Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Jeremy's Yard Birds

Petersburg is on Kupreanof Island in Southeast Alaska. It is truly an isolated place. He commonly sees whales, seals, and many seabirds right in front of his house, which faces Frederick Sound. Like these two very striking duck species. A male Surf Scoter, and two male Harlequin Ducks.
Surf Scoters are pretty much found exclusively on the ocean. Jeremy also sees, White-winged, and Black Scoters.
Barrow's Goldeneyes spend the winter on the ocean also. They are recent arrivals to Jeremy's neck of the woods.
Sometimes they can be confiding around people.
A species that is not easy to approach, Long-tailed Ducks. So far, they have not come close to shore at Jeremy's house.
Jeremy shot a series of photos of this Glaucous-winged Gull dive bombing some Red-breasted Mergansers.
Jeremy said that the gull zeroed in on one merganser, and was relentless in harrassing it. He thought maybe the gull was trying to get it's fish. I think the gull was trying to kill the hapless duck.
I once watched a group of gulls drown a Ruddy duck, and carry it off, presumably to eat.

Since it's Halloween night as I write this, I'll include this double exposure of Jeremy being Jeckyl and Hyde.  BOO.

Friday, October 26, 2012

An Owl, An Otter, and Whatnot

Anchorage has had two snowfalls so far this season. However the weather has been warm enough that the snow has all melted, except in the mountains. We have had about a week of glorious sunshine, but the overnight temps have been down into the single digits. The water is pretty much all frozen over and most all of the migratory birds are now gone south.
The locals, like this Steller's Jay, are pretty quiet these days. So I'm going to revisit a few of the highlights from last winter.

Pine Grosbeaks are much more conspicuous during the winter when they form flocks and visit bird feeders, and especially Mountain Ash trees.
Do you remember when I posted a few photos of this Saw-whet Owl and Red squirrel from last winter? I posted photos very similar to this one.
The owl never reacted to the curious squirrel. It spent the day in someone's yard near mine and was gone the next day.
I also posted a few photos of this curious Sea Otter from the trip I made to Seward last Feb. It was my best birding day of the year. I got two lifers on that day, Gray-crowned Rosy Finch and Yellow-billed Loon. More about them when I do my top ten bird list in early January.
All of my previous Sea Otter photos were shot from a rocking boat on choppy seas. This time, the sea was calm and I was on a stone jetty with a very cooperative subject.

The only way I could have gotten better photos was if I had a professional level camera and lens. Us po folks just got to make do with what we have.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

More Photos From Jeremy

Jeremy sent me some new photos from Petersburg. The Glaucous-winged Gull is obvious. Can you see the other birds in the photo? They look very much like the rocks that is their preferred habitat.
These birds are Black Turnstones, busily bathing at the water's edge. I am jealous because I have no photos of Black Turnstones at all. There is another shorebird in the photo, see it?

The mystery bird is the pale gray one in the center. Any guesses as to what it may be?

A closer shot. It's a Surfbird in winter plummage. Surfbirds and Black Turnstones share an almost identical breeding range and habitat preference. I have seen wintering Surfbirds in Mexico and as far south as Southern Peru. They are generally much more confiding around people than Black Turnstones.

Black Turnstones are close relatives of the better known Ruddy Turnstone. Whereas the Ruddy Turnstone is basically a pan world species, Black Turnstones are restricted to the west coast of North America. I'm not sure whether they occur in the Eastern Palearctic, like the coast of Siberia, Japan etc. I have also seen them in Northern Mexico in the winter. Ruddy Turnstones also share the same habitat along rhe West coast.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fall Freeze Up

Right now Anchorage is experiencing it's second snowfall of the season. The first was back in September. This morning, before the snowfall got started, a ragtag group of birders gathered for the annual Fall Freeze-up, Anchorage Audubon's last big field trip of the year, (not counting the CBC). The photo above features just a few of the large group that showed up.
We started out at Lake Hood, which is surrounded on all sides by float planes. Although Anchorage is on the ocean, Lake Hood is a better place to get seabirds than the ocean itself. Right about now is the best time to see sea ducks there. This morning it was cold and windy. We saw mostly Common Goldeneyes, Mallards, scaups, and a few widgeons. Slim pickins.
The best bird at Lake Hood was this female Harlequin Duck. This is only the second Harlequin that I have seen in Anchorage. They nest nearby along Gold Mint Creek above Palmer.
At Westchester Lagoon we saw this Muskrat, and a surprizng number of distant ducks. There were many Buffleheads, Common and Red-breasted Mergansers, Goldeneyes, Scaups, and stuff that was too far out to identify.

Spenard Crossing held the biggest surprize. The last several visits to SC, I saw virtually nothing. Today there were six Trumpeter Swans, two adults and four juveniles. Plus a good number of Gadwalls, Mallards, and Widgeons. A few gulls, and one Cackling Goose.

This is only the second time that I have seen swans at Spenard Crossing. The first time was early this Spring. Why would the swans choose SC, and not the much larger Westchester? Food availability must be the answer.
A nice shot of one of the young swans.
An even nicer shot of a pair of Mallards.
Last stop was Potter Marsh, which looked good in it's late Autumn colors.

Potter Marsh was half-way frozen over, but there were five more Trumpeter Swans, all adults. All in all a good way to surrender the season to the coming Winter.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Loons and.....

Jeremy sent me a few Common Loon photos from the ocean in front of his home in Petersburg, Alaska.
These loons were far away on choppy seas, so I could'nt resist the temptation to play with the images using one of my photo editing programs. A really basic one that came with my camera, Arcsoft Photostudio Impressions. I tried to smooth out, and tone down the harsh contrasts in the water.
At first I thought that the bottom bird must have been a juvenile loon. Now I'm convinced that it's an adult transitioning into winter plummage.
I'm wondering if Common Loons hang around Petersburg all Winter. I imagine that they do. Wonderful Winter guests. They will be in drab Winter colors soon.

This is my latest painting, On Goose Creek, 12x16". I dont like it much and dont consider it finished yet. It may not survive for long, unless I can figure out a way to make it more interesting.

If you have read my posts in the last few months, you know that I have been undergoing some serious dis-satisfaction with my career. Finances have been cut to the bone, and my enthusiasm is at an all time low.
I have not wanted to paint at all lately. Well, I'm starting a new job on Monday. It's just a temporary on the job training thing, doing clerical work at the state Boy Scout Headquarters.
When it comes to an end, I will have to decide whether to look for permanent work in an office somewhere, or try being an artist again. Anyway, I doubt that I will be doing too much new artwork for a while.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Jeremy's New Camera

My nephew Jeremy got a new Canon just a day or two ago. He shot this distant Black Bear, and the following photos from his yard in Petersburg.
Imagine being able to watch Killer Whales from your house. The only whales that I have seen off the coastal trail in Anchorage are Belugas. It has been years since I have seen a Beluga. The local, Cook Inlet population of Belugas is in serious trouble, probably because of global warming.

A nice male Surf Scoter. I would love to see these guys from my yard. I have to go to Seward to see them. That is not entirely true, once in a while they will show up in Anchorage.
A distant shot of the scoter and a Harlequin Duck.

A nice shot of a tugboat, the Western Mariner.
Jeremy's son, Jasper I think,  in their living room. I seriously wish that I could have a view like this from my living room. I get to look out at the highway through my front window. I look forward to getting many more photos of Southeastern Alaska in the future.