Creatures On and Off the Trails

I've been promising so many photos for so long that I don't know where to start. But here are a few before the next adventure begins.

This black oyster catcher surprised me at Venice Beach. I was on a meditation walk, not taking pictures. If you know these guys, you know how they can squawk. I heard him before I saw him. There were many folks taking photos and peering in one direction. So I looked that way too. Suddenly he saw me and flew down to land in front of me. I just took out my camera, hunkered down and started shooting. Folks who had been in pursuit were gracious enough not to swarm us. So I was lucky enough to get many good shots that morning. Has there ever been a time when serendipity in nature just unfolded before you, inviting you to have a good look? If you posted the photos, let me know, so I can see too.

This one is from a local park. I came over a hill and three squirrels dashed for their burrows. I figured if I waited around and was generally peaceful, one or two would get curious. This one finally did. I've noticed that about animals. If you sit still for a while, or even read softly aloud, they'll come around and check you out.Thoreau writes about it. Has anything like this ever happened to you?

We were heading back to Anchorage from Homer, one of our favorite places in the universe, and saw a car pulled over on the narrow highway with folks tumbling out, looking straight up through their cameras and binoes. We've learned to pay attention whenever this happens. I looked up. "Sheep!" I said, "Dall Sheep!" I hadn't seen any in two trips to Alaska. Lisa hit the breaks and we skidded to a stop at a sharp bend in the road. When we got out of the car, we realized we'd have to cross the highway blind, so to speak, because we couldn't see around the mountain. I hesitated--in fact I complained, "We're going to get a ticket! We're going to get killed! (California Whiner.) But Lisa ignored me. She was listening for a car. So I did too. Next thing I know she's running. I yelled, "Wait!" because I wasn't sure if I heard a car coming or not. "We're going!" she said. And I ran after her. If she was going to get creamed, I was too. These Dall Sheep were making their way down a steep wall of hematite. I noticed berries growing on the ground near our feet. I'm guessing they were climbing down for a taste. Stopping the way we did was well worth the effort to see them like this.

Looking for bears. Spotting them. We were lucky enough to have a guide who, with his wife, led a National Geographic expedition to this same location the year before. We figured it would be an outstanding adventure. We weren't disappointed.

Finally, the bears, Alaskan brown bears--called Grizzlies south of where we were. They literally took our breath away a couple of times. One minute we were tracking, following bear trails through the grasses, and matching our bootprints to their larger footprints in the mud, searching and searching. The next, they were quietly and stealthily all around us--one there, another there, two over there, two more out there. It was a little scary.

Fortunately, they were more interested in grazing than charging us or eating bear trackers. We did see some action between them, though. One female with cubs, fighting off a large male, was particularly frightening. I captured some photos. It's an amazing story I'll show and tell sometime.

Sailing anyone? We were on a sturdy water taxi--not a big vessel by any stretch, but to me a lot safer than a little sailboat. On the previous year's trip we met a small pod of four orcas. One nudged our kayak twice, beneath us. Good thing they weren't hungry. I was too nervy to appreciate their curiosity very much, but I'm glad I have the story.

This is from Thailand. That's another elephant in the water looking like a boulder. Earlier in the day three larger elephants each caressed my hand as they made their way down to the river for a bath. I still don't know what possessed me to reach out to them when they reached for me. I was just dumbfounded to see them so close and so serene. I think they were curious about my hair, or something, because they didn't reach for the other folks who gathered by the river. I dunno. That little bright fleck to the left of junior's face is the tip of her trunk peeking out of the shadow.

Finally, the Great Blue Heron, striking a pose.