2016—Kicking Back, Moose Style

On Sunday, our last full day in Anchorage, we walked down to the German Bridge and crossed Campbell Creek where, as had been reported by lots of friendly Alaskan trekkers, we found at least 7 bull moose hanging around, about 150 feet or so away from our vantage point.  They mostly just grazed, and relaxed, and grazed again, and lay down and nodded off, and a few made  half-hearted gestures of jousting with another bull moose, but not seriously as these bouts lasted only a few minutes and between butts, the contenders would bend down and nibble something before the next head butt.  We watched them from about 10 AM until about 4 PM when we started the one hour trek back to the vehicle.  A fascinating day.

Apparently, it is not common in this season for two bull moose to tolerate the presence of each other, let alone join in an afternoon siesta. The second shot is fascinating to me because those huge racks of antlers span probably 50 or more inches and they must weigh a lot.  I guess it is a relief to be able to rest that weight for a time.

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2016—View from German Bridge At Campbell Creek

On Sunday, our last full day of photographing moose in Alaska, we  hiked all the way to what is called “German Bridge” over Campbell Creek, about three miles from the Glen Alps Trailhead where we started each day.  This was the furthest down we’d trekked with our gear but we were rewarded big time with at least 7 bull moose in view at one time.  Our own moose, Moose Peterson, said it was the most bull moose he’d ever seen in one place at a time in all the years he’s come to Alaska to photograph them.  What a thrill for us.  Those moose shots will appear in a later post.  Today’s post is the view from German Bridge, so called because it was donated by the German Club (about 80 members strong) of Anchorage about 8 years ago and it allows trekkers to cross Campbell Creek on their way to other destinations in the park without getting their feet wet.    I wanted to slow the water and give it a silky look so I bracketed 7 shots, some underexposed some overexposed to get a nice exposure.

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2016—Rocky and Bullwinkle

When I came to Alaska, it didn’t occur to me that I might find flesh and blood examples of both the main characters of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, an animated TV program featuring Rocket (Rocky) J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose that debuted in 1959.  The show, a cartoon that appealed to adults as well as children, was always a hot topic of discussion at school the next day.  Well, here in Alaska, I have come across 21st century versions of Bullwinkle and Rocky, just as appealing as their animated counterparts.  I’m certain that the show’s “bad guys.” Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, must be lurking around here someplace.  After all, Russia is only a short distance away from Alaska.

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2016—Moose To The Rescue

Despite practicing carrying Big Bertha and getting help from my personal trainer to do it, I still was not prepared to maneuver the taiga in Chugach State Park in Anchorage, Alaska.  Taiga is the swampy, coniferous environment where we went on our first day of tracking moose to photograph in Alaska. As it turned out, I was not up to the  challenge of carrying the 600 mm lens for several miles over uneven, hilly terrain covered with knee-deep grasses,  woody shrubs, icy paths, marshy patches, slippery mud trails, creeklets, and lumpy tundra.  We spent half the first day at one spot and about 2:30 left to meet up with some of our group who had already forged ahead to a place locals call “The Hump” where moose are commonly observed.  It was more than a mile away from our original position, itself a couple mile hike from our vehicle.  Moose, Sharon, and I were the last  to head out and, shortly after we started off,  my feet lost traction on the  slippery muddy trail, I  couldn’t regain it, and I pitched over into the tall grasses at the side of the trail.   Fortunately, it was a soft landing spot  and there were no injuries to me or my gear, just a small bruise to my ego.  But Moose realized the challenge of maneuvering this uneven and treacherous terrain was too much for me to handle while carrying the bulky lens and tripod on my shoulder.   He carried my camera and lens the rest of the day, leaving me with just the tripod to deal with.  I’m certain the burden of carrying two huge lenses and two cameras for several miles took its toll on Moose but he didn’t complain and made sure I didn’t have to struggle with my gear.  I was embarrassed by my failure but grateful that Moose came to my rescue.

Once at The Hump, we were about 50 feet away from a bull moose and a female moose.  We had to be careful to be ready to leave if they moved closer toward us but it was very exciting to be so close to these huge, magnificent animals.  I haven’t had much experience  photographing large animals.  We were so close that they more than filled the frame.   In the case of the bull moose, I could only get his enormous head in the frame and I struggled to make sure his antlers were completely in the frame.  These shots are not cropped.

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2016—Drab Bird

I noticed a lone bird perched atop a branch at Antelope Community Park the other day and took three shots.  Then I got distracted by some woodpeckers and when I looked back the bird was gone.  I hadn’t seen this bird previously.  After a search of  my Sibley Guide to Birds I think it is a female Western Bluebird.  I’ve seen Western Bluebirds around the area a few times but usually in pairs and usually the blue male makes it easy to identify.  But, the ruddy breast and the white eye ring  of this bird finally led me to the bluebirds and I discovered there are Drab Adults and Bright Adults.  This one certainly qualifies as a Drab Adult and female bluebirds generally are pretty drab compared to the males.

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2016—Flight Practice

 

After I figured out that I could tether Mady to me by hooking her leash to my fanny pack or to a belt loop on my jeans, lots of opportunities presented themselves.  Saturday morning, smug with my new “freedom,” I returned to Antelope Community Park in hopes of capturing more in flight photos of acorn woodpeckers.  I didn’t count on Mady seeing a squirrel.  She doesn’t chase squirrels—she thinks she can wait and they come down out of the tree.   She becomes riveted on where she last sighted one, she sits down, and she will not budge.  All dog commands fall on deaf ears.   She seems as if she weighs a couple  hundred pounds and tugging on the leash has no result.  So, I had, as it turned out, twenty minutes  for some flight practice.  The birds that were nearby were juvenile yellow-billed magpies.  I was glad to see quite a few in the park.  About ten years ago I participated in a UC Davis study of the effects of West Nile Virus on Yellow-billed Magpies (which live no other place in the world than California’s Central Valley) and spent an entire nesting season observing these birds in the park.  This is the best shot I got that day.

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2016—Crumpled Leaf

I saw this dried, crumpled leaf floating along Dry Creek the other day.  I took several photographs of it as it sailed in and out of interesting light patterns.  I like the shape of the leaf but I think I like the colors and patterns in the water even more.  They create an interesting abstract background that sets off the leaf.

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2016—Hoarding

Friday morning I returned to Antelope Community Park with my camera and Mady, too.  That’s usually an untenable combination but I hooked Mady to the belt of my fanny pack so she couldn’t pull on my arm. I managed without incident to traverse the lumpy, uneven terrain where they’ve plowed up the weeds and left furrows of dirt around the open spaces away from the trails.  I wanted to get closer to the oak stumps where the acorn woodpeckers are caching their winter stash of nuts but with Mady attached, I wasn’t able to get quite as close as I got the day before.  The acorn woodpeckers are fun to watch and as is visible in the third shot, they hoard a lot of nuts!

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2016—Rat-A-Tat-Tat

The other day I took Mady for an early morning walk to Antelope Community Park.  I didn’t take my camera because it’s a struggle to maintain focus and stability with Mady tugging on my arm.  It’s been a while since I’ve visited the park and I’d forgotten the abundance of birds there.  When I took Mady home I grabbed my camera and returned to the park.  By now, though, a mere 30 minutes later, the gorgeous morning glow had given way to harsh light and the flock of acorn woodpeckers, the birds I had returned to photograph, had retreated to holes in the oaks.  Eventually, one planted itself in the opening of the hole and alternately dozed and looked about, then flew to a nearby oak to drill in a few acorns.

 

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