Daily Observations

Northern Flicker

Saturday I went with Alexia Stevens and Kitty and her husband Jeff in an attempt to bike over to Shelikof. Weather. tide, and road conditions conspired to keep us from our intended destination, but it was an interesting trip for me all the same, as I got to see some country I had not been previously. This has been the week for the blogger BioBlitz and, despite intentions to do so, too many other things ended up coming up to keep me from participating to the extent that I had originally wanted. Yesterday Kitty and I tried to do a relatively comprehensive survey of the plants, fungus, lichens, birds and mammals we observed (directly or from sign) along the road from Mud Bay and the boat ride between town and Mud Bay. Today we managed to squeeze in a quick survey around the Cancer Survivors Trail, though time was short and conditions were less than optimal, so I’m sure we missed many things. I’ll write up a separate post about the BioBlitz activities in the next day or so.

When we arrived at Mud Bay yesterday, someone came out to greet us and give us some ‘intel’ on the road. He said they had arrived the day before and only made it about half a mile before getting stalled out by snow. He said they tried to get further, but the snow was just too deep (4 or 5 feet, is what he said). He said we might have better luck with bicycles, but he felt like he should warn us about the conditions. Rather than unload the bikes, we decided to hike in a ways to check things out. The snow actually started not too far up the road, and before long it was fairly continuous. We could see where they had started to struggle with the ATVs in the snow. I would say the snow was at most a couple of feet deep, and mostly it wasn’t even that deep, however, it did make for more difficult walking.

The wind had been blowing on-shore, so it was not possible to push the skiff off far enough to keep it in deep enough water. The tide was only going to be coming up for a couple of hours after we arrived, so someone had to go back to check on it before too long, otherwise we would have been stuck there until the next high tide later that night. Probably somewhat less than two miles up, we turned back and Jeff went on ahead to check on the boat. The rest of us started doing the BioBlitz survey. That slowed our pace down considerably, but we did make it back to the boat not too much later. On the way back, we stopped at a beach in the Magoun Islands to eat lunch. By that point I think we were all getting pretty cold, so we did not stay long. The ride back was a little lumpy, especially around Guide Island, but we made it back without incident.

Weather: It’s been quite chilly, snow level today was down around 1500 feet or lower, it looked like. Yesterday there was some sleet mixed in with the rain squalls.

Birds: There were quite a few Dark-eyed Juncos and Savannah Sparrows along the road from Mud Bay. I also saw a first of season Lincoln’s Sparrow. Other birds we observed along the road were Song Sparrows, Fox Sparrows, Rufous Hummingbird, Varied Thrush, Steller’s Jay, and Robins.

On the boat ride to and from Mud Bay we saw Bonaparte’s Gulls, Herring Gulls, Glaucous-winged Gulls, Mew Gulls, a California Gull, Thayer’s Gulls, Common Murre’s, Pelagic Cormorants, a Horned Grebe, Rhinocerous Auklets, Marbled Murrelets (now in summer plumage), goldeneyes, and other ducks I didn’t get a good enough look at to identify.

Today there was a flicker that spent some time on the top of the SJ Museum. It was calling and drumming on the weather vain.

After dropping Alexia off at the airport this morning, we made a quick stop by long-term parking to see if any snipe were about. Two Wilson’s Snipe flushed out of the bushes near the ditch.

Along the Cancer Survivors Trail and the surrounding trees and waters of Swan Lake, there were Savannah Sparrows, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Townsend’s Warblers, Steller’s Jay, Robins, Starlings, Dark-eyed Juncos, Rufous Hummingbirds, Orange-crowned Sparrows, Bufflehead, and Pine Siskins. It was especially interesting to watch the Townsend’s Warblers hawking for insects. I do not recall ever having seen them do that before. Certainly I had not seen them do it so actively.

Flora: Marsh Cinquefoil and Water Parsley were coming up in the grasses at the edge of Swan Lake.

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