Monday, April 30, 2012

International Migratory Bird Day

Don't forget International Migratory Bird Day
Join the worldwide celebration of birds! 
 Learn all about bird banding from members of our Field Studies Banding Team
Be part of the worldwide celebration of migratory birds at World Bird Sanctuary's International Migratory Bird Day.  Learn about why it is important to protect migratory birds and their migration flyways:
·       Fun, free children's activities with prizes!
·       Meet naturalists at our bird feeding stations to learn bird watching and identification tips from the experts!   
·       Bird-banding demonstrations - take a tour to watch our field studies crew catch, band and release migrating birds (small fee for transport to the site)!
·       Keeper talks about the migratory species that call World Bird Sanctuary home.

·       Date: Saturday 5 May
·       Time: 8am - 1pm

Admission and parking:  Free!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

365 Photo Project - April

This month has been a great month for photos with the start of spring, vacation and work trips and just generally being out and about.  It is so hard to choose photos to use for this project, but at the same time it is a lot of fun. 

I have recently joined a website call 365.  Here is the link to my page.  This website is so much fun if you love photography from around the world.  I can follow other people and people can follow me.  Everyone can comment back and forth.  It’s like social media for photography.
 Clipper butterfly photographed at the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House
My first favorite photo for this month is a photo of a Clipper butterfly which I took at the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House in St. Louis.  The light and the colors just came out fantastic and I just love this photo.  I went to the butterfly house with a WBS volunteer and friend Sandra Murray who also loves taking photos.  We spent her lunch hour photographing butterflies and enjoying the hot, humid conditions in the butterfly house.

This was also the start of March Morpho Month at the Butterfly House.  For this special exhibit they release an extra 2000 Morpho butterflies which are free to fly around the interior of the Butterfly House.  It is just amazing!  I took a ton of photos that I really like, but this one of the Clipper just came out fantastic.
 Our new baby Barn Owl--who now has a name....Minerva
My second favorite photo is one that on the 365 Project site made the “popular page” for several days.  It is a photo of the World Bird Sanctuary Education Department’s new baby barn owl.  One night she was home with me getting some socializing time and I took this photo of her sitting on my pink/orange blanket.  With all of her fluff she looks just adorable.

I am loving this project and since I joined this website, I'm loving it even more.  Seeing other photos from around the world and reading other’s comments just makes sharing the photos even more fun and enjoyable.  This also gives me so many more ideas on places to look for that next photo. 

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Really Weird Birds: Part 2

There is such a huge diversity of birds in the world.  Some have unusual feather characteristics, weird facial features, bizarre beaks, unusual coloring, or other physical oddities; and some have very strange behaviors!

This first group of birds exhibit extreme camouflage.
Would you spot these Tawny Frogmouths while walking in the woods?  Probably not!  
Is it an owl?  No!  This is not a bird of prey.  Its name is Frogmouth.  They are more closely related to nightjars.  The three larger species are native to Australia and New Guinea, have large, flat, wide bills and enjoy prey such as frogs and mice.  The twelve smaller species are found in tropical Asia, have smaller rounded bills and eat mostly insects.  The species in the photo is a Tawny Frogmouth, found in Australia.  Unlike birds of prey, these birds do not catch and kill their prey with their talons, they use their beaks.  They are nocturnal predators, the explanation for their large owl-like eyes.  They are ambush predators, similar to some species of owls.  They sit camouflaged in a tree and wait for food to come to them!
This is the African Jacana.
 Jacanas are found worldwide in tropical areas. 
The feet of Jacanas are really bizarre.  The have extremely long toes and claws in order to walk on lily pads!  The claws and toes work like snowshoes and help to distribute its weight and keep it from sinking.  It’s a pretty amazing adaptation!  These birds find insects on the water and on the vegetation in the water.
The Southern Cassowary is the third tallest, (5-6 feet) and second heaviest living bird (75-125 pounds) in the world.
The Cassowary can be considered one of the most dangerous birds.  Native to the tropical forests of New Guinea and nearby islands, these birds have several unusual physical characteristics.  The most common of the three extant, or living species is the Southern Cassowary.  As adults they have blue skin on their necks and part of their head, neon pink to red wattles, and horn-like but spongy crests on their heads called casques. 
 Close up of Southern cassowary
Cassowaries are very shy, but if disturbed, they can inflict serious injury on people and other animals.  On the inner of its three-toed feet grows a five-inch dagger-like claw that has the ability to disembowel people!  They deliver fast, powerful kicks to their enemys and can jump up to 7 feet high.  They mostly eat fruit.  These birds are quite territorial and have given zookeepers serious injuries.  Also interesting is that the females do absolutely nothing to help raise her chicks.  All she does is lay eggs and then she moves on.  The male is left to incubate the eggs for up to two months.  Once they hatch, he protects them for up to sixteen months, and then chases them off to live on their own.
 The Southern Cassowary’s inner claw can grow up to 5 inches.

