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

Whales, Mink, and Crows

One of the beauties of living aboard a boat is casting off the lines and taking the whole house with on a little trip. We did that last week, starting on a cloudy day, and cruising down Zimovia Strait to moor at the pilings in front of the cabin. Along the way there were five whales feeding. They surfaced here and there, two of them moving individually, and three keeping close company.

Humpback whales blowing. 

They are amazing creatures to watch, and I never tire of seeing them.  We didn't see any bubblenet feeding or breaching, but it was fun to watch the whales surface and dive.

Activities for the week-long outing were varied. We explored in the skiff, hiked up hillsides, and enjoyed seeing some wildlife.

We spent one boat day when it was pouring rain out. My sweetheart pulled gallon bags of wild blueberries out of the freezer and made 24 pints of jam and syrup. I helped ladle hot jam, clean jar rims, and clean up. Days of picking blueberries in late summer make lots of sense when there is a blueberry pie in January, and yummy jam all year.

The boat moored to the pilings at the cabin. 

While out in the skiff we saw a mink darting in and out of the rocks along a beach. It was eating the small purple shore crab that tuck into the crevices and tide pools between tides.

Mink (Neovison vison ) 

This guy is just under two feet long.  

Mink are members of the weasel family with sharp teeth and claws and high quality fur. Their motions are quick, so I often see just a flash of brown and then they are gone.

This guy was busy and didn't pay much attention to the skiff. 

Mink eating a purple shore crab. 

American mink (Neovison vison)  peeking out between barnacles and seaweed. Don't let that little face fool you. This mink will shred your hand if you try to pet it.

The mink found a treasure trove of mink food - the remains of a large fish, so we left as the lucky little guy was gorging itself. 

There is an occasional pebble or sand beach here, but most Southeast Alaska beaches are unfinished. Some are downright raw; stone set on edge, illustrations of the power of tectonic processes. Still the temperate rainforest finds foothold in the bedrock, topping rugged shorelines with tangled vegetation.

 Maybe the shore in the photos to the right and below will be refined into a walkable beach in, say, a bazillion years.

So let's not dwell on that. 

As we motored by an exposed reef we saw a murder of crows feeding on wild crow food - snails, mussels, and other beach creatures. They have quite a buffet when the tide is out.

They discussed the proximity of humans in a skiff and decided to depart.  

And they all took off. 

All except Frankie.  

With everyone else gone, Frankie found that the buffet was laid out for his personal, private feast. Frankie got right to work making the best of the situation.  

He would catch up to the flock when he was full. Not a problem finding them, their cawing could be heard for two miles.

May you always see the sunshine in the situation,

Alaska Beachcomber

More posts with whales:

Hardworking Whales

Humpback Whales at Point Baker

And sea otters! Sea Otters, Seals, and ...an Eagle?

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.


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?

Sea Lions

Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus)

Curious creatures brighten dark, overcast days for me. BIG curious creatures are really cool to watch from the safety of the boat deck, especially when they also have big, yellow teeth. This Steller Sea Lion is not snarling, it is grabbing a breath, but since it weighs well over five hundred pounds I will give it plenty of room anyway. They are very fast and agile swimmers, blowing and diving, then coming closer for another look at the human on the floating box.

Click on the image to the left for a closer look at those canine teeth.

Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus)

Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus)

Steller sea lions

We watch each other for a few minutes and then the whales blow off a little ways. The sea lions take off to see what is going on there, and probably to check if there is a snack involved.

Humpback whale surface feeding or 'skim feeding.'

One of the whales is surface feeding. It moves along with with its mouth open, then closes its mouth and dives as the seagulls close in. The whale's baleen is visible if you click the image to enlarge it.

Humpback whale diving as seagulls converge.

Humpback whale diving as seagulls converge.

Some days in Southeast Alaska the sun doesn't come out, the rain starts and stops and starts again, but there is always something in the day that leaves me awash in wonderment. This day offered views of two species of huge marine mammals. What an amazing place!

Wishing you wonders in your day,

Alaska Beachcomber

More marine mammals and other creatures can be seen here: Alaskan Critters