Sunday, September 27, 2009

Alaska 2009 - part 6: Seward Day Cruise pt 2

After we supposedly got bored watching the Humpback Whale, we went back to the nesting sites.

We cruised by Black-legged Kittiwakes nesting on the cliffs.

Here's a couple of youngsters looking like they're going to squeeze each other out.

The next island featured Tufted Puffins nesting.

And then above them and more Kittiwakes was a big surprise; a Red-faced Cormorant!
We were told they were Double-crested but since a scope doesn't work out well on a boat, and my bins weren't super strong, I couldn't tell either. But on the computer at home with the ability to crop and view on a larger screen, it just has to be a Red-faced. There are similarities to be sure, but it was lacking that wispy white of the breeding plumage of the DCs and it had more color on the face going behind the eye and those funky little crests RFs have.

Here's one that is watching at least two nests... the nanny?

We then headed the boat for Aialik Glacier in the aptly named Aialik Bay. Along the way we passed a Rhinoceros Auklet.

Aialik Glacier at this point is about 400 feet thick and the water below is also about 400 feet deep. It's quite impressive and in our boat we were able to get quite close to it. It was cold out there on the Gulf and further out in bays, but it was very very cold at the glacier. Next time, I'm bringing woolies to keep me warm and not just a wind/rain coat.

Still, we spent about 30-40 minutes just listening and watching the landscape change. It was fun listening to the book of the cracks, but odd when you would see it happen, then hear it. There was quite a disconnect even though we were pretty much on top of it.

At the mouth of Aialik Bay we came across a mama and calf pair of Humpbacks! That was so much fun to watch and I took at least 100 photos and at least a dozen videos. Here's the highlights.
Simultaneous blow

Sweet flukes!

And as you may hear on the video, Captain Andrea called the mama a "BIG girl" and I believe she said she was a 40 footer. You'll also hear a lot of oohs and aahs and the guy mentioning the dorsal is First Mate Chris. It was the highlight of the trip and so beautiful.

After this video we put the boat in gear and headed back towards Seward as the day was nearing an end. The whales would dive for approximately 10 minutes at a time so we didn't wait around for their next surfacing. We probably watched them for 45 minutes or so anyway.

Marathon Mountain over Seward

Captain Andrea of the Mariah of Kenai Fjords Tours "Captain's Choice".


Linda in Erie said...

Wow, those are memories you won't forget! Great photos. I love the whale video, too. I need to go read part 1 now.

RuthieJ said...

Fabulous pictures Heidi. Isn't it amazing those birds can nest on those tiny little spots on the rock cliffs?


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