Thursday, September 25, 2014

Highs and lows…

As usual, we headed down to Sweeper Cove to start the day. As we pulled up on the Cormorant Jetty, five small dark alcids flew in and settled on the water long enough for Frank to get them in the scope and identify them as Parakeet Auklets! Another lifer – for Frank at least.

The rest of the usual areas produced nothing new, but after packing and taking our luggage to the airport, another stop at the Sweeper Cove Breakwater gave us more looks at Crested Auklet, as one of the pair from yesterday (we presume) was still feeding there!

We drove up near Contractor’s Marsh and, as we headed back towards the Airport Ponds Road, we spotted a flock of dickey-birds flitting about the multiple fences surrounding a former munitions building. They were Common Redpolls – 15 of them! That is the largest number of non-native passerines we have ever seen on the island.

Common Redpoll, near Contractor's Marsh, Sept 25, 2014.

Common Redpoll, near Contractor’s Marsh, Sept 25, 2014.

The plane arrived on time, and although it left a little late, it arrived in Anchorage in plenty of time for our flight to Chicago (OH NO!). The Anchorage/Chicago flight started on a high point with the Aurora Borealis putting on a show. This was also a lifer for Frank, as Barb had seen them when she had spent some time in Canada many moons ago.

We were due in to Chicago around 8:30 am Friday. About 7 am, the pilot informed us we were going to Minneapolis instead due to a fire at the O’hare Control Tower. So we landed, we got off of the plane and got booked on another flight to Philadelphia via Charlotte. Of course, that flight wasn’t leaving until 1:45 pm! So, after spending six hours in Minneapolis, two hours in Charlotte and two more flights, we finally arrived in Philly around 11 pm (10 hours late!). Shockingly, our luggage had also made it to Philly on another flight! So although we were totally wiped out, we had all of our stuff and arrived home safely.

This was a great trip. Frank had five lifers, Barb had three (because she had gotten the auklets previously). We had a record 63 species. We had the fourth North American record of Wood Warbler (since then, St Paul has had two more!). The disappointing aspect of our trip was shorebirds. We had only 10 species, compared to 17 last year. And only two were Asian – Red-necked Stint and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. And the shorebird numbers were low. We usually run into numerous Pectorals throughout the island in remarkably small wet spots. But not this year (although it was very wet with a lot of standing water).

But other than that, the trip was very satisfying.

We will return.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Loony…

Temp in the 50s, mostly sunny, some afternoon showers, moderate S wind.

Same old, same old around town, so we headed up to Clam Lagoon. Nothing on the flats.

At the Seawall, we saw a bunch of Horned and Red-necked Grebes and, while scanning for more, found a breeding-plumaged Yellow-billed Loon. The Emperor Goose that we saw on the flats yesterday was on — fittingly — Goose Rocks today.

Emperor Goose (with cormorants), Goose Rocks, Sept 24, 2014

Emperor Goose (with cormorants), Goose Rocks, Sept 24, 2014

We continued down to Lake Shirley where only half of the scaup flock was there. However, the number of pintails had increased to ten. As we continued around the lagoon, we saw the rest of the scaup out in the lagoon, along with the two Tufted Ducks.

Upon returning to the Seawall, we spotted a winter-plumaged Common Loon and a breeding-plumaged Pacific Loon to make it a loon-trifecta! This brought our trip list up to 62 — tying our previous high.

Late in the afternoon, upon returning to town, we drove over to the Sweeper Cove breakwater to see if anything was in the bay. As we parked, Barb spotted a small dark bird in the water. We quickly got on it and discovered it to be a Crested Auklet! And there were TWO of them! For the next 45 minutes, we watched and photographed them to our utter delight. These were much closer than the one we saw last week — and that on was backlit. These were relatively close — very easy to see all of the details in the scope — and the lighting was at our backs. It was great seeing these birds with our feet planted on terra-firma instead of rocking on a boat.

