Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kodiak's cattle

This weekend we went on a walk to see the tsunami waves arrive from the earthquake in Chile. We went about 2 miles off the end of the road system at Pasagshak. This is what we saw on our walk.

Aren't those cattle hairy? They are Scottish Highlander Cattle. They had tried raising regular cattle, but the cold and the rain did not let them succceed. These new guys are handling the elements well. They seem so tame; they let us walk right by them without any sign of being disturbed. Maybe that is why a few years ago bears started attacking them. So they brought up buffalo which do a much better job of fending off the bears. The combination of the Scottish Highlanders and buffalo seem to be a success. Both withstand the weather and the buffalo keep the bears away.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Waiting for the Tsunami

As most of you know, there was an 8.8 earthquake in Chile this weekend. I knew that because I get notices on my email of all quakes in the Pacific. For example, there was a 7.3 quake off Japan earlier in the week. I bet none of you heard about that..becasue every decimal point means a 10X increment in the strength of a 7.3 in Japan is not that serious for us here.

The 1964 Easter Friday quake south of Anchorage was the strongest one in recorded history in the Western Hemisphere at 9.4. That one created tsunami waves of over 30 feet in Kodiak and destroyed the marinas and downtown. So we take tsunamis seriously. For example, every Wednesday at 2 PM tsunami alarm horns are tested throughout the city. One recent Thursday they went off by mistake. That appereantly created allot of calls to the radio and police stations by scared people.

But we knew this one from Chile was coming We knew it would be tiny. And the city did not even set off the alarms. But what did we do? Only in Kodiak do we go out in a snow storm to see a tsunami wave come in.

So off we went on a 30+ mile drive to the end of the road, and then a 2 mile hike to the end of a point to watch the event. Sure it was only supposed to be 2 -3 feet above mean sea level, but we chose to stay on a cliff about 100 feet above sea level and watch it form there. After a while we decided to drive back and watch it's effect on the smaller bays.

It is now 11: 30 PM and the tsunami advisory has officially just been cancelled. We got only a 1.4 foot rise in mean sea level. But in reality, it does shows that we are connected to what happens on the other side of the world....even if it affects us only a little. And we had fun going a road trip.

Monday, February 22, 2010

How big is a Kodiak bear?

Pretty big, I'd say. Pretty big.
This is one of several Kodiak bears they have on display at the Anchorage airport. I had never really appreciated its size till I saw someone standing right next to it. Pretty big.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More about eagles

Here are pictures of the nest outside my window at work. I didn't see it for my first 2 years. Then a fellow who had worked here 10 years ago came to visit and showed it to me. There it is after all these years, still active.

Concerning their lives: The brown eagles you saw on the video last week are “juveniles”. By about 4-5 years they reach maturity, get their white heads, and start looking for a mate. Then they stay together for the rest of their 30 years’ lifespan. That’s the opposite of bears, seals and seal lions (more about that on “ the sex life of northern mammal", coming this Spring). If an eagle dies early, the remaining one gets a new mate.
They spend most of their life within 5 miles of their home, except this time of the year when they come to the canneries because that is where the food is. Otherwise they stay close to home and make one large nest and about 2 smaller ones in their home turf. They prefer their largest one, but use the others intermittently…I guess just in case the big one collapses. The one in the picture is almost 10 feet wide and is up about 80 feet up that Sitka Spruce.

In the Fall, I saw lots of down feathers that collected by the corner of our building. I guess they had a newborn. No, you can’t collect them for a down feather pillow. It’s illegal. Only the natives can collect them for ceremonies; and I have seen them use them in making “dream catchers” in the Southwest. But I wonder, if they made a pillow would they have more peaceful dreams?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Visit of the Winter Bald Eagles to Kodiak

It’s that time of the year when the Bald Eagles come to town. Yes, it is our food they want. Well, not our food, the canneries' food. I hear there can be close to 200 of them in cold winters. This year has been tremendously warm, so their numbers seem less than prior years to me...but it is still early. Take a look at my You Tube for Sunday's walk by downtown and the canneries.

These are not tiny birds. They are up to 3 feet tall, with over a 7 foot wingspan for the larger females. We walked by one last spring standing on a whale bone whose head came up to my chest. When you turn and see that beak close to your heart, the surprise made it skip a beat or two.

Most weigh well over 10 pounds; that’s the weight of Raton, the small dog you might see in some of our pictures. I've heard up to 15 pounds and I think that is pretty accurate. Don’t ask me how they can sit on those thin branches, but they do. And it's not bony weight; their skeleton weights only 5-6% of their total weight. Their 7,000 feathers weigh twice that much. The juvenile brown ones look bigger than the adults. I don’t know if they really have more muscle or it’s just that their feathers are more “fluffed up”, making them look bigger. Both are relatively fast, 30 mph on a level flight. But they don't use much energy; they are experts a flying on wind currents, only occasionally batting their wings as they glide through the sky. The internet says they don't pick up animals much more than 4 pounds, but I think everyone has seen one catch a salmon that is closer to 7 pounds. With a ten pounds prize, the eagle might not be able to rise above the water and might not be able to drop the catch off from the hooks in its talons. Unfortunately, both the eagle and the fish will then meet a sad ending.