The annual herring run in Mud Bay started in earnest Sunday, with residents using canoes, driftnets and throw nets to haul in buckets full of the silvery fish. As many as 10 eagles and flocks of hundreds of gulls were there feasting on the bounty. Eulachon can’t be far behind.
Folks in Klukwan and out Mud Bay Road saw rufous hummingbirds as early as March 30. That’s early, not record breaking. Ron Horn and Kip Kermoian reported mountain bluebirds passing through in mid-April. Kip also reported ruby-crowned kinglets have returned. These tiny birds have big voices, and the males have bright red feathers on their heads that flash like lasers in the spring when they’re excited.
As the songbirds return for the summer, birds of prey follow. Michael Wald identified a red-tailed hawk and Marlena Saupe saw a northern harrier. Goshawks have also returned. Northern harriers are often seen cruising over open fields or the intertidal. They have a distinct white rump patch.
During the winter we see rafts of Barrow’s goldeneyes, but this time of year the rafts change to surf scoters. They fly north and mass in rafts as large as 10,000, diving together, molting and choosing mates. They’ll disperse to nest in a few weeks. Judy and Terry Jacobson and Stacie Evans saw an unusual raft of 20-30 pigeon guillemots diving together in Chilkat Inlet. These alcids nest under the cruise ship dock and usually are seen alone. They’re easily identified by bright white shoulder patches against black bodies and bright red feet.
Mammal activity also has increased. Retired Alaska wildlife biologist John Wenger saw crab claws near the ferry terminal about 20 feet offshore being carried by an animal he is pretty certain was a mink. When they reached the shore, the animals disappeared for a bit, then the mink emerged. How did the mink catch the crab? The shoreline is quite steep in that location. Did it dive? Was the crab injured and floating on the surface? Did the mink capture the crab and in the melee get washed offshore? Minks are aquatic but typically stay in shallow, fresh water.
For two days in a row, Kathy Holmes saw a small beaver in one of the streams that crosses Mud Bay Road. It seemed inactive to her and she wondered if it was OK. Was it resting, injured or a youngster looking for a new home? Young beavers live with their parents for two years before moving out.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game is looking for citizen scientists to help with bat research. Bat boxes don’t seem to work in this cold climate, so Fish and Game is working to develop heated bat boxes for hibernating bats. There are six reported species in Alaska; one, the hoary bat, is a new arrival. Biologists don’t know what our bats are doing. Do they migrate? Hibernate? Where do they roost? Volunteers will travel certain routes with acoustic detection equipment to listen for bats. Contact Jessie Morgan at the library to help.
Bears have been out since the last weeks of March. River otters have been sighted fishing in streams for salmon smolt on their way out to sea. Sea lions and orcas have also been seen in Lutak Inlet. The sea lions come searching for forage fish such as herring, eulachon, and capelin. Orcas come stalking sea lions and seals.
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 email@example.com or call 766-3542.