After visiting this fjord system for 15 years I was able to see three things I’ve never seen near the South Sawyer Glacier, until today.

The first outlier was the amount of debris in the water. Branches, small logs, and shards of bark were present everywhere. This, it turns out, was the result of torrential rains that soaked this area last week, generating torrents of water that must have taken out small trees and bushes and washed this debris into the fjord below.

Amongst that flotsam were two species of bird I have never seen this close to the ice. The first were green-winged teals, small ducks with iridescent patches on their flight feathers. Scattered groups were spotted hugging the periphery of the fjord walls and one was even found napping on one of the logs discharged into the silt-laden water.

Near the end of our cruise, a juvenile, red-necked phalarope came paddling by, picking off plankton and other small invertebrates from the water’s surface.

Whether these animals were drawn to the fjord because of the amount of organic material recently discharged or whether they make their way through here more often than I’ve realized, it was nice to see new faces populating a place I thought I knew so well.