Crested Auklet, off the Sweeper Cove breakwater, Sept 24, 2014

Crested Auklet, off the Sweeper Cove breakwater, Sept 24, 2014

Crested Auklet diving, off the Sweeper Cove breakwater, Sept 24, 2014

Crested Auklet diving, off the Sweeper Cove breakwater, Sept 24, 2014

One more day to go. We will be leaving around 5:30 tomorrow afternoon and expect to arrive home around 3:00 pm Friday. We won’t be updating the blog until Friday night at the earliest, and probably not until Saturday.

Tuseday, September 23, 2014

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, a few showers late afternoon, moderate S wind.

Still no other Asian passerines to report.

We finally found some Ancient Murrelets to add to the trip list. And we finally got our first Emperor Goose for the trip.

We saw a Pacific Loon at the Seawall — probably the same one we had a few days ago.

The trip list is now at 60, just two shy of our record 62 in Sept 2007. However, there were other birders here at that time and that helped.

We haven’t seen that partial albino Pacific Wren since the 12th, so here is a so-so picture in which you can just see the tip of its white tail feather.

Pacific Wren, Elfin Forest, Sept 12, 2014.

Pacific Wren, Elfin Forest, Sept 12, 2014.

Here’s another Song Sparrow photo.

Aleutian Song Sparrow (flat-headed variety), Sept 23, 2014.

Aleutian Song Sparrow (flat-headed variety), Sept 23, 2014.

Two days to go.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Temp in the 50s, partly cloudy, passing showers in late afternoon, increasing SW winds.

We had a few shorebirds today. Nothing new, but at least something to look at.

At Landing Lights Beach, there were three Ruddy Turnstones and a Rock Sandpiper. We had two Black Oystercatchers. At the Seawall, the tide was out enough to provide a sandy beach for the Sanderling flock to play tag with the waves.

Also at the Seawall was a juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Seawall, Sept 22, 2014.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Seawall, Sept 22, 2014.

At Clam Lagoon, the seven Western Sandpipers had morphed into two Western Sandpipers and five Rock Sandpipers.

The scaup flock returned to Lake Shirley along with Pintails, Mallards, a shoveler, and the two Tufted Ducks. The total waterfowl flock there is now about 150 birds!

As we got back to town in late afternoon, it started to rain pretty hard, so we went in and had an early supper. The showers passed and it cleared up (relatively speaking), so we went back out to do a baywatch at Kulik Bay overlook.

Shortly after settling in, I saw a small dark alcid. I got it in the scope and discovered it was a Cassin’s Auklet — a lifer! We both got good looks at it, but was unable to get satisfactory photos, as the light was poor and it kept diving as soon as I would get it in the camera. And it kept getting farther out. Still, not a bad way to end the day.

Our trip list is up to 58. More to come…

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, then mostly cloudy in the afternoon, some light rain in the afternoon, light to moderate S to SW wind.

The feeders are active with local birds, but still no vagrants. Over at the High School Willows, three Common Redpolls popped out and quickly flew away.

Common Redpoll, High School Willows, Sept 21, 2014.

Common Redpoll, High School Willows, Sept 21, 2014.

This brings our trip list to 56 — above average.

Today was perched falcon day!PF09212014 Gyr09212014The flock of waterfowl at Lake Shirley got spooked by someone walking around the lake, so we did not see the Tufted Ducks today — or any other ducks there!

The question is — where did they go? They weren’t on Lake Ronnie, Clam Lagoon, or Shotgun Lake. It is a large flock — hard to miss.

Up at the Seawall, a lone scaup was hanging with the Harlequin Ducks.

Greater Scaup, Seawall, Sept 21, 2014.

Greater Scaup, Seawall, Sept 21, 2014.

And some Red-breasted Mergansers, which are usually really flighty up here, came close enough for a photo.

Red-breasted Mergansers, Seawall, Sept 21, 2014.

Red-breasted Mergansers, Seawall, Sept 21, 2014.

By the way, you can see how calm the water was today.

In clam Lagoon, the peninsula’s flock of Western Sandpipers had dwindled to five. As usual, a Songpiper was in the vicinity.

