Posts tagged “Khutzeymateen Inlet Sanctuary

Seagulls in the Khutzeymateen

Khutzeymateen gull in flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Though named for its bears, the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary shelters a great variety of other wildlife as well.  Seagulls abound in the inlet with several different species mixing in with any one of the flocks.

Symmetry - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Water launch - 2013 © Christopher Martin

With the salmon running up the creeks to spawn, the bears would go into the forest where the water is shallow for easy hunting.  When a bear is feeding upstream, seagulls soon arrive at the river mouth and wait for the scraps.

A sentry for scraps - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Waiting for the bears to feast - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Bears are pretty messy when they are feasting on salmon so a lot of bits float down.  The birds hang in the air and perch along the banks watching for the bright red meat in the water.

A morsel of salmon caught - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The aerial acrobatics as they angle for position, dive for scraps, hold their territory and generally heckle one another are a lot of fun to watch.  The small streams keep the birds packed into a little area which allows for great photography as they fly in the same locations repeatedly.  Even with big lenses, it is relatively easy to track them as they fly up and down, back and forth.

Aerial surveillance - 2013 © Christopher Martin

On the sail out of the inlet, a few seagulls were using a stick of driftwood as there base of operations.  I don’t know if they were on a break from the salmon or if the insects along the surface were more enticing.

Adrift in the inlet - 2013 © Christopher Martin

 

Whether on the rivers or out on the open water, I enjoyed photographing these birds throughout my time in the Khutzeymateen.


Anything but common


Into the air - 2013 © Christopher Martin

A great variety of wildlife shares the Khutzeymateen Inlet with the Grizzly Bears.  With coastal wolves and orcas being more elusive during my trip, any disappointment vanished in the face of the diversity of birds on hand or around just about any corner.  Several types of gulls would congregate at the mouth of creeks where bears were catching fish upstream.  The loose bits floating down drew them in for an easy meal.  Eagles, both Bald and Golden, surveyed the waters from perches in the towering cedars lining the bays.

Black water landing - 2013 © Christopher Martin

One bird which consistently captured my attention was the Common Merganser (Mergus merganser).  They gathered in small flushes on open water and in the wide estuary at the end of the inlet.

Female Common Mergansers perched - 2013 © Christopher Martin

When they take flight, they step along the water once they get airborne and remain low with their wingtips occasionally dipping into the water as they fly along.

High stepping in the Khutzeymateen - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Wing dip - 2013 © Christopher Martin

This activity was great fun to watch and photograph while waiting for some of the more celebrated wildlife to visit.  I didn’t mind the waiting at all.

Long steps to takeoff - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Flight and reflection - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Landscapes in the Khutzeymateen

Into the Khutzeymateen - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Justifiably, the Grizzly bears I spent time watching in the Khutzeymateen cast a long shadow and much of my time there and since returning has been spent thinking about them.  I have to say that even if I had seen no wildlife, the scenery in the Khutzeymateen is brilliant and I would have been able to fill my memory cards with landscape imagery.

Shade and sun fight in the Khutzeymateen - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Trapped in the ridges - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The inlet is relatively narrow, running roughly a mile wide for most of its length.  The mountains rise steeply up from the water, blanketed in most places with dense rainforest.  The trees are broken up by chutes, large and otherwise, where the snow has conspired to avalanche and by areas where the barren rock has prohibited the forest’s advance.

Rainforest silhouettes - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Forest in mist - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Throughout the day, chains of mist evolve across the mountainsides.  Whether under a leaden sky or in bright, open sunshine, these ethereal cousins to clouds continue unabated.  It was a true pleasure to just relax and watch them travel past.  While looking for the valley’s wildlife, I enjoyed picking out details along the coast as we motored past in the little zodiac boat.

A spontaneous creek - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The edge of coastal forest - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Berries in the wilds - 2013 © Christopher Martin

On the second to last afternoon, the rain abated and the sun lit up the valley a little before night stepped in.  It whispered of great weather and that held true for the next couple of days.

Lighting smoke - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Into night in the Khutzeymateen - 2013 © Christopher Martin

We sailed a few miles westwards towards the mouth of the inlet on the last evening.  The light was warm, so was the air – a nice time to photograph off the bow.

2013 © Christopher Martin

That night, the moon was full and when it cleared the ridge above the cove, it was a beautiful scene to behold.

Blue Moon rising over the Khutzeymateen - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The last morning, dawn was spectacular.

Dawn on the water in the Khutzeymateen Inlet - 2013 © Christopher Martin


A Heron’s Flyby

A Heron's flyby - 2013 © Christopher Martin

On the last evening in the Khutzeymateen, we pulled up the anchor and cruised halfway westward down the inlet.  It felt like I was going in the wrong direction as we sailed away from this home of the bears.  We sheltered in a cove about halfway down the ten-mile inlet for the night and enjoyed a quick zodiac ride around this new area.  There were a few seals who popped their heads out of the water to watch us as we puttered along the shoreline.

A curious friend - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Ahead of dinner, I pulled up chair on the bow and enjoyed watching the day slide away.  I had noticed some birds on the shore but they were a long distance from our location so I did not keep too sharp an eye on them.  Until, one of the larger birds took to the air and made a direct line for the sailboat.  Swiftly closing the distance between us, I realized this cove resident to be Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias).

Coming for a visit? - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Herons are a favourite bird of mine.  I love how they fly, huge wings tracing out powerful beats while their necks hold their heads back in a seemingly laid back manner.  I see them frequently whether I’m on a lake in the mountains, near a marsh on the prairies or, luckily, on a boat in one of the most wonderful places I have ever been.

Downstroke - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Drawing near, it was clear he was curious who was staying over that night and he had decided to complete a flyby to check us out.  He flew within a couple of metres of my head, banked over the stern and flew back to the beach.  Apparently we had not raised any ire as all of the birds continued with their activities along the water before nightfall.

Passing by - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Although I have spent a lot of time watching Great Blue Herons, I have never had one circle directly around me.  I liked being their almost at his approval.  Romantically, I thought of it as an acceptance of us being in this wild place for a few days.  It was a gift to be able to end the last night with this highlight.