Friday, June 2, 2017 Yakutat Tern Festival afternoon

Yakutat, Alaska

Noon to 1: Harvest and Use of Wild Resources in Yakutat during 2015 presented by Lauren Sill and Barbara Cellarius. Subsistence is a very important source of food locally. I appreciate all the tern festival volunteers who postponed their sockeye salmon harvest for us.

1:00 pm: Strings and Stories with featured artists Linda Rosenthal, famed violinist, and Bill Blush, actor. Cute kid-oriented, and kid-involved stories and poems enhanced by Linda’s magical violin, made in 1772 in Italy.

2 pm to 4 pm: Town/Monti Bay Field Trip with ecologist and author Mary Willson. This easy trip by van and foot visited nearby Sandy Beach near the seafood processing plant, the old cold storage dock, the rocky beach and reef at Monti Bay, and the Totem Trail.

New species included: PIGEON GUILLEMOT, PARASITIC JAEGER harassing the gulls, CORMORANTS (too far to ID). Several CASPIAN TERNS fished in the bay, providing good views. One followed a fishing boat as it headed to the harbor, Mt St Elias looming in the background.

Everyone heard and saw the famed ALEUTIAN TERNS, and the ARCTIC TERNS. A Harbor Porpoise quietly surfaced for air and dove like a little dark wheel rolling along.


On the Totem Trail, Mary Willson showed us Domatia, tiny homes for tinier mites provided by alder leaves. It is thought the mites aid the alder by attacking fungi invading the leaves. Mary pointed out nursery logs and checked out some old (cold) brown bear scat. We saw where the bear had trampled through some skunk cabbage as it dined. I spotted an unusual lichen that looks like a small, whitish mushroom: Lichenomphalia, growing on one of the nurse logs.

A hummingbird flashed past, too quick to ID, but likely a Rufous. YELLOW WARBLERS sang from the willows. Another CASPIAN TERN fished the Lagoon, as well as BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES. And it goes without saying, the BALD EAGLE was preprinted on my bird list.

I returned to Sandy Beach around 4:30 pm to watch an Eagle show. The seafood processing plant grinds up its fish waste just like in Seward, and provides food for lots of birds. At least a dozen adult Eagles were lined up at the beach tideline, looking like combat fishermen. They peered at the wrack at their feet, nabbing tidbits from the vegetation. 

GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS with a few HERRING GULLS clustered nervously on either side. From time to time, an Eagle would lift up and fly right at them, scattering the shrieking gulls. Must be fun to cause such mayhem!

Juvenile BALD EAGLES stood deferentially up the beach, clustered around a sea otter carcass, unsure of how to eat it. An adult Eagle, noticing the potential food, stalked up to investigate, scattering the juvies. It pecked away at the head area, but didn’t seem all that interested other than proving dominance. 

It was fun to watch the Eagles of all ages, gracefully sail down from the nearby spruce trees, long legs outstretched, to land near or on other Eagles, depending on their dominance.

ALEUTIAN TERNS flew over the bay, diving right in front of the cannery dock. Nice! A single EURASIAN COLLARED DOVE flew past, not so nice considering it's an invasive species, but interesting to see. Too bad nobody is eating these doves; I understand they are very tasty.

Soon it was time to head over to the 6 pm Opening Remarks and Fundraiser Dinner at the ANB Hall (Alaska Native Brotherhood). I walked past two really nice murals painted on sheds, one of two China Rockfish, the other of the Giant Pacific Octopus.

While the diners feasted on a delicious halibut dinner, Don Lyons gave a talk on the amazing terns, punctuated with tern puns from “The Book of Terns,” by Peter Delacorte and Michael Witte. Whereas Arctic Tern numbers range over 100,000, Aleutian terns numbers range from 5-6,000. Aleutian Tern numbers are holding steady in Yakutat, but declining elsewhere. Yakutat has the largest concentration of nesting Aleutian Terns in the world. Russia, the only other location where they nest, has a large number of breeding terns. Scientists are studying and tagging these terns to learn more about their foraging habits, predators, and migration.

Then the highlight of the weekend: the famous Mt. St. Elias Dancers. Wow! From youngsters just learning to seasoned performers, they all gave sterling performances, wearing stunning and treasured regalia. What a treat and a lovely ending to a wonderful day.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Traveling Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter


No comments:

Post a Comment