With the mudslide delay, our previous day was over 14 hours again. We were sleep deprived, but somehow still had lots of energy. So we headed out shortly after 6 a.m. The morning was cloudy, which was forecast, but there was also a strange haze in the air, making it tougher for photography. So this day was presenting Hector with a different type of challenge.
Then a beautiful scene appeared ahead of us. There were three gyrfalcons perched in a tree right by the road. Birds, when they are so close, frighten easily, so Hector could not get out of the car. And it was pretty dark with the haze. So he turned the car off, rolled the car downhill and rested the camera on the door to shoot the photos.
The gyrfalcon were still for a while, then one decided to fly away, and then a second. When the last one flew away, they started flying around and “fighting” in the air. One would “attack” the other in mid-flight and the other sometimes fought back.
It did not seem that they were hurting each other, so we are not sure about the behavior but it was an eerie scene in the hazy weather.
The mountains around the passes had a mysterious look.
The females’ antlers are usually smaller, but so are the antlers of young males. This looked to be a Mr and Mrs …
As fall gets closer, the bears will be even more focused on eating and bulking up for winter. We have been fortunate to find some that are not feeding, because when they feed they do not even stop to raise their heads.
Then we saw a caribou mama with a beautiful calf – this was the first caribou calf we saw this summer. The calves were born in the spring, so he/she was several months old, confirmed by the very tiny antlers (they are born without them). We enjoyed watching mama and calf for a while.
Denali was hiding today, it was the first time in five days that we did not see her at all. Once again we found ourselves all alone at the Eilson Visitor Center where we found out that the haze was due to fire “somewhere up north”. Perhaps ignited by the lightning the day before.
This day we were going to need to get gas once again. 60 miles round trip. Aaaaaaaargh!
Hector stopped near a couple of little streams and crawled around to capture some images. I missed an opportunity not getting a photo of him doing that.
Then we found a bull moose that we had been looking for up on the hillside. We had heard that he was bedded down somewhere in this area, and returned various days to look for him. He was way uphill, so Hector captured only one useable image, but he looked like a king up there surveying his kingdom.
With the hazy day, Hector turned back to the little things; an adorable arctic ground squirrel munching on flowers, and some blueberries and other berries. The bears have been munching on the berries nonstop, and maybe the squirrels too!
More caribou appeared. To think we had not seen any caribou in Alaska and now we see them every single day!
On Sable Pass, we saw two grizzly bears up on the hillside. It is so interesting how the grizzly bears vary in color, from very blonde to dark brown. The fact that some are pretty dark in color sometimes makes it difficult to tell them from the black bears. But the grizzlies have a prominent hump on their backs, much larger claws, smaller ears and a dish-shaped face.
We got back home, dropped Angel off, and both went to town to get gas.
On the way to town, we found two caribou bulls that we had seen together earlier. They were tucked in the brush sitting close together. A ranger told us that these two bulls have been hanging out together all summer, which is unusual. I wondered if these two males will fight each other in the fall.
Since it was still hazy, we decided to only go out for a very short evening drive after dinner.
And a good thing that we went out , since Hector spotted our first Dall’s sheep. They generally stay up very high in the summer and have been very elusive. These males too will engage in battle in the fall, crashing their horns together.