Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wrap-up

Temp in the 40s, overcast over town, sunny up at Clam Lagoon, 10-25 mph west wind.

Our trip ended with a whimper. No new birds, so the trip list is 61. However, the Tufted Duck at Lake Shirley reappeared. Four new birders arrived today for a four-day visit, so the Tufted Duck’s re-emergence was great news and they rushed off to Lake Shirley. We expect a report from them after their trip and I will add an epilogue to this blog when I get it.

Northern Shovelers are uncommon on Adak. We have had them on 5 out of 7 May trips, but always only 2 to 4 birds. So it is unusual that a pair was still here today.

Northern Shovelers, Sweeper Channel, May 29, 2014.

Northern Shovelers, Sweeper Channel, May 29, 2014.

We would rate this a “very good” trip, not a great one.

We added two new birds to our Adak list — Lesser Scaup and Tundra Swan (three, if you count Bewick’s Swan as a full species). We saw two new whales — Sperm and Hump-backed. The number of Tufted Ducks — at least 8 — was rewarding.

We haven’t seen a breeding-plumage Ruff in many years, so the black-and-rufous Ruff was a treat.

Best of all were the two Bristle-thighed Curlews, up-close-and-personal! Our previous experience with this species was very unsatisfying. This one was great!

Although the number of waterfowl (swans, geese, ducks, loons, and grebes) was a new record for us, the other categories were down. No falcons, no non-native passerines (even North American strays!), no Asian shorebirds — except the Ruff.

Species seen by other birders while we were there, but missed by us, include Gyrfalcon, Short-eared Owl, Horned Grebe, Surf Scoter, and a possible Common Merganser/Goosander.

I will update our trip list in a few days and it will be available under the Birding Adak link at my website www.FranklinHaas.com. (as well as general birding info on Adak)

We will be headed back in September.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional drizzle, occasional sunshine, 10-20 mph WNW wind.

It was on this date in 2007 that John Pushock found a Spot-billed Duck at Clam Lagoon.

Oh, to be so lucky…

No such action today.

Apparently, the last lingering Tufted Duck left last night. We found a couple of Common Goldeneyes still hanging around and a few Bufflehead.

Otherwise, few migrants left.

Two godwits remain, but no other shorebirds of note. Still no Asian passerines at any of the feeders. After getting multiple Hawfinches and Bramblings during our May trips in 2010, 2011, and 2012, it was disappointing not to get any last year. And now, none this year (although tomorrow is another day…).

We had a couple of tantalizing moments today. While scoping for seabirds at the Seawall, I saw a congregation of gulls in what we call a “feeding frenzy.” This occurs when a few gulls find some rich food source and most gulls within sight-distance join in on the bounty. In this case, the birds were so far out as to make it difficult to see what they were after. However, I saw a grayish-white object surface, then submerge several times. It then vanished and the gulls dispersed. Was it a Beluga Whale? We will never know.

Then, while walking the Clam Lagoon marsh edge, I flushed a small bird that “had a lot of white on it.” By the time I got my binoculars up to my eyes, the bird had vanished over a small rise. I headed in that direction, but could not relocate it. It could have been a wagtail, a wheatear, or just an out-of-place Snow Bunting (although I have seen a lot of Snow Buntings up here and it did not strike me as one). Again, we will never know.

The list is still stuck at 61.

The plane leaves around 6 tomorrow afternoon (usually earlier). We will be birding until then. I expect our wrap-up blog will not be posted until Saturday.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Temp in the 40s, overcast, 15-20 SW wind

Elliot (our landlord) wanted to see what this birding was like, so we took him along this morning. Unfortunately for us, the birding was very poor. Fortunately for Elliot, some common birds were close and afforded nice views. We enjoyed his company and enthusiasm and he enjoyed the experience as well. We discussed a lot of the ins and outs of birding and some things that would attract more birders to Adak (better vehicles, a boat to go out and see the auklets, etc.).

We only found one Tufted Duck today and the two godwits were still here, but no curlews.

No new birds today, but I got another up-close-and-personal shot of an Aleutian Tern. They have never been so cooperative and their numbers seem way up from our experience.

Aleutian Tern, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2014.

Aleutian Tern, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2014.

