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July 25, 2016

Bird of the Week – Eurasian Bullfinch

Eurasian Bullfinch Female, Fairbanks, 1996

There are some birds that are vagrants, birds that turn up in Alaska but have no business – or anyone to breed with – in the area. Maybe the migration instructions in their brains got wired wrong; maybe they are pioneers trying to expand the range. We’ll be looking at some vagrants intermittently the next few months. This isn’t a very good photo, but it is unique in one way: it’s the one of the first bird photos WC took. In 1996, an Eurasian Bullfinch female turned up at a feeder on Rosie Creek Road, outside of Fairbanks, in the dark…

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Photos: The Mudflats at the RNC



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Bird of the Week – Great Blue Heron

Great Blue fishing the shoreline, Valdez

The Great Blue Heron is visual evidence that birds did indeed evolve from dinosaurs; when you see a Great Blue in flight, you can almost think you are seeing a pterodactyl. Great Blues are found in Alaska throughout Southeast and in Southcentral Alaska as far west as Seward. There are irregular reports from Cook Inlet. While Great Blues are equally at home in marine and freshwater environments, in Alaska they are mostly marine and estuarine.   Although this is primarily a fish eater, wading (often belly deep) along the shoreline of oceans, marshes, lakes, and rivers, it also hunts upland areas for rodents…

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Thank You, Johnny Ellis


I was thinking about the retirement of Sen. Johnny Ellis this week. He has served Alaska for more than half the years we’ve been a state. It’s not a secret that I’m one of his most ardent fans and I am considering asking him for an 8-by-10 signed glossy photo to put on my desk to help me get through next year’s “Gavel to Gavel”coverage.  I wasn’t able to attend his retirement party because the sockeye were flooding Tutka Lagoon and they wouldn’t wait or find my fish smoker by themselves. I used to have a standard summer rant. It…

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Bird of the Week – Snow Goose

Snow Geese, Creamer's Field, Fairbanks

The Snow Goose is one of the most abundant waterfowl species in North America, maybe in the world. Oddly, it doesn’t occur in great abundance in Alaska. (Bonus points for identifying the four other species in this photo.) But they do range west as far as Interior Alaska during spring migration, although not every year.  There are breeding birds in the northeastern corner of Alaska’s Arctic coast, but generally Snow Geese breed in far northern Canada. Snow Geese have two color morphs – thought to be different species until 1983. The white morph, shown here, is overwhelmingly the more common…

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Juneau, Like An Outhouse On Fire


I like parables. They were my favorite sermons growing up. Oh, look! A story that has a problem and a lesson in it. What a cool way to make a point. Sometimes life presents its own parables and I try to pay attention. This week my watery cul de sac presented such a story. It has to do with something we don’t like to talk about often, but hold your nose and we’ll get through this together. Rural Alaska has a waste issue. Most people on the road system flush their toilets and – well – who knows – it…

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Bird of the Week – Red Phalarope

Red Phalarope, Barrow, Alaska

WC will say at the top these are poor-quality photos. Taken in 2002, WC’s camera then was something called an Olympus C2500L, which was a state of the art camera in its day, but the state of the art was pretty primitive compared to today’s digital cameras. WC’s skills left a lot to be desired, too. But a couple of years ago when WC was featuring Phalaropes, this species got overlooked. The Red Phalarope is the most pelagic of the three phalarope species, spending up to 11 months each year in marine habitats. Its migratory routes and winter areas are…

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Photos from the Provincetown Blessing of the Fleet and Portuguese Festival


Anthony Bourdain, who got his cooking start on Cape Cod has called, “Provincetown: a wonderland of tolerance with a longtime tradition of accepting artists, writers, the badly behaved, the gay, the different. It was paradise. The joy that can only come with the absolute certainty that you were invincible; that none of the choices that you’d make would have any repercussions or any effect on your later life. We didn’t think about those things.” P-Town (as the t-shirts say) is at the very end of Cape Cod, it’s a bit like Homer, AK – just if Homer was flooded with a LGBT crowd…

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Around the Lens Podcast – June 27th 2016


This week’s panelists were Matt Odom and Daniel Shular. We discussed protecting our gear from airport damage, hashtags and the new Hasselblad 50 megapixel camera. Our bonus topics included a tribute to the recently deceased Bill Cunningham, Tom Hardy in a movie where he plays a war photographer, an exploration of the hidden south and an interesting story about anarcho-communists. Watch the video on YouTube. Podcast on iTunes – Podcast Direct Feed – Facebook – Instagram – Twitter – Patreon –

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Cheese Whiz And Donald Trump – Why He Can Win


It’s that time of the year again … family visits. Oh, Alaska, isn’t it funny who shows up? Remember me?? Um…well, this is awkward – not really, but sure, we’ve got a spare room. Nice to meet you. Here’s a specific hint to make these visits go smoothly. Don’t talk politics. I know, it’s a prime year for it, but try really hard. You might try something like, “Let’s make our family great again …, and not talk about crazy.” Friday morning the world woke up in shock that Britain had voted to break up its longtime relationship with the…

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