Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, Wind w 15-20 mph

Final Day

Just as we were going out, Jon called to say the Sandhill Cranes were down near the Airport Ditch. We went down there, but the cranes were gone.

At Sweeper Cove we had another Horned Puffin.

Horned Puffin, Sweeper Cove

We went up to Clam Lagoon, but found no shorebirds on the peninsula. The flats had few birds, also.

On flight day, we tend to stay near town in case something goes wrong with the truck. The Brambling was at Seal Drive Feeder and Jon and Jim reported having two there later.

The Temminck’s Stint was still here.

Late in the afternoon, we were just driving towards town from Landing Lights when Jon called to say they just had two Tundra Bean Geese flying over and headed our way from town. We looked up and there they were, coming in for a landing on the other side of the airport runway. They disappeared over a little rise.

We drove up to the Airport Escarpment where we could see the runway and spotted them. The distance and heat waves prevented nice photos, but here is one anyway.

Tundra Bean Geese, Airport, May 30, 2018

That put our trip list at 80! One shy of our May record.

In summary, the trip was very good.

It started off with a bang — the Great Egret — but quickly got bogged down by east winds. However, the winds shifted for the second week and we did much better.

We had one Lifer — Spotted Redshank

Four new Adak birds for us — Great Egret, Spotted Redshank, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Hooded Merganser

The Semi was a new bird for Adak.

Other birds seen by other birders while we were there, but missed by us, include: Short-eared Owl, Peregrine Falcon, Red-necked Stint, Sandhill Crane, and Dunlin.

Barb now has 147 for Adak, I have 146.

A combined list of 152.

THE bird of the trip was, of course, the Spotted Redshank. Not a bird we really had expectations of.

We will be back in September.

PS: There was an article in the recent ABA publication Birder’s Guide to Travel on Adak, etc. There have been some changes (such as flight schedules) since that piece was put together. See my Guide to Birding Adak, Alaska at franklinhaas.com for current information.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Adak weather at its finest!

Temp in the 40s, overcast, drizzle most of the day, wind WSW 30-40 mph!

It was so lovely out, that Jon decided to take a stroll on the beach…

Jon Boone out for a leisurely beach stroll on a balmy day on Adak…

Notice the tilt towards the WSW…

We headed up to Clam Lagoon first thing to see what might have blown in overnight.

The Little Stint was still there, but not the Red-necked.

Little Stint, Clam Lagoon, May 29, 2018

Along the marsh edge, we found a Pectoral Sandpiper.

Out from the South Lookout, an adult Slaty-backed Gull was sitting with the Glaucous-winged Gulls.

Slaty-backed Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 29, 2018

We headed south, had a Hawfinch at the Adak National Forest, then went down to the marsh. Just as we were approaching, Jon called to say the Spotted Redshank was back!

We raced over to the area, but just as we arrived, it took off and disappeared. Barb saw it fly out, but I missed it. Although we all searched the area for some time, it was not refound.

By the way, the Greater White-fronted Goose that had relocated to the marsh the day before, watched with befuddlement at these strange beings racing around the marsh…

Down at Sweeper Creek, we found a Hawfinch in the lone spruce tree there, This is where we saw our first Adak Brambling.

Hawfinch, Sweeper Creek Spruce, May 29, 2018

The weather was horrible all day, so we took a break mid-afternoon.

When we went back out, we were driving up Bayshore and stopped to check the beach. I saw a small gull next to a large gull and my first reaction was “What’s the large gull?”

It should have been “What’s the small gull?”

It turned out to be a Mew Gull. Only the second that we have seen out here. The question then was “What subspecies?”

After checking the guides and the photos, we determined that it was the North American subspecies Larus canus brachyrhynchus.

Mew Gull Larus canus brachyrhynchus, Sandy Cove Beach, May 29, 2018

Mew Gull Larus canus brachyrhynchus, Sandy Cove Beach, May 29, 2018

Mew Gull Larus canus brachyrhynchus, Sandy Cove Beach, May 29, 2018

How this North American bird found its way out to Adak during a week of strong southwest winds is beyond me. It should have been one of the Asian subspecies.

Jon and Jim had three Sandhill Cranes today.

At 79 species so far, this is already our second-best May total.

One more day to find another good bird.

NOTE: This will be my last post until Friday morning, eastern time. We leave tomorrow evening around 6 pm and don’t get home until Thursday around 5 pm (which is noon Adak time)!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Temp in the 40s, Mostly cloudy, occasional fine drizzle, Wind SW 20-40 mph

The Brambling has settled in at the Seal Drive Feeder.

Brambling, Seal Drive Feeder, May 28, 2018

A Hawfinch is there, too (as well as at several other feeders).

At the Airport Ditch, at least one Wood Sandpiper and the two peeps are still being seen, as well as the Greater White-fronted Goose. Wood Sandpipers continue to be seen at multiple locations.

Greater White-fronted Goose, Airport Ditch, May 28, 2018

The goose was not seen there later in the day, but has moved up to Contractor’s Camp Marsh.

Jon and Jim also had a Dunlin today.

A flock of 18 Aleutian Cackling Geese flew over today.

At Lake Shirley/Lake Ronnie, the American Wigeon and Lesser Scaup were still present, but not the Hooded Merganser or Tufted Duck.

Jon and Jim refound the Gadwall hiding in a small reedy pond on the approach to Lake Shirley.

At the Seawall, we finally spotted a Short-tailed Shearwater flying by.

At Clam Lagoon, I again walked the marsh edge. Right near the beginning, the American Green-winged Teal posed.

American Green-winged Teal, Clam Lagoon, May 28, 2018

A little farther up, A Pectoral Sandpiper flew out.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, May 28, 2018

As Barb pulled up to the West Lookout (where she would pick me up), she saw a  small to medium-sized shorebird on the nearby flats, but it flew off before she could get the scope on it.

As we were coming back around the lagoon, we ran into Jon and Jim who said they just had a Red-necked Stint out on the peninsula.

I walked out, and just as I rounded the bend, a peep flew out and away and I could not relocate it. I assumed it was the stint.

After dinner, I went back up to the peninsula and walked out, hoping the stint had returned. My experience with stints out here has been that they stay a few days and are friendly.

Well, as I walked out, the same thing happened — a peep flew out and disappeared. However, this time it circled back and landed thirty yards behind me. It was a Little Stint — our first spring record. Many more are seen in the fall.

So I don’t know what I saw earlier — the Red-necked or the Little. Maybe tomorrow.

Little Stint, Clam Lagoon, May 28, 2018

So new birds are coming in each day. More strong SW winds are expected to continue through Wednesday. Unfortunately, we leave on Wednesday! Who knows what else will be blown in. In the meantime, we keep on lookin’…

The trip list is 77.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Temp in the 40s, overcast, heavy rain starting in early afternoon, Wind SSE 10-15 increasing as the day went on

At Sweeper Cove this morning we finally got a Horned Puffin for the trip. Alcids in general have been low in numbers here this year. Don’t know why…

At the Seal Drive Feeder, we got a Brambling. Jim and Jon have seen several so far, but not at feeders.

Brambling, Seal Drive Feeder, May 27, 2018

The Hooded Merganser and Lesser Scaup were seen at Lake Smith today by Jon and Jim. This lake is along the drive up to Lake Ronnie, and ducks frequently go between the two. The American Wigeon were on Lake Shirley and the Seawall produced nothing new.

There are Wood Sandpipers in a number of locations. Not a major invasion (like a hundred), but still not bad. Very easy to see.

I decided to walk the Clam Lagoon Marsh Edge. Although it is better in fall, you never know. I tried calling Jon and Jim to join me, but couldn’t reach them.

I walked down to the flats and shortly after, a Mallard jumped out in front of me and. instead of flying away — as Mallards are wont to do out here — she flayed about as if injured. This was the same “broken wing act” we saw by the Semipalmated Plover a few days ago. There were chicks nearby.

Mallard doing a “broken wing act”, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2018

Shortly after, Barb called to let me know there was a large shorebird ahead of me — probably a Common Greenshank, She was scoping from the truck at the South Lookout.

Right after she called, I came upon a peep right in front of me. I couldn’t see the shorebird Barb had located due o the vegetation. So I concentrated on the bird at hand. I got several excellent photos, and as I was talking with Barb on the radio, Jon chimed in and asked what was happening. We told him about the two birds and invited them to join me. They said they would be right there.

I decided to not move so I wouldn’t flush the birds, but within a minute, they both took off for parts unknown!

Jon and Jim arrived a few minutes later and we walked the length of the edge and out the peninsula to no avail. However, we flushed a pipit, which Jon called an American. I somehow got photos of it in flight and confirmed Jon’s identification.

American Pipit, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2018

The peep turned out to be the Semipalmated Sandpiper from two days ago down near the airport. The breast and back feathers molting in were identical.

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2018

We split up and Barb and I went down to Warbler Willows. Although not leafed out, yet, (and much better in the fall) we still check them — just because.

When we got there, a Common Redpoll was sitting there, but quickly flew away.

The rain was coming down in buckets at this point and the wind was increasing, so we went back to the house for a break.

When we went back out, the weather was still miserable, but we persevered.

At the Airport Ditch, we found a pair of geese. One Aleutian Cackling and a Greater White-fronted. However, the White-fronted was no larger than the Cackling! This should not be — we thought. We tried to make the White-fronted into a Lesser White-fronted, to no avail. We later learned that the smallest Greater White-fronted was no larger than a large Cackling. Oh well, at east a trip bird.

Greater White-fronted Goose (right) and Aleutian Cackling Goose, Airport Ditch, May 27, 2018

Greater White-fronted Goose, Airport Ditch, May 27, 2018

We called Jon and Jim and they added it to their list as well.

After we left, they refound the Temminck’s Stint there.

I went out after dinner to see if anything else was blown in. On my way up past the airport, several shorebirds flew across the road. I couldn’t tell what they were in the poor light and driving rain, and, of course, they landed behind some grasses. I got out of the truck and walked over and discovered they were just Rock Sandpipers.

Rock Sandpiper, Airport, May 27, 2018

As i drove up the road, many more flew off the side of the road. They had been sheltering in the lee of the sand dune between the road and the beach.

Our trip list is now 74!

More strong SW winds coming!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

A waterfowl day.

Temp in the 40s, overcast turning partly sunny. Wind SW 5-10 increasing as the day went on.

At least one Hawfinch remains at the Adak National Forest and Jon and Jim saw one in town and one down near Sweeper Cove today.

There are a few more Wood Sandpipers around at various places.

Neither the Spotted Redshank, or the two peeps were seen today.

At Contractor’s Camp Marsh, a lot of snipe were calling and winnowing. I managed to get a shot of a Common.

Common Snipe, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May 26, 2018

At Lake Jean, we had a Common Loon and a flock of 48 Cackling Geese flew over.

Aleutian Cackling Geese, Lake Jean, May 26, 2018

At the Seawall, there were several Pacific Loons and dozens of White-winged Scoters.

You may be wondering why I haven’t yet posted a photo of the Tufted Duck at Lake Shirley.

Well, Lake Shirley is approximately two-and-a-half football fields wide! And the ducks tend to stay on the far side (see my Common Greenshank photos from last May to see the quality of photos at that distance).

Well today, as we approached the lake, the Tufted Duck was on this side. Of course, as soon as she saw us she started to swim away, but not before I was able to finally get a photo.

Tufted Duck, Lake Shirley, May 26, 2018

As I was concentrating on taking the above photo, Barb was trying to get my attention, but I was so focused, it wasn’t sinking in. There was a pair of American Wigeon close by! 99% of the wigeon out here are Eurasian, so American is noteworthy.

American Wigeon, Lake Shirley, May 26, 2018

We continued up to Lake Ronnie.

As I was scanning the Red-breasted Mergansers, Mallards, and Scaup, I noticed a pair of Lesser Scaup (usually annual, but not common).

Then I noticed a smaller bird with the mergansers. It turned out to be a female Hooded Merganser. A rare bird out here and an Adak bird for us.

Hooded Merganser (back) with Red-breasted Merganser, Lake Ronnie, May 26, 2018

So three waterfowl for the trip list and one new Adak Bird. No lifers, but still a good day.

We have added 4 new birds to our Adak list so far on this trip — Great Egret, Spotted Redshank, Semipalmated Sandpiper (also a first for Adak) and Hooded Merganser.

The trip list is now 68.

The southwest winds are picking up again…

Friday, May 25, 2018

They just keep coming…

Temp in the 40s. partly sunny, showers in the morning, Wind North 15-20 mph

Note: If anyone read yesterday’s blog before I corrected it, please note that the “Little Stint” was actually a Semipalmated Sandpiper. More on this below.

It took ten days, but we finally got out mandatory rainbow photo for the trip.

Rainbow, Adak,, May 25, 2018

We decided to head up to Adak National Forest first thing this morning in order to see the Hawfinches before they hid on us all day!

Well, we got there, and although it took about 15 minutes, they finally appeared.

We headed down the hill, checked the Thrush Feeder, then went into the marsh.

At the “Plover Spot”, we saw 3 Pacific Golden-Plovers. Then I saw another shorebird which I immediately recognized as a Spotted Redshank! In breeding plumage no less!

Thankfully, Jim and Jon were in radio distance and got to our location in a few minutes. This was a lifer for Jim, Jon, and me. Barb had one in New Jersey many years ago, but this was a semi-lifer, as her previous one was in non-breeding plumage.

No question on this ID.

