Thursday, May 30, 2019

Temps in the 40s, overcast, rain in the morning, Winds N 15-30 mph

Our windiest day of the trip. Because of the wind it appeared birds were more skitterish, flying off before we could get anywhere near.

In spite of that, we added several trip birds today.

While up at the Seawall, Jon, et al. Spotted a Long-tailed Duck, which we then also saw.

Also, we saw Short-tailed Shearwaters off in the distance.

Along Clam Lagoon’s shore, we had a Black Oystercatcher (eventually we had 7 for the day).

Black Oystercatcher, Clam Lagoon, May 30, 2019

Down at Finger Bay, we found an Ancient Murrelet and then 5 more. Also there, we saw a non-breeding plumaged Horned Puffin (our first Horned for the Trip).

Horned Puffin (in non-breeding plumage), Finger Bay, May 30, 2019

On the way back towards town, as we were pulling into the North Quarry, Barb spotted a Wandering Tattler on the rushing stream there. It did not cooperate for photos. However, it did stick around for Jon’s group to get it later.

We also saw a Gyrfalcon. Based on descriptions of the Gyrs being reported, there may be as many as three here.

Jon’s group had seen the Swan and some Plovers at the Marsh this morning, but they were gone by the time we got there. So, after dinner, we went back up there to see if they had returned. Jon’s group was heading there also, so we met up there. No swan or plovers.

We all decided to take a quick look up to Clam Lagoon. We got there and scanned the flats for the godwits or anything else. As we were getting ready to head back, Jon yelled “Common Greenshank!” It flew overhead and landed in a small marsh and disappeared  about fifty yards away. As we approached the marsh, it flew, but I got a few photos.

Common Greenshank, Clam Lagoon, May 30, 2019

Common Greenshank, Clam Lagoon, May 30, 2019

Common Greenshank, Clam Lagoon, May 30, 2019

We returned to the house to work on this blog, etc. No sooner were we settled, than Jon called about three Whimbrel on Bayshore Drive. We scrambled up there and got them. They were the Siberian race (we have never seen the American race up here).

Whimbrel (Siberian race), Adak, May 30, 2019

Whimbrel (Siberian race), Adak, May 30, 2019

Earlier in the day, when we were at the South Quarry, we again saw a Gyrfalcon sitting on the same little knoll where we had seen one last fall. We also noticed a lot of whitewash on various spots on the cliff-side which looked like roosting areas. So I asked the guys later if any of them would like to come with me down to the quarry late in the evening (the sun is setting here around 11 pm!!) to see if the Gyrfalcon was using those roosts.

Jon volunteered. So after the Greenshank and Whimbrel excitement, about 9:30, we drove down there.

Well, they were roosts — just not Gyrfalcon roosts. They were Raven roosts. Pretty neat, but not quite as exciting…

On the way back, we stopped at the North Quarry and refound the Wandering Tattler. This time it stayed put.

Wandering Tattler, North Quarry, May 30, 2019

We then drove up into the quarry which is next to Lake Leone and found the Common Loon which they had earlier, but which we had missed.

Common Loon, Lake Leone, May 30, 2019

Then, to top it off, we checked the Airport Ditch on the way back and found another Wood Sandpiper!

Wood Sandpiper, Airport Ditch, May 30, 2019

Not a bad day…

By the way — There are very few Rock Ptarmigan here this year. Apparently, last year was a very poor breeding season. We are only seeing one or two each day, compared with maybe a dozen or so, normally.

So far this trip, the following species have been seen by other birders, but not us: American Wigeon, Arctic Loon, Common Merganser, Pacific Wren.

Trip list is 53. Our average May trip is 67.

The weather systems in the Bering Sea are stuck in a rut. There are not moving much – more wobbling than anything. Hence, our winds continue from the north. Not good for Asian rarities.

But we will keep on lookin…

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Temp in the 40s, overcast with some sun in the afternoon, Winds North 10-20 mph

Still no Asian passerines.

At the Airport Ditch this morning we had 2 Wood Sandpipers.

Wood Sandpiper, Airport Ditch, May 29, 2019

Here is my mandatory annual photo of a Rock Sandpiper.

Rock Sandpiper, Sweeper Channel, May 29, 2019

And here is a better photo of the American and Eurasian Green-winged Teals.

American Green-winged Teal (left) and Eurasian Green-winged Teal (Common Teal), Airport Ditch, May 29, 2019

The Tundra Swan was still at the Marsh this morning, but there were no Pacific Golden-Plovers or Pectoral Sandpiper.

John and Claire had a Wandering Tattler out on the Clam Lagoon Peninsula, but it was gone by the time I got there.

