Friday, November 30, 2007

Life on the ALCAN in January

During my drive to Alaska in January of 2007 I saw lots of wildlife. One of the coolest was this lynx in the Yukon near the ALCAN highway. I saw several but most were fleeing. I couldn't figure out why this one stayed next to the road and looked back. At first I thought it was looking at a prey but it didn't seem to be in stalking mode.

The answer became clear when I saw the second lynx climb up the snow bank. I was so excited to have such a shy animal staying within camera range for about five minutes that I took the first few photos through the windshield of my subaru. Most came out blurry but few were worth posting.

When I finally got out of the car they were moving quickly up the mountain on the opposite side of the road. Since lynx mate in March/April and this was January I'll have to do more research to find out if these two were siblings, adult and juvenile or male/female. That's what's so cool about nature you can study it forever and never really no more than tiny fraction of what's out there.

Neighborgoods and Friggin Fabulous Radio

I feel the need to plug two great artists who just happen by coincidence to be my cousins:) Neighborgoods is a cool store that sells some great artwork, books, CDs ,etc. It's run by my very talented cousin Caitlyn who studied art in college. Be sure to check it out for some unique christmas gifts and more!
The other site Friggin Fabulous Radio is run my cousin Nick who is a great guitar player and music afficiando with some cool interviews and more! Luckily for us they're from the artistic side of my family. I seem to have missed out on that gene pool unless you count writing about nature which is still a work in progress for me:) Please give them a look today!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Winter's on it's way

First I'd like to say welcome to visitors from afar. I've had people from as far away as Great Britain and Japan visit the site which is very cool. After enduring lots of darker rainy days we finally have some clearer skies on the way with plummeting temps. Today everything was covered in ice and I had trouble opening the fuel door to fill up my tank.

I've gotten some funny phone calls at work. A person from Anchorage called to ask me what she should do about the moose stuck in the Christmas lights down town. Apparently a bull moose picked the wrong ornamental plant to feed It's supposed be down to 10 degrees this weekend with clear skies. Today was in the 20s and sunny which makes the outline of the snow covered mountains above the glacier look beautiful!

All this cold weather on the way reminds me of my move to Alaska from down south last January. It's quite a memorable experience to drive the ALCAN through the Yukon and British Columbia then through Tok and down into South Central AK. During one stretch highway they kept announcing warnings on the radio about a herd of bison in the road. Well I came across them and it was an awesome sight to watch such huge animals sweeping there furry faces back and forth to clear enough snow so they could reach the grasses underneath. Some were just lying around ruminating with steam coming out of their nostrils(it was about 5 degrees F). Anyway here's a photo I thought you might enjoy. I'll add more when I chance. It's taking forever to upload tonight.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Since Thanksgiving is a time for families to gather together and be thankful I thought I'd add some more photos of some families that I've seen over the past year. I hope you all have a great Turkey Day full of good food and good company!

This one is two brown bear sows with spring cubs(born this year). The one on the left has a big chum salmon.
Finally the other family gets to eat:) Note the immature bald eagle sitting on the stump, the raven nearby and the gulls overhead. Salmon spawning streams are one of the most amazing ecosystems. When the fish are in everybody gets to feast!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Zarembo Island

Hi Gang,
I just got back from my trip to Zarembo Island. You can find it on the map in Southeast AK just south of Mitkoff Island where Petersburg is. Petersburg is an old fishing village with lots of Norwegian influence. It has a small town feel where everybody knows everyone else:) Pretty cool to meet people on the plane who were off getting braces done in Juneau because they missed the time of year when the dentist came through town while they were out moose hunting!LOL! My friend Dan says it's annoying but I think it has a Northern Exposure type feel with volunteer D.J.s on the radio interrupting songs to say things like "the pod of orca is now at hungry point. That's right the whales are a hungry point." Or "please stop feeding the deer because its stupid and if you do we'll all know it's you when we see then peeking in your living room window." LOL! They also have ads for things like trading stuff from your garage, etc. and everyone has the same exact area code and exchange so when someone asks your phone number if you live in P.Burg all you need to say is something like 2134 because everyone has the same six first

While on Zarembo Island doing some more marten research we met lots of people hunting Sitka blacktail deer. It was really interesting to see kids on ATVS riding past me down the road weaving back and forth with one hand on the handle bar and the other holding the loaded rifle vertical. lol I got to see lots of wildlife(no martens unfortunately) and lots of interesting people. One guy who was hunting at age 77 y.o. told us it was only his second year using an ATV and most of his hunting was by proxy(hunting for other people who are "too old" to hunt). LOL! What a character. We met him lying on the ground and helped him up after he fell off his ATV and hurt his shoulder but refused medical attention. Next time we saw him he and his injured shoulder had harvested a deer and he even lifted it onto his ATV by himself. Jeez! Only in Alaska:)
We had a gale storm with 50MPH winds that sounded like it would rip the cabin down but luckily didn't really do any damage. Then on the second to last day of the trip our truck broke down and Gill(the 77 y.o.) walked out of the woods just as it rolled to a stop. We would have had to carry our gear 6 miles or sleep overnight in the truck until we could get help but he shuttled us and some of our gear back to camp. Imagine me on the back of a four-wheeler with a 77 y.o. who has trouble starting and shifting his much less driving! If you were ever around to see my uncle Campion drive my parents old VW Bug often getting up on two wheels around corners you can imagine what my trip was like.LOL! Actually I think my uncle was looking out for me because it seems pretty amazing to have a bad fuel pump all week and then break down at the most convenient time and place with someone right there to give us a ride!