Song Sparrow "Songpiper", Western Sandpipers, Rock Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2014.

Song Sparrow “Songpiper”, Western Sandpipers, Rock Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2014.

Hoping for something new tomorrow…

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Temp in the 50s, overcast, light rain most of the afternoon, increasing SE wind.

It’s hard to follow up a day like yesterday, but we tried.

After checking the feeders around town, we headed up to the Boy Scout Cabins to see if the warbler was still there. No luck. The stand of willows is probably only 20 by 10 yards or so, so it is easy to see if any birds are hanging out there. Oh well…

Haven Lake had three Eurasian Wigeon. At Clam Lagoon, the seven Western Sandpipers were still on the peninsula.

The flock of twenty Sanderlings were at their usual spot at the Breaches. No other shorebirds today.

We added Pacific Loon to the list at the Seawall.

We checked every willow and tree we could get to, but could not relocate the warbler or turn up any new birds.

Here is one of the giant Aleutian Song Sparrows.

Song Sparrow, Adak National Forest, Sept 20, 2014.

Song Sparrow, Adak National Forest, Sept 20, 2014.

And here is one of their giant flies…

Fly (Actual size, would you believe?), Adak, Sept 20, 2014.

Fly (Actual size, would you believe?), Adak, Sept 20, 2014.

The winds have shifted to the south. Maybe a change of weather will bring a change of birds.

Still, it has been a great trip so far.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Warbler! Warbler!

Temp in the 50s, mostly sunny, moderate west wind, diminishing as the day went on.

Nothing of note in Sweeper Cove or creek. We headed up to Clam Lagoon. The marsh edge revealed four Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and the peninsula harbored seven Western Sandpipers.

The breaches had a flock of 20 Sanderlings which we also ran into later along the southern part of the seawall.

The Horned Grebe total climbed to eleven, with eight at the seawall and three at Candlestick Bridge. The waterfowl on Lake Shirley changes from day-to-day around a core flock of fifty-or-so Greater Scaup. Today’s guests were the Tufted Ducks and two Eurasian Wigeon.

While Lake Ronnie had the usual mallards, a shoveler, two pintail, a few mergansers, and a scaup.

Four Black Scoter at Candlestick Bridge were new for the trip.

We came back around and Frank walked part-way out the peninsula to see if the shorebird numbers had changed (increased!). The same seven westerns were resting there, so he came back and we decided to go to Haven Lake.

We first went down to what we call the “Boy Scout Cabins” on the access road to the southern end of the lake. There are some willows there that we keep expecting to host a vagrant passerine someday.

Frank walked over to the edge of the creek across from the willows, saw something flit and yelled “Warbler, warbler!” He knew it was an old-world warbler of some sort and ran back to the car to grab the camera. NOTE: He ALWAYS grabs the camera when he steps outside the car. Why not this time? Who knows…)

Thankfully, the bird did not disappear, but kept wandering throughout the stand of willows, occasionally fluttering up to catch a flying insect or two. Frank was able to get some photos and we both had nice looks at the bird. Barb tried playing the songs of various warblers and it responded to one of them. She thought it was the Arctic or Wood warbler call.

We returned to the car, pulled out the field guides, and after looking at the photos, the only thing that looked like our bird was Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix). The closest breeding grounds for this species are over 2500 miles away! And they winter in Africa!

According to Rare Birds of North America (2014) Howell and Russell, the only other records for this species in North America are Shemya, Oct 9, 1978 and Oct 8, 2010 and the Pribilofs, Oct 7, 2004. So this is the fourth North American record!

Wood Warbler, Adak, Sept 19, 2014.

Wood Warbler, Adak, Sept 19, 2014.

Wood Warbler, Adak, Sept 19, 2014.

Wood Warbler, Adak, Sept 19, 2014.

Wood Warbler, Adak, Sept 19, 2014.

Wood Warbler, Adak, Sept 19, 2014.

Wood Warbler, Adak, Sept 19, 2014.

Wood Warbler, Adak, Sept 19, 2014.

This is why we come here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A nice way to end the week.

