My job allows me to visit a lot of Alaska on a yearly basis. I wanted to capture the trips in one location!

The birds and other interesting things on St. Paul Island! (Part 2)

Sept. 17-20 Trip to St. Paul Island,,, Part 2…

The Pribilof’s are known as the Galapagos of the North due to the fact that there are so many different species of birds on the islands.  I would not consider myself adept at birds, but after this day, I have a better appreciate of those that love this ‘activity.’Jenni and me at the whale bones

St. Paul Island is home to millions of seabirds nesting on the steep shores of the island. There are also rare Asiatic birds, blown off course during their migration or dropping in just briefly on their way to other breeding and nesting destinations.

The first birds we saw were both Tufted Puffin and Horned Puffin (white breast).  It was amazing how close we were to them and how incredibly beautiful they are.

As we continued our tour on this beautiful fall day, it was so clear that we saw Otter and Walrus Island as well as St. George Island, not always able to be spotted from St. Paul!   Harbor Seals breed on Otter Island, several miles southwest of St. Paul Island, but nonetheless are often seen off St. Paul shores. Occasionally, Steller sea lions haul out on St. Paul, but usually take refuge in the rookery at Walrus Island, some 10 miles northeast of St. Paul. On extremely rare occasions, Grey whales, Orcas, and walrus are observed offshore.

We spotted wild celery all over the place, however, it was past its prime for eating.

“Sea Lion Neck” was the next stop on our tour.  Currently it is only open to Sea Lion hunters (Native’s only) and this tour!  At the end of the road, 11 miles away from town, is Webster lake and a memorial to the old church that once stood at that site.  There is also a cabin/house that anyone can rent (for free) if they care to go out there and explore.

Birds we saw on this adventure:

  • snow buntingSnow bunting
  • Sharp tailed sandpiper (Asian Born)sharp tailed sandpiper
  • rock sandpiperRock sandpiper
  • Fox sparrow and goldencrown sparrow both from mainland, AK
  • Pacific golden plover
  • Wandering tattler
  • ruddy turnstonesRuddy turnstones
  • Red faced Cormorants red faced
  • Red legged kittiwake (big eyes, red legs) very rare, ‘chasers’ come here to see thesered legged kittiwake
  • Common kittiwake (black legs) one of most common gulls in world
  • Lapland longspur (song bird)lapland longspur
  • American pipit

We DID NOT SEE but our guide has spotted a White Tailed Eagle (sea Eagle) here this summer.  It probably stopped over enroute from Russia. Neither did we see the elusive shrew, which is sometimes spotted under the pieces of plywood out near one of the points.

After the tour we made it back to our little apartment and decided it was time for dinner.  The Trident Plant, where million’s of pounds of crab are processed each spring (see March blog) was a bit slower this time of year as they were now processing halibut.  For $20 pre paid you can go to the cafeteria and eat, and this time of year, endless halibut is well worth $20!  There were very few staff from the plant there and we enjoyed dinner there 2 nights in a row!
We also ran into the store and there photo’s are a reminded of the high cost of living in these remote rural communities, can you believe the price of soup?  (cans are heavy!).
So ends my exciting trips to the Pribilof Island’s for this year!  All 3 were an adventure and I am blessed to be able to get to these places for WORK.


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St. Paul Island; a 5 hour tour, a 5 hour tour!

I returned to St. Paul Island in the Pribilof’s for a few days to do workshops with the board and work in the schools with my colleague Jenni.  If you go back in the blogs you will see I was here in March.  I’ll remind you that St. Paul is part of the Pribilof Islands and sit 880 miles W of Anchorage.

It was so different being there in Sept. vs in March.  It had a feel of mid-west fall days, though no trees to have leaves that are changing colors, the plants and ground cover are changing to their fall hues.views from out the roadview of island

The first night we walked down to the end of town and watched the seals from a distance as the beaches are all off limits to people.  It was a cloudy night but you could see seals playing in the water, swimming and jumping all around as well as 100’s of them on the hillside.  me with the sign, STOP go no furtherhillside of seals

I was to leave on Wed. however a volcano eruption in Russia caused problems with air quality and my plane did not make it out to pick me up, so I had a ‘free’ afternoon after doing some workshops in the morning.

Jenni and I decided to contact St. Paul Island Tours to see if we could go on a tour and thankfully they had an open calendar.  Doug,  our guide picked us up and stated the adventure.Jenni and I happy for the sunshine

First stop, Reef Point where there were 1000’s of fur seals.  Such a interesting  to come upon these seals in their natural habitat and watch them for almost an hour.  This is what I learned.viewing areas

  • In early May, the males, 5 years or older come to the beaches and ‘mark’ their territory.
  • These spaces tend to be 12’-15’ from one another.
  • On June 1, the rookeries are closed and remain off limits until mid-October .
  • These “Beach Master” males find their spot and wait about a month and a half for the females to arrive in the end of June.
  • 90% of the females give birth immediately, within 24 hours, once they snuggle up with a Beach Master.first seal as we walked to viewing blind

    mom nursing her baby

    mom nursing a babyenjoying the sunshine

  • Beach Master Males can have anywhere from 40-60 females in ‘their’ space, and the weaker Masters can have as little as 1 or 2 females as they get too old to defend their space.
  • Males become Beach Masters at around the age of 7, females can get pregnant as young as 5 but usually don’t start having pups until they are 7/8.
  • Once they give birth, the male impregnate the females immediately.
  • The females will deliver these pups next June/July.
  • Hunting for the Aleut Natives begins at the end of July and into early Aug.
  • About 200 males are killed during the hunt and the 3 year old male seals are targeted, though 2 -4 year olds are taken during the open hunt.this one was interested in us
  • The Beach Master males head back into the waters in late August though a few linger until Sept.  They are hungry and in search of food.
  • Females and pups head into the waters in Nov. and separate shortly after this.
  • Males live until about 12-15 years of age.
  • Females live to between 20-21 years of age.
  • Much like humans you can tell their age by how ‘white’ their whiskers are… the more white, the older the seal!

ahhh, the white whiskers shows a bit of her age... the whiter the<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
whisker the older they are.fur seals crowded the beacheson the viewing platform with guide Doug

can't believe how many seals you could see at once

I will write about the rest of the tour in another blog!


