2023 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 6, Day 8 Wrangell to Vixen Inlet | NW Explorations


2023 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 6, Day 8 Wrangell to Vixen Inlet

Last night we slept soundly comforted by the sound of rain. By morning, it was a light sprinkle with overcast skies. Athena departed early to do some more fishing. Arctic Star had decided to take an alternative route, spending the night in Madan Bay, planning to meet us at Vixen Inlet the next day. The water was calm making it a comfortable passage all day. Today was a bird viewing day! We saw many birds and numerous pink and silver salmon jumping out of the water allegedly to practice for their imminent travels up streams and rivers to spawn.

Eagles were the most sighted bird of the day, probably due to the numerous salmon all about. They search for surface feeding fish, swooping and skimming the water to snatch their prey with their razor-sharp talons and fantastic ariel acrobatics. In flight, perched on rocks or their preferred setting in the highest branches of trees, they are able to spot their target at great distances. A large nest was sighted near the top of an old snag. Eagles build enormous nests which they add to year after year. These nests can be twelve feet across but the carefully cushioned inner cup, where usually two eggs are laid, is generally only about three feet across. The extra space allows for more room for the youngsters to test their wings before fledging.

Two ravens were perched together in a tree in Vixen Inlet. Adult Ravens form strong pair bonds that last for life and couples will patrol their territory. At times they seem to be talking to themselves mixing croaks, gurgles, bill claps, sounds of water-droplets and an ever-entertaining repertoire of curious sounds. They too make large nests which they add to year after year but not so large as the eagle.

We spotted a great blue heron as we departed Wrangell harbor, could it be the one who watched the sun set from the break water two nights ago? Great blue herons seem to have too much to lift for their skinny bodies. They climb through the air, their sinuous necks folded into their chest and their broad wings beating slowly, croaking raucously reminiscent of ancient pterosaurs.

Underway, we spotted many marine birds on the water; marbled murrelets that quickly dive under at the very last moment, pigeon guillemots that run across the surface with their bright orange feet while beating their wings furiously to try to gain lift, murres that rest peacefully on the calm surface with an air of importance, and of course, graceful gulls seemingly equally as comfortable in flight, resting on water or walking on land. Often overlooked, they are beautiful birds and difficult to distinguish from the many types. Bonapart’s gulls are particularly beautiful with their black heads and black-tipped white wings.

Upon arrival at Vixen Inlet, Arctic Star was on already on the hook enjoying a late lunch as the tide quickly ebbed. Annette and Clint promptly launched their kayaks and paddled up the shallow inlet. Sea Stock and Pamelican launched dinghies to explore the area. Shallow along the edges, old trees covered in thick matts of moss and draped with long strands of lichens hang over the water. Following another day of fishing, Chris and Sean joined the fleet and invited us aboard Athena for a game night, a friendly close to a serene day.

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