Sunday, August 9, 2020

Alaska Brown Bears - Day 7

 Day 7 – Friday July 31

The rains had stopped and the weather forecast looked promising for a pretty easy crossing of the straight today and since the captain wanted to get to a harbor tonight that would leave us a short run back to Kodiak tomorrow morning, he told us we needed to pull up anchor and get moving by 9:45.  We had all decided to get up at 6 so that if the weather cooperated, we’d have a few hours to take the last bear photos of the trip and it looks like mother nature was on our side today.

We got ready and headed to shore one last time, and it turned out that today was going to be a good morning for bears. We could already see a Sow and her three cubs up near the rocks.

When we first got off the skiff, we had to make our way past two big boars that were standing on the beach in kind of a standoff with each other. They were both holding very still about 100 yards apart, and just watching each other and we kind of approached the beach right in between then.  We stood and watched the one to our right, to see what he was going to do if anything at all and just decided to slowly work our way around him, along the water’s edge.  We moved slow and would stop every time he turned to look at us and then when we went back to watching the other bear we would start moving again.  Just making sure he was okay with us going behind him.   We wanted to get over to where the mama bear was hanging out with her cubs but didn’t want to encroach on this big boy’s territory if he got agitated with us being there.  Turns out he really didn’t seem to care and only watched us with curiosity as we went around him.

Mama and her cubs as we first arrived

This might have been the only time they followed her this close all morning

Getting into the hole for the good stuff

The mama watched us coming and showed no signs of worry about us either, in fact at one point she changed her position so she could put us between her and the bigger bears on the beach, kind of using us knowing that the boars wouldn’t approach with us between them.

Her and her cubs were doing some clamming on the beach and doing pretty good at finding food from what we could see. It was really cute to watch these three cubs disappear half way down into the holes their mom was digging and then coming up and crunching on their catch.  We spent about 2 hours hanging out with the 4 of them, moving up the beach and crossing a couple of small streams as they worked their way from left to right in front of us.  The cubs would go from digging for clams with their mom, to watching us out and you could see their fascination with … especially the smallest of the three.  He seemed to watch us much more than the others combined. 

The funniest part of the morning with them was when it came time to cross the streams and the three cubs would just start complaining non-stop as soon as the mom hit the water….  They didn’t want to have to cross and get wet and made a big stink about it, but they all piled in the water and followed her knowing she wasn’t going to change her mind no matter how much fuss they made.  

At one point they all moved down the river and it looked like they were going to head back up the river a little further ahead of us, so we hurried to get to the spot where we’d already spent a couple of days watching bears, in the hopes that she would turn back our way eventually.  We had guess right and she did end up coming back up that far stream bead and we got some great close up views of all 4 of them. 

She made a pass right in front of us with the cubs, and at first looked like she was just going to keep heading up river where we’d lose sight of them… but less than a minute later, she changed her mind and made another pass in front of us, totally ignoring us and just watching the river and looking to see if there were any salmon in there to feast on.  When she didn’t see any fish to chase, she crossed the river one more time with the young’uns in tow and got into the grassy area on the other side and they all started munching on grass instead. 

Mama and one of the cubs

Just about time for them to head back for more clams

Just as it felt like that was the end of the bear sightings for the day, another female popped out of the grass directly in front of us, and slowly walked along the river bank about 10 feet away from us.  She was looking for fish too and did a pretty tight circle around our spot checking the streams in front of us and behind us … before moving down river to the beach to go looking for clams instead. 

Looking for a morning salmon feast

It was getting close to the time we have to get back to the boat and head out of here, so we made our way to the shore… and ran into one last bear that came around the corner in front of us.  That made 8 bears this morning.  Not too bad for a 3-hour beach visit.

We all got back into the boat and out of our chest waders and wet boots, showed and settled in for the long haul back to the real world.  The ride wasn’t too rough and the day got nicer as we headed west. We had another great breakfast and lunch and mostly just talked and hung out and enjoyed the scenery along the way.

We stopped at a cool island that had a ton of sea otters living on it, and watched them floating in the beds of seaweed, popping up around the boat to watch us and mostly just floating around in the water, and then moved on again until we reached our stopping point for the night.  There was an island that had a lot of puffin nesting on it and we circled around it twice, trying to get some good shots of them, as they tend to be very photogenic birds, but they are a lot harder to photograph than you would think. 

One of the many curious sea otters on this trip

Island with Puffin and Gulls nesting together

Closer look at the puffin

These Puffin nest in those holes in the hillside

After than we dropped anchor for the night and just enjoyed the great weather.  Randy and Kevin both flew their drones for a while and got some great footage of the boat from the air, and the water around us…. It was a nice way to spend the last evening.

Sunset on the last night

Tomorrow we’d be making the last 4 hour run to Kodiak and then it will be a long day of travel until I get back to Seattle at midnight.

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