Muskeg Flowers and Starrigavan Bears

Mostly cloudy with some minor bits of sun poking through at times. Winds were calm.

The middle part of the day I went with KL to look for the hairy butterworts (Pinguicula villosa) which have a limited blooming window, and are easy to overlook. I had looked for some in May, but didn’t find any blooming, today there were quite a few.

While poking around in the muskeg I ended up taking quite a few photos of various (mostly small) things.

A couple of things I noticed (and didn’t remember noticing before) included upright growing alpine azalea (Kalmia procumbens) hand just how patchy the male and female cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus) plants are. Given they can spread via runners, this isn’t so surprising, but I just don’t remember noticing it quite so distinctly.

This evening after an abbreviated ultimate frisbee time, I headed out to Starrigavan and noticed there was a bear in the estuary.

It turned out to be the sow and cubs that have been out there. My long telephoto lens makes it easier to get photos from what I feel like is a safe distance. I didn’t have the best angle for the lighting where I set up, and given the space between the sow and cubs, I considered switching to my slightly shorter telephoto lens to have a wider view. (In hindsight, this would have been a good idea given what happened).

Apparently the two cubs had been fighting earlier, but they all seemed pretty docile just being there munching on the sedges. I assume they were aware of people watching from the boardwalk, but they gave little or no indication of concerns beyond what was right in front of them as far as I could see.

That was right up until they all three stood up and looked over their shoulders past the boardwalk at the upper edge of the estuary, then starting running in the opposite direction down towards the viewing shelter.

At that point things started to get a bit awkward for folks on the boardwalk who had been watching from a distance which was now shrinking rapidly. (That did not exactly include me, as I and another fellow were a bit further down the boardwalk, and they were getting further away from us.)

The three bears paused to look back as a (presumably) male bear came down into the estuary where they had been. They went into the woods, ducked under the boardwalk (all the folks who had been down that way had cleared out by this time, some of them had moved quickly to do so), and headed up into the forest. I could hear them crashing through the bushes for the next little bit.

The male bear followed behind, pausing to sniff a bit and seeming a little hesitant to enter into the woods. It did ultimately head up as well.

Had I been the only one where I was, I might have felt uncomfortable at this point, undecided whether to go back along the boardwalk the way I had come out. That option would take me right by where the bears had gone. I was pretty sure they had all moved through, but not 100% sure the male wasn’t still nearby.

Left to my own devices, I might have gone the long way around the loop, but since the other person who was near me me started back, I followed along. He proceeded cautiously, looking carefully into the shadows before advancing. Finally going back to a regular walk upon reaching the portion of the board walk with railings, and the person who had been with him came walking down the trail looking for him. She said the bears had all run on up the hill.

Other than her it seemed everyone else had left completely by the time I got back to the viewing shelter. There was also a forest service truck still there with someone inside who I think had probably been monitoring site usage.

At first I was thinking the (presumed) male bear might have been the same one I photographed last month. However, reflecting on it a bit, I think this one was not nearly as big as the other was.

It was nice to watch the bears for a bit, but I felt like I could have done better with the photos. I don’t do much large animal wildlife photography, and I’m pretty sure I would have done things a bit differently if I’d had more experience. In particular, I probably would have picked a location where the angle between the sun, bears and I was smaller (it was almost 90 degrees where I was). Although had I done so, I would have been one of the people scooting down the board walk when the bears came running. I also would have tried to stay more alert, and ready to respond when they all stood up. As it was, I just watched for a moment, and that’s all the time they stood. The shorter telephoto would have been better in that moment, as it focuses faster and would have been wide enough for all three bears to be in the frame. It probably would have worked better when the bears were running as well.

I spent a while longer there and took some pictures of a couple herons fishing the estuary pool as the tide came in.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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