Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cruisin' - Juneau and Skagway (#174-177)

We boarded the Radiance of the Seas at night on the 26th...which felt a little unreal having planned this cruise nearly a year prior. Here's a little map of where we went (red and yellow dots)
The first day was spent entirely at sea, with a stop to admire Hubbard Glacier. There was word that an albatross had been cruising with the ship for a while in the morning; alas, I did not see it. I had a little hope in my heart for the odd pelagic, but didn't really spent a ton of time on my balcony with my eyes peeled on the skies...too much to do on the ship!

Day 2 we hit JUNEAU, the capital of Alaska and home of Mrs. Palin. In case you didn't know, there are NO roads that go to Juneau, so you must fly or boat in (unless you are in possession of a teleporter). It was a rainy day, so that was a bit of a downer, but didn't stop us from going at it full force anyway. I didn't take the camera out with me as our plans got a little switched around and once I decided I wanted it, we were off the boat already. We spent the morning climbing up Mount Roberts (elevation 3819 ft - there's a tram that goes up too, but that's just too easy isn't it?).
At the top there was a "Raptor Centre," which made always makes me anxious and conflicted, because I obviously love to see birds, but I don't really support keeping animals in captivity so I don't visit zoos, aquariums or any of the like. Well, at the top of the hill there was a little coop with a HUGE adult eagle. I spoke to her supervisor, who explained that she was rescued and that made me feel a little better: she had been shot through her beak (WTF?!) and lost her left eye, resulting in a crash that broke her wings. I asked how long she had been there and when she would be released; she had been there 5 years and would never be released because she would not regain her full flight capabilities or eyesight so she could not survive in the wild :( So I guess there is no option but to keep her in captivity, but that little coop was so small for such a magnificent bird. I dunno...maybe there is something I don't know.

In the afternoon we headed to Mendenhall Glacier. These falls are just beside it.
 Didn't see a ton in the line of birds, except these guys at the visitor centre:

But wouldn't you know what we did see!

I may have mentioned once or twice how terrified I am of bears, but for some reason I wasn't scared at all seeing these guys. And yes I was as close as it looks.  There are 17 actively feeding bears in the area (we saw 2). But they were too busy stuffing their bellies with salmon to be interested in me. After my trip to Alaska, I determined that I'm not all that scared of black bears but I am that much more terrified of grizzlies.
so scary

In the town of Juneau outside the Red Dog Saloon, I got a great shot of a raven in the street. The ravens there are kind of like crows here; I've never really seen them this close, and they are absolutely stunning birds. Check out the blue on the back, and the schnoz on that thing!
Day 3 we got to SKAGWAY. We took the White Pass Railroad in the morning, which follows the route of the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush. Some pretty spectacular scenery.

After our ride we sort of wandered around. There was a little path that ran behind the houses away from the main drag where all the tourists were. We saw this beautiful little juvenile thrush. The spots around its head ans shoulders are just lovely.
Not far away we found a backyard where there seemed to be a lot of activity and a bunch of feeders. Well, it was a little weird peeking into a stranger's yard, but we determined "there's lifers in that thar yard" (oh haha I made an Alaska joke).
We see some chickadees..."hey now, that doesn't sound quite right...hey now, they don't look quite right."

#174: Chestnut-sided Chickadee; Skagway, AK; August 2011

And then a Steller's Jay (you know, Steller, also of Steller sea lion fame--no, I didn't either until I went to Alaska), gets in the frame too. Holy bigeeessis! Then, wouldn't you know, the resident opens her door, gets a peanut, and that jay hops ONTO HER HAND to eat it. Well, why the heck haven't I tried to hand train blue jays?

#175: Steller's Jay; Skagway, AK; August 2011

In the same area there were some little yellow birds. I had also seen them in Seward and thought immediately, black-throated green warblers, NBD. Woops, then I started seeing this "Townsend's Warblers" mentioned everywhere and wondering a) what the heck are they and b) why haven't I seen one? I look in the book--black-throated greens aren't even in Alaska, they have a similar looking counterpart in Alaska. The markings on the face are quite different once you get down to looking!

#176: Townsend's Warbler; Skagway, Alaska; August 2011
We're sort of moseying along (because when we we're birding we don't seem to get anywhere very fast) and hear a huge bunch of little birds, and we follow them. And by huge flock I mean HUGE. We find them in the tops of the trees and this is the first time we've got pics of Pine Siskins. Not great pics, but pics nonetheless!

#177: Pine Siskin; Skagway, AK; August 2011

We saw a few varied thrushes over the course of the trip. I remember well the first one that we saw, and had one of those really awesome moments that don't happen too often anymore..."Omg I have no idea what that is, and I don't even know where to look for it in the bird book."
There's never enough time at any of the ports, and certainly not enough to get birding in with all the other things you want to see.  Even though we could have stayed longer, that boat would leave without us. So back on we got, and  more big adventures the next day at a new destination!


dwaynejava said...

Awesome trip postings! I so wanted to see a Stellars Jay out west. I dipped on Varied Thrushes as well. Arrgggg...

Funkysandman said...

nice to see the bears up close and impressed that you overcame your fear (to some degree). Incredible pics!