Sitka Nature https://www.sitkanature.org On a Lifelong Journey to Learn my Place Tue, 07 Feb 2023 08:00:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.1.1 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 Nice Views on a Showery Winter Day https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/02/06/views-on-a-showery-winter-day/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/02/06/views-on-a-showery-winter-day/#respond Tue, 07 Feb 2023 07:50:52 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=58887 Weather shifted to a more showery set up, with some sun breaks through the middle part of the day. Calm winds overall (at least when showers weren’t around). Showers often included graupel and snow mixed in. Enough graupel and wet snow fell this morning for a layer of slush to form on the ground. It ... Read more

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Weather shifted to a more showery set up, with some sun breaks through the middle part of the day. Calm winds overall (at least when showers weren’t around). Showers often included graupel and snow mixed in.

Enough graupel and wet snow fell this morning for a layer of slush to form on the ground. It had mostly melted off by this afternoon in the central part of town.

I didn’t have a lot of ambition on my outing today.


At Sawmill Cove there I saw the Pelagic Cormorant with white neck patches again. Also other Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorants and Common Mergansers.

I didn’t work too hard at looking, but didn’t notice any murres on the bay.


Views of the mountains surrounding Silver Bay were quite lovely.

I delivered the last of my bird calendars while I was out that way. A snow/graupel shower hit as I was going down Shotgun Alley. Although it turned the road white, fortunately it didn’t get slippery. I was surprised to see a pretty radical change to the look at the bottom of the hill. What had been a small forested knob (former islet) with a cabin tucked behind the trees has been completely cleared and a very large house is going up.


I went as far as Harbor Point in the other direction. I appreciated the views, but saw very few birds and no sea lions or whales. The herring must have moved elsewhere.


I was a little surprised to see ravens picking at a deer hide along the channel. Deer hunting season ended last Tuesday. Presumably someone just got around to tossing out the skin.


With my binoculars I could see ravens doing their synchronized flight dancing over Verstovia. I took some pictures from the channel. On a stop at Crescent Harbor I could see them better (being nearly a mile closer certainly helped).

Connor spotted a Sharp-shinned Hawk perched in a tree as we were sitting down for lunch. I saw where it was (across the road and a house or two back), but couldn’t see it well enough to know what it was without binoculars. It took off before I could get a better look.


Motivated by a couple observations I recently posted from a full day last August, I started going through and organizing some of my collections. I found the ones I was looking for from that day. I got additional photos of the lichen, but will need to do a bit more organizing to have better access to my microscopes for the photos I need to work on for the mosses and liverworts.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Birds on a Breezy Sunday https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/02/05/birds-on-a-breezy-sunday/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/02/05/birds-on-a-breezy-sunday/#respond Mon, 06 Feb 2023 07:41:20 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=58825 Overcast and breezy. Light rain becoming heavy. Temperatures near 40. Snow level down to 1000 feet or less. While out and about today, I drove by Moller Park and saw the Sandhill Crane there for the first time in a couple of weeks. It’s been reported a couple of times by others since the last ... Read more

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Overcast and breezy. Light rain becoming heavy. Temperatures near 40. Snow level down to 1000 feet or less.


While out and about today, I drove by Moller Park and saw the Sandhill Crane there for the first time in a couple of weeks. It’s been reported a couple of times by others since the last time I saw it a couple of weeks ago, so I was not surprised it was still around. I have been checking Moller most days, and haven’t seen it. I’m curious where it’s been spending more of its time.


I walked a circuit of Japonski Island with Kitty. Perhaps it was the chilly wind, but we didn’t see much bird activity. Mostly one flock of juncos near Coast Guard housing, and the water birds in the channel.

I did spot what I’m reasonably confident was a Horned Puffin in the channel. I didn’t get photos and saw it only briefly a couple of times, and quite distant. However, the compact shape, white breast and black upper parts are distinctive. Given how unusual they are most winters, I probably wouldn’t have been willing to call it that if I hadn’t already seen one in the area recently.

Three of us showed up for ultimate this evening. Fortunately the heavy rain held off during the half an hour we played catch. Gusty winds made it challenging to throw accurately and catch at times.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Starrigavan Observations https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/02/04/starrigavan-observations/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/02/04/starrigavan-observations/#respond Sun, 05 Feb 2023 06:35:52 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=58806 Overcast with some light rain during the day. Chilly. Temperatures in the 30s. Although it was above freezing while I was out, clear skies lasted long enough last night for some things to freeze around the house. I noticed ice in the hummingbird feeder, and one of the gutters. I waited until later in the ... Read more

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Overcast with some light rain during the day. Chilly. Temperatures in the 30s.

Although it was above freezing while I was out, clear skies lasted long enough last night for some things to freeze around the house. I noticed ice in the hummingbird feeder, and one of the gutters.

I waited until later in the afternoon to go out to Starrigavan. I wanted to revisit the mystery dark balls growing on the barnacle shells. High tide was near noon, and I wouldn’t be able to get to them until the tide had fallen four feet off it’s 10+ ft high.


When I arrived at Starrigavan shortly before 3, the tide was still too high.

I passed some time by walking through the hike in part of the campground.


I was able to find yellow and black springtails I had first noticed last year. In order to maybe get an identification beyond family, I will need to collect one of them.

I was puzzled that they would not jump when I took pictures, but did jump as I lifted the little container to capture one. When I tried going with the container without taking pictures first, they wouldn’t jump. I was able to catch three or four, but I’m not sure if any were the larger females that I need for identification purposes (they were too small for me to see well enough without the additional magnification my camera provides).


With the heavy clouds, light was starting to fade when I went down to the beach around 3:45pm. The tide wasn’t quite as low as my previous visit, but I thought it was low enough.


As it turned out, the tide was only just low enough. At first I wasn’t finding any of the barnacles with the dark growths on the shell. When I looked right at the waters edge, and even in the water, I started seeing them.

I spent the evening working on observations last August 12th. It was a very full day, with a trip down to the park very early for moonset, followed by a trip to little magic island for low tide, then a hike up Starrigavan Ridge and back down by Eagle Dip Lake. I still have observations from the hike, but the low tide observations were enough to put me over 1000 for Alaska last year. It was a productive day at the beach, as I saw at least two or three new-to-me species.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Unexpected Sunny Day – Birds and Views https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/02/03/unexpected-sunny-day-birds-and-views/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/02/03/unexpected-sunny-day-birds-and-views/#respond Sat, 04 Feb 2023 07:56:20 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=58712 Overcast early, becoming mostly clear by midday. I noticed it looked like a break in the clouds around 8am. It was before the sun was up and I didn’t go take a closer look, so I wasn’t quite sure. When the sun had risen a few minutes later, the clearing was confirmed. Over the remaining ... Read more

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Overcast early, becoming mostly clear by midday.

