Saturday, October 6, 2018

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, wind 10 SW mph

Final day

No new shorebirds or passerines, but out at Lake Andrew, Barb spotted a Northern Harrier. By the time I jumped out of the truck to get photos, it was gone.

It was an “orange” bird, thereby excluding Hen Harrier. This is the second time that we have had a harrier at Lake Andrew that quickly got away. Our other two encounters were more photo-friendly.

After all of the great trips we have had over the last couple years, we knew we were headed for a let down. Well this was it. No lifers.

However, it was our third best trip species-wise (60). And our second best year list (92).

We added Redhead to both of our Adak lists and Barb added Leach’s Storm-Petrel (I had one previously).

The shearwaters, Fulmars, and petrel were certainly the highlight of the trip.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, the plane did not arrive on Wednesday, so today’s flight had more passengers than normal. The plane arrived on time, but since the TSA agent comes out with the plane and examines EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF BAGGAGE, the plane left an hour late! This made our connection in Anchorage iffy, but the pilot put the pedal to the medal and we arrived just as our flight to Chicago was boarding. Whew!

That flight left on time and arrived early, but the gate was not empty, so we sat on the tarmac for 40 minutes and were late!

Our layover in Chicago is three-and-a-half hours, so it was no problem.

The flight to Philadelphia left about a half-hour late and, as we were landing, he aborted (there was a plane on the runway where it shouldn’t have been) so we circled for another thirty minutes before finally landing.

So we got home about an hour late, but safe (and with our luggage!).

We will return next May.

PS: We got the Rock Wren this morning (Oct 8)

Friday, October 5, 2018

Temp in the low 50s, mostly cloudy, occasional light shower, Wind SW 10-15 mph

Although there have been a couple of fishing boats in, the fish factory has not been outputting any stuff to the outflow, so the gull activity has waned.

We checked all of the feeders and bushes and trees, but all we found were native species.

As we were approaching Contractor’s Camp Marsh, Barb heard geese, so we got out of the truck and scanned. There was a flock of about one hundred Cackling Geese going over. They were high and not intent on landing.

A Peregrine Falcon was sitting on a guy wire surveying the marsh.

Peregrine Falcon, Contractors Camp Marsh, Oct 5, 2018

After checking Warbler Willows, we went up to Lake Jean (an arm of Lake Andrew) and found a flock of 21 Greater Scaup and one male Bufflehead! This is an early date, as Birds of the Aleutians lists Oct 11 as the early date for the Aleutians (and Oct 17 for Adak).

Bufflehead (left) with Greater Scaup, Lake Jean, Oct 5, 2018

At Clam Lagoon, out on the peninsula, there were 9 Sanderlings.

Sanderling, Clam Lagoon, Oct 5, 2018

I can’t resist taking photos of Sanderlings…

Later, at the South Lookout, we saw the flock of 29.

At the Seawall, Horned and Red-necked grebes continue in good numbers. A Common Murre came in close enough to photograph.

Common Murre, Seawall, Oct 5, 2018

Our Trip List stands at 59, which is way above average, although no lifers contributed.

Our Year List is 91, our second best.

We leave tomorrow evening (6 pm) and will be arriving home late Sunday afternoon and hope to try for the Rock Wren in Bucks County early Monday morning (assuming it is still being reported), so I won’t be posting the wrap-up until Monday afternoon (EDT).

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Temp in the low 50s, overcast, becoming mostly cloudy, Wind WSW 10-20 mph

Not much to report today. If the strong westerlies brought along any Asian birds, we have not yet found them.

There was one Emperor Goose on Clam Lagoon today. We had 8 on the 23rd and 2 on the 24th and Jon and Jim had a flock of 30 a few days before we arrived. We thought the numbers would increase as the time went on, but that hasn’t been the case. A flock of 28 Cackling Geese has been here all week and another flock of 10 arrived two days ago. We have occasionally heard other flocks going over, but could not spot them.

Out at the Clam Lagoon Peninsula, I saw one Sanderling. Then two more joined it, and then the rest of the flock showed up. Unlike the previous sightings, they were not terribly intimidated by me. I walked slowly past them – going out and coming back – and they remained feeding there. Unfortunately, no other shorebirds joined them.

