St. Lazaria

Sunlight on St. Lazaria Island on an early June evening.

I was reminded of a trip out to St. Lazaria earlier this month when I ran into someone I know who is spending the summer out there working for the Fish and Wildlife Service monitoring seabird populations. St. Lazaria is part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and is home to hundreds of thousands of breeding birds, mostly storm-petrels and alcids.

I was interested to find out that most of the alcids have only just begun nesting, though the Fork-tailed Storm-petrels are much further along, with some chicks already present in the burrow nests. The Glaucous-winged Gulls also had chicks, but it sounds like many of them may have perished in an unusually strong storm for this time of year. The waves were crashing up on the outer cliffs, and even wrapping around the west end of the island and battering the usually well protected cove, totaling the skiff used by the FWS scientists and moving the anchor around to the east side of the island in the process. Carrie said she thought the waves were probably 18 feet high, splashing well up the cliff. The sound of the waves was impressive, creating a feeling like the cabin was shaking, despite not being directly exposed to the waves. Hearing about this storm reminded me of my desire to get out to a remote stretch of the outer coast before a large storm rolls in and watch the waves pound the shoreline (from a safe distance, of course).

Waves would have been crashing well up the cliffs shown here during the storm.

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