A Special Memory in Denali

For some reason, we generally save Denali NP for the end of our trip.  Perhaps it’s to let the crowds thin out a bit, or maybe allow more time for the big bulls to arrive for the moose rut, or we like to end on a high – a definitive one pleasing for both wildlife and landscapes.  As soon as we arrived and saw the snow on the landscape and the trees, we knew that it was going to be a special week of Denali.DSC_0889As we made our first pass on the 15-mile public road within the park, while looking for moose, we spotted a bear … actually 3 bears walking the gravel bed of the braided Savage River.  What a great omen.DSC_0952We did find the moose as well … always fascinating to find them drinking near the kettle ponds._DSC6511_DSC6556Our arrival into the Denali NP was timed perfectly … for on August 31st, the Park Service officially gave back the name of Denali to the nations tallest peak – standing a proud 20,322′ tall – out for all to witness in all of its glory.  Not a cloud in sight … amazing!  Well once again we were inducted into the 30% club (seeing the mountain at all) and even the 10% club (seeing the mountain unobstructed).  Yes, we were blessed and quite proud to witness this historic moment of pride to the native Americans, Alaskans, and others who never understood why it was known as Mt. McKinley for so long._DSC3553If you look closely, you’ll see us at the summit of denali waving … LOL.IMG_1058Sometimes you just never know what you’re going to get when you venture into Denali’s interior.  For some strange reason, the sightings on this particular morning were few and far between, so when we arrived at the Eielson Visitor Center, the arctic ground squirrels running around in the deep fresh snow, got lots of unusual lens time._DSC3579_DSC3582_DSC3578Cute little guys too.  It reminded me that it’s not just bears, moose, wolves, caribou, and dall sheep – aka The Big 5 – that call Denali NP home.DSC_1286-2Of course though, I was there for bears, especially in the snowy landscape, so I was quite excited when this one came along, though I pretty much had too much lens.  For those of you who might wonder … we’re in the safety of the shuttle bus and this wasn’t cropped!DSC_1356An unusual sighting were these dall sheep ewes and their young traveling on the river bed.  In our 8 previous trips, I had never seen them that low.  DSC_1416Now when you arrive into Denali in early Spetember, you’re really there for two things … the fall colors and the moose rut.  Sometimes, you get both.  🙂DSC_1562DSC_1679These guys were out in full force for the rut and congregating together, sizing each other up I would imagine, and following the estrous cows in the area.  All of their antlers were clean, already shed velvet for the most part.  If you’ve only seen moose in the lower 48, you really need to see them in Alaska to appreciate their size.  It’s not just those giant vegetables that grow bigger in Alaska.  LOLDSC_1701DSC_1876A favorite of mine are the ptarmigan, especially this time of year when they’re transitioning from their usual rust color to white to aid in their camouflage from predators in the winters snowy landscape.  Quite unusual to find it perched in a tree … such beautiful birds.DSC_2052More landscape images of Denali looming in the distance, still roughly 33 miles away (as the crow flies).  There’s no denying the grandeur of Denali.DSC_7132Grizzly bears were out and about during the week – solo adults, as well as sows with cubs, and sub-adults too.  These bears can get quite big, but remain smaller than the coastal brown bears that feed on salmon.DSC_2351Caribou posing in the fall colored landscape is always a sight that takes your breath away.  Also primarily free from their velvet cover on their antlers, they are quite striking when their head is lifted and those antlers stand out proudly.DSC_2482Of course, just because their velvet-free doesn’t mean that they don’t itch, as you can see this one thrashing its antlers violently in the brush.DSC_2432One evening, while out looking for bears, we watched this bull caribou take off at full throttle over the braided river landscape and up the Savage River.  Not sure if something was after it or it simply got spooked, but it was amazing to see the territory that they could cover in pursuit.  Poor guy was exhausted and took a bit of a breather as he simply pranced about.DSC_2589Before long, off he excellerated again up towards the road and over the hill.  DSC_2593Yes, Denali is impressive … both the mountain and the national park.DSC_7144Next Up:  More from Denali

© 2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Advertisements

Did You Think I Was Done With The Bears?