At the marsh edge, the same Sharp-tailed Sandpiper that I photographed two days ago posed out in the open today. Again, approaching slowly allows for close encounters with these birds without spooking them. When I passed by, he just walked back into the reeds.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Oct 4, 2018

Maybe we will find something new tomorrow…

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Temp in the 40s, Overcast and raining until early afternoon, then mostly cloudy, Wind WSW 20-30 mph

Storm birds, but not what we expected…

It was raining and blowing since yesterday evening. A strong low pressure system was sitting just northwest of us sending strong winds and rain in our direction. The wind pattern showed strong winds leading directly from the Kamchatka Peninsula to here!

Come on birds!

It was too wet and windy to look for dicky birds, so we headed to the Sweeper Cove outflow to see what was happening with the gulls. There was the usual mixture, but we also saw a few Short-tailed Shearwaters out on the bay – but not very close.

Gulls and kittiwakes feeding frenzy, Kuluk Bay, Oct 3, 2018

As usual the gulls and kittiwakes were going at it.

Glaucous-winged Gull and Black-legged Kittiwake, Kuluk Bay, Oct 3, 2018

We headed north, and at the Airport Creek Bridge, there were two Ruddy Turnstones and one Rock Sandpiper (we hadn’t seen a Rock since last Thursday).

At Clam Lagoon, ducks were out feeding – I guess they felt safe in this weather. There were Mallards, Common Teal, and Northern Pintails. At the Peninsula (seen from the truck!) The flock of Sanderling were skittering about.

The surf was too rough to see much at the Seawall.

As we headed back south, at the Airport Creek Bridge, there were two Rock Sandpipers and two Sanderlings!

We returned to the house for a break (and lunch), then headed back over to Sweeper Cove. The rain was pretty much over, so the conditions were much better – but the truck was still rocking from the wind.

As we pulled up, we saw the flock of gulls as before, but then noticed some darker birds. They were Short-tailed Shearwaters.

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Oct 3, 2018

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Oct 3, 2018

Short-tailed Shearwater with Black-legged Kittiwake, Kuluk Bay, Oct 3, 2018

We then noticed others. They were Fulmars!

Fulmar with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Kuluk Bay, Oct 3, 2018

Fulmar with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Kuluk Bay, Oct 3, 2018

Fulmar with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Kuluk Bay, Oct 3, 2018

Fulmar with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Kuluk Bay, Oct 3, 2018

Fulmar with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Kuluk Bay, Oct 3, 2018

Then we noticed a small dark bird. It was a Leach’s Storm-Petrel!

Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Kuluk Bay, Oct 3, 2018

Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Kuluk Bay, Oct 3, 2018

Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Kuluk Bay, Oct 3, 2018

Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Kuluk Bay, Oct 3, 2018

Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Kuluk Bay, Oct 3, 2018

This is how we like our pelagics – with our feet firmly planted on solid ground!

The petrel was an Adak bird for Barb. I had seen one in May 2010.

We then went around to all of the bushes and trees, looking for new passerines – no luck.

Then up to Clam Lagoon. The tide was in, so there were no flas for shorebirds, but the ducks were still out and were joined by the Cackling Goose flock.

On our way back to town, we had a Glaucous Gull at the Navfac beach. This is our first for a fall trip. We assume we were usually too early for them in September.

Glaucous Gull, Navfac Beach, Oct 3, 2018

Back down at Sweeper Cove, all of the pelagics had left, but a flock of ten Cackling Geese landed nearby. I am always taken aback when I see geese out on the ocean (other than Brant).

Cackling Geese, Kuluk Bay, Oct 3, 2018

The Trip List is now 58 (5 short of our best) and the Year List is 91 (3 short of our best).

PS: The plane did not arrive today due to weather.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Temp in the low 50s, overcast, becoming partly sunny, Wind WSW 15-20 becoming 20-30 in the afternoon.

Nothing new around town, so we headed north.

At Clam Lagoon, Barb spotted a Jaeger sitting out on the flats. It was too far to identify, so I walked out there and got some very shaky photos – holding a camera steady in 30 mph crosswinds is challenging at best.