Spotted Redshank, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May 25, 2018

Spotted Redshank, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May 25, 2018

Spotted Redshank, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May 25, 2018

Spotted Redshank, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May 25, 2018

Spotted Redshank, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May 25, 2018

There are two other records for Adak — one on May 30,1972 and one on Sept 20,1975.

What a bird!!!!

A nice way to start the day.

Now, about yesterday…

I am allowed to make one bone-headed ID mistake each trip. Yesterday’s Little Stint was this trip’s quota.

When I saw the bird, I new it was a peep/stint. It had dark legs, so Least, Long-toed, and Temminck’s were ruled out. Baird’s and White-rumped are very distinctive, so they were ruled out also. That left Western, Red-necked, and Little. Westerns have long bills and always some rufous feathers somewhere, so that eliminated that species.

So that left the two stints. Having seen both Red-necked and Little, I felt confident that I could tell them apart. The bird just didn’t look like a Red-necked to me, so I convinced myself (and the others around me) that it was a Little Stint.

After posting it to this blog last night, I received several messages from good birding friends who are much better at this than I am, pointing out that this was in fact a Semipalmated Sandpiper!

Semi had never even crossed my mind, as they have never occurred here (although Isaac had a glimpse of what he thought as one several years ago) and are rare in the Aleutians as a whole.

So. The bird was a Semipalmated Sandpiper. New for Adak and new for our personal Adak list (and trip list),

Back to today.

We headed up to Clam Lagoon. There was a Common Loon on the lagoon — unusual location.

The score today at Lake Shirley was Tufted Duck 1; Gadwall 0.

As we drove down the east side of the lagoon, we got a call from Jon that there was another peep with the one from yesterday and they thought t might be a Temminck’s!

We raced around the lagoon (boy, we wish Candlestick Bridge was repaired — maybe when we win the lottery…)

We got there and saw the bird. It had yellow legs, which meant it was either a Least Sandpiper, a Long-toed Sandpiper, or a Temminck’s Stint. The Long-toed is fairly distinctive in shape and appearance, so was ruled out.

We’ve seen two Temminck’s Stints here, one in spring and one in fall. At first, this bird did not strike me as a Temminck’s — the jizz just wasn’t right. But after looking at it more carefully (especially after yesterday’s fiasco), I was finally convinced it was.

But, just to be certain, I sent photos to my friends — Aaron and Isaac — and they concurred.

Whew!

This also was a lifer for Jon and Jim!

Here are a few photos.

Temminck’s Stint, Airport Ditch, May 25, 2018

Temminck’s Stint, Airport Ditch, May 25, 2018

Temminck’s Stint, Airport Ditch, May 25, 2018

Temminck’s Stint (left) and Semipalmated Sandpiper, Airport Ditch, May 25, 2018. Photo by Jim DeForge.

Its amazing how different a bird can look in different positions and lighting!

While observing the peeps, a nearby Semipalmated Plover kept chasing them away anytime they got near her nesting area.

She tried to lure us away as well.

Semipalmated Plover trying to lure us away from her nest with her “broken wing” act. No, we did not step on it! May 25, 2018

Later, we went back up to Adak National Forest, just to see if anything new showed up. We pulled up and a few minutes after sitting there, a bird flew out and started flycatching above the forest. It landed briefly, but not long enough for me to get the camera on it. It then continued flycatching back and forth across the road and trees until it finally flew east and disappeared. It was flying so erratically that I could not get my camera on it. When it had landed, i did see that i had a long tail (like a Song Sparrow, for instance), but we could not tell what it was. It was totally backlit as well.

We called Jon and Jim and they arrived, but none of us could relocate the mystery bird.

One that got away…

On the way back to town, there were a couple of Glaucous Gulls hanging out near the Landing Lights.

Two Glaucous Gulls with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Landing Lights, May 25, 2018

The trip list is 65.

Keep em comin!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The westerlies strike again!

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, occasional light rain, Wind NW 10-20 mph

Although we didn’t see them today, the Hawfinches were seen both this morning and evening at Adak National Forest. (Basically, when they see us coming, they hide…)

Also seen this morning by Jon and Jim was a flock of 8 Brambling. We missed those also.

However, at Lake Shirley, we saw both the Tufted Duck and the Gadwall.

Only three Pacific Golden-Plovers at the marsh today.

The excitement started after dinner. I went out to head for Clam Lagoon and Jon And Jim headed south. I shortly got a call from them informing me that the Wood Sandpiper that they had seen earlier (and we had missed!) was back at the ditch along the airport.

I picked up Barb and we headed down there. We didn’t see it at first, so we split up, with Barb driving up the ditch and me walking back were we came from. She soon found the bird, came back and picked me up, and drove back up there.

The ditch was on her side of the truck, so I was trying to look around her to see it. I got on a shorebird, but it wasn’t a Wood Sandpiper. She quickly pointed out to me that I was looking too far left. I took my eyes off the my bird and saw the Wood Sandpiper a few yards up the shoreline, then quickly returned my attention to my bird.

It was a peep. Dark legs,small pointy bill, little breast markings, molting from non-breeding to breeding, short compact build.

I called Jon and Jim and they arrived shortly.

The bird was very cooperative, feeding actively and not paying much attention to us.

After a little discussion, it was determined that the bird was a Little Stint!

WHOOPS!!!!

After posting this, we got word from better birders that the bird in question is a Semipalmated Sandpiper! Not a rarity elsewhere, but a first for Adak!

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Airport Ditch, May 24, 2018

 

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Airport Ditch, May 24, 2018 (Bill looks thicker because of mud on it)

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Airport Ditch, May 24, 2018

Semipalmated Sandpiper and Red-necked Phalarope, Airport Ditch, May 24, 2018

Wood Sandpiper and Semipalmated Sandpiper, Airport Ditch, May 24, 2018

Wood Sandpiper, Airport Ditch, May 24, 2018

So new birds are still popping in.

The trip list is 62.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The westerlies are paying off!

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy off-and-on rain, Wind SW 15-30 mph

The day started off wet and windy, with no new birds.

Up at the plover hotspot, the number of Pacific Golden-Plovers was up to 10. And these appeared to be new birds, as the birds we had two days ago were all in breeding plumage, save one. Today’s were mostly in non-breeding plumage or in-between. So there is a daily turnover going on. We are not just seeing the same birds over and over.

Pacific Golden-Plover, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 23, 2018

At Clam Lagoon, the murrelets are all paired up. But they are difficult to get close to. This is about the best I can get.

Marbled Murrelet, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2018

At Lake Shirley, the Tufted Duck is still present, but the Gadwall is not.

That was about all we had to report today, but then Jon Boone and Jim Deforge arrived on today’s flight, stowed their gear, and went out birding.

I was about to start tonight’s blog, when I got a call from Jim informing us that hey had two Hawfinches at the feeder at Adak National Forest!

Good thing I filled that feeder this afternoon!

We quickly headed up there and saw them. Here are two photos of the male and one of the female.

Hawfinch (female and wet!), Adak National Forest, May 23, 2018

Hawfinch (male), Adak National Forest, May 23, 2018

Hawfinch (male), Adak National Forest, May 23, 2018

Gary Lyon arrived tonight as well, and he and his group also got the Hawfinches. It looks like they won’t be sailing to Attu until Friday at the earliest.

We just new the past day-and-a-half’s winds had brought in something. We just had to find them.

The westerlies continue. We hope to find more goodies tomorrow.

The trip list is 60.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional light shower, Wind SW 20-30 mph

The wind is supposed to have a westerly bent for the rest of our stay, so things should be picking up.

Today was the first day of sustained SW wind, so we hope tomorrow will bear fruit.

To see what the winds are doing up here, click on the following link.

https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/overlay=temp/orthographic=-181.40,56.69,1291/loc=-178.723,51.805

We had several loons today, including 4 Pacific, 1 Arctic, 1 Common, and 1 Red-throated. The Arctic was a trip bird.

The only other new trip bird today was a Green-winged Teal (American – vertical stripe). The most abundant duck on Adak is the Common Teal (Eurasian – horizontal stripe). The Europeans have split Common from Green-winged, but the Americans have not (except us!).

Here is a shot of a common Teal.

Common Teal, Clam Lagoon, May 22, 2018

So, OUR trip list stands at 59.

The Tufted Duck was back on Lake Shirley today. We did not see the Gadwall, as most of the ducks took off as we rounded the bend.

There were only two Pacific Golden-Plovers today.

More birders are arriving tomorrow. More eyes (more birds?)!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Temp in the 40s, Overcast, then partly sunny, then overcast and rain, Wind S 5-10 increasing as the day went on.

The weather is finally changing. Not a minute too soon!

Staring at the same birds each day can get tiring — Ie. No new birds today.

The morning feeder-check produced a nice Snow Bunting.

Snow Bunting, Sandy Cove Cliffs Rock Feeder, May 21, 2018

We only found one Pacific Golden-Plover up at the plover spot today — although they may have just been feeding elsewhere.

The birdlife off the Seawall was minimal, to say the least. One Pacific Loon, hardly any Eider or Harlequin Ducks, a few Red-breasted Mergansers, and the normal Pelagic and Red-faced cormorants. No scoters, grebes, other loons or alcids!

The Gadwall was still with the scaup on Lake Shirley. The swan was gone.

All of the feeders now have activity at them, so we hope the Asian birds brought in with the change of weather will be attracted to the feeding activity.

The fish factory was processing today, so there was a good number of gulls at the outflow pipe off the Sweeper Cove Breakwall.

Glaucous-winged Gulls feeding at Fish Factory Outflow, May 21, 2018

Unfortunately, they were all Glaucous-winged. Not even the several Glaucous Gulls in the area joined in!

The other group of birders that we expected on Saturday changed their plans and three of them arrived by sailboat today and the rest will arrive by plane on Wednesday. Then they are off to Attu! By sailboat!!!

The Kuaka, Small Boat Marina, May 21, 2018

You won’t find us on something that small…

The trip list remains at 57.

The weather is changing!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Temp in the high 40s, partly to mostly sunny, Wind NNW 15-25 mph

At Sweeper Cove this morning, we found the “Vega” Gull near the breakwall.

“Vega” Herring Gull, Sweeper Cove, May 20, 2018.

There was nothing new at Sweeper Creek or the Airport Ponds.

At the Landing Lights, the small flock of Ruddy Turnstones and Rock Sandpipers continues. The godwit has not been seen since Thursday.

At Contractor’s Camp Marsh, we heard winnowing snipe and found 7 Pacific Golden-Plovers at their “usual” spot. There  is a semi-moist area towards the east end of the marsh that attracts golden-plovers every year. Although you can find them elsewhere, this is THE spot to find them regularly. Not a rarity, but aren’t they beautiful?

Pacific Golden-Plover, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May 20, 2018.

Nothing new on Clam Lagoon, but when we got to Shotgun Lake, we found what we assume was the Tundra Swan that had been on Andrew Lake. This was at 11:05 am.

Tundra Swan, Shotgun Lake, May 20, 2018.

Tundra Swan, Shotgun Lake, May 20, 2018.

We continued around the Lagoon, and at the northeast corner, had a Gyrfalcon fly by.

Gyrfalcon, Clam Lagoon, May 20, 2018.

Gyrfalcon, Clam Lagoon, May 20, 2018.

Although the gray/brown plumage was similar to the one we had seen down at the Hilltop Quarry, we never saw that one fly. So we don’t know if it was the same bird. The molting primaries certainly make this individual distinctive.

The Seawall produced a (another?) Surf Scoter.

At Lake Shirley, the Gadwall from yesterday had joined the flock of Greater Scaup. No tufted Duck today.

We continued down the east side of the lagoon and then went up to Lake Ronnie.

Much to my surprise, when I crested the bluff to look down on the lake, there was a Tundra Swan! This was at 1:00 pm. It looked like the same bird from Shotgun Lake. The same amount of darker plumage on the neck, etc.

Tundra Swan, Lake Ronnie, May 20, 2018.

When we went back around, there was no swan on Shotgun Lake.

By the way, I forgot to mention yesterday that the swan was also only our second record on Adak.

When we got back to the house, our tire was waiting for us! The “Tire Guy” found the leak and patched it up.

As I said yesterday, the flight was extremely early, so when we got to the airport to greet arriving birders, they were all gone.

We met up with one group today — Dale & Cheri Horkman and Jingyi — from Seward. We updated them on recent sightings and answered their questions. Later, I took them up to show them where the plovers were hanging out.

I have been unable to contact the other group — if they even arrived…

The trip list is 57.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

A day of seconds…

Temp in the 40s, overcast and slight drizzle in the morning, partly sunny in the afternoon. Wind E switching to NE 15-25 mph

We forgot to mention our flat tire from yesterday. Luckily, we saw it in the morning before we headed out for the day, so Lisa (our lodge manager) was able to put the spare on and let us go birding.

Well, today as we were nearing the Thrush Feeder, the spare went flat (don’t know what we ran over…). So Lisa came up and switched back to the tire that went flat yesterday. Surprisingly, she couldn’t find the leak in that one, so she inflated it and it sat overnight and seemed fine! Well, after spending the rest of the day on it, we arrived back at the house and it was deflating again!

So this time she is taking it to the “tire guy.” We hope he is the cure.

Back to birding…

It was a dreary start to the day, and although it brightened considerably by afternoon, the wind was strong and cold.

All but one of the feeders have Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches at them, but no Asian birds yet.

At the Palisades Overlook, Barb spotted a loon which turned out to be a Red-throated. Only the second one we have seen out here. There were also three Pacific Loons.

When we got to the east side of Clam Lagoon, we found a Gadwall in one of the East Side Ponds. This also was only our second record out here.

