May 18 – Adak, Day 4

We started the day walking the marsh area where we had seen Ruffs and Common Snipe this week, and we saw them again today. Again, no photographs. In addition to birds we also noticed a beautiful clump of the tiny alpine azalea.

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During the walk a single Cackling Goose flew over (I am told there normally are many of these in Adak). Of course Bald Eagles abounded.

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Later we had a couple of Wandering Tattlers, at least four Pacific Golden-Plovers and about three Parasitic Jaegers. The Bar-tailed Godwits were still there, 17 today, and we were able to walk across the mudflats and get very close views.

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Black Oystercatchers were found on a couple of the rocky shore areas.

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My new bird today was RED-FACED CORMORANT, two of them in nonbreeding plumage, with four Pelagic Cormorants.

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Tomorrow is my last day at Adak (at least for this trip).

193 species so far

May 17 – Adak, Day 3

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Another beautiful, though windy day. For starters, Mount Moffett, the highest peak on Adak (about 3900 feet) was sunlit and not hidden by clouds much of the day.

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The now-normal-to-me Adak birds – such as Bald Eagles, Tufted Ducks, Common Eiders, Bar-tailed Godwits, Lapland Longspurs and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches – were all in evidence.

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A Snow Bunting was added to my trip list today, as were some Rock Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, a Red-necked Phalarope, and TUFTED PUFFINS (new for the year; only distant photos).

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Tomorrow will be more birding on Adak. As always on these island birding trips I wish for favorable winds to bring in something interesting overnight.

192 species so far

May 16 – Adak, Day 2

Before we left to bird this morning I took a picture of the rental unit, formerly military housing, where we are staying on Adak.

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It was a wonderful day with an astounding ten new species! Some were birds than I assumed that I would get for the year, but not all.

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In order seen, they were four COMMON EIDERS, my second eider species for the year, with two more to go. BAR-TAILED GODWITS are apparently the most likely godwits on Adak, and we had at least 12 of them at Clam Lagoon. We had about four KITTLITZ’S MURRELETS along with a similar number of Marbled Murrelets (neither well-photographed).

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At a high overlook at an old Loran station, we saw streams, possibly thousands, of distant SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATERS interspersed with possibly fewer NORTHERN FULMARS and maybe seven LAYSAN ALBATROSSES.

After lunch we went to an area called Contractors’ Marsh where we had heard there were two “good” species, and there they were: COMMON SNIPE (2-4) and two RUFFS. Although I took pictures of them flying, none really show the birds very well. We also six lovely Pacific Golden-Plovers.

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The last two new birds were a single but well-seen through the spotting scope ARCTIC LOON and a single ANCIENT MURRELET (others seen farther out earlier, but not by me).

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Of course, we also saw other birds, the most photogenic of which were the Pigeon Guillemots, Black Oystercatchers and Rock Ptarmigans.

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More Adak birding tomorrow

191 species so far

May 15 – Adak, Day 1

We arrived 5:40 am (4:40 Adak time) in the pouring rain, but the rain let up soon after we got our stuff to the rental house where we are staying. Our flight went over beautiful island views, and we saw one volcano sending up some steam, but not the one (Pavlov) that has been sending up a bit of ash lately since it was apparently hidden in the clouds.

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This trip is a Wilderness Birding Adventures trip led by Aaron Lang and Scott Hauser.

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After dropping our luggage off at the house, we went out birding (of course). As our two trucks caravanned along the mostly dirt roads, we scared up some ROCK PTARMIGANS. We are likely to see many more and eventually I’ll get pictures.

Soon after we started birding, we came to a lake where there were both Great Scaup and 4 TUFTED DUCKS. It was good to see them together and to realize that even at a distance the black back of the Tufted Ducks was clearly different than the grayer back of the scaup.IMG_9415

Maybe 10 minutes later, a low-flying GYRFALCON came out of nowhere and flew away across the hills and disappeared.

Other birds seen today were the common Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches and Lapland Longspurs, Green-winged Teal and Wigeon  (both Amercan and Eurasian of each), Mallards, Northern Shovelers and Northern Pintail, Red-breasted Mergansers, Bald Eagles and a Common Raven.

Other rarities have recently been seen on Adak, but were not seen today by our group or by others as far as I know.

181 species so far

 

 

May 15 – Message about Alaska Birding Posts in Weeks to Come

For the next 5-8 weeks, my Alaska travelling will be very hectic. Possibly on some days there will be no time to post – all my waking hours will be birding. Or there may be not enough (or no) signal where I’ll be in the wilds of Alaska so I may not be able to post each day. In any case, I hope to catch up whenever I do have time and a signal, so eventually things will be covered in blog posts even if not on a day-to-day basis. It may sometimes be easier for me to post simple updates on my web site (lynnbarber.com), so if you want to follow my big year, check there too if you don’t see a blog post. Whether or not I am able to do a post, I will of course be out birding!