The UXO (unexploded ordnance) teams have been working out near the Loran Station, so our access has been limited. So today, we decided to try going out there after they had quit for the day (and stopped blowing things up!). We drove out there around 7:30 and discovered that all of the seabirds had gone to bed! We saw one gull and two eagles. No puffins, no cormorants, no terns, no other gulls, no ducks, no ravens. And certainly no pelagics. I don’t think we will try that strategy again.

List stuck at 61.

Monday, May 26, 2014, Memorial Day

Curlew redux!

Temp in the 40s, mostly overcast, winds southwest increasing to 10-20 mph, occasional drizzle.

We set out today with high expectations after yesterday’s windfall. However, it was not to be.

No new birds, but as we were driving south along the Seawall, Barb spotted the two Bar-tailed Godwits that had been on the Clam Lagoon mud flats. They were finally close enough for a photo.

Bar-tailed Godwits, Clam Lagoon Seawall, May 26, 2014.

Bar-tailed Godwits, Clam Lagoon Seawall, May 26, 2014.

We continued down towards Candlestick Bridge. A Tufted Duck was back with the scaup on Lake Shirley. Lake Ronnie just had a bunch of Red-breasted Mergansers and scaup.

On the way back up the Seawall, Barb spotted two large shorebirds flying into the escarpment. She exclaimed “godwits!” By the time I looked in that direction, the birds had disappeared. But suddenly, two birds took off from there and I quickly got on them. I exclaimed “curlews!” Then, as quickly they were joined by the godwits and they all flew onto the beach just up from us. I hopped out of the car in hopes of catching the curlews in flight for a nice diagnostic rump-and-tail shot. However, they were not concerned with me standing on top of the Seawall taking their picture and just continued casually walking and feeding along the beach. We waited about 20 minutes to no avail. But I did get some more nice photos, including one with much of the tail exposed.

Bristle-thighed Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit, Clam Lagoon Seawall, May 26, 2014.

Bristle-thighed Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit, Clam Lagoon Seawall, May 26, 2014.

Bristle-thighed Curlew showing the diagnostic rufous-barred tail, Clam Lagoon Seawall, May 26, 2014.

Bristle-thighed Curlew showing the diagnostic rufous-barred tail, Clam Lagoon Seawall, May 26, 2014.

We continued around Clam Lagoon. We stopped at the west side flats overlook and I walked out the peninsula. The two Sanderlings were still there, but that was all.

While I was out there, a passing driver stopped and advised Barb that one of our tires was going flat! He graciously drove into town and notified our landlord (Elliot), who sent someone (Dustin) out to rescue us. After struggling with two jacks that didn’t want to work right, we finally managed to change the tire and move on.

While we were waiting for Dustin to arrive, a couple of pairs of Parasitic Jaegers were cavorting on the flats. One pair stayed long enough to be photographed.

Parasitic Jaegers, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2014.

Parasitic Jaegers, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2014.

Three more days to go.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

When it comes to shorebirds, quality is more important than quantity…

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, south winds, occasional drizzle.

The change in the weather has brought a change in the birds.

Still three Tufted Ducks on the Airport pond — the only ones we found today. Nothing much else in the southern end, so we headed north to Clam Lagoon. Two Bar-tailed Godwits were on the flats.

On the peninsula, two Sanderlings (different than the ones I had last week) brightened my day.

Sanderlings, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2014.

Sanderlings, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2014.

At Shotgun Lake, a lingering pair of Buffleheads afforded me a photo-op.

Bufflehead, Shotgun Lake, May 25, 2014.

Bufflehead, Shotgun Lake, May 25, 2014.

We drove around to the Seawall and had three Ruddy Turnstones and a couple of Pacific Loons. The number of Black Oystercatchers has increased, with multiple sightings each day now. At Candlestick Bridge we found an Arctic Loon.

On the way back by the Seawall, just as the road drops down to a lower level, I saw two large shorebirds sitting atop the rocks, maybe thirty feet away. At first glance, I assumed they were the two godwits from the flats, but I was quickly disabused of that thought when I saw the long curved bills. My next thought was Whimbrel, but Barb thought they looked too buffy. It turned out Barb was correct. They were Bristle-thighed Culews!

We had seen a Bristle-thighed Curlew back in 2007, when one was found by another tour group. It was way out on one of the rocky outcrops off shore. Although it could be identified, it was hardly satisfying. These guys were more like it!

