Sitka Nature https://www.sitkanature.org On a Lifelong Journey to Learn my Place Fri, 06 May 2022 21:07:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.0 https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/cropped-raven_trees_watermark_8-32x32.png Sitka Nature https://www.sitkanature.org 32 32 20990835 Lifer Moth, and Spring Birding https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/26/lifer-moth-and-spring-birding/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/26/lifer-moth-and-spring-birding/#respond Wed, 27 Apr 2022 06:33:47 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48985 Overcast and rain this morning. Becoming mostly to partly cloudy with scattered showers as the day progressed. Rain totaled about a third of an inch at the airport, but none fell there after 1pm. I made a brief trip to the raptor center at noon to check out an unusual moth which JC had found ... Read more

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Overcast and rain this morning. Becoming mostly to partly cloudy with scattered showers as the day progressed.

Rain totaled about a third of an inch at the airport, but none fell there after 1pm.


I made a brief trip to the raptor center at noon to check out an unusual moth which JC had found and posted on iNaturalist.

It’s only the third record for the genus in Alaska. The first was a photo in 2011, the second came in on iNaturalist within the past couple of days. Both of the previous records were from south of here.


The striking green, black, and white moth is a Feralia, but I’m not sure which species yet [Update: F. deceptiva].

I made it out this afternoon for a longer trip. By this time, the morning rain had stopped for long enough the streets were dry (except for occasional puddles).

I went by the airport to watch for a few minutes in case a Northern Harrier might fly by.

My main intention for the outing was to take care of the Gavan Hill ibuttons.


I heard many Varied Thrushes singing and saw a few others as I walked along the cross trail section. Also a couple of Townsend’s Warblers and several Pacific Wrens singing.

Although I’ve been getting some running in playing ultimate frisbee once a week, I could certainly feel the hill.


I hoped to find a midnight’s goblet (Donadinia nigrella). I think it’s a fairly common spring species, but it is easy to miss. I spotted a couple of them growing from the duff near the ibutton placement.

I checked liverworts on trailside rocks while walking down. I saw lots Pellia neesiana (which is abundant here), but still haven’t found any Calycularia a similar species which has been reported, but I have not yet found.

The sun was shining at times on my way down. I appreciated how the filtered light illuminated patches of the understory and forest floor. I had a brief look at a Pacific Wren in a patch of sunlight, but it moved on before I could get a picture.

I noticed that wren in part because it had been singing. I thought it was singing from a relatively high perch like many of them do. Some of its songs were abruptly cut off. I assumed that was because of my approach (they often seemed to cut off when I took a step between pauses). It may have been because of that. However, when I saw it, it was moving through fallen branches and understory shrubs. I had the impression that the short songs were just what it did while it was moving around. I don’t remember noticing this before.

I returned to the airport and walked old airport road.


I managed distant photos of an Orange-crowned Warbler I first noticed because of its song.

I found a relatively fresh robin feather pile (including wings) near old long-term parking.

I sat with my back against rocks lining the old long-term parking area. They provided a bit of a break against the cool north wind.

I saw at least three planes take off or land while I was there, but no harriers (two were reported earlier in the day – also three American Coots from Whiting Harbor).

Before going home, I made a stop at Eagle Way Beach. I had seen a report of a large flock of Black Turnstones, and decided to see what might be with them.


I spent most of 40 minutes sitting and watching the shorebirds and a few American Pipits.

I needed to be home for a 6pm call and was considering how I might get up and leave without disturbing the birds too much. It got much easier when a dog on the beach started running my way and barked. The owners called over to me that it was friendly (as they almost always do, in my experience). It’s not the first time a dog has come up and made it more challenging me to take the pictures I’m trying to (sometimes it’s scaring off birds, other times it’s been running up and nearly trampling the flowers I’m focused on). Usually I don’t say anything in response, but this time I called back to say that the issue was it was chasing away the birds, which is why I was there. (I guess that might not be apparent to everyone, though the fact I was sitting in the middle of a gravel beach pointing a camera with a large lens towards the birds nearby, might be suggestive.)

Dogs just do what they do and it’s not really surprising to me at this point, but sometimes it would be nice if people who are responsible for the dogs kept them a little closer and didn’t seem to assume that “it’s a friendly dog” somehow means the dog isn’t be disruptive to others. In practice, sometimes it’s more of a problem for me when the dog is friendly.

After my evening call, I headed down to Totem Park to see if there might be any shorebirds still around on the rising tide.

I saw one lone Black Turnstone out on a disappearing gravel bar. Two Marbled Godwits were doing their best impression of resting female Mallards. I would have overlooked them had DK not mentioned they were there.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Birding around Town and Totem Park https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/25/birding-around-town-and-totem-park/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/25/birding-around-town-and-totem-park/#respond Tue, 26 Apr 2022 06:31:27 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48982 Mostly sunny early, then mostly cloudy by midmorning. Calm winds. I had a call and decided to wait until after it was done to get out. I might have chosen otherwise had I realized the sun would go behind the clouds so quickly. I walked to Swan Lake. It seemed like fewer birds were singing, ... Read more

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Mostly sunny early, then mostly cloudy by midmorning. Calm winds.

I had a call and decided to wait until after it was done to get out. I might have chosen otherwise had I realized the sun would go behind the clouds so quickly.

I walked to Swan Lake. It seemed like fewer birds were singing, but I did hear a Song Sparrow and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

The Trumpeter Swan is still at the lake.

I’ve still not observed any swallows, though I wondered if I might have heard some today.

From the lake I walked down to park.

Cutting through the Super 8 parking lot, I noticed a couple of folks who appeared to be working on an installing DirectTV for the hotel. I was on my way when I heard one call out to see if he could get a favor. I didn’t think he was talking to me, but happened to glance back and saw him coming my way.

It turned out he was from Chicago had always wanted to come to Alaska but never thought he would make it. He was excited to be here and wanted me to take a picture of him with Mount Verstovia in the background using my nice camera.


I’m pretty sure the telephoto lens I had on wasn’t the best tool, but I backed myself up to the other side of the trailer court and was able to get him and the full mountain showing in the same frame.

I appreciated observing his excitement just to be here. It felt inspiring to me to try and embrace/invite that kind of feeling more in my daily experience of being here.

Walking by the former ball field (turning garden?) between the playground and the Russian Bishop’s House, I saw a Song Sparrow perched on the chain link fence. It was very tolerant of my close passing. Perhaps it’s used to foot traffic there.

The tide was up.

I sat on the shore for a bit in front of the visitor center. I hoped the shorebirds would come near.


A Greater Yellowlegs did walk not far in front of me, but the Marbled Godwit and three Short-billed Dowitchers stayed further away.

Many gulls loafed on the beach. I wonder why – they had been sparser of late.

I scanned for different looking gulls, but didn’t spot any. I wondered about a Ring-billed Gull being in the mix, though. As it turned out, Connor reported seeing a Ring-billed Gull this evening.

The Black Turnstones were just starting to come in while I was there.

The overcast was thin enough I could see a bright spot where sun was. I was a little surprised that I could feel some warmth from it. I sat for a bit to appreciate it.


I hadn’t planned to get out again today, but got reports of birds at the park later in the afternoon/evening.

First it was Greater White-fronted Geese, then a Pacific Golden-Plover. I however, by the time I got to park, I found out the plover had flown off. The geese weren’t around anymore either.

So far this year, several things seem to be just touching down at the park beach and not staying long.

I went over and looked at the airport, but several dog walkers dissuaded me from looking for birds there.

I stopped briefly by Swan Lake, and again came up empty on swallows.


My final stop was at Baranof Street muskeg to check out crowberry flowers. Some were open, and others were just starting to open.

Reviewing photos while livestreaming this evening, I began to wonder about the flowers. I think I may have only taken pictures of male flowers so far. I’m not sure I’ve even seen female flowers. I may have to look into it further and see if I can find some.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Spring Birds and Other Observations https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/24/spring-birds-and-other-observations/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/24/spring-birds-and-other-observations/#respond Mon, 25 Apr 2022 05:28:50 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48979 Overcast with light rain at times. The sun broke out for a bit later in the afternoon. I walked to and around the park this morning. On Park Street I heard what I think was a European Starling doing a very passable Fox Sparrow imitation. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get my recorder out fast ... Read more

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Overcast with light rain at times. The sun broke out for a bit later in the afternoon.

I walked to and around the park this morning.

On Park Street I heard what I think was a European Starling doing a very passable Fox Sparrow imitation. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get my recorder out fast enough to record the full song imitations.

The tide was falling, but was not very low yet when I arrived.


Hundreds of Surfbirds and Black Turnstones roamed the shoreline out near the end. I estimated at least 20 Rock Sandpipers in the mix and quite likely more.

One Greater Yellowlegs worked the riverside, but I did not spot any other shorebirds.

