wind, a ground fog/mist formed over the surface of Swan Lake where there was enough ice remaining to cool the still air above it below the dew point.

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Birds and Bryophyte

The kids and I walked around town today to see if we could pick up any birds that were missed on the Christmas Bird Count yesterday. We were able to add three to the list, Lesser Scaup, Herring Gull, and Hermit Thrush. We had hoped to find Bohemian Waxwings, which we had seen as recently as last Tuesday (two days before count week started), but were not successful in that regard.

While walking around the Baranof Street Cemetery, I noticed a patch of moss I had photographed a couple of years ago, but this time it had sporophytes, so I took pictures and made a small collection with hopes of getting it identified.

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