9th November 2020 – Jules Tileston – “Wild Horses, Pribilof and Denali National Park”

We were able to welcome Jules for the second time last evening for another truly International presentation from his home in Anchorage Alaska – we enjoyed a journey of over 5000 miles from North Carolina, across to the Bering Sea and the Island of St Paul and then to the Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. These are places that most of us would only see on an Atlas or be aware of on a travel television programme, tonight we had the total experience from a man who has both been there, studied it, photographed it and passes his enthusiasm on for these faraway places.

North Carolina – the herds of horses are protected and fascinating in the Outer Banks, Cape lookout and Carrot Island regions, they fall into three categories. Wild, free roaming and feral. Their origin is somewhat mysterious but appears to derive from Spanish sources that were either abandoned or arrived after swimming ashore from wrecked ships. The Shakleford herd is wild and free roaming but Federally protected (as many of these animals were once slaughtered for dog food). We were thrilled to see a huge range of photographs of them in herds, family groups and mares with foals. They tend to be rather small, though they are not ponies, due to the limited vitamin source of the available fodder. Our journey here took us across this huge State to see the moon rise over the Atlantic Ocean and to the Capitol, Raleigh, and the Lincoln Memorial.

Wild Horse on Cape Lookout National Seashore

After a 5,000 mile journey we enter the Bering Sea and the Aleution Islands area. There is a group of 4 volcanic Islands called the Pribilof islands and we were visiting the largest, St Paul. This is raw & rich with wildlife, especially birds. At least 248 species. The history of this area is not a happy one with the poor treatment of the Aleut people. There exists 2/3 of the world’s fur seal population from May to August which were massively hunted.
A wide variety of photo images showed us such diverse animals as – Pribolov Shrew, Fox (three distinct types) rats are banned and strongly discouraged, prolific birdlife including – Murre, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Finch Sandpiper, Plover, Teal, Duck and many more.

Red-Faced Cormorant is in breeding plumage and represents the Pribilof Islands a spectacular place to photograph wildlife.

The Pribilof flora describes over 200 species which burst forth in July until late May when there is nothing! Beautiful photos of the uplands, tide lines, lichens, mosses many flowering plants – lupins, buttercup, saxifrage, potentilla.

We leave St Paul to go to Alaska to the Denali National Park & Preserve an area now comprising 6 million acres. The highest point is mount Denali (20,237 feet) and the lowest is 223 feet. Access to this vast region can be made using a modest road – 15 miles is paved and 74 miles of gravel. Jules described the conditions as muddy, snowy and often difficult and advised the would-be traveller to constantly be on the watch for the 37 species of mammals, moose, caribou, Dall sheep Brown and Grizzly bears, Arctic grouse, squirrel, fox, wolves, snow hare, lynx, beaver, pika all of his examples had taken him 30 years to accumulate.
Here there are 169 species of birds – golden and bald eagle, sand hill crane, magpie, raven, sprue goose, ptarmigan, one example of an amphibian – a wood frog (found close to his house).

Dall Sheep Ram – represents the reason the Denali National Park and Preserve (previously the McKinley National Park) 1917.

The insects are all biters, mosquito, black fly, white sock fly. Visitors are warned to wear the proper clothing at all times. In the higher tundra the boreal forest lives by perpetual ice, the colour, particularly in Autumn can be spectacular, but further North can be restricted to lichen, dwarf willow, Alaska Spiraea, alpine azalea dwarf rhododendrons – our speaker reminds us this is a young country.
Finally our journeys finished at a large pond created by a glacier, known as Kettle Hole pond and Wonder Lake, both demanding substantial hiking ability to reach, to take advantage of the landscapes. Surprisingly views of the Northern Lights are there for the fortunate tourist who is prepared to put himself out. A special evening in the comfort of our own homes was presented to us by Jules Tileston, who goes to enormous lengths to convince us that a visit really could be life changing.

Grateful Thanks Jules another memorable evening.

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