I saw a Victoria Crowned Pigeon for the first time when I visited the Saint Louis Zoo.  They are the largest pigeon species in the world and have a variety of blue and purple feathers, red eyes, and have a beautiful feather crest on their heads.  They are native to lowland and swamp forests of New Guinea and surrounding islands.
 There are 2 other species of crowned pigeons that look similar to this Victoria Crowned Pigeon.

As you can see, the diversity of birds is so vast!  Part of the World Bird Sanctuary’s mission is to maintain biological diversity on our earth so future generations can enjoy the same amazing animals.  Stay tuned next month for part 3 of Really Weird Birds!

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A New Friend

I’ve grown up with pets all of my life.  We’ve had dogs, cats, hamsters, fish, salamanders and frogs living in our St. Charles house all at the same time.

I’d had a pet of my very own before—a teddy bear hamster named Fuzzy—but considering I was a middle-school kid at the time, it was pretty impressive that I managed to take care of him.  Fuzzy lived to the ripe old age of four, and after him, I didn’t really think I’d have another pet of my own until I moved out of my parent’s house (which still hasn’t happened yet…).

However, the week before Christmas this past year, I came home after an evening of caroling to a big surprise…
Unbeknownst to me I was about to meet a new friend! 
Caring for birds has been part of my life since 2009.  I love working with the birds at World Bird Sanctuary, and it gives me great satisfaction to work with them every day.  Because I work so closely with birds on a daily basis, I never considered getting a bird of my own—after all, I have dozens of them at my disposal every day.  There are WBS staff members that share their lives with parrots.  From Cathy Spahn’s African Grey named Simon, right on down to Lisbeth Hodge’s Green-cheeked Conure named Jazz, many of the staff have opened their hearts to our feathered friends.  I certainly didn’t expect to count myself among them.

Apparently, my parents had other plans….

After caroling that evening, I wandered upstairs to go to bed… and there in my room was a large white cage sitting on my desk.  Inside that cage was a little blue and white Budgrigar  which many people call a parakeet.  I called downstairs to my parents, “Hey guys? Why is there a parakeet in my room?” My parents revealed him to be an early Christmas present, obtained from a breeder near our house. From the get go, I was enamored.  I decided to name him Mr. Bingley, after one of my favorite characters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

At first, he seemed overwhelmed by all of the big, scary humans who came to ogle him.  He would not step on my finger, and he did not like to come out of his cage at all.  He was also virtually silent.  I was worried for a while that he would remain scared of humans for a very long time… but after a week or so, he started to bloom.
 He's even accepted the family dog as part of his flock
Now I play music for him when I have to leave the house, and have discovered that he likes to listen to Mumford and Sons, as well as Jack’s Mannequin.  How do I know?  He tweets and chirps incessantly when songs by those two bands come on (of course, he could just be vehemently protesting these songs, but unless I learn how to speak parakeet, I’ll never know). 

Mr. Bingley started out very afraid of coming out of the cage.  But now, he sometimes won’t go back in it.  His flight feathers have grown in beautifully, and he loves to fly in circles around my room, chirping as he flies.  He also gets ‘call of the wild’ moments, when he chirps and whistles very loudly, and hops all over his cage.  He will also preen your fingernails if you hold them up by his beak. 
Mr. Bingley sitting on one of his favorite perches
But by far his favorite thing to do, now that the outside world isn’t so scary anymore, is to sit on my head or my shoulder while I’m on the computer.   In fact, at this very moment he’s perched on my head as I type this blog (allowing a bird to perch on your head or shoulder is not for all birds, and at WBS parrots only perch on our hands).

Though unprepared as I was for a pet of my own, I wouldn’t give Mr. Bingley up for the world.  He makes me smile, makes me laugh, and reminds me that happiness can come from anywhere… even a little ball of feathers.

