Wild Things


June 9, 2011

May’s migrations were especially interesting this year.

The cow moose and two calves moved from the school have been seen and appear healthy. Moose typically give birth to one or two calves, each weighing about 28 pounds. By the time they are weaned, five months later, they will have increased their weight tenfold.

The juvenile killer whale found at Lutak was likely the calf of a transient, rather than a resident, orca. Residents generally travel in large groups and mostly consume fish. Lynn Canal tends to attract solitary transients or small family groups that range widely to hunt seals and sea lions.

Photographer Ron Horn makes an annual visit to Gran Point ("Sea Lion Rock"), and he said he saw more than 1,000 sea lions there this year, more than he had ever seen. 

Eagles laid their eggs in early May and the eaglets are now beginning to hatch.  The little ones are vulnerable.

At one Tanani Point nest Monday, two crows were seen trying to snatch eaglets from a nest. An adult eagle guarding the nest vocalized to another adult surrounded by five other crows. The off-nest eagle broke through the gauntlet to chase off the predatory pair, then spent considerable time chasing others. An adult eagle watched hatchlings at another active nest, while its mate was close by surrounded by cawing crows.

Eaglets weigh three ounces at hatching and grow to 12 pounds by the end of August. 

With spring fish runs come countless gulls, residents and migrants. The smallest of our common, gull-like birds are Arctic Terns (black cap) and Bonaparte’s gulls (black head). Arctic terns are the world’s greatest migrant, flying 31,000 miles per year. Bonapartes visit from their winter grounds in the southern and Pacific coastal states. The mew gull is our typical, mid-sized gull. It has a small yellow bill and black wing tips with white spots. They are resident here, but some migrate as far north as Brooks Range.

The larger gulls are difficult to identify, partly because they interbreed. Common large resident gulls are herring, glaucous-winged and Thayer’s. Their coloring differences are sometimes difficult to discern. All are about the same size, with pink legs and large yellow bills with a red spot.

Besides arrival of the first sockeye salmon, watch in June for dispersal of scoter rafts, nesting marbled murrelets and bear poop. Surf scoters raft up in upper Lynn Canal to choose mates. They disperse widely in Interior forests to raise their young. Little is known about these secretive nesters. They will return here in the fall with their young to migrate south and winter along the outer Pacific coast.

Marbled murrelets are a seabird related to auklets, murres, and puffins. They are adapted to diving, with wings for swimming and legs far back on their bodies. They’re awkward on land and need coastal rainforests with high mossy branches to nest. They do a belly landing on the moss and lay one egg. Both parents care for the young, flying in and out at sunrise and sunset for maximum camouflage. Their brown tweed color during the breeding season matches the forest and winter coloring is gull-like, gray on top and white on the bottom, so they look like ocean from the air and air from the ocean.

You can tell a lot about a bear from its poop. In hibernation, metabolisms slow and they don’t poop. Just out of hibernation, they drop an anal plug that is black and tarry. Then it’s a high-fiber diet to get digestive systems going, resulting in a green, grassy poop. When fish arrive, their scat becomes more brown and stinky. During berry season, you can see the berry seeds encased in "fertilizer."

To report wildlife sightings, call the Takshanuk Watershed Council, 766-3542.


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