In the forest

While Tyra was visiting, we took a trip with The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies across Kachemak Bay to tour their field station in Peterson Bay. They have a house, a composting toilet complex and 4 yurts, where schools can bring classes for 3 to 5 day stays. There are a number of trails on the peninsula they occupy, as well as some spectacular tide pools.

Everything here in Homer is based on the tides. Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay have the second highest tides in the world, next to the Bay of Fundy in Canada. Depending on where the moon is, low and high tide can differ by 28′! The best low tides are in the negatives, where the ocean recedes further than it usually does. We get a -4′ or -5′ tide every month or so, and everyone goes clam-digging since so much land is exposed.

All of that just to say: our low tide for this particular excursion sucked. It was, at its lowest, a +3.5′. So we took a hike in the forest with our naturalist guide, Dan. I learned an incredible amount on the hike, like the 4 different types of fern (Fox, Lady, Oak, Wood), elderberry leaves stink a lot and why the spruce beetle killing off huge swaths of trees isn’t a bad thing.

Fiddleheads unravelling to become ferns
I've been hoping to see this carnivorous plant since I learned they grow here, but I've never been able to find it. Dan had us get down on our hands and knees and search the sphagnum moss to find them. They're tiny! Smaller than a dime!
Fungus, ferns and wood
Some sort of seed case that was hanging from a small tree
Some sort of flower (obviously I didn't retain as much as I was hoping)
Some...other sort of flower. I think I need a review, Dan.
A lichen has taken over this dead tree.
All the standing dead spruce had these huge fungi all over them
Tyra was really excited about them
I didn't know fungus could sweat
This lichen, apparently somewhat rare, is called Fairy Barf by some lichen enthusiasts
We learned that a tree's second line of defence, after its bark, is to ooze sap everywhere. This one was putting up a good fight.
This spruce grouse let us follow it down the trail to take pictures

On Kachemak Bay

Our friend Tyra came up to visit last week, and we managed to do some pretty awesome things while she was here.

I have almost 30 photos to post, so I’m going to divide them up into separate entries to give them more attention.

First, photos taken on the water taxi rides.

Gull Island's arch
Gull Island's spire
Kittiwakes wonder why I'm taking pictures of their home
An otter snacks on mollusks
Red Faced Cormorants also wonder why I'm taking pictures of their homes
Pelagic Cormorants practice not looking at each other

Basic Craning

Yes, I crack myself up.

You know it’s spring in Alaska when these creepy, slender dinosaur-like tall, majestic birds start popping up everywhere, uttering their signature menacing croak delightful trill. Standing between 4 and 5 feet tall, these Sandhill Cranes seem like they are straight out of Jurassic Park, as they stalk through your yard and jump up and down during their mating dance.

Apparently a pair have taken up residence in our neighbor’s little patch of woods, as I’ve seen them wandering around our street for the past few days. You’d think the abundance of free-roaming neighborhood dogs would deter the cranes from sticking around, but you’d be wrong.

Tomorrow marks the start of this year’s Shorebird Festival, so hopefully Skippy and I will get to do some fun stuff this weekend. Last year we took one of our two total trips out on Kachemak Bay to do a boat tour of Gull Island (yes, that’s where the seagulls nest, very good), so we’ll try something different this year.