Spring has sprung, indeed. Hundreds of ducks and geese are headed up the Chilkat River to their breeding grounds. Hundreds of pine siskins and redpolls are flitting about. So far about 25 species of migratory birds have arrived, some to nest and others on their way north. The thrushes are singing along with the bouncy call of the ruby-crowned kinglet and the hooting of owls. Our tough little rufous hummingbirds arrived on April 19.
Deb Vogt has been seeing swans, snow geese, Canada geese, teals, mallards, widgeons and pintails near her home on River Road. Kathleen Menke also saw them, and noticed one of the snow geese was a rare blue phase. On April 20, black-bellied plovers joined the throng. Two days later Laurie Mastrella saw 700 ducks along River Road. They were mostly mallards with some scaups, pintails and shovelers, and by afternoon, they had flown farther north.
This year about 200 surf scoters overwintered, along with a few robins. On April 16 the scoters were joined by at least 500 of their compatriots flying up to Lynn Canal to choose mates and feed on mussels. And the resident robins have been joined by their brightly colored compatriots singing on the tops of trees to claim the best territories and females.
There has also been a flurry of seagulls and eagles wheeling near Pyramid Island which hints at fish arrivals. About 60 sea lions were there as well for the feast. Luke Williams found evidence of capelin, a small fish in the smelt family. Capelin are probably migrating south from the Arctic Ocean to spawn.
Many bird pairs return to the same locations year after year. Mastrella and Melissa Arenson report their sapsuckers have returned. Mastrella also has a pair of sparrows who have nested in the same place two years in a row. Last year they built a new nest on top of the old.
Sparrows don’t have a long lifespan, so it will be interesting to see if the site continues to be used. Eagles started hanging out at their nests in mid-April. They typically return to their nest territory and do a little housekeeping before laying eggs in May.
The landfill will be installing an electric fence to keep bears out, as soon as the ground thaws. So far a couple of bears have already shown up and torn a hole in the wall of the building. Landfill manager Mike Dorris outfoxed them by putting up Critter Gitters that have kept the bears from using their “door.”
It’s a temporary fix, but will hopefully work until the fence can be installed. The new fence will keep the bears out, but some of the landfill regulars may turn to other human sources of food. Residents in the vicinity need to be especially careful this year to eliminate or secure all bear attractants.
Let us know what you are seeing. Go to www.takshanuk.org enter your observations or see what others have observed, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 766-3542.