Bristle-thighed Curlew, Seawall, May 25, 2014. (One-legged variety)

Bristle-thighed Curlew, Seawall, May 25, 2014. (One-legged variety)

Bristle-thighed Curlew, Seawall, May 25, 2014. (two-legged variety)

Bristle-thighed Curlew, Seawall, May 25, 2014. (two-legged variety)

Bristle-thighed Curlew, Seawall, May 25, 2014. What a schnoz!

Bristle-thighed Curlew, Seawall, May 25, 2014. What a schnoz!

We continued around the lagoon and stopped at the south overlook to scan the flats again. The two godwits were still there. Barb saw another shorebird and pointed me in the right direction, I quickly saw that it was a Ruff — a black one. Male Ruffs come in a variety of colors — this one was mostly black and rufous. The namesake ruff around its neck gives these birds a very peculiar shape.

Ruff, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2014.

Ruff, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2014.

Ruff, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2014.

Ruff, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2014.

Ruff, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2014.

Ruff, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2014.

We bid farewell to John’s group as they headed off to Attu. We wish them well.

Our trip list is now at 61. More to come.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Temp in the 40s, overcast, moderate south wind, occasional drizzle.

Although the weather is changing, no new birds have blown in. The next few days of predicted strong southwest winds gives us hopes of new arrivals.

The only bird we added to the trip list today was Horned Puffin (which nests nearby, so it was expected).

The swan left overnight and migrant waterfowl is diminishing rapidly. Only a few Buffleheads remain, one Common Goldeneye, one Shoveler, and we could only find four Tufted Ducks today.

The Short-eared Owl keeps making appearances for the other birders on the island, but not for us.

Sorry, no pictures today.

59 and counting…

Friday, May 23, 2014

Temp in the 40s, overcast, occasional drizzle.

There are a lot of birds coming to the feeders, but still no Asian vagrants.

The swan is still present as are five Tufted Ducks and three Bar-tailed Godwits.

At Clam Lagoon a couple of eider were cooperative.

Common Eiders, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2014.

Common Eiders, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2014.

We found three Ruddy Turnstones at the Breaches.

Ruddy Turnstone, The Breaches, May 23, 2014.

Ruddy Turnstone, The Breaches, May 23, 2014.

At the Seawall, we saw an odd shaped bird flying by and quickly realized it was a cormorant carrying nesting material.

Cormorant with nesting material, Seawall, May 23, 2014.

Cormorant with nesting material, Seawall, May 23, 2014.

The number of Greater Scaup at Lake Shirley keeps increasing. Two of the Tufted Ducks remain there and today they were joined by a Common Goldeneye.

Greater Scaup, Lake Shirley, May 23, 2014.

Greater Scaup, Lake Shirley, May 23, 2014.

On the way back around Clam Lagoon, a flock of Aleutian Terns put on a show.

Aleutian Tern, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2014.

Aleutian Tern, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2014.

Aleutian Terns, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2014.

Aleutian Terns, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2014.

Aleutian Tern, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2014.

Aleutian Tern, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2014.

Our trip list stands at 58 and the weather is changing, which bodes well.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

One week down, one to go…

Temp in the 40s, overcast (mostly), moderate NE wind.

Today was our first all-day overcast (except for a few fleeting breaks of sunshine mid-afternoon). The weatherman is still predicting a break in the system this weekend.

The Bewick’s Swan is all alone again — the second swan having left overnight.

At Contractor’s Camp Marsh, we had one Least Sandpiper and a Common Snipe was displaying.

There are still at least five Tufted Ducks here. No sign of the Smew today.

At Lake Shirley, a flock of 14 Cackling Geese flew over.

Cackling Geese, Lake Shirley, May 22, 2014.

Cackling Geese, Lake Shirley, May 22, 2014.

At the Seawall, we spotted an Oldsquaw for our trip list. This makes 25 species of waterfowl this trip — a new high for us.

We went up to North Lake (which is north of Clam Lagoon) and Barb took a nice shot of the lagoon.

Clam Lagoon -- Seawall on the left, Zeto Point far center, Candlestick Bridge just right of Zeto Point, May 22, 2014.

Clam Lagoon — Seawall on the left, Zeto Point far center, Candlestick Bridge just right of Zeto Point, May 22, 2014.