Parasitic Jaeger, Clam Lagoon, Oct 2, 2018

Parasitic Jaeger, Clam Lagoon, Oct 2, 2018

Parasitic Jaeger, Clam Lagoon, Oct 2, 2018

It turned out to be a Parasitic – a trip bird, but not a year bird. However, it beats the previous late date for a Parasitic Jaeger in the Aleutians (09/21, Attu) and our latest date of 9/19. Also of note was that it was a light morph – 99% of the birds we see out here are dark morphs.

Since I was already out on the flats, I walked the edge and finally got a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper to stand (relatively) still.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Oct 2, 2018

No shorebirds were on the peninsula.

Also on the flats was the flock of Cckling Geese that has been hanging around for the last week or so. Note how they are lined up behind each other to block the gale-forced winds.

Cackling Geese with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Clam Lagoon, Oct 2, 2018

At Lake Andrew, a Peregrine Falcon was toying with a Raven.

Peregrine Falcon and Common Raven, Lake Andrew, Oct 2, 2018

At the Seawall, we found an Arctic Loon, making this the first trip on which we got all five loon species!

The winds have been roaring all last night and today from the WSW. They should drop a few more birds here for us to find. I hope we can in the last four days…

The Trip List is 55. Year List remains at 89.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Temp in the low 50s, partly sunny, becoming overcast in the afternoon, Wind WSW 10-15 increasing to 20-30 in afternoon.

At the Airport Creek Bridge, we had 3 Ruddy Turnstones, our first since Thursday.

Up at Clam Lagoon, from the South Lookout, we saw the Sanderling flock over on the peninsula, but hey took off and disappeared. When I walked out the peninsula, one lone Sanderling was there.

After passing the Sanderling, just around the bend, a peep flushed again before I could identify it (no, I do not know the peep calls…). Very frustrating.

As I returned, the Sanderling was crouched in a foxhole, trying to stay out of the 30 mph winds.

Sanderling, Clam Lagoon, Oct 1, 2018

At the Lake Andrew Rec Center, a trio of eagles tried out the play equipment.

Bald Eagles, Lake Andrew, Oct 1, 2018

At the Seawall, we had the usual suspects.

At Lake Shirley, the Northern Pintails had gone, but the number of Greater Scaup had increased.

Lake Ronnie was where the Common Teal were hiding today. I scanned though the flock, but could not find anything different.

Back at the Seawall, we found another far-out Yellow-billed Loon. Then a large splash caught our eye. It was a Steller’s Sea Lion working on a fish he had just caught.

Steller’s Sea Lion, Seawall, Oct 1, 2018

Steller’s Sea Lion with Glaucous-winged Gull (and unidentified fish), Seawall, Oct 1, 2018

When we got back around the lagoon, the Sanderlings were on the mud flat adjacent to the South Lookout (don’t know if “Lonesome George” had joined them…).

No new birds today. Trip List remains at 53. Year List at 89.

The winds are getting stronger. Hope springs eternal…

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Temp in the low 50s, partly sunny, Wind WSW 10-20 mph

We went over to Lake Andrew early to see if that duck was still around, but all we found were 5 Common Teal. Out on the lake were two Common Loons — one in breeding plumage and one not.

Still no passerines at any of the willows, spruces, or feeders (other than locals).

At the Seawall, the number of grebes continues above average. We are seeing around 20 Horned and 25 Red-necked each day.

Horned Grebes, Seawall, Sept 30, 2018

At the Airport Creek Bridge, Barb spotted he Sanderling flock coming in. There were 29.

Sanderlings, Airport Creek Bridge, Sept 30, 2018

Sanderlings, Airport Creek Bridge, Sept 30, 2018

But the excitement of the day came as we were approaching the Lake Andrew Rec Center. We stopped to look at the ponds, and just as we did, a shorebird flew out. It was pale gray, had a white stripe up its back, a long bill, and orange/yellow legs that stuck out beyond the tail. We don’t know if our presence or the eagle or the ravens flying over agitated it, but it flew back and forth (too fast or me to photograph it) and finally landed in one of the ponds behind some reeds. I took the best photos I could and then it flew up again and circled around and disappeared.

