Spring in Sitka
The mild winter here in beautiful Sitka is loosening its gentle grip on the land and sea as the days are getting exponentially longer and temperatures are beginning to creep into the low to mid-50’s; the forecast is even calling for one day to be 61 this coming week! Crocuses are blooming, rhubarb is exploding in the garden, skunk cabbages are emerging, and great schools of herring are concentrating in and around Sitka Sound. Attracted to these schools are large numbers of humpback whales, sea lions, and bald eagles, among others…; everyone loves herring, and their eggs, including us humans! A vitally important foundational species, in late March here, female herring glue their eggs, en masse, to rocks, kelp, eelgrass, and submerged tree branches in the low intertidal and subtidal regions, while males turn the otherwise dark green ocean waters into a creamy pastel. Miles and miles of coastline are impacted by this magnificent reproductive display; it’s an absolutely incredible natural event that more than anything, marks the beginning of Spring for us.
While the marine mammals and sea birds gorge offshore, along some stretches of the coast it’s not unusual to see hundreds of eagles and thousands of gulls lined up, wing-to-wing, vying for this great source of oil and protein. Just this week, I was out with passengers marveling at the acrobatic whales and massive roaring groups of sea lions feasting on the silvery fish. Soon, we’ll be gathering our own share of the bounty, eating eggs by the handfuls! Soon too, hungry gray whales will start arriving from Mexico. As the dredgers of the baleen whale world, they have a particular affinity for herring eggs, even as their cousin the humpback prefers the entire fish!
Next year, come join us on Sitka Sound and behold for yourself the wonder of this wild phenomenon!