WORDS ON BIRDS
Alaska Is Big on Rare Birds
June 17, 2017
I haven’t had the
opportunity to travel lately, so I thought that I would share with
you a recent trip report from fellow birder, Strickland Wheelock of
Uxbridge, who led a trip to Alaska for Mass Audubon. The first leg
of his trip was to Gambell and he shares it with us here:
“One of my greatest experiences is birding Gambell - a small
Siberian Yupik village located at the tip of Saint Lawrence Island
located only 35 miles from Siberian Russia. This is a subsistence
community that depends on hunting whales, seals, walrus for food and
income - only modes of travel are ATV and walking on this loose
gravel and tundra.
“As a pre-trip to
Drumlin Farm's W S June 1 - 14th scheduled Alaska trip, a partial
group from DF joined High Lonesome tour group from May 26 - 30th to
experience the incredible volume of alcids that nest on the cliffs
(between 10 to 20 million alcids) surrounding Gambell. Along with
the alcids are the hopes of finding rare vagrants that end up on
Gambell blown off course.
we hike the bone yards, scan the tundra, do sea watch off Northwest
Point or take the ATV's a few miles to view the top of a lake with
the hopes of finding a vagrant- first you have to scan through tons
of Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings all doing arial displays.
Other common birds are Glaucous Gulls and Semipalmated Plovers.
“Fortunately day 1 the weather was cold
but not windy as we headed out of town to look for vagrants- before
we could get out of town we found a Gray-Tailed Tattler followed
shortly by Common Greenshank, Hawfinch, Common Sandpiper, Brambling,
White Wagtail, Slaty-backed Gulls, Red-throated Pipit along with
Peregrine Falcon, Rough-legged Hawk, Ravens, Vega Herring Gulls,
Sandhill Cranes, lots of Green-winged Teal, Long-tailed Ducks,
Harlequin Ducks and Pintails, Hoary Redpolls, etc
“The following few days we would do a few early and late sea watches
where you would experience an estimated 5 to 10 Thousand alcids
every 5 minutes flying by the Point - these consisted of Least,
Crested and Parakeet Auklets, Common and Thick-billed Murres mostly
mixed with Horned and Tufted Puffins, Pelagic Cormorants, Pacific
and Red-throated Loons, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Arctic Terns.
“Always adding excitement to the
watches were spotting Yellow-billed Loons, Steller's, Spectacled and
King Eiders, Fulmars, Long-tailed and Pomarine Jaegers, Black Brant,
Tundra Swans, Black and Pigeon Guillemots, etc. Mixed among the
birds were pods of Gray Whales and seals feeding surrounded by
Kittiwakes swirling above them with jaegers harassing them.
“When you scan the cliffs where all these millions of alcids breed,
you get to see close up their field marks which is awesome versus
fast moving softballs over the ocean. With lots of searching, we
were,able to locate a Dovekie that also breeds with all the auklets.
“The following days looking for
vagrants we relocated many of the previous ones but added to the mix
were a Lesser Sand-Plover and Eyebrowed Thrush.
“The natives of the community were very friendly, often offered us
some of their beautiful hand carved objects from whale bones - while
we had several layers of clothing on, the children are in shorts and
some a playing in some pools of water or all driving about in their
ATV's. Most houses had outside racks of whales and seal meat drying
- a different way of life for these hearty folks from our existence.
“On our way back to Anchorage via Nome,
we make a quick run down Council Road to be rewarded with Bar-tailed
Godwits, 12 Sabine's Gulls, Surfbirds, Ruddy and Black Turnstones,
Red and Red-necked Phalaropes, Baird's Sandpiper among many Western
and Semipalmated Sandpipers. Unfortunately we just missed a few
Ross's and Ivory Gulls that had left a few days before.
“In conclusion, our few days was an incredible experience for all
seeing millions of birds and vagrants up close plus observing the
community that has existed for centuries and their life style -
something all of us will never forget.”
Bird Watcher's Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
years of service to the birding community!
Like us on Facebook!
Index of Recent