Submitted by Emily Hall, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Sunday, April 22, 2012

May Events

Get outside!  World Bird Sanctuary is hosting several events in May.

Bring your friends and family to World Bird Sanctuary in May for outdoor family-friendly fun!

We have some wonderful fun and free events to celebrate the good weather and the beautiful creatures that share our neighborhoods with us.

International Migratory Bird Day
Join the worldwide celebration of birds! 

Be part of the worldwide celebration of migratory birds at World Bird Sanctuary's International Migratory Bird Day.  Learn about why it is important to protect migratory birds and their migration flyways:
·       Fun, free children's activities with prizes!
·       Meet naturalists at our bird feeding stations to learn bird watching and identification tips from the experts!   
·       Bird-banding demonstrations - take a tour to watch our field studies crew catch, band and release migrating birds (small fee for transport to the site)!
·       Keeper talks about the migratory species that call World Bird Sanctuary home.
·       Date: Saturday 5 May
·       Time: 8am - 1pm
Admission and parking: Free!

Spring Camera Day
Bring your cameras! 
Taking photos of our birds has never been easier.  Join us for our Spring Camera Day, when we place birds in natural settings and fly them from trainer to trainer.  Our naturalists position the birds with photographs in mind - no fences or perches to obstruct that perfect photo - just a beautiful bird posing for you!

You have to be a WBS Friend to gain admission to Camera Day.  If you are not already a WBS Friend you can join on the day for as little as $35!

Bring lots of film, data cards and enthusiasm.  Schiller's Camera and Nikon will be on hand to help you get the perfect shot!  Concessions will be available.
·       Date: Sunday 6 May
·       Time: 10am - 2pm
Admission: Must be WBS Friend - you can sign-up on the day!

Hey! There's Nature in My Woods!
Family-friendly guided nature hikes! 
Join us for a leisurely two-hour hike through our oak hickory forest to see what kind of nature is in our woods.  An expert naturalist will lead you on your hike - where you may see birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.  Learn about trees, rocks and who knows what else?  Each hike will be a new experience as the seasons change and we encounter different creatures.
·       Fourth Saturday of every month from April through October.
·       9am - 11am (registration at 8.30am)
·       $9 per adult; $7 per child
Reservations required - call 636-225-4390 ext. 0

Bring your family!  Bring your friends!  Bring your camera!  Bring your picnic!  And join us outside in May for fun family entertainment!

Submitted by Catherine Redfern, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Fundraiser

Friday, April 20, 2012

World Eagle Day A Resounding Success

As World Eagle Day dawned on March 18th an early morning rain caused some anxiety among those who had worked so hard to produce this yearly event.

Thankfully, the clouds parted and the sun shone down upon us, warming things up to a balmy 82 degrees.  For World Bird Sanctuary, that’s the perfect scenario for a successful event – and that is exactly what we had!
The sound of clicking shutters was heard all day (Photo by Sandra Lowe Murray)
There were record crowds throughout the day, and our first three shows were so full that there was standing room only.  It’s not every day that you can see a bald eagle fly across a stage to land on a trainer’s glove.  What a sight!  Lewis, the Bald Eagle, did a fantastic job of flying.  Thanks to Lewis, and to Trina Whitener’s lively and educational “Eagles of the World” presentations, the eagle programs received rave reviews from the audiences.
A young guest having his face painted  (Photo by Sandra Lowe Murray)
The youngsters enjoyed the day by attending the presentations, making eagle face masks at our craft table, trying their hands at our “Feed the Eagle” game, having their faces painted, building an eagle nest and checking out our Reading Room Library.
How often does a youngster get to build an eagle nest?  (Photo by Sandra Lowe Murray)
With the record crowds, our sales table and Café stayed very busy.  Our photo opportunity with Patriot, the Bald Eagle, was a huge hit and kept our photographer Gay Schroer snapping photos continuously throughout the day.
The line for the eagle photo op never stopped (Photo by Sandra Lowe Murray)  
All in all, World Eagle Day had its most successful year ever, thanks to our faithful volunteers and staff—but most of all, to every one of our loyal supporters who came out and participated.  We couldn’t do it without you!
Guests enjoying our new and improved exhibit line path (Photo by Sandra Lowe Murray)
We are looking forward to a busy summer season filled with more exciting events.
If you would like to stay up to date on when you can catch an event here at WBS, sign up to receive our email newsletter by entering your email address in the box on the right-hand side of this page. 

