"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa
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Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Story about Birds, and Litter, and Tears





I held a wee yellow bird in my hand this afternoon. The saucy black cap on the top of its head immediately identified it as a Wilson's warbler, one of my favorite birds.

Not an hour before, at a different location, I waited for another Wilson's to perch in the open and hold still long enough for me to focus my lens on it. That was not to be. In and out of the willows like a streak of yellow lightning, it teased me on and on. 



Every time I tried to leave, it zipped across the trail in front of me, only to disappear. Then, when I tried to move, back it came, dancing through the willows and alders and spruce. 

Little yellow guy won. I left to go pick up litter some miles down the road.

Not long after I began walking along the highway with my grab stick and yellow litter bag, I found the little bird. Its life spirit was gone, no doubt the result of a collision with a moving vehicle.


My heart cried as I picked it up and held it. So tiny, so tiny I had to take my glove off to pick it up. How can they fly so fast?





I was not in a good spot to leave it for its final rest, so I slipped it in the breast pocket of my safety vest. I looked down at it once in a while, as it rode high in the pocket, buoyed by some tissue.

Finally I came to a small creek and walked to the edge of the spruce forest. There, between two spruce stumps, was a perfect resting spot with a conk growing from one stump that will shelter little yellow from the rains.




I told him how sorry I was and went on my way. I tried not to think of the inevitable, but that's like telling your eyes not to see or your ears not to hear. Is there a lady warbler on a nest, wondering why he hasn't returned?

And a while later, I held a hermit thrush in my hand, its striking feathers the color of hot milk chocolate. I carried it in the same pocket until I came to a spruce tree and laid it to rest.




Too much. Too much for one day.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Black and White

Something a little different:


This female American wigeon was in silhouette in the evening light.  I monkeyed with the camera to bring out some details and that led to the white background.




At the opposite side of the spectrum, I intentionally went for a dark background for this greater scaup drake

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Rainy, Windy, and Foggy

Went on a whale-watching cruise Sunday out of Seward, in the hope of seeing gray whales.

This is what we saw:






There were a few glances of a young humpback:


Oh, a dorsal fin!

Another of the dorsal fin.

And a wee bit of a tail.


The best action was on shore while waiting for the cruise boat to board.   A sub-adult bald eagle was chased by gulls and decided it wanted to land on the same boat mast where another bald eagle was perched.

Either that or it was running to mommy....


Sitting there, minding its own business

Here comes the sub adult, flying away from the gulls.

Looking for a place to escape the pesky gulls.




The adult turns to face the incoming eagle









Hard to tell one eagle from the other.

The adult stayed put and the youngster went to another mast.



So, there was more action onshore than off this day.


Unless, of course, you enjoy watching rainwater pour off the upper deck of the cruise boat.


Friday, April 26, 2019

April, the Trickster

We have had ome unusual weather around here lately.   Specifically, it's been cold, windy, and snowy.   Every day brings an inch or two of snow, which melts off the next day just in time for that day's snowfall.


This female belted kingfisher seems to be wishing she'd delayed her northern migration a couple weeks or more.


Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Story behind the Photo


I spent last weekend in Homer,  at the end of  Alaska's Kenai Peninsula.   Homer is a picturesque little town, known for its spectacular scenery, great fishing, and a four and a half mile long tongue of gravel called the Homer Spit that sticks out into Kachemak Bay, effectively demarcating the bay from Cook Inlet.  

The Spit is the site of boat harbors, hotels, condos, tourist shops, charter fishing offices, fish cleaning stations, a ferry dock, and campgrounds for tents and RVs.   I've made sporadic visits to Homer since 1964 and have watched the growth and commercialization of the area, and while I'm glad it offers employment for many, I kind of miss the old days when a person could buy a whole king crab from a dockside net for $5.00.  Total, not per pound.

Well, those days are long gone and now Homer is known (for a certain interest group)  for the arrival of shorebirds and sandhill cranes.

My purpose was to photograph those birds--as many as I could find, wherever I could find them.  In that pursuit, I made several drives on and off the Spit during the course of Saturday.






The weather on the Spit was beautiful and breezy.   Scattered showers rolled across the onshore town, creating some magnificent lighting conditions on the Spit.   A low-lying rainbow over the town caught my eye and I stopped for a photo.


Another icon of the Spit is a tavern called the Salty Dawg.   Here's a rare photo of the Salty Dawg with NO tourists blocking the view!