After the park I walked to Swan Lake.



Perched on a utility wire along DeGroff street, a Dark-eyed Junco sounded like it needed to be reset.


Swan Lake had two Northern Shovelers. The lone Trumpeter Swan remains.

I met up with Kitty and we went out to Starrigavan. It was quiet there on our walk around the estuary.


A couple of people were fishing right below the road/footpath bridge. Looking down into the water we could see several fish. They appeared to be the size of chum salmon, and distinctly larger than pink salmon. I would have guessed they were steelhead, but the person fishing said there was both steelhead and dolly varden.


Later we went to Green Lake road and walked about a mile out. Lots of bees were buzzing about. Some of the plants showed freezing damage.


Things seemed to be greener out here than I’ve noticed elsewhere. It’s making me think I should get ibuttons set up out this way.


I ended up hearing/seeing two or three Rufous Hummingbirds, including one that perched long enough for me to get a photo.

I was going to rest at home, but got a message about a Sandhill Crane at Starrigavan.

It was just a flyover, and had apparently headed towards golf course, so I decided to head out and take a look.

I looked at golf course and didn’t see anything, so went down to Halibut Point Rec.

The sun was out and it felt pleasant on the beach without any significant wind.

I saw some shorebirds and decided to see what they were. I got to where I could just tell they appeared to be Surfbirds and Black Turnstones only to have them all take off.


A Peregrine Falcon streaked by in pursuit. It gave chase briefly before pealing off and flying away without success (at leat as far as I could tell).

I went back up to the golf course and walked to the pond.


On my way I heard geese calling. It took me a while to find them in the sky (they may have been behind a cloud), but finally saw a flock of hundreds high up.


As I was approaching the pond I heard a frog (maybe two) croak a few times. Then they went quiet.

I did see one Orange-crowned Warbler.

Ultimate this evening had enough people to play six on six for much of the time.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Sitka Nature Show #261 – Bird Songs https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/24/sitka-nature-show-261-bird-songs/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/24/sitka-nature-show-261-bird-songs/#respond Sun, 24 Apr 2022 23:00:56 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=49344 Download Radio Show The April 24th show featured recordings of local bird songs and how to learn to recognize them. 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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Download Radio Show

The April 24th show featured recordings of local bird songs and how to learn to recognize them.

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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Totem Park Wildlife https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/23/totem-park-wildlife/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/23/totem-park-wildlife/#respond Sun, 24 Apr 2022 06:26:28 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48976 Overcast with a little bit of rain, but not as much as I might have guessed from the forecast. Looking at the radar imagery, it appeared to be falling more heavily elsewhere in the general area. Breezy out of the southeast. I went to Totem Park this morning around 9:30am. The tide was falling from ... Read more

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Overcast with a little bit of rain, but not as much as I might have guessed from the forecast. Looking at the radar imagery, it appeared to be falling more heavily elsewhere in the general area. Breezy out of the southeast.

I went to Totem Park this morning around 9:30am.

The tide was falling from its early morning high, but the beach was still relatively small.


A raven calling in the forest reminded me of a time I was walking through the park with visiting Australians. They were were captivated by all the sounds a raven made from the branches overhead. It was actually very near where I heard the one today.


I decided to make a recording. I moved a couple of times following the raven as it moved from tree to tree.


I started hearing shorebirds and felt a little torn, but recorded for a little longer.


The shorebirds were mostly concentrated on a small area that had recently emerged as a little island. Many gulls shared the shore there.

I was able to see a few Dunlin and at least one Rock Sandpiper among the hundreds of Surfbirds and Black Turnstones.

I heard a call that tugged for my attention, but I didn’t give it too much thought, sort of dismissing it as one of the gulls.


Walking up the beach I noticed larger plovers and realized it had been a Black-bellied Plover I was hearing. I saw two of them plus one Pacific Golden-Plover.


All took off not long after I noticed them. They circled over the river mouth to gain elevation and headed north.

More violets are blooming, but still no sweet-cicely (Osmorhiza). I may be misremembering, but I have thought the sweet-cicely usually blooms first. Perhaps it was slowed down more by the cold than the violets. I’ve not noticed any of either that appear to have suffered freezing damage.

I headed out to Starrigavan before the tide fell too far.

I ended up seeing DK there and talking for a bit. He had just checked things out more thoroughly than I intended to, and hadn’t seen much.


While we were talking a Red-tailed Hawk flew by. It landed in a tree, but didn’t stay long enough for me to get a photo. It did fly a couple of circles and I managed to catch it before it disappeared.

I went back to the park this evening after getting my radio show ready.

I had seen report that dowitchers were there. The tide was rising and not much of the flats remained in front of visitor’s center.


I did see three dowitchers and a Marbled Godwit. Also four Greater Yellowlegs and plenty of ducks.


A pesky crow was harassing the shorebirds. It chased them three or four times. Then chased at least a couple of different ducks. A few minutes later it chased a gull then flew out towards the islands with another crow.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Spring Birds and Flowers https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/22/spring-birds-and-flowers/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/22/spring-birds-and-flowers/#comments Sat, 23 Apr 2022 06:44:56 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48973 Generally overcast with a little bit of rain late in the day. Temperatures in the low 50s, but without any direct sun the wind felt chilly. I headed down to the park around 8am. The tide was dropping, but still mostly up. I saw Black Turnstones and a few Surfbirds, a Marbled Godwit, and two ... Read more

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Generally overcast with a little bit of rain late in the day. Temperatures in the low 50s, but without any direct sun the wind felt chilly.

I headed down to the park around 8am.

The tide was dropping, but still mostly up.


I saw Black Turnstones and a few Surfbirds, a Marbled Godwit, and two Black Oystercatchers.

I scanned the gull flocks, but didn’t see any uncommon species.

I saw a Red-necked Grebe in full breeding plumage out on the bay. It was too far out for good photos. I would like to get closer views and photos at some point. I don’t remember seeing them in breeding plumage here before.


I looked at more blueberry bushes today and noticed damage to several of them. In some cases entire branches seemed to have dried up while adjacent branches seemed fine. In other cases just damage to edge of leaves or flowers. Possibly a function of emergence, and different branches on the same plant emerged different times? I’m not sure if it was all cold damage, or if the abnormally dry conditions played a role.


I saw my first violet flowers of the season. Fern-leaf goldthread is still blooming.

From the park I walked over to airport.


On my way I saw a raven along the seawalk that appeared to have droppings on its back.


Along Sealing Cove a flock of Golden-crowned Sparrows passed through in the opposite direction I was going. I was on a call, so couldn’t give them my full attention, but I think there were over 20 of them.


I watched from the old bunker by the waste water treatment plant, but didn’t see anything unusual/new that I noticed. A harrier was reported in the area today, but I’m not sure what time.

I got a message about a Black-bellied Plover at Halibut Point Rec while I was there. I couldn’t make it out there until later since I needed to walk home first.


When I went out early in the afternoon to check I did not find it. There were Black Turnstones on the rocks as well as gulls and ducks. The wind was blowing onto the beach. It seemed to me like it was coming out of the southwest.

A short time later at Starrigavan estuary, the wind coming down the valley, blowing out of the east. I’m not sure what was going on to make the difference.

I saw two peeps fly and look like they landed near the estuary pond on the upland side of the road. I went and sat by the estuary for a few minutes, but did not see them again.

I checked Magic Island on my way home but didn’t see any shorebirds there. It was less windy than the main part of the rec had been.

I spent the rest of the day at home.

The last couple of days have noticed a mild rash on the back of my hands. I have vague memories of something similar last spring (I’m making note of it here to help me remember for the future). Cow parsnip isn’t big enough for me to have accidentally gotten into (and those rashes are usually more severe for me). I think it may just be sun exposure – though perhaps there’s something I’ve been in contact with that’s contributed.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Birding on a Sunny Spring Day https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/21/birding-on-a-sunny-spring-day/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/21/birding-on-a-sunny-spring-day/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2022 06:33:40 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48970 Sunny and calm this morning, light to moderate breeze this afternoon. Overnight lows were down to 36F. Connor had the day off got an early start birding. He texted me about a Short-billed Dowitcher and a Semipalmated Plover at the park. I went to look, didn’t find either of them. While there, he told me ... Read more

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Sunny and calm this morning, light to moderate breeze this afternoon.

Overnight lows were down to 36F.

Connor had the day off got an early start birding.

He texted me about a Short-billed Dowitcher and a Semipalmated Plover at the park. I went to look, didn’t find either of them. While there, he told me about American Pipits and a Least Sandpiper, but I didn’t see those either.


Shortly after I arrived at the park, I heard a flock geese flying over. I managed to catch sight of the hundreds of Canada Geese in a broad ‘v’.

Today I definitely heard a Townsend’s Warbler singing.

The Turnaround was quiet again.


