Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Saturday, July 30, 2016

People Get Ready

"People Get Ready, the train is comin."
Join me on this lovely train ride and adventure that the Quimbies and I took last Wednesday. We left Anchorage very early in the morning.
Bart took this photo of Potter Marsh just south of Anchorage. There was a 70% chance of rain predicted but we escaped Anchorage before the rain started.
Bart and I were accompaned by Bart's wife Sandy and her friend Jean. (Bart photo)
The train first headed south along the dramatic coastline of Turnagain Arm.
For about the first 50 miles the tracks follow alongside the Seward Highway.
The remnants of an avalanche. The railroad uses a Howitzer in the winter to knock down snow build up in order to protect the highway and railroad tracks.
The tracks run close to several glaciers.
Although  it is hard to see in the mist, this is Trail Glacier.
At several points the train stops to drop off, or pick up passengers. These people had hiked to Spencer Glacier and were plagued by hordes of mosquitos.
Eventually we reached Seward where Bart photographed these fishermen.
In the Summer months much of the shore in Seward is lined with motorhomes. Bart shot this photo of me scanning for seabirds. The piles of stones are fire pits.
The only gulls I saw were, Glaucous-winged gulls. There were many.
Northwestern Crows were loitering all over town.
A Double-crested Cormorant with a Bald Eagle in the background.
This last photo of a Sea Otter is just a taste of the great photos we got. You will have to wait until the next post to see some of the wildlife we got to see in and around Seward.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Salmon in the Marsh etc.

The photo above shows salmon fingerlings and their shadows in the sand at the outflow of 
Potter's Marsh. There were many hundres of them a week ago when I visited the marsh.
A pan sized fish. I'm not sure whether it's a  trout, Dolly Varden, (trout relative) or a small salmon. Fishing is prohibited at this wildlife refuge.
These larger fish in murky water are Humpback Salmon. There were many of them in the main channels in the marsh.
They were the most abundant species present. The ratios of salmon species vary throughout the season.
The big boys in the marsh are King, (Chinook) Salmon.
They are silver in color when they first enter fresh water from the ocean. As the days pass, they turn more red in coloration.
The big males can be truly massive. We did not see any really big kings while we were there.
This Muskrat did not demonstrate any concern about the salmon. The salmon paid it no attention.
I'll throw in a few dowitcher photos to this post.
They will all be gone south far too soon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A New Painting and Southbound Shorebirds

It shames me to say that this is the first painting that I have done all year. Hopefully I am emerging from the worst creative funk of my life. It is partly the result of ongoing health issues. My kidneys are about shot. I have not been feeling very creative.
Anyway I finished this small 10x8" painting titled, 'Tern Lake'. I have also been busy illustrating a coloring book about Alaska birds.
Tern Lake is a beautiful spot on the Kenai Peninsula. where the highway splits between Seward and Homer.
The northbound shorebird migration was a real bust. I only saw Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs in the Spring. Part of that has to do with the fact that I only went birding three times. 
That does not mean that shorebird numbers are down. It has more to do with weather patterns. If the weather is good, shorebirds tend to overfly the Anchorage area. The weather this whole summer has been wonderful.
These are Short-billed Dowitchers.
The coast was devoid of shorebirds yesterday but Westchester Lagoon had plenty of birds.
Local shorebird diversity is not what it used to be. Yesterday I only saw yellowlegs, Hudsonian Godwits, and lots of Short-billed Dowitchers.
Near Westchester Lagoon I found a fallen log in the shade, sat down and photographed these cooperative dowitchers.
I was not fast enough on the shutter button to get any flight shots with my 600mm lens. This is the closest I could come.
I photographed birds both in the shade and full sun to see which looked better. I like the shade photos better.
The tip of the beak of dowitchers is very flexible. You can see the upturned tip of the bird's beak in this photo.
I got many fine photos of dowitchers yesterday but I'll limit the number of photos in this post.
This Greater Yellowlegs does not fear its close proximity to this metallic eagle.
There were lots of baby ducks, gulls, and grebes on Westchester. These are Greater Scaup.