Sometimes being "stuck" somewhere isn't all bad. We had to wait over an hour for our float plane ride from St Johns Bay(on Zarembo) back to Petersburg. While we waited there were lots of critters about. We could hear and occasionally see some humback whales way off in the distance along with loons, barrows goldeney, woodpeckers, eagles and some very curious harbor seals like the ones in these photos. Click to enlarge!

They kept surfacing real close and then moving in until I tried to get a photo and then would dive down. It became almost like a game but I got a few decent shots.

The curious little guys sure made the time pass more quickly:)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Here's how to make photos bigger

I had a comment that the photos on this blog are too small. Some definitely came out smaller than I anticipated. However, you can click on any photo and make it bigger. I'll also try to find out from someone with more editing savy than me about methods to use photoshop or other software to make them better. Eventually I need to get a better camera but for now I only have a 3.2megapixel so there's limited room for

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Kuiu Island Southeast Alaska

Well I just got back from the camp at Rowan Bay on Kuiu Island which is west of Petersburg in S.E. AK. I was there for about 9 days at end of September and then I was back again for another eight days to finish the project and break down camp after we did some research on marten. It's a bit strange being at the mercy of the weather for flying but...

when I landed it was like paradise. There were sea otters everywhere and the sun was shining so bright I was in short sleeves which is rare enough in August but this was September 22nd. It was one of those days when I can't believe they pay me for this! Then for most of the next 7 days it was typical rainforest weather aka rain, rain and more rain. In fact I had to stay two days longer than expected and continue working by myself until the weather broke and my colleagues could arrive. To add to the fun we had to bushwhack through thick vegetation including a nasty plant called "devils club". It's covered in thorns everwhere except the roots so when you slip and reach for the nearest plant to catch your balance sometimes you get a nasty surprise!

But where else can I see sea otters, packs of wolves, blue grouse and over 30 black bears(yes we were bushwacking on the island in southeast with one of the highest density of black bears in North America). Information I could have used before I left for Kuiu without gun or pepper spray! It's a bit of an eye opener to see an empty marten live trap crushed flat by a bear and not knowing how long ago it was being crushed. The bears eat the bait(not the martens).lol Imagine carrying jam, sardines, moose meat and marten lure in the woods in bear country and you get the idea how alert I was:) Needless to say I made a bit of noise. If it had been brown bears I would have taken the .338 rifle for sure. I'm learning fast that I need to buy a better camera. Luckily we've gotten some colder weather and the food is running out so the bears are starting to den up already. So I saw only four on this last trip.

We were there to catch and release marten for a research project because marten are an important indicator species of the health of old growth forest. Unfortunately, on the first trip we only caught one marten while I was around. Arghh! Then I went to Anchorage for a law eforcement training and all hell broke loose while I was gone. Suddendly they were catching marten everywhere. By the time they asked me to go back and help wrap up the project they had used all the radio collars they brought with them! So I went back out to Kuiu island excited that the project was a success and my odds were much better. But then after setting up the live traps I went out and didn't catch any marten on day one. Here we go again I thought. By now I'm wondering if I have anti-marten pheremones or something. Everything changed on day 2. The very first trap I checked had movement inside. I crouched down and saw a little furry head with dark brown eyes peering out at me. Man how cute they are I thought. That is until I went to pick up the trap. Then I wondered if I had accidently captured a tazmanian devil! It began hissing at me with teeth bared snapping at me every I came within close proximity to the cage until I could lift the handle with a stick(which it also tried to bite). Then I had to bushwhack again while holding the trap with a marten bouncing around in it making my way out through the brush and devils club while trying to keep from falling or getting bitten.LOL! What fun! As you can see from the picture I successfully managed to calm her down with soothing words and gentle handling:) Yeah right! Obviously she was tranquilized. I'm happy to report I caught six martens and all were release alive and well no worse for the wear. Actually I even recaptured one the day after I release it:) I leave Monday for Zarembo Island and if we catch any marten there it will be the first proof of their existence on the Island.

I thought you might like to see one that isn't being handled. This photo was taken in January when I was at Laird Hot Springs in Canada. A must see if you're in the area. While walking down the snow covered board walk on my way for a quick dip I hear movement from the tree and saw this one climbing around on it's morning hunting trip. It was tough to take the photo since it kept moving around to the other side of the tree every time I moved. Sorry it's so far away they're excellent climbers and this one was up pretty high. They sure are amazing animals:)
You might have to click on the photo to get a good look.