Based on what we saw in flight and the head, bill, and neck markings seen in the photo, we believe it is a Spotted Redshank! Our second for the year (but different plumage)!

Spotted Redshank, Andrew Lake Rec Center Ponds, Sept 30, 2018

Good thing that we had the breeding-plumaged bird last May, as this was not very satisfying. This is the first Asian bird we have had on this trip, so we are optimistic that some others may show up. We have been in a westerly flow for several days, but the winds have not been very strong.

We subsequently searched all of the usual places that it might have gone, to no avail.

I usually do not like walking the Clam Lagoon marsh edge on consecutive days, but I had to in case the bird had settled there. I did not find it, but got a nice shot of the Long-billed Dowitchers.

Long-billed Dowitchers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 30, 2018

After dinner, we ventured out again and decided to use the western lighting to scan Kuluk Bay. We were rewarded with a nice Red-thoated Loon. The first one we have had within reasonable photo distance.

Red-throated Loon, Kuluk Bay, Sept 30, 2018

Red-throated Loon, Kuluk Bay, Sept 30, 2018

We also had some nice White-winged Scoters.

White-winged Scoters, Kuluk Bay, Sept 30, 2018

The Trip List is 53 (above average) and the Year List remains at 89.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Temp in the low 50s, mostly cloudy, occasional light rain, wind SW 10-15 mph diminishing as the day went on.

We added two trip birds today.

A Gyrfalcon flew by us near Haven Lake and a Common Loon was on Lake Andrew.

Also at Lake Andrew, a duck flew out of one of the ponds adjacent to the road and disappeared over a dike. It looked different. I slogged my way over to the dike and peered over. There were three ponds – 2 big and 1 little. I could not see all of each pond, but what I could see had no birds.

I noticed that there was a small building up on the hillside (that we had driven up to once before) which would provide a view of all three ponds – or so I thought. However, halfway up the road, there was a locked gate! We could see much of the larger pond from there, but not the other two.

So we will try again tomorrow.

The gulls at the fish factory outflow continue to squabble over the bits nd pieces being discharged there. Here is a short video of the gathering. (Note: I am still working on this, so it may not work.)

At the Seawall, we had 6 Pacific Loons today as well as continuing good numbers of Horned and Red-necked Grebes.

We went up to Clam Lagoon after dinner again, but this time there was only one Common Teal to be seen!

Later, coming back to town, we stopped at the Thrush Feeder where about 40-50 Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches had been feeding earlier.

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Thrush Feeder, Sept 29, 2018

But by this time of day (sunset), they had gone to roost and two large rats were finishing up whatever the finches hadn’t eaten. This is why I fill the feeders in the morning, rather than the afternoon before.

Norway Rat, Thrush Feeder, Sept 29, 2018

The Trip List stands at 51. The Year List remains at 89.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Temp in the low 50s, mostly cloudy, rain in the morning, partly sunny in the afternoon, Wind WSW 10-20 mph diminishing in late afternoon.

We added a few trip birds and one year bird, but otherwise, pretty slow.

At the Seawall we saw a Crested Auklet (year bird). This is the third fall trip on which we have seen Crested Auklet close to shore. The other two were in Sweeper Cove and just outside Sweeper Cove. As were those previous sightings, this one also was an immature.

We also found one Ancient Murrelet there.

At the Landing Lights, I saw the flock of 25 Sanderlings on the beach at the Airport Creek Bridge. But, by the time I got back to the truck and we drove the thirty yards up to the bridge, they were gone. One of the birds looked darker than the others and was probably a bird that hadn’t finished molting yet, but it could also have been another sandpiper.

Earlier in the week when Jon, Jim, and I walked out the Clam Lagoon Peninsula, we found a Sea Otter carcass.