Gadwall, East Side Ponds, May 19, 2018

At the Seawall, barb found a pair of Surf Scoters.

We finally found the Tufted Duck on Lake Shirley.

As I was scanning the gulls on Clam Lagoon, a black-legged Kittiwake joined them, then flew off. We saw several others as the day went on. They are much more numerous in the fall, when we can see hundreds.

Once we came back to the Seawall, I scanned for new birds and found a Laysan Albatross flying by (and not so far out as to be non-enjoyable!).

When we ran into the other birders, they told us there was a Tundra Swan on Andrew Lake, so we headed down there and saw it. But it was WAY out…

Back down at Sweeper Cove, there were several Glaucous Gulls still hanging out.

Glaucous Gull, Sweeper Cove, May 19, 2018

Glaucous Gull, Sweeper Cove, May 19, 2018

And John Puschok told us a “Vega” Herring Gull was there and we found that as well.

“Vega” Herring Gull, Sweeper Cove, May 19, 2018

That brought our trip list up to 54.

PS: More birders were due in on today’s flight, but it arrived so early, that by the time we got there to greet them, everyone was gone! So I expect we will hook up tomorrow.

 

PPS: The repair parts for the Puk Uk arrived on the plane, repairs were done, and the trip to Attu left this evening. Good luck guys (and girls)!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, wind east 10-15 mph

Still in the doldrums.

We picked up 5 trip birds today, nothing unexpected.

We decided to go down to Finger Bay and creek. We stopped at both quarries along the way, At the first one, we had a singing Pacific Wren (this is THE place on Adak to get Pacific Wren when all else fails). They are harder to find in spring, but are everywhere in fall, once the young are off the nests.

We also had a Common Loon on the lake next to the quarry.

At the quarry at the top of the hill, we had several Snow Buntings and a Gyrfalcon overlooking the area.

Gyrfalcon, Hilltop Quarry (on road to Finger Bay), May 18, 2018

Nothing new at Finger Bay or along the creek.

On the way back up to town, we spotted a Bald Eagle on its nest.

Bald Eagle on nest, Sweeper Cove, May 18, 2018

They don’t have any trees to nest in up here, so they nest on cliff ledges or on top of rock chimneys. The Bald Eagles that nest near our home in Pennsylvania were already feeding young when we left for our trip up here.

There is activity at most of the feeders up here, but no new birds so far.

The Attu tour group’s boat had a maintenance problem, so they are here until tomorrow (when the parts arrive). They have had a few birds that we haven’t and vice versa. Our most notable miss so far is Tufted Duck. They had one on Lake Shirley, but it has eluded us.

We are expecting the winds to change to the west Sunday night, so we expect things to start picking up on Monday.

Trip list is 46.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, Wind East at 15-20 mph.

Nothing earth-shattering today, but a few nice birds.

Aaron had reported about a half-dozen Glaucous Gulls while he was here. We have seen three, so far.

Glaucous Gull, Sweeper Cove, May 17, 2018.

As we made the rounds today, we filled the various feeders that we maintain while we are here. Some of them already had seed in them from the previous tour groups, but we did not see anything unusual at any of them today.

The Rock Sandpipers are back displaying and raucously calling in the Sweeper Channel, as well as at the Landing Lights.

Rock Sandpipers and a Ruddy Turnstone, Landing Lights, May 17, 2018.

Also at the Landing Lights today was the first Bar-tailed Godwit of the season (the previous tour groups had none)!  We also had Black Oystercatcher and Semipalmated Plovers to get our shorebird list started.

As I walked out to the Landing Lights jetty, this young Bald Eagle didn’t want to leave.

Bald Eagle, Landing Lights, May 17, 2018

Up at Clam Lagoon, there was a flock of Cackling Geese, plus the usual suspects — Buffleheads, Mallards, Common Teal, Northern Pintails, Eurasian Wigeon, Marbled and Kittlitz’s murrelets, Red-breasted Mergansers, otters, etc.

Cackling Geese, Clam Lagoon, May 17, 2018. Note the white neck collar, typical of the Aleutian subspecies.

Aleutian Terns were back, as well as Parasitic Jaegers.

Out on the Flats, Barb spotted the Black-headed Gull that Aaron also had told us about.

On Goose Rocks, a lone Emperor Goose was appropriate! Note — we did not see a single Emperor Goose on either of our trips last year. The Seawall also produced several Pacific Loons, a Red-necked Grebe, 10 White-winged Scoters, Harlequin Ducks, and Common Eider.

The winds aren’t supposed to turn to the west until Monday, so we expect another few days in the doldrums.

Our trip list is 41.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Our flights were uneventful. We arrived in Anchorage on Tuesday afternoon, checked in, did our shopping, then went to West Chester Lagoon (on the Audubon Bench side).

Nothing of note, but an Arctic Tern was actively feeding right in front of us.

Arctic Tern, West Chester Lagoon, Anchorage, May 15, 2018

Arctic Tern, West Chester Lagoon, Anchorage, May 15, 2018

We got dinner and went to bed (having been up since 2:30 AM Eastern time!)

The next morning, we met up with Dave Sonneborn. He took us up to the Glen Alps trail to look for our nemesis chicken, the Willow Ptarmigan! After an hour or so of futile searching, we returned to the car and headed down to Potters Marsh.

On the back side of the marsh we ran into John Puschok, who was headed out to Adak to lead his tour out to Attu. He informed us that he had just had a Northern Waterthrush back down the road a little bit, so we walked down there and it was singing away.

Northern Waterthrush, Potters Marsh, May 16, 2018

We then headed back up to the Audubon Bench and Dave picked out a couple of Whimbrel and a Hudsonian Godwit for us. The godwit and the Northern Waterthrush were state birds for us. The godwit was too far out for photos.

When we got to the airport, we talked some more with John and found out that he ad gone up to Arctic Valley this morning (the place we usually go, but didn’t today) and he found two Willow Ptarmigan right on the trail that I always walk when we go up there!!!!!

AAAARRRGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!

Oh well…

The flight to Adak was early and smooth.

At the airport, Aaron Lang informed us that the Great Egret was still here. So after doing some quick unpacking, we headed up to where it was hanging around (the Landing Lights). As we were heading up there, the plane took off (right over the Landing Lights!), so when we got there, the bird was flying around. It flew up the sand dune a little, circled, and then flew south along the shore.

Great Egret, near Landing Lights Beach, May 16, 2018

That was an Adak bird for us.

We checked the lower end of Clam Lagoon and Shotgun Lake, but didn’t find anything of note.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Temps in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional light shower, Wind N 10-15 mph

In the 13 years that we have been coming to Adak, we had never seen an adult-plumaged Slaty-backed Gull until this past May.

Today we had two of them. The first was out on Clam Lagoon. Not very close, but close enough.

Slaty-backed Gull with Glaucous-winged gull (back), Clam Lagoon, Sept 27, 2017

Slaty-backed Gull with Glaucous-winged gull (back), Clam Lagoon, Sept 27, 2017

We initially saw it from the west side. When we got around to the east side, it was still there, but just as far out.

We headed back up to the Seawall. We had only one Sanderling there. But, at the spot where the Sanderlings were yesterday, there was a small flock of gulls — including another Slaty-backed! They flew as soon as we pulled up, but I got flight shots.

Slaty-backed Gull with Glaucous-winged Gull (top), The Seawall, Sept 27, 2017

They flew up to the Breaches, so we went up there and got some more photos.

Slaty-backed Gull with Glaucous-winged Gull (left), The Breaches, Sept 27, 2017

Slaty-backed Gull with Glaucous-winged Gull (right).The Breaches, Sept 27, 2017

That made our Trip List 56 — two better than average.

Our Year’s List remained at 94!

The most frustrating event of the day was seeing the cuckoo again! We thought it had gone, but as we were driving back from the lagoon towards the Palisades, it flew from the roadside again and down to the spruce grove as it did a few days ago. Needless to say, I couldn’t jump out of the car quick enough to get flight photos. Oh well…

This was a great trip anyway.

2 lifers — Kamchatka Leaf Warbler (a first record for Adak) and Gray-streaked Flycatcher.

Two second records for Adak – Golden-crowned Sparrow and Gray-streaked Flycatcher.

Our third Little Stint

Our second Cuckoo (of indeterminate species).

A record Year’s List.

Our trip home was uneventful.

We will be back next May.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional light shower, Winds N 10-20 mph

Not much to report. We continue in the doldrums.

The 3 Emperor Geese put in an appearance at Clam Lagoon today.

A flock of about a dozen Snow Buntings was at Sweeper Cove.

The Sanderlings continue at the Seawall — with 2 Western Sandpipers now.

Up at the Seawall, a Song Sparrow let us know who was in charge.

Song Sparrow, guess where?, Sept 26, 2017

We made the mandatory drive up to White Alice, if for nothing else, the view. A flock of 6 ravens and three Bald Eagles were enjoying the updrafts.

Bald Eagle, White Alice, Sept 26, 2017

This will be my last posting until Friday, as we leave tomorrow evening and don’t arrive home until Thursday afternoon (assuming flights go as planned…).

The Trip List – 55 and Year’s List 94 remain unchanged.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional light shower, wind NNW 10-15 mph

As we pulled in to check out the High School Spruces this morning, a flock of a half-dozen-or-so Common Redpolls flew into the far-right bunch of trees. It was raining at the time, so I didn’t get out of the truck to get closer for a photo. We tried again later, but they were gone. Year bird number 94!

At Contractor”s Camp Marsh, a Peregrine flew overhead. As I was straining to photograph it straight up, I saw small birds flying overhead as well. They were Redpolls — about 30-40 of them. I didn’t get a Redpoll photo, but I got the falcon.

Peregrine Falcon, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, Sept 25, 2017

There was one Pectoral Sandpiper there as well.

At the Seawall, I picked out a breeding-plumaged Pacific Loon — number 55 for the trip list.

Also there, the Sanderling flock (which has increased to 34) was playing with the waves as they crashed on the beach — as Sanderlings are wont to do!

Sanderlings, Seawall,, Sept 25, 2017

One Western Sandpiper was with them.

Western Sandpiper with Sanderling, Seawall, Sept 25, 2017

Up at the Breaches, I usually see a shitload of gulls perched there. Today there was just a shitload of gull shit!

The Breaches

The other day, while walking the clam Lagoon mud flats, I found these tracks.

Rat Tracks, Clam Lagoon mud flats

They were about a hundred yards out on the flats!

And — speaking of rats — I have been setting a trap for rats next to our “feeder” behind the house (caught 3 so far!) to protect our seed. Occasionally, the trap is triggered, but no catch. It had triggered last night, but I didn’t bother resetting it this morning. When we stopped back at the house late this morning, I found this creature savoring the remaining peanut butter!

Slug on rat trap

No Emperor Geese or Cuckoo today.

Our trip list is 55, one above average, but high in quality.

Our Year’s List is 94.

A day-and-a-half to go…

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Another long-tailed raptor, but is it a lifer?

Temps in the 40s, partly sunny, occasional drizzle, wind N 10-15 mph

At Contractor’s Camp Marsh, the gimpy Pacific Golden-Plover was still hanging around.

Nothing new at any of the willows or spruces.

We approached the cuckoo area very slowly today in hopes we could spot it before it flew away again. No dice. Another hundred yards down from where we saw it yesterday, it sprang from the side of the road and disappeared once more — in spite of a lot of searching.

We will try again tomorrow.

Nothing obvious out on the Clam Lagoon Flats.

As we drove up to Shotgun Lake, a harrier popped out from the side of the road. Unlike last time, I was able to get photos before it disappeared over a ridge. The AOU just recently recognized Northern Harrier as a separate species from the Hen Harrier of Eurasia. So we need to be sure which species this is. It appears to be a Northern Harrier, but we will need further study to be sure. The first harrier we had in 2009 was a North American bird. The second one we had flew away too quickly to be either studied or photographed.

Northern Harrier?, near Shotgun Lake, Sept 24, 2017.

Northern Harrier?, near Shotgun Lake, Sept 24, 2017.

Northern Harrier?, near Shotgun Lake, Sept 24, 2017.

Northern Harrier?, near Shotgun Lake, Sept 24, 2017.

Northern Harrier?, near Shotgun Lake, Sept 24, 2017.

On the other side of Clam Lagoon, there were still 3 Emperor Geese and 30 Sanderlings.

Lake Ronnie had a large flock of waterfowl, mostly Mallards, with some Eurasian Wigeon, Greater Scaup, Common Teal, Northern Pintails, and Red-breasted Mergansers.

Back at Clam Lagoon, I walked out the Peninsula and saw that the Sanderlings had moved to the point. However, they flew before I could see if any of our peeps were with them.

I am getting better at getting flight shots of birds. Here is a sampling from today’s Clam Lagoon marsh edge walk.

Wilson’s Snipe, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Wilson’s Snipe, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Pectoral Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Pectoral Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

We did not see the Little Stint today. We have not seen a jaeger since Tuesday, the 19th.

Still no dowitcher or turnstone.

Our trip list is 53. Our Year’s List is 93!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Cuckoo redux…

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, Wind N 10-15 mph

No new birds today, but the Gyrfalcon that we saw 10 days ago finally made a reappearance.

Gyrfalcon, Adak, September 23, 2017

Gyrfalcon, Adak, September 23, 2017

Gyrfalcon, Adak, September 23, 2017

On our way up to Clam Lagoon, we ran into (not literally!) the cuckoo again just north of where we had it two days ago. Again, it flew across the road, down the embankment and then over to a stand of spruces about 500 feet off the road. No chance for photos. I — like a ninny — decided to walk(?), hike(?), trudge(?) over there in order to get those diagnostic flight photos everyone wants.

