Teklanika Photography 2016 Newsletter


Greetings & Best Wishes from Teklanika Photography!


We hope that our annual end-of-year newsletter finds you happy, healthy, and with those you love.

2016 has been another excellent year for nature photography! We feel fortunate to have the simple privilege of photographing Bohemian Waxwings in our very own downtown Anchorage neighborhood each winter. They love the berries of the Mountain Ash trees that line our streets and arrive in huge, chattering flocks for these delicate snacks. Not far down the Seward Highway southbound, the Dall Sheep gather in the cliffs, providing ample opportunities for viewing and photography. Of course, the beginning of the year is also great for capturing the Northern Lights. Like the year before, the 2016 Aurora Borealis did not disappoint.

On a more somber note, a major seabird mortality event in Alaska – affecting tens of thousands of Common Murres – occurred over the 2015-2016 winter season. While the specific cause remains unknown, the die-off likely resulted from warming sea temperatures. This event resulted in an opportunity to document the birds that Guy and his team at the Bird Treatment and Learning Center were able to rehabilitate and release back to sea.

In April, we took a family trip to Seward for an early-season Grey Whale-watching tour. In addition to one female Grey Whale and her calf, we enjoyed seeing myriad other sea mammals, including Steller Sea Lions, Harbor Seals, Mountain Goats, and Northern Sea Otters. We also watched a Kingfisher fish along the shore of Resurrection Bay on a beautiful evening at Lowell Point.


Also in April, we began taking pictures of the year’s newest arrivals – Moose calves! From a safe and respectful distance of course, observing and photographing the calves and their mothers is a profound annual experience.

In May, we took a trip to Colorado and enjoyed seeing the wildlife of our home state, including Red-Tailed Hawks, Black-Chinned Hummingbirds, American While Pelicans, Red-Winged Blackbirds, White-Tailed Deer, and Coyotes among others.

Back in Alaska, later in May and into June, finally the Black and Brown Bears are awake! Other young are appearing as well, like the downy Great Horned Owlets and the pink-beaked juvenile Ravens. And we’re off to our annual visit to the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival.

In July, we escorted a rehabilitated Bald Eagle north to Fairbanks for release at the 2016 Annual Midnight Sun Powwow. As in past years, this event and the eagle release is an awe-inspiring and goosebump-inducing experience.

Summer flew by in the blink of an eye.


In September, we returned to Denali National Park for the annual road lottery, an unforgettable four days in the park with numerous opportunities to observe and photograph Grizzly Bear, Moose, Caribou, Red Fox, Arctic Ground Squirrel, Willow Ptarmigan, and more. While in Denali, we also delighted in our first snow of the season at Eielson Visitor Center.

Along with snow and the change of the season comes the darkness, returning to reveal the Northern Lights once again! And the Fall Moose rut in Anchorage.


Winter has now settled in completely and the holiday season is upon us. We are anxiously awaiting some measurable snow accumulation.

In between our trips away from home, we spent hundreds of hours hiking and exploring our backyard in the greater Anchorage area, which offers excellent nature photography opportunities. We hope that you’ll visit the website and also scroll back through our 2016 posts in the Field Journal to see some of what we came across this year.


2017 Teklanika Nature Photography Calendar


Our 2017 nature calendars are now available! These glossy 8 1/2″ x 11″ calendars are a welcome addition to any home or office, featuring full color wildlife and landscapes prints – and they’re only $15.00! Every month shows a different photograph accompanied by an inspirational quote. Holidays and significant dates in conservation history are noted.



Visit the new Teklanika website!


We were finally able to make some much-needed updates to our website earlier this year, including faster loading photos and a streamlined shopping cart and check out experience. Take a look and let us know what you think!



New Prints Added to our Online Portfolio


As a reminder, if you find that Teklanika Photography photo that you just can’t live without, we have a variety of print options available to suit everyone’s needs. If you’re interested in a photo that you’ve seen while browsing our Field Journal but you don’t see it available for purchase on the Teklanika website, contact us and we’ll take care of you. Thanks!



Teklanika Field Journal


The field journal features our day-to-day wildlife and nature photos (many of which never make it into the teklanikphotography.com portfolio). You can sign up to receive Field Journal updates in regular installments (per post, weekly, etc.) right in your email inbox!



2016 Field Journal Video

Once again, we’re excited to share with you a video compilation of some of our moments this year in the field.
(For best results, be sure to watch the video in “1080p HD”.)


Copyright (c) 2016 G. Runco / Teklanika Nature Photography

February 4 – 14, 2011

Winter is in full swing, and mostly due to the blanket of snow, wildlife viewing has improved greatly. Coyotes, whitetail and mule deer, and bald and golden eagles have been seen daily. The contrast between dark fur and bright snow makes it difficult for properly exposed mammal photos, every day in the field is a learning experience. Avian photography, on the other hand, has been getting a little easier. The eagles and hawks are plentiful, and I finally feel like the time spent practicing bird-in-flight shots with the thousands of Canada geese that spend their Winter in the area is paying off.

September 29 – October 5, 2010

The elk rut is beginning to slowly wind down, bugles are losing intensity and serious fights between the big males are happening less frequently. I’ve witnessed some excellent mating season drama this year – madness, serenity, ferocity, compassion, weakness, strength, refusal, acceptance, frustration, satisfaction, rage, glee, defeat and victory. Soon the mule deer bucks here in Colorado will begin sparring and rounding up the does and fawns, and the long-awaited deer rut will begin. All of the osprey have left their summer homes, migrating south to spend the winter in Texas and Mexico. Still few sightings and no shots of the elusive pine marten, maybe they will be easier to track and photograph in the late fall and winter (fingers crossed)…

September 20 – 22, 2010

“As Autumn approaches, elk descend from the high country to montane meadows for the annual breeding season. Within the gathering herds, the larger antlered males, weighing up to 1100 pounds and standing five feet at the shoulder, move nervously among the bands of smaller females.

In this season of excitement, bull elk compete with one another for the right to breed with a herd of females. Prime bulls, eight to nine years old, stand the best chance of mating. While competition is high among bulls it includes little fighting, since fighting causes injury and depletes energy. Instead, mature bulls compete for cows by displaying their antlers, necks and bodies. They emit strong, musky odors and bugle. With little rest or food during the mating season, bulls enter the winter highly susceptible to the hardships of the coming months.

Bull elk signal the season of mating with a crescendo of deep, resonant tones that rise rapidly to a high-pitched squeal before dropping to a series of grunts. It is this call, or bugle, that gives rise to the term “rut” for the mating season. Rut is derived from the Latin word meaning roar.

The eerie call, echoing through the autumn nights, serves to intimidate rival males and may act as a physical release for tensions of the season. Cows and younger bulls may also bugle, but they are unable to match the strength or range of the older bulls’ calls.”

– National Park Service

Elk at Dawn

5:30 A.M. It’s almost completely dark, I can’t see anything around me but my breath in the 25 degree morning air. The sound of a distant elk bugling and breaking branches with his antlers is coming from the west. The frosty grass crunches under my feet as I slowly make my way across the open meadow toward a small pine grove. I’m trying to control my shivering, but the cold is biting at me through my layers of clothing – the first couple of minutes out of the truck are always the hardest. My eyes are beginning to adjust to the low light level. I can almost make out the fallen timber that snags my boots as I fumble around among the pines. I’m trying to be as quiet as possible, but I feel like a bull in a china shop. Finally reaching the edge of the trees, I wipe the frost off of a big fallen log and sit down. Silence. The light is getting a little better now, and I can just make out the faint outline of bushes and trees around me. I set up my tripod and camera and begin scanning the grasses and pines, listening and looking for movement mostly, because shapes can be very deceiving in this light. On a similar morning recently, an attempt to photograph a lone bull moose in a bushy bog had somehow transformed into a lone photographer sitting under the only bush in an otherwise barren bog surrounded by several moose as the light improved. The stillness is interrupted by the sound of cracking timber under hooves, elk in the pines to the west are on the move. A nearby bugle fills the air, and shapes explode out of the trees and into the meadow in front of me. A group of cow and calf elk spills out into the grass, and a big bull stomps out of the trees and lets out a long bugle.