At the golf course I enjoyed the pleasant warmth of the sun. I spent part of my time there walking barefoot on the grass.

I heard an Orange-crowned Warbler (first of season). At least 25 robins plus a couple of Varied Thrushes were out on the grass at various points.

From there I headed to Starrigavan.


Before I made it far, I Merlin flew across the street in front of me and landed in a tree. I pulled over to get a better look. It appeared to be another taiga form Merlin to me.

I sat in the bird viewing shelter at Starrigavan for a bit. Two shorebirds flew in to the estuary pool. I thought they were Western Sandpipers.

Reviewing photos one was definitely a Least. I’m not as sure about the other. In hindsight wish I had tried for closer looks.


Scanning the distant ridge at the end of the valley, I noticed tracks on the mountain slope below peak 2880. My best guess is a bear made them.


A Marbled Godwit was reported along Cannon Island drive. After lunch I went and looked for it (with success).

From there I went over to airport. I didn’t see a harrier, nor any other unexpected species.


The dandelions are coming into full bloom.

I checked the end of channel and saw many Long-tailed Ducks are still around.


A lone Snow Goose was eating grass near the ramp in front of UAS.

I went back to the park again. This time the tide was up higher. I didn’t see any shorebirds other than Greater Yellowlegs. (Connor later told me the Short-billed Dowitcher was with Greater Yellowlegs this afternoon when he was there, but I didn’t happen to catch them).

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Spring Birds, Insects, and Flowers https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/20/spring-birds-insects-and-flowers/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/20/spring-birds-insects-and-flowers/#respond Thu, 21 Apr 2022 05:03:14 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48967 Cloudy overnight, partly sunny to mostly sunny throughout the day. The forecast was for scattered showers overnight and through today. I could see big cumulus clouds that I think did have some showers associated, but they did not pass over the central part of town while I was up. When I stepped outside this morning, ... Read more

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Cloudy overnight, partly sunny to mostly sunny throughout the day.

The forecast was for scattered showers overnight and through today. I could see big cumulus clouds that I think did have some showers associated, but they did not pass over the central part of town while I was up.

When I stepped outside this morning, it did not look like the ground was wet, but I did get a little whiff of petrichor, which made me wonder if there might have been at least a little bit of rain overnight.

I hadn’t decided where to start my outside time when I received a text about a Dunlin at Totem Park. I had been leaning that way, since I wanted to check the moths there, and this sealed it.

This time of year it often feels like the shorebirds are being slow to arrive. The only exceptions are those few years when they start showing up early.


I did see a few moths on the exterior walls of the visitor center. Lotisma trigonana (assuming I have the identification correct) is one I mostly associate with later in the summer, though I have seen it in the spring previously. Reviewing my iNaturalist observations of the species, I guess I don’t have a good reason for that, however. This is my second April sighting. I have two May sightings, and two early June sightings. Then one September sighting. This makes me wonder if it overwinters as an adult.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=59187&subview=table&taxon_id=318948&user_id=gwark

I’m pretty sure I heard a Townsend’s Warbler in the forest, but only heard it a couple of times and began second guessing myself because of kinglets. When I saw someone else reported Townsend’s Warblers in the area today, I decided to go ahead and count it.


I did find the Dunlin out near the river mouth with some Black Turnstones.

I heard a Greater Yellowlegs, but no other shorebirds.

The tide was down to about -2 ft. I probably could have done some low tide stuff, but wasn’t feeling inclined that way today.

I visited for a while with DK (who had reported the Dunlin).

While visiting by the visitor center, a dog walking along shoreline scared the the birds up. There were plenty of ducks, but no shorebirds that I noticed.

I stopped by Swan Lake. I didn’t see the swan, nor any swallows.

The Turnaround was quiet.


I saw good numbers of gulls in the channel but didn’t notice any unusual ones.

At the airport I walked the old road then returned to take pictures of the trailing currant I had noticed a couple of days ago.


It offered an opportunity to see the difference between pictures with and without the polarizing filter. The filter did cut a significant amount of glare from the leaves.

I went home for lunch, and decided not to go out again this afternoon.

As it worked out, I ended up going out anyway when a friend needed helping moving something.

While out and about, I stopped by airport again and watched from car, but didn’t see anything of particular note.

I had a fire in the yard this afternoon/evening. It seemed calm when I went out, but after fire started I realized it was intermittently gusty. Fortunately nothing too strong. However it seemed quiet swirly.

Connor saw a Lincoln’s Sparrow on other side of the house, but I didn’t refind it when I went to look.


I’ve been wondering if the recent cold damaged berry plants. I’m not quite sure about salmonberries, but there is some damage to blueberries for sure. Some of my honeyberries showed damage as well.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Spring Weather https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/19/spring-weather-2/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/19/spring-weather-2/#respond Wed, 20 Apr 2022 05:54:10 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48666 Sunny and warmer. Breezy this afternoon. Temperatures got to 56F, easily the warmest day of the year so far. When I stepped out on the porch this morning, I noticed white-cheeks (the junco) in my side yard. It’s getting late in the year, but I think chances are still good that the bird will move ... Read more

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Sunny and warmer. Breezy this afternoon.

Temperatures got to 56F, easily the warmest day of the year so far.


When I stepped out on the porch this morning, I noticed white-cheeks (the junco) in my side yard. It’s getting late in the year, but I think chances are still good that the bird will move on for summer. I would be happy to see it throughout the summer if it does stick around, though.

I got a message about a Northern Harrier at the park this morning, but I was not able to get out until after lunch.

I started with a walk around the park.


Last night’s low was 39F, which may have encouraged some moths to be active after the string of cold nights. I found several on the walls at the visitor center, including Orthosia praeses, my first sighting this year.

I briefly saw what I am pretty sure was a Criorhina fly, my first of the year. They’re convincing bumble bee mimics, but have a tendcy to hover in one spot. I will try to get pictures this year if I get a chance.

The tide was up, so not much beach to look at, but I wanted to check for a longspur which had been seen in the area betwee the forest and beach at the end of the park.

The wind was blowing out of the southeast and hitting the end of the park. Despite the warm sun and relatively warm air, it still felt cool.

I did not find the longspur, but did see a couple of Savannah Sparrows when they flushed as I walked along (despite me trying to walk slow and pay attention).


Mallards, pintails, wigeons, and mergansers were resting at the edge of the sedges above the water in the estuary.

I didn’t see any shorebirds.

I stopped by Swan Lake to see if any swallows might have arrived. I didn’t seen any, but the lone swan was still there.

I spent the last part of my outside time at the airport. The wind was not as strong, though the sun was mostly behind a cloud while I was there.

I did prune back some of the spruce branches to give more light to the mountian hemlock I noticed yesterday.

My stop at the channel was brief when I saw only a single gull.


Looking at the tracks on Verstovia, I noticed someone built a snowman on picnic rock. I think it must be 5-6ft tall based on how it looks compared to people I’ve seen up there.

I saw 3 or 4 Fox Sparrows near the feeder this morning. Rowan told me she saw robins, brown sparrows, chickadees, and White-crowned Sparrows in the yard this afternoon while I was out.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Setting Moon, Spring Migrants https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/18/setting-moon-spring-migrant/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/18/setting-moon-spring-migrant/#respond Tue, 19 Apr 2022 07:27:51 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48903 Sunny and warmer, with temperatures up into the low 50s. Breezy this afternoon. I got up early to see the moonset. I didn’t use an alarm, but did wake up more often during the night in anticipation of getting up early. At 5:15am thought I could sleep once more time, but then didn’t wake up ... Read more

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Sunny and warmer, with temperatures up into the low 50s. Breezy this afternoon.

I got up early to see the moonset.

I didn’t use an alarm, but did wake up more often during the night in anticipation of getting up early. At 5:15am thought I could sleep once more time, but then didn’t wake up until 5:55pm – I hoped to be out the door by around that time.

I didn’t dally getting my stuff together (it helps that I don’t drink coffee or eat breakfast) and drove out to look. I realized I probably had just enough time to get through the park if I hurried.


It would have been nicer if I was about 5-10 minutes earlier, but made it work.

I was reminded that I like being out early, but I don’t like getting up early. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to do the former without first doing the latter.

A bit of haze really dimmed the moon, so it didn’t stand out as well as I might have hoped.


As it dropped and faded in the haze, difficult to make sure it was lined up how I was hoping.

With the moon out of sight, I walked the flats at the park. I didn’t see any shorebirds other than a couple of Greater Yellowlegs.

I went out to the golf course. It was quiet there. The sun was not yet shining above Harbor Mountain when I arrived. Some of the ground was still frosty. I heard a couple of American Robins singing aggressively, but they soon stopped.

I heard a junco calling (alarming?) near the 7th green. It stopped without me seeing anything (including the bird making the calls).