So I trudged over there through waist-high vegetation, absolutely uneven under-footing, and hidden streams. As I got to the spruces, the bird flew out and disappeared up a ravine. I could hardly get my footing, let alone raise my camera fast enough to get photos!

I decided my legs would give out long before the cuckoo’s wings would, so I gave up the chase.

The good news is it is still here and hanging around the road. We will try a stealthier approach tomorrow.

In other news…

The Emperor Goose flock remains at 3. The Sanderling flock remains at 30 and they were actually feeding along the Seawall today. The surf and wind direction have changed enough to make the Seawall more shorebird-friendly.

Later in the evening, the Sanderling flock was out on the Clam Lagoon Peninsula, along with the four Western Sandpipers and the Little Stint.

There are a lot of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches coming to the three feeder areas, but nothing else so far.

Still no dowitcher or turnstones…

But the most important news of the day was Penn State’s come-from-behind, last-second victory over Iowa!!!!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Temps in the 40s, overcast morning turning to partly sunny late in the day, Wind N 10-20 mph.

We have never had a September trip without Black Oystercatcher, but it took ten days to finally catch up with one — actually six today.

The other big misses so far are Ruddy Turnstone and Long-billed Dowitcher. We have had them on every September trip. But, so far, they have eluded us.

Here is the obligatory Bald Eagle photo for the trip.

Bald Eagle, NavFac Beach, Sept 22, 2017

There was still one Pacific Golden-Plover at Contractor’s Camp Marsh.

I walked the Clam Lagoon marsh today and had several Sharp-tailed and Pectoral sandpipers.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 22, 2017

Along the edge, there are always tracks from the flock of Common Teal that feed there every day (mostly in late afternoon).

Common Teal tracks. Note how different they are from the American Green-winged Teal tracks you are more familiar with…

Since we have been here, we have seen Red-breasted Mergansers in only small flocks. Usually, we see much larger numbers this time of year. Well we found them today in the bay north of Candlestick Bridge where a few hundred were hanging out.

The Emperor Goose number stands at three. And there was a flock of 30 Sanderlings on the flats today.

When we came back round to the West Viewpoint, again we saw peeps out towards the peninsula, so out I trudged out to determine what they were. They turned out to be 4 Western Sandpipers and our Little Stint. One of the Westerns had an extraordinarily long schnoz…

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 22, 2017

More tomorrow…

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Temp in the 50s, drizzle on and off all day, occasional sunshine, wind N 10-20 mph

Since this was the anniversary of our (FIRST NORTH AMERICAN RECORD!!) Eurasian Sparrowhawk, we assumed we would get another…

Well, we got another long-tailed, short-winged lifer, but it wasn’t an accipiter.

On our way up to Clam Lagoon, as we crested the hill leading down to the Palisades Overlook, a medium-sized bird flew across the road, perched briefly on the guardrail, and then dropped into the ravine next to the road. We inched the truck forward and Barb spotted the bird sitting on a rock and quickly identified it as a cuckoo!

I jumped out and got a few photos before it flew across the road and disappeared over the cliff edge.

Cuckoo (Oriental — we hope!), Palisades Overlook, Sept 21, 2017

Our best guess at this point is an Oriental Cuckoo (most common in the Fall on the Aleutians — although the one we had in the Fall of 2009 was a Common Cuckoo). We are consulting others about its identity.

Before we got there, at Sweeper Cove, we had a Horned Grebe. Most of the grebes we see here are up at the Seawall, so this was unusual (for us).

At Contractor’s Camp Marsh we still had two Pacific-Golden Plovers.

Up at Clam Lagoon, we stopped at the West Overlook and Barb spotted a flock of shorebirds flying across the lagoon. They landed out on the Peninsula. We could see that there were 4 Sanderlings and 6 peeps, so I walked out there to get a closer look.

Five of the peeps flew off and the remaining one was a Western.

Sanderlings, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Just after I got back to the truck, the remaining 5 peeps flew in and landed just a short distance out on the flats. They were 4 Western Sandpipers and the Little Stint. We also saw a Pectoral Sandpiper nearby. I did not walk the marsh edge today.

There was nothing new at the Seawall. The surf was raging, making seeing anything beyond the crashing waves difficult. Also, the ocean spray was almost directly in our faces, so our binos and scope quickly became useless.  On the east side of the lagoon, we saw that the flock(?) of Emperor Geese had grown to 3!

At Candlestick Bridge, a tattered Black-legged Kittiwake didn’t seem to care that I was standing there, He was more interested in fishing.

Black-legged Kittiwake, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Back up at the north end of the lagoon, the kittiwakes were in for a bath.

Black-legged Kittiwakes (and a few Glaucous-winged Gulls, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Black-legged Kittiwakes (and a few Glaucous-winged Gulls, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Regardless of the cuckoo identification, our Year’s List stands at 92.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Temp in the 50s, drizzle in the morning, partly sunny late afternoon, wind NE 10-15 mph

Today’s excitement started early. After birding the usual places around town, we headed up to the Warbler Willows. I walked over and spotted a sparrow! I called to Barb and she came over and saw it as well. It was an immature Golden-crowned Sparrow!

Golden-crowned Sparrow, Warbler Willows, Sept 20, 2017

As far as we know, this is only the second record for Adak. Not a lifer, but an Adak bird for us and an Adak Year Bird for us. This set a Year’s List record for us — 91.

Up at Clam Lagoon, I spotted what looked like an Emperor Goose out on the flats, but closer inspection revealed two! They were both each standing on one leg…

Emperor Geese (pretending to be one), Clam Lagoon, Sept 20, 2017

As we were driving around, we noticed that the number of longspurs seemed to have dropped. They are finally starting to move out.

At the Seawall, there were at least a dozen Horned Grebes and 4 Red-necked Grebes. Also, the numbers of Common Murres were way up — over a hundred — when earlier in the trip we were seeing only a few at a time.

When we got back around to the west shore, I walked the peninsula and marsh edge. There was nothing out on the peninsula, but as I walked the marsh edge, three Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and a peep flushed in front of me. They landed not far ahead of me, so I approached slowly. I got good looks at two of the Sharp-tails, but could not see the peep.

They then flushed again, but this time were joined by many other Sharp-tails, Pectorals?, and peeps! There were about 15 birds in all. They flew back and forth and around, and I was able to get some flight shots. I don’t know what the peeps were, most likely the Western Sandpipers we’ve had the last few days, but I will study them more and ask others to look at them to see if we can figure them out. Here are a couple of the photos.

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Little Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 20, 2017

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 20, 2017

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Western Sandpipers and Little Stint(center bird), Clam Lagoon, Sept 20, 2017

When we got back near town, we decided to watch the plane arrive. However, a fog bank rolled in just before it was due. When the runway lights came on, we new it was near, even though we couldn’t see it.

We then heard it approaching — from the west! — and as it neared the runway (still not visible), it accelerated and aborted the landing. It flew off beyond our hearing, but the emergency vehicle stayed out by the runway and the lights remained on — until they didn’t!

The emergency vehicle drove up to the other end of the runway, so we figured the jet was in a holding pattern, waiting for visibility to improve. It did. After about 15 minutes, the fog lifted enough that we could see Zeto Point again, the runway lights came back on and the plane came in and landed. Late, but safe.

One week down, one to go.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Temp near 50, Mostly sunny, but overcast by mid-day, and showers by late afternoon, wind NE 15-25 mph increasing to 20-30 by late afternoon.

Nothing notable this morning until we got to Contractor’s Camp Marsh and found the Pacific Golden-Plover with the broken leg had at least made it a few miles south.

At the Landing Lights Jetty, a flock of 6 Rock Sandpipers put in their first appearance for our trip.

Rock Sandpiper, Landing Lights Jetty, Sept 19, 2017

At Clam Lagoon, I walked the marsh edge and had a cooperative Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 19, 2017

I also had a Pectoral Sandpiper.

As I neared the northern end — where Barb was parked — Barb notified me that there were three peeps on the flats ahead of me. They were still too far for photos, so I walked slowly in their direction. A fourth peep joined them.

I got distant photos before they flew off. They were three Western Sandpipers and the Little Stint.

At the Seawall, we had a Red-necked Grebe and lots of Short-tailed Shearwaters way off shore — no albatross, yet.

On the east Side of Clam Lagoon, we saw a flock of 6 medium-sized shorebirds flying. Fortunately, they flew towards us and landed just a short way up the edge, in the lee of the roadside. They were Pacific Golden-Plovers — 5 in juvenile plumage and one similar to the broken-legged one we had earlier (but with two good legs).

Pacific Golden-Plover, Clam Lagoon, Sept 19, 2017

We also saw a flock of about two dozen Sanderlings flying around the lagoon, but wouldn’t put down.

After dinner, we went back up to Clam Lagoon to see if anything new was brought in by the changing weather. We had no new birds, but the peeps were back at the same location as earlier — missing one Western. As we were watching them actively feeding, they suddenly stopped, looked alert, and crouched down. A Peregrine sailed by, apparently not noticing them — but they surely saw him!

Our trip list is 49, just 5 shy of our average September list.

Monday, September 18, 2017

It’s a tie!

Temp in the 50s, mostly sunny, Wind NE at 5-10 mph.

The morning birding was uneventful at the usual places. No new birds at any of the willows or spruces. However, we are starting to get activity (Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches) at the “thrush” feeder up near Navfac Creek. This is where we had as many as 8 Hawfinch last May! We hope this will attract passing vagrants.

At Clam Lagoon, we had a flock of 8 Sanderlings way out on the flats. No other species mixed in.

We drove out to the Loran Station, but did not add any new birds out there.

At the Seawall, we still had a Parasitic Jaeger joining in on the various gull feeding-frenzies. And I saw one lone Short-tailed Shearwater fly by.

Back on the western side, we had another Peregrine fly by. This one was in much better shape than the ragged one we had out at Lake Andrew yesterday.

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon, Sept 18, 2017

When we got down to the west side of the flats, I spotted three shorebirds feeding out from the marsh edge. They were two peeps and a plover.

The plover was a Pacific Golden-Plover with a broken leg.

Pacific Golden-Plover (with broken leg), Clam Lagoon, Sept 18, 2017

I had to walk out and circle around the peeps to get better lighting to tell what they were (and for photos). Luckily, they were not frightened by my presence and allowed me to get close enough to identify and photograph them

They were a Western Sandpiper and a Little Stint. They were soon joined by a second Western.

Western Sandpiper (left) and Little Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 18, 2017

Little Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 18, 2017

This is our third record of Little Stint on Adak (two photographed, all September). While Isaac was living here, he had one almost every fall.

Since I was already part-way down the marsh edge, I continued down, but only had a couple of Pectoral and Sharp-tailed sandpipers the rest of the way.

The Little Stint gives us a year’s list total of 90 — matching our previous best in 2007!

And we aren’t even through week one yet…

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Right church, wrong pew…

First a note about yesterday’s posting.

When we identified the warbler as an Arctic, we were going by the field guides on hand (all pre-2014). Unknown to us, the AOU split Arctic Warbler into three species back in 2014 — Arctic, Japanese Leaf, and Kamchatka Leaf warblers.

Study of specimens and other Arctic Warbler records from the Aleutians prior to 2014 shows that all identifiable records were Kamchatka Leaf Warblers. So ours is presumed to be as well.

However, separating these three species in the field is difficult, to say the least. Call is the best way to identify them, but ours did not call (and Barb has REALLY good hearing!).

I have put all 53 (yes, 53!) photos up on a web page at http://franklinhaas.com/Kamchatka/Kamchatka.html  for anyone interested at trying to establish the identity of this bird.

It is still a first for Adak (and us)!

So pre-2014, it was an Arctic Warbler (the church), today it is a Kamchatka Leaf Warbler (the pew)…

Now back to today.

Temps in the 50s, mostly cloudy, ENE wind at 10-20 mph

We had nothing new on our usual morning rounds (feeders, Sweeper Cove and Channel, Kuluk Bay, etc. However, the previous afternoon, while up at Clam Lagoon, we met the captain and a Fish and Wildlife inspector from the Early Dawn — a crab boat currently in port. The captain offered us some fresh brown crab, just stop by the boat!

So, this morning, we stopped by and they not only gave us some crab, they cooked it for us, too! So our dinner was set.

We headed up to the Warbler Willows and Adak National Forest, and except for Pacific Wrens, had no birds.

At Clam Lagoon, I walked the marsh edge and peninsula and had 2 sharp-tailed Sandpipers and 1 Pectoral.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, September 17, 2017

Barb had a lingering Parasitic Jaeger.

We headed over to the east shore of Lake Andrew. I got out and walked down to check the small ponds and two small clumps of spruces. As I was walking along, a bird flew overhead with the wings in a dihedral! At home this would be a Turkey Vulture! Then I thought of Northern Harrier! It was just a Short-eared Owl in a glide. Once it started flapping, it was obvious. It just shows how your mind works when you are not on your home turf…

Short-eared Owl, Lake Andrew, September 17, 2017

The owl was shortly joined by a Peregrine Falcon in order to perform some aerial ballet! The owl disappeared around the bend, but the Peregrine came back and flew around us before landing on a log at the water’s edge.