May 14 – Amended: Homer to Kenai to Anchorage

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This morning began with another hot spots field trip as part of the Homer/Kachemak Bay shorebird festival, and again the leaders (Rich Kleinleder andDale Chorman) decided to go to Anchor Point. Although I was there yesterday, it’s a great spot worthy of repeated birding.

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Today it wasn’t quite as birdy as yesterday but the Rhinoceros Auklet made a reappearance. New for the trip was a distant perched apparently immature Northern Goshawk. A Whimbrel stopped by to give us a look before it flew off. There were fewer Pacific Loons than yesterday, but otherwise things were fairly similar to yesterday.

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Once the 3-hour field trip was over, I walked our dog who had patiently waited in my car, and started the 225 mile trip for home. I made a detour into Kenai and checked out the observing areas off Bridge Access Road.  Everywhere I went, there were, as usual, Bald Eagles. At Boat Launch Road, I found four sandpipers, probably mis-identified but probably Pectoral not Baird’s Sandpipers, long bodied, seemingly black-legged, brown-chested shorebirds along the road. There were over ten Sandhill Cranes and many gulls and ducks. I also went to Cannery Road. The birds there were mainly Northern Shovelers and dowitchers.

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I realized that I had to get packing for tomorrow’s Adak trip and do other chores, so I forced myself to keep driving and stop birding so much. I did stop at Turnagain Pass to walk the dog and to bird, but the only bird there was a singing Fox Sparrow.

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I got home just before 5 pm. I am now about to get packing and am looking forward greatly to the Adak trip, which will be short but I hope also sweet.

178 species so far

May 13 – Anchor Point – More Great Birds

The sunrise was beautiful today and it was evident that it would be pleasant birding weather. I checked out Beluga Slough early on and found that there was still a godwit there, silhouetted against the sunrise. Nothing I could do with the photo let me see any color on it.

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I signed up for a formal field trip this morning, the 3-hour “Birding Hotspots” trip led by Aaron Lang and Ben Lizdas, part of the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in Homer. When I learned that they had decided to have the small field trip bus go to Anchor Point, just north of Homer, I was delighted. I had not yet been there this spring and I know it has great potential anytime.

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We arrived at Anchor Point a little before 8 am. As is the case in much of Alaska, Bald Eagles were all around. This one was tamer than most, sitting right next to the parking lot and ignoring our large group.

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It was a beautiful day and all the volcanoes were visible across the water to the west. The group of about 20 first scanned the water. Notable were the about 130 (!) Pacific Loons all together out on the water. Also notable was the RHINOCEROS AUKLET that I discovered on one of my scans, a distant photo of which is below. I expect to see more later in the year, but in the past I’ve usually seen them zooming by. It was nice to actually spend time to look at it.

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The dark PARASITIC JAEGER that was harassing a tern and then an eagle did not sit down for us to observe. I will see them again too, especially in Barrow where they are common.

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We walked along the little creek and saw numerous American Pipits and Lapland Longspurs, peeps (Least and Western), my second Pacific Golden-Plover of the year, a few Violet-green Swallows, and a small flock of PECTORAL SANDPIPERS. Again, this is a species that nests in great numbers in Barrow.

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My fourth new bird of the day was ALEUTIAN TERN. Aaron had seen one earlier, but then when I was scanning the water with my scope I was glad to see one and to be able to follow it for a while, even though it was too far out for binoculars or camera.

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One other noteworthy thing about the trip – the participants included Sharon Stiteler (otherwise known as “Birdchick”), one of the featured speakers at the festival, whom I had not met before.

After the field trip I wandered around Homer Spit and checked out various locations. The Sandhill Crane was still standing guard at the Lighthouse overlook. IMG_9292 (2)A.jpg

It looked like more shorebirds were around than I saw yesterday so I hoped that the next high tide about 9:30 pm would bring something interesting into view; however, the number of peeps and Semipalmated Plovers was lower than yesterday this evening and I did not stay around as long as I did yesterday.

Tomorrow I am signed up for another hotspots field trip in the Homer area, and after that, unless some wonderful bird is found that I need to see, I will head back to Anchorage to get ready for my trip to Adak starting Sunday.

178 species so far

 

May 12 – Homer – Birds Still Singing; Me too

The day began with a bit of rain and a rainbow but eventually cleared up to puffy cloud blue skies. It occurred to me that there was probably a really good bird out there at the end of the rainbow (Golden-Plover?) but having tried to find rainbows’ ends before, I did not try this time.

