It was our last day in Alaska. The rain, which had spit at us a little each day, arrived in a steady sprinkling. In the hope of finding Moose to photograph, we visited Russian Jack Springs Park in the middle of Anchorage. Our visits to Chugach State Park the previous three days in search of Moose to photograph were not as productive as we had hoped. We saw Moose each day but never got glass on them. On our third day we even set out before sunrise in the dark hoping to arrive at German Bridge early enough to find the few Moose that had been reported to be there at that time. But, hikers ahead of us had dispersed them and they had disappeared into the hemlocks by the time we arrived. We did have a close encounter with a cow, a calf, and a bull on the road to German Bridge but it was still too dark to photograph them and they, too, quickly disappeared up the mountainside. Our walk through Russian Jack Springs Park also produced no Moose, at least none of the four-legged variety. However, some bright red berries with raindrops caught our attention. As fate would have it, the berries are known as Moosewood Viburnum berries (also known as highbush cranberry). So, we still photographed moose in a way, although flora not fauna.
The clouds behind the Chugach Mountains appear to be exploding. I believe they are Cirrus Clouds, ice crystals creating long curls or tendrils. The cloud activity was quite fascinating in Chugach State Park on a couple of days, making for stunning photography. With few Moose (Alces alces) in the valley and even fewer opportunities to photograph them, I appreciated having gorgeous cloud formations to capture my attention and imagination.
The light on the mountain face was gorgeous when we arrived on Tuesday morning at the Powerline Trail in Chugach State Park.
Our first day in Chugach State Park near Anchorage, Alaska was a promising start to the week. We entered the park via the Glen Alps Trailhead and when we reached the Power Line Road, we could see Denali, the Great One, usually shrouded in mist and mystery. Promising, indeed. We spent the next few hours waiting and watching the vast landscape for any signs of Moose (Alces Alces). Hikers and cyclers passing by kept us informed on what was ahead or behind us. There were three Black Bears, a sow and two cubs of the year, who apparently spooked a young bull moose. We spotted it in the far distance high tailing it away. We eventually spotted the Black Bears climbing the mountain at a pace that indicated they were on a mission. Near them on the mountain were three Dall Sheep, a ram, a doe, and a juvenile on the side of the valley where they are not usually spotted. The clouds started to gather midday and I took my only photographs of the day of the interesting cloud formations. Late in the afternoon we began the three mile hike back to the trailhead as raindrops began to fall. A hiker pointed out a Grizzly Bear across the valley and best of all, we spotted three bull Moose and several cows. We continued slowly up the road, keeping an eye out for more Moose in the valley. As we turned onto the trail back to the parking lot, we encountered a young bull Moose standing at the Y in the trail. He was not concerned with our presence and we got some iPhone shots of him. The day ended with a bang after a promising start.
The daily routine at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat includes an early morning bird walk into Lamington National Park after the docents get the birds’ attention with feeding outside of the park. The birds, including King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas as well as both the Regent and Satin Bowerbirds, begin to gather in the area in anticipation of the morning event. This adult male Satin Bowerbird waits patiently, watching for an opportunity to grab a quick bite.
This young male Superb Fairy-wren is just starting to get some color on his head. Eventually, his feathers will be vivid blue and stark black, but he is just starting to mature. Taken at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in Lamington National Park in Australia.
The Superb Fairy Wren is a small, colorful bird that is common and familiar across south-eastern Australia. One afternoon we visited one of the large back lawns at O’Reilly’s where a small flock of these adorable birds was flitting about. Much of the time they were running across the lawn looking for grubs to eat but this male landed on a leafy bush and called out to his companions.
Sydney’s iconic Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge are usually what identifies Sydney’s skyline. But the cityscape south of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, as viewed from Sydney’s Royal Botanical Gardens is very appealing because of the whimsical nature of the buildings. Not only do they have interesting shapes and dimensions, they are colorful as well. Their colors show up even as the sky darkened with the incoming storm.
In 1973, Queen Elizabeth II officially opened what was to become Sydney’s iconic Opera House in Australia. It was fitting, then, that she was honored with her likeness projected onto the largest sail of the Opera House after her death on September 8. We were told that it would only be up for only a couple of days but when we arrived in Sydney on September 13 and walked by the Opera House after sunset, the tribute remained and we saw it every evening we were there. Before we went to dinner late one afternoon, we photographed the Opera House from across the channel where the ferries come and go. It was quite the challenge to photograph the iconic site without a ferry cruising by at that time of day, probably rush hour for the ferries. The mellow sun and clouds announcing a pending storm made the Opera House glow.
When a bird preens the feathers of another bird, or when two birds preen each other, as is very common in parrots, it is called allopreening. This behavior tends to strengthen the bond between mated pairs but allopreening occurs between unmated birds and even between birds and humans. These two Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, allopreening in Sydney’s Royal Botanical Gardens a few days ago spent quite a long time preening each other’s feathers. I have some experience with allopreening between a bird and a human. My Red-lored Amazon, Bobo, puts her head on my lap so I can preen her head feathers. She turns her head to let me know where she wants to be preened. I do NOT ask her to return the favor!