Just before today’s flight arrived, we were at the Sweeper Channel and had another Short-eared Owl flush! It disappeared up on the side of the creek, so we drove around to the other side and I walked over to where I thought I last saw it and it flushed and flew over the old (closed) runway – giving me photo opportunities.

Short-eared Owl, near Sweeper Channel, May 29, 2019

Short-eared Owl, near Sweeper Channel, May 29, 2019

Short-eared Owl, near Sweeper Channel, May 29, 2019

Short-eared Owl, near Sweeper Channel, May 29, 2019 (Bird Quiz, anyone?)

Short-eared Owl, near Sweeper Channel, May 29, 2019

Short-eared Owl, near Sweeper Channel, May 29, 2019

Later, we saw Lisa (from the Fish and Wildlife Service) at the airport and she told us there were a lot of Short-ears around this year. This was our third this trip and we are only four days in!

John and Claire called us to say they saw three Whimbrel fly off near the gas station area. We looked for them later, but with no success.

All of the other birders here left on today’s flight and Jon, Jim, and Chris arrived and we filled them in on the lack of birds. Let’s hope the brought a change of luck!

After dinner we went back up to the lagoon and found the Bar-tailed Godwits were still here. Only one was reported this morning and we hadn’t seen any.

No new birds today.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Temp in the 40s, overcast, rain most of the morning, Wind WNW to NNE 10-20 mph

Birds are moving!

At the Marsh today we had 4 Pacific Golden-Plovers and the Pectoral Sandpiper. Here are two photos of the same bird. Hard to tell…

Pectoral Sandpiper, May 26 (left), May 28 (right).

I  assume they are the same bird, as only one Pectoral Sandpiper has been seen the the last three days at this spot (and Pectorals are rare here in spring!). It could be that one left and was replaced by another, but I am skeptical. It just goes to show how lighting, posture, and wind can change the appearance of a bird.

The Tundra Swan is still hanging around the Marsh.

Tundra Swan, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May 28, 2019

At Clam Lagoon, while on the east side, we spotted a light-phase Jaeger on the west side. Since 99% of the Parasitic Jaegers on Adak are dark-phase, we always look closer at any light-phase. We couldn’t tell from this distance, but later on got a closer view and confirmed it was a Parasitic.

In all of our trips to Adak, Arctic Terns have always avoided my camera. I have some poor shots, but nothing like the Aleutian Terns, which have posed for me on more than one occasion! Well this year has been different – as you saw on the previous few days. Here is another one.

Arctic Tern, Clam Lagoon, May 28, 2019

After returning to town, we went down to the Airport Ditch. I spotted a Long-billed Dowitcher! This was the first May-trip dowitcher we have had. We get them regularly on our fall trips, but never in the spring. There are only a few spring records for Adak. So this was a good bird! We radioed the other groups and they soon arrived as we were leaving. Moments later, they called us to say there were two! We returned and got photos of both.

Long-billed Dowitcher, Airport Ditch, May 28, 2019

Long-billed Dowitcher, Airport Ditch, May 28, 2019

Long-billed Dowitchers, Airport Ditch, May 28, 2019

There was also another Pacific Golden-Plover nearby.

When we got back to the house, I downloaded today’s photos. Earlier, I had walked the Clam Lagoon Peninsula and marsh edge. As I was about half-way down, I spotted what appeared to be two shorebirds east of the South Lookout. Being without a scope (I just carry my camera on these treks), I took a long-distance photo, enlarged it on my view-screen, and decided they were just teal (fuzzy photos on a small screen in gale-forced winds!). SIDE NOTE: Common (Green-winged) Teal out here look like shorebirds at a distance when feeding on the flats. They also peep like shorebirds and fly like shorebirds! It is very frustrating to say the least! Really!

When I viewed the photos on the computer later, I saw that they were indeed shorebirds – probably godwits. I radioed Peder’s group (I couldn’t reach the other) and gave him the info.

After dinner, we headed back up to the lagoon and found Peder’s group just returning to the truck after confirming the godwits. Not only that, but they had 5 Whimbrel fly over heading back towards the main road. We spent some time with them trying to locate the Whimbrels, but had no luck.

They headed back to town, while we scanned the flats and relocated the godwits for a better view.

We later were able to get in touch with the other group and gave them the info.

Peder’s group also reported to us an American Wigeon. Eurasian Wigeons are the common wigeon out here, but every spring there are one or two Americans.

One other note. As we were heading back to town earlier, we saw two ravens down on the beach at the water line, digging and feeding on something. I filmed a video of it.

We have no idea what they were digging up out of the sand, but they were being very successful at it.

The new birds today show that migrants are working their way to Adak in spite of the wind direction.

46 species and counting.

