Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Black Bear on a Hot Day

Although we have had some nice, warm days this Summer, there have been no hot days yet. This is the title,(for now) of my latest painting, Black Bear on a Hot Day, 11x14".  I got the idea of a panting bear, cooling off in the refreshing mist of a cold, mountain waterfall.
There is a steep mountain nearby called Bear Mountain, it inspired the setting for this painting. I sure get tired of painting bears, but it's been awhile since I've done a bear painting, so it's time. They usually sell fast, but nowadays nothing sells all that fast. I'm surviving from licensing royalties of past artwork. It's meager wages for sure.
A detail photo.
This is another photo of a Savannah Sparrow on Mendeltna Creek.
Yet another view of a Savannah Sparrow.
Solitary Sandpiper tracks in the sand.
A bad photo of a Solitary Sandpiper, already in post breeding plummage.
There were a number of Cliff Swallows nesting under the bridge where the highway crosses the creek. Cliff Swallows are sparsely distributed around these parts, and they are only present for two months or less. They had a great abundance of mosquitos to feast upon at Mendeltna Creek.
I believe that this is some kind of Cinquefoil.
A poor hornet suspended in a spider web. I did not rescue it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Journey to Mendeltna Creek

Mendeltna Creek is about 140 miles northeast of Anchorage. It is on the opposite side of the Chugach Mountain range. That means we had to drive through some incredible scenery to get there. That is not the creek in the photo above. Mendeltna Creek is out on the more level terrain, (relatively speaking) of Alaska's vast Boreal Forest.
The long journey to the creek is far more picturesque than the creek itself.
One of the highlights of the journey is the rapidly receding Matanuska Glacier. This is the source of the Matanuska River, which is one of the dominate rivers in the whole region.
This is a view of the glacier winding up into the mountains.
I had to under-expose much of the foreground in order to keep the background from getting washed out. Nevertheless, scenery like this is why I choose to live in Alaska.
Another glacier at the bottom of a valley. This photo helps show vastness of the wild countryside. I doubt that anyone ever treks across these slopes.
Finally we descended out of the mountains and into the forest. These trees are Black Spruce. They burn very easily. Every Summer, there are gigantic wildfires in the Alaska bush that burn millions of acres at a time.
At last we reached the creek. I was invited on this trip by my nephew's old boss, Mark Hill. His energetic dog Q, accompanied us. He kept leaping out of the canoe and chasing around like a madman. We eventually had to tie a rope around his neck, attached to each side of the canoe so he could not leap out one side or the other.

Q was not happy being constrained to stay in the canoe.
We ascended the creek, trying to reach Old Man Lake. The current was too strong to paddle, so Mark put on chest waders and pulled the canoe, while I poled from behind. It was tiring work.
We encountered many obstacles that required the use of hatchet and saw to clear an opening for the canoe.
There were Moose along the way, and Caribou next to the creek. Too bad this fine bull Caribou would not show his face.
There was a 24 hour chorus of bird song. Exuberant Robins, White-crowned Sparrows, Alder Flycatchers, Swainson's and Hermit Thrushes, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Boreal Chickadees, many warblers, and one Western Wood Pewee. Many calls I could not identify.
It's light all night long nowadays, and the birds never quit calling. The predominate sparrow of the place was Savannah Sparrow. I kept hoping to get a Song Sparrow, which is hard to find in most of Alaska. The notched tail of the sparrow above, identifies it as a Savannah Sparrow.
Such a cooperative subject deserves a second photo.
After fighting the current for 7 hours, we ran out of steam. We were not even halfway to the lake. So we camped on thick carpets of moss beside the creek. My little tent was quite comfortable, but sleeping on the ground is hard on these old bones. My biggest complaint is that there were not enough mosquitos. (joke)  Even with repeated applications of repellent, I came home with at least 50 itchy bites.
In the morning we easily paddled back down the stream. I was in front, while Mark took the stern. It took about an hour of pleasant paddling to get back down.
We spooked up a pair of Great Horned Owls. Only the female allowed me to get a photo. The male sat quietly in the open, but took off before I could get it in the viewfinder.
Back where we parked the car we were greeted by this Snowshoe Hare. Mark worried about losing his keys in the water, so he buried them under a chunk of concrete near the car.
When we returned, the concrete had been moved aside, and the keys were nowhere to be found. A Red Squirrel mocked us from a tree, and some Gray Jays came to enjoy our frustration. We know one of these curious creatures made off with the keys. My money is on the squirrel. Mark called his wife who had to drive out from Anchorage with a spare key.
We had a long wait, and I watched birds and photographed wildflowers to kill the time. There are already too many photos on this blog post so those photos will have to wait for some future time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gary's Photos, Mburo