Sea Otter remains, Clam Lagoon, Sept 28, 2018They look a lot cuter like this…

Sea Otters, Clam Lagoon, Sept 28, 2018

I walked out the Peninsula this morning and had a small shorebird flush ahead of me before I saw it on the ground. It circled out over the lagoon and back behind me, but when I returned, it was nowhere to be found. Yesterday, when a Pectoral Sandpiper that I was trying to circle around so as not to flush it, flushed, it was soon joined by a smaller shorebird from farther up the marsh edge. They put down a hundred yards ahead of me, but when I got to that area, all I could find was the Pectoral. So there is a small shorebird hanging around — just have to get a look at it.

After dinner, we headed back up to Clam Lagoon. This time of year, the Common Teal hide most of the day in hidden ponds and channels (hiding from hunters and predators we suppose). Then, late in the afternoon, they venture out along the Clam Lagoon marsh edge to feed. So this is the best time to look through the flock for any Asian strays that might be hanging with them (although the lighting sucks at this time of day!).

As usual, they were out along the marsh edge, but we couldn’t pick out any oddities. Two Falcated Ducks were seen in June (after we had left!), and we hoped they somehow stayed around…

The Trip List is 49 and the Year List is 89.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Temp in the low 50s, mostly sunny, wind S 5-10 mph

It blew hard (up to 45 mph) last night and rained an inch, but this morning it was calm and sunny (but cool).

No new birds at Sweeper or the feeders. We checked Warbler Willows and Adak National Forest, but nothing there.

At Landing Lights, four Ruddy Turnstones and one Rock Sandpiper continue.

Ruddy Turnstone, Landing Lights, Sept 27, 2018

Because of the storm last night and the perfect conditions (no wind or rain), I decided to walk Clam Lagoon again today. I had the same mix of birds that we had previously (Pectorals, Sharp-tailed, Dowitchers).

Long-billed Dowitcher, Clam Lagoon, Sept 27, 2018

I didn’t see that many dowitchers when I was starting out birding, and when I did, they were hunched down like snipe doing their sewing-machine-feeding action. I am always caught a little off-guard when I see them like this — standing tall like a Tringa.

At the Seawall, a young Tufted Puffin was within camera range.

Immature Tufted Puffin, Seawall, Sept 27, 2018

At Lake Shirley we searched for the Redhead to no avail. It, and the American Wigeon, were gone. There were still plenty of Greater Scaup, pintails, and Eurasian Wigeon. We checked Lake Ronnie, but only found Mallards up there. Maybe it is on one of the more inaccessible ponds. We have had birds on Lake Shirley before which would disappear for a day or two and then reappear. We will see.

Further down along the east side of the lagoon, another Peregrine circled overhead.

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon, Sept 27, 2018

The sea was still calm as we came back up to the Seawall, so I spent some time scoping (usually, the sea is wavy or choppy, making it hard to get on distant birds long enough to identify them). Today yielded 2 Pacific Loons, 1 breeding-plumaged Yellow-billed Loon (of course, too far out for photos! One of these days…), a White-winged Scoter, 12 Horned Grebes, many Red-necked Grebes, and a lot of alcids. We could not pick out any pelagics going by.

The Trip List is 47, the Year List is 88.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Temp in the 50s, mostly cloudy, rain starting in late afternoon, Wind S 10-20 mph

The weather is finally changing. The winds are supposed to swing around to the west and get stronger the next few days. Just what we’re looking for.

The next two sightings are subject to change (gulls are not my forte)!

The fish factory has been busy all week — new boats coming in each day — so the waste outflow at the Sweeper Cove Breakwall has been attracting a lot of birds. Nothing new until today when we spotted a Herring “Vega” Gull.


Herring “Vega” Gull, Sweeper Cove Breakwall, Sept 26, 2018


Herring “Vega” Gull, Sweeper Cove Breakwall, Sept 26, 2018

Up at the Airport Creek Bridge we found a Slaty-backed Gull.

Slaty-backed Gull, Airport Creek Bridge, Sept 26, 2018

Slaty-backed Gull, Airport Creek Bridge, Sept 26, 2018


Slaty-backed Gull, Airport Creek Bridge, Sept 26, 2018

Jon, Jim, and I walked Clam Lagoon again this morning and found about the same as two days ago.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 26, 2018

But the excitement of the day was at Lake Shirley, where we found a Redhead — second record for Adak. It was all the way across and in very poor light, but I got some very poor photos.

