The third leg on my East Asia Trip was to Kamchatka Krai and we flew into Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy (PK) after spending a week in the Vladivostok area. During our 5 days in the area and on our return trip from Vilyuchinskiy Pereval, a Kamchatka Brown Bear ran across the dirt road and stop right next to us. We were so close that I couldn't get all the bear in the frame, at least for the first few images. The day was overcast and with the young bear under the canopy, I had to quickly adjust my shutter speed to get a decent exposure. I was using auto ISO and the camera used the maximum limit I had set of 640 ISO. With the limited light I was using an wide open aperture for the lens of f/4.0 and an shutter speed of 1/800, which was pushing it being hand held. Great encounter. The closet encounter I had with a bear.
After arriving at PK, we drove to our lodging in Choetor. After unloading our gear I headed out to scope out the Avacha River where I found Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus), Slaty-backed Gull (Larus schistisagus), and Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) just to name a few (left to right).
One of the first birds I hear was this Rustic Bunting. I found the male singing away and as with the entire trip it was very exciting seeing a new species for the first time. We would see numerous Buntings all along the expedition.
The first couple of days we explored an area call the Balloon Road. I assume it was called that because there was a radar station at the top with a dome. We got a little to close to the station and were told to move down the road by the station operators. Remember this is Russia and although the non-government people were extremely friendly, the ones tied to the government were very serious. Along the Balloon Road we found about 20 species and these were new for me Common Rosefinch (Carpodacus erythrinus), Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus), and Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus)
After the Balloon Road we visited Razdol dacha and lake area where see saw, to name a few, Gray Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea), Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor), and Taiga Flycatcher (Ficedula albicilla), which was very nice especially since it was one of the few days without fog.
We spent a day traveling south through the Vilyuchinskiy Pereval to the Vilyuchinsky Pass. When we reached the dirt road leading to the pass, Sergei (meaning The Protector and he was ex-military), let out air in the tires and gave the men bear spray and knives and assigned one to each of the women. This was a little humors to me since I had been assigned to protect Debi Shearwater, who has so much more expedition experience (like 40). I have to wonder if I was the bait to protect Debi.
Sergei, The Protector
On the morning of our embarkation on the Spirit of Enderby for an expedition voyage to Anadyr, Sergei led us to the Avachinsky Volcano. Sergei was the best host even with the rough edges, which I liked. We had breakfast at the base of the volcano discovering more birds and great vistas.
Northern Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula) and Oriental Greenfinch (Chloris sinica)
Kamchatka Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus examinandus) and visa to PK from Avachinsky Volcano
The voyage north is about to begin.
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