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posted by [personal profile] alexfandra at 06:58am on 25/06/2009 under
I suppose no trip northward would be complete without a totem pole or two.

These were both in Prince Rupert, BC:

Nor would a vacation be complete without at least one local sign that amused the tourist:

I'll be wrapping all of this up very soon!
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posted by [personal profile] alexfandra at 07:12am on 24/06/2009 under ,
We do see Harlequin Ducks in Washington State on the coasts and in Puget Sound, usually during Winter, but I've never managed to see one here. So it was a thrill to find several of them hanging out in Skagway.

I spotted this pair while crossing the pedestrian bridge to Yakutanina Point Trail:

The female caught a fish and went on land to consume it:

While she ate, the male swam back and forth nearby in a protective manner:

Later, along the trail, I came upon half a dozen more Harlequins hanging out on the shoreline. A very fine morning indeed.
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posted by [personal profile] alexfandra at 07:14am on 23/06/2009 under
This is called Yakutania Point, and there is a footbridge over a river leading to Yakutania Point Trail.

A very pleasant walk early in the morning, on which I met absolutely no one until heading back to town.

The trail ends at a boulder-strewn "beach" with gorgeous views.

On the way, I came across some Harlequin Ducks. Photos of those tomorrow!
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posted by [personal profile] alexfandra at 10:04am on 22/06/2009 under
I'm not 100% sure this was taken at Skagway, but what the hey, it's me! by the big boat!

And here's [personal profile] movies_michelle on her way into town:

One of the many intriguing building fronts...that's all driftwood:

Overall, I did not care much for Skagway; the residential areas were much poorer-looking than Juneau or Ketchikan and other than the one road of shopping, there wasn't much to it except the famed White Pass Railway trip, which we avoided. Good thing, too, as the wind kicked up something fierce that day and one of the trains was an hour late getting back because of it -- I don't like sharp drop-offs to begin with, and that route is full of them, and I can imagine how scary it would be with buffeting winds.

There was one nice trail out to a viewpoint which I enjoyed very much -- photos of that tomorrow!
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posted by [personal profile] alexfandra at 08:59am on 18/06/2009 under
We sailed through Tracy Arm and on to Sawyer Glacier:

Here's a close-up:

There were lots of seals on the flat ice, plus a few just hanging out on random bits of ice as we sailed along:

Lots of gulls and terns out and about as well. Captain Lars got the ship as close as he could without ramming any ice, and then let us have a good long look at the glacier. It was a fine sight, though I think I spent more time looking at seals and birds than at rocks and ice.

Finest kind.
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posted by [personal profile] alexfandra at 07:24am on 17/06/2009 under
You get to see a lot of this scenery on the Alaskan Inside Passage cruises:

These were on the way to Tracy Arm/Sawyer Glacier. There were times when I'd be viewing snow-capped peaks from the upper-deck Jacuzzi hot tub. I found that to be a swell thing indeed.
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posted by [personal profile] alexfandra at 07:11am on 16/06/2009 under
On the way to Juneau:

No, I didn't find a clever way to take a photo of our own ship...we kept seeing Holland America, Princess, and Royal Caribbean ships all along the way.

Downtown Juneau where the tourists go to shop.

A Pigeon Guillemot in the harbor.

I liked Juneau overall, especially all the older, nicely kept-up houses on the hills above downtown, and a lovely riverside trail through some woods which was nice and quiet and untrammeled by any tourists. I didn't care for the modern government buildings. The Governor was not about -- a reporter I met on the aforementioned trail told me she rarely came there, and that she wanted to move the capital north, since the SE portion of the state wasn't "the real Alaska". He said most folks there couldn't stand her, thus explaining the many Obama signs I'd seen on people's lawns.

Slowly but surely I'm working my way through the up: more picturesque mountains, and maybe by Thursday I'll get to the glaciers!
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posted by [personal profile] alexfandra at 09:25am on 15/06/2009 under
...but for today, I have zoo pictures!

[personal profile] movies_michelle and I hit the Woodland Park Zoo on Saturday morning, a lovely day, surprisingly not too crowded. We checked out the new penguin exhibit, where they have more room and can be viewed underwater. The birds like to swim right up against the plexiglass, making for very close views. The kids there loved it, especially when they weren't watching closely and a penguin would zip up right in front of them, startling them into happy shrieks.

We also had fun in the rainforest house, where this very nifty snake lived:

And this toucan:

Plus the usual lions and tigers and bears, though we pooped out after two hours and never did make it to the grizzlies, which is fine, as I'd visited them earlier in the week.

A lovely outing all round.
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posted by [personal profile] alexfandra at 09:13am on 11/06/2009 under
Sometimes the Birding Gods smile upon the beginning birder. I was visiting relatives on the other side of the state, where I've only birded once before. I decided to check out a few spots on the Great Washington State Birding Trail map for the area, and drove some 20 miles one fine morning at 6:00am to a park near Wallula.

I thought, "What birds might I see here that aren't in Seattle?" Well, the map had a couple dozen birds depicted on it, including a prominent Bullock's Oriole. Supposedly they can be found in the Puget Sound region, but I've never seen one. "It would be nice to see one of those," I said to myself, since no one else was there. So I looked it up in my field guide and familiarized myself with its markings.

And then I got out of the car, walked about 20 feet, and saw a flash of orange fly into a copse. When I clapped my bins on it, lo and behold, I was looking at a Bullock's Oriole. Finest kind.

A bit later I drove to the McNary National Wildlife Refuge, an excellent place, and I thought, "I wonder if they have Yellow-headed Blackbirds here." Presumably they turn up from time to time in the Seattle area, but again, I'd not seen one. I got out of the car, walked about 100 feet this time, and a bird flew up to perch on a fence. It looked like this:

I decided it was most likely the bird in question.

And I also decided I'd pushed my beginning birder's luck enough, and should probably not ask for a White-faced Ibis, though you never know. Perhaps I should have.

The only other birds I really wanted to see were the pelicans, and they turned up everywhere I went, in droves.

Maybe next time I'm over there, I'll ask for an avocet or two.
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posted by [personal profile] alexfandra at 09:36am on 10/06/2009 under ,
I've returned from a brief sojourn to the other side of the state to see the relatives. While there, I got another five birds for the Life List: Black-necked Stilt, Bullock's Oriole, Forster's Tern, Gray Catbird, and the aptly named Yellow-headed Blackbird. Also got to see lots more of my favorite eastern Washington bird, the white pelican:

Other than that, it was hot (90) but bearable. My sister cooked dinner for us one night and I survived (chicken and dumplings). For various reasons, I wound up taking one of my hounds (Bodie), and he was an excellent travel companion. (Georgie is fine, but recovering from yet another back pain problem.) I, too, am recovering from back pain, having ironically damaged my lower back a week ago Saturday while trying to hoist Georgie up the back stairs because of *his* bad back. Honestly.

I hope to put up a lovely photo of the blackbird tomorrow, and then return to the neverending Alaska photos.


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