As I finish up on the bears of Katmai NP & Preserve, we have more images from our initial set of spring cubs and their mom.  We seemed to see these guys just about everywhere that we went….. not that I’m at all complaining … to the contrary, I was elated.DSC_8219 As they would move along the edge of the river, mom would pay close attention to the boars in the area … for though this is not breeding season, sometimes boars and young cubs don’t mix well.DSC_8292 When she saw something that she didn’t like, she would head up on the ridge line for better options.DSC_8296 Eventually, when the threat was gone, she would then return her and the cubs to the rivers edge for some more fishing.  This sow was not the best fish catcher out there … she should take some time to watch Flapjack … the most skilled by far!DSC_8319 When the cubs weren’t in hot pursuit of following mom, they would periodically use that time to get some playing in … way too cute!DSC_8345 One this particular day, we opted to carry only one tripod, so Tom would occasionally improvise while I was using it.  Quite resourceful, I say, using that big backpack as a backrest on the rocky shore.IMG_2927 Glad he did too, so he could get low profile images like this one!DSC_8371 Of course, sometimes he improvised in other ways … like using my head for his tripod!  Thanks Dave for capturing this very special moment.  To be honest, I couldn’t have cared less.  Nothing can distract me from photographing the bears…. just figured that I would deal with him later.  😉IMG_0984This little one is obviously an over-achiever in the making.
DSC_8614 OK, who can guess who the cub in the back is?  Of course, it’s the same cub who we often found standing up.  LOL.  When they stand, to me, they seem to take on behaviors like our own children.  Wouldn’t you agree?DSC_8392 Now for the 3rd set of spring cubs from this years trip … meet Ying & Yang.  I had seen them from the floatplane as we were beginning to land, but they were off running, the opposite direction, on the vast landscape, so I was thinking that we weren’t going to meet this sought after trio.  Luckily, we did.  Aptly named due to drastic difference in coloration.  What’s really cool about this is that I’ve never seen such a light colored cub!  It’s not blonde … almost a grey silver color!  Really, really unique! In 9 years of photographing bears, I’ve never seen anything like it.  Not only its extremely light color, but its fur was like a fluff ball.DSC_8888I was, as everyone else was, amazed and became entranced with their differences.  DSC_6577 Towards the end of the day, this mom led her cubs up on the hillside and searched for somewhere to lay down to nurse them, but the cubs had other ideas and we never got to see it before we had to leave.DSC_8507 DSC_8524 So all in all, 2015 was an amazing trip to Katmai NP & Preserve for us.  We had such varying photo ops …. whether it be simply solo bears chasing and catching salmon ….DSC_9120 … to not one, or two, or three, but 4 sows, each with 2 spring cubs (though only able to photograph 3 of them) …DSC_9207 … to photographing spring cubs playing together while mom was fishing …DSC_8958  … to being able to capture tender bonding moments such as this moment between sow and one of her cubs, it was amazing.  Unbelieveable how each trip is so different from the last.  For those that don’t understand why we keep going back … there’s your answer.DSC_8985 Back at the floatplane, just prior to boarding, we paused to get a shot of Tom & I, with Dave (www.goseebears.com) and Wes (www.belugaair.com), our friends.  We highly recommend the services of both of them.  🙂IMG_2982 Yes, we’re now back to returning past Homer Spit, and heading towards Beluga Lake, with nothing but a HUGE SMILE across my face … some things, never changed._DSC3084 The same goes true for a celebratory dinner at Fat Olives in town.  Yum yum!IMG_2956Next up:  2015 – Photographic Year In Review

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Cute Things Come In Small Packages

Continuing on with the splendor of Katmai NP & Preserve …..

Usually when we visit in late August, we get lots of males or single females without cubs.  When we see  sows with cubs, they’re usually yearlings (cubs just over 1.5 years old).  So you can imagine my excitement when out of the bushes emerged this gorgeous blonde sow and her two spring cubs.  These cubs are about 8 months old and just the cutest things ever!
DSC_7596 I mean … how CUTE are these two adorable sibling cubs?  Sporting those natal collars and inquisitive expressions … all the while keeping their eye on their mom, but also watching us, full of wonder.DSC_7645 They are so curious about everything that they encounter … fish, rocks, branches … doesn’t matter.  Usually they tend to stick close together when moms not right next to them.DSC_7639 They’re pretty obedient too.  When you watch the command that these sows have over her cubs, it makes you wonder where many humans went wrong with their own young.  Sure these cubs test the limit every now and then, but they are quickly reprimanded and they learn quickly where the line is drawn.DSC_7647 DSC_7642In case you’re wondering why these two cubs look so different, it’s because they probably had two different fathers.  See, these sows are quite promiscuous and mate with different boars during the season.  So it’s not at all unusual to have cubs that don’t resemble one another, color-wise.
DSC_7677Mom keeps them quite close, catching salmon for them to feed upon and modeling the skills needed for survival.  While they stay quite attentive to her, passing distractions, like this bird, sometimes win over the attention of the young curious cubs.  LOL
DSC_7764 Sibling cubs can also have quite different personalities too.  This one cub in the back was always the more cautious one between these two and often we found him standing up to investigate the situations better.DSC_7942 However, both interact together and though they might bicker about who’s fish it is, for example, often they share … or take turns.DSC_8051 As with most young animals, they can be quite animated and silly.  This little one had just fallen over and was trying to right itself … quite the rolly polly … you can’t help but be entertained watching them.DSC_9243 Sometimes, in their anxiousness to be more grown up, they tend to bite off more than they can handle.  Case in point, this little springer picks up this huge salmon … already dead … and tries to drag it around and impress the others.  LOLDSC_9096 These two sibling cubs, another set, had the best time ever playing in the creeks waters, as mom chased down salmon nearby.  DSC_8965 DSC_8958 So curious they were … climbing, chewing, shaking, and pouncing on the nearby shrubs in the creek.DSC_8954 Now back to the original two siblings, they found their own trees to play with on the banks.  Of course, their mom stayed nearby as well.DSC_6668 DSC_6758 Again, there are more images to share, including another most interesting set of cubs.  Yes, we had a great time out there and the weather, though more threatening on this day, was still not bad.  Life is good.  🙂IMG_2980Up Next:  Polar opposites … no, not polar bears (that will come later).