I noticed it looked like a break in the clouds around 8am. It was before the sun was up and I didn’t go take a closer look, so I wasn’t quite sure. When the sun had risen a few minutes later, the clearing was confirmed.

Over the remaining morning hours, I was mostly focused on calls (and doing some photo editing in the background), so didn’t really track the clearing conditions. I was a bit surprised at just how sunny it was when I went out around noon.

I spent most of the afternoon out and about. I was not feeling too ambitious, and mostly watched birds on the water from my car.

I stopped at Sea Mart to take pictures of Mt. Edgecumbe, and saw three Horned Grebes (and possibly another 3 or 4 more further up towards Sandy Beach).

I don’t usually stop at Kerr’s Island, but did today. This stop resulted in my biggest surprise of the day.

At first I thought a Rhinoceros Auklet had popped up between the island and shore. These are good birds for this time of year, but not super rare. When I got a closer look through my camera, I realized its bill was too thick. It was a winter plumage Tufted Puffin, the first I’ve seen. It appears to be the first winter report for Southeast Alaska in ebird, though there are older reports from Sitka not in ebird.


I called a flock of shorebirds Black Turnstones on my ebird checklist. Upon review of photos at home, I found a couple of Surfbirds and two Rock Sandpipers in the mix as well (so edited my checklist accordingly).

At Harbor Point I counted 60+ Common Murres. They were all quite far out, so no pictures. Eagles were active out in the distances a well. I am guessing there were herring out that way.


At Starrigavan the tide had dropped far enough from the midday high for some beach to be exposed. A few gulls had started to gather. I didn’t find any unusual looking ones in the mix.


Since skies had cleared nearly to the horizon, I stayed out for sunset.


The nearly full moon was already high above the Sisters and Verstovia.


It was not quite a clean horizon. However the clouds were thin enough for me to catch a bit of a green flash and even a bit of blue at the end.

I am down to a handful of days to finish up for last August’s observations in iNaturalist.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Winter Waterfowl and Epiphytes https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/02/02/waterfowl-and-epiphytes/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/02/02/waterfowl-and-epiphytes/#respond Fri, 03 Feb 2023 07:44:48 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=58663 Low overcast with light drizzle occasionally becoming heavier rain. I wasn’t sure where I might want to go today, but headed out anyway. Swan Lake is always a good spot to check, so that’s where I went first. Since the ice melted out, several swans seem to be spending most of their time at the ... Read more

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Low overcast with light drizzle occasionally becoming heavier rain.

I wasn’t sure where I might want to go today, but headed out anyway.

Swan Lake is always a good spot to check, so that’s where I went first.


Since the ice melted out, several swans seem to be spending most of their time at the lake.


An American Wigeon was eating grass on the peninsula.


A male Gadwall was resting with Mallards.


It got up when I stepped out and drew the attention of the Mallards (who were coming over in case I had food).


All three Wood Ducks were also at the Peninsula.

From the lake I ended up at south Halibut Point Rec.

In the past I’ve found some interesting small lichens on the spruce twigs. However, they’ve done a fair bit of trimming of the spruce branches adjacent to the trail which runs along the shoreline.


I didn’t find too much, but did notice a couple small lichens on a spruce twig.


A moss growing on a spruce trunk caught my attention. It seemed fairly obvious and maybe even distinctive, but I don’t remember noticing it before.


I couldn’t find any sporophytes growing from any of the several clumps I checked. I did notice there were gemmae, so maybe that will help me get a name for this one.

[Update: the next day, Kitty asked me why it wasn’t Ulota phyllantha. That had crossed my mind when I saw the gemmae, but I hadn’t remember seeing it with such straight leaves like this. This was faulty memory on my part. I have a very similar looking picture that may have even been from the same tree. That one had more gemmae on it, so I probably recognized it at the time because of that.]

This morning I mostly caught up publishing photojournal entries from this year. I just have yesterday’s (and now today’s) left to do. I’m considering beginning to publish ones from last year. In the past I’ve thought about prioritizing the more interesting ones, but I think it will probably be more effective if I just start working backwards. (This will help build my daily publishing streak going in both directions, which I suspect will be more motivating.)

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Old Sitka Beach Curiosities https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/02/01/old-sitka-beach-curiosities/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/02/01/old-sitka-beach-curiosities/#comments Thu, 02 Feb 2023 08:23:49 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=58660 Overcast with occasional rain. Temperatures in the low 40s and light winds. I went out to Starrigavan this afternoon. Connor had seen Herring Gulls there yesterday, so I thought I would see if they might be around. Gull numbers were down from what I had seen on previous days. (It seemed like bird and whale ... Read more

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Overcast with occasional rain. Temperatures in the low 40s and light winds.

I went out to Starrigavan this afternoon. Connor had seen Herring Gulls there yesterday, so I thought I would see if they might be around.

Gull numbers were down from what I had seen on previous days. (It seemed like bird and whale activity off Harbor Point was also not what it had been. Perhaps the herring had moved elsewhere.)


I ended up poking around on the beach a bit by Old Sitka State Historical Park.


Among the 25+ Black Turnstones there were two Surfbirds and a Rock Sandpiper.

I didn’t find any Herring Gulls among the 50-100 I saw on the beach.


My biggest curiosities of the day came from looking at barnacles.

Several of them had black ball-like growths on them. At first I thought it might be Collemopsidium, a lichen that grows on shells in the intertidal. However, when I’ve seen it before, I don’t think the black bits were so large (though maybe some were).


When reviewing my pictures at home, I noticed they appeared to be a very dark green (one showed green where thin enough for light to pass through). I probably need to go back and collect some to section and look at under a microscope.


The second barnacle curiosity was orange patches on the surface of many shells. It’s possible it’s some sort of iron-oxide staining, but if so, I wonder why it’s so patchy. Another possibility I’m considering is that it’s a lichen (or perhaps a thin film/crust of algae or bacteria).

On this day in 2017, I did a review of the first month of the big year project. I felt like I was going pretty hard that year, and had made it up to 99 species (in the end, it ended up being 111 species and 130 unique taxa for the month as more got identified to species.

In contrast, I’ve felt like I’m taking a comfortably steady approach and am up to 125 species with 147 unique taxa.

It’s a similar story with the Sitka observations as a whole. We have 474 observations with 256 unique taxa this year. In 2017 it was 569 observations, but only 228 unique taxa.