As the sun rose above mountain, I could feel some warmth. However it was behind a high thin cloud layer (cirrostratus?) which made it weaker than it could have been.

From there I drove out to Starrigavan. There were no shorebirds that I saw, but some ducks were around. The tide was out.

On a brief stop at Halibut Point rec I observed dabbling ducks in tidepool including pintails and Green-winged Teal with the Mallards.

I ended my outing at the airport. I had a two hour call which I was on for most of the time I was there.

I spent the first part of my time walking the old road. I did not see anything new, though I was hoping to see a harrier.

I sat down by the edge of the lagoon and noticed there was water flowing in through the rocks.


Small fish (three-spined sticklebacks?) darted about right at the inflow. They went into hiding when I moved too much.

I then found a spot to lay on moss and relax in sun.

I was facing a clump of trees and had an idle thought come to mind about mountain hemlock and whether there could be one growing at this spot.

While listening to my call I observed patterns of green on the spruce needles. Different shades for last year’s vs two year old needles as well as differences between the upper and lower surfaces.


I happened to notice some different looking needles and realized a small mountain hemlock was growing there practically swallowed up by the spruce. I suspect it had gotten started a few years ago, but as a slow grower, it is now being overwhelmed by a much faster growing spruce. I might bring some clippers to prune back the spruce a bit, otherwise I don’t think the mountain hemlock will last more than another year or two. (Longer term, there may be plans to develop this area in which case neither tree will likely survive, but I’ve been hearing that for years, so who knows if or when it will happen.)

Near the end of my call, several Golden-crowned Sparrows flew by. Perhaps half a dozen or so. This made my 99th bird species for the year.


After the call wrapped up, I went and looked for them. I found them foraging in the bushes just down the road a little bit.

A harrier was reported this afternoon, so after I saw that, went out there again.

It was warmer, but much more breeze. Earlier had been a very light north breeze, but now it was a stronger southeast or south wind.

I noticed fewer birds than this morning, and no harrier showed while I was there.

I didn’t expect to get out again, but a message from Connor prompted me to go down to the park. He reported seeing a different looking yellowlegs.


It did seem subtly but clearly different than the three Greater Yellowlegs it was with. In particular it had legs that are orange rather than yellow. I think it may have been slightly smaller, but it was difficult to tell. It also appeared darker and/or had more barring than the other birds.

I think it’s most likely a Greater Yellowlegs.

I spent an hour livestreaming some inaturalist identifying and an initial culling of today’s photos. Photo editing+streaming seems to push my computer to its edge, so we’ll see if I keep that up. I may limit it to the later stages of editing when I’m taking more time with each photo and preparing them for iNaturalist and/or uploading into my photojournal.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Point Brown and North Sitka Sound https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/17/point-brown-and-north-sitka-sound/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/17/point-brown-and-north-sitka-sound/#respond Mon, 18 Apr 2022 05:49:32 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48768 Partly cloudy and calm. The official temperature topped out at 49F, the warmest it’s been since last Sunday. I spent the middle part of the day on a boat trip with a short stop at Point Brown. I got picked up at the work float and we went through the channel. Only a few cormorants ... Read more

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Partly cloudy and calm. The official temperature topped out at 49F, the warmest it’s been since last Sunday.


I spent the middle part of the day on a boat trip with a short stop at Point Brown.

I got picked up at the work float and we went through the channel.

Only a few cormorants were on the rocks by Kasiana and Middle Islands. We paused to look, but did not see any Brandt’s Cormorants.

Plenty of Harlequin Ducks, as I’ve seen previously this time of year. I’m assuming they are pausing on migration to nesting grounds. We do have plenty that winter in the area, but it seems like numbers are higher this time of year.


Hundreds of Surf and White-winged Scoters outside of Crow Island. They took off before we were anywhere near them, and since I already saw a Black Scoter this year, I was less motivated to work at trying to identify all the birds I could.


The tide was up enough that bird viewing wasn’t great in Port Krestof. Pigeon Guillemots were on the water and there were four Trumpeter Swans near or on shore. I saw Canada Geese, Mallards, and I heard Green-winged Teal. I’m sure there were more species, but couldn’t say which ones.


We walked the beach down by someone of the cliffs along Point Brown. Hundreds of gulls were hanging out, but I didn’t spot any obviously different looking ones. I also didn’t work to try and see if there might be a California Gull in the mix. 6 or 7 Greater Yellowlegs were the only shorebirds of the day.

Kitty gathered some herring eggs for her garden. There were plenty that had washed up, and I suspect she wished she had brought more buckets.


I picked up a couple of Frullania collections. I’m going to need to take a closer look to see if either might be F. franciscana.

I also picked up a smaller dark liverwort. Long strands, but very thin, almost hair-like to the naked eye. I think it might be the same species I found on Chaicheis last year, but haven’t yet followed up on.


Plants were only just starting to come up a little bit, so there wasn’t much fresh green.

I did see my first Savannah Sparrow of the year.

On our return, we followed the Kruzof shoreline most of the way to Shoals Point.


There were many Gray Whales starting from Kamenoi Point beach and peaking in numbers out by Shoals Point. There were 20+ spouts visible at a time in that area.


We saw Bonaparte’s Gulls, Rhinoceros Auklets, and Brant, each of which were new for me for the year.

Dozens of loons were in a loose group. All the ones I saw appeared to be Pacific Loons. I later saw someone reported a Yellow-billed Loon from the area on ebird. I was a little bummed to have missed it.

We looped around through the middle part of the sound, but did not see much there.


The waters had been glassy near Kruzof, but there was a small chop on the way back. A long period swell also seemed more noticeable. I was aware of it before because, despite the calm conditions, sizable waves lifted and broke at Inner Point.

Ultimate had a reasonably good turnout this evening. We had the lights, but probably will not need them for much longer.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Golf Course Birds https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/16/golf-course-birds/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/16/golf-course-birds/#respond Sun, 17 Apr 2022 05:47:53 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48765 Mostly sunny, temperatures in the 40s, light winds. Quite similar to yesterday. Clouds mostly stayed out offshore to the southwest and further to the north. A few did end up over the mountains. I was considering where to go today and got a message about kestrel at the golf course. On the 7th fairway I ... Read more

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Mostly sunny, temperatures in the 40s, light winds.

Quite similar to yesterday. Clouds mostly stayed out offshore to the southwest and further to the north. A few did end up over the mountains.

I was considering where to go today and got a message about kestrel at the golf course.


On the 7th fairway I was trying to count the robins, when they plowed up and away from me. A Merlin came flying up off to the right from behidn me and perched in a tree overlooking the course.


Taking pictures as I got closer, I got a few before it took off. It was much paler and grayer than I typically see. I think it may be a Taiga type (using Sibley’s classification)

I saw no birds at pond.


I spent a little over an hour hanging out and observing by the tee for the 6th hole.

Nice mix of birds and activity. I got a look (no photos) at a Rufous Hummingbird for the first time this year. I had been hearing it doing flight display calls, but didn’t see it until it seemed to be checking out a Downy Woodpecker on a willow near the pond below me.


Quite a few Fox Sparrows and Ruby-crowned Kinglets where calling, singing, and foraging. Also a couple of flickers and a couple of Red-breasted Sapsuckers.

I missed photos of a yellow jacket due to unhelpful camera focus settings which took me too long to change.

After an hour and a half, I decided to give up for the time being.

I stopped at Halibut Point rec where it was fairly quiet. The tide was most of the way up.

I had started towards Starrigavan when I got a message the kestrel was by the driving range.


I didn’t take long to get back, and was able to see the kestrel by the driving range. I chatted with DK for a bit and we watched it come and go.

Seeing its patterns this time, I suspect it had been there while I was there, but I was looking more towards the north end where the one last fall had frequented.

I didn’t get great photos, but it was getting to be lunch time and more golfers were showing up, so I called it good.

I made a quick drive by the airport and didn’t see anything.

I spent the rest of the afternoon at home. I thought about going back out this evening, but decided I needed to make progress on projects that have been lagging.

I did a little cleaning and organizing, but have lots left to go.

I figured out how to get livestreaming set up on my computer. I tried it out with recordings direct to computer to test hardware and such. A few wrinkles, but I think I’ve mostly got them figured out. Next step is to try livestreaming.

I think I will livestream both photo review/editing and iNaturalist identifying. I spend time doing both of those things almost every day, and it doesn’t seem like it will be much overhead to do the streaming. Doing the tests, I found it easy to talk through what I was doing. When working through photos, talking both about the photos, and my approach, as well as the story of the day from when the photos were taken. On iNaturalist I talk through what I’m seeing and what I’m thinking for the identification.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Continuing Sun, Full Moon https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/15/continuing-sun-full-moon/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/15/continuing-sun-full-moon/#respond Sat, 16 Apr 2022 05:40:08 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48762 Sunny and cool pattern continued. Calm winds through this morning with a little breeze picking up in the afternoon into evening. Clouds appeared on the horizon, but mostly stayed out away from town. Some moved in from the north, but broke up. Yesterday’s low of 29F tying a record for the date (previously reached in ... Read more

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Sunny and cool pattern continued. Calm winds through this morning with a little breeze picking up in the afternoon into evening.


