When I think of spring here on the AK Peninsula I do not think of daffodils, tulips and green grass like I have in all the other places I lived over the years. I do not think of dogwood or cherry blossoms, morning doves or robins.
The first thing that comes to mind for me in this part of the world is the LOUD cracking sound of ice trying to shift on the frozen river. (when I first moved here and it would happen at night I thought it was a loud deep gun shot sound, too many years in the city:-))
Of the first little patches of open water that show on up between cracks of ice on the same. From that point the daily watch for more open water patches showing up in the river, a breaking up of ice pack, the flushing in and out with the tides of ice huge chucks, sometimes over 20 foot tall. Think ice bergs!!
Finally when all the ice is out of the river and then the beach ice can be then washed away also. The entire process is very dynamic.
Then, usually after three to four weeks, the sound of the river running free again. It is hard to describe that sound, a low roar? A rushing? Nope, well yes, I guess both of those sounds together.
The return of first seagulls, which come with the first open water, and then tundra swans as the little lakes that surround us for miles, open up. The first song birds we see, usually robins and chick-a-dees. Canaries, blue jays and so many more return it is a chorus the rest of the summer.
The ALL at once the ducks, geese, cranes and shore birds that come to join the great horned owls, eagles and an occasional hawk. (We are located on the Western Fly Way for migrating birds and are surrounded by a bird reserves)
I have learned to not look for the greening of things for many weeks after it seems like it should be happening. We first get the willows sprouting, somewhat similar to pussy willows.
A few local ‘weeds’ start to show signs of green. A few of our locals still remember hunting for these when they were young, but seldom done now. A practice I am going to try this year. I will update as I figure this out, with educated help)
Once we can get boats into the river, meaning beach ice is gone, most of us are heading up river to ‘egg island’ a few times in the course of a week or two to collect seagull and duck eggs. “Egg Island’ is named for the supply of fresh eggs where seagulls and various ducks nest in the middle of the Ugashik River.
There are ‘rules’ for harvesting; if there are more than 3 eggs, leave them.
If not you can take them.
Do not bring dogs, unless well behaved so as not to destroy nests, or leave them in the skiff.
Walk carefully as the nests are usually well covered with grasses and sedges.
Only pick eggs for the first 3 weeks after break-up.
This starts the spring traditions – getting ready for fishing is another one. As we move forward I will try and share some with you.