Great Gray Portrait

Great Gray Portrait
Great Gray Owl

Friday, August 28, 2015

Death and Pinks

Let's start with the death of some trees. These are Black Spruce,( Bog Spruce). They look dead even when they are still alive. They are so combustible that they can catch fire even when their roots are saturated with water.
Earlier this Summer a wildfire got started near the town of Willow. No one died but about 50 homes were burned to the ground. These burned trees are part of that fire.
On Wednesday Dan and I headed past Willow out to Goose Creek for some fishing. Dan fished, I wandered in the woods looking for interesting things to photograph.
Dan landed some Pink Salmon, also called, Humpback Salmon. They are not actually pink. They are called pinks because of the color of their flesh. The quality of their flesh is 4th out of 5 for Alaska salmon. I hate them all; fish are not my favorite food.
You can easily see why they are known as 'Humpies'. They are the smallest species of salmon. At this stage in their lives salmon do not eat and wont bite at the fishing lures. Fishermen snag them instead. 
Getting the hook out of the back is safer than getting the hook out of the fish's mouth.
Dan released the fish he caught even though they only had days, or even hours left to live.
Late in the breeding cycle salmon have very mushy flesh. Not too appealing.
This is not a koi. During the process of spawning salmon transfer all of their energy to the business of reproducing. They no longer produce the slime that protects their skin. That makes them vulnerable to the fungus that coats their skin. Yuck!
These poor fish are all used up.
The end is not a pretty sight. Be happy that you do not have to endure the smell.
Following up on the death theme. This poor Moose also added its decomposing flesh to the general stench along Goose Creek.
I don't know what kind of mushrooms these are; but they look like death to me.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Visiting Eklutna Glacier

On Wednesday my friend Dan and I took his four wheeler up to Eklutna Lake and glacier.
Anchorage gets much of its water from this large, pristine, glacier fed lake.
It is ten miles from the end of the lake to the beginning. Notice all the dead trees in this photo. There was a forest fire some years ago.
There is a rough road that leads from the top of the lake towards the glacier.
There were some hardy bicyclists along the way.
By the way my own bicycle was stolen the same day. My third stolen bicycle in the last few years. All were locked, one even had a flat tire. They were stolen anyway.
Half of the week is open to off road vehicles, the rest of the time is for hikers. There were lots of big mud puddles from recent rainfall.
We got ready and plunged in. We got wet.
Gradually the canyon narrowed. You can see the top of the glacier from here.
The waterfall may look wimpy but it is quite long.
This is where the road ends and the hiking trail begins.
We scanned the lofty hillsides for wildlife and spotted a few distant Mountain Goats.
The narrow trail follows alongside the Eklutna River.
The river is truly wild and very cold so close to the glacier.
You can see how the receding glacier has scoured the rocks.
Hardy plants managed to establish themselves between the cracks in the rocks. They are already taking on their Fall colors.
Eventually the trail became more treacherous and the late afternoon was soon turning into evening. These two old men decided that it was time to turn back. We have seen plenty of glaciers anyway.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A New Painting etc.

Before getting to the newest painting I will show a smattering of recent photos like these Canadas on the mud flats.
Most species of ducks have already flown south. Those that remain are moulting their feathers like this Mallard Drake and Am Wigeon. Many ducks are flightless at this time of year.
There are still some Short-billed Dowitchers and Yellowlegs.
I showed this painting before but in the meantime I made a few minor changes. I added the kittiwakes in the background in an attempt to cover up some smudges and pencil lines that showed through. I think that I will call this one, 'On the Flight Deck'.
If you look closely in front of the arrow you can see some of the smudges around the puffins in flight. Since I have varnished this painting there is nothing much that I can do about it now. The smudges show up in life better than this photo indicates.
This bear photo inspired my latest painting.
The painting is 11x14". The actual painting looks better than this photo.
The working title is, 'Don't Mess with Mama'.
The cubs were inspired by photos that I took at Brooks Camp last Summer.
This is actually the same cub as in the previous photo, taken in a different pose.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Kings are In

The title of this post is a much anticipated announcement commonly heard every summer around these parts. It refers to the arrival of Chinook Salmon to the local rivers and streams.
Chinooks, (King Salmon are the largest North American salmon. They often greatly exceed one meter, (yard) in length. They first started showing up in Ship Creek about a month ago but they were evident in great numbers last Friday.
Some years they fail to appear in their traditional spawning grounds. Ship Creek experienced a bounty of fish this year. There were many hundreds of them on Friday.
There were also smaller species like this Coho Salmon trying to make it over the artificial falls near the fish hatchery where I photographed dippers earlier this summer.
They show up, they spawn, they die, all in a few short weeks. There were no bears in evidence while we were there but I suspect that they show up in the wee hours.
After Ship Creek we crossed town to visit Potter Marsh south of Anchorage. Lots of yellowlegs.
A size comparison between Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs.
A resting greater.
A Bald Eagle landed nearby. Too bad the light was so harsh.
Take-off.
The eagle was chasing Canada Geese but had no luck.
I am lucky to see one spider a year. Any idea what species this might be?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Goodbye to the Bears, and a New Bird

These photos are the last batch from my Redoubt Bay trip. I shot about 500 photos on that short visit. 
I am happy that I was able to get so much resource material for future paintings. I do want to emphasize what a thrill it was to sit safely in a boat and observe bears from distances that would have been near suicidal from the shore. The bears were more accepting of people in boats than they would have been to people on foot. Kind of like the animals that you see on safari in Africa.
I wanted to get shots of bears in a variety of different settings.
It would be nice to go back there in a kayak or other small boat and spend enough time to photograph bears at my leisure, especially in the early morning and late afternoon when there will hopefully be fewer fishermen..
There was some rough play between younger bears.
They made a lot of noise and thrashed the bushes but were not trying to hurt each other.
Their behavior was so much like dogs at play.
Watching all this helps you to realize the incredible strength that these creatures possess.
They also displayed some tender affection toward one another.
This is one of my favorite photos of the trip. I am planning a painting with this photo in mind.
In the meantime I got a new bird late Sunday evening. It is one that may be very familiar to many of you but it is a very recent arrival to Alaska. 
It was eating Elderberries in the only Elderberry bush in Elderberry Park in downtown Anchorage. In fact this is the first sighting of a Eurasian Collared Dove in Anchorage.
About 50 years ago they got established somewhere way down south and have been spreading north at a steady pace. Now they are ubiquitous in much of the country. Kind of like the spread of Starlings. Eurasian Collared Doves look a lot more delicate than Starlings but they have to be tough to establish a toehold in Alaska, which they have done in many parts of the state.