Clouds appeared on the horizon, but mostly stayed out away from town. Some moved in from the north, but broke up.

Yesterday’s low of 29F tying a record for the date (previously reached in 1967). This morning it only got down to 31F, not quite reaching the record of 29F set in 1972. I wonder if the cold temperatures will be enough to cause freezing damage to some of the plants.

Earlier in the week I heard what I thought might have been a junco alarming in the morning. On a subsequent day, I saw a Fox Sparrow making the calls. The sparrow was sitting in the bird feeder. I couldn’t see anything in particular for it to alarm at.

This morning I heard it again. It was once again at the feeder. I did not see any cats or other potential provocations. Sections of the yard were blocked from my view, however.


I had calls, but decided to take them while out and about.

I walked to park and around the beach. No shorebirds that I noticed.


I stopped along the rocks between Sage Beach and the park. I looked for a modern petroglyph I had photographed in 2017, but couldn’t find it.

While looking, I did find three others I don’t remember seeing before.

One looked tapped in with a blunt object (perhaps another rock?) which mostly just scarred the surface polish.


The others appeared to have been created with something more like a screwdriver using different techniques.


From there I walked over to the airport.

It’s hard to say if I might have missed some things due to split attention, but I did not notice anything new for the year or unexpected.

I stopped at Swan Lake before going home. There seems to be just one Trumpeter Swan remaining.


I went back out again this evening after reviewing my 2017 petroglyph photo. I did refind it with the reminder. I had missed it in part because seaweed was growing in it. The changed appearance made it a little more difficult to spot.


A friend had some time to kill, so we went for a bit of a drive as the sun set.

The nearly full moon caught my attention on way back towards town from Sandy Beach.


I requested to be dropped off at Crescent Harbor and spent some time watching the moon and taking pictures.

I learned about birder livestreamers on twitch on the ABA podcast

It made me wonder if it might be worth trying something along those lines. I don’t think I would be interested in live streaming from out in the field, but it could be fun to stream photo processing and iNaturalist stuff. Most days I spend an hour or more working on these, and livestreaming may not add much overhead to the effort.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Zero Cloud Day https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/14/zero-cloud-day/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/14/zero-cloud-day/#respond Fri, 15 Apr 2022 05:33:11 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48759 The Sunny and cool weather pattern continued, though winds seemed to be a bit less. Today’s high was 47F. It dropped down to 29F last night, colder than recent nights (calm winds probably helped). It was calm when I headed out this morning and temperatures were warming rapidly in the sun. I could not see ... Read more

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The Sunny and cool weather pattern continued, though winds seemed to be a bit less. Today’s high was 47F.

It dropped down to 29F last night, colder than recent nights (calm winds probably helped).

It was calm when I headed out this morning and temperatures were warming rapidly in the sun.


I could not see a single cloud in the sky this afternoon. That’s unusual for here. Usually it’s possible to see some distant clouds peaking over the horizon if there aren’t any elsewhere.

I walked down to and then around the park.

I’ve noticed on these recent days that I sometimes make fewer observations during sunny weather, especially this time of year. I’m more inclined to relax and soak up the sun in protected places out of the cool breeze.

I saw a Bald Eagle flying down Jeff Davis street with grass in talons. Presumably going to a nest, but where? [Update: a few days later someone posted on the Sitka Birds Facebook group about an eagle nest in the spruce tree at the bottom of Jeff Davis Street. I need to remember to check it out]

I watched gulls coming and going (mostly coming) as the tide rose at the end of the park.

I thought it somewhat surprisingly quiet, traffic and boat noise seemed attenuated compared to other times, though I’m not sure why. I know these days are few in number, soon there will be many visitors and associated activity.


I noticed a few trailing currant flowers while I was sitting next to one.


Barrow’s Goldeneyes came in closer when the tide was up.

Once again, duck activity was greatest in front of Merrill Rock compared to other parts of park, but I did see some ducks in the estuary.


A/the Greater Yellowlegs had moved over to the estuary by the time I got there (I suspect same one I had seen in front of the visitor center, anyway).

I got a note about a Northern Harrier which took me over to airport this afternoon.

I spent some time sitting and watching, but saw no harrier. I might have heard a Lapland Longspur fly over, and also heard a Rufous Hummingbird, though didn’t catch sight of it.

Long-tailed Ducks are still around, but seem to be sticking to the north end of the channel. Even though not many gulls around around the central part of the channel these days, I’ve not seen the Long-tailed Ducks there either.


I did check out the satellite imagery on zoom.earth to see what the closest clouds were, and out to the west, they were comfortably over 100 miles distant.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Spring Arrivals https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/13/spring-arrivals/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/13/spring-arrivals/#respond Thu, 14 Apr 2022 05:37:43 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48698 Continuing clear, cool, and breezy. Less breezy and a little warmer than yesterday, however. Today was tax day for me, which took up most of my morning. After finishing those, I went over to the airport. I saw a lone male Lapland Longspur along old airport road. It was reasonably cooperative as I watched, and ... Read more

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Continuing clear, cool, and breezy. Less breezy and a little warmer than yesterday, however.

Today was tax day for me, which took up most of my morning.


After finishing those, I went over to the airport. I saw a lone male Lapland Longspur along old airport road. It was reasonably cooperative as I watched, and eventually flew over the berm. Although I only saw the one, 30 were reported from the airport, so presumably the flock was elsewhere.

I noticed the smell of mud again. Maybe it has to do with brackish water in part, as I noticed along Indian River by the estuary later.

Other than the longspur, while walking the road to the old long-term parking area, I didn’t notice too much else in the way of birds.

There are some feral raspberry plants growing along the old road, with salmonberry thickets a bit further off. I wondered (perhaps not for the first time) why the salmonberries haven’t taken over.

Walking back, I noticed a Song Sparrow flying up while calling or singing (I can’t remember for sure) and fluttering its wings before dropping back to the fence where it had taken off from. I’m guessing it was part of a courtship display, but I’m not sure.

With my attention directed that way, a snipe apparently became uncomfortable and moved in the vegetation below where the Song Sparrow landed. I didn’t realize it was a snipe at first.

I followed it and got a couple more brief looks, enough to see that it was a snipe. I was not able to get pictures, however. Eventually it flew up the ditch where I chose not to try and follow.

I did notice an area of moss and grass large enough for me to sit down in. I relaxed there and enjoyed the warmth of the sun for a few minutes.


From there I went to the park and walked around. It was calm along the beach until I got out near the point, where it became exposed to the wind.

Some gulls were loafing out on the points of exposed beach, ducks and three Greater Yellowlegs were working the shoreline and shallows out in front of Merrill Rock. Given the number of birds there, I suspect that’s about the only place herring spawned along the park this year.

I got a message from DK about a Snow Goose at the golf course, so made my way back to my car.

On my way, I checked and did not find flowers on Osmorhiza or violets.


I found the Snow Goose in the pond where it had been reported. Two Mallards were there as well. I’m not sure if this is one that got left behind by a migrating flock, or if it wintered by itself north than most.

I took a look at Starrigavan. It had fewer ducks than previous visits from what I could see (at least on estuary side).

I stopped at Halibut Point Rec and watched the mouth of Granite Creek.

This location the breeze was fairly light and I sat just above the shoreline and watched.

I did not spot any Bonaparte’s Gulls among the 100 or so that were on the beach. There were some dabbling ducks, mostly Mallards with at least one Northern Pintail.

I’ve fallen further behind on publishing photojournal entries, so I worked on that this evening.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Sunny and Slightly Warmer https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/12/sunny-and-slightly-warmer/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/12/sunny-and-slightly-warmer/#respond Wed, 13 Apr 2022 07:54:43 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48696 Clear, cool, and breezy, but warmer and less windy than yesterday. Today’s highs reached into the low 40s. Crescent Bay was white capping today, but north of the channel breakwater was not. The wind and gusts were down from yesterday, but also seemed to have shifted to have a more easterly component. With the complex ... Read more

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Clear, cool, and breezy, but warmer and less windy than yesterday.

Today’s highs reached into the low 40s.

Crescent Bay was white capping today, but north of the channel breakwater was not. The wind and gusts were down from yesterday, but also seemed to have shifted to have a more easterly component. With the complex terrain, it’s not always easy to tell what the primary wind is, and what is a result of shadowing and funneling due to terrain.

Seeing Crescent Bay so stirred up, I decided to check out Silver Bay.


