Trip Report: Bald Eagles of Alaska – March 2019

Our March Bald Eagles of Alaska tour was a huge success. Thousands of images of diving eagles, cute sea otters and a variety of other wildlife kept things interesting and exciting. We lucked out with beautiful sunny weather, and as a result, everyone walked away with full memory cards and a newfound appreciation for coastal Alaska.

Chris Gheen

After meeting for orientation and introductions at the Lands End Hotel, which is situated literally at the land’s end, on the very end of the Homer Spit in Homer Alaska, our boat captain, Gabe, along with his adorable first mate Bristol (his yellow lab puppy), picked us up right off the shore on our first morning of photographing our national animal.

Our first morning started off with a bang as we had over sixty eagles perched in trees and on cliffs at our first stop. The birds just kept coming as we photographed the constant action, watching as they turned, banked and dove after fish in Kachemak Bay. Even Gabe said this was a lot of eagles, and our guests were amazed at the constant activity, with barely a moment to take the finger off the shutter!

Chris Gheen

After an eventful first morning, we made our way to Seldovia, our base camp for the week. A warm welcome from Angela at the Seldovia Boardwalk Hotel meant fresh halibut sandwiches and delicious cookies and brownies for lunch. We initially thought it was just her way of welcoming us to Seldovia, but little did we know, the food would just keep coming; every bite fantastic! Seldovia Alaska is the sort of place where time seems to have stood still for the past few decades, while locals just keep living their lives the only way they know how. Limited internet and cell phone access, no roads in or out, and a small community of people who make their living by fishing or hosting tourists are what makes this town special. This sort of slower pace of living is exactly why we wanted to spend the four days of our Bald Eagles of Alaska tour in such a place, and Angela was wonderful at ensuring we were well fed and taken care of. We can’t say enough good things about her cooking. No matter how hungry you come to Seldovia, a stop at the Boardwalk Hotel and Grill will be sure to satisfy even the biggest appetites!

Over the course of the next two days, we would spend morning and afternoon chasing bald eagles in various perches, beaches and cliff areas to allow for varying backdrops as we photographed a flurry of activity. Eagles coming in from all sides, right alongside the boat, performing a wide variety of aerial maneuvers.

Chris Gheen

We were able to photograph juveniles competing for a bite to eat, and large dominant females coming in to let everyone know who was in charge.

Chris Gheen

While our Bald Eagles of Alaska tour primarily focuses on photographing eagles, there was no shortage of other wildlife as well. We had excellent sightings of sea otters, coyotes, and even a mountain goat! On our third morning, Captain Gabe told us he had heard a rumor of a group of sea lions that had hauled out onto a nearby island, something that doesn’t occur very often this early in the season. We made the 45-minute boat ride out to Flat Island where, sure enough, nearly 50 sea lions were on the beach, barking, fighting, and napping in the cool Alaskan morning. We turned off the engines and approached them cautiously, trying to avoid spooking them off their beach. While a few curious onlookers alerted the others, the vast majority paid us no attention at all, allowing us to photograph a unique species that hadn’t been on the itinerary.

Chris Gheen

The following morning, Gabe told us there was a chance there were seals in the other direction, so we headed off for Yukon Island, where again we got lucky and approached very quietly to get a glimpse of a group of adorable harbor seals napping on the beach.

Chris Gheen

No one was complaining about the extracurricular animal sightings before continuing on our search for more eagles.

Our final morning of the trip concluded in the spectacular Halibut Cove, as we sat on the beach and watched as dozens of Eagles swooped in and ate fish until they were nearly too full to move. The beautiful weather allowed for fantastic photographic opportunities of birds up close, perched in the golden glowing morning light.

Our guests were ecstatic to come away from such a beautiful, quiet and serene place with thousands of images to sort through. The eagles were sure happy to see us too and did not disappoint.

Chris Gheen

Chris Gheen

After four days of photographing and watching eagles, sea otters, sea lions and seals all enjoying the beautiful weather uncommon for late March in Alaska, we finally headed back to the Homer Spit to say our goodbyes and head home, with fond memories of such a beautiful, simple, and serene place, already planning our next trip back to the last frontier.

Chris Gheen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris grew up exploring the mountains of North Carolina, originally with his family on weekend camping trips and later as a self-taught rock climber and backpacker, leading him ultimately to a degree in Recreation Management from Appalachian State University with a focus in Outdoor Experiential Education. Immediately after graduating, Chris drove west, knowing the mountains and opportunities for adventure were much bigger. Since then, he has worked in a variety of guiding applications, from small leadership non-profits to adolescent wilderness therapy, to commercial hiking and tourism guiding in California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, always with a camera in hand. Chris loves teaching and sharing his passions and experience with others and is sure to provide careful insight and education whenever the opportunity arises. Chris currently resides in Bozeman, Montana where easy access to Yellowstone National Park allows him frequent trips into the park to photograph wildlife and the unique geologic features of the area. When not behind the lens, he spends his time backcountry skiing, ice climbing, and mountain biking, always on the lookout for a new unique perspective to photograph. The mountains have always been a point of inspiration for Chris and he is excited to capture the beauty of the natural world in an effort to share the space he is so privileged to work in with those around him. For a look at some of Chris’ work, visit his website www.chrisgheenphoto.com

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