Redhead (second from right — in back), Lake Shirley, Sept 26, 2018

We hope it will hang around and give me a better photo-op.

We had 25 Sanderlings on the lagoon and the flock of 25 Cackling Geese is still hanging around.

Only one Ruddy Turnstone and no Rock Sandpipers today (although Jon and Jim had 4 turnstones).

Jon and Jim left today, so we are birding alone for the next ten days.

The trip list is 43 and the years list is 87.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Temp in the 50s, mostly sunny, light NW winds (Horrible weather!!!!)

So far, most commentators on our crane say it is a Sandhill. We tend to agree.

Nothing new today (not even a trip bird). However, I did get some photos.

A flock of Cackling Geese near the Seawall took off as we tried to pass them.


Cackling Geese, near the Seawall, Sept 25, 2018

In the fall, there are many more Pacific Wrens around and they are very friendly.

Pacific Wren, Seawall, Sept 25, 2018

As are the song Sparrows.

Aleutian Song Sparrow, Landing Lights, Sept 25, 2018

There are usually more Peregrine Falcons around, too.

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon, Sept 25, 2018

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon, Sept 25, 2018

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon, Sept 25, 2018

At the Landing Lights today, I had a shearwater (probably Short-tailed) fly in just above the water (which was like glass) flap-flap-flap-glide, occasionally dropping his head to pick something off of the surface. It was too backlit and far away to get photos. but it was neat to watch.

There are Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches and Song Sparrows at several of the feeders, but nothing else so far.

The majority of Lapland Longspurs have left, but a few flocks remain.

Jon and Jim leave tomorrow, so we will be the only birders on the island for the next week-and-a-half. We hope they find a goodie before they leave.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Monday, September 24, 2018

Temp in the 50s, mostly cloudy, occasional light shower, wind WNW switching to NW 10-15 mph

My blog was still down. This was posted Tuesday morning.

The fish factory was in operation today so there were a lot of gulls at the Sweeper Cove breakwater. Nothing unusual, however.

We spent all of the morning around or near town, as far as Landing Lights.

At Contractor’s Camp Marsh, we had two Peregrine Falcons cavorting.

Peregrine Falcons, Contractors Camp Marsh, Sept 24, 2018

Just as we were leaving Landing Lights, a crane flew directly over us heading out over the bay. It turned south and flew along the shoreline. We raced down along Bayshore Drive and spotted it again turning towards Sweeper Cove. We raced to Sweeper Cove and saw it flying due west towards the west end.

By the time we got to the end of the cove, we had lost sight of it. We started driving around that area in hopes of finding it on the ground. This is the same area where a flock of 30 or so Sandhill Cranes spent a week or so back in May/June 2008. Also, we have had Sandhill Cranes only on our May trips.

We tried calling Jon and Jim, but couldn’t reach them. We finally turned into the road leading up to the gas station, and just as we stopped, Jim called and asked if we saw anything new. We reported that we were chasing a crane and gave them our location. As I was doing that, Barb yelled “There it is!.” It flew low directly over us. I hopped out and started taking photos while directing Jim where the bird was headed.

The bird flew south of us, circled like it was going to land, but instead rose again, circled even higher and eventually disappeared over the ridgetop.

By then Jon and Jim had arrived (too late to see the bird) and they followed us up the road that went around the ridge in hopes of spotting it again (Both needed that bird for Adak).

We got around the ridge and scanned. No bird. We headed up to he quarry at the top of the next ridge and scanned. No bird.

We assumed it was a Sandhill, but when we looked at the photos on the camera, we weren’t positive. This bird was a young bird and had black secondaries. We new from our bird guides that Common Cranes have black secondaries and adult Sandhill Cranes have gray secondaries, but we couldn’t determine if young Sandhills also had black secondaries.

I posted the photos to IDFrontiers and waited for replies…

Sandhill Crane, Sweeper Cove area, Sept 24, 2018

So far, two responders ruled out Common Crane and one ruled out Sandhill! We are waiting for more replies. (Although we are leaning towards Sandhill).

