Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Best Day of the Year, part 1

I'll be taking a break from the South Africa trip for the next several posts to catch up on more current events.
Anchorage Audubon Society conducts an annual field trip to Seward every February. The weather  for yesterday, Saturday the 18th was predicted to be stormy and windy. Aaron, our field trip chairman decided to wait until the last minute before deciding whether to cancel the trip or not.
Friday night, it looked like the predicted storm was not going to amount to much, so the trip was a go. Some cautious birders backed out, but I'm not one of them, so we headed out. It's a long 125 miles each way between Anchorage and Seward, but the highway was not too icy.
Up until yesterday, my complete list of birds seen in 2012 was,
Common Raven
Black-billed Magpie
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Hairy Woodpecker
Bohemian Waxwing
Pine Grosbeak
Bald Eagle
and Saw-whet Owl
I really wanted to go to Seward because I knew I was bound to get many good birds to add to my year list.
We made it to Seward without incident. As you can see in the photo, the sea on Resurrection Bay was dead calm. No wind, just a smattering of snow falling. The temperature was several degrees above freezing. Ideal conditions.
The Anchorage birders were joined by several local Seward birders who had scouted out the locations of all the best birds beforehand. This is only about half the group in the above photo. It's the most that I've ever seen on a Seward, winter field trip.
We crossed to the opposite side of the bay to observe seabirds from a stone jetty. While everyone else was scoping out the many distant seabirds, I noticed a sea creature coming up from behind us. The Loch Ness Monster perhaps? Yeah right.
Can you tell what it is? It was about 5 or 6 feet in length.
Is it a Beaver in salt water? Maybe a giant Muskrat? I called to the other birders as it steadily came closer to us.
It came right up to us and dove under water. Have you identified it yet?
It soon resurfaced. Now you know what it is, right? It's a delightful, SEA OTTER. All the Sea Otters that I have photographed in the past were out on choppy seas. It was hard to get decent photos from a rocking boat. This guy let me get dozens of good photos of it. I have never noticed the odd way that they splay their back legs to the side before.
This young Sea Otter swam back and forth at our feet. It was either very curious, or more likely, hoping for a handout. It did'nt get one.
Older Sea Otters develop white or blonde fur on their heads as they age. It is so strange to see these guys swim and float on their backs most of the time. I have seen them climb up on rocks also, but they spend almost all of their time in the water. They eat mostly shellfish, crustaceans, and mollusks of various kinds.
Now I have lots of good reference photos for future paintings. Sea Otters are very popular creatures around these parts.
This photo of a Common Murre resting on the ice in the boat harbor is just a taste of what is to come in the next post. I never dreamed that I would be able to get such close photos of many good things on that day.


tess stieben said...

Otters are so beautiful.

Maggie said...

Amazing that you were able to get such good close-ups and interesting poses. They're adorable. Can't wait to see the paintings that evolve.