Evening at Swan Lake

Yesterday was a fairly wet day, and I did not get out too much. Today started that way as well, though by early evening, the clouds had started to break up and the sun came out.

I spent some time down at Swan Lake this evening and saw two male Blue-winged Teal, the lone Trumpeter Swan, a handful of North Shovelers, and the Wood Duck were all there along with the Mallards. It was a pleasant evening, and a number of other folks were there watching the birds as well. As we visited a bit, the birds seemed to relax and eventually were pretty cooperative, coming in fairly close to the peninsula where we were standing.

One of the people I spoke to mentioned taking a trip up from Seattle on a boat and noticing the Townsend’s Warbler songs changing along the way. I’ve thought it would be interesting to document the variation in song in Southeast Alaska. I am curious if there are distinct areas that have similar singing, or if it’s a more gradual shift.

This evening I was thinking about this past winter’s weather. What struck me about it was not the above average temperatures, but rather the lack of any real cold temperatures. I looked back through the weather records and saw that December-February had no days where the high temperature was below freezing, and I counted only five days where the low was below 30F (and the lowest I found was one day that hit 27F). Even in other warm winters, we can generally count on at least one brief cold snap where temperatures drop to at least the low 20s and highs are still below freezing. I suspect this played a big role in the early development of the plants (and perhaps the lack of winter robins as well).

I heard the other day about Swainson’s Thrushes starting to sing around the time of a full moon in the spring (after the water drop calls have been heard for a while). It was posited as something to look for (based on a year or two where it seemed to happen that way in Washington). I know that Swainson’s Thrushes are often heard making their water drop calls here for at least a couple of days before anyone hears a song, but I’ve never thought to consider the phase of the moon. I did hear my first Swainson’s Thrush on Monday at the park (at least a week earlier than I would expect), and the moon is getting close to full, so it will be interesting to see if they start singing before or after the moon is full.

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