You can also become a WBS Sponsor, starting for as little as $35.00, and receive our Mews News newsletter tri-annually – full of events, updates, stories and our Traveling Talons schedule.

As always, for more information you can visit our home web page at

Submitted by Billie Baumann, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Alaska Cruise: Day 6 - Victoria, British Columbia

The final day of our cruise found us at sea headed toward beautiful Victoria, British Columbia.
 Entering the port of Victoria, British Columbia
We would only be docked in this port from 6 pm until midnight.  This last port call would give those passengers who had not already taken a whale watching cruise the opportunity to do so.  There were a total of seven land tours offered here, most of which offered the opportunity to see this beautiful city in the evening.
 The beautiful Victoria skyline at night
Since we were headed back to Alaska to Kodiak Island after we docked in Seattle, my husband and I opted not to go ashore on this evening.  We were faced with the daunting task of completely repacking everything (including the souvenirs we had picked up along the way) so that we could leave some items in storage in Seattle.  We would be spending five days in the backcountry of Kodiak Island sitting on a riverbank bear viewing, so we would need a completely different type of clothing and gear than what we had packed for the cruise.  Plus—since we were flying in by bush plane the luggage we could take was severely limited.
Butchart Gardens from the Wikipedia website
Those that went ashore in Victoria gave glowing reports about what a beautiful city it was.   A good many went to Butchart Gardens, which apparently was magnificent in the evening.  Others took this last opportunity to go whale watching and still others went sightseeing in the city by horse drawn trolley, or attended an Empress high tea, or took an Ale and Brewery tour.

Perhaps the next time we will get to see Victoria.

So, now that you’ve had a taste of what Alaska cruising holds, pack your bags, get your passports, put down your deposit, and come cruise with us this fall. 

Details – Alaska  Explorer Cruise 2012
•            Escorted by Walt Crawford, Executive Director, World Bird Sanctuary
•            Aboard Holland America MS Oosterdam
•            Roundtrip itinerary – Seattle, Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Tracy Arm/Sawyer Glacier, Victoria, BC, and return to Seattle
•            Prices start at only $1,168 (inside cabin); $1488 (ocean view); $1,888 (verandah)

Price Includes:
•            7-day cruise accommodations
•            Onboard meals & entertainment
•            Special lectures by Walter Crawford
•            Visit to the Raptor Center in Sitka
•            Private cocktail party onboard
•            $25.00 per person Shipboard Credit
•            All taxes and government fees
*            Also included is a $50 donation to World Bird Sanctuary

Contact Cathy Robinson at ext. 114 (314) 439-5700 or (800) 527-1059

 Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Monday, April 16, 2012

Alaska Cruise: Day 5 – Ketchikan

Day 5 of our World Bird Sanctuary 2009 Alaska Cruise found us exploring the Port of Ketchikan for our last full day ashore. 
 Dockside in Ketchikan
This port had a total of 39 land tour options offered by Holland America Lines.  So many to choose from—so little time!  After poring over the long list of tours we opted to see Totem Bight State Historical Park for it’s beautiful setting and awesome selection of native art, as well as a tour of the Deer Mountain Eagle Center and Salmon Hatchery.
 Our tour guide regaling us with local stories & native lore
On our way to Totem Bight our very knowledgeable and personable tour guide gave us a brief history of Ketchikan, as well as pointing out the unusual architectural style—buildings are built on steep hillsides and most of them have at least one side perched atop wooden pilings.  Some of the homes and apartments have as many as 300 steps to the front door!
 We joined Walter and his fiancee Mary Elise for the day
We spent the next few hours walking through woods lined with beautifully restored and/or duplicated totem poles.  In the early 1900s many of the native people moved to communities where work was available, leaving behind their villages and totem poles.  These were soon over-grown and reclaimed by the forest, and many of these beautiful works of art were eroded by time and weather.  In 1938 the U.S. Forest Service, using Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) funds began a program of reclaiming and restoring or duplicating these beautiful relics.  They employed some of the older Tlingit natives who still remembered how to make the necessary tools and paints and knew how to carve the totems in the old way.
 Note how the clan house front resembles a face--a stylized Raven
One of the most interesting points on the tour is a reproduction of a native clan house, which could have housed 30-50 people—usually members of the same family.  The corner posts and supports were carved totems and the workmanship was incredible.
 Interior of the clan house
Our next stop after Totem Bight was the Deer Mountain Eagle Center and Salmon Hatchery.  This facility was originally operated by the State of Alaska’s Department of Fish & Game.  The Ketchikan Indian Community took over management of the facility in 1994, and in 1998 they expanded it to include the current Eagle Center.
 Carved sign for the Tribal Hatchery and Eagle Center
The Eagle Center currently has a collection of ten resident birds, which they use to present educational programs similar to those offered by the World Bird Sanctuary.  The tour was unique in that it focused on the cultural significance of the various species in Native American tradition and lore.