Later that afternoon, I was once again driving towards the end of the Spit, when I caught a glimpse of some old and weathered piling off to my right.   I've seen them many times, but something was different today.   I found a place to turn around,which was not easy because in the area, the narrow road is lined with guardrails.     That accomplished, I found a tiny spot to pull off and park.   I'm not at all sure it was legal, and in the days of heavy tourism yet to come, I'm certain I would have been told to move on.

But, I grabbed a camera and started walking back to the piling a quarter-mile away, staying on the road level, rather than the beach below.  As I neared my destination, I saw someone riding a mule, leading a second mule and a dog, coming towards the piling.

Oh no, I thought.   They're going to leave tracks through the artsy-fartsy  photo I had in mind.   I hurried--just short of running--to get a photo before the group got there.




What I had in mind.



And then, because I was there, watched as a lady rode her mule, leading another mule, through the pilings.






I scarcely  had time to realize the possibilities when she made a large u-turn and returned from whence she came.



The photo.



In a matter of moments, what I thought would ruin my photo turned into a wonderful shot in the peculiar sepia light brought by on-shore storms and rainbows.


And then, the beach was once again deserted.

The venue.



For me, it was once again a learning episode along the lines of making lemonade out of lemons.

But, that isn't the end of the story by any means.   When I got back to my car, she and her mules (and don't forget about the dog) were parallel to me on the beach and I walked over to show her the photo. 

She told me her grandfather was a birder and had a friend in Moose Pass, where I live, and he would go visit the friend to find a particular bird.

The piqued my interest.   That I had to find out.  What bird?   His name rang a bell, but I could not put it in context.

She gave me her e-mail address so I could send a copy of the photo.

When I left Homer, I stopped to visit long-time friends in Kasilof.   They have horses and I knew they would love the photo.

In the conversation, my Kasilof friend recognized the mule lady's name and said she had grown up with their granddaughter, and were inseparable in childhood!

Sometimes,  things that appear to be coincidences astound me.  Sometimes, I don't believe in simple coincidences.




Monday, April 15, 2019

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Springtime that Feels Like Summer




I have been off birding around the area, first north of Anchorage, then south to Seward.   A few migrating birds have been showing up in their usual haunts, but most of the birds I've seen are year-round residents.

Last Sunday, on a chilly morning, a friend and I set up shop on someone's front deck, all in search of an elusive golden-crowned kinglet.   They are one of the hardest birds to photograph because they rarely hold still long enough for the shutter to do its work.

After a couple hours, we got a two-second glimpse of the little guy in deep shade.   But we got him!


First, though, we were visited by a red-breasted nuthatch....



...and a darling male redpole.





And then the kinglet.



 Siniging up a storm and looking right at me!




Our last visitor was a Downy woodpecker.







After that, we were off to Hatcher Pass where it seemed everyone was out playing in the warm sun.  We saw snowmachiners, skiers, and sledders.




This sledder lost his orange sled after going down the steep starting slope.



We were about to give ujp on seeing ptarmigan, Alaska's state bird, and then I spotted one.   Eventually, we found three that were close enough to photograph.




The red eyebrow identifies this as a male.  Look at the size of those feathered feet.   The feathers act as snowshoes and help the birds stay on top of the snow cover, as well as keep their feet warm.


This one is reaching for a willow bud.







It has a bud in its bill.




Down in the valley again, a great horned owl sits on its nest.









Next adventure:   The bears are out and it isn't April Fools!



Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Just a Laugh a Day

I was so anxious to go litter picking yesterday!

 I parked my truck on a slight down slope, gathered up the gear and bags, and set off walking down the road.

When I got back and tried to start the truck, the ignition was locked up tight, and I couldn’t move the gear shift out of park.

I flagged down a guy who tried to help by pulling my truck slightly uphill to take some of the pressure off the transmission. Nothing worked, not multiple tries, wiggling the steering wheel back and forth, numerous muttered oaths.

Finally, I called a neighbor who has a towing/ auto repair service. He, too, tried pulling the truck backwards. Nope. Didn’t work.

In frustration, I yanked the key out of the ignition....and noticed something. I reached in my pocket..and there was the correct key for this vehicle, which then started right up.

Gosh, I love being 77. Just a laugh a day.

I did other stupid things yesterday, but one confession is enough. I decided to sit  in the house and read the rest of the day.



Some recent arrivals at Tern Lake:



Common mergansers:






Barrow'a goldeneye:








A pair of mallards: