Saturday, June 21, 2014

Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

Our final days and farewell to Seward included stops at Exit Glacier (photo),  scoping the mountain pasture successfully locating black bears and mountain goats.

This eagle, one of many was perched low over Bear Creek filled with splashing sockeye salmon on their journey to spawning beds upstream.

A family of American Dippers had taken up residency at the Salmon tagging weir station on Bear Creek.

The Stoney Creek RV park was filled with the police whistle like song of Varied Thrushes.  A near-by stream had newly hatched Common Mergansers that are taking turns riding on mama's back.

We drove to the farthest south point that you can drive without going on a ferry: Homer Spit, a 4 and a half mile long strand that juts out into Kachemak Bay.   We stayed at an RV camp near the end of the spit with good sea bird activity including numerous low flying eagles.

We saw a number of moose, including this shaggy cow who was #20 on our moose list.  This was seen at Beluga Slough.  We also visited the Carl E. Wynn Nature Center where we found the sought after Chocolate Lily, our target flower.  Looks beautiful but smells like dead moose to attract the pollinating flies.

We found Golden-crowned Sparrows and Townsend's Warblers to be as cooperative as the stationary flowers.

This adult Gray Jay pished in on a blooming cow parsnip for a close photo op.

We were looking for something very special to celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary so on  June 20th we took a flight out over Cook Inlet to Lake Clark National Park.  The pilot told us to watch for bears on the flats below.  Ty called out "there's a family of Alaskan Brown Bears below".  The pilot set the plane down on the beach and we quietly walked to within 25 yards of this sow and her one year old cubs.

We spent over a half hour watching this family go about it's daily life; feeding, resting, and playing.  The ever alert mother kept a watchful eye on a large Alaskan boar headed their way.

As the boar came closer she alerted the cubs that its time to get out of here.  Ignoring us, the trio ran to within 15 yards of us heading into the trees.  That was our cue to leave as well.

The flight continued around Iliamna Volcano and up over Double Glacier, over sterile volcanic ash rivers, over silty deltas and flood plains, then over the oil rigs of  Cook Inlet and back to Soldotna air strip.

Good-bye from the land of the midnight sun, where 20 hours of daylight really messes up the sleep schedule, but seeing God's handiwork is worth less shuteye.
Love & Prayers, Ty & Ida Baumann

Friday, June 13, 2014

First week in Alaska

Our first stop in Alaska was Tok where we washed off all the Yukon mud from the Al-Can Highway.  We took in some music and tales about Alaskan history and adventure at a folk theater.

We drove southwest down the Tok Cutoff stopping at this pond with Tundra and Trumpeter Swans, several species of ducks including Eurasian Wigeon, and 6 Moose in the background.

Alaska - the land of great contrasts where migrating Baird's Swallowtails and nesting Yellow Warblers are scant miles away from ice covered lakes and lingering drifts.  As we traveled north along the Richardson's Highway through Paxson to Summit Lake, we found Gyrfalcon, Arctic Warblers, Redpolls, and loons looking for holes in the ice.

We drove early to the east end of the Denali Highway (not the National Park) and ascended to the tundra that looks deceptively barren but is blanketed with colorful flowers such as these Alpine Kittentails.  The birds we encountered nesting here were Long-tailed Jaegers, Smith's Longspurs, American Golden Plovers, Long-tailed Ducks, Red-necked Phalaropes and Blackpoll Warblers.  We also saw 8 Moose and 4 Caribou and quite a few Alpine Ground Squirrels.

We stayed at Tolsona Wilderness Campground in a beautiful creekside spruce forest where the mosquitoes outnumbered the birds a million to one.

We then drove southwest along the Glenn Highway past the beautiful Sheep Mountain where gypsum and iron oxide give the rocks a rich hue.

We drove to and through Anchorage then along the Turnagain Arm toward the Kenai Peninsula seeing Dall Sheep on a high precipice.  We stopped at Potter Marsh in the rain where Arctic Terns were setting up nesting and Red-necked Grebes dove for fish among the reeds.

Onward south along the Seward Highway to Stoney Creek RV Park where we will spend a week.  On a walk around the neighborhood, we found Stellar's Jay, singing Varied & Hermit Thrushes, Pine Siskins, Pine Grosbeaks, Red-breasted Nuthatches and singing Fox Sparrows.

