I’m sitting next to the heater and looking out the window at a blizzard, so it seems strange to write a post about spring. I know, though, that over the next few weeks, spring will unfold in this corner of the world, and springtime on Kodiak is spectacular. It is, without question, my favorite time of the year. True, the weather is much nicer in the summer, but nothing can compare to the awakening of nature that spring brings.
All I have to do is look out the front window or walk out into the yard to watch the breath-taking aerobatics of mating bald eagles. On the beach, I can see raucous, funny black oystercatchers, squawking and strutting to protect their territories. The black-legged kittiwakes arrived yesterday at their rookery in front of our home, and the Arctic terns should arrive in the next two weeks. We will soon begin seeing horned and tufted puffins paddling through the water and launching their fat little bodies into the air for their short, awkward flights. Of course bears will be leaving their dens, and before too long, we hopefully will catch a glimpse of a sow with tiny, newborn cubs.
All of this is fantastic to see, but perhaps the most amazing displays of spring occur in the ocean. As the sea temperature slowly rises, phytoplankton bloom, providing a food supply for spawning zooplankton. Soon, the ocean is full of these small crustaceans that provide a food, for everything from herring to whales. Spring is also when adult herring return to the marshy heads of bays to spawn and lay their eggs on eel grass and other plants. It seems as if overnight we begin seeing masses of zooplankton washed up on our beach and notice huge schools of herring in the bay, and following the herring and zooplankton are fin whales, humpbacks, and other whales, along with seals and sea lions. Some years we even see Orcas chasing and feeding on the oil-rich herring. There are days in the spring when the last sounds I hear before I fall asleep at night and the first sounds I hear when I awake in the morning are whales blowing. Life doesn’t get much better than that.
Over the next few weeks, I plan to go into more detail about springtime on Kodiak Island. How do eagles court and mate, and when will their chicks hatch? What do bears do when they first come out of their dens? When do the Sitka black-tailed deer give birth to their fawns, and when are red fox kits born? I’ll also let you know about the whales and other wildlife we see and tell you a bit more about Arctic terns and some of the other birds in our neighborhood. The snow is relentless today, but I’m certain spring is around the corner!
Please let me know if there is any particular Kodiak animal you would like me to cover.