Even before we passed through the entrance gate to Mburo Nat. Park, we started seeing Zebras. Since I saw so many Zebras in South Africa the year before I hardly paid any attention to them. Little did I know that the few Zebras we saw out of the park and just inside the park would be the only Zebras we would see on the entire trip.
These were Gary's first wild Zebras so he paid more attention to them, and got better photos than me.
These were just about the only Impalas we saw as well. I photographed this same doe with fawns, but Gary got a good close up.
I love this photo of a Topi on topi of a termite mound.
Striped Kingfisher was a new bird for all of us.
These small eagles were fairly common in open countryside inside the national parks.
Gary told me that he incorporated a few of my photographs into a program that he put on about Uganda. This photo is slightly tilted like the one I shot, so it might be my photo of Water Thick-knees on the shore of Lake Mburo.
I'm not sure if this is my photo, or Gary's photo of an African Finfoot. It's a difficult bird to find, except on Lake Mburo.
There is no doubt that Gary got this lucky shot of a White-backed Night Heron with it's throat pouch inflated just before it calls.
Fortune and a quick trigger finger enabled Gary to get a second lucky shot of this pair of WBN Herons together. This is another photo that makes me jealous. The boat was rocking, and these birds were hiding in dense vegetation. I could not get such fine photos. These birds are another species that are very difficult to find.
One of the world's most colorful birds. This Malachite Kingfisher perched on the side of a boat nearly the same color as the lake.
Another great shot of a great beauty.
The Wattled Lapwing is a large shorebird that strays far from the shore. Way cool.
There were some large Cape Buffalo in the park.
Ankore Cattle are pretty awsome for a domestic cow, but I was very disappointed to see hundreds of them roaming throughout the park. As I said before, herdsmen do not tolerate large predators. If I'm paying full price to visit a park, I expect it to be free of livestock. They say that one lion manages to hang on in the park, but how pathetic is that?
Once again we were on the road to the next reserve. Almost all of the roads in Uganda are unpaved, and foot traffic is far more common than vehicle traffic. It is difficult to drive more than about 20 mph.
People haul water for miles everyday. The country is in desperate need of basic infrastructure like wells, electricity, and plumbing.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Gary's Photos, part 1

If you're tired of hearing about our recent trip to Uganda, that's too bad. I dont have anything interesting to blog about anyway.
Gary finally got around to sending me a cd of his photos from the trip. That hopeless miscreant Tom already admitted that he'll probably never get around to sending me a copy of his many short videos he made of the trip.
Anyway, Gary has the same model of camera that I have, Fujifilm HS-10. Some of his photos are naturally similar to things I photographed, but he got many great photos that make me jealous. The above photo is where we stayed in Entebbe both at the beginning and end of our journey. It was quite comfortable. It had two beds with another one in the loft where Tom slept. It also had a nice bathroom, kitchenette,and even a tv.
Gary photographed this magnificent, Ross's Turaco in the tree right next to our little banda. For some reason Gary reduced the size of his photos that he sent, so some of them look better when they are not blown up to maximum size.
This was our first of several Lizard Buzzards in Entebbe.
A great little, African Firefinch.
One of the birds we saw everywhere, Eastern Grey Plantain Eater. They call loudly, and sound like a kookabura to me.
I know I posted a similar photo to this Crowned Hornbill, but it's too good not to show again.
Earlier I wrote about a tree overhanging Lake Victoria that had 50+ Pied Kingfishers in it. Gary got such a great photo of one of them.
That tree was also loaded with several species of nesting weavers, including this beautiful Golden-backed Weaver.
There are several species of rollers in Uganda. The predominate roller in Entebbe is the Broad-billed Roller.
Moving on from Entebbe we visited the reknown Mabamba Swamp. At the edge of the swamp we saw many, Blue-breasted Bee-eaters.
We Saw a number of not so, Purple Herons there.
African Jacanas as well.
We saw African Fish Eagles everywhere that had enough water.
The reason that virtually all birders visiting Uganda go to the Mabamba Swamp is for the must-see, Shoebill. We saw them in Muchison as well.