My husband was fascinated by the Salmon Hatchery tour where they had many exhibits showing the evolution of a Salmon from egg to adult.  It was really interesting to see the Salmon trying to swim upstream in a stream with simulated rapids and boulders—otherwise known as a fish ladder.

Ketchikan is known as the Salmon fishing capital of the world and one of the land tours offered was a sport fishing trip.  Had we been headed directly home after we left the cruise ship I’m sure my “in house fisherman” would have managed to sign up for this option.  However, upon our return to Seattle we would be headed back to Alaska for a five-day bear watching adventure and some Halibut fishing.  We felt we had to draw the line somewhere.
Dinner was accompanied by entertainment presented by the dining room staff 
Dinner on the cruise ship this night was accompanied by a show in the Grand Dining Room presented by the dining room staff (including chefs, waiters, busboys, etc.)  I can’t say enough about the staff and crew on this ship.  They were unfailingly helpful, accommodating, always pleasant and eager to please.

If you would like to make a reservation to join us on the World Bird Sanctuary’s Alaska Cruise September 9-16 Click Here for more information.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Saturday, April 14, 2012

There's Still Time to Enter!

Are you a writer?  A poet?  A sculptor?  A photographer?  A musician?  A painter?  A singer?  A wood carver? 

Do you have a budding artist in your household?  

Do you appreciate birds?  Have you ever wondered, "What do they do all day . . .?" as they fly overhead or forage in the trees?

Enter our "What Do They Do All Day . . . " Creative Contest?

We are accepting entries in any creative medium of your choice (as long as it conforms to the size and format specified on the entry form) in four age groups:
6 - 9 years old
10 - 13 years old
14 - 18 years old
19 years old and over

You stand to win some unique prizes!  There will be five finalists in each age category.  From these 20 finalists, judges will select an overall winner.  Each of the 20 finalists will be awarded with a prize, and will have their entries exhibited at World Bird Sanctuary on Saturday, May 5th, as part of our International Migratory Bird Day celebrations.  Prizes include:

1st prize - there will be one overall First Prize Winner

  1. A photo shoot with Marian Brickner, renowned animal photographer.  To find out more about her beautiful body of work, click here to visit her website.
  2. An Adopt-a-Bird Subscription for one year, up to a $200 value.
  3. A 4" x 6" photograph of the artist and his/her entry at the final exhibition, taken by Marian Brickner.

2nd Prize - there will be four Second Prize Winners - one from each age category

  1. An Adopt-a-Bird Subscription for one year, up to a $150 value.
  2. A 4" x 6" photograph of the artist and his/her entry at the final exhibition, taken by Marian Brickner.
3rd Prize - there will be fifteen Third Prize Winners - for each of the remaining 20 finalists in the competition
  1. An Adopt-a-Bird Subscription for one year, up to a $75 value.
  2. A 4" x 6" photograph of the artist and his/her entry at the final exhibition, taken by Marian Brickner.

Entries must be received by 5pm on Sunday, April 22nd 2012 (received via mail by this time, or hand delivered by this time), and must conform to the rules of the competition (on the entry form) to be eligible to enter.

Download an entry form here, or pick one up at World Bird Sanctuary's Visitor Information Center or Nature Center!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Alaska Cruise: Day 4 – Sitka

Day 4 of our cruise saw us docking in Sitka Harbor, where again Holland America Cruise Line offered around twenty land tours to those so inclined.  These ranged from whale watch tours to tours that explore the clash of the Russian and Tlingit cultures in the early 1800s.
 Our ship, the MS Westerdam at anchor in Sitka harbor
This port was somewhat different from the one in Juneau where our ship pulled right up to a wharf and we just walked down the gangplank.  In Sitka there was no handy dandy gangplank.  The shore was reached via ship’s tender (small boats that took passengers from the cruise ship to the wharf). 
 One of the tender boats ferrying passengers from ship to shore
While many of our shipboard companions had decided to avail themselves of the many tours that were offered, we had decided that we would like to just wander and explore this small town on foot and eventually work our way to the Sitka National Historic Park.   