For me personally, I attribute this to knowing more of my neighbors (and knowing them better) now than I did then. Another contributing factor was my decision in early 2021 to start and maintain a streak of making early observations. I don’t think anyone else locally is keeping a streak of daily observations, but I do believe several of us have improved our knowledge of the organisms we share this area with, and that’s reflected in a greater diversity of species being observed.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Some of Our Smaller Neighbors https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/31/some-of-our-smaller-neighbors/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/31/some-of-our-smaller-neighbors/#respond Wed, 01 Feb 2023 07:56:47 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=58442 Overcast and calm. Temperatures in the lower 40s with occasional rain, mostly later in the day. Early this afternoon white cheeks the junco was in the yard. I was able to get some photos. I imagine white cheeks is a regular visitor, but I’m not always watching the yard. I spent some time this afternoon ... Read more

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Overcast and calm. Temperatures in the lower 40s with occasional rain, mostly later in the day.


Early this afternoon white cheeks the junco was in the yard. I was able to get some photos. I imagine white cheeks is a regular visitor, but I’m not always watching the yard.

I spent some time this afternoon sitting at the kelp patch pullout. I did see the Fox Sparrow again, but wasn’t able to get a picture. It stayed too far back in the bushes and kept moving enough that I couldn’t get focused fast enough for even a partially obstructed shot.


This morning I saw on a comment left on an observation I posted recently. Following up on it, I realized I had misidentified a moss I had found last year, and continued the same mistake this year. This observation (and the first one) were both from Thimbleberry Lake Trail. I had also seen what I believed to be the same species on Japonski Island, so I decided to return there today.


I now think the moss is Orthotrichum pulchellum, a small moss (even by moss standards). It’s been easy for me to forget just how small it is when I’m mostly looking at the macro photos of it. Today I took a picture with scale (a quarter) that helps.

At both locations I found the moss growing on elderberry. I wouldn’t be surprised if it grows on other shrubs. Perhaps now that I have a better sense of it, I’ll find it more often.


While poking around in the bushes at the end of Seward Avenue, I noticed some feathers on the ground. Stepping forward for a better look, I saw a few more a couple of feet away. These included wing feathers, and I confirmed my suspicion they were Varied Thrush. I saw a third pile on a rock a few feet away.


The piles were in locations that were reasonably consistent with my memory of where I saw the Sharp-shinned Hawk (from the other side of the patch of bushes) a few days ago. I wouldn’t have guessed the hawk had something as large as a Varied Thrush based on what I saw when it flew. However, the feathers didn’t look very old, and it seems somewhat unlikely that two kills would have taken place at the exact same location in a short period of time.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Gray and Wet https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/30/gray-and-wet/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/30/gray-and-wet/#respond Tue, 31 Jan 2023 07:15:19 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=58399 Overcast with rain. Calm winds with temperatures in the 30s. Snow level down to near 1200 feet. With a return to rainy weather, I found it easier to stay at at home for more of the day. It’s just as well, since I had some bureaucratic stuff to deal with (some stuff mixed up) that ... Read more

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Overcast with rain. Calm winds with temperatures in the 30s. Snow level down to near 1200 feet.

With a return to rainy weather, I found it easier to stay at at home for more of the day.

It’s just as well, since I had some bureaucratic stuff to deal with (some stuff mixed up) that kept me on the phone for much of the morning.

Fortunately I was still able to work on photos and upload observations. I made progress on August observations from last year. It will take a fair bit more time to get through what remains of that month, but I think September will go faster.


I drove out to Starrigavan this afternoon. Gulls were once again out on the beach. This time I took a picture, but didn’t go out on the beach for a closer look.


I didn’t see whales from Harbor Point today, but sea lions were still active.

A dozen or two murres were out out further than I cared to take pictures of.


A Bald Eagle perched in a tree right by the pullout. Bedraggled looking in the rain, it seemed to be keeping an eye on the goings-on out on the water.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Harbor Point Whale https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/29/harbor-point-whale/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/29/harbor-point-whale/#respond Mon, 30 Jan 2023 08:04:57 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=58372 Mostly sunny through the morning, becoming overcast by later in the afternoon. Calm winds, temperatures in the 30s. Kitty is nearing 1000 species for Sitka in iNaturalist, so we went out today to see about getting some species she didn’t have. Although the Sandhill Crane was reported by someone within the past couple of days, ... Read more

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Mostly sunny through the morning, becoming overcast by later in the afternoon. Calm winds, temperatures in the 30s.

Kitty is nearing 1000 species for Sitka in iNaturalist, so we went out today to see about getting some species she didn’t have.

Although the Sandhill Crane was reported by someone within the past couple of days, I have not seen it at Moller Park for at least a week. It wasn’t there today.

Lesser Scaup (in the channel) and Peltigera neopolydactyla were easy pickups on Japonski Island (since I had observed both recently and knew where to find them).


While at the channel, I got pictures of the crow with a deformed bill. I will try to remember to go through my photos of the last 1-2 years and see whether I can confirm that I’ve been seeing the same crow for that long. I first remember seeing one with a crossed bill. I think this is the same bird, though the upper part broke off.


It was cool in the shade, but a pleasant walk around the Estuary Life trail at Starrigavan.

There was a larger flock of gulls out on t75he tide flats than I’ve been seeing lately. The harsher midday light and the distance dissuaded me from working to hard to look them over.

Driving back towards town I spotted a whale blowing. I pulled off at Harbor Point to watch for a bit.

I was surprised to see a blow right along the shoreline below. Although the tail lifted up, I hopped out of my car in case it might come up again where I could see.

Moments later I noticed bubbles coming to the surface.

They were followed by a whale emerging for a breath.

This surfacing also ended with the tail coming up.

I’m uncertain whether it was the same as the first whale, but given how close they were and the fact that the tail came up both times, I’m leaning towards thinking they were different.

I’ve not often been in a position to see what’s going on in the moments before a whale surfaces. I know when bubble feeding bubbles come to the surface before the whales do. I am curious if what I saw this time is something that happens during regular surfacing-to-breathe cycles, or if it was not typical (and if so, why was the whale doing it?).

We had five at ultimate this evening. Conditions were calm and chilly. We tossed a disk around for awhile, but no one was feeling too ambitious about playing a small game, so we called it good at playing catch.

After yesterday’s hike, I wasn’t going to be surprised if I felt sore today. I did feel a bit stiff, but no real soreness.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Sitka Nature Show #281 – Brian Buma (encore) https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/29/sitka-nature-show-281-brian-buma-encore/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/29/sitka-nature-show-281-brian-buma-encore/#respond Mon, 30 Jan 2023 00:00:14 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=58391 Download Radio Show The January 29th show featured a conversation with Brian Buma. Originally recorded and aired in fall 2021, in this conversation we spoke about his work on cedar decline, landslides, and some of the challenges understanding ecological processes over broad distances and long time scales. Learn more about his work at brianbuma.com His ... Read more

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Download Radio Show

The January 29th show featured a conversation with Brian Buma. Originally recorded and aired in fall 2021, in this conversation we spoke about his work on cedar decline, landslides, and some of the challenges understanding ecological processes over broad distances and long time scales.