Taku Glacier; 2 trips in one week, so very different!

Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012

Harry and I had a certificate for a ‘glacier hike’ that we had won, but needed to use it by Sept. 1.  We had tried other days over the summer but had not had a lot of luck, BUT our luck changed on a PERFECT beautiful day in Juneau.  We arrived at North Star Treking and boarded the helicopter with 3 Canadian’s that were on a cruise ship.  We’d been told that b/c it was SO nice out we’d get to go on Taku Glacier vs on Mendenhall Glacier, Taku is only accessible on perfect days, where the Mendenhall is an option on cloudy socked in days.
We flew over Split Thumb   and over some hanging glaciers, 

off in the distance we could see Canada and Devil’s Peak.

Both had new snow on the tops!!!  We continued over the icefield and up and over towards Hole in the Wall Glacier.  Taku Falls was right below us, a waterfall that falls 600 vertical feet feeding into the Taku River system! 

It was beautiful.  Coming around the corner and seeing Taku Glacier from the front was beautiful.  Taku Glacier is the only glacier on the Juneau Icefield that is advancing, so you can see trees, rocks and more that are being moved forward with the momentum of the glaciers movements. 

Once off the helicopter,

we got to walk around on Taku Glacier for about an hour. 

It was breathtaking to say the least… see all the pictures I have included.  On the flight home we flew over Norris Glacier, Norris Glacier

saw ice dams, and other amazing views,

until finally we were back to the airport in JNU, what a great day.

Sunday/Monday Sept. 2, 3, 2012

Our friends Matt and Kelly have a cabin up the Taku River and invited us to join them for the long weekend.  They took their boat up on Sat. but we opted to fly on the ‘dead head’ flight to Taku Lodge on Sunday.Harry on plane ride, leaving JuneauTaku Lodge was where we landed, this is a tourist destinatioin that has been there since 1923!  The flight was $65 person, to simply be dropped at their dock.  On the flight we saw the normal valleys and peaks but one neat view was that of the water below.  In this shot you can see where the river water meets the ocean water.  The river because it is made by glacial water is gray and made of fine silt (sand like) which is really just fine ground up rock from the ice moving over it.  on our flight you could see the water break, this is where the river water (silty from the glacier) and the ocean water, bluer and clear, meet!

Matt and Kelly came on their river boat and loaded us for the ride back to their cabin.  Harry and Kelly as we leave the Lodge

Riding on the river was such an amazing sight!  There are waterfalls coming down on all the rocks towards the south side of the ride and 3 glaciers on our north side, Hole in the Wall, Taku and Norris. view from Taku Lodge, of Hole in the Wall Glaciersee the eagle on the log? the edge of the glacier is behind those<br /><br />

riding boat right in front of glacierFace of Taku Glacier

first spotting of the cabin on Taku Point

We got to the cabin, off loaded some gear and took off again for more exploring!  This is when the fun began!!!
We got up near Davidson Creek and thought it would be fun to go to the front where it flows into the river/ocean.  We were attempting to find the slough that would lead us there but instead we got into the wrong slough and headed towards the opposite direction.  Before long, we were stuck!attempting to get us out of the slough

Stuck in the low tide, mucky, muddy shallow slough of some other falls.  Kelly and Harry jumped turn us around, I hopped out to lessen the weight load and Matt stayed in boat to try to get motor back on and drive it out. Harry helping out!

It took a good 45 minutes of pushing, pulling, tugging and such to get the boat out of the slough and to high enough water (1 foot was all we needed) to ride the boat back to the cabin.Here we were skiing across the mud flats trying to get out of the sloughmore of the sloughI basically walked out over the mudflats, but it felt more like cross country skiing!  I ‘slid’ across this mud.

Each of us was muddy and wet, most of us got water in our boots.  Matt cheering as Kelly and Harry rode the boat out!

We laughed a lot during the time, and it was not really scary because we knew the tide would eventually go the other way and get higher.  The scariest part was probably after we got in deeper water and took off at a good pace, me up front, Harry and Kelly in the middle and Matt in the back driving, and BOOOOMMMM we hit a rock!  Harry said my feet went up in the air and the look on my face was priceless.  We were all okay, but it was funny.
relaxing at night in the cabinThat evening we had a nice dinner in the cabin, honkered down for a good nights rest, and awoke to a cloudy, socked in Sunday morning.

Harry and Lena,(matt and kelly's dog) enjoying the walk in the rain

Bummer, we could not enjoy the view as much as we might have on a good day. that is Taku Glacier as seen from inside the cabin, what a view!

We hiked the property, looked at the old cabin, sat in the hot tub, a fish tote transformed into a hot tub, you can't really tell but the glacier is directly across from this.

YES, I said hot tub, read for a while and headed back to town mid afternoon.
It was a  great weekend, but you will notice immediately by looking at these pictures, the difference between a sunny day and a cloudy day in SE Alaska!  These maps might begin to show you where we were… you can see downtown Juneau with the A and then the cabin at the B.

You can also see the glaciers that are feeding the River


Here is a great link to some of the history up Taku River!