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

In Search of Bears

OK, so on our way to Homer, Alaska, we ALWAYS have to stop off at the Russian River Campground for a few nights and as usual, we hope to find some brown bears fishing for salmon on the river, amongst the fishermen.

Used to be that the bears were plentiful … but we’ve noticed that their numbers seem to be dropping off on recent years.  For the last 2 years and this year as well, we were told that the bear sightings had been very limited.  Last few years, we were lucky though and bears showed up – last year on my birthday!  Would our luck continue?  When we arrived to the boardwalk along the river and worked our way down the first stairs that accessed the river, we didn’t see any bears, just the gleaming of the suns rays through the trees.

IMG_2889 First thing … the salmon were running … that’s a good sign.IMG_2896

The 2nd set of stairs leading to the river someone asked us if we wanted to find bears.  Of course!  He said that there were 2 bears playing in the water.  Off I went in a hurry, fighting off the urge to run, then wondering if the guy was simply laughing at us scurrying after them.  I hoped that wasn’t the case.

Then I spotted them … 2 sub-adult brown bears … playing in the river water like two sibling brothers in the tub!  LOL

DSC_5795

Yep, we hit it again!  I couldn’t believe our luck right about this point!  They began playing and “fighting”, to the thrill of myself and all of the other onlookers.

DSC_5785 DSC_5787 DSC_5827

I couldn’t help but wonder if these weren’t the same two who were here last year with their momma, but now they were perhaps big enough to be kicked out and therefore hanging together for companionship and safety.  They sure seemed to have a level of comfort with each other and the fighting was more like fun than anything else more serious. DSC_5905-2

They each began walking over in our direction …

DSC_5897 DSC_5936 DSC_5938 DSC_5941

It was such a thrill to photograph them as they were coming closer.  Understand that we’re on a boardwalk with a rocky shoreline, thick shrubs, plastic netting, and trees between us and the bears.  They’re also very habituated towards people, so I really didn’t think anything of it.

DSC_5810

All of a sudden, the larger of the two grabs one of the tree branches and lifts itself over the netting barrier and begins to climb … the tree!

_DSC2903

Now, I’ve seen black bears climbing trees regularly, and even brown bear cubs climbing, but these guys were sub-adults and quite big to be climbing the trees!

_DSC2902 _DSC2907

It was having the best time jumping around in the tree and began to shimmy its way back down the tree.  I was shocked, fascinated, and thrilled to watch it all unfolding before me.  Finally, it turned to us and gave us this priceless glance …. How could anyone NOT LOVE that face?!DSC_5919-2 Once back on the ground, which was right next to the boardwalk, we saw it feasting its eyes on approaching the walk, so we retreated.  Sure enough, when it had plenty of distance between any of the onlookers, it did in fact take the boardwalk for a bit.DSC_5951

Eventually, it dipped into the thick brush and wilderness and we never saw it … or its buddy, who we had lost contact with when the larger was on the boardwalk … again.  We were there several more days, but never saw it again … or any signs of its presence.  Wished we would have, but we were quite thrilled to have shared that limited time together.  I do worry about those, and other bears in the area.  Though photographers love to see them active and mingling around, not everyone shares that love.  Of course, humans have, and will always unfortunately, do stupid things in their presence, thus perhaps teaching them bad habits.  I would just love to share their home in the wild, in a respectful way, and continue to observe their awesomeness.  🙂_DSC2915Next up:  Finally reaching our destination of Homer.

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Katmai … Here We Come!

Rain, rain, rain … combined with fog, wind, and completely overcast skies.  That’s how it was the night before we were to fly over to Katmai NP.  When we woke up, it wasn’t raining, but the fog, wind, and heavy skies were still ominously present.  I told Tom that I wasn’t in a panic as I packed my gear, fluids, and nutrition … I was pretty sure that we weren’t flying out.  Thank goodness I was proved wrong!  Somehow, the fog on the lake lifted just enough and the trip was given a green light.

With us this year, we had the pleasure of spending a few days in Katmai with Tom Blandford, a friend of mine whom I met through the world of photography.  In addition, we had 2 lovely ladies who had been shut out by bad weather for several days already.  As the plane lifted off from the surface of Beluga Lake, I began the anticipation of what was to come… like a child the night before Christmas.  🙂

Because the weather had been very rainy, the rivers were a bit more swollen than usual, so we landed at “Just Enough” lake … that is, just enough room to land and take off safely.  LOL.  We unloaded and began our trek through the wilderness of Katmai NP & Preserve in search of coastal brown bears and lots of salmon.  See, they go hand in hand.

While we got to peek at a few bears from a distance, it wasn’t until we came across one not too far off that we began to get anxious with our gear.  Anticipating a bear’s next move is always challenging, but we seemed to get it right and before long we were greeted by a fabulous specimen coming around a corner, catching us a bit by surprise.

