Much of the magnificence of Alaska is its abundant wildlife; from flittering dragonflies to lumbering bears. I love mother nature’s bounty. I spend way too many hours spying on squirrels scurrying to collect their winter caches of Sitka spruce cones. I constantly scan the upper reaches of cottonwood trees for bears and porcupines nibbling on spring buds and young leaves. I never tire of the 4-ton majesty of breaching humpback whales or the stealthy behavior of killer whales (orcas). I feel fortunate when wildlife revels itself to me, even when I don’t capture the moment with my camera. Naturalists and guides are not highly paid, therefore I smirk when I hear it said that naturalists are “paid in moments.” That said, there are many times I have to agree.
Enjoy this sampling of wildlife I captured on camera the last two weeks. Some of these photos were taken on excursions with my Gastineau Guiding guests, others during my own ramblings through the spectacular Tongass National Forest.
Red Squirrels are small, but they are big on entertaining my hiking guests. This little fur ball is a show off. We often see him sitting on this boulder nibbling on a green pine spruce cone on the East Glacier Trail Hike through the Tongass National Forest. If we approach its medden (cache of cones) slowly and quietly, it will continue munching away on a cone. Sometimes he is not happy that we disturb him and will skip around in the branches above us while chattering angrily and loudly. I have heard tell that red squirrels cache, or stash, 10,000 cones a summer. Yeah, like someone followed around a squirrel and counted. Probably extrapolated the figure using some sort of formula. Alaska Fish and Game’s red squirrel profile page states: “There may be several bushels of cones stored in a cache.” One squirrel may have several caches.
I came across this black bear cub, his mom and two siblings grazing in the meadow at Steep Creek in the Mendenhall Recreation Area in Juneau. When he saw me on the bear viewing platform, he scurried up this black cottonwood tree. When his Mom and siblings continued grazing, he must have thought I was harmless and he climbed back down and continued to graze. I actually had a “Beary Scary” adventure with this bear family earlier in the day. Check out my hair-raising bear encounter from an earlier post.
Someone asked me recently if I was considering retiring. Why would I? With days like this on the water whale watching, I feel like I am on vacation. This is a Gastineau Guiding boat, custom made for whale watching.
Indeed, sometimes a waterfall. Certainly this spring. Southeast Alaska, most of Alaska for that matter, set a new record for the driest and hottest May in history. This quaint birdhouse and its flock of swallows are located on the grounds of the remote, rustic and historic Taku Lodge which offers a Feast & 5-Glacier Seaplane Discovery Tour for Juneau visitors. I have done this 3-hour tour and highly recommend it to my guests. The flight to the lodge is spectacular and the salmon feast savory.
Text & Photos by Aleta Walther © 2015
Naturalist, Outdoor Excursion Guide, CIG, CTA, ATG