Sunday, September 18, 2011

Seward (#163-170)

We arrived in Seward, where we would board our cruise ship, from Whittier at the end of the day. We had realized in Whittier that the most common gulls there were glaucous-winged, but this one posed for me soooo nicely in Seward.

#163: Glaucous-winged gull; Seward, Alaska; August 25, 2011
Glaucous-winged gulls have pink feet, dark eyes, red on the bottom of the bill, no black at the back.

The light was starting to go but we took our rental car for a last-chance ride along the shore where we tried to capture some very sneaky seabirds! Please excuse these rotten pics...I swear it gets much better after these!

#164: Pigeon Guillemot (juvenile); Seward, Alaska; August 25, 2011
*Mystery bird* (Marbled murrelet?)
*Mystery bird*(At a certain point I just got fed up with trying to figure these out!!!!)
I had the next morning in Seward to myself since the boys took a charter boat out to fish in Resurrection Bay. My plan was to hike up Mount Marathon in the morning and hit Exit Glacier in the afternoon. However, I was told upon leaving the hotel not to hike the mountain by myself (not just because it was very berry/beary, but also because the terrain is difficult and if I fell and broke my leg there would be nobody to get help). So I wandered around Seward in the morning, scouting the shore for birds and doing some caching.

The first bird I saw was a juvenile bald eagle in a tree beside the lagoon behind our hotel. Like I said, eagles are everywhere in Alaska, but always pretty special.

A little farther down I spotted a few cormorants drying out their wings. I noticed that people didn't say the word "cormorant" with nearly the amount of disdain as they do here.

Watching them dry their wings was so hilarious that I actually took a video. This is my first video here so I'm trying to figure this out...maybe next time I'll do it in YouTube so I can make it a little bigger. Anyway, they were doing this when I arrived, kept at it while I watched them, and were still going when I left! Too bad I couldn't lend them the blow dryer from the hotel.

I spent forever trying to get a good shot of one these guys. Once I looked closely, I realized that this is a lifer I could see at home!
#165: Orange-crowned warbler;  Seward, Alaska; August 26, 2011
Unfortunately the orange crown is rarely visible in the field. 
I noticed that the song sparrows all look very dark and "sooty" compared to ours at home! I kept seeing them, think they were a new bird (really hoping they were a water ouzel, or American dipper...never did see one).
Back at the harbour/town, there was lots to see.
This playful sea otter got lucky with some scraps of the pier (red snapper). He rolled around and ate to his heart's content as everyone watched and clicked, clicked, clicked. I took so many pictures and knew I had good ones but just couldn't stop myself from taking more! I have a feeling this guy gets pretty spoiled here. He's got a reputation!
The crows in Alaska are actually different, which took me a few days to realize. Once I realized I could easily mistake new birds for birds from home, I got to studying the range maps and knowing what to look out for. The crows on the West Coast are definitely smaller and can sound a little different. Luckily there is no overlap of northwestern/American crow ranges in Alaska, so it's a safe bet to call this 'norwester! It actually took me forever to get a decent shot of crow...most of them were SO mangy looking!

#166: Northwestern Crow; Seward, Alaska; August 26, 2011
The crows in Seward were grabbing little mussels from the water and cracking them on the rocky beach...neat to watch. Don't see crows doing that at home!
I've never seen a dark hare/rabbit like this at home?!
The previous day we had seen kittiwakes at the rookery in Whittier. I saw some up close and posing nicely on the roof of a building (I've also included some pics from the previous day). As you can see, they look a heck of a lots like a gull, but they have  no markings on their bills and their feet are jet black. The younger ones of stripes on the back of their necks and some have black ear patches too.

kind of an awkward pose...

The boys returned from fishing and reported that they saw puffins in the bay and knew that I would be so disappointed if I didn't see them too. We checked into the cruise ship and came back into town after dropping my dad off (he was in desperate need of a nap...poor dad, I always run him ragged) and picking up Matt's mom Mary. The charters were prohibitively expensive so Matt set to trying to get me out into the bay for those puffins. We were getting pretty desperate, but he ends up asking a random guy in the marina. It was the best thing that could have happened...he was a great guy and we all had an amazing time on this little "private tour" of Resurrection Bay. We headed out and it wasn't too long until what I was waiting for popped into view...


#167: Horned Puffin; Resurrection Bay, Alaska; August 26, 2011
OMG. OMG. OMG........just OMG.
#168: Tufted Puffin; Resurrection Bay, Alaska; August 26, 2011
OMG - I want a haircut just like this!
Horned and tufted puffins together!
Ken, who took us out, works on a research boat. He's currently doing stuff with sea lions (see the one that's branded in the middle?). These were smaller than the ones we saw in Prince William Sound, but still so great to see.
Steller sea lions
I took pictures of these swimming birds everywhere and didn't realize till we got home that they were all different kinds!

#169: Ancient Murrelet; Resurrection Bay, Alaska; August 26, 2011
(You can barely see it, but check out the white tufts of hair on the back of its head. Most similar birds have black bills, but this one's is lighter)

Ken took us out to another rookery, which was mostly kittiwakes...
look closely though and see some other things, like cormorants...
and more lifers!
#170: Common Murre; Resurrection Bay, Alaska; August 26, 2011
Here's one zooming along with a puffin!
this is Alaska?

Stunning scenery everywhere
With our captain, Ken, Mary, Matt, me.

By the end of the day, it was time to say goodbye to spectacular Seward and jump on board the Radiance. A big part of me felt really guilty about trading in pristine, rugged, beautiful Alaska for a packaged vacation on a mega ship.

And I was so flippin high on seeing those puffins that I was pretty sure that
a. I was never going to come down
b. there was no way the rest of the trip was going to compare.

Well, don't you worry...the rest of the trip was just as great, and there's lots more to come!
The town of Seward was dwarfed by our megaship.


Stuart Immonen said...

Looks like an incredible place. Congratulations on the life birds.

Tiffanie said...

So happy you got to see Puffins!....and all the other lifers. Thanks for sharing your vacation pics with us cyberfriends:)

Jeremy Medina said...

What a fantastic trip! Congrats on all the lifers, especially the puffins. So jealous!

Funkysandman said...

wow! loved the idea of getting a local for the private tour - that's the way to do it! That mystery bird seems ridiculously cute - you've got to find out what it is. Amazing puffins! Hey, the video worked great - more dancing birds! keep em coming...