"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa
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Friday, December 2, 2016

The Scream Heard 'Round the World (or, Tough Guy Personified)

Imagine what would be the worst thing that could happen to you while you're traveling in the Middle East.   Other than all that terrorism stuff, of course, or having all your money and your passport stolen.

How about tripping over your shoelaces as your exit the security checkpoint at the Dubai airport?   How about landing so hard you fracture your hip?   How about letting out a scream that was heard around the world.

Bad news, huh?



Cap writing postcards to friends around the world.   If you get a postcard, know that a lot of thought and effort went into it.




\Well, that's what happened to my friend Cap, at age 80, last week just as he was heading for his gate to fly to Hong Kong after spending several weeks in Oman and the United Arab Emirates.   From there, he had planned to go to Mongolia and Siberia.



My long-time friend Patti with Cap.


Cap had to sign a release before the UAE folks would let him board his flight.   He could not use his leg at all, and said his left leg was like a useless rope.

In Hong Kong, at a hospital, he learned the bone was fractured at the hip joint.   They wanted to operate immediately, but Cap opted to return to the US and go to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona.   He had a 12 hour flight to Seattle, then a short layover, and a three hour flight to Phoenix.




Cap, right, and his friend Happy in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, last year.


Cap broke his hip on Nov. 25.   Not sure, but I think that was OUR Nov 24, Thanksgiving day.   Yesterday he had a full hip replacement operation.   So, if I'm correct in the time zone count, he went seven days with a broken hip, flew from Dubai to Hong Kong, to Seattle, to Phoenix!

Patti says he's the talk of the medical staff at the Mayo Clinic and one doctor called him "one tough cookie."




Cap making friends with a nomadic herder in Mongolia.   We had stopped along the road to photograph the herd of sheep and goats when the herder rode up.    Great encounter, thanks to Cap.



The herder on his 25-year-old Mongolian horse.






By the way, once a Marine, always a Marine.

Good on ya, Cap.   You will be resuming your global travels soon.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Full and Thankful Heart



Today, the coldest day  of winter so far at a mere three degrees above zero Fahrenheit, my heart is warm and full of thanks:

Today I give thanks for having known Frank, Ron, and Sally, three friends whose hearts were large enough to warm the world, and who have been released from pain, and for all my friends and relatives who passed before them.

I give thanks for having had the privilege (and the frustration) of having a little green parrot share 30 of his 44 years with me, and for molting a rainbow of feathers I can hold in my hands.







I give thanks for all the dogs and cats, all the birds wild and tame, all the magnificent animals of the world that enrich my life beyond measure.



Przewalski's horse, the takhi of Mongolia, a true wild horse.


I give thanks for the Coastal brown bears of Lake Clark National Park for not eating me, and for one young sow in particular who chose to sit and nurse her two cubs right in front of me. What a gift that was.








 
I give thanks to the local highway maintenance crews that give me litter bags by the case-full and the joy I find in making my part of the world a better and cleaner place by filling those bright yellow bags, all while seeing nature up close and personal.



A lady bug on a piece of tire.


I give thanks for new friends who have joined my circle and who encouraged me to turn the dial on my camera to something other than automatic, and for the resulting new dimension that has given my world.






I give thanks for finally realizing that a suet block in the bird feeder on a very cold day will entice red-breasted nuthatches to hold still long enough for an in-focus picture.






I give thanks for my distant family and all my near and far friends. We might not see each other very often, but I know when we do, we pick right up as if no time had intervened.

I give thanks for having lived in Alaska almost all of my life as there is no other place I'd rather be.






I give thanks for the loves in my life--I dance with you often in my dreams.
 
And last, I give thanks for 75 years of learning--sometimes the difficult and heartbreaking way, sometimes the joyful and glorious way--the many, many lessons of life and for having the age to understand why things happened as they did, and for the ability to translate some of those lessons and experiences into words.





Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Indescribable Sweetness of Swans: A Love Story with Photographs





I suppose that if someday a colossal 25-pound male Trumpeter swan, called a cob, should misinterpret my affection for swans to be something as crass as making a move on his soul mate, and thrash me soundly about the head and shoulders with those great and powerful wings, I might change my opinion about the inherent sweetness of swans.   But for now, I will continue to imbue them with harmony and gentleness.

Off on another of my photographical treks this afternoon, I found a quartet of Trumpeters near the Kenai Lake boat launch off Quartz Creek road.   When I approached the shoreline, the birds were out of sight, so I walked along the snow-covered beach stones until I spotted them in a small cove.