Short-eared Owl, Lake Andrew, September 17, 2017

Short-eared Owl (left) and Peregrine Falcon, Lake Andrew, September 17, 2017

Peregrine Falcon, Lake Andrew, September 17, 2017

Peregrine Falcon, Lake Andrew, September 17, 2017

As I continued on, a snipe flushed from almost under my feet and quickly disappeared into thick growth about a hundred yards away. I tried to find it again, but could not. So it is a snipe sp.

At the Seawall, Barb saw some Short-tailed Shearwaters. On the east side of Clam Lagoon, we spotted our first Emperor Goose for the trip. We also saw 6 small shorebirds flying across the lagoon heading northeast. They were too far away for us to identify them.

Back up at the Seawall, we had another feeding frenzy and, again, found a Pomarine Jaeger in the fray.

We saw at least three Peregrines today, and maybe four.

Our year’s list is now 89. One to go to tie our previous high.

The weather is forecast to be easterly winds for several days. Not the best for vagrants, but you never know!

PS: for those of you who have visited Adak, you will be puzzled to know that the Bay 5 restaurant is “closed for the season!” What season? We have no idea…

Where are we, the Hamptons?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

They just keep coming…

First a note about this post.

When we made this post on Saturday, we called the warbler below an Arctic. We did not realize that Arctic Warbler had been split several years ago into three species (see Sunday’s post). So if you read this post before Sunday, it said Arctic Warbler. I have edited t to now read “Kamchatka Leaf Warbler.”

Temps in the 50s, partly sunny, moderate WSW winds.

We lost internet access around 7:30 pm Friday and didn’t get it back until this afternoon. So if you missed Friday’s post, be sure to read it below.

Since it was relatively calm this morning, we decided to head straight to the Warbler Willows to see what might have arrived overnight. Unfortunately, although viewing was ideal, we did not find any new birds.

So we headed over to Adak National Forest. As we pulled up, Barb spotted a bird and said it was not the flycatcher, but was a small bird with a strong eyeline. I got on it and it appeared to be an Arctic Warbler — which would be a first for Adak! However, we know the pitfalls of identifying Asian warblers, so we took a lot of photos. The photos sure looked like an Arctic. We continued on our way and did some other birding (see below) and returned to ANF later in the afternoon. The bird was still there and was more cooperative. I got so many good photos, I couldn’t pare it down to less than these.

Later, when we got back to the house, we checked all of the references and compared it with online photos (and with help from Isaac!) and confirmed our initial identification was incorrect. Instead it was a Kamchatka Leaf Warbler (which was split from Arctic Warbler a few years ago) — a first for Adak!

And our second lifer for the trip.

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (Morning)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon, in the shade)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon, in the shade)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon, in the shade)

In between warbler-watching, we checked the High School Willows. No birds in the willows, but we had a flock of 79 Cackling Geese flying overhead.

Cackling Geese, over the High School Willows, Sept 16, 2017

We went down to Finger Creek and had a Snow Bunting at the quarry along the way. The salmon were running heavy.

At Clam Lagoon, a Parasitic Jaeger was still lingering. There were no shorebirds out on the peninsula and I did not walk the marsh edge today.

At the Seawall, we spotted another feeding frenzy fairly far out, and I was able to identify several Northern Fulmars in the mix. But no other pelagics.

Our year’s list is at 97.

Four days, two lifers. Not bad…

Friday, September 15, 2017

A nice day…

NOTE: We lost internet access around 7:30 pm Friday and didn’t get it back until Saturday afternoon, so this posting is late.

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, Wind WSW switching to WNW 20-30 mph.

We went over to the Seal Drive feeder to put out seed and discovered, to our dismay, that some moron cut down the smaller of the two spruces that were there! Presumably for a Christmas tree! There are probably fewer that a hundred trees on Adak. How thoughtless!!

We checked Sweeper Cove, then got gas (still a bargain at only $6.49/gal!). As we left the gas station, we had a Gyrfalcon fly by.

We headed up to the Warbler Willows. The willows were swaying and bouncing strongly in the wind, so no bird dared show itself, except one brave Pacific Wren.

At the Adak National Forest (about 30 of the aforementioned trees) we had a Pacific Wren, I also saw another bird disappear into the forest, but I thought it was just another wren. It did not reappear.

I walked the Elfin Forest. No birds.

At Clam Lagoon, I walked the marsh edge, finding only a couple of Pectoral Sandpipers and a peep which flew away too fast for me to identify.

Pectoral Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 15, 2017

We did not see anything different at the Seawall. Lake Shirley produced our first Greater Scaups of the trip! Were are they all? Lake Ronnie also had two more.

On the east side of the lagoon – out towards the middle – we spotted a flock of 12 Sanderlings. We could not pick out any other species mixed in.

Back up at the Seawall, things were picking up. At the southern end, Barb saw some feeding frenzies further up, so we drove up and started scanning the flocks of gulls and alcids.

We soon discovered the source was a whale. We only got brief views (as is typical for us up here!), but our best guess is a Minke Whale.

While scanning the flocks, I picked up a Pomarine Jaeger, quickly followed by a Parasitic! This is only our second Pomarine that we have seen out here (our first was this spring).

We then saw three White-winged Scoters to add to the trip list.

When we were finished scanning the action, we continued up the Seawall and spotted a loon. At first, the pale bill made us think it was a Yellow-billed, but we quickly came to our senses and correctly identified it as a Common.

Common Loon, Seawall, Sept 15, 2017

When we got back around to the eastern side, I walked out the peninsula, hoping to find the Sanderlings – and possibly some friends…

No go.

So I decided to walk the marsh edge again. This time, in addition to the three Pectoral Sandipers, I also had a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. I also finally got a look at the peep that flew away earlier (at least I assume it was the same bird), and it turned out to be only a Western Sandpiper.

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 15, 2017

We headed back south and stopped again at the Adak National Forest. Barb spotted a bird sitting on the willows and said it was our flycatcher from the other day. Indeed it was. The ANF is less than a mile (as the flycatcher flies…) from the Warbler Willows. It was more cooperative this time and I got better photos.

Gray-streaked Flycatcher, Adak National Forest, Sept 15, 2017

Gray-streaked Flycatcher, Adak National Forest, Sept 15, 2017

The only other birds of note today were three more Greater Scaup on Lake Leone – which is next to the quarry south of Sweeper Cove. We rarely see any waterfowl there at all.

In 2007, we had a total of 90 species for our Adak Year’s List. Since we had 81 this past May, we were hoping to possibly exceed that. However, one advantage in 2007 was having a boat available to go out for the auklets – 5 species of them! So getting to that magic number this year will be difficult — but not impossible. So far, we have added five species for the year – Pectoral Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Sanderling, and Gray-streaked Flycatcher. So we are already at 86!

Keep those westerlies blowing!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Rain, rain, rain…

Temp in the 50s, rain in the morning becoming drizzle by mid-afternoon, wind SE 20-40 mph.

The power outage last night lasted until 12:30 am and many houses still don’t have power today. The phone system also crashed, but the internet came back up this morning.

The rain (heavy) started last night around 9 pm and was heavy until early afternoon, when it lessened to drizzle, and then on-and-off light showers. The rain (and wind!) made birding most of the day very difficult.

Down near Sweeper Cove, we came upon this trio of Northern Pintails taking refuge from the wind in this roadside puddle.

Northern Pintails, near Sweeper Cove, Sept 14, 2017.

We found our first shorebird of the trip, a Pectoral Sandpiper, at Contractor’s Camp Marsh.

There were no shorebirds on the Clam Lagoon flats and none out on the peninsula. I will be walking the Clam Lagoon marsh edge tomorrow.

We added the usual suspects to the trip list — puffins, murrelets, murres, cormorants, etc., plus a late Parasitic Jaeger and a pair of Black Scoters.

At the Seawall, a lot of Black-legged Kittiwakes were hanging out, with one particularly perturbed at the Glaucous-winged Gull invading its space!

Black-legged Kittiwake with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Seawall, Sept 14, 2017.

And others just hanging out.

Black-legged Kittiwakes, Seawall, Sept 14, 2017.

We couldn’t find any new birds at Warbler Willows today, but conditions were less than ideal.

There is a fishing ship in Kuluk Bay, but it appears to be idle, as even the gulls are ignoring it. And no fishing boats were in the docks at the fish-processing plant. So no new gulls for now.

The next few days’ forecast is for westerly winds — ideal for vagrants.

We will be looking…

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Nice start!

Our flights to Anchorage were uneventful.

After doing our food shopping, we went out and did a little birding, but didn’t find anything unusual.

This morning we headed up to Arctic Valley, as we always do. Since we started coming up here, we have driven up the Arctic Valley Road (which goes up to the Arctic Valley Ski Area) one of the easier roads to drive and get up to high elevation. We always make it our first priority in order to get up there before any other vehicles. The point being to find ptarmigan out on the roadsides before they get scared off.

Well, every time we have done this, one or more vehicles have beaten us to it, and we see no chickens of any kind!

Until today…

Just a mile or two up the road, we spotted a dark lump on the side of the road, which turned out to be a Spruce Grouse! Then another mile or so and we saw another one, and then farther up, another one!

Spruce Grouse, Arctic Valley Road, Anchorage, Sept 13, 2017 (Number 1)

Spruce Grouse, Arctic Valley Road, Anchorage, Sept 13, 2017 (Number 2)

Spruce Grouse, Arctic Valley Road, Anchorage, Sept 13, 2017 (Number 3)

We were really hoping for Willow Ptarmigan (the only one we don’t have), but at least we had grouse.

Once we got to the top, there were no other vehicles there – hence our success.

It was very windy in Anchorage today. The wind noise may also have helped to mask the sound of our car as we came upon the grouse. The wind made dicky-birding difficult, to say the least.

Later, we were birding along Ship Creek and Barb spotted a Greater Yellowlegs. Last year, I saw one, but Barb missed it. So now she picked up an Alaskan bird that I had on her.

Greater Yellowlegs, Old Power Plant Pond, Ship Creek, Anchorage, Sept 13, 2017

Our flight to Adak left early. In talking to the flight attendants (whom we have gotten to know over the years) we found out that the fish-processing plant on Adak was back to full time operation. They said they had been having 50-60 passengers per flight out to Adak – very unusually high. This bodes well for Adak’s economy and possibly for birders looking for gulls. The plant discharges waste into the bay and that attracts and concentrates the gulls. We will see.

The weather when we arrived was partly sunny and in the 50s. There was a moderate south wind.

After unpacking and getting our gear together, we headed up to Clam Lagoon. There was nothing special there. On the way back we decided to stop at the Warbler Willows – a practice that we have adopted since having the Wood Warbler there three years ago. We stop there at least twice-a-day in the fall.

I got out of the car and walked over to get a view of the willows and spotted a bird in the far willows that I had never seen before. I called to Barb and she came over as I was taking photos.

She saw the bird – it was sitting mostly in the open – and I then circled around to try to get closer. Unfortunately, the bird disappeared into the thicker bushes and did not reappear.

However, I did get some nice photos.

It was a Grey-streaked Flycatcher! Only the second record for Adak. The previous one was seen by Jon Pushock and Devitch Farbotnik back in 2004.

Gray-streaked Flycatcher, Warbler Willows, Adak, Sept 13, 2017

Gray-streaked Flycatcher, Warbler Willows, Adak, Sept 13, 2017

Not a bad start for the trip!

This evening, just after looking at the photos on the computer, the power went out. That was around 8, it is now 9:45. We have had power outages many times before out here, so we are not worried. And it’s not very cold, yet.

So if you are wondering why there was no posting Wednesday night, that is why.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional light shower, Wind SW 10-15 mph

Our extra day on Adak didn’t add any new birds to the list.

We still had 4 Hawfinch, a few Bramblings, and the Far Eastern Curlew.

At Landing Lights, several Ruddy Turnstones and Rock Sandpipers are hanging around.

Ruddy Turnstone (with Rock Sandpiper), Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2017.

We left Adak at 1:00 pm, flew to Anchorage, then Seattle, then Chicago, and then Philadelphia. The amazing thing was at both Seattle and Chicago, the gate we arrived at was right next to the gate from which we were leaving! No hiking a mile down the concourse…

As we were landing at Philadelphia, the plane aborted at the last minute. That certainly woke us up! The plane that had landed ahead of us apparently did not get off of the runway fast enough. So we circled around and landed — still on time.

We got home about 1:30 pm.

Trip Summary

What a great trip!

81 species smashed our previous May high of 76.

We had two lifers — White Wagtail and Yellow Wagtail.

In addition to those, we added Pomarine Jaeger and Tree Swallow to our personal Adak lists.

We had 7 semi-lifers:

  • Mongolian Plover – first breeding plumage
  • Common Greenshank – three together — all of our previous sightings were of singles.
  • Slaty-backed Gull – first adult plumage. All of our previous records were immatures.
  • Rustic Bunting – breeding plumage and photo. Our previous record was non-breeding, brief, no photos
  • Bramblings – although we have seen more than one Brambling at a time out here, we had never seen 100s.
  • Red-necked Stint – Our previous high was 2. The 62 we counted (verified by photos) is likely a new North American high.
  • Black-headed Gull – Three together.

This was a trip of “flocks” — being defined as three or more.

No sooner than we had arrived, than a flock of 30+ Bramblings were found. And they just increased from there.

We had a flock of Common Greenshanks, a flock of Black-headed Gulls, a flock of Hawfinches, and an unprecedented flock of 62 Red-necked Stints.

The Far Eastern Curlew (2 years in a row) was unexpected.

The best moments of the trip were the pair of breeding-plumaged Mongolian Plovers (I know, I know — Lesser Sand-Plovers!), both wagtails, and the Rustic Bunting.

Although not an Asian rarity, the Tree Swallow was an interesting record.

The other birders who were out there were all a delight to interact with. Over our two weeks, there was a combined total of 25 birders on the island and a few more arrived as we left! That may be a record, also.

We will be back in September…

 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

What? Sunday?

It was bound to happen.

Temp in the 40s overcast, light rain showers, Wind S 10-20 mph.

After 20 trips out to Adak, we finally had a flight cancelled. The same volcano that caused the cancellation of last week’s flight did ours in also.

The “good” news is that they have rescheduled it for tomorrow, so we hope to be home by Tuesday. We will see.

In the meantime, we got a little more birding in and will bird a little tomorrow morning.

Today, we added Arctic Loon to our trip list (before the cancellation) and the Black-headed Gull that was hanging out at Landing Lights was joined by two more!

Black-headed Gulls, Landing Lights Beach, May 28, 2017.

Black-headed Gull, Landing Lights Beach, May 28, 2017.

Black-headed Gulls, Landing Lights Beach, May 28, 2017.

Black-headed Gulls, Landing Lights Beach, May 28, 2017.

One of the Wood Sandpipers at the Marsh, has become very cooperative.

Wood Sandpiper, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 28, 2017

This is very typical of this species out here. You can drive right up next to them — within ten feet or so — and they just look at you or calmly walk away, only occasionally flushing.

That’s all I have tonight. Between rescheduling flights, partial unpacking, and reorganizing our menus (good thing we bring extra!), I am pooped.

Next posting will be on Wednesday — we hope!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Temp in the 40s, overcast, Wind SE 10-25 mph.

We saw our second Wandering Tattler of the trip at Landing Lights Beach, and this one stayed long enough for a portrait.

Wandering Tattler, Landing Lights Beach, May 27, 2017.

The 4 Hawfinches are still here, but fewer and fewer Bramblings remain. The Buffleheads have all but departed, only a few are still here.

The Far Eastern Curlew is still on Clam Lagoon, but the Bar-tailed Godwit has left and we could not find the stints or Dunlins today.

At Andrew Lake, another Common Loon was cooperative.

Common Loon, Andrew Lake, May 27, 2017.

We added Long-tailed Duck to the triplist, giving us 80!

We finally caught up with the Black-headed Gull at Landing Lights Beach. This time he didn’t disappear…

Black-headed Gull, Landing Lights Beach, May 27, 2017.

However, the big news out here is the gas station is offline. They say it won’t be fixed until Tuesday! Fortunately, we were able to scrounge up some gas to get us through tomorrow, but other birders coming in may have some problems. This has happened to us before, so we are not terribly surprised.

This will be our last post until Tuesday. We leave tomorrow at 6 pm Adak time, and arrive (hopefully!) home around 5 pm eastern on Monday.

What a fantastic trip!

Friday, May 26, 2017

They keep coming…

Temp in the 40s, partly cloudy, wind East 10-15 mph.

We can’t have a trip to Adak without at least one alcid photo.

Ancient Murrelet, Sweeper Cove, May 26, 2017.

No sooner had we made a couple of standard stops this morning than we get “a call from Jim” telling us he has a Far Eastern Curlew on the Clam Lagoon East Side Flats! As usual, we are as far away as possible, but Barb presses the pedal and we arrive on the seen in 23 minutes. Sure enough, our second Far Eastern Curlew in as many years — and our third overall.

Far Eastern Curlew, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2017.

Far Eastern Curlew, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2017.

Far Eastern Curlew, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2017.

Wow!

While Jim’s group went up to Lake Ronnie — and had a pair of Tufted Ducks — we were at Lake Shirley watching another male Tufted. We later found another pair on the Airport Ponds, making 5 still present.

The stint flock is now down to 45 Red-necked Stints and 3 Dunlin. Surprisingly, no other passing shorebirds — we assume there have been a few — joined in. Our experience out here shows that shorebird flocks attract other shorebirds. But, except for the Dunlins, no others were seen (and I took hundreds of photos of the flock each day and checked all of them carefully).

The lone Bar-tailed Goodwit remains.

We had nothing else unusual until after lunch when “a call from Jim” informed us they had a Tree Swallow at Contractors’ Camp Marsh! Although not an Asian vagrant, it is still a rarity on Adak — only a half-dozen records-or-so.

This time, we were only minutes away, but assumed the bird had simply been a fly-by.

Nope, it hung around, hunting over the main lake of the marsh. I waited and waited until finally it flew above the horizon and nearby where I could see it in the camera’s viewfinder and started snapping.

Tree Swallow, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 26, 2017.

Tree Swallow, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 26, 2017.

Tree Swallow, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 26, 2017.

I’m still amazed that I was able to get those shots…

There are still 4 Hawfinches coming to the Thrush Feeder, but the number of Bramblings has declined.

Later in the afternoon, as we were descending the hill to Navfac Creek, we checked the gull flock on the beach and again, Barb saw a dark-backed gull. However, this time it stayed long enough for photos. It was an adult Slaty-backed Gull — our first adult of this species.

Slaty-backed Gull, Navfac Creek Beach, May 26, 2017.

Slaty-backed Gull, Navfac Creek Beach, May 26, 2017.

Slaty-backed Gull, Navfac Creek Beach, May 26, 2017.

Slaty-backed Gull, Navfac Creek Beach, May 26, 2017.

Our trip list is a whopping 79!

Two days to go.

PS: The make-up flight from Anchorage arrived today.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Double-wow!

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, wind WNW 15-25 mph.

The Common Sandpiper (or another one) that has been hanging around Sweeper Channel was there again this morning and actually didn’t fly off before we got there!

Common Sandpiper, Sweeper Channel, May 25, 2017.

At Contractors’ Camp Marsh, we finally caught up with a couple of friendly Wood Sandpipers.

Wood Sandpiper, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 25, 2017.

Overnight, the Red-necked Stint flock grew to 62(!), but we lost 2 Dunlin, as there were only 7 this morning. As far as we can tell, this is a North American record for quantity of Red-necked Stints.

Red-necked Stints and Dunlins, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2017.

As we were leaving Shotgun Lake, the Peregrine Falcon that has been hanging around — but eluding us — made an appearance.

Peregrine Falcon, Shotgun Lake, May 25, 2017

On out second trip around Clam Lagoon this afternoon, as we just got to the Seawall, we got a call from Jim that they had 2(!) Lesser Sand-Plovers — or Mongolian Plovers, as I like to call them — on the Clam Lagoon Flats.

We raced around and, low-and-behold, there they were — up-close-and-personal — right along the edge of the lagoon about 30 yards from the roadside. We have seen them before on September trips — in non-breeding plumage — so this was an extra treat, seeing them in all their finery.

Lesser Sand-Plovers, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2017.

Lesser Sand-Plover, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2017.

Lesser Sand-Plover, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2017.

Wow!

As we were driving back o town, we scoped a flock of gulls on Navfac Beach and saw what appeared to be a dark-backed Gull. We were too far to be sure, so I went down the road a bit and climbed the sand dune to get a closer look. Just before I crested the dune, they all took off, but then returned. I could not find a (or the) dark-backed gull, but as I was scanning the flock, a Black-headed Gull flew in and settled in behind all the big guys! I started walking up the dune to get a better angle, but I couldn’t relocate him. I assume he flew off as I was watching where I was stepping.

But wait, there’s more…

We had just finished eating dinner, when Jim called to say they had a White Wagtail at Landing Lights Beach. We raced up there, where they were standing on the dunes, watching as the bird took flight. However, we saw it and followed its flight path. It disappeared up the beach toward Nacfac Creek, so we raced up there and, as we stopped, I spotted the bird down on the creek where it flows onto the beach. The others quickly caught up and got to see it again, also.

White Wagtail, Navfac Creek Beach, May 25, 2017.

So after 20 trips to Adak, always wanting — but failing — to see a wagtail, we have now had two of each — white and yellow!

Our trip list is now 77! Our best ever, and there are still three days to go!

What’s gonna show up next?

PS: The flight to Adak today was cancelled due to volcanic ash erupting out of a volcano somewhere east of us. They plan a flight tomorrow. Lets hope the volcano doesn’t stop our Sunday ride home.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, West wind 20-30 mph.

Jim’s group found another (or the same) Common Sandpiper early this morning in Sweeper Channel. Of course, it flew off before I could get there…

The gull I mentioned yesterday is a “Vega” Herring Gull.

“Vega” Herring Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2014.

At Clam Lagoon, the Red-necked Stint flock grew to 50 overnight and the Dunlin number jumped to 9.

The Bar-tailed Godwit flock has dwindled down to just one lone soul.

Bar-tailed Godwit, Clam Lagoon, May 24, 2017.

The Aleutian Tern numbers have steadily increased since last week.

Aleutian Terns, Clam Lagoon, May 24, 2017.

There may be more than 50 Brambling still here, based on counts at feeders and flocks seen in the field. There are now 4 Hawfinch coming to the Thrush Feeder.

Hawfinch, Thrush Feeder, May 24, 2017.

The fish-processing ship is still attracting Laysan Albatross, Short-tailed Shearwaters, and a few Fulmars.

No new species today, but the wind is supposed to stay west until tomorrow night, so let’s hope more shorebirds join the flock on Clam Lagoon.

Four days to go…

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Wow!

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, Wind SW 20-40 mph Occasional brief sprinkle, and even some hail!

We had nothing new in town or at Sweeper, so we headed north. We saw the Hawfinch and Bramblings at the Thrush Feeder. We got a call from Jim, informing us they had an Eye-browed Thrush at the Adak National Forest. Of course, it flew away before we arrived! That makes 4 Eye-browed Thrushes we have missed on this trip!

They also told us they had 2 Wood Sandpipers at the marsh.

We went up to Clam Lagoon, and scoped the flats. I found a large (30-40) flock of shorebirds out in the middle and I assumed they were Sanderlings. We drove up to the west observation point and I walked out onto the flats to have a look. Our previous experience with Sanderlings out here is when you find a nice-sized flock like this, you check it to see if anything else has joined them.

I don’t take my scope out on the flats, just my camera. I got close enough to take a bunch of pictures. With binos, I could see there were several Dunlin mixed in with them. See?

When I got back to the truck, I took a quick look to see what else I might have missed. Sure enough, I quickly picked out a Red-necked Stint in the first good photo i looked at.

We called Jim’s group and luckily, they were not far and joined us shortly. As they were getting ready to walk out, I looked at more photos and soon realized that there wasn’t just one Red-necked Stint, but ALL of them were!!!

There were no Sanderlings. These were all breeding-plumage stints.

The most Red-necked Stints we had ever seen out here at one time was two!

This was unbelievable.

Eventually, we counted 45 stints, 5 Dunlin, and 1 Red-necked Phalarope. The count was made from the photos.

Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Dunlins, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Dunlins and Red-necked Phalarope, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Red-necked Phalarope (5th bird from left) and Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Dunlins and Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Initially, the flock was around 30+, but we came back a few hours later and it had grown to the numbers cited above (45 RNST, 6 DUNL, and 1 RNPH).

There are records such as this from the Western Aleutians (Attu and Shemya), with as many as 50. But this is certainly a record for the Central Aleutians.

On the second trip around to look at the stints, another birding group showed up — Yvonne’s group — and they walked out with me to get nice looks at them also.

We continued around to the Seawall and then Lake Shirley. As I was scanning the ducks, I saw some gray shorebirds on the far shoreline. They were 3 Common Greenshanks.

3 Common Greenshanks, Lake Shirley, May 23, 2017.

Common Greenshank, Lake Shirley, May 23, 2017.

Again, Jim’s group caught up to us and saw the birds. We then decided to walk around to get closer views (as you can see from my photos, Lake Shirley is far across). However, as we rounded a bluff that hid our approach, they flew off. But as they did, another bird called from nearby. It was a Wood Sandpiper. We hadn’t even noticed it, being so caught up with the greenshanks.

There was still a pair of Tufted Ducks on Lake Ronnie, and Jim’s group had a Black-headed Gull fly by as they were scanning from Zeto Point.

On the way back along the Seawall, we had a flock of 6 Ruddy Turnstones.

Yesterday, I mentioned a “funny-looking” gull — all immature gulls are “funny-looking” to me! Well, the gull experts have weighed in to identify it as a Slaty-backed Gull.

Slaty-backed Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 22, 2017.

Slaty-backed Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 22, 2017.

We found another “funny-looking” gull today. I will post it when we figure it out.

Our trip list is 73, just 3 shy of our record. The winds are still from the southwest…

Monday, May 22, 2017

Temp in the 40s, rain, overcast, Wind WSW 15-30 mph.

One of the few days that we have had on Adak where it rained pretty constantly all day — although the intensity varied.

Last night, Jim and John went out, but turned the wrong direction — easy to do when you first arrive here — and stumbled on a Common Sandpiper in a slough next to the airport! It was still here this morning, although I couldn’t get photos.

Up at Contractors’ Camp marsh, they heard, and later saw, a Wood Sandpiper. We went there later in the day and heard it call, but couldn’t find it.

We had an immature gull up at Clam Lagoon which we could not identify. We sent photos to several birders who are much better than us at identifying gulls. We will post the photos and identification once we get it figured out.

The Hawfinch and flock of Bramblings continue to visit the Thrush Feeder, and 6 more Bramblings are visiting the Blue Building Feeder. The Brambling numbers are way down. We are not seeing the large flocks as we drive around. The ones that are still here are mostly at feeders now.