Sundays and Thursdays are airplane days, so some people left and new ones arrived. The tour group that was here departed — but not before flushing a Short-eared Owl up at the marsh just before rushing to the airport! John Pushock and most of his tour group arrived to spend a few days birding Adak before taking a boat to Attu. They will be leaving on Sunday and then we will be the only birders on Adak until we leave on Thursday. But for now, we still have extra eyes searching for birds.

The trip list is at 57.

Wesdnesday, May 21, 2014

Temp in the 40s, mostly sunny, moderate northeast wind.

There were a few more birds in Sweeper Cove this morning than lately, including these Marbled and Ancient murrelets.

Marbled Murrelets, Sweeper Cove, May 21, 2014.

Marbled Murrelets, Sweeper Cove, May 21, 2014.

Ancient Murrelet, Sweeper Cove, May 21, 2014.

Ancient Murrelet, Sweeper Cove, May 21, 2014.

We went up to Haven Lake, and lo and behold, the other swan had returned! We had seen only one swan there since Sunday. However, the new swan today had some yellow on its bill, unlike the swan that was there last week! Could he have acquired that amount of yellow in five days? Or is this a new swan? Compare the photos.

Tundra Swan, Haven Lake, May 15, 2014.

Tundra Swan, Haven Lake, May 15, 2014.

Tundra Swan, Haven Lake, May 21, 2014.

Tundra Swan, Haven Lake, May 21, 2014.

Up at Contractor’s Camp Marsh, Barb found two Pacific Golden-Plovers while I was walking the marsh. Thankfully, they remained long enough for me to see them as well.

Pacific Golden-Plover, Contractor's Camp Marsh, May 21, 2014.

Pacific Golden-Plover, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May 21, 2014.

There were very few birds off the seawall, so we headed up to Zeto Point to look for the Smew on Lake Ronnie. On one of the ponds on the road up the hill, A Tufted Duck was with some scaup. (I know, I know, enough with the Tufted Ducks already! Well, we LIKE Tufted Ducks. So there!)

Tufted Duck and Greater Scaup, near Zeto Point, May 21, 2014.

Tufted Duck and Greater Scaup, near Zeto Point, May 21, 2014.

Frank decided to climb the hill overlooking Lake Ronnie to see if it was a better vantage point than the one we usually use. It wasn’t. Although it might have been a hair closer to the lake, it was so much higher as to actually be farther away. Here is a shot of Frank up on the bluff looking down at the lake.

Frank (upper left of hillside) looking for Smew on Lake Ronnie, May 21, 2014.

Frank (upper left of hillside) looking for Smew on Lake Ronnie, May 21, 2014.

At least Frank got a nice shot of what the weather has been like this past week.

Mount Moffet seen from Zeto Point, May 21, 2014.

Mount Moffet seen from Zeto Point, May 21, 2014.

We did not see the Smew today. It could have been sleeping on shore somewhere or left.

We headed back to town to check on feeders and found at least one uninvited guest.

Norway Rat, Adak, May 21, 2014.

Norway Rat, Adak, May 21, 2014.

The tour group that is here went out for auklets on the Puck Uk, the boat that will be leaving for Attu on Sunday. They had great views of Whiskered Auklets, Laysan Albatrosses, and sundry other birds. They said it was a great excursion.

The weatherman says this system is not expected to break until the weekend, so we will continue looking for fair-weather birds…

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Next trip we are packing sunblock!

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy until late afternoon, then sunny, moderate E to NE winds.

All of the feeders that we set up (which means throwing seed on the ground under various spruce trees) are active now, with Gray-crowned Rosy Finches, Song Sparrows, and Lapland Longspurs visiting them regularly. This activity should attract any passing Asian vagrants.

The swan is still present as are six Tufted Ducks (in various locations).

On the way up to Clam Lagoon, we spotted two Arctic Loons at the Palisades Overlook.

Arctic Loon, Palisades Overlook, May 20, 2014.

Arctic Loon, Palisades Overlook, May 20, 2014.

We headed up to Lake Ronnie to try to get a better view of the Smew. We parked and walked up to the bluff overlooking the lake. I spotted the Smew, but it immediately took off. Barb did not get on it. However, it returned a few minutes later and we both got very good views in the Questar — and distant photos.