Temp in the 50s, mostly cloudy, occasional rain, mostly sunny in the afternoon, 10-20 mph NW wind.

The lighting on Lake Shirley is backlit except in the early morning. So in order to better scan the waterfowl there, we decided to head straight there this morning. Upon arrival, the lighting was better. We scanned the flock and found the two male Tufted Ducks. We were looking to see if there were any females lurking in there — there weren’t.

Tufted Ducks (fourth from the left and second from the right) with Greater Scaup, Lake Shirley, Sept 18, 2014.

Tufted Ducks (fourth from the left and second from the right) with Greater Scaup, Lake Shirley, Sept 18, 2014.

Upon returning to the seawall, a quick scan of the horizon revealed shearwaters passing by as usual, but also a surprising number of Laysan Albatross. We were seeing two or three at a time! We probably counted a couple dozen! In the past, if we saw one or two from shore, we thought we were doing pretty well, so this was really a treat.

When we got back to town, the heavens opened up with a heavy rain. We birded the area as best we could — checking feeders, etc., and then headed back north. As we approached Clam Lagoon, we saw that it was sunny out towards the Loran Station, so since we had so many albatross at the seawall, we thought it might be a good idea to try up there.

Part way out the road to Loran, a Gyrfalcon flushed from the side of the road and cooperatively perched on a nearby utility pole.

Gyrfalcon, road to Loran Station, Sept 18, 2014.

Gyrfalcon, road to Loran Station, Sept 18, 2014.

Gyrfalcon, road to Loran Station, Sept 18, 2014.

Gyrfalcon, road to Loran Station, Sept 18, 2014.

Out at the Loran Station, the seabirds were less than overwhelming, but there were shearwaters flying by (although not close) and Frank got a good view of a Fulmar through the Questar.

We returned to Clam Lagoon, drove around to the seawall and found the Horned Grebes and Red-necked Grebes had returned (or never left).

At Lake Shirley, the waterfowl flock was joined by four Northern Pintail — I told you they should be here.

As we were driving back up the east side of Clam Lagoon, Mount Adagdak created an interesting cloud formation.

Mount Adagdak, Sept 18, 2014.

Mount Adagdak, Sept 18, 2014.

This brings our trip list to 52, which is the average for our September trips — with a week to go.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Temp in the 50s, overcast and light rain most of the morning, partly cloudy in the afternoon, light to moderate NW wind.

We went down to Finger Bay this morning, picking up Snow Bunting for the trip along the way. The most interesting thing down there was not the birds, but the salmon. We see a salmon run every September throughout the island. Every stream has salmon making their way to spawn — and the accompanying eagles, ravens, and gulls. We have seen a lot of salmon in Finger Creek in the past, but nowhere near this many. In the photos below, every little black dot in the creek is the fin of a salmon! The water was literally boiling with fish. There was hardly any room for more.

Finger Creek salmon run, Sept 17,2014.

Finger Creek salmon run, Sept 17,2014.

Finger Creek salmon run, Sept 17, 2014.

Finger Creek salmon run, Sept 17, 2014.

Dead salmon stranded by receding high water on Finger Creek. Sept 17, 2014.

Dead salmon stranded by receding high water on Finger Creek. Sept 17, 2014.

Most places we went today were very quiet.– very few birds. The numbers of Lapland Longspurs appear to be declining as they start to migrate. There were still three peregrines patrolling Clam Lagoon, so shorebirds stayed under cover. There were none on the peninsula, but I found three Pectoral and two Sharp-tailed sandpipers along the marsh edge. There were also two smaller shorebirds that flushed with the Pectorals, but disappeared before I could identify them.

The grebes were gone at the seawall, but shearwaters continued to parade by.

When we went by Lake Shirley, the flock of scaup was half as many as yesterday and no Tufted Duck or wigeon. We went up to Lake Ronnie to see if they were hiding there. They weren’t, but there was a flock of variable-plumaged Mallards, one Greater Scaup, some Common Teal, and one Northern Shoveler. Here is a sample of some of the Mallard plumages.

Mallards (and one Greater Scaup) on Lake Ronnie, Sept 17, 2014.

Mallards (and one Greater Scaup) on Lake Ronnie, Sept 17, 2014.

On the way back past Lake Shirley, the number of scaup had increased, and a scan revealed TWO Tufted Ducks! Tufted Duck normally don’t arrive until late September/October, so now we are wondering if two spent the summer (not unheard of) or we have some early migrants.

On our trip out to the Loran Station on Saturday, we took the following photo.

Loran Station area, Sept 13, 2014.

Loran Station area, Sept 13, 2014.

One of the more picturesque places on the island.

Trip list is 48.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Temp in the low 50s, partly sunny, light to moderate NW wind.

Still no action at the feeders, just Rosy-finches, longspurs, and Song Sparrows.

Kulik Bay was flat as glass and had a lot of guillemots and puffins, but no auklets this morning. The view of the bay from Palisades Overlook was practically devoid of birds.

The tide was out at Clam Lagoon and the Common Teal (Eurasian Green-winged Teal) had returned to the open lagoon after several days of hiding in the hidden ponds nearby. However, no shorebirds.

The seawall was active and provided our first Red-necked Grebes for the trip. There were a few Sanderlings, Turnstones, and Rock Sandpipers.

We walked a long stretch of the road near where we had the bunting yesterday, but turned up nothing. After studying online photos today, we are now confident that the bird was a Rustic Bunting. We have no way to prove it (ie., no photos), but that’s the way it goes. Not the most rewarding lifer experience, but maybe it will show itself again during our stay.

The Tufted Duck is still here, and since they normally winter here, we assume it will stay.

Later in the afternoon, we birded Contractor’s Marsh and found at least 9 Pectoral Sandpipers and 2 Long-billed Dowitchers.

This brings our trip total to 47. Our average for a September trip is 51, so we expect to get some more. So far, the biggest miss appears to be Northern Pintail. They nest out here, yet we haven’t found any this trip. However, those shovelers that we had are also playing hard-to-get, so maybe the are just in one of the many secluded ponds out here and will join the other waterfowl shortly.

Sorry, no photos today.

 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Doldrums…

Temp in the low 50s, overcast and light rain most of the morning, partly cloudy in the afternoon, moderate NW winds.

The rain put a damper on the morning birding. Just the usual suspects. No auklets (or much of anything else) on Kulik Bay. Although the tide was out, there were no shorebirds in Sweeper Channel. Even the shovelers didn’t make an appearance.

The feeders had a few Rosy Finches and Longspurs, but that was it. We headed out to Lake Andrew and found four Eurasian Wigeon on Haven Lake. Lake Andrew had a few scaup.

The flats were exposed on Clam Lagoon, but a pair of Peregrine Falcons sitting out there and one flying over made for few shorebirds showing themselves!

We have not seen the Brambling since we found it two days ago. There was a lot of activity off of the seawall, but the only shorebird was a single turnstone. There were thousands of shearwaters still flying by (way out!) and we were able to pick out a Black-footed Albatross with them (our only new trip bird for the day).

The Tufted Duck continues at Lake Shirley.

As we drove down the east side of Clam Lagoon, two small birds landed in the road in front of us (NOTE: 99.999% of all small birds in the roads at this time are Lapland Longspurs!). One of them was a longspur, but the other was not. It had a boldly patterned face — somewhat like a Lark Sparrow — and what could be described as a spot on its breast, but it quickly flew up and into the thick vegetation on the side of the bluff (before I could get my camera on it). We waited around and searched for a half-hour or so to no avail. Nothing in our field guides quite matches what we both saw, so we are at a loss as to what it was. It was likely one of the Asian buntings, but we will never know unless it reappears over the next week-and-a-half.

We worked our way back to town and, while checking the feeders, were treated to a couple of raptors.

Bald Eagle, Sandy Cove Bluff, Sept 15, 2014.

Bald Eagle, Sandy Cove Bluff, Sept 15, 2014.

