The Super Flower Blood Moon was visible form the balcony of my room in Homer, AK last week. I watched it appear from behind the snowcapped mountains about 11 PM, reflecting onto Kachemak Bay. I knew the full lunar eclipse was imminent but couldn’t manage to stay up to photograph it. What I saw was beautiful enough.
This is the first Kodiak Brown Bear I laid eyes on just after we arrived at Rohrer Bear Camp on Kodiak Island Monday before last. The sun was behind it so it is back lit and in shadow but after seeing this bear’s face, I knew I was going to love this adventure. We flew from Kodiak in a de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver late Monday morning, landed in the water and taxied to the beach. We stepped off the pontoons into the water so I was very glad they suggested we wear our hip boots on the plane. Shortly after we arrived, Sam, our host at the camp, arranged for Aaron and Chris, our guides for the week, to take us up the Uganik river in flat bottom boats. We motor boated through the shallow waterways admiring the pristine landscape surrounding us. As we rounded a bend in the river, we spotted this bear on the opposite shore, grazing on the nutritious, high protein polar grass native to the area. We disembarked, took out our cameras. and started shooting. What an unforgettable week from the first moments to the last. I realized after spending hours observing these bears each day that if you act appropriately, don’t take the bears for granted, appreciate their capabilities, and keep you eye on them at all times, they should not be feared. The bears we photographed seemed to have distinct personalities and were a joy to watch. I can’t wait to return to this unique and wonderful place.
The endless rows of simple granite headstones at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego spill down almost to the Pacific Ocean’s edge. In a photograph I took two years ago, the setting sun silhouettes the white headstones creating a stark reminder of the ultimate sacrifice the servicemen and women, who are interred there, made serving our country.
One of the things I love about traveling around the country (and sometimes the world) to photograph birds is that I get to appreciate and admire the many species I don’t have the opportunity to see in Northern California. The Black-crested Titmouse is an example of that. This bird lives in Texas year round and no where else in the United States. Although I’ve been to South Texas in past years and have even seen this bird, I have not photographed it so it was a real treat that I had a three chances one morning to photograph it on our third day there.
The intense red of a Male Northern Cardinals is gorgeous. This male was drinking from a pond in South Texas near the Rio Grande a few weeks ago. He was so close to us that I had trouble keeping all of his tail in the viewfinder. There is a bubble of water in his beak. I never tire of seeing these beauties. We don’t have Northern Cardinals on the West Coast.
When I was growing up, my oldest brother, Artie, had a Steiff Mohair Teddy Bear that he probably got as an infant in 1941. It was pretty ratty and moth eaten when I discovered it sometime in the 1950’s. I quickly learned that it apparently had some value to my Mom (probably sentimental then but they now sell for hundreds of dollars) because I got into trouble for using the bear instead of a ball to play catch with my next door neighbor. My mother stashed the bear away then and although it did reappear from time to time, I don’t know whatever happened to it in later years. Looking at the Kodiak Brown Bears I was reminded of that Teddy Bear and think that the Kodiak Brown Bear must have been used as its model. Of course, the real thing is Steiff on steroids!
It’s probably a good idea to leave these sleeping “dogs” lie. The Kodiak Brown Bears we photographed last week look cuddly and reminded me of big dogs when they lay down to sleep. The bears were comfortable with our presence, so much so that they often slept in plain view of us and our cameras. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to disturb them. The claws on her front paws are warning enough to leave her alone.
Not only do the Kodiak Brown Bears I once considered ferocious act like cuddly Teddy Bears, grazing cattle, or lazy dogs, they seemed to enjoy just relaxing by the edge of the river with not a care in the world. A fallen tree branch served as a convenient way for this sow to reach that unreachable place on the back of her neck to scratch that itch! Ahhhhhhhhh!
The land surrounding the Uganik River on Kodiak Island in Alaska was criss-crossed by shallow streams created in part by snow run off that divided the island and gave the Kodiak Brown Bears places to drink and bathe. We watched one bear walk into the shallow water, flip onto her back, feet in the air, as she soaked and floated in the water. The bear in this photograph took a moment to drink then continued across the stream to feast on the grasses on the other side.
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Kodiak brown bears are the largest bears in the world next to Polar Bears. They are a unique subspecies of the brown bear and they live exclusively on the islands in the Kodiak Archipelago, having been isolated from other bears for about 12,000 years. Despite their large stature, these huge bears can seem to disappear in an instant and keeping an eye on them was a continual challenge. Our expert guides were constantly watching in a 360° circle to make sure they knew the whereabouts of any bears near us. When we changed location, we kept our eyes on the bears as we slowly moved toward them or past them. The terrain near the river’s edge was covered with deep grasses that the bears loved to eat. They would sometimes lay down to munch on the grass. When they did, they’d all but disappear. If there was a knoll or depression these half ton plus animals could completely disappear from sight. The bear in this photograph is laying down in the deep grass. She was watching us but sometimes she would lay her head on her paws and only a sliver of her back showed. Because of her color and the color of some of the surrounding vegetation, she blended in well with her surroundings.