Thimbleberry Bay was also covered in whitecaps, but the mouth of Silver Bay was not. Looking down the bay I could see whitecaps between Bear Cove and the elbow of the bay where it turns out to Eastern Channel.


I apparently just missed a good show of eagle acrobatics at Sawmill Cove. I saw handful of eagles taking turns swooping at the water, but only for a couple of minutes. Folks in another car told me they had been watching for 20 minutes or so as the eagles used the wind to help position themselves for a dive to grab things off the water. I’m guessing it was morts from the hatchery facility, but I’m not sure.

I got a note about Lapland Longspurs at the airport this morning.

While I was out this afternoon, I went for a walk in the area to see if they were someplace where I could see them.

I made a loop by going through the cleared staging area, passing up through the alders and walking down airport road, then coming back along old airport road.

At the old long term parking area, I noticed a hummingbird fly by. I suspect a Rufous Hummingbird given the time and location, but I did not see it well enough to be sure.

Water in the ditch was as low as I remember seeing it. The smell of muddy bank was in the air. I’m not sure what produces the smell, but it’s a familiar one that I’ve also noticed in Idaho (or at least it seems similar to me).

I went behind the berm hoping it would serve to block the wind while I laid back against my backpack and enjoyed the warmth of the sun.

The old alder leaves there were very dry. It wasn’t the only time I noticed how dry things seemed. Between the wind, sun, and very low for here (~25%) relative humidity.

I’ll look into it more in the coming days, but it looks like we may be seeing record low average daily humidity marks for the date at the Sitka 1 NE station – though those records only go back to 2005. If I’m reading things correctly, it looks like there are only a handful of days ever at that station which have an average relative humidity below 40%. Depending on how today and tomorrow turn out, they could approach the record. (This makes me curious about the lowest measured relative humidity at any time as well – though that information will take a little more work to dig out.)

At the house, at least one of the rats has figured out how to climb up into the feeder. I watched it climb up the post this afternoon. It even took a break from eating to go get a drink out of the bird bath attached to the feeder.

I woke up this morning hearing what I’m pretty sure was a Dark-eyed Junco alarming in my yard. I couldn’t easily place where it was calling from since I was inside. I looked out the window and could not see it. A Song Sparrow joined in lightly calling. I could see it on the fence between my two neighbors to the south. Shortly after the Song Sparrow started, the junco quit, and the Song Sparrow didn’t keep it going. I’m wondering if there was a cat somewhere near the fence.

When I stepped outside a bit later, I heard a Fox Sparrow singing in the low continuous way that I tend to assume is a young bird practicing. It was in the brush pile, and I heard it again this afternoon singing even more quietly.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Winter’s Encore https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/11/winters-encore/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/11/winters-encore/#respond Tue, 12 Apr 2022 06:41:00 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48240 Mostly sunny, chilly and breezy. Yesterday’s 50+ temperatures felt like a distant memory with gusty north winds keeping temperatures in the 30s. The official high will be 39F, but as I was out this afternoon, my car’s thermometer showed temps at 36F and down to 33F, depending on where I was. This weather pattern is ... Read more

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Mostly sunny, chilly and breezy.

Yesterday’s 50+ temperatures felt like a distant memory with gusty north winds keeping temperatures in the 30s. The official high will be 39F, but as I was out this afternoon, my car’s thermometer showed temps at 36F and down to 33F, depending on where I was.


This weather pattern is basically a winter outflow event. If it were happening earlier in the year, we would be lucky to see highs above freezing, and lows could drop down into single digits.

On the plus side, despite the wintry weather pattern, the strong April sun felt warm in those moments between chilling gusts.


A couple of young rats did their best impressions of squirrels trying to get to the bird feeder. I’m thinking they were young because of their size and lack of wariness. They spent a fair amount of time out in the open over a couple of hours, at least.


I don’t remember seeing rats climb around on branches before, but these were up in the honeysuckle, on branches sticking out from the brush pile, and even climbed a tree at least once.


I walked old airport road this afternoon. I had a brief (~5 second) look at a Peregrine Falcon flyby. Thanks to the marvels of modern autofocus, I was able to get pictures. Otherwise I would have known it was a falcon, but guessed it was a Merlin (it didn’t seem that large to me – but it can be hard to tell sometimes).


The wind was raising whitecaps from north of the channel breakwater out to Katlian. I drove out to Starrigavan and saw a couple of big gusts hitting the water, but not consistently enough that I could get photos.


This evening Connor let me know there were Northern Pintails down in front of the visitor center at the park. Since I hadn’t seen any yet this year, I went down to get a look. With the pintails and the falcon, my year total is up to 88 species, four ahead of last year’s pace. That’s all well and good for this time of year, but the difference maker in the end will be how many unusual species show up. Last year was a good year for species that don’t get reported most years, more than making up for the handful of regular occuring species I didn’t happen to see.

After my stop by the park, I checked out Silver Bay. The wind was gusting, but not nearly as strong as it seemed to be out of Katlian Bay.

I worked on gaining a better sense of the Radula species we have around here. They’re liverworts, and only three species are known from the area. It looks like in many (maybe most) cases they should be relatively easy to recognize. I’m pretty sure I’ve already observed all three, though I hadn’t previously had names on most of my observations.

Dandelions blooming across from Sealing Cove parking lot are the first I’ve seen this year.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Sunny and Warm(er) https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/10/sunny-and-warmer/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/10/sunny-and-warmer/#respond Mon, 11 Apr 2022 06:38:14 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48237 Clear skies. Frosty overnight, with temperatures warming into the low 50s today. Breezy after late morning. It looks like today’s high was 52F, so the streak of days less than 51F ends at 158, just one day shy of tying for 5th longest. (As an aside, I had completely forgotten that I wrote up something ... Read more

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Clear skies. Frosty overnight, with temperatures warming into the low 50s today. Breezy after late morning.


It looks like today’s high was 52F, so the streak of days less than 51F ends at 158, just one day shy of tying for 5th longest. (As an aside, I had completely forgotten that I wrote up something about these sort of streaks last year as we were approaching a record late date for the first 50F day. I was reminded when I saw the post show up in the “On this Day in…” list today.)

The sun felt warm, but anywhere there was a breeze, it still felt chilly.

I walked 8+ miles total today.

I started with a walk around the park. I hoped to see the Northern Pintails that had been reported in town (though I wasn’t sure if that’s where they were seen).

Plenty of Mallards, but I didn’t see any other dabbling ducks.


A Greater Yellowlegs was working the edge of the river in the estuary.


I saw a Downy Woodpecker in an alder along Jeff Davis street. That was a new one for me this year.

I checked Swan Lake, but some folks were talking on the peninsula, so there wasn’t much nearby.


Kitty and I walked two and a half miles out Green Lake Road and back. The salmonberries aren’t much further along than when I was there a few days ago. Perhaps next weekend would be a good time to check back and see if there are more flowers with hummingbirds visiting.

Although it was quite chilly in the shade, once we made it far enough around to be in the sun, it felt pleasantly warm.

Birds were mostly quiet, though I heard later from Connor that he had heard a screech owl along the road not too long before we passed by (he had passed us on a bicycle not too long before hearing it).

I also saw a report of a mystery bird up by Blue Lake. If I had seen it soon enough, I probably would have suggested we walk up there instead.


While enjoying the sun on the porch at the Beak, a yellowjacket flew up to check some things out. I was able to get some pictures, and I’m pretty sure it’s a forest yellowjacket. It’s a species I’ve photographed twice before, the last time was in 2009. (This makes me wonder what the longest gap between sightings of a particular species is for me. At 13 years, this one would probably be in the running.)

We went out to Starrigavan and I showed Kitty the Neckera menziesii, but didn’t take any pictures while I was there (except for the moon).

Turnout at ultimate was pretty good this evening. We even played seven on seven for a while. We were able to see the sun dropping behind the camelback/crater rim while we played, and it wasn’t completely dark even as we were wrapping up around 9pm.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Sitka Nature Show #260 – Jason Briner and Caleb Walcott (encore) https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/10/sitka-nature-show-260-jason-briner-and-caleb-walcott-encore/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/10/sitka-nature-show-260-jason-briner-and-caleb-walcott-encore/#respond Sun, 10 Apr 2022 23:00:18 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48667 Download Radio Show The April 10th show featured a conversation with Jason Briner and Caleb Walcott. This conversation was originally recorded and aired in 2019 when they were in town to conduct research related to Caleb’s master’s project. Caleb recently let me know that a paper based on his master’s work has been published in ... Read more

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Download Radio Show

The April 10th show featured a conversation with Jason Briner and Caleb Walcott. This conversation was originally recorded and aired in 2019 when they were in town to conduct research related to Caleb’s master’s project.

Caleb recently let me know that a paper based on his master’s work has been published in Geochronology.

