Chignik Lake in 29 Photos: Spring Spruce

Great Horned Owl Chick Chignik Lake AlaskaSpring Spruce

Until about 70 years ago, the shores of Chignik Lake had only seasonally been occupied by humans. Historically, the present-day site of the village had been a hunting and fishing camp. The first census here was recorded in 1960. Since then, The Lake has primarily been inhabited by people connected to commercial salmon fishing. Most of the permanent residents, which now number about 55, are of Native Alutiiq heritage.

Many of the original permanent residents had close ties to Kodiak Island. At 2,388 square miles (9,293 km2), Kodiak is quite large – second in size only to the Big Island of Hawaii among U. S. Islands. Much of Kodiak Island is covered in spruce forests. So when people began to permanently settle Chignik Lake, they introduced White Spruce seedlings from Kodiak. The species thrived, and now scattered throughout the village the trees grow as majestic singles, in pairs and in copses of up to 20 trees. They are a testament to the positive impact planting a few trees can have for wildlife, particularly birds. Among the beneficiaries are Great Horned Owls, a pair of which nests in one of the spruce copses.

This past spring and summer, the owls successfully fledged two offspring. In the photo above, the younger of the two siblings is perched on a White Spruce bough. Despite the needle-like spruce leaves there is a softness to this image, underscored by the downy owlet and the gentle transitions among hues of green and aqua. The plumb-colored young cones are visually surprising, I think, in a pleasant way. Although I made this photograph on June 25 – five days after summer solstice – I felt it fit perfectly in the springtime collection. Soft evening light slightly backlit and sidelit the young owl which helped prevent blowing out the white plumage. The air was still, allowing me to shoot slow and keep the ISO low – an important consideration when it comes to cropping wildlife photos and lightening areas of heavy shadow.  (Nikon D850, Nikkor 600 mm f4.0, 1/200 at f6.3, ISO 200.)