We began poking in and out of the quaint little shops along Sitka’s main street.  Unlike Juneau, which had quite a few large “touristy” type souvenir shops, many of the shops in Sitka seemed to have a better selection of locally handcrafted merchandise.  One of our favorites was the Sitka Rose Gallery, which featured handcrafted art and other quality merchandise housed in a quaint little historic building.
 This quaint little historic building houses the Sitka Rose Gallery
Another favorite was a shop that specialized in colorful kites and other unusual items.
This shop carried the most marvelous selection of kites, as well as other unusual items
As the day wore on and our stomachs began to tell us that it was time for lunch we discovered an outdoor sidewalk café whose specialty was Alaskan King Crab Legs.  Unfortunately, we didn’t discover this place until every table was full and the waiting line for tables was long.  We debated going somewhere else for lunch, but decided that there was just something wrong about not having Alaskan King Crab Legs in Alaska.  However, we didn’t want to spend our limited time in Sitka standing in line, so we decided to have our crab legs in their indoor restaurant.  Were we ever glad we made this decision.  These had to be the best crab legs we’ve ever had!
After our crab legs feast we decided to walk on to find the Sitka National Historic Park.  Along the way we passed the local salmon hatchery and of course my husband, a fanatic fisherman, had to take the hatchery tour. 
Hatchery activity
While he was absorbed in salmon eggs, fingerlings, and hatchery techniques I wandered up the road and bought some home made jellies and jams from two local teenage girls, and took some photos of Mt. Edgecumb—a volcano that looms in the background of many photos of Sitka.  A volcano exploration by raft and 4X4 was one of the tours offered here and in retrospect it probably would have been well worth taking—but you can’t do everything in just one day. 
Mt. Edgecumb--a dormant volcano that is an ever present reminder that this is a land of fire and ice
After the hatchery tour ended we continued on our way toward the park.  As we rounded a bend we noted that the tide was out and that there were a number of tide pools along the shore.  Now we had a dilemma—did we have the time to explore the tide pools and still make it to the park in time to tour its museum before our rendezvous with the last tender to the ship?  Alas, we decided to forego the tide pools and trek on to the park museum—so many things to see and so little time! 
Low tide affords the opportunity to explore the many tidepools left behind
Upon reaching our destination we spent quite some time exploring the museum’s exhibits, which explore the native Tlingit culture and the Russian-Tlingit conflict in the early19th century.  The Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center, housed in this building, featured native artisans demonstrating their crafts such as wood carving, basket making, weaving, silversmithing, etc.  The artisans were eager to answer any questions. 
The walking path took us past colorful totem poles such as this one
A one mile walking path behind the building took us through a forest and along the shore of Sitka Sound, past beautifully carved  native totem poles.  From the footbridge over Indian River we had a good view of spawning salmon as we wound our way back to the dock area.  There we rested our tired feet and waited for our Tender back to the ship while resting next to a huge native whaling canoe.
Can you imagine harpooning a whale out of a vessel such as this canoe?
We would have liked to have had more time to investigate this picturesque little town—maybe next time.

For more information about this year’s WBS Alaska Cruise Click Here.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Alaska Cruise: Day 3 - Juneau

As the World Bird Sanctuary prepares to lead a group of travelers on another Alaska Cruise this September, travel along with us as I give you a glimpse into the highlights of our 2009 trip.  
Dock area shops - Red Dog Saloon in the background

After cruising all night, day 3 found us about to cruse into our first port of call—Juneau, the capitol of the State of Alaska.

Upon signing up for the cruise we had been given a website and a password whereby we could preview many aspects of the trip—one of which was a list of the many land tours available at each port.  This would give us the opportunity of deciding ahead of time which tours we would like to do, and we could sign up from home—no last minute decisions.  There were thirty-two tours offered for the port of Juneau alone.
Dockside tramway ride to the top of Mt. Roberts - one of the many land tour options
Tour choices ranged from Alaska Salmon Bakes to whale watches, helicopter flightseeing, gold panning, fly-out fly fishing trips, beach walks, bus tours, sea kayaking, rain forest canopy and zipline adventures, and a multitude of others.  The choices were mind-boggling.  Thank goodness we could go through the list ahead of time.