_DSC2472

Or guide, Dave, made sure that we were respectful to the bears personal space.  Our goal is also always to observe the bears in their natural behavior, rather than having them adjust to our presence, we would adjust to theirs.

_DSC2442

That plan always works perfectly … this bear accepted us being there without any reservations and before long, began chasing salmon swimming in the creek.

_DSC2481

We remained patiently observing this bear and let it pass us by.  It’s always quite the thrill for me when our eyes meet for the first time … OK, actually every time … to me, it’s the validation that we’re connected at that moment … in each other’s world, if you will.  Always amazing as well how they pass us so peacefully, not like how many would be led to believe.  For bears are actually very peaceful and predictable … honestly!

_DSC2501

Often people want to know how close we get to these magnificent creatures.  My answer varies with each situation, location, bear, etc … but you can see in this image that it’s not very far away at all.

Thanks to Dave of Go See Bears for capturing this image!

Thanks to Dave of Go See Bears for capturing this image!

Generally, the bears pass by and get on with their day at hand which mostly revolves around chasing down and eating salmon.  They are quite skilled at it too!

_DSC0759

Sometimes lens choice is an issue and your full image view becomes simply a head shot due to their proximity to us.  It’s a GOOD problem.

_DSC2562

Not all of the bears are chasing salmon, some are simply catching a siesta in the wilderness landscape.

_DSC2683

Of course, before long, they’re up and repeating the cycle … find salmon … chase salmon … catch salmon… eat salmon… and so their day goes on.

_DSC2779

Somebody looks as though they got caught raiding the cookie jar … or should I say the salmon pool.  LOL

_DSC2710

One of my favorite sightings of the day came with a sow and her young cub, probably a yearling.  We watched them as they made their way down the creek towards us.  The sow was a beauty too … a real blondie!

_DSC2745

Her cub followed her dutifully, not too far behind, and it was already checking things out for themselves along the way.

_DSC2818

As mom went on the hunt for salmon ….

_DSC2793

… her cub did the same.  It was amazing to me to see how it already had quite big paws and claws!

_DSC2769_DSC2799_DSC2907

When the young one would get a fish from mom, it would climb up on the shore to consume it, as mom continued to fish.

_DSC2994

Now on this trip, it wasn’t only bears of course.  There were a few birds … yellowlegs, juvenile harlequin ducks, ptarmigan, and of course, gulls.  The ptarmigan were so much fun to watch as they congregated in a group of perhaps a dozen and all took flight, with their beautiful markings showing the signs of the upcoming seasonal changes.

_DSC2958

Yes, it was a fun filled day so far and I for one, didn’t want it to end.  Looks like my new little friend didn’t want us to leave either!  LOL

_DSC2860

We pulled up our waders and made our way across the treacherous creek.  OK, maybe treacherous is a bit of an exaggeration, but the current was moving quite quickly and the water level was a bit higher than our boots!  The river rocks were also quite slippery and the water quite cold.  As I made it mostly across the creek safely, I quietly thanked goodness that Tom (aka my sherpa) had my gear safe and sound, and most importantly, dry.  What would I do without him?  I did however have a hole in my waders so I drained them out on the other side… woo hoo, it was quite refreshing!

DSC_8305-2

Heading back to the plane is always the worse part of the day, but we still had more time to spend in Katmai, so it was a bit easier to swallow.  Here’s a shot of Tom B. (aka not my sherpa Tom) and our pilot Wes of Beluga Air.

DSC_8307-2

That’s all for now, but stay tuned for more adventures from Katmai NP and my beloved coastal brown bears!

Thanks to Dave @ Go See Bears for capturing this image!

Thanks to Dave @ Go See Bears for capturing this image!

 

My Birthday Present :-)

Continuing on with images from our 4-day stay on the Russian River, our 2nd day (which was perfectly timed for my birthday) was filled with lots of brown bear activity as well.  This time we saw a total of 6 different brown bears and I really couldn’t believe that we had been so lucky.

Almost immediately when we got down to the river we were greeted by the 2 cubs from yesterday.  They were already out fishing in the river and succeeding in making the fishermen scatter…. and the wildlife watchers spring into action.  Early in the morning, most days it’s usually just the “hard core” photographers who are on the river banks, since the mornings are cold, damp, foggy, and strangely, a bit eerie and isolated.DSC_1404

When waiting for the bears, it’s weird because sometimes you have no idea where they might be coming from.  I remember one year a black bear was eating a salmon under an elevated section of the boardwalk as people walked by looking for them.  Of course, to keep the hysteria limited, we pretended to not know where it was either.  LOL.

As the bears entered the river from the opposite river bank, we set up for a day full of activity.  Of course, they didn’t disappoint us.

DSC_1436

Before long they were chasing down the salmon and thrashing them about, ultimately leaving the river for the nearby bank and off into the wilderness, while they ate their prized catch.

DSC_8012

DSC_8017 This day, even mama bear came down to visit us … I think she was telling me “Happy Birthday”… LOL.  She was a big sow too and a bit grumpy at times.  No one on the river wanted to mess with her that’s for sure.