In the meantime, we headed up to Clam Lagoon. Jon, Jim, and I walked the marsh edge and there were a lot more birds there today. It was hard to tell exactly how many, as some of the birds just flushed and landed ahead of us. Others circled around behind us. Suffice it to say there were probably a dozen Pectorals, 2 or 3 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, and 2 or 3 Long-billed Dowitchers.

Halfway up, the rain started and soaked us pretty good…

We continued around the lagoon. On the east side we had two Emperor Geese and an adult Peregrine Falcon (the pair we saw earlier were young birds).

Or trip it is up to 40 and our year list is 86.

My blog software is back up and running!!!

Saturday and Sunday, September 22-23, 2018

Saturday and Sunday, September 22-23, 2018

My WordPress blogging software got corrupted somehow, so I was not able to do any posts the first couple of days. This is being posted on 9/25.

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, west wind 10 mph

Our flights were uneventful.

On Saturday morning in Anchorage, we drove up to Arctic Valley first thing and, like last year, we were the first one up the road, so we found a couple of Spruce Grouse along the road edge. This one flew up into a tree.

Spruce Grouse, Arctic Valley, Anchorage, Sept 22, 2018

Part way up, barb spotted a couple of Varied Thrushes out in the open, but by the time I raised my camera, they had scuttled back into the brush. We just have not had any luck with those…

Once we reached the top (the ski area), we spotted a Dipper which cooperated by posing nicely for us.

Dipper, Arctic Valley, Anchorage, Sept 22, 2018.

Potter Marsh produced nothing new for us, so we headed up to Ship Creek. As usual, the tide was out, so no shorebirds at the mouth. We drove upstream a bit to a parking area and in an impoundment next to the creek were three Wilson’s Snipe.

Wilson’s Snipe (the third one was out-of-frame), Ship Creek, Anchorage, Sept 22, 2018

We headed to the airport and arrived in Adak around 5 PM. Jon And Jim filled us in on what few birds were around. They had had Emperor Geese and Gray-tailed Tattler (both lifers for Jon) and another birder had a Baird’s Sandpiper (w/photos). They also had Pacific Golden-Plovers, several American Pipits, a Red Phalarope, and at least one Parasitic Jaeger still hanging around. Not much else to report.

We did a quick run up to Warbler Willows and the flats at Clam Lagoon. At the flats, we had a flock of nine Sanderling.

We called it a day.

Sunday, Sept 23

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, west wind 10 mph in the AM increasing during the afternoon.

On Sunday, we started our usual route of Sweeper Cove, Sweeper Creek, feeders, etc.

At the Sweeper Cove breakwall, a small fishing boat was just off-shore (maybe 50 yrds) and a large number of gulls and alcids were present. However, none of them were extraordinary. Glaucous-winged Gulls, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Common Murres, Pigeon Guilemots, Pelagic Cormorants, Horned Puffins, etc.

At Landing Lights, we had several Rock Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstones (this is where both the tattler and Baird’s had been seen).

We met up with Jon and Jim at Clam Lagoon and the three of us walked the marsh edge. We found 4 Pectoral Sandpipers and 2 Long-billed Dowitchers. Amazingly, no Sharp-tailed Sandpipers! Up til that point, they hadn’t seen a pectoral (they had been there since Wednesday).

Pectoral Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 23, 2018

Long-billed Dowitcher, Clam Lagoon, Sept 23, 2018

At the Seawall, there were a lot of Red-necked Grebes (a couple dozen) and 6 Horned Grebes.

Lake Shirley hosted a couple dozen Eurasian Wigeon and one American, as well as a dozen Greater Scaup and 4 Northern Pintail.

As we neared Candlestick Bridge, I spotted a family of Emperor Geese – 2 adults and 5 kids. When we drove back up to the Seawall another lone goose was out on Goose Rocks (and rightly so!).

Emperor Geese, Clam Lagoon, Sept 23, 2018

Just north of town, a flock of 16 Cackling Geese flew over.

The Sanderlngs, Emperor Geese, and Dowitchers were new birds for our Adak Year List (now at 83).

More tomorrow.

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 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.


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!


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.,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!!!!!


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  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.


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


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.


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…