Since there were several other things we wanted to see in our next two ports of call, we had decided that we would sign up for a Whale Watching Quest in Juneau. Others in our travel group opted for some of the other tours. 
The Old Witch Totem, located in the Civic Center Building, accessible by foot, but a bit of a walk
Our tour didn’t leave until 12:30 pm, so we set off to explore the city of Juneau on foot.  We spent the morning searching for The Old Witch Totem Pole.  According to an acquaintance who had lived in Juneau for many years this was the best preserved authentic totem pole in the state of Alaska.  However, unlike many of the other totems it was not on the usual tourist itinerary, but in the Civic Center office building. 
This totem had some amazing detail

This totem was a true work of art and it was hard to believe that it had been carved by people who had only the crudest of tools. 
We were intrigued by some of the colorful buildings
On the way back to the dock area we explored the quaint shops along the way and photographed the colorful buildings that lined the streets—and of course purchased our share of souvenirs for kids and grandkids back home.
The Alaska Fishermen's Building
Our shuttle driver for our tour was very informative and as we drove to the harbor she showed us the points of interest and gave us background and history on many of the local landmarks.  She even stopped the bus and let us get off the to photograph a beautiful scenic area that was ablaze with Fireweed.
The Fireweed in full bloom with Mendenhall Glacier in the background
We boarded the tour boat promptly at 12:30 and set out to find whales.  A park ranger was on board to answer questions and to interpret some of the behaviors we would see.
There was comfortable seating in the boat, but this was the best spot to get photos
Along the way we spotted a colony of sea lions basking on a rocky land spit.  At first all we saw was a rocky shoreline, and then suddenly we realized that some of those “rocks” were actually sea lions.  Mother nature’s camouflage is amazing!  
There are nine or more Sea Lions in this photo--can you spot them?
The fur of these marine mammals blends into the rocks so perfectly that they’re almost invisible until you’re right on top of them.
This Sea Lion blended right in with these mossy rocks
We motored along and rounded the tip of an island and suddenly, there they were—ORCAS! (Otherwise known as Killer Whales).  This was a small pod of four Orcas—including at least 1—possibly 2—youngsters.  It was hard to get a fix on the exact number since they would surface only briefly and then dive—only to surface again in a totally different direction.  
This pod of Orcas cavorted around our boat for at least 30 minutes
I have to say that of all the animals that I have photographed in the wild these were probably the most difficult to capture on film.  You never knew where they were going to surface, plus they travel at the speed of light!
My husband was lucky enough to catch this shot of an Orca breaching
After watching and photographing this pod of Orcas for quite some time the captain of our tour boat decided it was time to move to another location where a pod of Humpback Whales had been spotted that morning.  After a short ride we found them.  They were hunting the waters right in front of a glacier ice field.
This time I was the one lucky enough to get the shot
As we watched, the Humpbacks began bubble net feeding, and the ranger began describing to us what was going on beneath the surface.  The entire pod of Humpbacks dove to a great depth and then they began to circle a school of prey fish.  As they circled, the lead whale began to “sing” (we could hear this on an underwater microphone that was lowered off the side of our boat).  The “singing” and bubbles emitted from the whales’ blowhole acted as a kind of net that pushed the prey to the surface as the whales circled the school of fish.  
The gulls let us know where the Humpbacks would surface
We were told that when the “singing” stopped we should watch the gulls that were circling overhead as they would pinpoint the location where the prey and the whales would break the surface.  Sure enough, the singing stopped and the gulls began to circle overhead.  
This was an incredible sight!
Suddenly whales and small baitfish exploded from the water in an incredible feeding frenzy!  The huge behemoths would dive and then jump half their body length out of the water with mouths gaping to scoop up the frenzied baitfish.  This went on for perhaps ten minutes and then it was over--all was quiet except for the calls of the gulls, who were greedily feasting on the leftovers from the carnage.  This happened twice while we were watching. 

Soon it was time to head back to port, and as we traveled back to our respective ships all of us who had boarded the tour boat as strangers began swapping names and email addresses, promising to share photos (if any turned out).  To this day I still swap emails with a couple of the strangers that we met as part of our whale watching experience.
There are plenty of shops here to satisfy the cravings of any shopaholic
We returned to the docks with just enough time to make a couple of last minute purchases at one of the stores that fronts the wharf before it was time to board ship.

For more information or to make your reservation to join this year’s cruise Click Here

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer