Alaska Walkabouts

The adventures of an Alaska Wildlife and Nature Photographer.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Fishing Fanatics

Whenever I was out along the open Gulf of Alaska, my favorite subject to shoot was the seabird feeding frenzies. They occur when schools of bait fish get too near the surface either by accident, or from fish and diving birds forcing them up. I would wait in my small inflatable boat and watch for the birds to start gathering. Then I had to be quick as the action would be on in an instant.


The resulting feeding frenzy is a thing of chaos, noise, and beauty. 

The  heart of a feeding frenzy

All I could do was go in with the lens blazing. One time I shot over 1,000 images in half an hour. Then I sifted through all of them in hopes that I got something I wanted. Most of the shots were failures as the birds were diving into the water and emerging with their fish at such speed that it was almost impossible to know where to point or focus the lens.

They seemed to work together as they dove, lining up in the air and taking turns, but once they emerged with their fish, many others attempted to steal their catch out of their beaks.

This Black- Legged Kittiwake had a small school of herring mostly to himself until a whale came up from below and swallowed the school in one gulp. That was a bit scary for me!

The end of the herring and the end of my shoot!

As quickly as these events occur the bait fish disappear and all that is left are a few hopeful birds drifting about and enjoying their full bellies. In the future, I hope to get back out to the gulf and chase the birds around again.