I had never driven all the way to the end of Kougarok Road, and wasn’t sure what was at the end of the road, if anything. The farthest I had been was at mile 72, where the traditional hike begins for the Bristle-thighed Curlew that nests there (I was there in early June this year). Finally, on July 6th, I was determined to drive the whole way. My trip was VERY slow, however, because I decided to do a mile-by-mile bird count for the whole road. What this meant was windows open, slow driving and stopping to listen and look and write down EVERY bird I saw/heard for each mile of the road. I also took pictures frequently of the surroundings. Following are many of the photos of the trip, so you can get an idea of the terrain for the whole road. Next will be some of the bird and flower photos taken.
The first set of pictures was taken along the first 20 miles of the road (3 hours):
The next set was taken the next 20 miles, until just before Salmon Lake (another 2 hours):
The next set begins near Salmon Lake and goes to about mile 60 on the road (about another 2 hours):
The final 25-mile stretch to where the road ended at mile 85 was driven in a speedy 1.5 hours. And there I learned that the Kougarok Road ended, for all practical purposes, at the Kougarok River. Beyond the sturdy but frightening bridge the road became only usable by off-road vehicles or others having high clearance, sturdy vehicles, such as people who still are looking for and sometimes finding gold there.
A few photos on the drive back showed views not visible or noticed on the drive there, including the beautiful mountains that had been behind me, views of trees and some remaining snow, and of the road itself (mostly not too bumpy).
I didn’t get many close looks at birds along the road. Most that I could see were singing on distant branches or flitting by. Because I was so busy noting all the birds, I also neglected to photograph many of them by the time they had departed or disappeared into the bushes. Along the road, I got my first look for the year at an Arctic Warbler, a bird easy to miss and difficult to find even if you can hear it singing, unless of course it is accommodating enough to sing from a line.
Following in no particular order are some of the other birds seen along Kougarok Road – Wilson’s Warbler, Bohemian Waxwing (normally very unusual in Nome, but this year it is common), White-crowned Sparrows, and Savannah Sparrow:
At a few sites were American Golden-Plovers, including at least one youngster (omitted from yesterday’s “baby bird” blog post)(the tiny white dot in the lower right quadrant of the mountain scene is a plover shown in its habitat):
I saw only a few mammals along the road, including a distant small herd of musk oxen and as single one later, and a few ground squirrels (and very few humans):
The flowers along the road came in just about every color:
All-in-all it was a great day of learning about Nome’s Kougarok Road in early July. I’ll try to do an account of the other whole-road road trips next (including my grizzly bear sighting).