Saturday, July 12, 2014

Cruising to Ketchikan, Alaska

We love Alaska and have cruised and flown there five or six times. We persuaded our daughter and son-in-law to take a family vacation cruise along with a land tour. They invited us and his parents to join them. It was not a "birding" trip, but rather a great family experience. Of course, I always have an eye out for birds wherever I might go.

On day 1 of our Alaska Cruise, we departed Vancouver, Canada and sailed into the night. This is the Vancouver skyline.

Vancouver BC waterfront 20140613

I really loved the photo opportunity presented by this lighthouse as a sailboat passed by.

Lighthouse 20140613

It inspired me to render the scene as a painting (thanks to Corel PaintShop Pro):

Lighthouse heavy paint 20140613

Here is another lighthouse similarly textured:

Lighthouse painting 20140614

Hundreds of Steller's Sea Lions crowded on these rocks just past the above lighthouse as we steamed into the open waters of the Pacific Ocean. This was taken at about 9:30 PM as the Summer Solstice approached. The sky remained deep blue all night.

Steller's Sea Lions 2-20140614

A poor shot of a Pelagic Cormorant:

Pelagic Cormorant 29140613

Rhinoceros Auklets typically fly in single file. They are stocky short-winged alcids with heavy and often light-colored bills.

Alcids unidentified 20140614

A few days later, in Seward, we would get close-up looks at them in the Alaska SeaLife Center.

Rhinoceros Auklet Sealife Ctr 20140620

Pigeon Guillemots flew away as the ship approached. From our balcony 9 stories high, we caught only passing shots.

Pigeon Guillemots 20140614

At Alaska SeaLife Center, the birds were wild caught or raised in captivity. They wandered and flew freely in a large aviary. Here is a better look at Pigeon Guillemots.

Pigeon Guillemot at Sealife Ctr 20140620

The next day we cruised the Inside Passage, which weaves its way among the islands that lie just off the Pacific coasts of British Columbia and Alaska. 

On Day #3 of our Alaskan cruise we arrived in Ketchikan early in the morning and enjoyed mostly clear skies. Our son-in-law Roly and his dad left on a deep sea fishing trip at 6:00 AM, and the rest of us boarded a coastal wildlife cruise. Unfortunately, its main targets were large furry and feathered creatures and provided only fleeting opportunities to photograph waterfowl, most of which I missed as the catamaran moved along at cruising speed. All three wildlife excursions out of our first stops should have carried a warning "We do not brake for birds!" 

Ketchikan harbor:

Arriving Ketchikan 20140615

Here are Mary Lou and I departing on the wildlife cruise, heading out with our daughter and her mother-in-law and our two granddaughters. Our ship, "The Radiance of the Seas," is in the background. 

Departing on wildlife cruise in Ketchikan 20140615

Many eagles were roosting along the shore, exploiting the numerous schools of herring. The salmon run had not yet begun. 

This sub-adult Bald Eagle retains a dark eye stripe and its tail is not completely white.. It is probably four years old.

Bald Eagle subadult 20140615

Two Adult Bald Eagles faced each other on the shore.

Bald Eagles adults 20140615

We saw many immature Bald Eagles in various plumage phases. These are probably in their third year (about two years old). Their bills are beginning to turn yellow.

Bald Eagles immature 20130615

We drew close to a group of Harbor Seals.

Harbor Seals 20140615

They eyed us warily. 

Harbor Seals 3-20140615

I got off three shots of this pair of alcids as they were disappearing in the wake of our boat. Their brown color and short bills suggested they were Marbled Murrelets, confirmed when viewed on the computer screen. 

Marbled Murrelets 20140616

Several Red-legged Kittiwakes foraged along the rocky shoreline. This was my first "lifer" of the trip.

Red-legged Kittiwakes 20140615

I was lucky to get a shot of these Surf Scoters while everyone else was looking for bears.

Surf Scoters 2-20140615

Our daughter spotted this mother Black Bear with her cub just as the captain was about to depart. To me they appeared to be just rocks until they moved. We were able to get within a few hundred yards and watched them grazing. 

Black Bears eating grass 20140615

Mother bear munching on grass.

Black Bear eating grass 20140615

We saw two Sitka Deer, a "black-tailed" species related to the Mule Deer. They had long shaggy coats and appeared to be shedding fur.

Sitka Deer 2-20140615

Departing Ketchikan. Next stop: Icy Straits and the port city of Hoonah.

Departing Ketchikan 20140615

We arrived back in Florida this afternoon and I put this post together past my normal bedtime, but my OCD would not allow me skip a weekly edition!