DSC_1554

She joined 2 of her cubs on the river for some fishing.  Eventually her 3rd cub came down to join the party, but didn’t stay very long.  As they made their way down the river, we scurried along as well.  For as much as I utilize the services of “my sherpa” Tom, when the bears are on the move…. I can manage by myself just fine.  🙂

DSC_1569

Both cubs began to fish out of the same hole and I sensed that something was about to happen.  Look at how cute this cub is as it glanced over to see its sibling with a nice salmon.

DSC_7950

Up onto its hind legs it went, as it struggled with that poor salmon.  I was so excited as it stood there, giving some different takes on their day of fun.

DSC_2065

I kept observing them and noticed that they approached each other again near that fishing hole.  I said to everyone in my immediate vicinity … they’re going to play fight … and sure enough they did!

DSC_7960

They were exchanging punches to the head, shoulders, and face … with the mouths open and growling.  I was so excited, I was hardly able to continue shooting.  You know, you get to that point when you question – should I shoot or should I simply watch.  Of course, my shutter finger won out, as it usually does.  LOL

DSC_7962 DSC_7963

After 2-3 minutes of playing, they quickly gave themselves a time out.  Funny, it was pretty unanimous too.  Like boxers retreating to their corners, the action stopped and I feared that it was over.

DSC_7965

Then the bell rang again for Round 2!

DSC_7975

Eventually they tired of all of that playing around and they went on to fishing in the river.  Play time though is essential to their learning process and survival later in life.  Bears live in a dominance and hierarchy-based structure and even at this young age, you can tell who is already the dominant bear.

DSC_7990

Another sow and her solo cub were in the area and the cub came down to greet us also.

DSC_8032

It wanted so badly to enter and fish in the river, but mom was having nothing to do with allowing that!  So it sat down right in front of us …

DSC_8042

… and began to scratch itself and seemingly have a chat with us.  🙂  OK, I know that I’ve used a bit of imagination there, but it was quite the thrill for me and I believe that my heart melted with our encounter.

DSC_8092

Then the “Party Police”, aka the 1st mama bear, showed up on the scene again and I think she had lost sight of her 2 renegade cubs.  She was clearly upset and began huffing, stamping, and slobbering with a frothy saliva.  She eventually realized that they had gone quite a bit down the river, as young cubs love to test their boundaries.  Funny, how parents and their young, whether human or any wildlife, tend to be the same in that respect.

DSC_1888

I think that this guy, when he was spotted by the sow, knew it was it trouble.  LOL

DSC_1171

Of course, the more dominant cub hid behind a boulder in the river.  Not really, but it did seem to be engaging in a peek-a-boo behavior, doesn’t it?

DSC_1281

Eventually they returned to the area where they originally accessed the river earlier.

DSC_1427

Now that other sow, with the solo cub, came down to the river and though it wouldn’t let the cub, it didn’t hesitate to do a quick “dine & dash”.

DSC_1366 DSC_1385 DSC_1421

Though we saw the bears again very briefly the next morning, their appearances were limited and usually in the darker hours.  As sad as I was to depart the Russian River without a formal good-bye, I was so thankful of the present they shared with me … especially on my birthday.  I will always remember that joy I experienced that day.

Stay tuned for more bears … Katmai NP!

© 2014  TNWA Photography

8’s a Charm!

Yes, 8’s a charm … our 8th trip to Alaska for our photographic journey into the wilderness and all of the fabulous wildlife, landscapes, and adventures that it holds.  Each year, we try something different … perhaps a new geography, a new drive, a new activity … whatever it may be.  Almost immediately we realized that we left our camera-carrying backpack at home, so first of all, there was a trip to Stewart’s in Anchorage to remedy that.  On our way back to the RV, I spotted a totem pole, which sported 3 definite sightings that were high on my wildlife list … a good omen, I reasoned.

IMG_1818

After getting some necessities at the local Fred-Meyer, off we started on our journey, headed to the Russian River on the Kenai Peninsula for 4 days of bears, we hoped.  As we checked in at the campground, the attendant told me that for the first time in seemingly weeks, there were bears sighted on the river that morning.  EXCITED didn’t even begin to summarize how I felt.  In less than 30 minutes, we were on the boardwalk in search of bears.

IMG_1821

Before long we encountered fishermen telling us the whereabouts of the bears … a sow and her three 2nd year cubs.  The anticipation was mounting.  Once we reached the gravel bar area, we caught our first glimpse of one of the cubs.

DSC_7297

The action on the river was varied … whether they were simply traveling along the gravel bar checking out their surroundings …

DSC_7185

… or they were emerging from the hillside and entering the river …

DSC_7494-2

… or chasing down salmon …

DSC_7498-2

… and leaping into the air and pouncing onto the schools of salmon, as they were swimming upstream for the spawning, many of which had already reached that red & green, spawned out salmon look.

DSC_7573

Though spawned out salmon are beautiful to look at, being all colorful and impressive looking, they are not fit for human consumption.  The bears, however, seem not to mind.  Once they grab the salmon they then prepare to consume it, or in some occasions, simply seem to “play” with it, seemingly tormenting the poor thing.

