Alaska Day 9 – Brown Bears and More Brown Bears

On today’s bear viewing trips, we saw up to 24 Brown Bears at one time.  They were either eating sedges or digging for clams.  We saw a sow with two young cubs (the same ones we saw yesterday) and a sow with three young cubs.  One little cub imitated mom and attempted to dig for clams. I couldn’t tell whether the cub was successful or just practicing. There were a few sows that had an older cub or two.

The first year of a bear’s life is the toughest to survive.  Boars (male bears) will sometimes kill the cubs in order to mate with the female.  The females were very wary and quick to remove themselves if a boar was on the prowl. 

After another hearty dinner, we drove on the beach in the other direction.  We had seen so many bears demonstrating a variety of behaviors, we were interested in seeking other wildlife.  I expressed the desire to see a wolf.  I didn’t expect to see one, but they are in the area.  Our guide located a set of wolf tracks on the beach.  It was thrilling to see them and the evidence that wolves were nearby.   

I got this evening panorama of Chinitna Bay.

A dog named Benson lives at Bear Mountain Lodge. His job is to keep the bears away from the lodge. He has taken on the additional duty of greeting all the bush planes when they arrive. When he hears the plane, he heads to the beach to greet the new arrivals. Here he is enjoying a little sun.

Alaska Day 8 – Across Cook Inlet

View from our Bush plane as we flew to Chinitna Bay from the Kenai Peninsula.

We took off on bush plans to Chinitna Bay.  This is probably the most remote place I have been.  You can only get there by boat or plane.  We stayed at the Bear Mountain Lodge and visited Lake Clark National Park. 

The flight over allowed for viewing the spectacular Alaskan scenery.  You can’t get tired of looking at this.  

Mt. Redoubt is an active stratovolcano. It appears to be venting a little steam.

After landing on the beach in the plane, we dropped off our stuff at the lodge and headed down the beach in buses that were converted to handle driving on the sand.  Our guide instructed us to always stay together in a group for our safety around the bears. 

The marsh and beach where we had most of our bear sightings. The planes land along the beach outside the bottom of the picture.

It didn’t take long to spot our first bear,  a sow with two adorable cubs.  The cubs were likely around 4 months old.  They couldn’t possibly be cuter.  After viewing many more bears, we returned to the lodge for a hearty meal and went back out for more bear viewing. 

Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) running across a stream.

We had the delightful opportunity to view a bear washing himself in a stream.  I did not realize that bears did such a good job of rubbing themselves down – belly, under arms, behind the ears.   

Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) bathing.

We met the resident park ranger.  She’s a young lady who spends the season out here by herself and sleeps in a cabin with fencing to keep out the bears.  On this particular day she was accompanied by a biologist who was conducting research. I haven’t been collecting stamps from the National Parks, but I started with this park.  Christina was insistent that I take advantage of getting the stamp and it seemed like a good idea to me!

Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)

I have a lot of video of the bears and will put together the best clips and place in a future blog post.

Alaska Day 7 – Rest

Day 7 of this trip, some participants left for the airport. Others stayed behind to embark on the 3 day bear trip that starts tomorrow. I’m going on the bear trip, so I hung around the lodge today and did laundry.

My disk that holds all my pictures broke today. Who knows why? I had to purchase another drive. I have most of my pictures on my laptop as a second backup, but it filled up the other day. I don’t have my pictures from yesterday anymore. I’m sad, but I’m putting what I have on my new drive and will adjust accordingly for the rest of the trip.

Our tour guide, Lisa Langell, loaned me a Canon 5D Mark IV to take some pictures today. I’m amazed at the difference in quality between that camera and my Canon 80D. The pictures posted here are from the Canon 5D Mark IV. Some of these photos are cropped significantly but still look good and sharp.

Stellar’s Jay

Alaska Day 6 – Kenai River

Two Mallard females having a dispute on the Kenai River in Alaska.

We road up and down the Kenai River and embarked from our lodge. We saw Mergansers, ducklings, gulls, Trumpeter Swans, a loon and more. It’s beautiful here!!