Learn more about his work at brianbuma.com

His book Atlas for a Changing Climate is available on Amazon, and other booksellers]

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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Revisiting Old Friends https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/28/revisiting-old-friends/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/28/revisiting-old-friends/#respond Sun, 29 Jan 2023 07:53:35 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=58230 Clear, calm, and cool. Overnight lows officially were only down to around freezing, but it was certainly at least a colder at my house. Officially it got up to 45F today, though I think places without direct sun probably didn’t see that anything so high. I was reminded recently of a spruce I call the ... Read more

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Clear, calm, and cool. Overnight lows officially were only down to around freezing, but it was certainly at least a colder at my house. Officially it got up to 45F today, though I think places without direct sun probably didn’t see that anything so high.


I was reminded recently of a spruce I call the tripod tree that grows well up Indian River valley. I’ve been by it at least a couple of times since I first noticed it on a hike with my brother nearly 20 years ago. The last time I visited was early 2015, and I thought it was time for a return.

With the pleasant weather, today seemed like a good time to make the trip.

I headed out shortly after noon with the intention of being back in time to catch the sunset.

I made good time (30 minutes) up to the first bridge. From there I left the trail. I made my way through the forest mostly following a mix of hunter and game trails. It’s not very brushy, but there are plenty of fallen trees of varying ages as well as very wet low areas which can be annoying.

The streams were flowing higher than I would have guessed, especially the west fork tributaries. We did have some heavy rain earlier in the week. Early Wednesday the Indian River gauge peaked at over 25ft. It was back down below 22ft today, and continuing a slow downward trend. I imagine there is still plenty of water moving down through the ground (especially if it was warm enough to melt a fair bit of snow – which I think it probably was).


It took me an hour to make it up to the tripod tree. I was not 100% sure I would be able to find it at all. I knew roughly where it was, and once I got to that area, it seemed familiar. I did not have any trouble getting to it.


On the way down I went by the big hemlock. It is much shorter than when I first saw it (on the same 2004 trip with my brother). The top was broken off by late 2013. I’m not sure if it happened that fall, or maybe the year before.

Despite the damage, it still appears to be alive. There are two or three large branches below the break that support many additional smaller branches with green needles.

I mostly kept moving throughout the journey. If I had more time, I’m sure I would have poked around a bit more and seen what I could discover. Instead I just paused briefly for a few things that caught my eye as I walked.


One of my pauses was for an extensive area covered in Conocephalum. Last fall I had trouble finding enough of it to collect for use in a natural history class. I remembered seeing larger patches, but I didn’t remember where. I got my answer today.

I was interested to see sporophytes are already starting to develop on the Conocephalum.


At one point on my way back down the valley, I found it expedient to crawl on a gravel bar under a log that had fallen across the stream. Fortunately I noticed some alder nodules and wanted to make an observation right after that. My phone had come out of my pocket, and I have no idea when I would have noticed otherwise (nor if I would have figured out where it had come out).

My legs were definitely feeling it, but I did make it back in time for sunset.

I briefly considered walking out to the beach at the park for a picture of the lighthouse with the sunset. I decided the clouds didn’t seem promising for a good picture there, but it was probably just as much that I didn’t feel like walking out there with tired legs.


I did go up on the bridge. I appreciated the look of the sun as it set behind thin clouds. No green flash, but it has moved much further north. Still a ways to go before it gets to Vitskari Rocks, though.

The hike was a bit over 6 miles. There was not any significant uphill, but going over and under logs isn’t as easy straight trail walking. I haven’t been as active enough to stay in decent condition, and I felt it. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m a bit sore tomorrow.

I didn’t go try for more comet pictures tonight. If it’s still clear enough tomorrow I might give it one more try. I felt like I could use the rest (and wanted to make more progress on getting more of last year’s observations into iNaturalist, and publishing photojournals from this year).

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Woods Wandering and Comet Chasing https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/27/woods-wandering-and-comet-chasing/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/27/woods-wandering-and-comet-chasing/#respond Sat, 28 Jan 2023 08:14:21 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=58195 Mostly cloudy this morning, becoming partly cloudy to mostly clear later in the day. Calm winds and temperatures into the 40s. I went out to Thimbleberry Lake this afternoon. I stepped off the trail not far before it starts going more significantly uphill beyond the lake. I was curious about the amount of fresh rock ... Read more

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Mostly cloudy this morning, becoming partly cloudy to mostly clear later in the day. Calm winds and temperatures into the 40s.


I went out to Thimbleberry Lake this afternoon.

I stepped off the trail not far before it starts going more significantly uphill beyond the lake.

I was curious about the amount of fresh rock deposited in the forest. Clearly much water had been flowing in order to transport the rock. However, there was no water there today, and a nearby channel was not immediately apparent to me.


I did find the channel and saw where it overflowed and spilled out. I’m still impressed at how much rock it took with it. One of these days maybe I need to get out during a heavy rain event and see if I can find something like this happening. I’m curious just how much water it takes to move the fist-sized and larger rocks.


I saw several flags, which made me a little curious. I was also curious about the stream channel, which the flags seemed to be close to. Given the stream channel, it wasn’t clear why so many flags were placed. It’s not the first time I’ve wondered about the mindset of someone who has put flags out.


My curiosity was piqued when I came to a deeply carved channel the stream was flowing through. What surprised me was how fresh it looked. None of the banks had any sort of growth on them. In some places roots were hanging out where the dirt had been washed away.


I poked around a bit and not far away found what I presume to be the old channel. I continued up to where the new and old joined. A little higher I noticed what might have been an even older channel.

I’m assuming the flags were marking someone’s route for hunting. Sometime I might go back and see about going up the hill. If I went all the way up, I would come out somewhere in the vicinity of Picnic Rock or the saddle nearby.


By the time I turned around, I saw I was going to have trouble making it to see the sunset. If clouds cooperated, it should have been possible to get the sun setting behind the lighthouse, but I wasn’t in time to confirm.


While wandering my way up the hill, I did find a rare lichen. A small branchlet with a lichen on it was laying on the mossy forest floor and caught my eye. I took some photos and put it in a collection bag. Erioderma sorediatum is one I had found once before. At first I didn’t remember it, but after getting home, it came to mind. I was able to confirm (to my ability) that’s what it was. [Update: I heard from someone much more knowledgeable than I that it looked a bit different than E. sorediatum, but he wasn’t sure what it is, so I’ll probably send the collection of for further study. Could turn out to be E. sorediatum afterall, or perhaps something even more unusual.]


