Friday, January 11, 2013

Denali Discovery Hike with Ranger Bob

I'm taking you back to Alaska with me and we're going on a Disco Hike in Denali National Park and Preserve.
Disco is shorthand for Discovery Hike, a hike that is planned by a ranger, transects a selected area of the wilderness and is charted so that no more than two hikes can be made in that same area during a single summer season.
Ranger Bob (third from left) giving us some orientation comments before our hike. We arrived from the Toklat River Tent by shuttle bus and began our hike in the vicinity of the Eielson Visitor's Center, mile 66 on the Park Road.
Besides the goal of offering guided hikes to educate visitors, these hikes are designed to protect the integrity of the wilderness and create the least amount of impact to the plant and animal communities in the tundra.   There are a limited number of established trails in the park; the remainder of visitor hiking is done off trail in the wilderness by permit.
Red Bearberry leaves and white/gray Reindeer Lichen, a winter staple for caribou.

September is a beautiful time in Denali.  The tundra is vibrant with fall foliage, brilliant in color and ever changing  weather conditions and lighting.  Every step brings more breath-taking beauty and discovery, and it is especially exciting to experience some of the plants in the tundra up close.

Above and below you see "Dead Man's Fingers" reaching up among green crowberry leaves and bog blueberries.  The finger-like fungus sometimes exhibits a waving motion.
September 3rd was my second day in the park with Rangers Bob and Tina King as my host and hostess during my stay.  Our forecast for this hike was light rain, winds gusting to 60 mph and temps in the 40's F.  You can see we are bundled up, primarily to block the wind.  Fortunately, the rain remained misty, giving us very tolerable conditions.
We are headed for that distant shelf ridge you see in the above images, to rest for lunch along its edge and enjoy the view created by the glacial rivers.  Along the way we stopped to sample the wild bog blueberries.
The height of tundra vegetation is limited by the depth of the soil.  Below the soil  lies perma frost, a layer of ice that remains year around, partially melting during summer months and refreezing during the winter.  Growth height is also determined by genetic properties that keep the plant from growing high enough to be damaged by the winds that blow across the tundra.
I had the good fortune of not only sampling tundra blueberries  but also enjoying their tasty tartness over pound cake with fresh whipped cream at a cordial dinner in Fairbanks a few days earlier.  Yum!
Above, blueberry leaves among yellow willow and raindeer lichen.

We had a descent and a river to cross.  Thanks to the watchful eyes of our leader, we paused and got some good looks at willow ptarmigans foraging under the willow branches.
Next:  A closer look at Alaska's state bird.

Links and Resources:

Click this link to view all my posts on Denali National Park and Preserve.  To see all posts on my visit to Alaska in the fall of 2012, visit Alaska

Denali National Park and Preserve

Willow Ptarmigan
Alaska wild berries
bog blueberries

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Winter Visit with Yellow-rumped Warblers

Despite the predominance of cold and gray, winter is a fun time of year to get reacquainted with feathered friends that only visit the yard during this season.  Besides the pleasure of having red-breasted nuthatches visiting the feeders daily, there are some other birds that I'm always delighted to see.
Some times yellow-rumped warblers make an appearance and because they are very busy, shy and acrobatic, they disappear before I can catch any images.  At other times, like this occasion, I just happen to be at the right place, still enough that they ignored me, and close enough that I could enjoy some intimate looks.
A warbler gleaning insects from around the brim of the bird bath caught my attention from the window and I stepped out with my camera a few minutes later to see if maybe he/she was still around.

I think I will always remember a speechless moment I had while attending the New River Gorge Birding and Nature Festival in West Virginia in 2010. We were all there to see warblers returning to their breeding territories and singing. On one day in the field we found a beautiful male yellow-rumped warbler along our walk. Having  previously only seen this species in the winter in Tennessee, I was delighted to see breeding plumage and snapped a bunch of images while he lingered on an eye-level branch.

I was lagging behind the others, as I often did, and a lady walked over to me and asked what I was photographing.  When I showed her, she waved her hand dismissively and said, "oh, I've seen a million of those".  
I had no words to respond.  It is doubtful that I will ever see a  warbler often enough to have no interest, especially this sweet annual visitor.   I'm still snapping images of  American robins when the opportunity arises.  There is always something new---different lighting, different behavior, a different color combination in their plumage, a different expression.

And these images were smile worthy.

 Do you think she's looking at her reflection?

Yellow-rumped warblers on this blog.  Click the link to see the warbler I was photographing in West Virginia
Cornell's all about birds:  Yellow-rumped warbler
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Ocean Trail at Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, California--2015

Ocean Trail at Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, California--2015

Bird-banding at Seven Islands State Birding Park--2014

Bird-banding at Seven Islands State Birding Park--2014
Photo courtesy of Jody Stone

Bird-banding at Seven Islands

Bird-banding at Seven Islands
Photo courtesy of Karen Wilkenson

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill!--2014

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill!--2014
Photo courtesy of Blue Sky Expeditions

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane banners and son, John--2014

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane banners and son, John--2014

The Incredible Muir Woods near Stinson Beach, CA--2014

The Incredible Muir Woods near Stinson Beach, CA--2014
Photo courtesy of Wendy Pitts Reeves

Me and Denali--2012

Me and Denali--2012
Photo courtesy of Bob King

For the Love of It...

...the sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror, and he pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which it reveals.
Sendivogius (1750)

Your Uncapped Creativity...

Your Uncapped Creativity...
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action; and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. You must keep that channel open. It is not for you to determine how good it is, nor how valuable. Nor how it compares with other expressions. It is for you to keep it yours, clearly and directly." ----the great dancer, Martha Graham