DSC_7416 DSC_7358 DSC_7353

Of course, it’s also fun to see them moving about the shoreline and across the fallen logs that they encounter along the way.  I’m always impressed with the way that they can maneuver the landscape so gracefully.  This is the bigger of the three young ones … quite big in my book!

DSC_7455

DSC_7658

The 3rd and larger cub tended to stay more with its mama.  The other two cubs tended to hang out together quite a bit, fishing together along the banks of the shore, reaching into the fishing holes and under the ledge shelves of the banks.

DSC_7341-2

Sometimes they would play for fun along the way.

DSC_7344-2

Sometimes it was more personal and the encounter would be a bit more testy, if you will.  See, the smaller cub was the better fisherman as far as I could tell, or at least the most determined to go out and catch the salmon.  Problem was that the other cub would know when it caught one and would venture on over and assert it’s dominance over the other one and ultimately would end up with its salmon.  You can see it doing so in the next image.

DSC_7611-2

To me, there’s something about a bear’s eyes.  When you’re able to see them and capture the catchlight in their eyes, it’s an amazing moment.  You feel “connected”, or at least, we do.

DSC_7206

Funny thing about the river, bears, and salmon … there are always gulls around ready to pick up the scraps left behind.  Most times they loiter in the background, though sometimes, they get in the way, especially for the photographer.  So many times, I found that my images captured were photo-bombed by the gulls.  Even the bear seems to agree.  LOL

DSC_7131

It really gets exciting though when you’re sitting on the bottom of the river access stairs, photographing the bears, and one turns and heads directly at you.  Now some might be a bit nervous about that, but by now we know and are pretty confident that the bears aren’t interested in us with so many salmon around…. but it still makes your adrenaline peak and your heart race, as well as the endorphins release secondary to the joy of sharing this adventure with the bears.

DSC_7226

We absolutely love “visiting” with them, in their natural environment, as they go about their day.  Most visitors to the river feel the same, whether there for photography or fishing, though once in awhile you get that person who doesn’t feel the same.  I’d like to think that they would feel differently if they saw bears the way that we do.  It’s all about being educated about their behaviors, reading their signs, and giving them the respect that they deserve.

DSC_7535

Until the next blog post …. this will be the end!  🙂

DSC_7256

Stay tuned to more bears on the Russian River!

© 2014  TNWA Photography

The Wildlife & Landscapes of Banff NP

Another adventure in Banff National Park started out early in the morning with a sighting of a collared grizzly bear (hence no photo taken) and her two spring cubs.  They were busy sticking close to mom while she was grazing on the grasses.

_DSC9073

Not sure if they totally understood what they were doing or why, but they were certainly giving “grass grazing” a fair shake of their own.  They were so incredibly adorable!

_DSC9089

On our adventure drive, we came across a herd of bighorn sheep ewes and several lamb as well.  One of the momma ewes stopped and gave me a discerning glance, as if to determine if I was friend or foe.  The others went about their activities, but she remained perfectly still and steadfast in her heavy stare.

_DSC9107

I hadn’t noticed but she had a lamb right beside her laying down in the grasses.  All of a sudden, it stood up.

_DSC9233

Then they began to run and I thought to myself … what did I do to frighten them?  But I knew it was sudden and purposeful … and they were running towards me for most of the run, then continued on past me.

_DSC9277

It simply warmed my heart to see this little one prancing right along side of its mama.  Love how it would get airborne with all 4 feet off the ground at once.  🙂

_DSC9280

As I was trying to figure it all out, I turned around and this is what I saw ….

_DSC9460

So, they weren’t running from me, but from this beautiful red fox off in the distance nestled in the woods.  That was incredible to me that they knew it was there.  I hadn’t heard it or seen it, but somehow they knew.  That’s one good mama!

We left the area when they ran, but then returned about 30 minutes later and tried to find them again.  Sure enough, we did.  But this time they were down the embankment a bit and on a cliff edge, so I didn’t pursue them any further.  Mama checked us out, then the lamb peeked its head up.  My heart melted  <3.

_DSC9485

I knew that the lighting was very harsh from this angle, but it didn’t matter to me.  I mean, how cute is this little lamb?  In a weird way, I could sense that they were comfortable with us being there.  In the wild, sometimes animals with young ones feel comfortable enough with “proven humans” that they feel more protected in their presence.  I had a feeling that it might be the case right now.

_DSC9541

Not too much further we found this ram laying down somewhat near the edge of the road.  It seemed to tolerate us quite well too, as I hung outside my window snapping images of him and his amazing curl.

_DSC0223

After some time, it got quite interested in us and approached us – slowly, but surely.  Before long, a few other cars saw it, stopped and pursued it, and I had to bite my tongue to not say anything.  Though the one guy who was out of his car and remained there as it approached him probably needed a change of his drawers when the ram brushed up against him, as he pinned against his car.  I believe I heard him mumble “don’t gore me” at that precise moment.  LOL.  I couldn’t help but think that he at least learned his lesson, as the ram passed him safely.

