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

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Photo Dump

Most of my day-to-day photos appear on Facebook, which means that those of you who follow along here at my blog miss them if you don't have Facebook.

So, here are some recent ones that I like:

Trumpeter swan at Tern Lake late one night.

Scaup ducklings, the cutest ducklings ever.

Smoke from a nearby wildfire, plus clouds, plus the sun just edging behind the mountain equals a beautiful sunset.

A hermit thrush singing.

This spruce grouse has two chicks peeking out from under her skirts.

Busy days for moms and pops.

A golden-crowned sparrow's aria.

A scaup duckling

This Barrow's goldeneye hen is in the reflection of fireweed at Tern Lake.

Scaup duckling caught in the act.

A mallard's almost grown ducklings have crowded the rest of the group off the rock.

Mommy makes a good pillow.   A red-necked grebe chick sleeps on mommy.

An exceptional year for fireweed.

Scaup jumping off a log

Splash!   A perfect belly flop.

Sometimes the heavy smoke from a nearby wildfire can add something exceptional to a photo, in this case, a neutral background that emphasizes the fireweed and grass..

Presenting the red-necked grebe family.

Daddy grebe bringing home dinner.

An Arctic tern and a peaceful scene at Tern Lake on a hot, hot day.

A long way for my lens so it isn't sharp.   Mew gull  chasing off a bald eagle.   Photo taken from a kayak.

Mew gulls after that bald eagle.

Mama scaup and her brood rest on a grass-covered stump.

Someone asked me if I wished this spotted sandpiper had turned around.   No, I don't.   I rather like the idea of the sandpiper staring off into the void and contemplating what is next.   Anything is possible.    It perched there so briefly, I was able to get only three frames.   This is the only one in which its head is turned and visible.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Notes from the Denali Highway: Rose Petals and the Say's Phoebe

It’s 11 A.M. and the six of us are sitting on stools at the wooden bar of the Maclaren River Lodge.   The dining room is full, hence the bar seating.

Rob carefully sets three jars of jelly on the bar.   We all order toasted homemade bread.

Image may contain: food
Rob's original photo of his creations.

Leilani and I have been here since 8:30, mostly because her declared mission of the day is to photograph a Say’s phoebe that has nested here for several years, so there was little stopping along the 20 mile drive. 

The Say's phoebe isn't a rare bird in Alaska as it nests throughout the Interior, but this one certainly is the most accessible.  We haven’t had much luck with that so far, even though a staff lady showed us the phoebe’s nest in the eave of the lodge.

“You watch, Leilani,” I say.  “When the guys get here, Jamin will have that phoebe posing right where he wants it.

I get shots of an unknown bird, a white-crowned sparrow,  and a robin.   We photograph the many cliff swallows that are gathering mud for their nests on the bridge over the Maclaren river.   We check often for the phoebe.

I spot this little unknown bird on a log below the lodge and take a few photos of it with a bee or hornet.

Note how carefully it's holding the business end.

Now though, the guys are here and our toast is ready.   Let the tasting begin.   I place dabs of dandelion, spruce tip, and rose petal jelly on a half slice and hand it to Shawn, the bartender.   Then, I indulge.

I contribute a jaw of red currant jam.   Its bright red color and bold tang contrast sharply with the delicate pastels and subtle flavors of Rob’s jellies.   All of his jellies are delicious, but my fav is the rose petal.

Rob foraged widely for his ingredients.   All the currants for my offering came from a bush my mother gave me forty years ago, and from the wild bushes that grow on my property.

Suddenly, we notice that Jamin has disappeared.   That can mean only one thing.   We grab our cameras and head outdoors.

Sure enough, just as I teased Leilani, Jamin has the Say’s phoebe “right where he wants it.”   Its perches couldn’t be more perfect for all of us to get clear looks.   It remains still for a spell, then moves to another, and another

Staccato sounds of click, click, click. 



I scroll back through my photos  to the unknown bird with the hornet and check with Jamin.   It was the Say's phoebe, after all. 

Yes, you, you famous little dear.

Meanwhile, inside the lodge, a number of road-dazed tourists are listening to a presentation about the lodge and this area before they have lunch.   They are on a trip with a well-known cruise/land tour operator and are on a long road trip from a lodge in the Wrangell-St. Elias mountains to Denali National Park, or vice versa.

They have no idea what’s they’re missing out here.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Notes from the Denali Highway: Eagle Eyes and Big Ears

By now it is apparent that I cannot hear the bird calls anywhere close to Leilani’s acute hearing.   Likewise, her long-range vision does not equal mine.

It reminds me of a time almost fifty years ago when I accidentally splashed a cleaning solution with hydrochloric acid in one eye.   After the burn healsed and after the requisite sight test, my doctor asked, “Do you swoop down on mice in the field?”   

My vision checked at 20/15 then.   It isn’t that anymore, though, even after cataract surgery on both eyes.
In the next couple days, Leilani directs us to many different species of birds, while I spot three eagles, two ospreys, a merlin, various waterfowl, and some of the smaller birds.   And a grizzly bear.

Thus, we become the birding team of Eagle Eye and Big Ears.   Each with our strength; each with our weakness.  Isn’t that what friends are for?


On our last afternoon, we drive through Tangle Lakes campground and down to the boat launch.   I immediately see Michael lying on the gravel beside the pond. 

We walk toward him as he gets up.   If Michael’s here, Jamin is nearby too, as they ride together.  He says Jamin is “over there” shooting a loon.    I look along the shoreline as I head for the concrete launch where I can sit down.

I don’t see Jamin anywhere.   I see a gravel shoreline, a small point of land with rocks, and a weird—looking pink three stump or branch.  I decide he must be around the corner.

I hurry to the launch where I can put down my camera and put binoculars on that odd stump/branch.
That’s when I realize it isn’t odd, or weird, or even plant material.   It’s Jamin’s hand.

Dressed all in camo and still as the dead, Jamin's cover is perfect.   I'm reminded of a story from earlier this year when someone called the cops about a dead body on the ice.

The body was Jamin in his winter camo, lying still while he waited for a bufflehead to get used to his presence and come closer.  

:Are you all right?"  asked the cop.   Slowly, slowly, Jamin raised his thumb.    He also got the shot. 


So much for my eagle eyes.