Hanging around Valdez

Valdez 30Valdez 1The town of Valdez sits amidst spectacular mountains and is part of the Pacific temperate rain forest. That makes for an interesting contrast, towering mountains; both snow-capped and with lush green forests, wildflowers,  glaciers, icebergs and of course the sea. We are very much enjoying hanging around Valdez.Valdez 2

Valdez 20Valdez 36Walking around the town has become a favorite pastime of ours since we stopped here. It has been both relaxing and entertaining.Valdez 7

Valdez 25Valdez 40Valdez 46Valdez 32Valdez 37There are eagles flying all around, sea otters eating and playing in the water, and lots and lots of seagulls.Valdez 66Valdez 68Valdez 64Valdez 23

valdez029Eagles are definitely prominent; they perch in nearby trees, light poles and on top of buildings in town.

You can see them flying around both high and low. Sometimes in the evening I hear them from the RV. They are definitely at home here.Valdez 43

Valdez 33Shortly after our arrival, we heard about an “eagle feeding” that takes place in one of the RV parks in town, just across the street from us. Since I know that feeding wild animals is illegal, I was a bit confused, but we went to check it out.Valdez 45

Valdez 35Valdez 44Valdez 42The gentleman who does this explained that he has the only permit in the state of Alaska to do so. He also mentioned that there had been a woman in Seward who had another permit, but when she passed away the permit was not reassigned. So he thinks he will be the last one to hold such a permit.

The permit itself is only valid during the months of May and June, ending when the salmon start running.Valdez 47

Valdez 48Valdez 28Valdez 34The eagles are fed herring as he holds up the fish and throws it down and sometimes up for them to catch. This not only attracts eagles but lots of gulls of which there is an abundance.

The eagles are not always predictable, they sometimes fly about without going for the fish, other times they swoop and miss. But the “eagle feeding” was a great opportunity to see them soar in the wind, then steer their bodies to get to the “prey”. And Hector had a field day photographing them up close.

Once the salmon starts running, which is about to begin soon, the eagles themselves stop coming to the feedings, much preferring the fresh salmon. This is a good thing.

In fact, we showed up for the eagle feeding yesterday and no eagles came. But walking around town later, we saw eagles flying around, and I had an opportunity to get really close to one that was perched on a deck railing by the water.Valdez 70

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Valdez 58Valdez 54Walking a little further out on the docks, we found a resident group of sea otters amidst the boats. One is named “Oscar” – but we do not know which one.Valdez 57

Valdez 55During our walks we always wind up watching the sea otters who seem to constantly eat and groom their coats.

Their primary foods are sea urchins, mollusks and crustaceans and they are said to sometimes use rocks as tools to open shells.Valdez 53

Valdez 16Sea otters have a very dense coat of fur consisting of waterproof guard hairs and underfur. They spend a lot of time grooming their guard hair to keep themselves warm.Valdez 17

Valdez 50Valdez 56So it seems as if they are always either eating or grooming. And when they eat, they sometimes have several extra shells sitting on their bellies. Hector has been trying to capture an image of this, but it is not easy.  No luck yet.

When the sea otters eat, you can hear them crunching on the shells.

And then there is the grooming. They look like they are scratching but they are really cleaning and squeezing water out of their guard hairs in order to keep their underfur dry, which keeps them warm in the cold water.

It is such fun to watch them.valdez004

This major fishing port has a large fish cleaning station for the sports fishing boats and that is also the source of some entertainment. As the boats come in, the port begins to buzz with activity.Valdez 63

It is fun to see what people have caught as some of the big catches are hung for photographs.

Valdez 60Valdez 71The fish cleaning area has a chute out to the water where there is a metal enclosure to catch the bones. When the fish are cleaned, the guts are washed down the chute. Before they reach the water a zillion seagulls and the occasional eagle swoop in to devour them while they are still on the ramp. Only the bones land in the water enclosure.  It is quite a show.Valdez 69Valdez 9

Valdez 21Valdez 18Then there are the boats. There are all kinds of boats here, from the big commercial fishing boats, to tiny little things.Valdez 12Valdez 15Valdez 13

Valdez 51Valdez 67As we learned from Captain Fred, there is an elaborate system for commercial fishing boats where they can transfer their fish to a special processing vessel while they are still out on the water. There is a huge processing plant on the other side of the docks, including housing for seasonal workers.Valdez 14

Valdez 52More and more boats have arrived since we have been here and as the salmon run approaches. There has been much anticipation in the air. Crews are working on the rigging at the docks and we have even overheard captains training new members of their crews.Valdez 10Valdez 19

We are thoroughly enjoying experiencing this town that sits in this beautiful sea side setting.  We have even extended our stay a couple of days as we cannot bring ourselves to leave just yet.

