Saturday, July 7, 2012

Alaska: Homer, Kachemak Bay, Gull Island, and Seldovia, June 23, 2012


We arrived in Homer and were welcomed by thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of nesting Black-legged Kittiwakes. Their nests were everywhere, including the main pier. We had wonderful looks at their faces, bonding rituals, and parents sitting on the nests. Upon our return to the ship, we even had an opportunity to see several eggs in the nests.



We boarded the Discovery, our excursion boat for the day, and headed out into Kachemak Bay and to Gull Island, to be followed by two hours in the small town of Seldovia.

Gull Island was much closer to Homer than I had anticipated and it did not disappoint. The rock faces were covered with nesting Kittiwakes.


The water was covered with thousands upon thousands of Common Murres in huge rafts, all sitting tightly together and facing the same direction.

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On a nearby rock, we saw several Cormorants. At first we only saw Pelagics. Then Avie spotted one which was a bit larger and had a much fancier “do”. We put the scope on it and it was a coveted Red-faced Cormorant. The red wasn’t as apparent as I thought it would be. It was actually the breeding feathers which made them more distinctive.

We turned our attention to the Puffins. The vast majority of them were Tufted Puffins. We had been seeing them consistently from the ship; but it was nice to get some closer looks at them.

Then our captain spotted a few Horned Puffins, another one of our trip’s target birds. They didn’t bolt as we passed and we were even able to get a few photographs of these pretty little birds.


Avie was also able to get a photo of a Black Oystercatcher, on a nearby beach.



In addition to the numerous birds, we also enjoyed seeing the Sea Otters, many with young on their chests. This particular photo shows one of the pups off in the water with its mother nearby.


We arrived at Seldovia and walked over to Seldovia Slough.

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We didn’t have much time in town, so we didn’t get very far up the slough. But we saw a few birds new to the trip, including a Steller’s Jay, Violet-green Swallow, and Rough-winged Swallow. Our life bird in Seldovia was a very cooperative Pine Grosbeak singing at the tip of a conifer branch just above our heads.

The ride back to Homer, and our ship, was a more direct route through the Bay, so we didn’t see too many birds on the way back.

We kept an eye on our latitude and longitude so we could go up on deck when we passed the Barren Islands, a major breeding spot for Alcids and Seabirds. However, we found ourselves passing the Islands after dinner (around 10 p.m.).

We went out and saw many birds around the ship. But we were too tired to stay out and watch them all.

Being in Alaska around Summer Solstice gives you extremely long days. The birding is there, but the mind and the body eventually give out, so we decided to go to our cabin and begin anew the next day.

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The list:

Pelagic Cormorant
Re-faced Cormorant
Harlequin Duck
Bald Eagle
Black Oystercatcher
Glaucous-winged Gull
Black-legged Kittiwake
Common Murre
Pigeon Guillemot
Tufted Puffin
Horned Puffin
Rock Pigeon
Violet-green Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Steller’s Jay
Black-billed Magpie
Fox Sparrow (Sooty)
Pine Grosbeak


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