Peregrine Falcon, Sandy Cove Bluff, Sept 15, 2014.

Peregrine Falcon, Sandy Cove Bluff, Sept 15, 2014.

One other note. While I was scanning the auklets yesterday morning, a porpoise (species to be determined) came up right into three auklets I had in the scope and may have taken one of them. I never saw it surface again. Then today, while scanning a gull-and-kittiwake feeding-frenzy from Palisades Overlook, a large tailfin appeared in the middle of it and never surfaced again. So there are some cetaceans around, just not very cooperative ones.

The wind is supposed to pick up from the west again over the next few days. Hope it brings good birds.

Penn State 13 – Rutgers 10

Philadelphia Eagles 30 – Indianapolis Colts 27

At least it was a good weekend for out teams!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

So close and yet so far…

Temp in the low 50s, partly cloudy, moderate to light wind

Got out at first light today. The wind was blowing steadily, but diminished as the day went on until it was almost calm by noon. It started to pick up again in late afternoon.

In Sweeper Cove, we found our first Black Oystercatchers of the trip — eight of them. In Sweeper Channel, there were two Shovelers. They looked like a pair in eclipse plumage. So they could have been the ones we had in May.

We started to drive north towards Clam Lagoon, but noticed a lot of activity on the now-calm Kulik Bay. We stopped and started scoping and were rewarded with hundreds of auklets! Most were way out at the limit of the scope, but a few ventured in close enough to be identified. One particular bird came in and joined a flock of eider and was easily identified as a Crested Auklet (crest and all!). This was a lifer for Frank (Barb had seen these on a previous boat trip out of Adak)!

In addition to the Crested, we could also make out Least and Whiskered Auklets. However, nothing was within camera range.

As the auklets dispersed seaward, we continued up to Clam Lagoon. Frank walked the marsh edge and the peninsula. Along the marsh edge, he found two Sharp-tailed Sandpipers.

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 14, 2014.

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 14, 2014.

The peninsula only had a few Rock Sandpipers.

The road from town to (and including) the west shore of Clam Lagoon was recently graded. So it is smooth sailing from town to the Blue Building feeder at the northwest corner of Clam Lagoon where — by-the way — we had a Brambling today.

Brambling, Clam Lagoon Blue Building, Sept 14, 2014.

Brambling, Clam Lagoon Blue Building, Sept 14, 2014.

The seawall provided our first Horned Grebes for the trip, and although there was a lot of activity there, the only shorebirds were Rock Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstones.

We continued down to Lake Shirley, where the flock of Greater Scaup had grown dramatically from yesterday. We scanned through the flock and although the wigeon that we had the previous few days were gone, we were surprised by a Tufted Duck. This is the first Tufted Duck that we have had on a September trip. Like the aforementioned shovelers, one of the birds we had on the last day of our May trip was a Tufted Duck on Lake Shirley! Did this bird stay? Who knows…

When we got back to town, we ran into the police chief and got more details on the “small hawks” he mentioned. Well, after a few questions, we determined he was describing Peregrines (like Sparrow Hawks, but bigger…).

We headed over to Sweeper Creek, and had a flock of 21 Cackling Geese fly over — also a first for a September trip.

Barb decided to get pizza for dinner, so stopped at the new restaurant — the Bluebird Cafe!. The the co-owner mentioned she had a pretty bird in her yard this morning. She went on to accurately describe a Siberian Rubythroat! This was less than a hundred yards from our house!!! Aarghhhh! Of course we set about scouring the area, to no avail.

And so it goes…

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Birthplace of the winds…

Temp in the low 50s, mostly cloudy, occasional light rain, west wind 25-30 gusting to 50 (maybe more)!

Since it was so windy, we decided to go look for birds who don’t mind a little breeze — seabirds. So we drove out to the Loran Station (the northern tip of the island). However, the visibility was less than desired. We gave it a try anyway and were rewarded(?) with one Short-tailed Shearwater and a bunch of Black-legged Kittiwakes. Whoop-dee-do!

