Last week’s spectacular thunderstorm was another exciting weather event in a season that has seen fires, floods, landslides and volcanic eruptions around Alaska. In Tok, a forest fire and flood occurred at the same time.
Thunderstorms begin when warm, moist air rises into colder, drier air aloft – creating an unstable air mass. This volatile cloud produces electrical charges, causing lightning. The rapid heating and expansion of air around lightning brings the sound we hear as thunder. Thunder takes five seconds to travel a mile, so if you see lightning and start counting, you can estimate distance to the lightning bolt.
Hundreds of gray-crowned rosy finches were here in May, part of as many as 100,000 migrating birds stopped on their northward migration by an Interior snowstorm. This phenomenon is called “fallout.” Areas around Tok were literally covered with a variety of birds waiting out the storm, including thousands on the road that made driving sketchy.
Al Gilliam and Julia Heinz say they’re noticing fewer owls than have been seen in seen in previous years. Mario Benassi has noticed fewer goshawks. On the other hand, Judy Jacobson and Stacie Evans saw a rare eastern kingbird at Chilkoot Lake.
Australian visitor Maarten Hulzebosch was surprised to spot an Australian diamond dove at Fort Seward. Jedediah Blum-Evitts, Sarah Jaymot and Byrne Power also reported seeing and hearing diamond doves there. The doves live in hot, dry Australia and are not known to migrate. They’re small, with a reddish ring around the eyes and a haunting call. Because they’re kept as pets, it’s likely ones here were released or escaped captivity.
Judy Jacobson has been pulling invasive sweetclover at the Letnikof Dock. White and yellow sweetclover grows along Haines roads. It’s been marching south along the Haines Highway in recent years. It has a lovely scent but steals pollinating insects from lowbush cranberries and blueberries.
Several similar clover species were introduced to Alaska decades ago as animal feed. Bird vetch and sweetclover escaped and have spread around Alaska. Bird vetch chokes out native plants and has not yet been identified in Haines.
Haines Police get frequent calls about bears during summer. Most callers report seeing bears, not damage or danger. In most cases, leaving bears alone is the safest course. Securing attractants like trash or fish also will minimize conflict.
Police refer reports to wildlife troopers or the state park ranger. Although there’ve been many sightings, there have been only three minor incidents and no major conflicts, ranger Preston Kroes said June 24.
Let us know what you are seeing. Go to http://www.takshanuk,org to enter your observations or see what others have observed, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 766-3542.