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Before I packed up my dog and birding gear to head out, I checked out the area around the motel and found yet another singing bird, a Fox Sparrow. The sunrise was definitely something to sing about.

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A week or so ago, Aaron Lang (Wilderness Birding Adventures) emailed me to remind me that I needed to get Marbled Godwit ASAP for my big year, or they would be likely impossible later. People have been reporting them, but mostly not where I have been and I had not seen one – until today! I started at Mud Bay at the base of the Homer Spit just before high tide, where a Marbled Godwit had been seen, sometimes. I was pretty certain that I had seen one very far away, with three (later five) Whimbrels. But I did not have a photo, just photos of the Whimbrels, and a niggling doubt remained.

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I decided to check out Beluga Slough/flats to see what shorebirds were around. Basically there were none visible, except for a Greater Yellowlegs and a MARBLED GODWIT!

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After 50 or so pictures of the Godwit, I birded along the spit, at Lands End and Freight Dock Road. I saw all three scoters, Common and Pacific Loons, Red-necked Grebes, and miscellaneous puddle ducks. There also was a small flock of Surfbirds along the spit and a couple of apparently nesting Sandhill Cranes across the road from Mud Bay.

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Much of Freight Dock Road has steep rocky edges along one side, extending down into the water. I had been told by a woman I met at the Godwit site that this was a good place for Wandering Tattler, so my dog Shar and I strolled along the edge, peering down to look for tattlers. A couple of Song Sparrows were singing along the way. Finally, under and just beyond the large dock at the end were nine WANDERING TATTLERS.

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After feeding Shar and myself, I headed out for some evening birding and to watch for birds as the evening high tide came in. I decided I needed to get a picture of Shar today since it is the day that we arbitrarily designated as her birthday 10 years ago (the vet said she was about 2 years old when we got her), so today she turned 12.

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I walked much of the Calvin and Coyle trail, finding the same woodland birds as I might find in Anchorage and finding a curious moose that only moved a little way off the trail.

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At Mud Lake there were over 30 Semipalmated Plovers, three Black=bellied Plovers and an odd-plumaged plover that I am calling a PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER. It certainly was golden, particularly when compared to the nearby Black-bellied Plovers. I would very much like the opinion of plover experts on this, however, even if the consensus is that it is, or is likely to be, an odd Black-bellied Plover, which of course would mean that I would need to remove it from my list for now. Please give me your thoughts on this.

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My final birding of the day was to walk around the Green Timbers and Louie’s Lagoon areas on Homer Spit to look for shorebirds. I could only see a few until all of a sudden there were about 25 in the air being chased by a PEREGRINE FALCON. Finally a Peregrine!

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Tomorrow more Homer birding.

174 species so far (if the plover really is a Golden-Plover – see above)

May 11 – Anchorage and Then Drive to Homer

Until I looked at my calendar about 3:30 this afternoon, I thought that the first night of my Homer motel reservation was tomorrow. I was thinking that my plan was to drive down on Thursday morning, but instead when I realized that I had the motel reserved tonight, I did a mad packing, including our dog, and was on the road by about 4 pm today. So I am now in Homer.

This morning’s birding in Anchorage began at Ship Creek and the small boat harbor. I was delighted to find a Killdeer, my second sighting of one in Anchorage since I moved here in 2014. Other than that there were the usual American Wigeons, Green-winged Teal and Canada Geese on the mud flats at Ship Creek.

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After that I went to the Chester Creek Trail near Westchester Lagoon to await the high tide and see what it might bring in. In addition to the usual gulls and terns (Arctic), there were a couple of Hudsonian Godwits, a couple of dowitchers and a Semipalmated Plover.

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At Potter Marsh, which seems be my obligatory nearly daily stop lately, there were also a couple of Short-billed Dowitchers in addition to various ducks, a couple of Sandhill Cranes, and the very tame Tree Swallows, too photogenic to pass by.

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Tomorrow it’s Homer birding, hopefully to add some shorebirds at least.

170 species so far

May 10 – Everything’s Singing

I think that all the birds that were around were appreciating the crisp (37 degrees) sunny morning as much as I was. No rain today. The last rain I saw was last night from our house and a lovely rainbow to go with it.

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I realized that everything was singing as I drove up and then down Arctic Valley Road in north Anchorage early this morning. For the first time this year I was not driving the road in search of ptarmigan (although I would have been delighted to see one). I was just driving to see what was around.

 

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Birds I saw singing were Hermit Thrush, American Robin (not photographed), Yellow-rumped (many seen and more heard) and Orange-crowned Warblers, White-crowned, Golden-crowned and Fox Sparrows and Wilson’s Snipe.

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Quite a diversity of song. Sort of made me feel like singing too.

170 species so far