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 Breaks at Starrigavan and Sandy Beach https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/09/sunny-breaks-at-starrigavan-and-sandy-beach/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/09/sunny-breaks-at-starrigavan-and-sandy-beach/#respond Sun, 10 Apr 2022 06:36:03 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48234 Clear skies this morning, with clouds slowly building into the later afternoon. After a period of overcast, clouds broke up again in the hour or so before sunset this evening. A tortricid moth on the wall by the porch light was doing its best imitation of a white-shouldered moth. I took care of my radio ... Read more

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Clear skies this morning, with clouds slowly building into the later afternoon. After a period of overcast, clouds broke up again in the hour or so before sunset this evening.


A tortricid moth on the wall by the porch light was doing its best imitation of a white-shouldered moth.

I took care of my radio show this morning and had a turn as part of the pledge drive for the station over the noon hour.

After I was done there, I checked out the channel then drove out the road.


There were not many birds in the channel, though a decent flock of gulls and an eagle or two were wheeling above.

I saw the Greater Yellowlegs at Starrigavan again. The dabbling ducks were out on salt water. The tide was out too far for me to be able to identify them, and others were walking dogs on the beach, so I didn’t check things out further.

I stopped at Sandy Beach for a bit and made my observations for the day.


I had in mind to search for intertidal rove beetles. When realized I didn’t have a good container to put any I might find in, I didn’t try too hard for them. Instead I just made observations of more or less familiar mid/upper intertidal organisms.

This evening I made progress on last year’s observations. Only two days with observations remain. One, a June day on the Chaicheis will end up being my biggest day (observation-wise) of the year. Fortunately, I’ve already got over half the day’s observations done. The other day is from early November, and mostly what remains are a bunch of gull pictures from the channel that I’ve not been excited to sort through more thoroughly.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Starrigavan and Showers https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/08/starrigavan-and-showers/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/08/starrigavan-and-showers/#respond Sat, 09 Apr 2022 06:34:55 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48232 Overcast and rainy this morning, transitioning to convective showers with small breaks showing blue sky and even a little sun later in the day. Rowan went with me out to Starrigavan this afternoon. I wanted to see look for the yellow and black springtails I had found on a recent trip As I scanned the ... Read more

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Overcast and rainy this morning, transitioning to convective showers with small breaks showing blue sky and even a little sun later in the day.

Rowan went with me out to Starrigavan this afternoon.

I wanted to see look for the yellow and black springtails I had found on a recent trip

As I scanned the estuary while still driving, I noticed a Greater Yellowlegs.

This prompted a side trip to the viewing platform so I could get a better look at it (my first of the year).

We heard a Red-tailed Hawk, sounded like across the estuary, but couldn’t see it.

Dozens of robins flew up from estuary meadow.

Walking around loop to walk-in campground area, we heard the hawk again.

Looking up to try and see it, Rowan noticed two raptors up high. I took pictures.


One clearly a Bald Eagle, the other I thought might be a Golden Eagle. Not good photos, but good enough. Head/neck did not extend as far out, body was all dark. A bit of pale seemed to show on back of head and neck.

Three new species put me ahead of last year’s pace for the moment. Hard to say how long that will last, however.


In the walk in campground, stepped off at the site where I had seen Sphagnum growing on gravel and took some pictures this time. People with very large dogs were coming our way, and it seemed sensible to give them space. At least one of the dogs seemed suspicious of us (heard it growling).


When I pointed out the tree where I had found the springtails, Rowan quickly found several more. At least a couple were yellow and black, though more were of the mostly dark variety.

They were surprisingly difficult to capture. They didn’t seem to mind us peering closely at them, nor did they do much when I put my camera right up against the tree to take pictures. However, as soon as we had the container up and approaching one, it would spring off. Rowan had success when she slowly moved the container with it oriented in a way that maximized the chance it would spring into the container. If she moved slowly enough, she could get close enough that the springtail went into the container.

Since it didn’t look like we were successful capturing a black and yellow one (which is what I was most interested in), and we couldn’t find any more of those on the tree. We looked around on some other dead trees. We found a few more, again mostly the dark ones, though we didn’t spend as much time at it.


I did find a long-bodied springtail on one. It was much easier to catch, as it didn’t seem concerned about the approach of the container.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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April Showers https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/07/april-showers-2/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/07/april-showers-2/#respond Fri, 08 Apr 2022 06:32:50 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48229 Overcast to mostly cloudy with rain showers, mixing with snow at times. Went for a drive this afternoon after getting lunch and eating it at the Channel. Only a few gulls at the channel. Couple of Pigeon Guillemots. Green water at entrance to herring cove suggested herring were spawning (or had done so earlier in ... Read more

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Overcast to mostly cloudy with rain showers, mixing with snow at times.

Went for a drive this afternoon after getting lunch and eating it at the Channel.

Only a few gulls at the channel. Couple of Pigeon Guillemots.


Green water at entrance to herring cove suggested herring were spawning (or had done so earlier in the day).

Out to Starrigavan to see if herring were spawning somewhere along road system.


Didn’t see any clear spawning activity, though a flock of gulls at the point by where surfers go at Sandy Beach was suggestive.

Hit an especially heavy shower as I got out to Starrigavan, but it was short-lived.


Checked out bryophytes on mountain ash trees there. Some different looking stuff, but I didn’t make any collections, as I’ve got plenty of those already waiting to be dealt with. These should be easy enough to get back to.


Polytrichaceae with red sporophytes stood out on rock ledges at start of Nelson Logging road.


Checked north end of channel – Long-tailed Ducks were hanging out there (hadn’t seen any in the central part of the channel).

Also a flock of ducks beyond the breakwater. Too far to be sure, but maybe scaups and/or scoters.


Looked at Prasiola collections from yesterday. Most of what I got was presumed P. borealis with fungal infection. Some of the smaller brighter green blades that were growing adjacent to the P. borealis were not obviously infected, and didn’t have the arrangement of cells that is used to differentiate P. borealis from P. meridionalis.

I’m going to talk to some folks to see if anyone could do a small project investigating these. I’m curious if there are really two different species of algae. If so, I’ curious if the young/small apparently uninfected ones growing with the infected ones are genetically the same species as the infected ones (and whether they’re different than the ones growing a bit lower where fungal infection doesn’t seem to occur). I’m wondering if it might not be too difficult to monitor and sample throughout a good chunk of the growing season. Do some genetic work to see if there’s evidence of multiple species or not and see when fungal infection seems to start, and track how things change as a result.

I was a little surprised at how many Ameronothrus mites I ended up with in the collections.


I also found some rotifers in the young/small Prasiola I collected off the second rock growing adjacent to some P. borealis.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Spring Birds, Flowers, Seaweed, and Mite-y Rocks https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/06/spring-birds-flowers-seaweed-and-mite-y-rocks/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/06/spring-birds-flowers-seaweed-and-mite-y-rocks/#respond Thu, 07 Apr 2022 06:29:51 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48226 Overcast for most of the day, with increasing winds and some rain late in the day. The forecast had been for very windy with rain today, so I was a little surprised to wake up and see blue skies out my window. That didn’t last long, as by the time I got up a half ... Read more

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Overcast for most of the day, with increasing winds and some rain late in the day.

The forecast had been for very windy with rain today, so I was a little surprised to wake up and see blue skies out my window. That didn’t last long, as by the time I got up a half an hour or so later, it was cloudy.


The updated forecast said rain was more likely this afternoon, so I decided to get out for a walk around Totem Park this morning.


Shortly after leaving, I heard a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. It’s my first of the year.


I checked the visitor center walls for moths and found three different species, all ones I’ve seen previously this year.

One of my intentions was to look for a Rock Sandpiper so I headed out to the river mouth.

It had been calm in the forest, but stepping out on the beach was a different story. A stiff breeze was blowing across from the southeast.

The tide was approaching low, so plenty of beach for shorebirds to be on. I didn’t hear any shorebirds, but figured I would walk out near the shoreline just in case.

I didn’t walk out on the spur between the river and the no longer active channel, but did scan with my binoculars. A flock of gulls was out at the end, but I didn’t spot anything that seemed unusual. Between the distance and chilly wind blowing in my face, conditions were not the best for viewing.

I continued around without seeing any shorebirds other than a couple oystercatchers (which had been out in front closer to the visitor center earlier.


A trio of Horned Grebes showed up close to shore. At first there was only one. It caught my attention because I could see it had started transitioning to summer plumage.


While I watched it kept looking up to the sky, so I looked up as well. I could see several gulls and an eagle soaring overhead. I’m guessing the grebe was just trying to make sure there weren’t going to be any predator surprise attacks from above.

I was nearly off the beach when I happened to catch sight of a flock of shorebirds flying at the river mouth. I debated with myself briefly before heading back out crossing the old channel to the finger of beach closest to the river mouth.

At the very end I found a flock of 100 or so Surfbirds and Black Turnstones, but didn’t see any Rock Sandpipers in the mix.