Our Alaskan adventure would not be complete without a boat trip into the Kenai Fjords.  Our nine hour cruise on a rare sunny day of calm seas through breathtaking rock islands, steep snow-covered mountains and calving glaciers was filled with sea life.

Rocketing Dahl Porpoises led us past sleeping sea otters through Resurrection Bay to Harding Gateway and the Gulf of Alaska.

Next sighting was a pod of actively feeding Orcas, this non-migratory species feed exclusively on fish.

Our tour boat made its way through the Harris Bay into the Northwestern Fjord.  In the distance we could see the huge glacier that heads in the Harding Ice-field which measures 50 miles by 30 miles and receives over 100 feet of snow annually.

The dramatic calving of the moving river of ice, towering 2,000 feet above the water, dwarfed our large boat and basking harbor seals with their pups on ice bergs below.  The cannon-like sound of car-sized pieces of ice avalanching down into the water was amazing.

Our return trip took us past the Chiswell Islands National Wildlife Refuge where we helped a bird group locate and identify many alcids.  We had 29 species of birds on the trip including: Horned & Tufted Puffins; Marbled, Kittilitz's & Ancient Murrelets; Cassin's, Rhinoceros & Parakeet Auklets; Pigeon Guillemots; Thick-billed & Common Murres (pictured); and Red-faced Cormorants.

There is a national on-going research project at this NWR on the Stellar's Sea Lions.  So when you see this species on TV programs you are viewing this colony.

For most people on the tour, the real stars are the Humpback Whales.  The captain/naturalist who gave an excellent narrative said it was "like Whale soup out here today".  We saw at least a dozen humpbacks.  First sign - the exhale blow, then the arched back and exposed flukes signaling a deep dive.

As we pulled back into the harbor, this glacier is a fitting scene to an impressive day.

We are looking forward to more days on the Kenai Peninsula then north to Denali National Park.

Blessings & Prayers,
Ty & Ida Baumann

Friday, June 6, 2014

British Columbia & Yukon Territories

"You will go out in joy,
And be led forth in peace.
The mountains and hills
Will burst into song before you.
And all the trees of the field
Will clap their hands." Isaiah 55:12

We crossed into Canada on May 29th and headed north through the Fraser River Canyon spending the first night at Brookside at Cache Creek BC.  It seemed like early Spring with blooming Columbine, arriving Audubon (Yellow-rumped) Warblers and Western Tanagers.
Mourning Cloak

Aspen leaf - leaf miner caterpillar

Audubon's (yellow-rumped) warbler

Along the Cariboo Highway we found Black-billed Magpies in the farm pastures and small villages. We followed along the Yellowhead Highway west to the Cassiar Highway north.
Western Tanager

We took a western detour into Steward BC & Hyder, the most southeastern town of Alaska.  The beautiful road is a canyon through the Coast Mountains to the Portland Canal (the 94 mile waterway that forms the border between the U.S. and Canada).  Pictured here is Bear Glacier with it's blue ice surrounded be snow covered mountains.  Waterfalls cascaded thousands of feet to the fast flowing river below.

We spent two nights at Run-a-Muck RV park in Hyder and were hoping to find some Black Bears.  We were not disappointed finding 2 on the road in, a sow and 2 cubs crossed the road by Fish Creek and then this young bear right in the middle of the village chowing down on any plant he could find.
Pine Siskin

Red-breasted Sapsucker

We spent hours birding along the canal and the viewing areas at Fish Creek.  Ty got some close-ups of the Pine Siskin and the Red-breasted Sapsucker.

As we traveled north along the Cassiar Highway we added more Black Bears totaling 16 by the time we crossed into the Yukon Territories.

Driving west on the AlCan Highway, we stopped at Rancheria Falls following the trail through the Boreal Forest.  Along the road north we were pleased to find small flocks of Pine Grosbeaks.  We stayed at Haines Junction and added Boreal Chickadees to the year list.
Spring Azure

American Pasqueflower

Boreal Chickadee

On an early drive along the Kluane Lake we were pleasantly surprised to see a huge Grizzly Bear just sauntering down the road.  He was unafraid as we slowly followed him, he crossed in front of us to the lake.

Now into interior Alaska and all the wonders of God's creation before us.
Ty & Ida Baumann