Visit these links to view the entire series of blogs on this Alaska trip:

Cruising to Ketchikan, Alaska

Cruising to Alaska's Icy Strait and Hoonah

Visiting Juneau and Skagway

Hubbard Glacier and Seward, Alaska

Denali National Park

Riding the rails from Denali to Anchorage


  1. my goodness! what great sightings! bear, eagles, seals, guillemots, deer... so neat!

  2. Oooh...that was fun! I feel like I've been on a field trip to Alaska! :) Loved the eagles..and their young ones.

  3. HI Kenneth What a wonderful trip and made special because your family were with you. So many birds and animals to see and photograph. Glad you got a shot of the Surf Scoters, that was good to see and the Bears looks great in the wild. I love the last shots nearly monochromatic but takes in the ship and scenery. Not sure what OCD is? Hope you are HAVING A GREAT WEEKEND.

  4. Lovely photos from your cruise.. I love the birds, bears and the pretty scenery! Great post.

  5. Wow....this is absolutely phenomenal!!!

    Thank you, for linking up this weekend. Much appreciated.

  6. What a wonderful and memorable trip! Love all the Alaskan wildlife you have presented, so beautifully photographed, here. Two shots that I really love are the Rhinoceros Auklet and the two wary seals.

  7. Just wonderful! what sightings you had! I have never seen a black-legged kittywake, never mind a red-legged variety! I recently took a short pelagic to see Atlantic Puffins. While I was happy to see the birds, I got so sick that I will probably NEVER do THAT again! Still, I would love to visit Alaska, but I will have to fly in and stay on land!

  8. All gorgeous photos, beautiful scenery and wonderful sightings of all those animals and birds. I would love to get up to Alaska one day.

  9. Beautiful place with so much of wild life around.

  10. I am so jealous that you should cruise Alaska, and not just once but several times. A great wildlife experience as portrayed in your photos Ken, with species of both birds and animals that can mostly be seen only a trip so far north. 24 hours of birding sounds OK.

  11. My gosh I would have been on overload seeing all this wildlife in person! Marvelous shots!!! One of these days I've got to get to Alaska. Thank you for sharing a photographer/wildlife lover's paradise.

  12. Hi there Ken. We've been in Alaska since early June. Took the Alaska State Ferry from Bellingham and since it docked in Whittier (Anchorage) we've been touring the State in our camper van. Have seen some of what you show (the Sea Life Center, Seward)... loved Homer on the end of the Peninsula. Loved everything really. Heading toward Denali now. Excited

  13. @Margaret-- Well, maybe I don't have full-blown OC Disorder, but I am Obsessive about deadlines and Compulsive about sticking with a job until it is finished!

  14. @Kathie-- These Alaska wildlife cruises were all on sheltered inland waters and there was smooth sailing. I took a pelagic cruise just once out of Monterey Bay, and the seas were quite rough. Though I did not get seasick I don't think I want to try that again.

  15. @Sallie- We camped on Homer Spit when we took an RV trip there two years ago. It was a wonderful experience. There is so much to see and we covered Denali and the Kenai Peninsula in 10 days. Wish we had more time there, as our stops were only 1 to 2 nights each.

  16. great series of shots...I LOVE the one with the 2 seals looking towards the did you get down at their eye level????

  17. Oh, you are so lucky, a trip full of wildlife, precious photos.

  18. Wow, a trip of a lifetime! Fabulous scenery. An Alaskan cruise is on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing Ken!

  19. @marshaleith-- I took these photos from about 50 yards offshore, standing on the lower deck of the boat. Since I used a telescopic lens (420 mm) this provided a very low angle of attack, so it does look as if I am almost at water level. BTW, their eyes remind me of those of a dog, in this case one that knows something is wrong (and is either fearful or guilty!).

  20. Great photos of a very special trip. For a "non-birding" holiday you still managed to see and photograph a good number of birds! I especially liked the close photo of the Auklet.

  21. Looks like a very fascinating area, great photos.

  22. What a trip!!! I had a laugh at the bears vs. scoter searches. That's my family as well. They want to see the bear while I'm looking for a bird:) I love your shot of the Rhino Auklet. I saw my first one this year in California and fell in love. Congrats on the lifer and thanks for sharing your Alaska adventure. One of these days I'll get up there:)

  23. what an awesome adventure! I'm jealous! love the shots of the harbor seals!

  24. What an amazing trip! Wonderful photos of all the critters.

  25. how nice! Beautiful nature and wildlife and family. Can´t be better. Loved the image of the Rhinoceros Auklets, never seen any before.


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