Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Great Mt. Marathon Race etc.

The story goes something like this. Back in 1908, some gold prospectors were sitting around in a bar in the tiny outpost of Seward, Alaska. They looked up at Mt. Marothon, looming above them and started betting about which of them could climb up to the summit and back the fastest. The photo above is not actually Mt. Marathon, but it is nearby.

A view of Resurrection river as it flows down toward Seward, and Resurrection bay. It is fed by Exit Glacier.
Now back to the story of Mt. Marathon. In the photo above, Mt. Marathon is the large mountain that dominates the upper right hand portion of the scene. It is steep, and rises well above timberline which is only about 500 feet in elevation, as you can see in the photo.
The original gold panners somehow clawed their way to the top and back without losing a single person. The Great Mt. Marathon Race was born.
The Mt. Marathon race is the second oldest footrace in the country. It starts in downtown Seward on July 4th every year. This is the view of the top from town.
This is the top using my camera's full 30x zoom. you can see the tracks of previous climbers and two people at the top. On race day, this place is a madhouse. People struggle uphill, and tumble downhill. Many people are injured every year. I could never hope to be fit enough to climb such a steep hill at my age. In my youth this would have been an irresistable challenge, had I been in Alaska.
So, how long do you suppose it would take for the fastest runners to climb up and back? Take a guess. Amazingly, the fittest racers get to the top and back in about 45 minutes. That's quite a feat.
A Bald Eagle and Glaucous-winged Gulls near Seward from my trip there last week.
I got so many photos of the immature Bald Eagle last week. So I'll add a few more photos of that cooperative bird.
I wonder if the the concealing tuft of beach grass gave the young eagle a sense of security? Maybe that is why it allowed such a close approach.

Mid blink with blue eyelids. It appears to me that the eagle blinks using it's lower eyelid that rises to cover the eye.
Back in Arizona I listened to a presentation given by a local photographer who specialized in photographing Bald Eagles. The local Arizona eagles were so wary that it was difficult to approach them within 100 yards, (meters). He told stories of climbing into winter blinds, (hides) before dawn, shivering all day to get a few acceptable photos, and leaving the blind after dark.
He also spent a lot of money buying remote control shutter releases, and movable tripods etc. I wonder what he would think about situations like this? Where some fool like myself can just walk up and get close portraits of wild eagles. Even with my cheap camera, my eagle photos put his to shame.
One last look at a sailboat on Resurrection Bay.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Painted Cervidae

Cervidae is the family of antlered mammals. This post is about some past paintings of some of North American Cervids, like the 16x20" Sitka Black-tailed Deer above. This was one of about 15 paintings that was stolen from me.
A much older Mule Deer painting. I forget the size and title. I know that I should paint more of them because they tend to be popular subjects for paintings.
Another Sitka Blacktail. I forget whether this is 16x20", or 18x24". A bank now stands where this painting was set.
Bull Elk bugling in the mist is a subject that I have returned to again and again over the years. Each new painting is not necessarily better than the last, just different.  During my Arizona years, Elk were by far my most popular subjects.

Another Elk in the mist, First Snow,11x14". This was stolen from me also. It did get get used as a Canadian Conservation Stamp, so I at least made a little bit of money from it.
Bull Session, 20x24" This painting sits in my home. For some reason I never send this to any galleries or shows.
An 8x10" study of Moose & calf.
Slim Pickings, 18x24". I was very happy when this one sold in Fairbanks.
A 5x7" portrait of a cow Moose called, Alaskan Beauty Queen.
I seldom paint 14x18" sized paintings. This one was an exception. It too was stolen. Better to have a painting get stolen than to lose it in a fire or other disaster. I suspect that these stolen paintings ended up in a dumpster somewhere anyway.
It appears that I have painted far more cow and calf Moose than Bull Moose. This one was 16x20", A Vigilant Mother.
Here is an 18x24" Bull Moose painting from several years ago. For some unexplainable reason, I have never publicly showed this painting anywhere. I guess that it depresses me.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sparrows, Eagles, and a Glacier

