There have been several recent sightings of “charismatic megafauna,” the name some give to the big, exciting mammals we all love to see.
On March 7, several people sighted humpback whales and orcas in Portage Cove. Gina Randles and Korey Comstock saw the two whales quite close to the cruise ship dock. And early the same morning, a lucky family saw an orca cow and calf breach.
The orcas are likely transient rather than resident ones. Residents tend to hunt in pods for fish. Transient orcas – the ones common to this area – are typically solitary and hunt sea mammals. Orcas often are seen here in spring, hunting sea lions and seals that feed on herring, hooligan and such “forage” fish.
Several people have seen wolves along the Chilkat River. Heather Lende was out walking her dog and they were being watched by a black wolf on Pyramid Island. There was a pack of wolves howling on the far side of the river, as well. The black wolf loped up and down the beach as Heather watched for about 45 minutes. It seemed more interested in watching people than joining the pack.
Mike Dorris reports several recent sightings of a large brown bear that in previous years has toppled dumpsters on Beach Road, Fort Seward and in town.
White-winged crossbills and red-breasted nuthatches have been numerous this winter. The crossed bills of the crossbills help them pry open cones to get the seeds. They are quite acrobatic in the conifers. Flocks of these birds along with pine siskins and redpolls are regular winter residents in Upper Lynn Canal.
Owls begin to stake out territories this time of year. Listen for the “boop-boop-boop” of the tiny pygmy owl. There was one in the tree above the museum recently and several in the woods above Piedad Road. The hoot of the pygmy owl sounds similar to that of the saw-whet owl but the pygmy’s “boops” are spaced farther apart.
Pygmy owls are no larger than a sparrow and yet they hunt small birds. A barred owl was also heard. A great grey owl flew very close to Margaret Sebens’ truck as she drove up the highway. It missed the truck and perched in a tree, unflustered while Margaret’s heart pounded. On her way back home, she saw a red fox.
Is it spring or not? On March 1, there were some classic signs. Jansy Hansen saw two robins in bright, breeding plumage, pussy willows and skunk cabbage. Then we got another bout of cold weather.
Looking at the National Weather Service climate statistics for Haines, our temperatures have been lower and our rainfall has been less than normal, but the snowfall for March was higher than average.
At least we have gotten some sunshine, despite the cold.
If you enjoy watching birds, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology is looking for citizen scientists for Project Feeder Watch. If you would be willing to watch your feeder for birds, go to www.birds.cornell.edu or follow the link at www.takshanuk.org.
Let us know what you are seeing. Go to www.takshanuk.org to enter your observations or see what others have observe or email firstname.lastname@example.org. or call 766-3542.