Dawn, late February, Chignik Lake, Alaska
It has been a winter unlike our previous two at Chignik Lake – quiet, even by the quiet standards we’ve become accustomed to. Pine Siskins, dozens of them, have taken over the White Spruce Grove. A raucous lot, it may be that they’ve driven off most other birds. In any event, the Dark-eyed Juncos and other sparrows of past years have been all but absent, and we’ve not seen a sign of Golden-crowned Kinglets, Redpolls or wrens. There’ve been fewer, far fewer, ducks on the lake this year as well. Perhaps this unusually warm Alaskan winter has given waterfowl other open water to choose from. And while we did spot our first ever winter-white Short-tailed Ermine as well as a pure white Collared Lemming awhile back, otherwise wildlife has been scarce, a very occasional fox, otter or seal notwithstanding.
A friend has been setting a net and catching a few Sockeyes. Mirror bright, free of sea lice and small at just 22 inches or so, they are almost undoubtedly representatives of a resident lacustrine population – kokanees that never migrate out to sea but spend their lifecycle in the lake. One such fish is on the dinner menu for this evening. I will poach it whole in a broth of clam juice, lemon and saffron. The broth in turn will serve as the base for a salmon bisque.
As quiet as it has been, Barbra and I remain as busy as ever. There are unending lists of new recipes and baking, many thousands of photographs from previous adventures to edit, Barbra’s duties as a teacher to attend to, literature to read and study and future adventures to plan for. We’re looking forward to slightly warmer weather when we can more comfortably work on our fly-casting. We’re both on pace to be in shape to run a half-marathon this summer – our first in 10 years. Meanwhile, I’ve been putting in full days and then some between putting together articles for magazines and my new interest, learning to play an acoustic steel string guitar. The quiet provides a pleasant backdrop for these activities.
Only three months till Sockeyes begin returning to the Chignik River. Biologists are forecasting a strong run. It’s raining on the Lake this morning, but there’s new snow on the mountains. A neighbor reports hearing our owls make “strange noises” lately. Spring is coming.
What a wonderful mood piece you have written. It is so sad though, that climate change is sending warmer conditions which would be upsetting the migratory pattern and food sources of so many species. Here in Australia, the southern states (cool climate regions) have suffered record-breaking heat. The outback, where I used to live & where my brother still resides, is suffering from a debilitating drought. There have been record breaking rainfall in northern Queensland in the tropics where floods have devastated towns and livestock. The sub-tropical coastal region where I live has experienced a fairly average season, although, we too, are in drought. I hope that next winter in Alaska will see the return of the usual diversity of species.
Thanks for the note, Gerowyn. We’re now reading Isaac Walton’s The Complete Angler. Published in 1653, the language, references and writing style are at times challenging and bemusing. But what really keeps grabbing us are the primitive views of nature often expressed – full on inaccuracies of natural phenomena Walton and his peers could see before them (or could have seen had they been willing and able to see accurately). What has changed in in all the years since? The fact of climate change is inarguably before us, but enough people are committed to remaining willfully ignorant of what is right in front of them, and insisting we do nothing, that we are doing precisely that. Nothing. It’s very disappointing.
Sure enjoy “CutterLight”.
I was glad to read that the Sockeye projection is positive. I had been thinking this was to be another poor return year……….
Good to hear from you, Rick. An early Chignik Sockeye projection from November 2018 looked dismal. Citing a “paucity of ocean fish,” the prediction was for low returns and possible closures. More recently, ADFG biologists have predicted 1.7 million returning Reds along with a banner year for Pinks. We’ll see, but everyone is hopeful! JD