Finally back for the last entries about last summer. Held off publish some images since some publications wanted to buy first time rights. More to come.
After Goddard Hot Springs we turned back north past Sitka, through Sergius Narrows to Hoonah Sound. As we returned into a more sheltered environment we found a larger variety of beach greens and they were more abundant.
I’m back from guiding a trip in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, for Arctic Wild which provided incredible support for the clients and me so that we could find the Porcupine Caribou Herd out on the coastal plain. But first we found an incredible rich birdlife. Next to our tents we had this amazing Ruddy Turnstone.
It had a nest with two eggs, out in the middle of the coastal plain. This photograph with a wide-angle lens captures the space that surrounds it.
Finding a large herd of Caribou wasn’t an easy task as they roamed across the plain. But one evening at about midnight we found a group with several thousand Caribou. Yes -they are out there as tiny dots.
The next day we found them again after a challenging river crossing and 2 mile walk across the wet tundra of sedge grasses.
There group spread out for over a mile grazing on the sedge grass, I estimate that there were 20-thousand Caribou, but who knows. I couldn’t count that far, among the constantly moving herd of Caribou.
A curious calf came up to inspect us with its mom in tow. Only a few weeks old they were running across the tundra at amazing speeds.
Cordova Shorebird festival was once again a great flurry of life after a long Alaska winter. Heavy rain, grey sky and strong wind didn’t dampen the spirits of birds, bird watchers and photographers, which all braved the elements with enthusiasm.
As the storm subsided I flew out to Hitchinbrook Island to explore what was out there. With me was my wife Nancy and my dad Olof an avid birder which came over from Sweden to experience the shorebird migration. We found a lot less people and shorebirds but much else such as Harlequin Ducks, Oyster Catchers, Stellar Sea Lion, breaching Humpback whales, Brown Bears, and a beautiful Sitka Spruce forest
I still came away with many great photographs of Semipalmated Plover which preferred to feed at the edge of the surf on the beach.
The Least Sandpipers had established nesting territories along a small estuary, and was patrolling the edge of it for food.
Brown Bears were also patrolling the estuary feeding on sedge.
When we returned to Cordova the shorebirds were gathered in tight clusters and seemed ready to head north again after fattening up on the rich estuary of the Copper River.
After the Canning River I and my wife Nancy lead a backpacking trip in the Talkeetna Mountains. Another amazing wild area in Alaska. Since we were backpacking camera gear was limited and I only carried my trusted Nikon D700 with one spare battery, and the amazingly versatile Nikon AF-S 28-300 f/3.5-5.6 ED VR. With a total of two batteries I actually had plenty of power to spare on this two week trip, as long as I resisted the temptation to “chimp”.
Not only does it have some amazing scenery, but also some really rugged terrain. No maintained trails here, but we found a few precarious sheep trails clinging to the scree slopes.
Wildlife is amazingly tame, such as this Rock Ptarmigan with its clutch of young chicks.
I love the antics of the Wandering Tattler as it walks the streams, constantly wagging its body.
The fragile tundra was in many places carpeted with Eight-petaled Mountain Avens.
A magical spot with a rock glacier flowing into this lake and coloring the water blue-green with glacial silt.
Two day after the finding the Harlequins I was off to work as a documentarian on a Youth SeaKayaking trip in the stunning Prince William Sound. The trip was part of Chugach Childrens Forest and arranged by Alaska Geographic.
Ten Children between 14-16 ears old sea kayaked,had fun, learned about wilderness, helped with restoring abused campsites, and picked up beach trash, during this 10-day trip.
Beautiful evening light over Port Nellie Juan.
Campsite in the temperate rainforest by Long Bay.
A trip highlight was the presence of several Humpback whales. Seeing them surface near your kayak really gives you a sense of their enormous size.
I went back to the river twice more looking for them. The first time I came back with an empty memory card. The second time I found two males who seemed to be courting the same female.They were quite restless this time and moving around the stream in seemingly random patterns making the photography challenging. Normally I observe which direction they are swimming in and position myself in a location without to many alders and willows blocking the view and wait for them to swim by. This time that tactic was quite futile and I came back with only a handful of useable pictures.
It is mating season and they are back in fast flowing rivers, after spending the winter out on the ocean.
This couple were feeding and navigating the whitewater like expert boaters.
Based on my experience in previous years, the female will soon disappear out of sight hiding on a nest along the river. I’ll be back out there again today to see if I can find them.
I just got back from 5 incredible days in Cordova. It was amazing to watch large flocks of of shorebirds in coordinated flight. All birds would turn at the same time. This flock consisted mostly of Western Sandpipers. Too see more images from the trip go to the gallery.
During high tide the birds often took a nap in tightly packed groups. This flock was Dunlins, Western Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstones.
This flock of a few thousand Western Sandpipers landed all around me, with many of the birds only 5 feet away. I got many great shots even if my 600 mm lens didn’t focus close enough. The MFD (minimum focusing distance) is an often overlooked feature of camera lenses. In retrospect I wish I had brought along my extension tube to help with the MFD, but I couldn’t have imagined getting this close.
Semipalmated Plovers were common but mostly seen individually or in small groups.
Face-shots are often better than butt-shots, but there are exceptions to every rule. Black-bellied Plovers.
Least Sandpiper feeding on the upper part of the tidal flats.
Short-billed Dowitchers were feeding on the mudflats along Alaganik slough.
Our good friend, Leo Americus, took us out to sandbars at the south end of Orca Inlet, which had an amazing array and amount of migratory shorebirds, such as Bar-tailed Godwit and several thousand Red Knots.
Of course there were other birds and wildlife as well. Glaucous-winged Gulls, Bald Eagles, and Beavers were other frequent companions.
Oh Yes -we can’t forget that spring was arriving and the Alder bushes were in full bloom.
My most common body position was flat on my belly in the muck. Big thanks to, my wife Nancy for this last flattering picture of me, and our friend Bill Mohrwinkel from Arctic Wild for letting us camp by is cabin and his invaluable birding tips.