When we got back to Clam Lagoon, the tide had actually receded a bit and exposed some flats. A quick scan of the peninsula revealed a couple of shorebirds at the bend, so Frank headed out there. He quickly found a couple of Rock Sandpipers and two peeps. They turned out to be a Western Sandpiper and a Red-necked Stint. A little farther out, he found a Ruddy Turnstone, then a couple of Sanderlings and more Rock Sandpipers. Nice to see some shorebirds!

Ruddy Turnstone, Clam Lagoon, Sept 13, 2014.

Ruddy Turnstone, Clam Lagoon, Sept 13, 2014.

Sanderlings and Rock Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 13, 2014.

Sanderlings and Rock Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 13, 2014.

Western Sandpiper (left) and Red-necked Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 13, 2014.

Western Sandpiper (left) and Red-necked Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 13, 2014.

Over at the seawall, a Gyrfalcon was hunting.

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon, Sept 13, 2014.

Gyrfalcon, Clam Lagoon, Sept 13, 2014.

If the wind dies down a bit tomorrow, Frank will walk Contractors Marsh and/or the Clam Lagoon marsh edge.

We drove around town a bunch, looking for “small hawks” to no avail.

We saw one adult Peregrine today, so we may have four here right now.

Remember the ONE shearwater mentioned above? When we got back down to the palisade overlook, there were thousands in Kulik Bay! Try as we might though, we could not find any albatross mixed in.

Here’s hoping these high winds dropped some other birds on the island that we will discover tomorrow.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Temp in the low 50s, mostly cloudy, occasional rain, west wind 25-40 mph.

The high winds and high water levels made birding difficult — passerines stayed low and there was little accessible shorebird habitat. There was practically no kelp (prime shorebird habitat) washed up on the seawall and very little mudflats around Clam Lagoon. Towards the end of the day we saw some lessening of the high water levels, but we have been here before when the water was virtually at high tide 24/7 for a week! We hope this is not one of those times.

The only shorebirds we could find today were three Rock Sandpipers. Here is this trip’s obligatory Rock Sandpiper photo…

Rock Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 12, 2014.

Rock Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 12, 2014.

The other highlight(?) of the day was at least three Peregrines scattered about the island — one in town and two up at Clam Lagoon (based on plumage and molt).

There is a partial-albino Pacific Wren at the Elfin Forest. It is paler than the others and has at least one completely white tail-feather. I got some so-so photos, but I will hold off posting them in hopes of better.

We have scattered birdseed at the usual locations. It usually takes a few days for the Rosy-finches and Song Sparrows to find it. Then we sit back and hope the feeding activity attracts passers-by — especially Asian ones!

Not much waterfowl around yet, mostly local breeders. One duck of note was a Northern Shoveler. at Sweeper Channel. On the last day of our May trip, we had a pair (M/F) of shovelers at that same location. Did they stay? Did they nest? There is at least one previous nesting record for Adak (2005).

Alas, no “small hawks.” We cruised around town looking for cuckoos or whatever, but no luck. Of course, the weather conditions didn’t help.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Arrival…

Our flights to Anchorage were uneventful. Birding in Anchorage on Thursday morning was also relatively uneventful. Best birds were a Dipper (a bird we don’t always get), a couple of Gray Jays, and a Belted Kingfisher. The kingfisher was a new Alaska bird for us!

The flight to Adak was delayed an hour because of a crew change, so we didn’t get there until near 6 pm. That gave us only a couple of hours before dark, so we headed up to Clam Lagoon, but the tide was so high, there were no mudflats.

The best bird of our quick run around the lagoon was a Peregrine Falcon, especially since we didn’t see any this past May.

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon Seawall, Sept 11, 2014.

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon Seawall, Sept 11, 2014.

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon Seawall, Sept 11, 2014.

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon Seawall, Sept 11, 2014.

However, the most intriguing note of the day was the comment from the local police chief that there were “several small hawks hanging around.” Back in June, John Pushock’s group found several Common Cuckoos in town. They look like accipiters when they fly. Could that be what is still here?

We will be looking tomorrow.