This evening I visited Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park, a short drive from home (lucky me!) With all the rain for the past week, it has really been changing with its under-glacier river swollen and moving from one side to the other.
Giant chunks of blue ice calved off the toe just prior to my arrival; witnesses said it was very loud and reminded them of a tidewater glacier calving. From the size of the cracks, it looks like more calving is imminent. The outwash plain was littered with chunks of ice. Very dynamic!
On the drive home at about 9:45 pm, I stopped at the usual spot at the 40 mile per hour sign on Exit Glacier Road to listen for the WESTERN SCREECH OWL. After a few minutes, I thought I heard something above the roar of the numerous waterfalls cascading down the surrounding mountainsides, and the rustling of the cottonwood leaves.
I kept listening and waiting. Sure enough, the distinctive bouncing ball call came again. And again. Then I heard the double trill call, and a few other vocalizations. It was hard to tell if there was more than one, but I think it’s possible.
A great website for owl information and to hear the calls is <http://www.owlpages.com/owls/species.php?s=840> I learned that the species name, kennicottii, honors Robert Kennicott.
His scientific work is commemorated by the Alaska Marine Highway ferry M/V Kennicott, Kennicott Glacier, and the copper mining town of Kennecott, though misspelled, in Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve. Alaska Dispatch News had an interesting article about him on August 8, 2016 < http://www.adn.com/alaska-news/science/2016/08/07/this-scientists-death-in-the-alaska-wilderness-was-a-mystery-150-years-later-his-skeleton-helped-solve-it/>.
But I digress. If you want to try to hear "Kennicot's Owl", drive down Herman Leirer Road, aka Exit Glacier Road just after sunset or around 9:45 to 10 pm. After you go over the first bridge at the intersection of this road and Old Exit Glacier Road, look for the first 40 MPH speed limit sign. Pull over as far as possible and turn on your parking lights for visibility. Just stand and listen nearby. I hope he will continue to call.
At 11 pm, the first stars I have seen this summer peeked through the scattered clouds: the constellation Cygnus. How very wonderful! It’s so nice to see the sky and stars again. The Aurora is rumored to be visible tonight as well if one can stay up. If you step out to see the Northern Lights, listen for owls!
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter