Friday, June 27, 2008

MANO - the beginning and end

13 years ago I landed in Anchorage - a young and niave 22 year old, and within a week I was shipped out to the Manokinak River for my first real job as a field biologist. Now, after a 7 year hiatus, I found my way back out to work there again the last few weeks. I didn't plan it that way - to make that my last stop before moving to WA next week, it just happened that way. Sometimes things just work out right I guess.

I've now spent my 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, and... 35th birthday on the YK Delta. That place, more than a childhood in Maine even, has become a huge part of my identity, and holds an even larger bigger part of my heart.

It was nice to get back out there. But it just wasn't the same to be out there without the old cast of characters... DDM, JAS, CRE, ETC.... I would have given anything for one of Ellie's infamous solstice birthday cakes - even if it was made of cardboard! Fond memories...


I was shocked to see how much Chevak has changed since I was last out there 7 years ago. The biggest change of course - is there are no longer 4 wheelers running around with a row of honey buckets on the back - the village now has septic and water! It is now the largest village on the YKD, there is a new school, so many new houses... I felt so lost but in such a small and familiar place.

this image, more than any, i want to burn in my mind as one of my favorite sights in Alaska, that I won't find elsewhere.

YKD photos

A few classic YKD photos for my friends out there that share my homesickness for that place.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


20+ mph winds, rain, snow.... sometimes all at once.... Aniakchak's notoriously bad weather did not disappoint. A small sliver of mountains with the Pacific on one side, and the Bering Sea on the other side - it's no surprise this area gets pounded. But still, it makes for rather miserable backpacking weather. 9 days straight of this, and then finally it lifted and the last 24 hours was spectacular.

our first glimpse of blue sky in 5 days

fresh wolf tracks
small bear tracks. dan's team saw several sows with cubs, i -happily - saw none. this time of year i think they are out on the coast rather than in the mountains

camp at the base of pyramid peak. you can see the electric fence we set up everyday around our camp to keep the bears away. it's the first time i had used a fence - fortunately no bears tested it out but i must say it certainly helped me get way better sleep than i've ever gotten when camping in bear country.


we were out there to survey birds of course....
and this was our goldmine find - we found the first Marbled Godwit nest ever found in Alaska! People have known there was a small breeding population on the penninsula for a while now - as chicks are often observed - but entire field crews have spent summers out there and never found a nest. i even did a GIS analysis a few years ago and determined they likely didn't breed this far South... just goes to show how little we know about some species.
it was blind luck that we found it. but after spending so much time in the field trampsing across alaska's vast wetlands the last 12 years, it was simply the best going away present ever.

the caldera

FINALLY, it cleared and we got a spectacular flight over the caldera back to port heiden. it was our first glimpse of the caldera in 10 days, Stan's (our pilot) first view of the caldera in several years of flying out there! For those of you that like bad weather (Ed, that's you), this would be a spectacular trip to land in this lake and float out to the coast. but after 9 days of backpacking in bad weather, i'm not sure i'm hard core enough for that trip...