Day 55 - Saturday, May 25 - Milepost 5542 - Birdcount 252 - Homer Spit, Alaska
(BF's Journal). Today is a special day for me because we spend the morning on a pelagic trip of Kachemak Bay with a dozen other passengers aboard a comfortable boat designed to handle four times as many people. The Alaska-Maritime Tour hits the birding and wildlife hot spots in the bay and Captain Dale is especially good at identifying the seabirds we encounter. Our first stop is Gull Island, across the bay and within sight of our motor home where the past few days I had been watching at our great distance what looked like bees swarming around a nest. Now, within twenty feet of the 200 ft rock island we can see the swarms of Black-legged Kittiwakes, Common Murres and Pelagic Cormorants that nest on the island. As we slowly cruise around the island thousands of Kittiwakes and Glaucous-winged Gulls fly on and off the rock scolding us with a chorus that duplicates the soundtrack from Alfred Hitchcocks "The Birds". Hundreds of black cormorants stick to the rocks and glare back at us with draconian faces outlined in yellow and orange and mounted on thin snake-like necks. Hundreds of murres take to the water and float like huge black and white mats, sometimes submerging if we approach too closely. All birds keep their distance from a few Bald Eagles perched atop the 60 ft rock ready to make a meal of any straggler. After we become accustomed to the overwhelming number of birds we start to sort out the rarities.
Among the hundreds of Pelagic Cormorants are a few Red-faced Cormorants with startling red faces surrounding yellow bills. Seeing these is a rare treat since the birds only occur on Alaskan coastal bays and the Aleutian Islands. The highlight of the trip is watching the Tufted Puffins, stocky black birds with white faces, fancy yellow plumes sprouting from their crowns and huge orange and yellow bills as wide and long as their heads. And we see Horned Puffins, like the Tufted but without the plume. We can spot the orange bills a hundred yards from the boat as the puffins float on the water. When we get close they clumsily alight, kicking their orange feet against the surface as they struggle to become airborne. We cruise to another rockery island and then a succession of other islands.
Along the way we identify Surfbirds, Marbled and Kittlitz Murrelets, White-winged Scoters and a Black Oystercatcher with a long orange bill and fiery orange eyes mounted in a coal black body. Our midtrip destination is Seldovia, a quaint fishing village settled by Russian immigrants, reachable by boat and plane, but not road. While I explore the wildlife in the spruce forest behind the village, Shari explores the shops, each of us in our best habitats. An hour later the captain sounds his boat horn hastening my return as the last of the five passengers to board. The return trip is less eventful as we head straight across the open water toward Homer. The bay is calm with only a ripple showing where the depths change. While Shari and the other passengers nap, I join the captain at the bridge and we spot Sea Otters, two of which are holding pups on their bellies as they float on their backs. Nearly arriving at port, I add Aleutian Terns to my list bringing the total of life birds added on this boat trip to seven.
(SF's Journal). "Orange candy slices stuck on the mouth of a black body with two white braids hanging down its head" is the description of a Tufted Puffin in my journal of birds and other related things. Captain Dale of Alaska Maritime Tours and his crew of two fresh faced friendly teenagers guides us out Kachemak Bay to view Tufted and Horned Puffins, Black Oystercatchers, Red-faced and Pelagic Cormorants, murres, and sea otters. Horrors! I am beginning to sound like a birder! I must admit the puffins are cute and easy to identify. The tour sails past Gull Island, a seabird rookery with thousands of nesting gulls, puffins, and eagles squawking, hawking and flying around. The trip then goes to Seldovia, a quaint little Russian fishing village that had two or three shops for the tourist. The bay is calm, the wind is chilly and the sky full of mist for our 4-hour outing. We come back to R TENT and while eating lunch Bert falls off the dining chair which just decided to break off its center pole. There he is sprawled out on the floor with these little marbles (from the chair, not his head!) rolling around. We were able to live with the five other minor defects but this one has to get fixed as soon as we can find a Fleetwood dealer. I suspect we are in for a hassle with finding one, explaining what is wrong, ordering the parts, and then installing them.
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