Monday, May 20, 2019

Hubbard Glacier: Too many Albatrosses!

May 15 Hubbard Glacier (cruising)

En route to our next stop in Juneau, the cruise ship headed to the Hubbard Glacier. Hubbard is the largest tidewater glacier in North America, a whopping 7 miles across at its face, and extending about 76 miles back towards Mount Logan in the Yukon. Tidewater glaciers come in contact with the ocean, where large chunks of ice can calve off.  Before we got there, though, there was some serious birding to be done!
Beautiful scenery everywhere!
HAL ship Oosterdam in our parking spot

eBird track of one hour of our seawatch (Click to see the list)

Albatrosses were back on the scene, this time, Black-footed. We saw almost 200 in our first hour of seawatch, and more than 300 in our second.  There were groups accompanying a couple of fishing vessels, where we are pretty sure we also saw some young Short-tailed Albatross resting on the water.  Unfortunately, they were pretty far out, so the photos are inconclusive--at least, so far!

Can you see a Short-tailed Albatross here?

What about here?

UPDATE: On a whim, I posted a request for contact on the Westcoast Fishermen Facebook page to see if anyone on the Quest had noticed.  Here's the response:

In even greater numbers than the albatrosses were the phalaropes. These are shorebirds that spend most of their time on the ocean, except when they are in the far north for breeding. We saw about 900 of them in the first two hours of daylight. Most mornings, after two hours on deck, we went inside to thaw out and have breakfast.  Then sometimes, a post breakfast nap.  Which has, on occasion, blended into the pre-lunch nap.  There must be something in the water—it sure is easy to nap on this ship!

Albatrosses and phalaropes, oh my!

The trip into the glacier edge provided our last likely opportunity for good looks at Kittlitz’s Murrelet, and several were seen by most birders onboard.  None close enough to me for even bad photos, though.

As we approached, small previously calved chunks drifted by.  We also saw our first other cruise ship on the water, Holland America’s Oosterdam.  About 350 ft of the glacier's 600 ft face are visible above the water line. Check out the If you want to see just how crowded the cruise routes are, check out! 
Icy sea turtle berg
Traffic jam!

We could see on the bow cam that the crew were setting up mats on the bow deck that we had been denied access to. Today would be different. Soon, masses of people crowded onto the bow, providing the taller people a slightly closer look at the glacier.  I checked it out, waved to the bow cam in case my sister was watching, and headed up to Ashlea and Sam’s balcony suite, where the view and comfort level were both pretty spectacular and my height, or lack of it, wasn’t an issue.

View from the bow cam.

View from the deck <sigh>

The Oosterdam left the scene so we could get all of the glacier photos we wanted, and we followed it out shortly afterwards.
Hubbard Glacier face
Next stop, Juneau!

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