Two female Mallards.
Female Mallard and her chicks.
Our boat going up the Kenai River.
Red-necked Grebe.
Red-necked Grebe
Bonaparte’s Gull
Common Merganser and her chicks.
Marlow’s Lodge on the Kenai. Our home for this trip. Beautiful!
Vegetation along the Kenai River.
Merganser that has a broken top bill.
Common Loon
Common Loon

Alaska Day 5 – Bears

Cockkpit of the De Havilland airplane that took us to a lake to watch the bears.

We flew out in float planes to a lake across the Cook Inlet where we got off the plane and got onto a boat. From the boat, we went to a small falls where the salmon must traverse to spawn. The bears, eagles, and gulls hang around the falls in attempt to get a salmon.

Our group flew in two separate planes. The other half of our group is in this plane.
View from the lake.
Our first bear was this little one.
Our second bear hung around for awhile and ate as much as he could.

The flight out gave us an opportunity to see the beautiful Alaskan landscape. When we arrived, we went to the falls and saw a young bear immediately. After the young bear left, we saw another bear. We watched it for awhile. After it left, our guide threw out his line and caught a Sockeye Salmon and prepared it for lunch. How can I eat salmon again outside Alaska? The guide prepared the salmon with lemon, spices, and onions. Yum!!

This gull is poking its bill through the gill of the fish to get something to eat. The gull got the eyes first.
This gull got a Stickleback fish.
The bear sometimes stuck its head in the water.
The gull photo bombed this picture.
The bear coming out of the water looking for another fish.
The Brown Bear swimming in the water.
A Brown Bear with a piece of salmon.
A sockeye salmon we had for lunch. This is the before picture.
A Sockeye Salmon after picture.

On the way back we flew over a glacier.

We flew over this glacier.

Alaska Day 4 – Whales

Orca (Orcinus orca)

We drove to Seward and went out on a boat that held 20+ people and there were 8 of us plus the captain and first mate. We went from Seward to the Chiswell Islands in Kenai Fjords National Park. It was about 32.5 miles one way. We spent 8-9 hours on the boat.

Glacier

The weather was beautiful. The seas were calm. The scenery was spectacular and the wildlife was amazing. We saw lots of Orcas and a couple Humpback Whales. There were sea otters and sea lions and a variety of birds.

Orca

The captain and first mate were women which I thought was very cool. They did a great job finding the wildlife for us. (Alaskan Sea Adventures)

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) Tail.

We stopped on the way back to do some bird watching and watch salmon jump some falls.

The view from the back of the boat.
A wounded Stellar Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus). This guy was wounded a year ago and is thriving in spite of his wound.
Stellar Sea Lions.
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) feeding young.

Alaska Day 3 Afternoon – Moose and Eagles

Bald Eagle landing.

We drove about an hour from the lodge to a beach where Bald Eagles congregate. On the way, we saw a moose in a lake. Pretty cool!

Moose in a lake munching on vegetation.

It was a nice experience to see many Bald Eagles in one place. The local commercial fishermen deposit their fish scraps on the shore and the eagles and gulls take advantage of it. We saw about 5 Bald Eagles we thought were sick. A local guide told us that someone from Alaska Fish and Game told him the eagles can eat too much and they basically can’t move. Our tour guide was told the same thing from another source. I guess it’s like some Americans after Thanksgiving dinner that lay on the couch and digest until they have the energy to move on. It was scary to see but nice to know that all should be well.

Goofiest looking Bald Eagle I have seen along with some gulls.
Bald Eagle with fish scrap.
Juvenile Bald Eagle grabbing a piece of fish scrap from a mature Bald Eagle.
Immature Bald Eagle after having successfully grabbed a fish scrap from a mature Bald Eagle.

We saw more moose on the return to the lodge. It was late in the evening and they were out and about. We were fortunate to see several calves. My goodness, baby moose are cute!!

Moose mother and her calf.
Male moose.