Smew, Lake Ronnie, May 20, 2014.

Smew, Lake Ronnie, May 20, 2014.

Although the Wandering Tattler was at the same spot when we drove by to get to Lake Ronnie, it was not there on our return.

Frank walked up to scan the sound from the Breaches, but didn’t find anything.

Frank at the Breaches, May 20, 2014.

Frank at the Breaches, May 20, 2014.

We stopped at Contractor’s Camp Marsh and had our first Pacific Golden-Plover of the trip.

Our trip list stands at 55. Our average May trip list has been 63. Our records show that most of the shorebirds and passerines show up in the last ten days of May — which starts now! So we expect more species ahead…

Monday, May 19, 2014

Our mantra on Adak is “Bad weather, good birds.” Or maybe not…

Temp in the 40s, sunny afternoon, moderate east to northeast winds.

We checked on the swan this morning and it was still there.

It was high tide at Clam Lagoon, so we came back to town and did Sweeper Cove, creek, etc. There were still three Tufted Ducks on the Airport Ponds.

We headed back up to Contractor’s Camp Marsh, but had no shorebirds.

The various feeders now have activity at them. We hope this will attract passing Asian vagrants.

At Shotgun Lake, the male Tufted Duck was back.

Tufted Duck, Shotgun Lake, May 19, 2014.

Tufted Duck, Shotgun Lake, May 19, 2014.

Also at Shotgun were several scaup, including a male Lesser Scaup. Aaron’s group had seen Lesser Scaup a few days ago on Clam Lagoon, so we were on the lookout. This was a new bird for our Adak list (#130).

Male Lesser Scaup with female Greater Scaup, Shotgun Lake, May 19, 2014.

Male Lesser Scaup with female Greater Scaup, Shotgun Lake, May 19, 2014.

We continued around to the seawall. At the Breaches, Frank had five Black Scoters. Down near Goose Rocks, Barb spotted a flock of Cackling Geese way out in Sitkin Sound. There were 17 — same as the number that flew over yesterday. It is odd seeing geese out on the ocean.

As we were continuing our way down towards Candlestick Bridge, we got a call from James (who was now leading Aaron’s tour group, as Aaron had to leave for another trip) that there was a Wandering Tattler back at the Clam Lagoon Ponds. We quickly doubled back and got nice looks.

Wandering Tattler, Clam Lagoon Ponds, May 19, 2014.

Wandering Tattler, Clam Lagoon Ponds, May 19, 2014.

We mentioned to James that we were on our way up to Zeto Point in order to check out Lake Ronnie. Being new to Adak, he asked to follow us. They followed us up the road to Zeto. We walked up to the bluff overlooking Lake Ronnie. I quickly noted a male Tufted Duck among the several Greater Scaup. Then James called out “female Smew!” Although it was far out and the heat waves were terrible, everyone got to see it. It was a lifer for most of the tour group and our third on Adak.

Since it was a lifer for most of them, they decided to try to walk down the slope to the lake to get a better view. We left them there and drove back around to Lake Shirley, expecting the birds would flush from the lake on their approach and just might settle on Lake Shirley. I warned them that it was almost impossible to approach Lake Ronnie unseen, but they decided to try anyway. After a while, we saw their van approaching us. They had decided it might be easier (and wiser) to approach the lake from this end. So in they went.

We listened to their chatter on the radio. We saw some ducks flush out over the intervening ridge, but they were too backlit to identify with any certainty. However, one smaller one split off and flew high and northwest. Shortly after, we heard them say they could see the flock of ducks on the lake, but the Smew was not among them.

We decided to head for Shotgun Lake (one of the two spots we had seen Smew in the past), but it wasn’t there. We also checked the Airport Pond, to no avail.

Maybe we will find it again tomorrow in better viewing conditions.

Our trip list stands at 54. Not bad for a fair day’s birding.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Today’s Large Marine Mammal Score — Barb 2 – Frank 1

Temp in the 40s, mostly sunny, light east wind getting stronger and northeasterly in the afternoon.

Little to add today.There were still five Tufted Ducks on Airport Pond.

Tufted Ducks, Airport Pond, May 18, 2014.

Tufted Ducks, Airport Pond, May 18, 2014.

