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Bald Eagles, Sea Otters & Wildlife of Kachemak Bay, Alaska
2023 Trip Report

Bald eagles have made a remarkable recovery from the days in the mid-1900’s when they bordered on the threat of extinction throughout much of their range. Now, sightings of this familiar symbol of America are much more common in the field due to the success of the Endangered Species Act. Former bounties on them have long ended, it is illegal to shoot them, and DDT contamination has essentially vanished due to a 1972 US government ban on this harmful pesticide.

These days, there are lots of places you can visit to see and photograph bald eagles—in virtually every mainland state—but there is no place that comes close to the opportunities to be had in Alaska. Alaska is home to 30,000 pairs of bald eagles, and the next closest state to that would be Minnesota with 9,800 pairs and probably around that same amount in British Columbia.

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But in Alaska, there is no better place than the Kachemak Bay environs near Homer. But to get great eagle shots you need a boat. And we have a great boat! Leaving the harbor on the Homer Spit we headed out to sea on both of our 2023 trips in search of eagles, sea otters and other wildlife. We were not disappointed! The area has thousands of eagles overwintering along the coast and many times we were in sight of 50–70 birds. The action is nonstop with eagles swooping and diving, perched in clusters, up-close-and-personal individuals for portraits and headshots, and birds in dead and weathered trees still standing from the 1964 earthquake when parts of the coast sank up to eight feet and coastal forests dropped below sea level and were killed by salt water.

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Not forgotten were the sea otters. Thousands of them live in the Greater Kachemak Bay environs and their numbers vary due to winter conditions and food availability among other factors. But on one of our typical days, we would see 50 or more and have great opportunities to photograph groups of females with their pups and watch them foraging for blue mussels, sea stars, and tanner crabs. Otters here are less wary of a boat approach because occasionally fishermen give them the leftovers from fish cleaning, old bait and other “goodies.” In other areas they are hunted by Native Americans for their fur, and in those locales they are much shyer.

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As for “coastal wildlife,” Kachemak Bay has a wealth of other photogenic species we encountered during our twice daily cruises. Some of the most noteworthy were hundreds of rock sandpipers who clustered together to rest in the shelter of the harbor as the mudflats they use for foraging were inundated by the high tide. One day we found seven mountain goats—three females with kids several hundred feet up a mountain and a large male that had come down to the waterline allowing for some great close-up shots. Ducks of various species were abundant including common and Barrow’s goldeneyes, buffleheads, long-tailed and harlequin ducks, and red-breasted mergansers. And harbor seals lounged lazily on the floating docks in Halibut Cove.

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This is a trip that provides an amazing profusion of photo opportunities. As One participant has described this trip—”Best shots I think I’ve ever gotten on any of my many trips. I’m deleting “good” shots cause I have too many “excellent” shots to choose from. The concentrated effort on one animal, and an animal in such abundance, made that possible.”

Upcoming Related Tours

Bald Eagles, Sea Otters & Coastal Wildlife of Kachemak Bay, Alaska

A spectacular wildlife shoot amidst Alaska’s most photogenic settings. Five full days of photography from a chartered boat along the Kenai Peninsula to capture dynamic in-flight and perched eagle images, endearing close-ups of sea otters, and wildlife in rugged winter landscapes.

February 16 - 22, 2025
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