One of my favorite summer neighbors is the sandhill crane, and that often surprises people. Like the sight of the aurora on a cold, winter night, the sound of a sandhill crane bugling will stop me in my tracks and I immediately scan the sky.
There are still a few sandhills hanging on around Fairbanks, but many have started their flight south to winter in warmer climates. I’ll miss their calls, but I’ll try to make do with the many nights of northern lights dancing across the sky.
Friday morning at the Eielson Visitor Center, Denali National Park. Elevation: 3300′.
In another weather note: As of Friday evening, Fairbanks has seen 175% of normal rainfall for the entire month of August. That puts us at the 8th wettest August since 1930, although both 2018 and 2019 had more rainfall at this point than this August.
The southern portion of Atka Island is older than the north, with some volcanic rock dating back 5 million years. The active northern part of the island once had one large cone, which was lost in a large eruption, and is now peppered with several smaller volcanos.
A volcanic complex can have several vents, and a widely varying composition of lava. Seismic activity within a complex can be difficult to pinpoint the source of the activity. Which vent is rumbling now? Some of those smaller vents have developed into stratovolcanoes.
Korovin Volcano has been very active in recent times, while Mount Kliuchef last erupted in 1812. The Atka Complex recently was elevated to a Level Yellow, due to seismic activity on the island. Interestingly, the swarm of activity is not near the known suspects, but several kilometers the the west and southwest, and approximately 10 miles from the community of Atka.
From 2014-2016, the Gulf of Alaska was hit by The Blob. A large mass of water that sat at a consistent record-high ocean temperature. A number of marine species saw a large population decline.
Humpbacks in Glacier Bay have been studied extensively since 1973. Individual whales are documented and identified by their dorsal fins and flukes. Each are unique. 2013 saw a return of 160 humpbacks to Glacier Bay, which was a record number since recording began. In 2014, the year the blob first showed itself, only 40 returned to The Bay. Some humpbacks have been returning to Glacier Bay for over 40 years.
The humpback population started to recover in Glacier Bay 2020. There were eleven calves in The Bay this year, where there were none for some of the blob years.
A curious side note: It has been reported that the humpbacks have thoroughly enjoyed having the waters of Glacier Bay almost to themselves. Or, at least without cruise ships. It has been documented that the whales have been much more vocal with each other with the absence of the large cruise ships.
No offense to anyone out there, but I am with the whales on this one. The lack of tourists has been peaceful.
A pair of swans, who had been spending the summer on the Back Pond, recently moved up to The Pond. I was watching them one evening, when a second pair of swans crashed the party, and chaos ensued. The original pair did not take kindly to sharing The Pond. For an hour the original pair chased the interlopers across the usual still waters. I was stacking firewood, and I’d hear the Flap,Flap,Flap… of wings beating the water as they skimmed across from end to end. Pretty fascinating to watch, although I’m convinced the beaver just wanted the peace & quiet back.
When I took the video, things had calmed down some, but you can see one of the interlopers off to the side, testing the waters, as it were. Eventually, that lone swan crossed the red line, and chaos ensued once more. It was getting dark when the four swans finally paired off at opposite ends of The Pond.
This weekend is the 24th annual Tanana Valley Sandhill Crane Festival. Events will be held Friday through Sunday at the Creamers Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge. There will be guided hikes, talks with biologists, birding activity and more out at Creamers. Of course, the trails are well worth hitting without the guides.
Sandhill Cranes usually start staging in early August for their migration south. An average autumn will see 150,000 to 200,000 cranes fly through the Tanana Valley.
It was 32F degrees at the cabin at 6am Wednesday morning. A bit early to be scraping the windshield before work, even for us. I did no plant protection, and they took a hit, but hopefully not a direct one.