Aaron told us there was only one swan at Haven Lake yesterday, so we stopped by today and only one (Bewick’s) was there. Three Bar-tailed Godwits were still on the flats. The Shovelers had moved to Shotgun Lake.

Northern Shovelers, Shotgun Lake, May 18, 2014.

Northern Shovelers, Shotgun Lake, May 18, 2014.

At Palisades Overlook, we ran into Aaron and his group. One of them spotted a Yellow-billed Loon out in the bay, which we added to our list.

On the way up to Clam Lagoon, a lone Cackling Goose flew by.

The seawall had little, however Aaron had reported a bunch of loons there in the morning. By afternoon, only two Pacific Loons and one Yellow-billed remained. While scanning the sound, another 17 Cackling Geese flew by.

On the way back to town, we stopped again at Palisades Overlook and, while scanning for more loons, spotted a whale! It turned out to be a Humpbacked Whale — a lifer for both of us. Yes, I got this one in the Q and got good looks at it.

The weather map shows a large high sitting just north of Adak and NOT MOVING! This is keeping our skies clear and winds light. Unheard of in May. May’s weather usually consists of rapidly moving systems, strong winds, lots of precipitation, and good birds. The only good news is that our records show that most of the “good” birds show up in the last ten days of May, rather than earlier.

Our trip list stands at 51.

Keeping our fingers crossed…

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Today’s large marine mammal score: Barb 1 — Frank 0

Temp in the 40s, mostly sunny, but morning fog, light east wind.

We started today checking feeders. Not much activity yet.

At Sweeper Cove, we added Common Loon to the list and the obligatory Bald Eagle closeup.

Bald Eagles, Sweeper Cove, May 17, 2014.

Bald Eagles, Sweeper Cove, May 17, 2014.

We headed down to Finger Bay, adding Snow Bunting along the way. Nothing notable down there, so we came back to town, had lunch and headed north.

There were still three Bar-tailed Godwits on the flats. We met up with Aaron and his tour group and headed out to the Loran Station for some seawatching. Shortly after we arrived, someone spotted a whale spouting way out. The spray was easy to see with binos, but a scope was needed to see the actual whale. We take two scopes with us when we go birding. A window mounted 20-60X Kowa and a 50-80X Questar. The Kowa is quick and good enough for most sightings, but for up-close-and-personal you can’t beat the “Q”. However, because of the power of the Q, its field of view is narrow and homing in on distant objects is not easy (especially when there are no landmarks for cues).

So…

As Barb was watching the whale through the Kowa, I was attempting to locate it in the Questar — to no avail! It was very far out and hazy, and when it would spout I could see it in my binos, but could not get the scope on it. It then dove and disappeared. It turned out to be a Sperm Whale. Barb saw enough details to add it to her list, but I never got a decent look at it, so no go. It did come up again much further out, but at that distance only the spray was visible. Oh well, maybe next time…

While at the Loran Station (which is the northern tip of the island) we saw lots of ravens! So when we got back to town, we talked to Lisa from the wildlife refuge. She said that the town passed an ordinance to stop feeding the ravens in town and cleaned up the trash dump so no loose trash was left unburned for scavengers. The ravens therefore have abandoned these once-lucrative feeding areas and are either simply dispersed more or the population has declined.

Our trip list stands at 49, with no weather changes predicted until Tuesday.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Oh, by the way, did we mention Tufted Ducks?

Temp in the mid-40s, mostly sunny, light east wind.

Being too tired to think straight last night, I forgot to mention the Tufted Ducks. Yes–plural!

After two spring trips without seeing any Tufted Ducks, we found one on Shotgun Lake last night and Aaron Lang found five on Airport Pond! We had those five this morning and Aaron had the Shotgun Lake bird today. So at least 6 are here right now.

Tufted Duck, Airport Pond, May 16, 2014

Tufted Duck, Airport Pond, May 16, 2014

We started out today stocking the feeders in hope of a Hawfinch or other Asian passerine. We birded around Sweeper Cove and creek with no notable sightings. We headed up to Lake Andrew and checked on the swans as we drove by Haven Lake. They were still there. We headed north, and at Palisades Overlook, we had two Arctic Loons (We had two Pacific Loons at the Seawall last night).

At Clam Lagoon, there were only two Bar-tailed Godwits. Frank walked out the peninsula and had two Sanderlings.

