Curious beaver

I first spotted the beaver by his wake – gliding smoothly out from shore, just downstream of the dock. I placed my rowing shell gently into the water, keeping one eye on my busy downstream neighbor. He arched his back, slapped his tail loudly, and dove… only to emerge a few seconds later, a few meters away. I sat still, and watched. He looked at me. I looked at him. He paddled along, zig-zagging upstream ever closer to me, clearly curious to see who (or what) I was, and what I might be up to. My fingers itched for my smartphone – only 10 meters away, on shore where I’d left it – but to stand up and fetch it, I knew, would spoil the moment. The beaver swam ever closer, his eyes on me every moment.

Eventually – for the moment seemed to last, though it was surely only one or two minutes – he pulled alongside the dock, keeping a safe distance of five meters, watching me from the side as he paddled strongly upstream.

Then a sudden SLAP and he dove again. The moment was gone; I readied my shell to row, and he resumed his course across the river.

Beaver near his den, near our home (2017).

It’s moments like these when I wish I had a camera, or even a smartphone. No such luck today! The photo above is from a sequence I shot in 2017.

Today’s beaver may have been the same fellow whose photo I shared in April:

A beaver swims at the mouth of Grant Brook, Lyme NH

Katmai, days 6-7

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

This post is part of a series about our photography trip to Alaska.

Thursday (September 1) Geographic Harbor: We visited the beach (and bears) in the morning. It was a beautiful day, with the clouds passing over and through the hills surrounding the bay. Read on, though, for photos of the bears and other wildlife spotted this day!

Landscape (with bear), Geographic Harbor, Katmai.
Continue reading “Katmai, days 6-7”

Katmai, days 4-5

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

This post is part of a series about our photography trip to Alaska.

Tuesday (August 30) Kuliak Bay, Hidden Harbor, Geographic Harbor: An early breakfast allowed us to reach the beach by 8am, where an immature bald eagle was perched on driftwood as if waiting for a dozen photographers to capture its portrait. My favorite photo from the sequence came moments after it launched from its beachfront perch. What else did we see in the next two days? read on.

Bald eagle (immature) on shore at the head of Kuliak Bay.
Continue reading “Katmai, days 4-5”

Katmai, day 2

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

This post is part of a series about our photography trip to Alaska.

Sunday (August 28) Geographic Harbor: We rose for an early breakfast so we could return to the beach during low tide. Many bears were out today, as was another group of photographers. There are no lodges or cabins or roads with access to the extensive shoreline of Katmai National Park, so visitors all arrive by ship or plane and groups (like us) sleep on-board ships. Throughout the trip we were often the only group in a bay, and thus on shore; sometimes there was one (or maybe two) other boats sharing the same bay (and beach). Rarely, we’d see a small group of day-trippers arrive by floatplane. The guides, like our Captain Rob, all knew each other, and there was a tacit understanding that groups stayed out of the way of each other; still, it was sometimes possible to photograph bears as they passed by another group.

Coastal Brown Bear passing close to another group – Geographic Harbor, Katmai.
Continue reading “Katmai, day 2”

Katmai National Park, Day 1

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

Brown bear, just after catching a salmon – Geographic Harbor, Katmai National Park.

My father and I spent a week on a photography workshop in Katmai National Park, on the southern coast of Alaska west of Anchorage. The trip was organized by Muench photography workshops and was an outstanding opportunity to refine my photography skills in a beautiful setting – up close and personal with Alaskan brown bears as they feasted on the annual salmon run. We spent seven nights on the Dreamcatcher, a small ship that allowed us to anchor in several bays along the Katmai coastline, using its skiffs to visit shore two or three times daily. We saw dozens of bears, as they were feasting on the annual salmon run, up close and personal. I snapped over 8,000 photos and it will take me many weeks to find time to sort, process, and share them all. For now, I’ll post retroactively in segments – with a few preliminary/teaser photos. [I finally posted the edited photographs in November.]

Continue reading “Katmai National Park, Day 1”

Stakeout

Watching and listening.

My last meeting ended early and there was some remaining daylight, so returned to the meadow where I saw a coyote yesterday morning. I knew it would be incredibly unlikely the coyote would be there again – perhaps ever, let alone when I happened to stop by. But I grabbed my camera and long lens and drove up to the site, parking before the road bent and the meadow was visible, then walking quietly up the road and into the crunchy leaf litter beside a crumbling stone wall. I waited.

I’ve never been a hunter, and don’t think I’ll ever have the patience to be one. I find it difficult to stand and do nothing, and yet stay alert, perhaps for minutes or for hours. And yet, as I leaned on the crusty bark of a sugar maple, enjoying the way the last rays of the mid-October sunshine made the yellows and golds and oranges of the nearby trees glow, I found myself tuning into the environment around me. A nearby rustle signaled a chipmunk scurrying under the stone wall and through the leaves to scrounge for acorns. The flash of a grey tail behind a tree – is that a coyote? – no, just a squirrel. The stare of a brown cow, far across the meadow in the adjacent pasture. The distant coo of an owl, far down the road. The clear rings of a Vermont village church bell from across the river, reminding all that it was 6pm and sun would set soon. Even the falling autumn leaves made noise, a quiet ‘click’ as they touched down on stones of the ancient wall.

No coyote today, but a worthwhile outing nonetheless.

Duck season

Wabbit season!

As I carried my rowing shell down to the river side this morning, a warm October morning with the river so calm it looked like a mirror, and light wisps of fog clinging to the riverside trees, I tried to remember when Duck season was set to begin. I knew it was somewhere in the first week of October.

So it was not too surprising, as I sculled past the Wilder Wildlife Management Area, a half kilometer upriver, that a gunshot rang out. Close by! I looked toward the sound and saw a duck falling from the sky, and a puff of gunsmoke hovering over the wetland I knew was behind the row of riverside bushes. I paused, listened closely, and could hear the murmur of conversation a few hundred meters away, where the duck hunters were celebrating Opening Day.

Good thing I have a bright red shell and wear a bright red jersey when I row. Still, I think I’ll head downriver next time.

American Bittern

Some of our many neighbors.

I was out for a paddle along the Connecticut River near home, this afternoon, and took a side trip among the reeds and brush that form the ‘delta’ at the mouth of Hewes Brook. This area is popular with ducks, herons, geese, kingfisher, beaver, and countless other residents. Today, a pair of American Bittern posed for me in the brush of a tiny islet while I came by. More photos.

American Bittern, in the brush near the mouth of Hewes Brook, Connecticut River, Lyme NH.

Earlier this month I’ve seen white Egrets and Great Blue Herons feeding nearby, as well as Canada Geese, many varieties of ducks, and a pair of loons. Need to bring my camera more often!