At the Seawall, I spotted a flock of about 20 shorebirds flying, but they were too far away to identify. They flew back into the Seawall down towards the Breaches, but when we got back down there, I couldn’t find any. Probably Turnstones or Sanderlings. Maybe we will find them tomorrow.

The strong westerly winds are slated to continue until Saturday morning. They brought in a couple of sandpipers already. Keep em coming…

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, Wind W 15 to 30 mph.

No new birds today.

It is spring, so here are some flowers.

Arctic Daisies, Adak, May 21, 2017

Dandelions — they grow everywhere, Adak, May 21, 2017

The fish-processing ship was active today and we saw at least 4 Laysan Albatrosses out there, but no other stiff-wings.

There are still 20 or so Bramblings and 1 Hawfinch coming to the Thrush Feeder and 3 Bramblings at the Blue Building Feeder.

We also had another Hawfinch in town, but he has not yet shown up at a feeder.

The west wind today made Kuluk Bay and Sitkin Sound in the lee, so they were relatively calm. Without waves crashing over it, Goose Rocks provided a safe haven to rest.

Goose Rocks festooned with gulls, eider, and cormorants, May 21, 2017

All of the other birders left today, but three more arrived. So we will still have the benefit of extra eyes and ears this week.

Lastly, all of the deteriorating buildings here have created a new art form — broken-window-art. A few samples…

Raptor swooping in…

Kingfisher? Pileated?

Keep those west winds blowing!

Saturday, May 20,2017.

Temp in the 40s, sunny and calm at dawn, overcast and wind West at 15-25 mph by evening. No rain.

Okay, let’s get it over with…

Mandatory Bald Eagle head shot, Adak, May 20,2017.

The bay was calm this morning, making it easier to spot alcids at a distance. We picked up both puffins and saw a lot of Ancient Murrelets and Common Murres.

Keith’s group went out on the Puk-Uk this morning and, although they did not see large numbers of birds, they did get the target species — Whiskered and Crested auklets — and more.

I forgot to mention yesterday that the Bar-tailed Godwit flock had dwindled to four. Today there were only two. They are moving on.

The Bramblings are also moving on. We are seeing far fewer numbers the past two days. However, there are still about 20 at the Thrush Feeder, as well as the Hawfinch.

My Yellow Wagtail perch experiment has to pay off, but as I walked out there today, they flew out and back towards Barb, who saw them briefly. Still no photos!

At the Seawall, John pointed out a Yellow-billed Loon to us — still too far for photos. He had an Arctic Loon yesterday, but we did not see it today.

A pair of Snow Buntings are frequenting the Sandy Cove Bluffs Rock Feeder.

Snow Bunting, Sandy Cove Bluffs Rock Feeder, , May 20,2017.

We have not seen the injured Tufted Duck at the Airport Ponds today, but there was a healthy pair there as well as a pair on Lake Ronnie.

Tufted Ducks, Airport Ponds, May 20,2017.

The fish-processing ship was processing today, attracting a large flock of gulls, but no pelagics. Also, this ship is anchored farther out in the bay, making identifying odd gulls almost impossible.

Our trip list is 66 — two over our average — after less than a week and within shooting range of our May high of 76.

The wind has shifted to the west and is supposed to increase in speed and become southwest with rain the next few days. Ideal for dropping Asian birds on us.

Our fingers are crossed…

Friday, May 19, 2017

More dickey birds…

Temp in the 40s, Partly sunny!, Wind N 10-15 mph.

Did we mention the earthquakes? We had one on Monday morning about 3:30 and another around 9:30 PM last night. Now these are not building-tumbling temblors. These are more three-shakes-and-done. They are most noticeable when lying in bed, as the bed rocks a little.

Also yesterday, we saw an injured male Tufted Duck at the Airport Ponds. Its left wing appeared to be damaged somehow. It could not lift it to flap it. We did not see it today.

The Yellow Wagtails up at the marsh have been frustrating me no end! I have been trying to get a photo, but every time I approach the area, they see me before I see them and they take off. They hide in the reeds and are impossible to see. So I am trying a new tactic. I went out and placed some sticks (pieces of boards) into the marsh where they hang out and hope they will perch on them (sure!). This was suggested by Keith’s group.

As we were driving out of the marsh (after placing the sticks) we got a call from Keith’s group that they had a Hawfinch at the Thrush Feeder (less than a quarter-mile from where we were). John’s group was also just leaving the marsh, so we all arrived shortly and the Hawfinch flew in, then out, then in, etc. affording everyone good views and photo-ops.

Hawfinch, Thrush Feeder (near Navfac Creek), May 19, 2017.

That now makes six Asian passerine species! Wow!

Over at Haven Lake, we found a good bird — American Wigeon. All wigeon out here are presumed Eurasian until proven otherwise. Americans occur here every year, but in very low numbers.

We went up to the Blue Buildings to try for the Eye-browed Thrush. While walking around looking for it (we did not see it) I found a pair of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches courting. While one just sat nearby (I assume the Female), the other cocked his tail and fluttered his wings, trying to impress.

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch courting, May 19, 2017

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch courting, May 19, 2017

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch courting, May 19, 2017

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch courting, May 19, 2017

The fish-processing ship left last night, but what appears to be another is now anchored in Kuluk Bay. Although a fishing boat tied up to them this morning, we have not seen any signs of fish-processing going on and the gulls are ignoring it.

More and more Bramblings are finding our feeders. Here are some more photos.

Bramblings at a “feeder”, Adak, May 19, 2017

Bramblings, Adak, May 19, 2017

Brambling, Adak, May 19, 2017

Just as the Yellow Wagtail is frustrating me photo-wise, Barb is getting just as frustrated not being able to see the Rustic Bunting and White Wagtail since we first found them. Each day since, other groups have seen one or the other or both, but every time we stop by, they are nowhere to be found! This afternoon, we made a concerted effort that only resulted in my seeing the wagtail fly across the creek and out-of-sight over the bluff (Barb didn’t see it!) and Barb getting a brief glimpse of the bunting before it vanished into the weeds. So, still frustrated…

The Puk-Uk arrives tonight and Keith’s group will be going out for auklets tomorrow. Then, on Sunday, the boat leaves for Attu.

Our trip list is 62.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Temp in the 40s, Overcast, but higher ceiling than recent days, making it brighter, NNE wind 10-15 mph, no rain!

Both wagtails were seen again today. It is unclear whether we have one wandering Eye-browed Thrush or as many as three! One has been seen the past two days up at the Blue Building Feeder at the northwest corner of Clam Lagoon and today one was found hanging around one of the old buildings at Contractors’ Camp Marsh.

Red-necked Grebes moved in last night, with 12 off the Seawall. The tern numbers (Arctic and Aleutian) also jumped overnight with dozens of them coursing over Clam Lagoon and the Seawall.

The fish-processing ship stopped processing yesterday afternoon and all of the pelagics left. A small fishing boat came in late this morning and the processing started up again. But no pelagics showed up today. However, a Pomarine Jaeger joined the feeding frenzy (spotted by Stefan, and later photographed — poorly — by me). Since the ship was a half-mile offshore, I set my camera up and started snapping pictures of the flock of birds, in hopes of picking out something interesting when I downloaded them. It worked. I found a Glaucous Gull in several of the photos. That plus the jaeger brings our trip list up to 60.

Glaucous Gull with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Kuluk Bay, May 18, 2017.The tour groups left today, as did the Anchorage/California group and Andrew from the Anchorage group. John Puschok arrived today with three birders in preparation for their Attu trip. Their boat — the Puk-Uk — is expected to arrive tomorrow night, giving the Anchorage group a chance to go out and see the Whiskered (and other) Auklets.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Temp in the 40s, overcast, foggy at times, occasional drizzle, Wind 15-25 NW.

Bramblings have started to show up at the feeders in town, but they seem not to linger. This is in contrast to our previous records of one or two birds finding a feeder and then staying there to feed and roost.

The Bramblings are everywhere. One observer today tallied 166! There are many more. There are records of such fallouts on the Western Aleutians, but this is the first such recorded event for the Central Aleutians. It is very enjoyable.

Brambling, Adak, May 17, 2017

The Rustic Bunting and White Wagtail were seen again today in Sweeper Channel!

Across from the High School Spruces, a Semipalmated Plover was trying to lure us away doing the “broken wing” act.

Semipalmated Plover doing the “broken wing” act, May 17, 2017

The fish processing ship in Kuluk Bay continues to attract large pelagics. Today, in addition to many Laysan Albatross, there were several Black-footed Albatross. But still too far for good photos.

The Bar-tailed Godwits continue on Landing Lights Beach.

Bar-tailed Godwits, Landing Lights Beach, May 17, 2017

At Lake Andrew, we had two Common Loons.

Common Loon, Lake Andrew, May 17, 2017

We learned late today, that there was a Yellow-billed Loon on the eastern side of Lake Andrew (in easy photo distance) since Monday! We had only gotten over there once so far this trip and it was fogged in. Yellow-billed is the one loon we have seen several times out here that has never been within photo range. Aargh!!!

There was a pair of Tufted Ducks on Lake Ronnie and several Black Oystercatchers at several locations. The only other shorebird of note was a Wandering Tattler at Clam Lagoon.

One of the other groups had a Short-eared Owl.

We ended today with a call from Aaron that there were a Herring Gull and a Vega Gull at Clam Lagoon. Vega Gull is an Asian subspecies of Herring Gull. We have seen the Vega variety before, but not the “American” Herring Gull out here.

So we headed up there and got to see the Herring, but the Vega had flown off.

“American” Herring Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 17, 2017

Our trip list is 58.

Many of the birders here are leaving tomorrow, but a few are staying until Sunday.

We will miss the extra eyes and ears.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Second time’s the charm, almost…

Temp in the 40s, W wind 10-25 mph, overcast, sporadic rain.

The feeders have still not attracted much, although a few Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches have found a few of them. We added a lot of common — and one not-so-common — Adak migrants today, raising our trip list to 52.

There was nothing unusual at Sweeper Cove or Sweeper Creek. We tried for the Eye-browed Thrush again, but no luck. The Tufted Duck count at the Airport Ponds is up to 3. A quick run around Contractors’ Camp Marsh yielded our first Red-necked Phalarope for the trip.

We spent all morning around town and nearby, checking a lot of places. We planned to go up to Contractor’s Camp Marsh after lunch with Stefan’s group and the guys from Anchorage. It s always better to do such a large area with extra eyes and ears.

We met up with them and while Barb stayed back at the truck, I walked out with the others. At the edge where the drier section met the wetter section, one of the guys spotted the Yellow Wagtails in the marsh. Of course, they disappeared into thicker vegetation before I could catch up to them! However, they soon took flight, and both Barb and I got views of them in the air. They circled around and returned to the same area, but disappeared again as quickly as before. They flew two more times, but Barb and I never got up-close-and-personal views. But, it was good enough for now. No photos…

I plan to try again in the next few days when the wind subsides a bit.

While we were there, we also had a number of Wilson’s and Common snipe, and four Pacific Golden-Plovers.

Pacific Golden-Plovers, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 16, 2017.

We headed up to Clam Lagoon and played leap-frog with Stefan. He got to the Blue Building Feeder before us and found the Eye-browed Thrush there. Of course, it flew away before we got there! So another miss.

Along the northern shore of Clam Lagoon, a gray Gyrfalcon flew by us headed for Stefan. We called him and his group also saw it.

At the northeastern corner, there was a feeding frenzy going on.

Glaucous-winged Gull feeding frenzy, Clam Lagoon, May 16, 2017.

We saw the usual suspects along the Seawall and east side of Clam Lagoon.

We had one Bar-tailed Godwit at Clam Lagoon and saw 16 others down on Landing Lights Beach.

It was getting late, so we headed back to town. By the way, we have been running into several flocks of Bramblings up and down Bayshore Drive, as far north as Contactors’ Camp Marsh. However, they have been very flighty and haven’t hung around for photo-ops.

We checked the Seal drive feeder — nothing — and as we drove out of that area, Barb drove up one of the nearby loops that has a spruce tree at one of the abandoned houses. We didn’t see anything there, but as we rounded the bend, a flock of Bramblings flew out. This time however — maybe it was the pouring rain — they were a little more cooperative.

Bramblings, Adak, May 16, 2017.

11 of the 30+ Bramblings, Adak, May 16, 2017.

Bramblings, Adak, May 16, 2017.

Brambling bathing (in the rain no less!), Adak, May 16, 2017.

See? We weren’t making this up!

In addition to the 52 species we have seen so far, the other groups have also had Eye-browed Thrush, Peregrine Falcon, Common Redpoll, Black Oystercatcher, and maybe a few others.

The winds are supposed to switch back to a more northerly direction the next few days. Not the best scenario.

Regardless, we will be out there looking…

Monday, May 15, 2017

You win some, you lose some.

Temp in the 40s, overcast, rain and drizzle much of the day, some sun late in the day, Wind 15-30, NW.

We started out on our usual routine of checking feeders, Sweeper Cove and Channel.

We had just put out seed yesterday, so except for Rosy-Finch and Snow Bunting at the Sandy Cove Bluffs feeder, there was no action. At Sweeper Cove, we had our first Ancient Murrelet of the trip.

As we were driving up Bayshore Drive, we spotted the Brambling flock — but again, non-cooperative. We then got a call from Stefan that he had found an Eye-browed Thrush at the High School Spruces. We (and the other groups nearby) headed over there. The bird was not being terribly cooperative, and since we have seen them previously on Adak, we headed out to look for other stuff while the other groups tried to get better looks at the thrush. They eventually all got satisfactory views. We tried later in the day, but did not see it.