The two groups are leaving tomorrow and Jon, Jim, and Chris are arriving.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Temp in the 40s, overcast, occasional rain, mostly drizzle, some dry spells, Wind N 10-15 mph

Still no Asian birds at any of the feeders, but activity has built up at each one.

We had a Wood Sandpiper at the Airport Ditch this morning.

At the marsh, as we were talking with Wendy and John (part of Cassity’s group), snipe — presumably of both Wilson’s and Common — were performing overhead!

At the Adak National Forest, as I walked up to refill the feeder, a Short-eared Owl flew out and quickly disappeared down the hill.

At the north end of Clam Lagoon, the terns were gathered on the rocks like yesterday, but this time there were both Arctic and Aleutian. However, they were segregated. The Arctics to he right and the Aleutians to the left.

Arctic Terns, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2019

Arctic Terns, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2019

Aleutian Terns, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2019

When we got around to the East Side Ponds, there was a flock of five Northern Shovelers! We have had Shovelers on only 10 of our 24 trips. The most we ever had was 6 back in May 2014. We usually have only one or two, so this was an unusual number.

Northern Shovelers, East Side Ponds, May 27, 2019

Shortly after passing Lake Shirley, another Short-eared Owl flushed from beside the road and – as usual – quickly disappeared around the hillside. Two in one day! Not only have we never had two in one day on Adak, we have never had two sightings in one trip! So that was nice.

At Candlestick Bridge, a flock of 4 Black Oystercatchers flew by.

Earlier, when we had stopped at the Palisades Overlook, I saw a large flock of dark waterfowl way over near the shore east of Candlestick Bridge. They were too far away to identify, so when we got to the bridge, I walked down to the beach, around the bend and far enough down the shoreline so I could scope them. They were mostly Harlequins, but there were also 8 Black Scoters and 2 White-winged Scoters. As I said yesterday, most of the migrant waterfowl has left, so any lingering birds like these help the trip list.

As we were going around the lagoon, we ran into Peder’s group who informed us they had 8 Pacific Golden-Plovers and the Pectoral Sandpiper at the marsh this morning. When we were there earlier, the other group was walking the marsh, so the plovers apparently had moved. When we got back there this afternoon, we found 7 of the plovers and the pectoral in the usual location.

After a break at the house and refueling ($5.91/gal — up $.10 from last year, but still a bargain compared to $6.87 a few years ago!) the car (a Ford Expedition, by the way), we headed down to the Hilltop Quarry in search of Snow Bunting for the trip. We were successful.

So we are up to 43 for the trip list. No new Adak birds or lifers so far.

Still north winds…

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Temp in the 40s, overcast, then an occasional spot of sun, winds N at 10-15 mph

We started seeing birds at our feeders this morning. Mostly Gray-crowned Rosy Finches, but that’s a start.

At the Airport Ponds, a group of Aleutian Terns were feeding. This is a favorite spot for them. Up at Contractor’s Camp Marsh, we found three Pacific Golden-Plovers at their usual spot. Although we have seen these plovers in many locations around the island, no other spot is as dependable as this one — the eastern edge of the marsh area at the northeast quadrant, one road west of the main road bordering the marsh.

Pacific Golden-Plover, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May26, 2019.

We went to Lake Andrew and had the usual suspects, but also had a little bit of drama.

As we were driving back along the edge of the lake, we saw an eagle hovering over an adjacent pond with several ducks not thrilled with the idea. As the waterfowl took off, the eagle pursued a teal out over Lake Andrew, making several unsuccessful passes at it. However, the duck decided to try putting down in he water to try to avoid the eagle — NOT a great idea!

The eagle again swooped in, forcing the teal to dive to escape. When the teal surfaced it was attacked again by the eagle — which was hovering overhead like an Osprey — and again had to dive to escape. This time it stayed under longer, but eventually had to come up, and this time the eagle landed right on it, held it underwater until it died, and then flew off to the shoreline with it for a tasty meal. Unlike the young eagle we saw a few years ago that landed in the water while trying to catch a fish, and then couldn’t figure out how to take off, and then ignominiously paddled with its wings to shore, this bird had no trouble lifting straight up out of the water — teal in hand.

We headed up to Clam Lagoon and, as we drove around the west side, we ran into the Peder Svingen group (the other is the Kris Cassity group). They told us they saw a Common Merganser on the lake between Shotgun Lake and Lake Andrew. They weren’t sure if it were the Asian variety, so we headed up there to take a look. By the time we got there, the bird had flown. However, as we continued the drive towards Lake Andrew, we spotted a Wood Sandpiper in a small wetland visible from the road.

Wood Sandpiper, near Andrew Lake, May26, 2019.

The other groups and the Johnny and Shari Powell (who were here last week) have had several so far.