_DSC9922

We arrived at Two Jack picnic area much later than we anticipated due to the wildlife sightings, but that was well worth it.  Luckily, the wind was still at a standstill and I was so impressed by the view!

DSC_6621

I couldn’t decide if I liked the first one better (closer up) or the second one (further away) with that amazing reflection as well, but with the added clarity of the rocks through the clear water.  I think probably the second … how about you?

DSC_6640

The wildflowers everywhere were an added bonus of delight and beauty.

DSC_6654

We then ventured into the town of Banff and as we did, for some strange reason, I thought I saw a moose!  I jumped out and totally abandoned Tom in the traffic.  LOL.  Of course, it wasn’t a moose, but a really nice looking bull elk … nice rack, eh?  This is the view of him as these two hikers turned a corner without seeing him and were probably 4-5 feet from him.  They were quite pleased that I warned them and may have needed a “fresh pair” as well when they saw what was directly behind them.  LOL

_DSC9967

Any wildlife photographer knows all too well my next statement … you never have the right lens with you when you need it … yes, I was trying to shoot this bull elk, from close range, with my 300mm prime lens.  So, I quickly had to change my plans and shoot its antlers only.

_DSC9999

Banff, the day after Canada Day, was quite crowded, so we didn’t stay long.  Just wanted to capture this shot of Bow River.

DSC_6663

The Vermilion Lakes Drive had been closed due to aggressive bears in the area, but had just re-opened on this day.  It’s always a special spot to spend some time.  There were numerous kayakers out that day and I remember telling Tom that we had to bring ours next time.

DSC_6690

Mount Rundle looming in the background, with the complimentary wispy clouds … so beautiful!

DSC_6693

It was quite a warm afternoon that day, so we took off our hiking shoes and dipped out feet and legs into the cool water of the lake.  We laid down on the dock for a bit, soaking up the sunshine, the sights and sounds of the area, and the fresh air.  Yes, this is the life and I could easily get used to it.  🙂

DSC_6691

Who wants to venture off now to Waterton Lakes National Park???  I do, I did, and so will you on the next blog post!  Stay tuned ….

DSC_6644

© 2014 Debbie Tubridy / http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

A Magical Place … Lake Clark NP

Every time we venture over to Alaska, we always try to do something different (sea kayaking, paragliding, whitewater rafting) or go somewhere different … and this year was not an exception.  OK, so it’s no surprise that we LOVE the brown bears.  We always fly over to Katmai or visit the Russian River to spend time with them, but we had never gone to the other area national parks, which are also renowned for their bears.  So, off we went to Lake Clark National Park for a new adventure.

_DSC5406

It was a short flight from Soldotna to Lake Clark and it was also an outstanding one – once we got off the ground.  The views were incredible!  That being said, for a few hours, I thought for sure that we would not be going, as the fog layer was quite thick in Soldotna.  That’s pretty much a way of life in Alaska … flight delays  😦  … and to make it worse, the weather was reportedly beautiful on the other side of the inlet.

_DSC5413

But we finally made it there.  We usually fly over in a floatplane to Katmai, so it was quite a treat to experience a beach landing!  Pretty nice arrival, I must say.

_DSC5420

We had plans to stay at the Alaska Homestead Lodge, hosted by James & Shelia Isaak, on the shores of the Cook Inlet, with Mt. Iliamna looming in the backdrop.  What a fabulous place with great views, great food, great lodging, great guests and great “neighbors”.

The first “neighbor” to greet us was a brown bear nicknamed “Trouble”.  How excited I was as I rushed to grab my gear to document the welcoming party.  It came strolling down the “road” … I say “road” because the dirt road in front of the property was also the “runway” for James’ personal airplanes.

_DSC5468

Trouble didn’t get that nickname for nothing, as he immediately found the barrel out in the garden and began to try to roll it around and mess it up.  To us, it was fun to watch though and quite comical.

What an innocent looking young bear!   ... Not!

What an innocent looking young bear! … Not!

Meet Trouble ... doing what he did best  :-)

Meet Trouble … doing what he did best 🙂

Eventually, with a bear just being a bear, it found the cover to the septic tank and began to gnaw on it.  Well, that didn’t sit well with the owners and he got yelled at and as it ran off, it tried to take the cover with him!  LOL

_DSC5616

After a quick orientation to the property, we were off to find the bears.  There were signs of them along the way, as we ventured out to the shores of the inlet.

Now that's a big one!

Now that’s a big one!

Before long, we came across our first brown bear … coming in from the water it was coming right towards us … and continued past us.  Trouble was also present and we thought that we might have an interaction between the two, but Trouble was quite the submissive one around other bears.

_DSC5687

_DSC5704

Most of the time, we found this bear doing one of two things ….  sitting and looking around

_DSC5797

…. or resting on a pile of warm sand, probably with its fresh catch buried under the mound.

_DSC5785

But you couldn’t beat the view!

_DSC1097

The bears weren’t the only ones fishing off the coast, as one morning we were treated to a bald eagle flying in, hitting the waters surface, grabbing a fish, and flying off with the prize.

_DSC5887

_DSC5888

_DSC5889

Again, the bears wouldn’t be outdone by the eagles, so they would catch their own, carry it off, bury it, and of course, take a nap!

