Trip Reports

Kachemak Bay – Homer, Alaska

By Traci L. Sepkovic

 

When planning our first tour to Kachemak Bay in Homer, Alaska, sea otters with newborns were at the top of our list. We started the week with incredible sunrise views across the bay from our resort before we set off for the docks. The sea otters did not disappoint. The way they interacted as they were feeding was so cute and once in a while they would surprise us by popping up really close onto the ice. We visited the sea otters a few times throughout the week as everyone really enjoyed them and wanted to go back. While in the harbor we also had some great looks at common goldeneyes, buffleheads, mergansers, greater scaup, and bald eagles.

On our way to the next stop we were sidetracked by a large flock of pine siskens, white-winged crossbills, and red crossbills. The spruce cones were plentiful this year and so were these birds. We rounded out the day with more pine siskens, common redpolls, a 3-toed woodpecker, Canada jay, and moose which were plentiful in the area. Other mammals we observed during the week were the short-tailed weasel/ermine and showshoe hare.

Our guides, Jamin Taylor and Sergius Hannan, are both lifelong residents of Alaska and are very knowledgeable about the birds and wildlife in the area. In the weeks leading up to the tour, they had been keeping their eye on a great gray owl that was in the area. Everyone was hoping to see it as this species was a lifer for most of the group. When we arrived, we were disappointed to hear that it had not been seen for a few days. One morning mid-week, Jamin and Sergius walked into the lobby with big smiles on their faces and for good reason. They told our group that the great gray owl had been spotted again. We quickly set off to find it and sure enough, the owl was in the vicinity of where it was last seen. This owl put on quite a show for us by landing really close by at times.

We also enjoyed time along the shore of the harbor with rock sandpipers and on the bay outside the resort with several waterfowl species including long-tailed ducks, red-necked grebes, horned grebes, red-breasted mergansers, and more. Ducks in flight are great subjects for working on fast-moving birds in flight and they looked beautiful against the backdrop of the Kenai Mountains.

During the week we did a few short, easy hikes and added more songbird species to our list including boreal chickadees, black-capped chickadees, golden-crowned kinglets, red-breasted nuthatches, varied thrush, and more crossbills.  We even saw a great-horned owl, sharp-shinned hawks, and Northern goshawks. Species photographed at feeder set-ups include the beautiful gray-crowned rosy-finch, pine grosbeaks, stellar jay, common redpolls, and Canada jays.

There are a few things the participants really enjoyed about this trip. The pace was primarily determined by the group’s interest in staying a little longer or being ready to move on. At each location, we had plenty of time to explore creative techniques and compositions, revisit species participants had greater interest in seeing again, and nobody ever felt rushed. While these tours are not about the food, we did have some really great meals together each evening which was a nice way to wrap up our busy days.

This tour is great for anyone looking for an unrushed pace and the opportunity to add a diverse variety of bird and mammal species to their portfolio. I consider it a wonderful success not just for the various species we photographed, but for the connections made along the way.

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