Monday, January 31, 2011

Our National Emblem, the Bald Eagles. sitting on the lamp posts

Last week I went to Sutlif's hardware store downtown.
Seemed like every lamp post had an eagle sitting on it.

A few posts had 2 generations.
Is that the mama or the papa? I don't know.

Like people, a few seem to lean on the cross more than others.

Hope that didn't sound sacrilegious.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Juvenile eagle, guarding his meal

At this time of the year, I like to go by the canneries to see these birds. So for a week, every day I went there at lunch, just to check them out.

These guys are 90 inches with their wings spread out! That's the width of a motor home!

When they are next to you and suddenly fly off, the "swoosh" in your ear makes your circulation stop.

Here is an aggressive juvenile protecting its catch from even the more experienced white heads.

And here is a video of him eating his catch. I think he ate over 50% of that salmon by himself.

Hope it doesn't gross you out. But, this is life at the edge of the wilderness.

Specially in the winter, when you get a meal, it is worth defending.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What happens at the end of Tanner Season?

Tanner crab season has just closed. And like the fishermen tell me:
"days get longer at closing time".

They report that while they are finishing the season, they indeeed notice the morning getting here earlier and earlier. It is really a boost to their spirits as they are finishing up the season. After being on the seas in the dark, it is really a pleasant sight when they come home.

Today we'll have civil twilight form 8:40 till 6:04. Having light before 9 AM really cheers you up!

Even Barrow at the north of Alaska is getting sun now...after 2 months of complete darkness. They got just over 1 hour of "sun" yesterday. See short article below:

Alaska Beat
Sun returns to Barrow, Alaska after 2-month hiatus
Alaska Dispatch
The sun has returned to Barrow, Alaska after a two-month hiatus, "warming hearts and minds" up above the Arctic Circle. Not all the residents were able to witness and enjoy the sweet return, though, according to The Arctic Sounder. "Ice fog above buildings and homes cloaked the sun in parts of town, but daylight was noticeably more significant," some reported, while others reported that they "saw the sun clearly, glowing brilliant and orange." It was about 40 degrees below zero when The Top of the World Hotel general manager, Mustafa Iflazoglu, stepped outside for a "quick glimpse." According to the National Weather Service, the sun has not risen in Barrow since Nov. 18. Sunday's glory lasted a whopping one hour and nine minutes, according to the weather service's official observer way up there, rising at 1:05 p.m. and setting at 2:14 p.m. Read the full story here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

They are watching us!

About a week ago we went on a walk to Ft Abercrombie.
I looked up, and there was an eagle staring at Raton .
He looked at me.

Then looked at her again.

Wings came up.

I feared Raton was a gonner!

But, then he turned a little more, and flew off towards the water.

I don't know what lead him to spare Raton. Eagles have been known to fly by and cary away a small dog off a walker's leash. Anyway, maybe it was that ugly coat that made this 10 punder look not so appealing.

Eagles can easily carry away a 5 pound fish. Even a 7 pounder is manageable for them. Once they get a 10 pounder it is a challenge. Sometimes they can't release their claws and both end up in the water. Since eagles aren't good swimmers, if the fish is trying to dive, it's the end for both.

Someone at work told me they had their dog out in the yard with them when a neighbor screamed at her. There were several dozen of eagles in the trees. One suddenly swoops down to take the dog, but the lady used a rake to swing as the eagle she appproached. Good thing she didn't admit hitting the bird, or she might be in trouble with goverment, since eagles are "protected". As she said, when they outnumber you dog, maybe you should protect the dog.

Another said an eagle carried off her 20 pound pet rabbit, but dropped it form in the air, about 30 feet high. Rabbit did ok. Didn't even have a hole in his flesh...guess it's fur was thick enough not to let the claws sink in.

Do you think they were kidding me? I think I heard someone say, "what a cheechako!"

Saturday, January 15, 2011

How high does our sun get?

Recently we talked about our sun rising between 9 and 10:30 AM.

This is our sun at 1 PM on a surprisingly sunny Sunday, January 16th.
Did you notice the shadows form the trees?

Yes, this is 1 PM. I am not kidding; this is just past high noon!

I had never thought how high the sun gets from the horizon this time of year, and I would have said it is 25 degrees. According to the pros,I was way off; it is no where that high!

Yet, our sun is pretty high compared to other places in AK.

Take a look at this January Fairbank's pic taken form a calendar. In the December solstice, theirs only rises 2 degree above the horizon, according to what I read. Fortunately the cold weather causes so much refraction of light that it appears higher.

Our nights are long; we try to find things to keep us entertained. So I decided to check it out further.

During the Winter solstice at 1 PM, Kodiak's sun was 8 degrees above the horizon; today (in the top picture) it was only 12 degrees high at 1 PM. (That's what they say, even if it looks more than 12 degrees to me).

In the summer it will finally reach 55 degrees above the horizon. No where close to straight above or 90 degrees! (But fortunately, it will stay in the visible sky for a lot of hours at that time of the year.)

How does the sun's elevation compare to your place?

According to NOAA: in San Antonio it will be at 37, 41, and 82 degrees above the horizon on those same dates.

ABQ's will be: 31, 34, and 73.

If your nights are long and you have nothing else to do, check it out for your own city at:

Friday, January 14, 2011

A beautiful day turns into tragedy

Two weeks ago we talked about how, after a week of dreary days and constant rain, the sun suddenly came out. I was tempted to take the kayak out storage and go for a ride. My wife talked me out of it.

But great days can be treacherous. They make you want to do things in the outdoors. And that is what must have happened to a 40 year old man, just this past week.

Apparently he went out ice skating on Island Lake on Sunday before last, just a few blocks from us. When his family returned home from running errands, he was not back. For hours neighbors said emergency crews looked for him, long into the night. The scuba shop contributed an underwater camera to use through holes made in the ice. On Monday morning he was found.

Unfortunately, I think, "Cabin Fever" took it's toll.

Our firemen specifically train to recover people who have fallen through the ice. This time, they had to use that training to recover someone too late. And it must have been psychologically tough for them, because the person they were looking for was an active member of the Kodiak Search and Rescue Team.

Weather related tragedy, unfortunately, affects us often. And since our population is small, when such things happen, it is deeply felt by all of us.

To read the paper's account, cut and paste the following to your browser:

Technically, warm rain water seeps in from the land onto the lake. And even though the center might be thick ice, the edge is thinned out from the bottom as the run-off water seeps underneath the ice.

Before Christmas I had listened to our Fire Chief talking on the radio about how they train for such events. In fact, a picture above is from their training exercise. I had planned to use it in this blog, but with a much different ending. To listen to his comments about that training, copy and paste this long link on to your browser.

This is indeed a sad story. I considered not writing about it. But it is what occurs when you live in this climate. Beautiful, but treacherous.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

9 O'clock in the Morning

It's the second week in January. Days are getting longer and longer.

Here is the view last weekend at 9 o'clock in the morning. Barely bright enough to ride the bike to work.

In December, when rain and clouds were around, it looked equally dark till 10:30AM.

But every day is better and better. Last week it also looked just like this at 5PM. Now I can ride my bike home and arrive as late as 5:30 PM, without worrying about hitting a large pot-hole in the bike path.

Yes, things are looking up.

Here's a pic at the same time, today, just one week later than the one above.
(Admittedly, the fresh snow lightens up the scene a little.)

Warm Reindeer Furs

Recently we talked about the local reindeer in Kodiak.

As you know it is legal to hunt them.

In Anchorage you can purchase a hide for about $ 180.

We have one. And it is extremely valuable on a cold day.

It's just the right size to cover you as you read.

And it sure beats burning fuel for heat.

Friday, January 7, 2011

What a great January day!

Today I looked out the window at work and this is what I saw: clear skies and glass-still water

Forget what I said 2 days ago when it had been deary, raining snow for over a week.

Are you ready to paddle to that island with me? As long as we are back by 4:30, we'll be have just enough light. Really; we'll do just fine. Lets do it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year's Swim

We like to do things to break the monotony of long winter nights. So every New Year's Day the hardy locals go for a swim at Mill Bay.

80 jumped in this year. Only one had to be taken away by ambulance....and that was because of a fall on the ice, not because of hypothermia.

Water temperature is still a "warm" 41 degrees. That's only 10 - 15 degrees colder than our summer water temperature. Admittedly the air temperature was nearly 32 degrees and it was raining. I stayed home.

For comparison, it is a lot warmer than Anchorage's current 30 degree water. Blame that on the shallow water of Cook inlet being more susceptible to temperature changes than the deep waters around Kodiak. And lets give thanks to the Japanese for sending their warm currents up our way! Our water will only drop to about 32 by February and then start warming up.

Call me a wimp, but there'll be no more kayaking for me for a few months!