The Rainbow Lorikeet is one of the most colorful parrots, maybe one of the most colorful of all birds. Its spectacular feathers include every color of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. We watched a pair of wild Rainbow Lorikeets from a few feet away as they perched in a nearby tree in The Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens. It was a special sight to see. Its mate had just flown off when I took this shot. It seems to be awaiting the mate’s return. I thought I had a colorful companion parrot, a Red-lored Amazon whose intense green and red feathers combined with yellow and blue feathers, make her my year-round Christmas ornament. But while Bobo’s colors are intense, they are drab by comparison to this gorgeous bird.
Shrike-thrush, Shrike-thrush, Shrike-thrush! Say that three times quickly! We encountered Grey Shrike-thrushes every day as we walked through the rainforest and on the grounds at O’Reilly’s in Lamington National Park. It is a common bird and lives throughout most of Australia. Every time someone pointed to it, I couldn’t say Shrike-thrush once, let along three times. I believe this is a juvenile Grey Shrike-thrush because of the rufous brow and dark streaks on its breast, information gleaned from one of the Australian bird reference e-guides I used on this trip, the Morcombe & Stewart Guide to Birds of Australia. It also seems to have that irresistibly cute baby bird look about it.
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoos in the Royal Botanical Gardens of Sydney, Australia are delightful birds that even in the wild tolerate human interaction and provide entertainment to visitors. These large white parrots seem to enjoy showing off their acrobatic prowess. This particular bird seemed intent on dangling from the metal chain that surrounded a protected area of the gardens, sometimes using a single claw or its beak or, as in this shot, three points of contact. Native to eastern Australia, it has been declared an agricultural pest in some portions of Western Australia.
It’s called a Snake Bird, and Australasian Darter, similar to the Anhinga that we see in Florida. We first spotted it from the Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens as it swam submerged in the bay, looking like a small version of the Loch Ness Monster. Just its head and long neck protruded from the water, it’s body completely under water. When it had found its fill of dinner, it hopped out of the water onto a rocky outcrop and spread its wings to dry them off so it could fly. It took quite a while, late in the afternoon and not in direct sunlight so we got quite the show. It was especially fun to watch the waves crash behind it and frame its body.
Seeing an Eastern Yellow Robin’s nest in Lamington National Park in Australia was an unexpected treat. The nests are are a basket like structure of sticks in the crotch of a tree and decorated with lichen. The male feeds the female while she sets on the nest. We could tell when the male was coming to the nest with an offering because the female would suddenly start to call out and quiver. The visit was over in a fraction of a second when the male delivered a grub or insect to the female very quickly.
We spent an afternoon on one of the large lawns of O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat watching a small flock of Superb Fairy-wrens searching for tiny insects in the grass and in the surrounding garden shrubs. The female Superb Fairy-wren does not have the distinctive blue and black feathers that adorn the male of the species. They are fairly drab by comparison except for the orange feathers surrounding the eye. I watched this female perched atop a fern frond, tugging on a clump of white fuzz of some sort and pulling off bits of it. Perhaps it was potential nesting material. The fuzz did not look like it was any kind of natural garden substance; it looked like polyester stuffing so its appearance on a fern frond was a bit puzzling.
While I was waiting my turn to photograph the Satin Bowerbird’s bower in Lamington National Park, I noticed a green and white butterfly sipping nectar from a large shrub. I had never seen a butterfly with such distinctive green coloring and I thought it might be a type of Swallowtail because of the small dark tails on the wings. Turns out it is in the Swallowtail family, a Macleay’s Swallowtail. The green appears only on the underside of its wings but from the angle I viewed it, I never saw the butterfly from the top. With its coloring it blended perfectly with the surrounding shrubs.
The second Elizabethan Era has come to an end. Australia is a Constitutional Monarchy so Elizabeth II was Queen of Australia as well as of the United Kingdom and Australians are paying tribute. We spent the afternoon walking around Sydney and visited the grounds around Government House, the official residence of the Governor of New South Wales, where thousands of bouquets and messages of condolences lined the fence surrounding the residence. The Sydney Opera House paid tribute as well. After sundown, the largest sail of the Opera House displayed a photograph of the queen that dominated the harbor.
Few bird sounds in the Australian rainforest are louder, more distinctive, and more obvious than the call of the Eastern Whipbird, pictured above. When a pair of these birds is nearby, the call, sounding more like a cracking whip than a bird song, is unmistakable. It can be deafening if the birds are nearby which they often are, foraging in the underbrush along the side of the boardwalk in Lamington National Park. The first time you. hear it, it is startling. It is a call and response form of communication that the male and female Whipbirds use. It is so distinctive and it is not easily forgotten. No matter where you might be in the rainforest, when you hear the sound of a cracking whip, you know that the Eastern Whipbird is nearby.
The Robin Red Breast we know in America is not the same robin that is found in Australia. The Eastern Yellow Robin inhabits the rain forests and eucalyptus forests of Eastern Australia. They are small, bright yellow birds that stand out in the rainforest because of their bright color so they easy to spot as they flit from branch to branch in search of food.