Daily Observations

Greater Yellowlegs

Weather: It was mostly cloudy this morning with no noticable breeze. It remained mostly cloudy, but the wind came up later in the morning out of the West or Southwest.

Birds I heard singing this morning included the Winter Wrens, American Robin, and Varied Thrush.

As I was getting started for my third try in as many days to find the Spot-billed Ducks, I saw quite a few American Robins feeding around the lawns on campus. There was also a Ruby-crowned Kinglet or two in the Red Alders between the hatchery and the playground.

In the ‘Junkhole’ (a small cove that is part of the non-park intertidal area near the mouth of Indian River; it has a lot of junk around it) I saw a number of crows and gulls feeding in the sand/mud areas of the tide flats.

The Song Sparrows were singing along Sawmill Creek Road in a number of places, both on the beach side and on the residential side of the road.

This morning I tried for the third time to find the Spot-billed Ducks that had been reported. Unlike the other times, the tide was out on this effort. I tried Blueberry Lane again. There were again a number of cormorants, both Double-crested Cormorants and Pelagic Cormorants. I heard their croaking calls a few times. Sibley’s says that they rarely vocalize when they are not nesting. I guess it’s getting to that time of year; I wonder if they will be nesting that close to people.

While I waited and watched, I saw a loon. It was too far away for me to tell for sure, but I think it was a Common Loon. It was still in its winter plumage.

Also while waiting, I heard and saw a few other birds, including a distant Northern Flicker, Winter Wrens, three Mallards, and probably some others I have forgotten.

I took a quick trip over to Thimbleberry Lake, but there were no birds on the lake. I also did not observe any bird activity along the trail on the way up. There was someone else out on the lake in the boat, so if any waterfowl had been there perhaps they flew off when he got to the late. The blueberry thickets along the trail as it nears the lake are prime hummingbird habitat when the bushes are blooming. I looked and listened, but did not see or hear any.

On my way back, I decided to take a side trip to Totem Park to see if any new shorebirds had arrived. As I was out walking on the flats, I was feeling tired and decided to push on just a little bit more instead of turning around to go home. Moments later, I noticed 4 Greater Yellowlegs feeding in a shallow sandy-bottomed tidepool. I sat and watched them for a few minutes as they moved down the beach. When I happened to look over, I saw a couple of Black-bellied Plovers not too far away. I had completely overlooked them. I guess I got tunnel vision on the Yellowlegs.

There were several Common Mergansers on the beach at the edge of the southeastern most large tidepool. They all flew off when a noisy group of kids came down the trail and spilled out on to the beach. I think I found them again when I reached point of the flats at the river mouth. I also saw a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers in among them.

This afternoon there was an Easter Egg hunt for the campus kids. I helped Rowan find eggs and was a little puzzled when we came across half an egg with the candy spilled out (they were plastic eggs). Later I figured out what was going on when I saw a Raven pick up an egg, get it open and then take out one of the small chocolate eggs (wrapped in foil) from the inside. I was later told that they had been seen doing that with a number of eggs. In some cases they took the whole egg to the top of a building and opened it; most of the candy rolled down the roof, but they would take out the chocolate eggs and unwrap them. Presumably they then ate the chocolate. Who knew they liked chocolate? A fellow faculty member who used to go to UAS in Juneau where they had a similar Easter egg hunt (with real eggs) said that the Ravens seemed to know the occasion and would gather to participate. There were people who had the task of trying to keep the Ravens off the eggs so the kids could find them.

Flora: The Deer Heart are coming out, with leaves still coiled. In the last few days, the Stream Violet leaves have emerged, but I did not see any flowers yet (last year at this time stream violets and salmonberries were already blooming). I looked for Fern-leaved Goldthread along Thimbleberry Lake trail, but did not see any in bloom (they were also blooming at this time last year). Clearly the cold snap put the plants back a bit as compared to last year.

The last couple of times I have been down to the park, I have noticed a fair amount of ribbon kelp washed up on shore. Today I figured out part of the reason. I noticed that a fair number of kelp fronds were actually still attached to small rocks. They had apparently grown large enough to create sufficient drag in the water so that they got washed ashore by the wave action. Either that, or they actually were able to grow that large in the higher intertidal zone (which seems unlikely).

Garden: The spinach appears to have sprouted in a couple of the containers. Rhubarb is pushing up through the seaweed. A little bit of green is showing in the raspberry buds.

Other Notes: Someone who lives down the hill toward Sage building mentioned seeing two deer this morning. I have not seen the deer (nor noticed any fresh droppings) in at least a couple of weeks, so I figured they moved back up into the woods. Perhaps they are back (or possibly these are other deer). I also got to wondering if these pair of deer are the same as the ones we saw last year.

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