Sanderling, Clam Lagoon, May 16, 2014.

Sanderling, Clam Lagoon, May 16, 2014.

Also out there were four Shovelers–an uncommon bird on Adak.

Northern Shovelers, Clam Lagoon, May 16, 2014.

Northern Shovelers, Clam Lagoon, May 16, 2014.

As we were scanning the bay from the seawall, a flock of Cackling Geese flew over.

Cackling Geese, Clam Lagoon, May 16, 2014

Cackling Geese, Clam Lagoon, May 16, 2014

Aaron told us that he had a Least Sandpiper performing a mating flight at Contractor’s Camp Marsh. So we headed down there, and after a few minutes, heard it and finally spotted it. This was only our second record of Least Sandpiper for Adak and there are only a few others. He was one optimistic fella…

A big mystery right now is the lack of ravens. Normally we are seeing them half-a-dozen at a time and we are rarely out of earshot of their croaking. But this trip we have only seen a few. We suspect there is a rat extermination project going on and the ravens are secondary victims of the rat poison. The wildlife service carried out such a program on Rat Island (Yes!) a few years ago, and although some birds (such as ravens and eagles and gulls) died as a result, the overwhelming result of the project is a currently booming breeding seabird population. When we get a chance, we will be checking with the local Wildlife personnel to find out the story. We will let you know.

We picked up several expected species, some scoters, alcids, etc. So our trip list stands at 45.

The bad news is the weather is expected to remain balmy with light east winds for the next few days, Not the kind of weather conducive to dropping Asian vagrants on the island. But, you never know…

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Semi-lifer!

Our flights from Philly to Anchorage were uneventful. We arrived on time, got our grocery shopping done and collapsed into bed.

This morning, we did a little birding. We went up to Arctic Valley, where Frank found a Willow Ptarmigan feather — not the bird, just a feather. It is still our nemesis bird!

At Potters Marsh, the birds were a little more cooperative. Highlights include a breeding plumaged Rusty Blackbird — not a plumage we normally see back home. Several Lincoln’s Sparrows were cooperative.

Lincoln's Sparrow, Potters Marsh, Anchorage. May 15, 2014

Lincoln’s Sparrow, Potters Marsh, Anchorage. May 15, 2014

On the back side of the marsh, a moose browsed by the roadside.

Moose, Potters Marsh, Anchorage, May 15, 2014

Moose, Potters Marsh, Anchorage, May 15, 2014

This Arctic Tern sure knows where to nest.

Arctic Tern, Potters Marsh, Anchorage, May 15, 2014

Arctic Tern, Potters Marsh, Anchorage, May 15, 2014

And this tern was getting ready to mate!

Arctic Tern, Potters Marsh, Anchorage, May 15, 2014

Arctic Tern, Potters Marsh, Anchorage, May 15, 2014

We got to the airport and left early. We have never seen the skies over the Aleutians so clear! Most of he islands were cloud-free! This is unheard of… More often, the sea is clear and the islands are shrouded.

Four Mountains Islands, Aleutians, May 15, 2014

Four Mountains Islands, Aleutians, May 15, 2014

We arrived early on Adak, unpacked and went out to do some evening birding. While in the airport waiting for our luggage, Barb struck up a conversation with the police chief, who mentioned that he had seen some swans last week! In all of our trips out here since 2005, we have never had a swan! We deducted from his description that he had seen them on Haven Lake, so we headed there for our first stop. Sure enough, there were two swans there. Whooper Swan would be a lifer, but our initial impression was not Whooper. We decided to call Aaron  who had arrived with a tour group on the same flight, but discovered we had left the radios in the apartment! We raced back to town and then discovered that when we left the apartment, we had locked the inner door, but the keys we had only worked on the outer door! (There sure are a lot of exclamation points in today’s blog!!)

So we got Elliot (our landlord for our stay) and managed to get back in, get the radios and call Aaron. Luckily, he was within range and we all met back up at Haven Lake. We identified the swans as Tundra, with one of them being the Bewick’s subspecies. We had never seen this subspecies before, so a semi-lifer! And a new species for our Adak list.

Bewick's Swan (left) and Tundra Swan, Haven Lake, May 15, 2014

Bewick’s Swan (left) and Tundra Swan, Haven Lake, May 15, 2014

A nice way to start the trip.