Saturday, December 31, 2016

HOMER, ALASKA: GULL ISLAND

We had scheduled a trip with Alaska Bear Adventures in Homer to fly to Katmai National Park or Lake Clark National Park to experience what is supposed to be the best grizzly bear viewing in Alaska.  However, much to our dismay, the trip was canceled due to a forecast of heavy rain.

We had a day to kill in Homer, and, still looking for adventure, we discovered that we could book a private harbor cruise of Kachemak Bay. In spite of the weather, or maybe even because of it, the scenery was beautiful:


Our goal was Gull Island, a rocky crag about three miles out that offers prime nesting spots for seabirds:


This is the New York City of bird-dom, with a wide ethnicity of species and a population density I haven't seen anywhere else in the bird world:

There appears to be a definite hierarchy on the island:

The penthouse rocks with the best view go to the tuxedo-clad common murres, who seem to be looking down their noses beaks at the other residents of Gull Island Hotel:

There are 5,000 to 8,000 common murres nesting here in the summer:

Comorants act as doormen, or maybe as the lookouts for mobsters:


Below them are 8,000 to 10,000 black-legged kittiwakes. They share space with their relatives, the glaucous-winged gulls:

I noticed an interesting heart shape created by the rocks. Maybe the spots around it are the honeymoon suites:

Altogether there are about 20,000 birds on this little island in the summer. Talk about crowded housing!

At the base of the island in the tide area, hundreds of thousands of mussels form a natural barrier. I don't think I'd want to try to climb on the rock barefooted:

Other lower elevations are encrusted with barnacles:

Wait! There are foreign invaders on the island! Human beings!

Our captain/tour guide told us they are scientists studying the birds--ornithologists:

In the relatively still waters at the base of Gull Island we watched two otters playing with a length of seaweed:


Here is a good shot of one otter's flipper-like paw. It looks like one of those wooden salad scoopers:

He acted like he was swimming around in a Hollywood swimming pool, soaking up some rays:
We learned that sea otters have the densest fir in the animal kingdom--500,000 to a million hairs per square inch--and that they are the largest (in size) member of the weasel family.

On our way back to Homer, we had several whale sightings.  Do you know how hard it is to get a good picture of a whale? 


Our captain/tour guide also pointed out several of these cute little horned puffins, always swimming alone in the water. They don't seem to be very sociable:


Bob took these next two pictures of puffins in motion:


In contrast to the solitary puffins, there were plenty of party animals in Kachemak Bay:


Sometimes you have to get away from all that noise:

2 comments:

  1. I loved the trip out to Gull Island. Homer would be a nice place to stay a few days for varied adventures, like salmon fishing, halibut fishing, bear viewing (by airplane), kayaking, and perhaps hiking in the mountains across Kachemak Bay.

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  2. Amazing variety of birds and marine animals. I'm not sure who would want to be climbing around a poop-covered island to study birds...

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