Mike & Dawn / Anna & David

Our first day in Alaska we spent driving up to Denali stopping at every overlook. The weather was great with clear skies. I took this photo of Mt. McKinley from Denali State Park on the drive up. They said we only have a 20-30% chance of seeing the mountain due to weather on any given day. We had a 95% chance to see a bear.

Denali Mount McKinley

When we got to Denali we decided to drive into the park. You can drive the first 15 miles. At the turn around their were tour buses stopped on the bridge. That’s when we saw out first Grizzly Bear. We parked the car, got our camera equipment, and started taking photos. The bear was across the Savage River. We moved down the opposite shore taking photos. That’s when the bear charged across the river right at us. The Park Ranger on the bridge was yelling for us to run back and get in the out house. I didn’t get a shot of the bear running across the river at us because I was moving to a new position. The bear passed us by. After the excitement I was able to get this photo of the bear a little later at a safe distance.

First Grizzly

We learned a lot during our first hour at the park. 1. There is a good reason to maintain a safe distance from bears. Apparently 300 yards. 2. Bears can run very fast. 3. The best camera is the one you have with you. Our friend Anna had a point and shoot and got the photo of the charging bear.

crash Landing

Somehow this entry was deleted. Will have to repost later.

A Great Start

Originally we were booked from Baltimore to LAX to Denver to Anchorage and it was going to take us 19 hours to get to Alaska. I used miles to get free tickets for my wife and I on United. Unfortunately United wouldn’t let us book the better outbound flights on a free ticket.

So this morning we went to the airport bright and early prepared for a long day. When we checked in, the United worker behind the counter offered to change our flights to the much quicker rout through Chicago. This cuts about eight hours off of our travel time today.

To say the least we are very excited.

Alaska Bound

My wife and I are off to Alaska next week. We have been planning this trip for a year. We started right after Jack Mills came to the Arundel Camera Club and gave a talk. His bear photography from Alaska was great. We are going with our friends Anna and David. We are flying to Anchorage. From there we have three destinations. First we are driving to Denali. Then we are flying to Brooks Falls. Finally we will drive down to Seward. Cross your fingers the weather forecast Has been rain, rain, and more rain.

I will be posting photos to my Flickr during the trip and updating my blog pending Internet access.

Bald Eagle, originally uploaded by bmthomas.

We visited the Sarasota County Landfill Pinelands Reserve while we were in Florida. For the most part I was unimpressed. However there is an Eagle Nest very close to the birding path. There were two adults and at least one baby while we were there. One parent always seemed to stand guard while the other hunted. There were opportunities to get shots as they came and went. I would say this is the closest I have ever been to a eagle nest. Well worth the visit especially if you are going to the nearby Venice Rookery.

Osprey, originally uploaded by bmthomas.

In Sarasota where the Pelican Man used to run the pelican sanctuary there is a new bird rescue called Save Our Seabirds. Now most of the birds are in cages and it can be very challenging to get a good photo. Today however the volunteers were chasing around a Kestrel that had escaped its cage. They kept trying to lure it with scraps of meat. This gave me a chance to get some good photos. When I left they still hadn’t captured him.

Nearby is a boat launch. There are always Blue Herons, Egrets, and pelicans there hoping to steal some fish from fishermen when they return and clean their catch. I have also seen night herons and cormorants. In the trees across the water there is a rookery for brown pelicans, blue herons, and aninghas.

While there I spotted an osprey in a tree. He let me get fairly close before taking off. I really couldn’t be any closer and keep his wingspan in the frame when he took off.

American Kestrel American Kestrel

Red-bellied Woodpecker, originally uploaded by bmthomas.

The Palma Sola Botanical Park is right across the street from Robinson Preserve so there is no reason not to visit both. It is open daily from 8am until dusk- no entry fee!

Normally there are lots of flowers to photograph. Unfortunately they looked like maybe they had been affected by freezing weather.

So the birds are the other attraction. In just a short morning visit I saw cormorants, osprey, red bellied wood peckers, brown pelican, a hawk of some kind, blue-gray gnatcatchers wood storks, white ibis, moching birds, canada geese, coot, mallards, etc.

Well worth a visit or two. I always walk down in the morning any time I am visiting my parents.

Robinson Preserve

Loggerhead Shrike

Originally uploaded by bmthomas

Just down the street from my parents house they have built a new 487-acre preserve. They are trying to return the land, shore, and marshes to a natural state. They have a lot of biking, walking, and paddling trails.

Robinson Preserve is located in northwestern Bradenton, in the Palma Sola area, across the street from the Palma Sola Botanical Gardens.

While visiting we saw a Loggerhead Shrike, egrets, ibis, vultures, osprey, little blue heron, great blue heron, redish egret, and an assortment of shore birds.

Redish Egret Redish Egret

Felts Audubon Preserve

Bluebirds, originally uploaded by bmthomas.

Felts Audubon Preserve
4600 24th Avenue East
Palmetto, Florida

This was a rare treat for me. My mother had told me about Felts Audubon Preserve last year. Unfortunately it is only open the first Saturday of the month from 0800 to noon. This was the first time I had been around on the first Saturday of the month.The preserve is run by the Manatee County Audubon Society (http://www.manateeaudubon.org/felts.html). According to their pamphlets it consist of 27 acres and they have seen over 100 species of birds have been seen at the preserve.

We were the first to arrive. I highly recommend getting there early/first because it did get a little crowded.

We saw a number of small birds including Eastern Bluebirds, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Palm Warbler, Tufted Titmouse, American Kestrel, and a Wood Stork. When we arrived we saw a pair of mating Red-shouldered hawks. We saw these hawks repeatedly through out the day. According to locals they have seen owls and painted buntings. I was really hoping to get a good bluebird photo and to see a painted bunting but didn’t.

If you are in the area on the first Saturday or the month, I would highly recommend a visit.

Red Shouldered Hawk Red Shouldered Hawk

I spent another week in Florida visiting my parents and haling my camera to local birding locals in February. Over the next few days (or weeks) I will upload a description of each local I visited and some of the highlights as well as photos.

While in Florida I went to the following birding hot spots:

Here is a map with some links of all the locals I went.


View SW Florida Birding in a larger map