"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Herons of Halibut Cove

I pulled over to the shoulder on the long downhill slope to the “End of the Road,”  as the City of Homer bills itself.  There are many “ends of the road” communities in Alaska, primarily because of its paucity of roads and also because all but one side of this huge state, the one that abuts Canada,  end at salt water.

Kachemak Bay with the Homer Spit extending into it.  The small boat harbor is the thick portion at its end.

This end of the road was Homer, the farthest you can drive on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage.  My immediate destination was the Homer Spit, an almost five-mile long bar of gravel that juts into Kachemak Bay from the mainland, and then across the bay to Halibut Cove.
I drove through town and onto the Spit.   At the iconic Salty Dawg saloon, I turned left and backed onto a portion of the small boat harbor, where I unloaded my luggage and groceries.  Then I drove around to the other side of the Salty Dawg and parked my truck where it would remain for the next three and a half weeks.

The Salty Dawg Saloon

With the help of Jay and others, all my gear was loaded onto the Stormbird, a retired military vessel that now plies the waters of Kachemak Bay and carries the denizens of Halibut Cove, the US mail, groceries, appliances, and freight for the small settlement across the bay.  I took a seat in the wheel house, avoiding the larger passenger cabin with its sight odor of diesel fuel.

The Stormbird is the green and white boat tied to the dock.

An hour later, the Stormbird sailed through the tiny entrance to the C-shaped cove, past Clem Tillion’s lighthouse B&B, and tied up to the dock.

As soon as we passengers debarked, a raucous cawing across the water got my attention and when I turned I saw a large, crooked--necked bird fleeing for safer environs.  I had no idea what it could be and why it had chosen to winter in Alaska, unlike the hundreds of thousands of fowl that head south to warmer climes.

Jim pulled his skiff up to the same dock and we loaded all my stuff into it and motored across the cove to his dock.  I asked him what that bird could have been and his reply was “Herons.  They nest right there.”   He raised his hand and pointed into a grove of spruce trees.

Sure enough, a heron burst from the shrubbery and landed in a nearby tree.  A heron, for Pete’s sake.  I had no idea they wintered here.  In the eight years I’ve been coming to the cove to house-sit and open the door for Jim and Jan’s cat, I’ve neither seen nor heard the herons before that day.  A second heron remained hidd

And that day was the last day I managed to get a decent photo of one of the herons, though it was silhouetted against the winter sky.

I've seen plenty of crows, ravens, sea gulls, and sea ducks, even some sea otters.

The crows or as they are known locally, The Motorcycle Gang.

A sea otter diving off a dock, another reason I turn the camera on before I get to the dock.

A mallard drake with two hens.

Sea otter.

The same sea otter with its pup.   Have to take the better camera to get a better photo.

Tara bringing me some groceries from Homer.

Part of Halibut Cove.   Homer is located in the hills beyond.

Where I'm staying and opening the door for Geri the cat.   Such a tough life.

My view from the living room.

Night lights in the cove.  This was over the Thanksgiving weekend.   I almost never see lights on this side of the cove.

Every time since, when I walk down to the dock to check on the boat and skiff, I turn on my camera before the last curve on the approach to the dock.   And every time, the heron gets outta Dodge before I can get a photo.

The steep, icy corner where I turn on the camera.

Until today.  Today I managed to get somewhat of a photo.   Not a good one, though.

There it is, fleeing for parts unknown.   Two more seconds and this could have been a much better photo.

But one of these days those herons and I are going to have a meeting of the lens.

Halibut Cove in the mauve alpenglow of a late winter afternoon.


  1. Jeanne, your photos are great. I love the colors. Did you tinker with the coloring in your photo shop? Looks like a wonderful place to spend three weeks. Come by on your way home if you want.

    Betty Jo

  2. Having been to the Cove with you once, having met Geri the cat, being familiar with where the boat house is where you go to check on the boats, etc...it is really nice to revisit with you on your web site...it NEVER gets old. Nice to have the sightings of the heron(s). Smiles and thank you for the visit! Love, Patti

  3. When I think of the end of the road communities in Alaska, I think of the draw that these communities seem to have on certain people with social issues who flee to the end of the road to get away from it all. Homer certainly IS at the end of the road but when you think of Circle and Eagle and others Homer does not immediately pop up in the conversation. As always a very nice post. Smiles .. Cap ..