Suddenly two “bushes” to my right stand up and become bull elk, and each of them respond with their own unique rutting call. The big bull herds his harem into the open, circling the cows and calves and chasing stragglers back into the center of the group. Young spike bulls hover around the outskirts of the herd, nervously bugling and then running away as soon as the dominant bull approaches. Satellite bulls, usually 3, 4 or 5 pointers, circle the group and attempt to lure cows away from the herd. One satellite bull gets too close to the ladies, and the big guy chases him far to the south. Two other satellites seize the opportunity and rush in on the herd, scattering the group in every direction. A cow and two calves run right past me and into the timber, followed by a bugling 4 point bull with broken brow tines. I can hear them crashing around right behind me, but I can’t turn around. Even the slightest movement might give away my location and ruin my chances of getting the shots of the big bull that I want. A cow runs right up to me, stops, tilts her head as she stares at me, then runs off – the light is getting better. The herd bull has now returned, and is furiously bellowing and running in circles as he tries to get the cows herded again. A calf gets in front of the bull and the big guy lowers his head, ramming the calf with his antlers and tossing it out of the way. The calf slowly gets up and limps back to the safety of the herd. The satellite bull in the trees behind me is bugling and breaking branches, and it’s beginning to get the harem bull’s attention. The big guy bugles and grunts a couple of times, and when the smaller bull bugles back, the dominant bull heads in my direction at full speed. I scoot to my left against a tree, and the big guy stops in his tracks, about 15 feet away, staring at me. He bugles and lowers his head, and the cow and calf shoot out of the pines to my right, followed by the satellite bull. The big bull lifts his head and bugles.

Click, click, click – still too dark for my camera, blurry shot. The bull stares at me for a couple of seconds, then turns and goes back to rounding up his harem. I gather my things and head to the truck – 6:30, time for work.

September 7 – 12, 2010

It’s early September and the elk rut is on! Hunting pressure has made wildlife viewing in the National Forest sporadic (to say the least), so I’ve been spending most of my free time in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Kawuneeche Valley. The big bull elk are trying to herd up as many cows as they can, chasing them around and bugling their hearts out. Smaller bulls lurk around the outskirts of the herds, bugling loudly as well, attempting to pull a cow or two away from the main group for a romantic rendezvous. Most are chased away by the dominant bulls, but some are successful. The elk coy (calves of the year) are extremely confused by the behavior of the previously peaceful bulls, and they stay very close to the older cows when the bulls begin to chase and herd the harem. I haven’t seen any serious sparring skirmishes between the big guys yet, mostly just bulls chasing each other around and threatening each other from a distance.

Mornings are very cold in the high country now – the canteen that I keep near my sleeping bag while I sleep has been freezing solid by dawn.

Here’s a great snippet from a National Geographic video featuring elk rutting season in Rocky Mountain National Park…

Denver Zoo – September 1, 2010

Denver Zoo’s four endangered, Amur tiger cubs took a breath of fresh air Monday as they explored their outdoor habitat for the first time. The cubs – females Zaria and Akasha and males Nikolai and Thimbu – were each given a clean bill of health in their last exams and are ready to meet the public. The quadruplet cubs, born May 31, are the first of their species to be born at Denver Zoo since 2003.

The cubs were born to mother, Koshka, and father, Waldemere. Waldemere was born at Denver Zoo in 2003, but Koshka was born at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 2005 and came to Denver in late 2008. The two were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Fortunately, the couple has proved to be an excellent match.

– Denver Zoo

August 17 – 24, 2010

Another hot Colorado summer is slowly coming to a close in the high country. Aspen leaves are beginning to change color, elk calves and deer fawns have nearly lost their spots, and reports of bear sightings are slowing down. Most of the osprey chicks have fledged and are now nearly identical in size and plumage to their parents. I’m ready for the fall – looking forward to watching the moose and elk in rut and listening to bugling bulls and cow calls.

Early Rut

“Horning of vegetation begins early in the rut and increases in frequency, and probably in intensity, during the rut. Like wallowing, it is an activity largely of older bulls and may occur without visible cause or in response to the advertisements of other bulls. It is a dominance display in which weapons are exercised – at times for the apparent benefit of opponents just prior to a fight. It is a noisy activity, augmenting the advertisement and often leaving a conspicuously peeled pole. When not contacting the tree trunk with his antlers, a bull may scrape the tree with his teeth, sniff, and rub his head against it. Thrashing can be quite variable, apparently depending on the kind of vegetation available. Wallowing, urine spraying, and vegetation horning are part and parcel of the attention-getting activities of rutting bull elk; they are not manifestations of classical territoriality.” – from “Elk of North America; Ecology and Management” by Thomas & Toweill

August 3 – 9, 2010

Wonderful bunch of days in the woods! Rain or shine, the natural beauty of Grand County never ceases to amaze me. Plenty of moose, elk, deer, fox, marmot and osprey – but still no pine marten shots… patience, patience.

“Years ago, vast herds of mountain buffalo roamed the Spirit Lake meadows. According to legend, one year, the lake froze over in early December. Early snowfalls blanketed the entire lake, with the exception of one little patch in the center. The ice formed and thickened quickly, allowing buffalo herds to roam freely on the lake’s surface. Buffalo tracks were everywhere, but one set of tracks in particular had everyone’s attention. The tracks originated from the open patch of water and returned to the same spot. They were enormous, larger than anything anyone had ever seen. The incident gave birth to the name Spirit Lake – because many believed that a supernatural buffalo emerged from the depths of what is now called Grand Lake… surfacing from time to time to roam the frozen waters.” – Grand County Chamber of Commerce

July 28 – August 1, 2010

Another excellent few days of wildlife viewing in Grand County. Still no shots of the elusive pine marten – plenty of time spent among moose and elk though, which provided some great photo opportunities. Osprey fledglings in the area are preparing for their maiden voyages, flapping and hovering on the edges of their nests. Geese are beginning to head out of the lakes and marshes, signaling the upcoming changing of the seasons – autumn arrives early in the high country.

July 27, 2010

An overcast and rainy evening at Roxborough. Spent nearly an hour within very close shooting distance of the bear that I call Bruiser, but wasn’t able to capture any great shots due to low light levels – extremely frustrating. I can’t complain though, he put on quite a show for a handful of park visitors and, as always, was on his very best behavior. I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with this big boar the last couple of years, hopefully he’ll be around for many years to come.

July 20 – 26, 2010

Another busy week, and a great week for wildlife watching. Saw another pine marten – these guys are fast, but I will get a decent shot this summer, eventually. Plenty of moose and osprey, some elk, deer and yellow-bellied marmots, and enough bear action to keep me happy. I was able to watch a young brown-phase black bear swim across a pond near Grand Lake as I fumbled to prepare my camera and tripod – lesson again learned and hopefully this time remembered, always have your camera ready.

July 13 – 19, 2010

Working in Grand Lake for the Division of Wildlife now, frequent updates will be a bit more difficult to pull off… The past week was excellent – plenty of wildlife and beautiful vistas to be seen in Grand County. I saw my first wild pine marten, spent some time with several moose (mostly bulls, but a couple of cows and calves as well) and elk (again, mostly bulls), and was able to focus on many of the osprey nesting around the lakes in the area. Looking forward to spending the next couple of days at Roxy and Chatty, hoping for new bear and coyote shots.