At the northwest corner of Clam Lagoon, there were several cormorants sitting on the pilings. Usually, these would be pelagic, but today a Red-faced joined them.

Red-faced (left) and Pelagic cormorants, Clam Lagoon, May26, 2019. Note larger size and stouter bill on the Red-faced.

As we continued around the lagoon, a bunch of Arctic Terns were sitting on the rocks near shore. As I stepped outside the car to get photos, they rose up and flew overhead, calling and dancing in the air.

Arctic Tern, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2019

Arctic Terns, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2019

Arctic Terns, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2019

There were half-a-dozen or so Pacific Loons off the Seawall and one Red-throated Loon.

Back around on the west side, we found a pair of Northern Shovelers — not a rare bird, but uncommon on Adak.

Northern Shovelers, near Clam Lagoon, May26, 2019.

We drove down to Contractors Camp Marsh, where we met Kris Cassity’s group. We told them where we had seen the plovers earlier and they headed over there. We joined them shortly, and while scanning, I spotted a shorebird in the grasses that stumped me. I wasn’t sure of its size (there were only grasses around it, not something easily sizeable like a log or piece of trash!). However, it seemed like a medium-sized shorebird. I alerted the other birders, tried to direct them to the bird — which was difficult as there were no landmarks nearby.

I took several photos and, when I looked at them, the bill and overall impression made me think Least Sandpiper — a very uncommon species up here. But I wasn’t convinced. When we got back to the house, I sent photos to Isaac and he responded that it was in fact a Pectoral Sandpiper. We see many Pectorals here each fall, but they are unusual in spring.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May26, 2019.

That only worsened my confusion — an unexpected species…

We headed into town for a quick break and then went back up to the marsh. Kris’s group was still there. After chatting a bit, we parted ways, but a minute later, he radioed that they had a swan flying in. It landed not fifty yards away. It was a Tundra.

Tundra Swan, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May26, 2019.

We went back towards town and went down to the Airport Ditch to look for shorebirds. There were no shorebirds, but we did find a Green-winged Teal mixed in with the Common Teal.

Green-winged (left with vertical white stripe) with Common teal (horizontal white stripe), Airport Ditch, May26, 2019.

Our trip list is a paltry 39, which is to be expected this late in the month. Most of the waterfowl are gone, and they usually help pad the list.

We are getting northwest winds right now, and although we prefer southwest winds in spring, we will take anything with a westward bent!

More tomorrow.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Hello from Adak!

Our flights were uneventful.

After checking in at Anchorage and doing our shopping, we headed down to Potter Marsh, where a Falcated Duck had been seen two weeks earlier. Although there were no reported recent sightings, hope springs eternal…

We spent a bunch of time there, but did not see the bird. We later found out that it was reported the same day we were there!!! Oh well…

However, when we pulled into one of the viewing areas, we saw a pair of Gadwalls reproducing! I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to catch them in the act, so you will have to settle for post-coital photos.

Gadwall, Potter Marsh, Anchorage, May 24, 2019

Gadwall, Potter Marsh, Anchorage, May 24, 2019

Saturday morning, we headed up to Arctic Valley as usual. The highlights were a nice Wilson’s Warbler and a Gray-cheeked Thrush.

Wlson’s Warbler, Arctic Valley Rd, Anchorage, May 25, 2019

Gray-cheeked Thrush, Arctic Valley Rd, Anchorage, May 25, 2019

We headed over to Lake Hood and found the Red-throated Loon in its usual spot. If anyone wants to see a Red-throated Loon up-close-and-personal, this is the spot! The bird has been returning here for the past few years (without a mate) and is extremely friendly, coming within a few feet of onlookers on shore.

Red-throated Loon, Lake Hood, Anchorage, May 25, 2019

No new Alaska birds.

We headed to the airport and met several of the other birders who were going out at the same flight. The flight arrived early. At the Adak airport, we met John and Shari Powell. They had been out here since the 18th and were leaving today.

They let us know that they had seen at least two Wood Sandpipers at Contractors Camp Marsh, a large flock of Bar-tailed Godwits around Clam Lagoon, and three Whimbrel (Siberian Race) near Clam Lagoon. So  few a few nice birds have moved in since the tour groups left on the 18th.

We did a quick Clam Lagoon drive this evening, but didn’t find any of the afore-mentioned birds. However, one of the other groups that came out with us did have a Wood Sandpiper at the marsh.

We came a week later this year, since the past few years have produced some nice birds during the first week of June (after we left!). We thought we would give it a try. And — it turns out — we didn’t miss anything skipping a week. There have been relentless northerly winds most of the month, making it anathema to Asian vagrants.

We are hoping for a change to southwesterlies…

More tomorrow.