Friday, 4 December 2015

Memorable Photos

     Here are a few more memorable photos from this past autumn tour side trip to Haines, Alaska. As always, for me, wildlife is what I most enjoy but great scenery is a close runner-up.
The Approaching
     Sitting beside a cold mountain river photographing ducks can quickly morph into an experience that is much more exciting and memorable. The Mergansers were just upriver and sitting in a family group preening on a large rock; nice to see but not very exciting. A movement from the corner of my eye immediately demanded my full attention as this mother bear and her two cubs were wading up river in my direction. I knew they were in the area but last I saw them, they were happily fishing downstream. Now, here she was and I was beside a well-used bear trail heading into the forest; so what-to-do? She was not aggressive and her body language told me she had seen me and did not seem to care one way or the other. I decided that my best bet was to stay put and let her decide her comfort zone. I thought that rather than me stumbling around and trying to move back and change the situation that she had already decided was okay, I had best stand still. When cubs are involved, there is always a bit more to wonder about. What will their reaction to me be? In this case, they obediently followed their mother's footsteps, giving me that questioning, sideways glance to make sure I was behaving myself and all turned out great.
Fresh Salmon

          A few yards upstream, they caught a fish and sat there eating it while I continued to snap photos, while allowing my adrenalin to settle down. The bears in this area are obviously habituated and are used to having people around, but we do have to remember that they are still wild and cannot always be predictable. By standing still, watching her body language and allowing her plenty of escape space and giving her the option to choose her comfort zone, we got along well that day. I do also carry bear spray for my protection but whether or not I could have got it out and deployed in time or not, I am not sure in this case.
Good Eats
    These are cubs-of-this-year so they have much to learn about human and other animal inter-action. Their well-being and long term survival depends upon how Momma bear teaches them. They are obviously learning to fish and do enjoy eating them, so this is a great start.
What do You See?
     Even while fishing Mother bear is on high alert for any danger to her cubs. She will stand up to better observe anything she may be concerned about. She will be watching for other bears especially and for people who are not where she usually sees them. It is rare for people to be on the other side of this river so all critters will note the change in routine and be wary. Any bears have to be recognised so she can decide if her cubs may be at risk from a predatory male. Along with her great eyesight and good hearing, she also has that magnificent nose hard at work. Even here, in this running water with gulls squawking for fishy morsels, those ears will pick out any unusual sounds that will require investigation. Even over the overpowering stench of rotting fish, her nose will pick up amazing hints of what is happening around her.
     Each of the above photos give me a different feeling when I look at them. The first one has the attention grabbing drama of an approaching bear and all the pre-conceived fears that has been instilled in us through dramatic hunting stories and scary outdoor movies. Bears approaching are serious situations to be in, anytime and anyplace, and should not be taken lightly.
     The second photo is a great family photo, not unlike our own families. One cub is very serious about his food and the lessons that Mother is teaching while the other cub is off exploring and not paying attention. This cub is more interested in play and exploration, all of which is still valuable to it in the future. Obviously it is not interested in competing with it's sibling for the fish either.
     The third photo is all about cuteness and concentration. It is also about the struggle of the fish hoping to get away to lay its eggs and finish its life mission before getting eaten. We also see the concentration and struggle of the young bear cub hoping to hang onto the slippery fish for the calories and fat reserves it will require to survive the long winter hibernation. We know that it is learning valuable lessons on it's own with the backing and reassurance of mother.
     Photo four is about tension and drama. What is it that she senses to get her immediate attention? I could see nothing untoward from where I stood, but then, I am not a mother bear with two charges to look after. I also see the nonchalant cub exploring as if nothing is amiss. The cub has not sensed anything and has not been warned by mom yet, so, at this time, all is good.
Mountain Autumn

     I was taken by the beauty of the mountain scene but when I snapped a few photos, there was something missing. How can anyplace so beautiful not produce a great photo?
     For me, it happened when the bald eagle perched in the poplar tree. Life happened. Even that tiny speck in the tree added vitality and majesty to already spectacular scenery. For me, this eagle is telling me that this is home. It can live and probably raise a family here in this beauty. It makes me ask myself, "Could I also live in this place?" Who wouldn't want a cabin beside the river in such spectacular surroundings?
     When I look at these photos I can feel the chilly wind and water, hear the rustle of leaves and rushing current, smell the dead fish and see the wonder of it all. I remember and imagine the possibilities of life here

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