I also noticed a liverwort with an odd growth pattern. It’s apparently a Scapania. I don’t know if it was something particular about this clump, or if it might be characteristic of a species. Generally speaking, Scapania can be a challenging group to ID. [Update: after posting on iNaturalist, I learned others have found similar growth on S. bolanderi, an abundant forest liverwort. One person thought it is due to grazing by an insect that likes to live on/among this species. In this area it would be Caurinus tlagu, though there’s a different species further south.]


Clear skies this evening inspired me to get out and try for pictures of the comet.


In the darker area away from street lights I could barely see there was something there in my binoculars. However my camera picked it up reasonably well.


I enjoy night photography, but don’t do much of it. Conditions are not often conducive for it around here. I’m not as skilled at the techniques as might be helpful, so it can be a challenge to get results I’m happy with. Even so, I get a certain amount of satisfaction with just the basic documentation I’ve managed. Perhaps at some point I’ll get a setup that allows the camera to move with the stars, allowing for much longer exposures which can better reveal deep sky objects.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Japonski Island Forest https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/26/japonski-island-forest/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/26/japonski-island-forest/#respond Fri, 27 Jan 2023 07:49:56 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=58192 Overcast with drizzle this morning. Clouds lifting and even breaking up a bit this afternoon and letting the sun through. Yesterday’s high of 53F (which happened in the middle of the night) set a record for the day. Today’s record is also 50F, but it doesn’t look like we reached it. I drove around a ... Read more

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Overcast with drizzle this morning. Clouds lifting and even breaking up a bit this afternoon and letting the sun through.

Yesterday’s high of 53F (which happened in the middle of the night) set a record for the day. Today’s record is also 50F, but it doesn’t look like we reached it.

I drove around a bit this afternoon, but spent the bulk of my time on Japonski Island.


I arrived at Sealing Cove as a flock of crows flew in. They landed at a place where folks have been tossing bird seed for smaller birds. I had previously thought they wouldn’t really go into the bushes looking for food. I was wrong. At least about the bushes at this location. Perhaps in places where they are thicker, it might serve as a deterrent.

The main problem with crows discovering a feeding station is they gobble up a lot of food quickly. It’s difficult (and expensive) to make sure there’s some out for smaller birds when crows are going for it.

I went back out Seward Avenue to look over the rock outcrops I had wanted to look at yesterday.

Nothing really caught my eye, and I decided to walk down to the shoreline.

I had left my big camera in the car to look at the outcrops. It would have been in the way, and I was parked right next to them. I decided to leave it in the car when I went down to the shoreline.

I guess it was time to reinforce the lesson that I should always have my camera with me.

I noticed a movement in the trees off to my right as I got down to the edge of the beach. Looking closer, I saw it was a raptor, probably a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

It seemed to have something, but I couldn’t really be sure.

I went back for my camera. While on the way, the bird flew past and up over the slope and into the forest. On its flyby, I saw enough to be reasonably confident it was a Sharp-shinned Hawk and that it had caught a smaller bird.

It didn’t look like it had gone too far into the forest, so I grabbed my camera and found a reasonable way into the woods.

Walking up the hill, I saw it fly off again from further up. I saw the direction it went, but not where it ended up.


Since I was already up there, I decided to explore the second growth patch of forest a bit.

Once up on the hill, the forest opened up a bit. Based on a couple lean-to type structures I saw, I suspect it’s been cleaned out a bit over the years by folks gathering wood to make shelters and/or burn in a fire.


One of the shelters seemed quite fresh. Hemlock needles were still on the branches, so certainly parts of it had been constructed in the past few months.

It’s easily accessible from both the Coast Guard base and SEARHC campus, so I suspect someone(s) from one or the other was practicing shelter making.


Going a little further, I noticed a fairly well-travelled path. The sun had come out and was casting nice light through the trees.

When I grabbed my camera, I left my backpack. I didn’t figure I would have much use for the other lenses. I was mistaken.


It would have been handy to be able to switch from my telephoto zoom to a wider lens to capture the nice light on the trail. I took a couple pictures with my cell phone. I was able to back up a bit to get one with the lens I had. It turned out okay, but I think would have been better had I been able to stand closer (a tree was in the way from further back).

Coming out of the Beak this evening, I saw the crescent moon and stars. Arriving home I could see the big dipper and Polaris, so got out my binoculars to look for the comet that’s visible these days.

It’s not very dark at my house, but I was able to see a hint of the comet through binoculars if I looked out of the side of my eye.

I drove out as far as Harbor Mountain Road and found it too cloudy that way. Japonski Island had clouds in the way as well. I tried a couple other places as well, but the only place I checked that did not have clouds in the way was at my house. It’s supposed to be more clear tomorrow, so I’ll probably try to get out earlier in the evening.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Japonski Island Birds and Lichens https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/25/japonski-island-birds-and-lichens/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/25/japonski-island-birds-and-lichens/#respond Thu, 26 Jan 2023 07:51:36 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=58117 Overcast with occasional rain and drizzle. Fairly calm winds. Temperatures in the upper 40s to lower 50s. Overnight I woke up a couple times to heavy rain, but by daylight it had let up. After getting up this morning, I mostly worked on pictures and photojournals. I’m getting closer to caught up with January. If ... Read more

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Overcast with occasional rain and drizzle. Fairly calm winds. Temperatures in the upper 40s to lower 50s.

Overnight I woke up a couple times to heavy rain, but by daylight it had let up.

After getting up this morning, I mostly worked on pictures and photojournals.

I’m getting closer to caught up with January. If I can manage a similar effort, I could be caught up by the weekend.

This afternoon I went over to Japonski Island to poke around a bit. Three birds I’ve not yet seen this year were reported this morning. I didn’t have much hope for the Peregrine Falcon (which was reported as a fly-over), but thought the flicker and Bohemian Waxwing were a possibility.

I had a call for part of the time. Between that and the drizzle, I mostly stayed in my car and watched.


While on my call, I kept an eye on the hawthorne tree at Sealing Cove. It was probably 30 minutes after I started watching that I saw the waxwing up on a wire above the tree. I suspect it had been on the far side of the tree the whole time. (I didn’t check the tree carefully when I arrived.)


At the channel I was a little surprised to see a good-sized flock of Barrow’s Goldeneyes down towards the Coast Guard dock. I’ve seen as many as a handful in the channel earlier in the season, but there were 25 in this flock.

I drove down Seward Avenue with the idea that I would stop and look at some mosses on one of the outcrops at the end. Someone was parked in their vehicle there, so I decided not to stop.