_DSC6009

_DSC5909

During our stay, the bears were less plentiful than even just a few days ahead, but none of that mattered to us.  We were just so happy that we could spend our wedding anniversary in the most magnificent place around.  Our “30th” … maybe, but probably more like our 5th.  See, our hosts had a 30th celebration for us, which made us laugh, but we took that as a good omen to come.  Thanks to all at the Homestead that helped to make it special for us.  🙂

IMG_0449

Until next time …. we leave you with the serenity of Lake Clark NP

_DSC6144

Next up for the Blog …. All aboard in Talkeetna!!

Special Moments on the Russian River

Have you ever awaken in the morning and got that feeling that the day was going to be a special one?  Well, for me, it was just that kind of day.  By 6:00 am, we were off to the Russian River boardwalk to begin our “bear stroll”.  We walked to the confluence, where the Russian & Kenai rivers merge, and we were treated to early morning heavy fog and mist, with the early morning light beginning to emerge.

_DSC7362

We sat down to enjoy the view and wait for the sun to rise – or at least the bears to emerge.  There was an wonderful sense of tranquility on the river, so quiet, nothing but the sound of the gulls and eagles calling out in the distance.  Each year on the river, we meet great people, some from the far stretches of the world, some local.  All have their reasons for being there – wildlife, fishing, adventure, seeking peace and enjoyment of the wilderness of Alaska.

The seagulls were the only ones around

The seagulls were the only ones around

This year, we met some new friends from Anchorage – Renee and Alton – and we were there for the same reasons, which included photographing the bears.  We walked along the path alongside the river, but the bears were in hiding.  After some time, we felt that they were going to be no-shows.  We turned around and this is what we saw …

It was truly a magical moment!

It was truly a magical moment!

See, I always say that things happen for a reason … and if you’re open to it, you’ll be treated to something even more special.  It was such an amazing moment and our equipment was changed out accordingly to be able to capture it.  The sunlight rays were simply beaming through the trees and the misty atmosphere simply added to the view.

Sunbeams and rays - doesn't get any better than this

Sunbeams and rays – doesn’t get any better than this

Before long – all lost in the magical moment – we hear Tom interrupting with … “we have bears!”.  What????  I have to laugh at how quickly our reflective moment turned into pursuit.

Backlit bear crosses the river not far from us

Backlit bear crosses the river not far from us

What a encounter we were treated to that morning!  The air was cooler that morning and I remember that the boardwalk was actually covered with a thin layer of ice in spots.  I think that the bears really enjoyed the colder weather, especially with the sunlight out.

Lots of action on the river

Lots of action on the river

Catching, then ultimately eating, the salmon was the favorite activity of these amazing bears.

Those poor salmon never stood a chance!

Those poor salmon never stood a chance!

Yum, Yum, Yum ... a bear's sushi bar!

Yum, Yum, Yum … a bear’s sushi bar!

During their break from fishing, they would interact with each other through sniffing, soft pawing, and gentle biting.  Nothing like watching sub-adult bears – not quite adult behavior and still open to playful encounters.

Gentle encounter between young sub-adult bears

Gentle encounter between young sub-adult bears

To get the best angles on these bears, one must get low to be on their level.  The position of the sunlight is also a consideration.

Sometimes the bears just seem to know, and go, right where you want them

Sometimes the bears just seem to know, and go, right where you want them

Of course, the bears dictate where you can be and if the bear wants to be where you are, you gently relinquish your spot to them.

Bear approaches the stairs where we were sitting

Bear approaches the stairs where we were sitting

Funny how bears will sheepishly walk towards you to get a better look - or sniff.

Funny how bears will sheepishly walk towards you to get a better look – or sniff.

Probably one of my favorite actions exhibited by the bears is what I call “the shake”.

I always wonder what makes them think that they can shed that excess water off of them while they're in the water!  LOL

I always wonder what makes them think that they can shed that excess water off of them while they’re in the water! LOL

This one particular bear was having a ball in the water.  It would find the hole where the salmon were congregating and catch one …

Such skillful fishermen the bears are

Such skillful fishermen the bears are

… then get on its back and begin to devour it, as the river current floated the bear down the river, all feet in the air, grasping its prize …

Lazy day bear

Lazy day bear

… then it would do it all again!  Got to love it!  🙂

What fun these bears have ... just another day in the life of a bear!

What fun these bears have … just another day in the life of a bear!

So we had a great start to our Alaskan adventure during those 3 days spent on the Russian River.  Met some awesome new friends, enjoyed their company, had lots of funny moments, and of course, got to spend some incredible time with the bears.  🙂

Yes, they sure do have the life!  Then again, so does Tom!

By mid-day, Tom takes a well needed rest on the Russian River banks

By mid-day, Tom takes a well needed rest on the Russian River banks

Today is a special day as well … it’s my sherpa’s birthday!  Today’s post is dedicated to my husband and best friend – Tom.  Happy Birthday baby!  Love you!  xoxoxo

Next will be our visit to Katmai National Park & Preserve for more coastal brown bears!