Whether sifting through sand, or scrambling over a rocky shore, it's about finding treasures in every day. 

The Difference Between Robins and Seagulls

It’s winter, so I’m sorting through photos more than taking them. While doing that I noticed two photos that illustrate a behavior comparison of two bird species for me.

Robins and seagulls normally wouldn’t even be put in the same sentence. They enjoy different habitats. They don’t look anything alike or eat the same stuff. Both robins and seagulls fly, but that’s about it.

Robins are fun to have around. They are harbingers of spring, and seem to flit about cheerfully. Sometimes they even make a nest where we can see the babies get started.

Robin eggs in a nest

A-a-aw, so sweet.

Graceful seagull soaring

Seagulls can be enjoyable to watch. They’re graceful and pretty in the air.

But seagulls don’t have a great reputation.

There must be some more nice things that I can say about seagulls.




Well, they had prominent roles in the movie “Finding Nemo”. They said, “Mine! Mine! Mine!” a lot.

So this is what I think kind of sums up the difference between the two birds:

‘nuff said,

Alaska Beachcomber

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Smurf Cod!

We went out for a nice day in the runabout last summer. It was one of those misty, occasional rain showers, Southeast Alaska days, and the fishing was unusually slow. Slo-ow. Which gave us time to look around at the mellow day.

We were glad to see that the eagle was on station to watch over things.

A humpback whale worked the edge of a kelp bed, but didn’t seem to put much heart into the activity.  The cormorants just hung out on a kelpy rock.

A pod of killer whales cruised over to check things out, but they kept on going. That’s a good sign that there just isn’t much going on.

They did stop out at the edge of the kelp patch and toss around some ideas about where to go next.

It was a kelpy kind of day.

Suddenly my fishing pole dipped hard and I thought that I had caught bottom (again). Then it reeled hard and I thought that I had caught kelp. It finally bounced and I had a fish on! We brought in a lingcod, which is delightful because they are yummy. I stunned it, cut it’s gills, and then started to put it onto a stringer to let it bleed out. The blue-green mouth caught my attention.

 Hmm, interesting. Pretty…but weird.

Nice teeth, huh? Very effective, too. Lingcod also have very sharp gill rakers, so mind your fingers if you pick one up by the gills.

When I cleaned the fish its cavity also had that strange color. I started thinking about, well, you know, Martians and all. Now stop laughing at me! Nobody knows for sure that Martians have to show up as little green men. After all there’s all that talk about Mars having water way back when. If I was a smart fish and my planet was drying up then I would surely put intensive effort into the space program.

Back on shore (here on Earth) that evening I set a cutting board on some rocks and filleted the lingcod. I started to actually get a little bit concerned. Blue-green flesh? Ling cod meat is usually white.

A trip to the internet eased my mind and slowed my imagination. Lingcod meat can be white, green, blue-green, and even turquoise blue! The blue ones are lovingly called Smurf cod. The reason for this remarkable color is not entirely clear, but it has to do with a bile pigment called biliverdin being responsible for turning the blood serum such a lovely color. Beyond that there appears to be a lot of speculation about diet and habitat. The good news is that Smurf cod are delicious and healthy to eat, just like the standard white-fleshed lingcod.

Another name for Smurf cod around here is 'green ling' (pronounced with a pause between the two words), which is interesting because lingcod are not actually a cod. They are in the greenling family. Greenlings, such as the kelp greenling and rock greenling, are also known to occasionally have blue-green meat. 

Ling cod is one of those fish that you can cook a hundred different ways and all of them are delicious. Here’s some more good news: the green goes away when the meat is cooked. On the plate Smurf cod is tender, bright white, and scrumptious. Maybe it is even tastier than regular lingcod - just because it is special.

Wishing you interesting colors in your day,

Alaska Beachcomber

Cute Chicks

At first all that I saw was this...

This spruce grouse hen could blend in with the moss pretty well if she wanted to, but she stuck her head up. She could have taken off at that point - flying or running, but she chose to sit tight.

I figured that it must be nap time for the kids and she was up for a little socializing, so I sat down to have a visit. She was happy about the great crop of bugs that were feasting on me, and she said that those bugs are healthy snacks for her kids. She told me that the tips on the blueberry bushes were starting to get too chewy, but the bunchberry blossoms are at a particularly tasty stage. All of this talk about food made me think of a delicious dinner with grouse and red huckleberry sauce, so I tried to steer the conversation to good looking guys. She told me all about one handsome bachelor in the neighborhood.

And she smiled at the thought. It's all in the eyes, see, because it's tough to smile with a beak.

We were about to get into some good girl-talk when one of the kids popped it's head up.

Then the other four woke up. They fluffed their feathers...

...and strutted their stuff...

Cute spruce grouse chick in Southeast Alaska

...and then turned into a whirlwind of activity.

Grouse chick in Southeast Alaska

Five Cute Chicks!

Grouse chicks on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska

Wait...that's barely four of them. Hey, you try to get grouse siblings together for a family portrait!

Here's the other one.

Grouse chick in Southeast Alaska

This one needed a little more of a nap. There's always one like that.

Then Mom Grouse said that it was time to go. I thanked her for the nice visit, and she looked a little wistful. Maybe someday we'll get a chance to talk again.

Wishing you a day of happy encounters,

Alaska Beachcomber

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