November 28-29 – Bunting Hunting


I am back from a 2-day trip to the far west of Alaska. On Monday (Nov. 28), Laura Keene and I flew from Anchorage to Gambell with a 3-plus hour stop in Nome. In Nome, we hired a cab and went looking for McKay’s Buntings. We checked out an in-town spot, added seed to the place where these buntings have been seen in past years, and waited. Nothing. We then went to Round the Clock Road, another place for them, and soon saw a flock of about 30 buntings, may of which were very white – MCKAY’S BUNTINGS! They did not stay around for photos, however, so we spent time driving around, trying to figure out where they had gone. Just before it was time to get on our plane to Nome, we found one female bunting and then two more joined it on Round the Clock Road north of town. Our photos show at least one of these last three birds was light enough to be a McKay’s, but it is possible there was/were 1-2 darker Snow Bunting females too. Since I am scheduled to go back to Nome tomorrow, I hope to get better views and photos of males then.



So, we arrived in Gambell just before 4 pm, when it was already past sunset and into twilight. After hurriedly putting our belongings in the lodge, we walked fast out to look for our goal bird. Clarence Irrigoo, who had originally found it and Brad Benter, who had come on our same flight, were out at the site, and as we arrived, we too saw the PINE BUNTING, a VERY RARE bird for the continent! Until it got dark we followed it around as it mostly hopped on the ground, ate wild seeds, and did short flights. Clarence had put out seed in the area, which it visited at least once. The only other birds seen were Common Ravens and gulls (seemed to be mostly/all Glaucous Gulls).





The next morning at about 10:30 am, before dawn, we were back out there and so was the Pine Bunting, and a few more birders who had come in on an early morning flight.





Other birds seen included thousands of very distant eiders (believed to be mostly Spectacled), Long-tailed Ducks, Black Guillemots, Glaucous Gulls, a couple of Crested Auklets, and Common Ravens.



It was a beautiful day, about 20 degrees, with periodic snow showers. Because the sun was so low, whenever we could see the sun, it seemed like it was about to set.





THANK YOU CLARENCE for a spectacular bird find and for letting us all know about it!

306 species so far

One thought on “November 28-29 – Bunting Hunting

  1. Madeline December 1, 2016 / 8:30 am

    Lynn, Hooray for the buntings! And what fun that you and Laura had a chance to bird together. Thanks for the great photos – it’s obvious it was called looking at the birds with their feathers so incredibly puffed out. Best wishes!


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