Sunday, September 20, 2009

Alaska 2009 - part 5: Seward Day Cruise

First off, I highly recommend the Kenai Fjords tours, and especially the Captain's Choice tour. It's all day, but worth that extra time and money. Although, if your goal is to just see glaciers, a different one is perfectly acceptable. You'll see much of the wildlife too. The Captain's Choice though gets you much closer to the wildlife and is for birders and photographers; perfect for me :)

Below is the view as we're practically flying out of Resurrection Bay towards where most of the wildlife hangs out, the Chiswell Islands.
Zooming by glaciers

We first saw an eagle, but my picture from that was so lousy I'm not showing it. The boat stopped, but there were 4 foot swells that made the small boat rock. In addition the lighting conditions weren't very good. So, even though I put my cameras up to ISO 800, the shutter speeds were still kinda slow. This of course made things difficult since I didn't quite have my sea legs yet.

The next birds we saw were Red-necked Phalaropes. I saw them for the first time last fall at the Monterey Bay Birding Festival from Moonglow Dairy Farm. I was wondering if perhaps these particular ones would be heading south to my area within the next month or so - about now.

Red-necked Phalarope

We saw some Dall's Porpoises not long after this. Shortly after the porpoise sighting, our captain saw a Common Murre (lifer) in the water being attacked by a Peregrine Falcon (lifer). I didn't quite get in position for this show in time as I was on the other side of the boat, but by the time I got over there, a Bald Eagle was attacking the falcon. It was fascinating to watch, so the only shot I ended up with (and I didn't think I did) was this eagle flying off after the Peregrine Falcon. The Murre looked a little injured, so my guess is the eagle came back later to finish it off. Or maybe the falcon, who knows.

Bald Eagle

A few minutes later, we came across several Common Murre floating around with a couple Horned Puffin (lifer). While I was taking a picture of one, he (I assume it's a he) showed off for me.

Common Murre

Puffins were on my list that I had to see along with whales. I really wanted Orca, but that didn't happen. Humpbacks were still fine to see.

Horned Puffin

Next up we saw the first of my thousands of Black-legged Kittewakes. The light was improving at this point, so I got a couple of decent shots.

Including the ability to have a high enough shutter speed for a flying pic.
Black-legged Kittiwake

There was one lone Ancient Murrelet (lifer)

And my first Tufted Puffin

Then we got to the nesting areas.
First we passed Steller's Sea Lions,
a threatened species everywhere, but endangered in Alaska.

Then, on higher islands, nesting Glaucous Gulls - I think a lifer

Nesting Common Murre

Nesting Horned Puffins

Then back past the Sea Lions

And past some Ochre Sea Stars way above the water.
It must have been low tide.

Then past a couple of napping Sea Otters

And shortly thereafter, my first Humpback Whale

to be continued... (the day's not even half over!)


RuthieJ said...

Wow Heidi, that's so neat! So what field guide did you use for the bird IDs? for western birds? Or is there a field guide just for Alaskan birds? Once again, your pictures are fantastic......can't wait to see the rest.
Thanks for sharing this trip with us.

Linda in Jackson, CA (erie) said...

That is remarkable! Really great photos! I have yet to see a whale or a Puffin, let alone most all those other birds in your photos. Your vacation sounds so wonderful.

Heidi said...

Hi Ruthie :) Mostly for IDs I still used my NatGeo Western Bird book. But while up there, I also bought "Guide to the Birds of Alaska"
at It's helpful in confirming since it has different pictures and breaks the birds down to regions of AK & seasons. There are significant differences in climates per region, so that's very helpful.

Hi Linda! So, you finally made it to CA. Hope you're having a good time :) Maybe if you get to the coastal area, you can take a pelagic cruise. They say you're guaranteed to see a whale, plus many of the birds I saw in AK - not puffins though.

Heidi said...

correction, i didn't get it at Amazon, but it can be found there for less than what i paid for it... oh well.

Carrot Jello said...

What kind of camera do you have?
Have I asked that before?

Heidi said...

You may have asked before, but I don't remember :) Besides, the answer is different now :D

I now have two cameras. The older one is a Canon EOS 40D and a new one just a few months ago is a Canon Rebel XTi. They take standard Canon lenses - and Canon compatible - and are fully interchangeable.

I got the Rebel for three reasons. 1) It's lighter and easier to carry around.
2) I was getting tired of needing to change lenses (from zoom to wide) on my one camera and sometimes missing the shot.
3) It does VIDEO!

Adam R. Paul said...

Great photos, and wonderful birds! So many cool birds in AK that are difficult or impossible to see elsewhere (or are in breeding plumage there, but not here).


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