On Friday, Mark Hill called me and invited me to accompany him, his wife Cindy, and Cindy's sister Amy to go with them to Seward for a few days. I had a lot of things on my plate and I tried to back out, but Mark twisted my arm. I was pleased to go to one of my favorite places.
On the way there we stopped at Turnagain Pass, where I photographed this Golden-crowned Sparrow. It was exceptionally cooperative.
As you can see from the willow catkins, Spring is very late in arriving to the high pass. I was pleased to get photos of the sparrow singing  his loud, three note call.
Further down in elevation I photographed this dark sparrow. Some of you reading this may be familiar with this widespread bird, but have likely never seen one that looked quite like this. It is the dark, Northwestern race of the Song Sparrow. These do not occur in Anchorage.
On the outskirts of Seward is this old, Bald Eagle nest right beside the highway.
Seward has an immense number of Bald Eagles, and Glaucous-winged Gulls, amoung others.
This Bald Eagle watches nearby Salmon fishermen, hoping for scraps when they clean their catch.
The salmon are just starting to run up the local streams. The town of Seward can be seen in the background.
The Glaucous-winged Gulls are very excited to see all these fishermen. They know that easy pickins are soon to be found.
A sub-adult Bald Eagle also waits in eagar anticipation of fish guts.
To me, the mottled look of immature Bald Eagles is much more interesting than the clean colors of the adult.
This particular eagle allowed me to approach it from all sides. I came to within about 15 feet, and it never flew.
Exit Glacier lies about 14 miles outside of Seward. I last visited the place 15 years ago. It has receded drastically in that amount of time. It is shocking to see how fast it is disappearing. In another 15 years, it may be gone altogether.
Up close, it still is an impressive, and cold sight.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Yet Another Vagrant

Last winter there was a mini invasion of Eurasian birds. I managed to see the Redwing, Dusky Thrush, and Eurasian Widgeon, but I missed several other things. This summer has seen an invasian of stray birds from more southerly regions. I missed the Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, and Caspian Terns amoung others. I did get the Franklin's Gull last week.
For a few days now, AK Birding has been reporting another new arrival to the state. It has been seen near Westchester Lagoon, so that's where I headed this morning. At Fish Creek I saw the Sandhill Crane and this Moose with a very young calf. I don't know what those two dark slashes on the cow's back are.

The curious calf. I was far enough away, not to have to worry about the protective mother.
Check it out, there's two of them. I can't spend too much time watching them, I've got a vagrant to find.
One of these days I'm really going to get a great shot of an Arctic Tern in flight. This one is not too bad.
Now I have to move along to find my target species.
Although I was too slow on the trigger to get photos, I watched a Bald Eagle snatching baby gulls and ducklings. The adult birds were nearly apoplectic. This young Mallard was safe while it was in close proximity to people.
There were only drake, Green-winged Teals. The hens are still sitting on eggs.
One of the islands in Westchester had a bunch of resting Hudsonian Godwits. Mostly males. The females must also be sitting on eggs.
Alaska has very few beetles. Those that do occur here are very small, like this ladybug on the back of my hand. Tiny, even by ladybug standards. Now it's back to the search for the vagrant.
When I finally made it to the slough at the far end of Westchester Lagoon, Bob Winkler, president of the Matsu Bird Club was already there. He had his scope on the vagrant. Can you tell what it is? It's a relative of the flycatchers, these birds normally do not stray north of extreme Southern Canada. They are usually birds of open country.
A better photograph of a Western Kingbird. I have seen many of these in AZ. and other western states, but this is a new one for my Alaska bird list. This is the bird that first inspired bird expert and author Kenn Kaufman. His field guide of North American Birds is unsurpassed, and his memoir, Kingbird Highway is classic avian literature. I met him and showed him my artwork several years ago in Girdwood, AK. A very pleasant fellow.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A New Painting and Another Vagrant

This is what I've been working on since that Iiwi painting. An 11x14" Golden Eagle. So far it's untitled. I was going for the look of ragged feathers to go with the rugged mountain habitat.  I'm happy with the results.
A report on AK Birding sent me down to the coastal trail again. On Fish Creek I saw this Sandhill Crane. I presume that it's mate is sitting on eggs somewhere nearby right now. This is not the bird I was looking for.
Sandhill Cranes used to nest regularly on Fish Creek, but disappeared several years ago. The reason that they abandoned the area is either because of Human or dog disturbance, or too much eagle depradation on the young.
Last summer they returned, and I believe that they are nesting again although I have seen no young cranes. However, there was an immature crane nearby, late last summer. Maybe it was last year's successful nesting attempt on Fish Creek.

Bald Eagles are nesting within a quarter mile of the cranes. I fear for the survival of this year's young cranes.
This Arctic Tern is also not the bird that I was searching for.
While I was photographing these Greater Scaup, I did'nt even notice the baby Arctic Tern being fed by an adult. I saw mostly drake scaups. Presumably the hens are all sitting on nests somewhere out of sight.
The Canada Geese have a good crop of babies already this sumer.
The flying gull is my target bird. If it were not for the help of a British bird tour group, I would not have seen this distant bird. The Brits graciously allowed me to look through their powerful spotting scopes, so that I could see this Franklin's Gull. Although Franklin's Gulls are common in parts of the lower 48, they are not normally found in Alaska.
I have seen many of them in other places, but it's a new bird to add to my Alask bird list. Now I feel extra special.