Instead I stopped at an outcrop a little further up the road. Instead of attending to the rocky part, I got distracted by well developed Peltigera growing on a mossy slope adjacent to the road. P. membranacea and P. neopolydactyla were growing together. This made a nice opportunity to compare them.


While I was there, I noticed another one that seemed a little different. The color of the others was variable, but none seemed quite as green as this one. It also was much more consistently showing the white underside where the margins were curled over a bit. When I looked underneath, I was struck by the lack of veins. I’m not sure, but I think it might be P. malacea. I’ve not knowingly seen P. malacea though it’s possible I have pictures that remain unidentified.


I brought a piece home, and after it had dried, I could see there were actually broad veins. I’m pretty sure it is P. neopolydactyla. Perhaps it’s a younger part.

I was able to complete getting my July observations into iNaturalst. I’ve now started on August. I’m up to 944 species from Sitka with an additional 19 from elsewhere in the state. I’ll easily surpass 1000 for the year in Alaska. It’s a little less clear to me whether I will make it for Sitka, but I think I probably will.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Lichens in the Rain https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/24/lichens-in-the-rain/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/24/lichens-in-the-rain/#respond Wed, 25 Jan 2023 07:58:17 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=58114 Heavy overcast with rain through much of the day. Temperatures in the 40s. When I arrived at the kelp patch turnaround this afternoon, I was a little surprised to see a Horned Puffin sitting on the water not too far out. It didn’t stay for long, but I was able to get a documentary photo. ... Read more

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Heavy overcast with rain through much of the day. Temperatures in the 40s.

When I arrived at the kelp patch turnaround this afternoon, I was a little surprised to see a Horned Puffin sitting on the water not too far out. It didn’t stay for long, but I was able to get a documentary photo.

The rain was sufficient to discourage me from trying to do too much out in the weather (it becomes difficult to see and photograph things through wet lenses).


I did pick up a branch and was curious about a frilly lichen that I think is Platismatia glauca. I mostly think of them having broader leaf bits, which this one also had.


I stopped by Sealing Cove and checked out lichens on one of the planted apple trees. One I thought looked like a strange Parmelia. It turned out to be a Physcia. I think I was thrown off a bit by little bits of Parmelia growing along the margin. After it was pointed out to me on my iNaturalist observation, I understood why it wasn’t really fitting in with my expectations.

At the channel a Long-tailed Duck was sitting at the edge of the ramp preening. I think it’s the first one I’ve seen on land.

I’m down to one day left in July to finish uploading observations.


When I stepped out on the porch late this evening, I was surprised to see a caddisfly had been attracted to the light. I’ve not been checking every evening, but when I have, I’ve not found anything in several weeks.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Investigating a Hemlock Branch https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/23/investigating-a-hemlock-branch/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/23/investigating-a-hemlock-branch/#respond Tue, 24 Jan 2023 07:53:18 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=58111 Overcast with rain. Temperatures in the 40s. I didn’t get out until this afternoon. I had a call this morning, and then decided to wait until after lunch. The weather was more amenable to poking about outside in earlier, but I didn’t have the daylight to see if it might lighten up a bit. Had ... Read more

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Overcast with rain. Temperatures in the 40s.

I didn’t get out until this afternoon. I had a call this morning, and then decided to wait until after lunch. The weather was more amenable to poking about outside in earlier, but I didn’t have the daylight to see if it might lighten up a bit.

Had I remembered tonight was a negative tide (with an atmospheric push, it got down to below -3ft), I might have been less motivated to get out in the rain this afternoon.


After a stop at the kelp patch pullout, I followed up on my desire to revisit a fallen hemlock branch I had checked out at the path of hope yesterday.

With magnifying lenses I was better able to see the various lichens, mosses, and liverworts on the branch.


I noticed a small insect on a lichen. It was still while I took photos. I recognized it as Caurinus tlagu, a species I’ve only found once before. That time it came out of a liverwort collection I had made. It was a nice surprise to find this one in the field.


I revisted the lichen that appeared to be infected by a fungus. Today I took better photos and made a collection, in case it ends up being useful for someone.

A comment I made in my 2017 photojournal for this day caught my attention. I noted were it not for the big year project, I probably would have just stayed inside. Over the past couple of years, since I decided I would make an observation each day, I haven’t considered the possibility of staying inside all day. Even when I had covid last summer, I went outside for a few minutes to make observations in the yard. I guess that’s the motivating power (for me, at least) of a streak.

I’ve not seen the Sandhill Crane at Moller Park recently. Nor have I seen any reports in ebird. The last report is mine from the 19th. Hopefully it’s just hanging out elsewhere for a bit, or has decided to move on. That seems nicer than the other likely possibility that a predator of some sort got it, or it has starved.

A bit of ice did remain on Swan Lake today, I guess maybe 25-35 percent of the surface. Five swans were there. I suspect ones that have been at Totem Park.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Discoveries on (Another) Gray Day https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/22/discoveries-on-another-gray-day/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/22/discoveries-on-another-gray-day/#respond Mon, 23 Jan 2023 07:50:48 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=58108 Overcast and breezy. Temperatures in the upper 30s rising to the low 40s late in the day. Occasional rain the morning with more steady rain in the afternoon. Heavy rain late this evening. Snow levels dropped down to near 1000 feet. I didnt get out until early afternoon. By this time, it was raining, and ... Read more

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Overcast and breezy. Temperatures in the upper 30s rising to the low 40s late in the day. Occasional rain the morning with more steady rain in the afternoon. Heavy rain late this evening. Snow levels dropped down to near 1000 feet.

I didnt get out until early afternoon. By this time, it was raining, and the light was dim.


Swan Lake is down to maybe half covered in ice. With the wind, rain, and 40+ temperatures this evening, I wouldn’t be surprised if much or all of the remaining ice is gone tomorrow.

I went by the Path of Hope to check the upper end of the lake for birds. I didn’t see much other than Mallards.


While there, I took pictures of a liverwort and a couple of lichens plus a lichenicolous fungus (which I’ll probably need to go back and collect). All were on a hemlock branch that had fallen down. I’m not sure if it happened in the most recent wind or before that.

I continued to make progress on uploading photos and publishing photojournals from this year. I’ve now finished up through the 12th.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Breaking Clouds and Waves https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/21/breaking-clouds-and-waves/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/21/breaking-clouds-and-waves/#respond Sun, 22 Jan 2023 07:05:08 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=57831 Overcast with showers. Breezy, with temperatures in the low 40s and dropping later in the day. As forecast, the winds died down overnight. Yesterday evening folks posted on Facebook places where winds had damaged things downtown. A street light, harbor sign, and shop window all were taken out. I went out to south Halibut Pont ... Read more

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Overcast with showers. Breezy, with temperatures in the low 40s and dropping later in the day.