They, being keen of eye and ear, saw and heard me well before I saw them, and began swimming slowly away.   No hurry there, no panic there, merely an orderly parade of long white necks and black bills moving farther offshore.







I watched for a few minutes, then knelt in the snow, hoping to get an eye level view with my lens, and also to present a less intimidating persona.   The swans stopped and eyed me.










The water was rippled by the breezes, making for difficult photographic definition of the creatures.  The background would be too “busy.”

I turned to go back the way I’d come.   A glance over my shoulder proved what I love about swan behavior:  they followed me.   I dawdled, they got closer.   Soon I rounded the outer part of a curve in the beach and was out of sight of the birds.
 

I quickly walked to a large spruce tree along the vegetation line and stood behind it with my small point and shoot camera held out to the side so I could watch its display and remain hidden.  I didn’t have to wait long.












 




They lingered about fifty feet away when I stepped out from behind the tree, so unconcerned that they went about feeding on the vegetation on the lake’s bottom.






I hoped they would approach closer, where the surface was calmer, but they didn’t.

Instead, I walked in their direction, but parallel along the beach.  They watched but still appeared calm.   At thirty-five feet, I again knelt and watched.  They went about their feeding.




 




By this time, the chill lake winds were taking their toll on my hands and I rose to leave.   As I knew they would, the four white birds followed, growing closer and closer until I turned inland.




Walking away from the swans.


They lingered there, those graceful white swans with their long and supple necks.




 
















Friday, November 18, 2016

Food Fight, The Finale (Part Three)

There isn't much left of a silver salmon that has been the ultimate prize in a number of eagle fights.  Right now, a young eagle successfully challenged a fourth year eagle,  but I think the salmon fell off the log into the water.




Nonetheless, the youngster finds a few bits to eat, but first it looks around carefully to see if another eagle is going to fight.   There are two adult eagles and two immature eagles across the pond in the deep dried grass.   An adult sits atop a highway sign with a binoculars icon, and across the Seward Highway, four eagles are perched in trees.







Once it's assured there's no in-coming, and with nothing to eat, it ..............   Takes a bath!























About this time, some guy gets out of his vehicle and all the eagles leave.   If he'd done that sooner,I'm not sure what I would have done.





They don't mind the passing cars.   Most of the time, they don't mind a vehicle that is stopped.   But like the swans and ducks at Tern Lake, once you get out of your vehicle and within a certain distance (determined by them only) they take to the skies.


















And that is the end of the eagle food fight.   No eagles were harmed in the making of the montage, and several were fed fresh salmon.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Food Fight continued, Round Three or Four or Whatever

I've lost track of how many times possession of a bedraggled silver salmon has changed.   As we begin this part of the wildlife show, an adult eagle has successfully taken back the fish from an immature eagle.

The defeated eagle swims to shore and makes its way through the dried grass.   Also in the grass isn another immature and two adults.   Across the Seward highway are four eagles perched in trees.   I am parked on the narrow shoulder of the Sterling highway, directly across from the log where all these battles are taking place.   There are several other vehicles here, too.


To set the scene:

This is the lower junction of the Sterling and Seward highway at Tern Lake.   The highway on the left is the Sterling; the highway on the right, behind the guard rail, is the Seward highway north to Anchorage.   Note the binoculars sign on the right.  Also note the partially submerged log, center right in the photo.   That is where the action takes place. 

Incidentally, in the trees at the far end of the pond there is a bald eagle sitting on top a spruce tree.   The white spot is its head.






The eagle-in-possession tears off chunks and strips of fish flesh as a magpie waits for bits to come within its reach..





























Note the body language of the eagle in the above photo.   It is stretched up, trying to swallow a huge piece of fish.   Does it remind you of hot dog eating contestants?









Here comes a magpie.














Two wet  immature eagles sulk in the dried grass across the pond.










An immature eagle dives in and takes the salmon.



I know it's out of focus, but I include it to show the change of possession.










But not for long.....












It leaps up to meet the challenge.   (Note the talons at the far left of the photo.)










A fourth-year eagle, just showing white in the head and tail feathers, fights for the fish.



























Then crows about it.













Oh, no.  Not in its face!   That's rude.













An adult watches from the side of the pond.










The crowing continues.....


















The immature eagle didn't have time for one bite when it had the fish so it attacks again.










And re-takes what's left of the salmon.











A raven watches from a guard rail post above the pond and magpie from the ground.







Directly across from me, an adult watches from the top of this sign.




No binoculars needed to see this battle.



All observed by a cautious young eagle.







(to be continued)