There is a fish-processing ship anchored in Kuluk Bay and it has attracted Laysan Albatross and Fulmars. These birds are coming in much closer to shore than normal, providing nice views through a scope, but not very good photos. I took some anyway…

Three Laysan Albatross and Glaucous-winged Gulls, Kuluk Bay, May 15, 2017.

Laysan Albatross and Glaucous-winged Gull, Kuluk Bay, May 15, 2017.

Laysan Albatross and Glaucous-winged Gull, Kuluk Bay, May 15, 2017.

Laysan Albatross and Glaucous-winged Gulls, Kuluk Bay, May 15, 2017.

We headed north. At the Navfac Creek overlook, there was a flock of 150+ Black Scoters.

We headed up to Clam Lagoon. The tide was in as we started around, so we headed over to the Seawall. There, we had 5 Pacific Loons, a Red-necked Grebe, and the usual sea ducks and cormorants.

We came back around Clam Lagoon. The tide was starting to recede and one Bar-tailed Godwit was feeding on the flats. As we were leaving the lagoon, we ran into Stefan who told us they had 14 godwits down on Navfac Creek Beach. He also told us Aaron had been trying to reach us because he had found two — not one, but TWO! — Yellow Wagtails at Contractor’s Camp Marsh! Our nemesis birds on Adak are wagtails. Both yellow and white have occurred on the island while we have been here, but we have always missed them.

So, although the birds had been seen several hours ago — and passerines tend not to stick around Adak unless at a feeder — we headed down to the marsh to look for them. By this time the wind had increased to 25-30 MPH and it was drizzling. We drove and walked around the area where they had been seen, but no luck.

So we continued south, tried briefly for the thrush, and then did Sweeper Creek and Channel. We drove up the channel, watching and listening to the resident Rock Sandpipers. At the place where the road ends,we stopped as usual and scanned the streamsides. No sooner had we stopped than Barb yelled “White Wagtail!”

Sure enough, a White Wagtail was actively feeding across the creek along the edge of the vegetation. So we didn’t get the Yellows, but this was nice compensation. We quickly called the other groups and they all started heading our way.

White Wagtail, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

White Wagtail, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

White Wagtail, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

As I was taking photos of the wagtail, I turned away for a second and lost sight of him. I put up my binos and scanned the streamside and spotted a little-brown-job with a distinctively-marked head pattern. I said to myself, “I’ve never seen one of those before!” and quickly alerted Barb to it as I started taking photos of this new bird. It turned out to be a Rustic Bunting. Readers of our previous blogs may remember that we had a Rustic Bunting in September 2014. However, that was a fall-plumaged bird, not striking like this guy. Also, that sighting lasted ten seconds at most and afforded no photo opportunity.

This was  MUCH nicer.

Rustic Bunting, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

Rustic Bunting, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

Rustic Bunting, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

Rustic Bunting, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

The wagtail and bunting worked their way down the channel towards Sweeper Cove. By the time the other birders arrived, the wagtail was gone, but the bunting was still visible. Most of them got good views, but the bird was very active and was hard to pin down. As they were watching the bunting, I walked down to the Sweeper Estuary (as I call it), and there was the wagtail. I radioed the others, and they came down and many of them saw it before it took off, heading towards the airport. We found out later that Stefan and his group — who were out of range when we found these birds — later found the wagtail in the estuary. But not the bunting.

Although we had seen White Wagtails in Europe last year, this was a North American bird for us. And the Bunting was certainly a more enjoyable sighting than our first one. The nice looks at albatrosses was also very rewarding.

Not a bad day.

So…

So far, there have been 5 species of Asian passerines. Unheard of! Two or three is what we usually expect. There had been very strong southwest winds for several days before our arrival, and we suspect that is what brought all of these birds here. Who knows what else lurks out there as I write this…

I mentioned yesterday that there were 18 birders out here. That might be a record. In any case, there’s High Lonesome, led by Stefan, with Joe and Susan; Wilderness, led by Aaron, with Kris, Steve, Luann, and Mike; 4 from Anchorage, Keith, Eric, Enric, and Andrew; and a group of 6 from Anchorage and California, Sue, Frank, Mark, Janet, and Susan — yes, there are three Sues!

Some of them are only staying until Thursday.  They certainly lucked out on the right week so far.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

We started this trip on a bad note. Our limo driver overslept! Instead of picking us up at 2:45 am, he didn’t arrive until 3:30. With many apologies, he put the pedal-to-the-metal and got us to the airport at 4:30 for a 5 am flight. Fortunately, we had TSA PreCheck, so we sailed through security and arrived at the gate just as the last passengers were boarding. Whew!

We got to Chicago on time and the flight from there to Anchorage arrived a little early. We got the car, checked in at the motel and headed out to shop. On the way, we stopped at Spenard Crossing, having heard that a pair of Redheads were there. That would be a state bird for us. We got them.

Redhead, Spenard Crossing, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

Also there, Barb spied a Mew Gull nesting 20 feet up in a spruce tree! We still are not accustomed to seeing gulls and shorebirds up in trees…

Mew Gull on nest, Spenard Crossing, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

We got our shopping done, got supper, and crashed for the night.

Sunday morning, we headed up to Arctic Valley (as usual). Keith Confer, an Anchorage resident — a birder going out to Adak — had scouted the area out for Willow Ptarmigan — one of our nemesis birds. He had heard some up there and some friends of his had flushed some in recent days. So I walked up the trail and played the call and got a response! The bird was calling from a willow thicket that I could not get very near, as there were several inches of fresh snow and walking off-trail was treacherous. The bird did not call again and did not show itself. So my sum experience with Willow Ptarmigans at this point is finding feathers a couple of trips back and now hearing one. So I guess that makes it two-thirds of a lifer…

Although we didn’t see the ptarmigan, we did see a few of the regular species up there.

A very angry-looking Golden-crowned Sparrow.

Golden-crowned Sparrow, , Arctic Valley, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

A fairly cooperative Savannah Sparrow.

Savannah Sparrow, Arctic Valley, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

And plenty of Robins.

American Robin, Arctic Valley, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

Robins are plentiful in Anchorage, but I just hadn’t taken the time to photograph one before.

We also saw several Snowshoe Hares — already in their summer coats.

Snowshoe Hare, Arctic Valley, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

We birded several other locations. There was a pair of Greater White-fronted Geese at Potter’s Marsh — a new Alaska Mainland bird for us — and finally ended up at Lake Hood. There we found a pair of Barrow’s Goldeneyes and the friendly Red-throated Loon was back.

Barrow’s Goldeneyes, Lake Hood, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

Red-throated Loon, Lake Hood, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

On to Adak. Our flight left about a half-hour late.

We arrived, got to our house, and started unpacking. We go a call from Aaron Lang that there was a flock of about 30 Brambling up near where Isaac used to live! We had never seen more than one or two Brambling at a time out here and the maximum we had ever seen during our two-week stays was about six!

We finished unpacking, loaded up the truck with our birding gear and headed out. We set birdseed out at several of the usual locations. We had a pair of Tufted Ducks on the Airport Ponds. We did a quick run up to Clam Lagoon and Shotgun Lake. We didn’t see anything obviously different, so we headed back down to look for the Bramblings.

As we dove through the area, Stefan, from Hi-Lonesome Bird Tours was also looking. He went one way, we another. He called us shortly after we split up to say he had found them. We went to his location and watched as a large flock of Bramblings worked their way up the roadside and finally disappeared up a hillside. I was unable to get photos, as they stayed just far enough ahead and kept moving. Maybe tomorrow. It was still pretty exciting.

There are 18 other birders here besides us. Lots of eyes and ears!

It is midnight here so I am signing off and will fill you in with the details of the other groups here tomorrow.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, occasional light shower, Wind WNW 15-25 mph

No new birds to end the trip.

We searched for the Eurasian Sparrowhawk some more, but did not find it.

You can see some more details on the sighting at http://franklinhaas.com/EUSP/EUSP.html

Here is the mushroom that I mentioned last week. It appears to be Volvariella speciosa. I now have encountered all of two species of mushrooms on Adak. New slogan — Adak: Not a mycologist’s paradise!

Volvariella speciosa, Adak, September 13, 2016.

Volvariella speciosa, Adak, September 13, 2016.

Our flights home were uneventful until we got to the Philadelphia Airport. At baggage claim, one of our bags showed up on the carousel, but then it stopped. It turned out that there was some mechanical problem with the conveyor belts down below. It took over an hour before the rest of our luggage appeared!

The trip was a great trip.

It started out with great looks (and numbers) of Short-tailed Shearwaters, a Red-throated Loon for our Adak list and a rare (for Adak) Red Knot.

The second week started off in the doldrums, but finished with a bang — a first confirmed North American record of Eurasian Sparrowhawk! Note: John Puschock had a Eurasian Sparrowhawk on Adak a few years ago, but was unable to get diagnostic photos.

Our triplist was only 52 — 2 below our average, with no Asian passerines and few shorebirds.

We will return in May.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Temp in the 50s, mostly sunny, Wind W 15-25 mph

We checked the feeders and Sweeper Cove. Nothing new. The high tide made Sweeper Creek shorebird-unfriendly.

So we checked the High School Willows (nothing) and then the High School Spruces. As I scanned the trees, I saw a gray shape that wasn’t there previously! I got the scope on it and discovered an accipiter. The bold facial pattern led us to believe it was a Northern Goshawk! But, after posting the photos to the IDFrontiers listserve, it was pointed out to us that it was a female Eurasian Sparrowhawk (which looks like a small Goshawk)! This should be the first accepted North American record!!!!! (John Puschock had one a few years ago, but it was not accepted by the Alaska Records Committee and there were at least two sight records from Attu.)

Northern Goshawk, High School Spruces, September 21, 2016

Eurasian Sparrowhawk, High School Spruces, September 21, 2016

Northern Goshawk, High School Spruces, September 21, 2016

Eurasian Sparrowhawk, High School Spruces, September 21, 2016

For more details about this sighting, go to http://www.franklinhaas.com/eusp/eusp.html

Not a bad bird for our penultimate day!

We checked every tree we could find today, hoping it would be perched in one of them, but no luck.

Speaking of raptors, you can never have too many photos of Peregrines. This one was circling me at Clam Lagoon today — I guess he couldn’t find any shorebirds to catch.

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon, September 21, 2016

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon, September 21, 2016

At the Seawall, we had a flock of 30 Ruddy Turnstones. No other shorebirds today.

Also, at the Seawall, I spotted an albatross way out, but could not determine the species.

Our trip list is now 52.

We leave tomorrow around 6 pm and expect to arrive home late Friday afternoon.

I will post our wrap-up blog on Saturday.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, no rain until late afternoon, Wind W 20-30 mph

There were new birds on the island today, just not new birds for our trip list!

We did not see any shearwaters in Kuluk Bay today and at the Seawall, they were few and far out.

Also at the Seawall, the number of Red-necked Grebes jumped to 15 from 7. No loons today.

Near the Palisades Overlook, we came upon a lone Cackling Goose sitting in the middle of the road. It flew off to the side when it saw us.

Cackling Goose, Palisades Overlook, September 20, 2016

Cackling Goose, Palisades Overlook, September 20, 2016

After the last two September trips where we found good birds (Wood Warbler and Blackpoll Warbler) at Warbler Willows, we now check that location twice-a-day. So far, to no avail…

If there are any Asian birds that blew onto the island the last two days, we haven’t found them yet.

PS: They got the gas pumps fixed.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, very occasional sprinkle, wind WSW 15-30 mph

No new birds today.

The only shorebirds today were a pair of Western Sandpipers at Clam Lagoon. The pair of Pacific Loons are still at the Seawall.

There was a large flock of waterfowl on Shotgun Lake today, including about 50 Northern Pintails, 15 Mallards, and 4 Eurasian Wigeon.

The most interesting event of the day was a Steller’s Sea Lion off the Seawall that attracted a flock of gulls. You can see why in the pictures below.

Steller's Sea Lion with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Seawall, September 19, 2016

Steller’s Sea Lion with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Seawall, September 19, 2016

Steller's Sea Lion with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Seawall, September 19, 2016

Steller’s Sea Lion with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Seawall, September 19, 2016

Steller's Sea Lion with fish (this is what all the fuss was about!), Seawall, September 19, 2016

Steller’s Sea Lion with fish (this is what all the fuss was about!), Seawall, September 19, 2016

The tides out here are an enigma. For instance, since we got here, the tide has been low in the morning and high in the afternoon. Then, this past Saturday there was this very low tide in the afternoon! Since then, the tide has been high 24-hours a day! This is not unusual, we have experienced such odd tide schedules here on past trips. In fact we have experienced a week or more of consistent high tide and vice versa!

I decided to do some research on this and found a great visual tide chart at http://www.tide-forecast.com/locations/Adak-Bight-Adak-Island-Alaska/tides/latest

It turns out that the tide isn’t high all of the time — it just looks that way. The tide is currently in the following pattern — very low tide in the middle of the night (when — foolish us! — we’re sleeping), then a normal high tide, then only a very small dip to low tide, then high tide, and then a big drop to low tide in the middle of the next night. So during the day, it looks like high tide all of the time! Now, why it doesn’t go to a normal low tide during the day, we don’t understand. We think it might have something to do with the interactions between the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea, but we could be way off base. I guess we need a tide expert…

By dawn tomorrow, there will have been more than 24 hours of west winds (strong west winds). If they brought any good birds in today, we didn’t see them. Maybe tomorrow…