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

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Birding and Whaling in Seward

My birding buddy Leilani came down from the MatSu Valley last Sunday, in preparation for a whale watching cruise we booked for Monday.   Shortly after she arrived, we went birding in Seward.

The very first bird we saw was a hawk of some sort.   It was too far away to get a definite ID, but it foretold what we found when we reached the most prolific birding spot in Seward:   nothing.   The spot has been hunted by hawks and the birds are elsewhere.

Most likely a sharp-shinned hawk.

The sky was blue and clear but a nasty wind chilled us when we were out in it too long.   It also stirred up the water of Resurrection Bay so there weren't many sea birds to be found.

We did see pigeon guillemots in a protected harbor, though.   They are a first for me.   Unfortunately, they were too far away to get a decent photo.

A little post-mating celebration.

Otter tracks on the beach.

We checked out a few other places.   In the Seward Lagoon, a small body of water near the small boat harbor, the common goldeneyes were still involved in courting behavior.   The posturing and displays were so entertaining, I could watch them for hours.

 Even the hens got into the act.

No, dear.   The head must go back even farther.

Like that, Hon.

More entertainment came in the form of common mergansers bathing in the lagoon.

A head stand.

Preening time on shore.

Joined by her mate.

Along Lowell Point Road we were treated to a small flock of harlequin, one of the prettiest waterfowl to visit Alaska.

Back in town, we cruised the campgrounds that line the shore of Resurrection Bay and spotted a group of gulls and Northwestern crows around a family having a picnic.   Apparently, the birds had some pizza crusts and were in a feeding frenzy.

Northwestern crow

Glaucous winged gull

Glaucous wing gull

Complete with a bald eagle fly-by.

Back in Moose Pass that evening, we drove to Tern Lake tocheck on the trumpeter swans and this juvenile bald eagle posed nicely for us.

The weather the next day--Monday morning--was entirely different.   Overcast skies and no wind.   We arrived in Seward mid-morning and searched for birds.

Along the beach, we spotted a harbor seal with a large fish.   That's a fin sticking up over its eye.

We had been scouring Seward for sparrows--any sparrows, and kind--and had found none.   Just before we were to check into the office for our cruise, this little song sparrow popped up on some rocks in front of us, and posed nicely in its favorite spots.

 And off it went to do sparrow things.

But,, a little farther down the beach:

Another song sparrow, perched on the tallest boulder around, singing to us.

 A couple more shots, and we were off to find whales.

Not too many days can you do this on Resurrection Bay.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Lesson Learned

I was at Tern Lake a couple nights ago to watch a couple swans that are in a small pond across from the lake.    I arrived too late to get a good vantage point, i.e., with the sun shining on the birds, or what I call up-light.

There were a couple other vehicles stopped along the narrow road and the only place I could get close was to pull past them, which meant the birds were backlit to me, with the swans between me and the sun.   Parking a distance and walking back was not an option I considered, because the swans are okay with a vehicle but not so much with people on foot.

I figured, what the heck, I have plenty of swan photos.   Nonetheless, I picked up the camera and pointed the lens out the window.   I adjusted the exposure compensation down a couple steps, in an effort to not blow out the white feathers. 

Noticing the swans were essentially backlit, I snapped a couple shots and checked my exposure.

I was stunned!

Whatever I did--and I'm not taking much credit for it--magic happened.    The water was transformed from a murky green to black and the pure white swans on black was dramatic!

What the light was really like.

What happened with exposure adjustment.

I then snapped off a bunch of photos of these beautiful birds, taking advantage of the last light before the sun fell behind a ridge.

Even a female mallard got in the photos.   The mallards are opportunistic feeders, hanging around the swans and scooping up whatever vegetation the swans miss after they rake it up from the bottom of the pond.

At this point, I think she was telling the swans to stop preening and get back to feeding her.

Her boyfriend stayed on the far side of the pond, as far from the gathering paparazzi as he could.

So, I learned a great lesson.   Sometimes it's best if you don't get what you think you want.    I've applied that to other factors in my life, but never before to photography.  That night I wanted to be in a certain position and couldn't.   If I had, my photos would have been  ordinary swan photos.

Instead, I got drama!