Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cruisin II - Icy Strait and Ketchikan (#178-181)

Can't believe I've been back for almost a month and STILL posting stuff from my trip!

Day 4 we arrived at Icy Strait Point, and I pretty much had no expectations for this port because I could find hardly any info about it online. In fact, I didn't even know if we were getting off the boat, or if it was another glacier-type thing or what. The great thing about low expectations is that you almost always exceed them, and it turned to be a fantastic day.

There is a really nice walking loop around the beach that starts at the port, follows the beach and enters some really spectacular forest. Almost immediately we heard the little chips of little birds and we were off in hot pursuit. After much time and patience, we got one nice and close to us for pics, as an increasing crowd of people form around us. Any time someone stops and is clearly looking at something with interest in Alaska, it's worth stopping and having a look too. We did this and saw mountaingoats, bears, etc.-- Unfortunately, I think the people who stopped to see what we were looking at were a little disappointed. I heard "there's a bunch of little birds in that tree." I don't know if they were expecting an eagle or mountaingoats or bears or spaceships what.

#178: Golden-Crowned Kinglet; Icy Strait Point, AK; August 30, 2011

i be checkin' u ouuuuut.
Our second Steller's Jay of the trip

My best guess is pigeon guillemot for this one, because of the pattern on the wing.
  Went on nice walk along the beach and back through the woods. You can't miss my orange backpack.

Icy Strait is where most cruisers visit and it stops there for them, but you can also walk over to the neighbouring village of Hoonah. It's a cute little fishing village. I really remember this day because this is the day the sun really came out....I even took my sweater off!
hmm....murrelet maybe?

A dark-eyed junco (Oregon Junco). Very different from the ones at home!

such a beauty

#179: Lincoln's Sparrow, Icy Strait Point, AK; August 30, 2011
Sparrows are still hard, but at least I'm getting to the point where I get the feeling that there's something "different" going on here and take a picture in case.

#180: Mew Gull; Icy Strait Point, AK; August 30, 2011
A lot of the gulls I had suspicions about out there, so I usually just took pics and check when I get home. I still have to pull out the book for most of them....
bill...check...leg colour...check...mantle...check...eye colour...check......

#181: Bonaparte's Gull; Icy Strait Point, AK; August 30, 2011
Too bad I didn't get these guys with the black heads!

Our final port in Alaska was KETCHIKAN, which I absolutely loved. The Fish Ladder was totally spectacular to watch and one of the highlights of the trip for me. We saw salmon returning to spawn all over Alaska, but nowhere had we seen them fighting the current as they did here. I'm not sure I have even been so aware of a wonder of nature as at that moment, watching these little beings fighting against something so much bigger, more powerful, so seemingly impossible--watching them jump, and fail, get thrown back to start again, or slammed against rocks ro concrete, and their bodies getting so destroyed that some of them are the saddest looking things once they make it. And I just kept asking myself, why, why, why do they do it? It is totally incredible, and maybe more of a miracle than much bigger things.

Ok, second try at video. The first one was way too small so went the YouTube route...

Creek Street in Ketchikan
Ketchikan from our balcony

Our birding was limited in Ketchikan, but the following day, which was our last day at sea and spent entirely on the boat through the inside passage (bizarrely enough, something changed and I could tell that this was "home" again), we were treated to other sightings, including a huge pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins swimming alongside our ship, and a pod of killer whales :)

Just because we were on the boat doesn't mean I missed out on birding entirely for that day. When everyone was hanging out at the pool on the last day (sea day), I thought everyone was joking when they said there was a little yellow bird hanging out in the solarium. No, there was actually a warbler. I don't know how he got in (not hard to imagine), but I can imagine how confusing it would be for him to find his way out. I felt awful to the point to that I tried to herd him out in the right direction but failed miserably (herding warblers proved rather impossible). At least the boat was headed in the right direction (south)...but if he didn't get out before it headed back up to Alaska, he'll be in trouble :(

Anyways, the other thing is I'm a bit bewildered as to what he is exactly. The black on its head immediately suggested to me that it was a Wilson's, but as far as I know, Wilson's never have streaks on their breast (the streaks totally look like yellow warbler streaks)....so, what the heck??

Which brings me to another point. One night we were out on the balcony, cruising, when we noticed these little flecks of light coming in and out of sight. We realized that they were little birds flying alongside the ship, coming in and out of view and being lit up as they got closer to the lights. So here we are, way out in the ocean (land not even visible), with these little birds flying with us. Realizing we were in the middle of migration, I knew they were probably migrating with the ship. I'm not sure if it's easier for them to fly on the drafts created by the ship (of course, it would be easier to just land and enjoy the ride!), or if they like the light, or what exactly was going on. It could either pose a serious problem or be helpful to them.....I'm not sure which, but it's something to think about.


Jeremy Medina said...

Those are the 2 best photos I've ever seen of a Golden-crowned Kinglet! They are very difficult to photograph... I've never seen one, but the murrelet looks like a marbled, distribution is right... Can't help much on the warbler, but looks mostly like a Yellow to me, but very funky head! Great stuff!

Funkysandman said...

Kinglet shots are sweeeet! Especially the last one-very impressive.
Those salmon really seem to be punishing themselves...I'm amazed that any of them make it.
Any pics of the killer whales?

Tiffanie said...

Great post! Thanks again for sharing your trip with us :)

deepdowndawn said...

thanks guys! got pics of the killer whales but they are not good at all...was hard to anticipate where they would jump, it was getting dark and I took them through the ship windows...so not postworthy!
Just an update, someone on the OFNC facebook page thinks that last bird is a yellow in wonky fall plumage.

Natura Tours said...

Great photos! Love the Steller's Jay. Keep them coming!



❦ fitcetera said...

Dayum! Those Kinglet shots ARE amazing!!!
Great job!

If you have a flickr account, you can upload a pic to this thread ... http://www.flickr.com/groups/birdguide/discuss/36682/
and someone will be able to help you ID the warbler or at least give you a best guess.

I hope you come back to post soon!