Before heading home, I stopped at Sage Beach to check for Prasiola borealist again. This time, I went to the specific rock where I remembered finding it before.


Before looking specifically at the Prasiola I spent a moment giving the rock a closer look.


I was a little surprised when I realized pretty much every small hole or depression in the rock was filled with tiny mites. I’ve previously observed these Ameronothrus mites, but only when I got home and found them in my photos.

I hadn’t remembered to look for them specifically since that time. They’re very easy to overlook, because they are so small.


As first I was only seeing Prasiola meridionalis like I found a couple of days ago when I was looking. When I looked up a little higher, I noticed the much darker (due to fungal infection) Prasiola borealis. It seemed to prefer being about a foot higher than the bulk of the P. meridionalis. This put it up into the lichen zone.


Once I had a clearly image of what I was looking for, I saw it growing on other nearby rocks. On one it was well up into the lichen zone. There was even some moss growing lower down than it.


I’m curious about the relationship between the two Prasiola species and the fungus (in particular, I’m wondering if perhaps there’s only one species). I made particular note of dark and pale green (maybe uninfected blades) growing together.

Processing photos from last week this evening, I finally reviewed the flock shots of the shorebirds, and it turns out there were two or three Rock Sandpipers in the mix. I thought I had seen one, but then lost sight of it. I wasn’t able to refind it, so wasn’t sure if I had been mistaken in suboptimal viewing conditions.

As a result of adding the Rock Sandpiper, I’m up to 82 species for the year, which is on pace with last year at this date. Of course there are several species I’ve already seen this year which I didn’t see until later in the year last year. Last year was exceptional numbers-wise, so while it would be nice to keep up or even surpass the totals, but I don’t really expect to.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Walking Green Lake Road https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/05/walking-green-lake-road/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/05/walking-green-lake-road/#respond Wed, 06 Apr 2022 06:28:05 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48223 Showers, both graupel and rain, with sunny breaks between. Temperatures mostly in the low 40s. I walked a bit more than a mile out Green Lake road this afternoon. Fortunately (for my comfort), my timing avoided any significant precipitation, and I even experienced some sun. The air felt cool, but I did enjoy the feeling ... Read more

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Showers, both graupel and rain, with sunny breaks between. Temperatures mostly in the low 40s.


I walked a bit more than a mile out Green Lake road this afternoon.

Fortunately (for my comfort), my timing avoided any significant precipitation, and I even experienced some sun.

The air felt cool, but I did enjoy the feeling of warmth during those moments of direct sun.


I was motivated in part because I had previously seen pictures of salmonberries blooming along the road. I thought there might be more blooming. I did see some blooming, though most are not. Still, it seemed like at least as much as blooming in town, and maybe more.

I think of Silver Bay as colder than town. I think for most of the winter it almost certainly is. For example, I saw snow in the roadside ditch in a couple of places. Snow melted off in town quite some time ago. However, it may be that around this time of year it gets warmer. It’s further from the sound, and the road has a nice southern exposure. Maybe it would be worth putting an ibutton or two out the road and seeing what they can tell me.

Walking along the road birds were mostly quiet. I did hear many bees buzzing about (though didn’t see many visiting flowers).

Along one section of road the ditch alongside was had water flowing along. I enjoyed hearing the changing combination of sounds as I came near and moved passed places the water was trickling over rocks into a pool below. Longer drops and bigger pools had a deeper sound.


I stopped and investigated a wet rock outcrop with some liverworts growing on it.

While doing this a couple folks on bicycles said hello as they rode by. Just after they passed, I looked back again and saw a mink running up the road in the opposite direction. If I’d had my larger camera on me, I would have tried to take a picture. However, I didn’t figure I had much chance of stepping over and getting my camera before the mink disappeared. As it was, I’m not sure the mink realized I was there. It didn’t look in my direction while I watched, at least (and was not moving as though it might be aware of or concerned with me as best I could tell).


I was not far from getting back to the gate when I heard a junco or two in the salmonberry thicket above me. I decided to try pishing and was a little surprised when I saw a flock of 5-10 juncos pop up in response.

A couple of Golden-crowned Kinglets showed up as well, though they seemed more interested in foraging.

I made brief stops at Swan Lake (two swans are still around) and the channel.

It looked like herring might have been in the channel. I saw eagles going for things, and at least one that had caught a herring. The few dozen gulls were not taking any chances. Each time an eagle flew over with intent, they took off. Inevitably the eagle seemed to be going for fish. They took off several times during the 15 minutes or so that I watched.


Spawning was reported out Halibut Point Road yesterday, so I drove out that way before heading home. The tide was up (I think herring might more often spawn on a lower tide), and I didn’t see any active spawning. I did see foam on the water that I think was probably from earlier spawning.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Sunny April Day Around the Neighborhood https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/04/sunny-april-day-around-the-neighborhood/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2022/04/04/sunny-april-day-around-the-neighborhood/#respond Tue, 05 Apr 2022 06:26:27 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=48220 Mostly sunny, with clouds building later in the afternoon. Late in the evening it rained. Breezy with temperatures in the 40s. Although I had a call this morning, the sunny weather compelled me to get out. I planned to go down to the park and look for shorebirds. I wasn’t expecting anything new other than ... Read more

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Mostly sunny, with clouds building later in the afternoon. Late in the evening it rained. Breezy with temperatures in the 40s.

Although I had a call this morning, the sunny weather compelled me to get out.

I planned to go down to the park and look for shorebirds. I wasn’t expecting anything new other than hoping to catch sight of a Rock Sandpiper or two mixed in with Surfbirds and Black Turnstones (some of have been reported over the past few days).


I walked through the SJ campus, and saw some robins on the lawn. Today seems to be the first significant influx, as best I can tell.


I was surprised to see trees cut down that had been lining the old bunker oil storage. I learned the Fine Arts Camp got grant funding to take care of it, so that will presumably happen in the coming days/weeks. Those trees were a reasonably accessible and reliable spot for some mushrooms during late summer and fall, but it’s probably for the best that the old oil be taken care of.


In the neighborhood I walked through Song Sparrows were singing. In the forest it was Pacific Wrens.


I sat for the last half of my call on a gravel bar just up from the estuary meadow. I was in full sun and out of the breeze, so it felt nicely warm.


After my call I walked through the backwater estuary meadow and noticed a rice root bulb with a new sprout growing out. After taking a picture I put it in the ground to give it a better chance. I’ve previously noticed bulbs on the surface in this location. I’m guessing they come out during high water, but I’m not sure how.

Walking around the beach, I did not see any shorebirds. The tide was on its way up, but there was plenty of exposed beach, so I’m not sure why they weren’t there today.


Herring seiners were moving around in the bay and to the south. I wondered if they were looking for herring. It turned out an opening was called this afternoon, and it included Crescent Bay.

I was recently reminded of some questions I have about Prasiola a small green seaweed that shows up in the winter and will be gone by summer.

After checking the walls of the visitor center for moths (I found a couple, both species I’ve seen already this year), I went to Sage Rock.


I looked around in a patch of the Prasiola and collected some to bring home and look at more closely. It all seemed to be P. meridionalis. I was hoping to find some P. borealis, but it would have helped to refresh my memory on my previous sighting. (I was thinking it had been later in the spring, but it was actually in February. I had also forgotten how much different it looked.

If/when I end up investigating further, I’ll probably have more to say about these.

Coming back home along Etolin Street, I heard a Steller’s Jay calling in the neighborhood. It’s the first I’ve observed this year.


This afternoon I went back out with hopes of seeing the Purple Finch which was seen again this morning. I sat in the yard where it’s been visiting a feeder. After a half hour of waiting, it showed up. I was able to get a few documentary photos, so that was nice. The Purple Finch was my 80th bird species for the year. Somewhat surprisingly, I’m only two behind last year’s pace.


I went to the lake. There was someone fishing from the peninsula, which seemed like a good explanation for why there were no ducks there. Instead they were in a couple of groups resting among the sedges along the shoreline. At least one Trumpeter Swan is still here. I was interested to see it and a Bald Eagle not far away on the lakeshore well up towards the upper end.


I got distracted on my way home when I saw a seiner out on Crescent Bay. I heard someone mention they were fishing herring, so I went down to the breakwater.

There were plenty of boats on the bay, but no obviously large sets.


Bald Eagles kept swooping down to grab herring from the surface. They were not especially close, but I tried for photos anyway. While reviewing the sequence above, I was initially puzzled by what I thought might be a herring jumping out of the water after the eagle dropped down. Closer inspection revealed a different story.


Working on the Prasiola collection this evening, I found I had inadvertently collected two fly larvae as well. The larger reminded me of a cranefly, the smaller a midge. I’m not sure if I will be able to raise them to adults (or if I will even try).

My iNaturalist Observations for Today