~ Brenda

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23 thoughts on “Hanging around Valdez

  1. Super photos of the eagles. The docks and the scenery are beautiful. I look forward to each post as I follow along your journey.

  2. I can understand why you extended your stay! What beautiful photos of the eagles, but you had me with the otters. They are my favorite. I could sit and watch them for hours. I loved your close up photos:)

  3. Amazing, awesome eagle images. We enjoyed them all, but having photographed birds of prey for years, getting that kind of action in tack-sharp images is way more difficult than you can imagine. Great job.

    • Thanks Bob! I had pretty optimal conditions – good light, abundant eagles, etc. About half these shots were taken with the aid of the eagle feeder – sorta like T ball for little kids 🙂 Even then, those guys are FAST. I deleted plenty of “left leg” or “right wing” images! Eagles really are everywhere up here. Thanks again for the shout out, it really is amazingly hard to get all the stars to line up just so. For example, I hated that the shots of the momma otter with the baby weren’t so sharp, it was a very special moment, but the capture was only serviceable. Anyway … I’m not done … stay tuned …

      H

  4. This is exactly what I thought Valdez would look like. It was so windy, rainy and cold for our visit but even so, we knew there was incredible beauty under those clouds. And you sure have captured it ! Thank you.
    I was with my cousin from the UK …. despite the wretched weather she went for long walks both days. She thought there was something spiritual about Valdez. So glad you have wonderful weather. Enjoy ! and thanks for sharing.

    • BTW, the woman who fed eagles was in Homer. Jeanne Keane I believe. She passed away 4-5 yrs ago. Her friends were allowed to feed the eagles for the duration of that winter, but no longer.

    • Valdez is pretty magical, pretty under the sun and under the clouds. So glad you are enjoying the blog.
      Brenda

  5. About 10 years ago, we camped in Valdez in a city campground that was right on the mouth of the marina. You accessed it down the road past the fish canneries and dorms. It was a great place to camp since you could watch all of the boats come in and out of the harbor and you were right on the water. We were told that they were going to close it and expand the marina. Is it still there? Thanks!

    • Hi, we did not see a campground there. There is a fairly large construction project expanding the marina for commercial boats, so I think it might be closed already. There is a city campground, Allison Point, past the hatchery before the secured area for the pipeline terminal. It has some campsites on the water and some across the road. Not many people there when we saw it, so it seems nice right now, but it looks like it could get tight when it is full, and most are right by the road although that is a dead end.
      Brenda

  6. Gorgeous photos of the bald eagles in action! And of course, the otters are beyond cute. We enjoyed watching a flotilla of them in Morro Bay just last month on our way back up the coast. I could watch them for hours. 🙂 I can understand why you aren’t in a hurry to leave beautiful Valdez.

    • The sea otters are SO entertaining to watch, we love them too. We are leaving Valdez today, so sad! But there is a lot more that we want to see.

  7. Valdez looks like an amazing place to spend some time. Hector must be overjoyed with all the wildlife to photograph and the best is probably yet to come! Love the action photos of the eagles but I have to admit, otters never cease to put a smile on my face. Love those images with their tongues out. 🙂

  8. What a wonderful trip that you shared with me. The photos were quite inspiring and just fantastic.
    The other lady who had a permit to feed the Bald Eagles was not a resident of Seward as far as I know. She was a resident of Homer Alaska where there is lots of literature and stories and pictures of her.
    In 2016 Homer Alaska was a treasure trove of Bald Eagles diving into the dumpsters that the city provided for fisherman cleaning their fish near the Fishing Hole. They just dove in and fought amongst themselves. When I went back there in 2017 I was so disappointed to see that the town put a roof over the fish dumpster and a fence around it to keep the seagulls and THE BALD EAGLES out. It’s less noisy around the fishing hole but there is no longer those fantastic photo ops of the Eagles.

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