Sunday, August 5, 2012

Kenai Fjords Birding Cruise Part 2

Sunday, August 5, 2012
4 comments
Continuing our all-day boat cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park, begun with this post from last month...

As we cruised onward to the glacier we were scheduled to visit, the wildlife we encountered both on land and in the surrounding water changed subtly. Captain Tim (shown above, standing on the bridge) gave the passengers an informative narration, pointing out interesting features of the landscape, telling us some of the history of the region, and predicting what we'd be seeing up ahead.

We saw one or two other sightseeing boats as we sailed along. It was nice to know that the captains of the various vessels share their sightings with one another. Cooperation seemed to be the rule rather than the exception, which was refreshing.

We saw several black bears and a few, more distant, browns. This large black bear just stood still and watched as we went past. His photograph was captured by at least 100 cameras, of all makes and sizes. He was close enough that cellphone cameras were sufficient. Even though I've spent thousands of hours in areas in the East where black bears are common, this was my best look ever at one.

We saw a couple of large gatherings of Steller's sea lions, including a few individuals that had been branded with numbers by wildlife officials or researchers. This large seal species inhabits the northern Pacific coastlines, but it is critically endangered having suffered huge population declines in recent decades.


Captain Tim invited Julie and me into the pilot house after he heard us calling out a lot of bird IDs. The view from up high was spectacular and it was really nice to be out of the chilly wind.


As we got nearer to the glacier the captain was in radio contact with other vessels asking where the best ice-free passage was. It was so calm and quiet deep in the narrow fjord that we could hear floating ice clunking against the boat's hull. Many Titanic jokes were made, though not by the captain and crew. We saw several large chunks of the glacier fall away and into the water—something referred to as calving.

Pigeon guillemots were easy to see, swimming, flying past, and even hitching a ride on an island of ice.

Three ducks flew past so fast and low that I couldn't get an easy ID with my binocs. I snapped a few photos with my camera, hoping that I caught the birds. I looked at my camera's playback screen, and whaddayaknow! Harlequin ducks! Sweet.

There were other birds, seen in singly and in pairs, that were hard-to-identify distant dots on the water's surface. Auklets? Murrelets? Hmmm. We'll revisit these tiny mysteries in part III of this journey.

4 comments:

On August 9, 2012 at 4:54 PM Anonymous said...

Cool, you saw Harlequins. I looked on every little creek and river I saw in Western Montana last month for Harlequin Ducks.

Keep on writing. I am making future plans to go to several of the festivals you write about! I love reading about them!

Kathy in Delray Beach, FL

On August 10, 2012 at 12:16 PM CNemes said...

Wow, these photos are incredible! Looking forward to the next installment.

Also, this is off-topic, but I wanted to let you know I was at Plum Island, MA this past Tuesday for some shore-birding. Just as I got in my car to leave, a dad and his two kids piled out of a minivan next to me, talking excitedly about the birds they hoped to see. And whaddya know, the kids were happily thumbing through the latest edition of the Young Birder's Guide! I wanted to tell them what an awesome book it was, but I think they'd already figured it out :)

On August 12, 2012 at 8:52 AM tadalafil said...
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On August 28, 2012 at 7:07 AM generico said...
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