As forecast, the winds died down overnight. Yesterday evening folks posted on Facebook places where winds had damaged things downtown. A street light, harbor sign, and shop window all were taken out.


I went out to south Halibut Pont rec this afternoon. There was enough chilly wind coming off the water that I didn’t spend too long poking around for epiphytes.


I enjoyed the dramatic lighting while was there.

I stopped to watch waves at Sandy Beach. The tide was falling and well off the high.


The surfing waves are best when the tide is higher. Despite the waves rolling in, the last two surfers gave it up while I was watching. That didn’t stop some young kneeboarders from heading out into the surf coming in over the sandy part of the beach.

I didn’t see any birds on a brief stop at Sealing Cove.

I delivered another bird calendar today. I have one person who ordered left to hear from about where to drop it off.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Then There Was Color https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/20/then-there-was-color/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/20/then-there-was-color/#respond Sat, 21 Jan 2023 06:34:51 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=57828 Overcast and windy, with plenty of rain. Temperatures up to 50F. As the day went on yesterday, temperatures increased into the upper 40s. Overnight they continued to stay high (for the season), and became even a bit warmer as the wind brought warm air from the south. This morning saw rain with moderate gusty winds. ... Read more

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Overcast and windy, with plenty of rain. Temperatures up to 50F.

As the day went on yesterday, temperatures increased into the upper 40s. Overnight they continued to stay high (for the season), and became even a bit warmer as the wind brought warm air from the south.

This morning saw rain with moderate gusty winds. We had a break in the rain early in the afternoon. The winds picked up, and became strong later in the afternoon. Heavy rain started this evening.

The buoy data is not transmitting full set of weather data (nor photos), but it is still showing wave heights. Seas pushed close to 30ft this evening.

I went out around midday and stopped by Sage Beach to see if shorebirds might be on the rocks.


The tide was an hour or so past high. However, it was still probably around the 11ft level or so. Today’s weather pushed the 11+ predicted high over 12ft.


A mixed flock of Surfbirds and Black Turnstones was resting on the rock. I thought I spotted one Rock Sandpiper. I was able to get pictures to confirm it before they all took off and flew away. I think they were startled by three crows flying over, but I’m not sure.


Conditions were calmer in Silver Bay when I went out that way. I saw the Pelagic Cormorant with white patches on its neck in Sawmill Cove again.

I didn’t plan to head out again after lunch. However, the rain had stopped and it seemed nicer out. I also had calendars to deliver, so drove out Halibut Point Road.

With my focus on the calendars, I had forgotten to bring my camera. I wasn’t able to get pictures of the whale I saw off Harbor Point. Nor could I try and see if the eagle that swooped down to the water caught something.


This afternoon at sunset, after a gray day it turned to color. There must have been a break in a higher level of clouds that allowed the sunset colors to develop. The red/pink light filtering through the lower level clouds seemed closer to lavender or purple.


Low clouds were nearly continuous over my neighborhood, but I did get a brief look through a small whole that opened up.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Gray Bays and Days https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/19/gray-bays-and-days/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/19/gray-bays-and-days/#respond Fri, 20 Jan 2023 06:23:29 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=57521 Overcast and rain. Not as windy as forecast had called for. Temperatures in around 40F. Snow level down to under 1000 feet. I spent part of the morning processing the dead spruce twig I brought home yesterday. It had several lichens and a liverwort or two that I want to investigate further. I didn’t make ... Read more

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Overcast and rain. Not as windy as forecast had called for. Temperatures in around 40F. Snow level down to under 1000 feet.

I spent part of the morning processing the dead spruce twig I brought home yesterday. It had several lichens and a liverwort or two that I want to investigate further. I didn’t make it to investigation, but did get it cut up into more manageable pieces while discarding parts that I didn’t need.

This afternoon I went out to Sawmill Cove for the first time in at least a few days.


During my time there, I saw the usual ducks, cormorants, and gulls in/around the cove. Further out at least a handful of Common Murres. I also saw a lone sea lion. It may have been resting, as it didn’t seem very active.

The Sandhill Crane is continuing at Moller Park. The coot at Swan Lake continues its apparent absence.


I got nice looks at sparrows at Sealing Cove, and stopped briefly by the channel (where I didn’t notice anything unexpected).

I spent chunks of time today working through photos from last July. I uploaded 168 observations, and only have three days left to finish up the month. My bout of covid that month meant I wasn’t so active for about half of it. August will likely not go quite as fast.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Lichens and Liverworts https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/18/lichens-and-liverworts/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/18/lichens-and-liverworts/#respond Thu, 19 Jan 2023 06:21:24 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=57518 Mostly cloudy with a bit of sun this morning, becoming overcast with some rain this afternoon. High tide was this morning. I thought I might want to visit Magic Island or elsewhere along the shoreline. Instead of heading out when I was tempted by the nice light this morning, I waited until after lunch. On ... Read more

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Mostly cloudy with a bit of sun this morning, becoming overcast with some rain this afternoon.

High tide was this morning. I thought I might want to visit Magic Island or elsewhere along the shoreline. Instead of heading out when I was tempted by the nice light this morning, I waited until after lunch.

On the plus side, I made good progress on processing photos and uploading observation from last July. On the other hand, the weather this afternoon was a bit less inspiring.

When I made it out the road, several cars were parked at the south Halibut Point Rec lot. The tide was also still too high to get to Magic Island without getting my feet wet. Instead of stopping, I went all the way out to Starrigavan.

From Harbor Point (or maybe a little before), it appeared there was some lingering slush on the road. This surprised me a bit, but I later learned there had been something like freezing rain at Starrigavan early in the day. I’m not sure if it was actual freezing rain, or a rain shower followed by clearing which allowed the water on the ground to freeze.


I visited the small high water island at Old Sitka. My primary interest there was epiphytic mosses and lichens. There are plenty on some of the branches. I brought one dead branch home with me. It will take a bit of processing to get photos and decide what to put in collection bags for possible further work.


On my way back in, I did stop at the rec to see if there might be some Surfbirds. I didn’t notice any on the beach, but did happen to catch a flock flying by. Reviewing my photos carefully, I found one Rock Sandpiper in the mix. Both were new birds for the year.

I ended up going down a bit of a rabbit hole with Atriplex this evening. I may ultimately write up a full post on what I currently understand, and the questions that I have. For now, I just wrote an extended comment on an observation I added from last July.

The coot at Swan Lake hasn’t been reported since Sunday. I haven’t seen it on the peninsula where it’s normally been when the lake is mostly frozen. Perhaps enough has opened up along the margins that is spending time elsewhere?

