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

Sea Otters, Seals, and...an Eagle?

I love watching wildlife. Lucky for me that I live in Alaska where there is a good variety. So how do you feel about me sharing photos of recently spotted critters?

The one below went swimming by our skiff at a pretty good clip. Sea otters move right along when they want to.

Most of the time, though, I see sea otters hanging out around kelp beds grooming and eating. No, eating and grooming. The fuzzy mug below chomps down over twenty pounds of food per day! Voracious buggers.

Sea_otter_Point_Baker_0586.jpg

Trouble is, sea otters like a lot of what I like to eat: crab, clams, sea cucumbers, abalone...

I was standing very still at water's edge on Surf Point several years ago and a sea otter came within fifteen feet of me. It was foraging in the shallows, and I was amazed by the speed and thoroughness with which it turned every stone, and ate every snail, limpet, sea urchin, and chiton. That big otter looked pretty surprised when it finally saw me! And then it left quick-like.

Sea otter near Point Baker

With otter populations exploding in Southeast Alaska, and otter territories expanding rapidly, people are talking about how to find a balance. We'll get there. There will be otters to watch and crab to eat...I hope.

I don't have any close-up photos for you. These were taken with a long lens and cropped so that the otters weren't too pressured. Hey, they might be eating everything off of the bottom of the ocean, but that doesn't mean that I want to harass them. That said, I am not adverse to the thought of keeping my hands warm in the winter with otter mittens. It might seem like a conflict, but how many people don't want livestock to be tortured, and do want to eat beef?

Sea otter

Over on the rocks, the seals are lolling about.  

A seal siesta. 

They have to maintain that rolly-polly layer of blubber to stay warm in the cold ocean. Sigh, I wish for such a great excuse. 

Harbor seals hauled out near Point Baker

A-ah. Basking in the sun after snacking on salmon.  

And then it is time for a dip in the Pacific Ocean. It always amazes me how many air-breathers live in the water.  

Back in the harbor, a bald eagle is trying to be stealthy; sitting on top of a piling with the remains of a fish that someone filleted. 

What? 

Who? 

Me? You looking at me? 

You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Now for a few random critters just because they were there. 

Jellyfish. But its not a fish, so now they just call them jellies. I don't recommend them on toast. 

Black-legged kittiwake on takeoff.

A murre not taking off. 

There's lots more wildlife in the Alaskan Critters index!

All of the photos above were taken near Point Baker.

Humpback Whales at Point Baker

The dark bar on the nape of this birds neck suggests that it is an immature Black Legged Kittiwake. 

During the days we spent at Point Baker the humpback whales were feeding just off of the point. On quiet, calm mornings, the gentle music of seabirds is punctuated by the giant blow of a whale.

A fog bank to the west is a phenomenon called a 'marine layer.' Recent warm weather with little wind has created the conditions for a marine layer to form over the cooler water. 

Humpback whale taking a breath. 

A marine layer slipping up over an island.

Murre

The waters around Point Baker are busy. Sumner Strait makes a turn at that northwest tip of Prince of Wales Island, and an immense volume of water moves past with each tide. The tide rips, whirlpools, and eddies stir things up, making a rich feeding ground for fish, birds, and marine mammals.

Subsistence, sport, charter, and commercial fishermen target the salmon that round Point Baker headed for the Stikine and other rivers. The fishermen and the whales do their best to stay out of each others way. 

Humpback whale tail with seaweed hitchhikers.

Commercial troller and humpback whale

The whales seem to understand that a troller moves along at one or two knots. They pass by the boats and go on their way.

We did not see the whales bubblenet feeding in a group, but we did see one small whale feeding close to shore using the bubblenet technique. For the most part we saw individual whales blowing and diving, rarely even showing their tails.

They would blow... 

Humpback whale blowing

...and dive... 

Humpback whale diving

...and keep their tail hidden in the water on most dives.

With the long lens I was able to see that whale skin has all kinds of marks and blemishes. 

All of my wishing for spectacular breaching and lobbing behavior was quieted happily when a whale blew a rainbow. 

Humpback whale blowing a rainbow. 

Hey, some days enjoying a little magic is nicer than the logical sun-angle/water-droplets explanation.  

May you find a rainbow in each day, 

Alaska Beachcomber

P.S. There were a few sea otters around, too! Okay, more on that in a couple days. 

Sea otter in a bullwhip kelp bed. 

Would you like to see more whales?