Talkeetna blogger Bill Was writes about his attempts to adjust to a few aspects of summer in the Susitna Valley.
Today just happens to be yet another gorgeous late morning here in the Talkeetna area; the sun rides hot and high in the azure sky while gentle WSW breezes riffle the new leaves on trees and other plants. The temperature is already above 60°F on its way to the middle seventies; that’s perhaps fifteen degrees above normal but then that’s how the temps have been running. After a ‘winter’ – and I use the term very loosely – sleep the landscape has once again exploded into summer’s color and foliage. And with this seasonal shift came additional markers of the late spring in south-central Alaska; the mosquitoes are out in force, the village is once again awash in tourists and there is no longer a dark night sky.
A closer look at some of the inhabitants of area wetlands,
and some interesting relationships between them.
As winter changed into spring in the wetlands east of the house where I have been living just south of Willow, my excursions there with my two dogs grew more interesting. On the morning of April twenty-second, when I let the girls outside, I was surprised to find a pair of Lesser Sandhill Cranes standing at the edge of the forest in the large clearing just east of the house. They walked slowly through the long brown grass, exposed by the melted snow, unimpressed at being watched by two dogs, a human, and two cats. For the next few weeks I heard them calling out in the wetlands-sometimes flying, sometimes stationary. By mid-June they were apparently nesting, for they had grown quiet, not wanting to draw attention to their nest site. I’d occasionally hear them very late at night, calling from the same area. Cranes have been nesting in the wetlands for several years-perhaps decades before people moved into the area. I hope the wetlands remain their nesting territory for many more decades to come. (more…)
Many area birders were enthusiastically surprised at the number of different bird species which “turned out” for this year’s 24 hour Talkeetna-Trapper Creek Birdathon, held over the weekend. The group tallied up 78 species, which is the highest total since 2005, a year that also had an early spring.
Former resident Robert Ambrose had the highest individual total, with 60 species of birds. His biking partner Bill FitzGerald counted just two less. They biked over sixty miles to win the Birdathon crowns, once again demonstrating that “green” birding is no disadvantage, at least for them!
Local guide Wade Hopkins also birded without a motorized vehicle. He hiked and thrashed his way up to Papa Bear Lake, using his pack raft to cross rivers and creeks, spent the night in a bivvy sack, and floated to Talkeetna, fishing and birding all day. He found a Hooded Merganser, which hadn’t been recorded in eight years, saw the only flock of Tundra Swans, and discovered a group of about 40 male Horned Grebes. Wade also saw a couple adult black bears and two cubs-of-the-year.
With all the rain and ice making for a pretty dismal winter in Willow, I wanted to go see how spring was progressing in Hatcher Pass. I drove up April second, but not having four-wheel drive- when I got into slushy snow about a mile past the winter gate, I parked and switched to skis. My dogs-Lyra and Darby- were thrilled, but I soon found that the ice bridges across the creek had all collapsed and I couldn’t get out where I wanted to go. I had to pick my way along on top of the snow machine trail beside the road. That wasn’t much fun, and after about a mile and a half, I turned back. I decided to make the trip again later in the month.
Events in the night sky for the whole month of May are covered, including three celestial objects visible to late night sky observers, an explanation of why May Day is the appropriate first day of summer, the moon’s location and resulting tides, Jupiter’s movement in the second week of May, the transit of Mercury, the full moon of May, and Mars at opposition.
An essay by Talkeetna resident Bill Was,
from his blog at talkeetnatraces.com
In the wake of the UN sponsored meetings in Paris covering climate change once again the ‘news’ – and I use this term very loosely – is abuzz with the gamut of views from outright denial to fanatical following. I concur that the earth’s climate appears to be warming but I remain very unsure as to what part human beings have played in this scenario especially as versed with how much of this change stems from some naturally occurring geologic pattern or meteorologically based shifts.
I left off my last story- which was ‘part one’ of the “Murre Invasion”- heading back to my temporary residence in Willow after having spent December 30th in Talkeetna. Billy Fitzgerald and Tod Marder had taken some rescued Murres by snowmachine to an open lead of water in the Su, about a mile north of the Talkeetna river confluence. Originally I had been asked to take Murres to the Alaska Wild Bird Treatment Center in Houston, but because the birds were healthy and open water had been located, it was decided to release them back to the wild. Being pelagic diving birds with legs set well back on their bodies, they need water in order to take flight, although, in just the right conditions, they have been observed taking off from land, but it’s extremely difficult for them.