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Rainy Day Bright Spots https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/17/rainy-day-bright-spots/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/17/rainy-day-bright-spots/#respond Wed, 18 Jan 2023 07:18:50 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=57515 Cloudy and breezy with periods of rain. Temperatures in the 40s, dropping to high 30s this evening. This afternoon I went for a walk around Totem Park. Had I left earlier, I could have avoided some rain. I checked out where a large spruce had been cut down between Oja and Etolin Streets. It’s changed ... Read more

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Cloudy and breezy with periods of rain. Temperatures in the 40s, dropping to high 30s this evening.

This afternoon I went for a walk around Totem Park.

Had I left earlier, I could have avoided some rain.

I checked out where a large spruce had been cut down between Oja and Etolin Streets. It’s changed the view there a bit. I have previously noticed birds perching in that tree on many occasions. Now they’ll presumably use the smaller (though still not small) pine trees that remain.


While walking toward it, I caught sight of a bird flying up and away to my right. It was the Townsend’s Solitaire. I think it had been in a hawthorne tree, but I’m not sure.

It was quiet bird-wise on the water. Perhaps they were hanging out elsewhere because of the gusty winds. They had diminished a bit by this afternoon, but they were still pushing up waves on Crescent Bay.


I was glad to get to the forest at the park. The rain hadn’t been sufficient for there to be dripping, so it was still relatively dry and out of the wind.


I spotted the female Hooded Merganser that’s been reported from time to time in the park this year. Conditions weren’t good for photos, but that didn’t stop me from getting a documentary shot.


As I was leaving the park, I noticed skies brightening over the water. The rain had let up while I was in the forest. I thought the brighter skies might mean at least a brief spot of clearing.


What I didn’t anticipate was an even heavier rain than had been falling earlier coming in advance of the clearing. On the upside, I did get to see a rainbow as I got close to home.

I forgot to mention yesterday a young child (maybe between 4 and 6 years old) at Moller Park who was interested in the Sandhill Crane.

The child appeared to be trying to walk toward the carefully, so as not to scare it. The crane was having none of that, and continuously walked away. Before long it flew off. The interaction reminded me of a time at the beach when Connor and Rowan (then 6 and 4) were trying to get better looks at shorebirds. Their manner of ‘carefully walking’ was very similar.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Wildlife Out the Road (Early Signs of Herring Season?) https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/16/wildlife-out-the-road-early-signs-of-herring-season/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/16/wildlife-out-the-road-early-signs-of-herring-season/#respond Tue, 17 Jan 2023 06:16:49 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=57512 Overcast without much rain (at least that I noticed). Fog early, but lifting by late morning. Fairly calm. Temperatures in the low 40s. After a mild start to the year, the forecast is calling for stormy weather late this week. Temperatures associated with that are predicted to be in the mid 40s. Although it’s been ... Read more

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Overcast without much rain (at least that I noticed). Fog early, but lifting by late morning. Fairly calm. Temperatures in the low 40s.

After a mild start to the year, the forecast is calling for stormy weather late this week. Temperatures associated with that are predicted to be in the mid 40s.

Although it’s been 3+ weeks since it was cold, I expect we’ll have at least one more good cold snap before winter is over.

Yesterday I heard from Karen J that herring had moved in by the north end of town. I didn’t see much out that way on a drive to Starrigavan. That was partly because visibility was low.

Today I noticed at least a couple of Humpback Whales between Halibut Point Rec and Middle Island. I suspect two that I saw off Harbor Point were different ones.


At Harbor Point I also saw a group of Steller Sea Lions right off the point.


Further out, an eagle swooped down and grabbed a fish. The fish was large enough I could see it in the picture. It seemed consistent with a large herring, but I’m not sure if there are other possibilities.


At the rec I noticed two related species of moss (Polytrichaceae) growing together. One was Polytrichastrum alpinum, and I’m not sure what the other one is. It was called a Polytrichum when I posted on iNaturalist, but I’ll need to do more work for a chance at coming up with a species name.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Motivation on a Gray Day https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/15/motivation-on-a-gray-day/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/15/motivation-on-a-gray-day/#respond Mon, 16 Jan 2023 06:13:37 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=57509 Overcast in the morning. Drizzle and low clouds arriving in the afternoon. Temperatures in the low 40s and calm. Around midday, I went out to Whale Park with Kitty and walked out along the path there. She wanted to see the dwarf mistletoe on the fallen hemlock that I had recently noticed. We continued along ... Read more

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Overcast in the morning. Drizzle and low clouds arriving in the afternoon. Temperatures in the low 40s and calm.

Around midday, I went out to Whale Park with Kitty and walked out along the path there.

She wanted to see the dwarf mistletoe on the fallen hemlock that I had recently noticed.

We continued along further, but the arrival of a drizzle shower prompted a turnaround before we got to the big pullout area.

The clouds thickened and the gray day became dimmer, and even less conducive for photos.

With my on-going streak of writing daily photojournals (which is unbroken since 19 December 2020, now over 750 days – though most remain unpublished), I often find myself giving some thought to the photo part of the journal during the day.

It was getting later (relative to sunset). I had only taken three quick photos of different organisms with my cell phone during the walk out at Silver Bay. I wanted more to have for the photojournal, so I made a point of spending a bit more time out than I might have otherwise.

I was over at the channel and struck by how different the lighting was today compared to yesterday.


I also checked out some lichens on trees that are likely to disappear when a new Coast Guard dcok is built. I noticed what I think are lichenicolous fungi on a Ramalina and on Parmelia. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get a name for them, but that’s how it goes.

This morning I caught up uploading the photojournal writing so far this year. I began publishing entries from the first of the year later this evening.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Sitka Nature Show #280 – Lauren Bell https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/15/sitka-nature-show-280-lauren-bell/ https://www.sitkanature.org/photojournal/2023/01/15/sitka-nature-show-280-lauren-bell/#respond Mon, 16 Jan 2023 00:00:04 +0000 https://www.sitkanature.org/?p=57976 Download Radio Show The January 15th show featured a conversation with Lauren Bell. Lauren has spent the past several years studying kelp ecology in Sitka Sound as part of her PhD program at UCSC. We spoke about what she’s learned, including cycles of growth in kelp forests, the impacts of grazers, and potential effects of ... Read more

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Download Radio Show

The January 15th show featured a conversation with Lauren Bell. Lauren has spent the past several years studying kelp ecology in Sitka Sound as part of her PhD program at UCSC. We spoke about what she’s learned, including cycles of growth in kelp forests, the impacts of grazers, and potential effects of changing climates.

Previous conversations with Lauren
20160417 – Show #104
20170611 – Show #133
20180204 – Show #150
20200524 – Show #211

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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