Thursday, September 19, 2013

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, moderate SW winds.

Our last day brought nothing new.  However, at the seawall, the Short-tailed Shearwaters were only binocular-range offshore. But no albatross.

Our flights home were uneventful and on time.

We ended our trip with 60 species (I had made an error earlier in the trip, which made it look like 61).

It was a great trip! Highlights were:

Temminck’s Stint (Lifer!!)
Red Crossbill (1st Adak record)
Lesser Sand-Plover (our 2nd)
Little Stint (our 2nd)
Red-necked-Stint (for a stint tri-fecta!)
Pacific White-sided Dolphins (Lifer)
Harbor Porpoise (lifer–that small lone porpoise that we had a few days ago)
Juvenile-plumaged Dunlin (semi-lifer)
lots of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers (our most ever)
8 Parasitic Jaegers (including one light morph)
Brambling

We will return next May.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Link

A foggy day in Adak town…

Temp in the 50s, mostly sunny (see below), SW wind 10-15 mph.

We have spent 165 days on Adak since 2005. In all of that time, we have not seen a ground fog like today. The cloud ceiling is often very low, only part-way up the surrounding mountains, but not at ground level.

Today was different. We awoke to a pea-soup fog, with visibility only a hundred yards or so. We usually get out about sunrise (which is 8:30 right now) and birding was difficult at first. However, by around 9:30, we had made it up to Contractor’s Marsh and the fog had dissipated there, but not over town.

Fog bank over Adak, Sept 18, 2013.

Fog bank over Adak, Sept 18, 2013.

An hour or two later, it had rolled out of town and out to Kuluk Bay towards Mount Sitkin.

Fog bank rolling out towards Mount Sitkin, Sept 18, 2013.

Fog bank rolling out towards Mount Sitkin, Sept 18, 2013.

It was really weird, as the skies were sunny and windy.

But, back to birding…

Not much to report today. We relocated the Red Crossbill (yes, it is confirmed) at the little spruce trees at the Blue Building up near Clam Lagoon. Although it remained in shadow, a little photo-tweaking shows the bird full side-on to show no noticeable wingbars that a White-winged Crossbill would have had. Thus confirming our initial identification as Red Crossbill.

Red Crossbill, Blue Building spruces, Sept 18, 2013.

Red Crossbill, Blue Building spruces, Sept 18, 2013.

The Brambling also remained at the Naval Administration Building feeder today.

Brambling, Naval Admin Bldg feeder, Sept 18, 2013.

Brambling, Naval Admin Bldg feeder, Sept 18, 2013.

Brambling and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Naval Admin Bldg feeder, Sept 18, 2013.

Brambling and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Naval Admin Bldg feeder, Sept 18, 2013.

Doris McGovern sent us the following link http://birdcast.info/forecast/special-forecast-bering-sea-18-21-september-2013/ showing a weather pattern bearing down on Adak the next few days that promises to bring all sorts of wondrous Asian birds to the island!

Unfortunately, we are leaving tomorrow and there will be no more birders left on the island to record this event.

Question. If an Asian bird arrives on Adak and there are no birders there to see it, did it happen?

This is our last post until we get home. Starting tomorrow around 5 PM, we will be in airports and planes and cars until we arrive home Friday afternoon.

If I am not totally exhausted by then, I will post the final summary. If not, it will have to wait until Saturday.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A good day for “dickey birds.”

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, light winds in the morning, becoming S 10-15 by late afternoon.

It is a rare day on Adak without wind, but this morning was the exception.

Overnight, the rain stopped and the wind all but vanished. It must have been a good night for small birds to migrate, as the Lapland Longspur population on the island crashed. Instead of seeing hundreds, we were seeing teens!

At Sweeper Cove, we saw another dolphin–just one this time. It was not frantically hunting like the pod from the other day, but was gently rising to the surface and going back under. We only got glimpses of it three times before it disappeared (no photos). The dorsal fin did not appear bi-colored like the White-sided Dolphins, and we did not see the lower half of the body for other markings. We will look it up when we get home, but it is unlikely that we will be able to identify it.

At Contractor’s Marsh, a Gyrfalcon has taken up territory, much to the dislike of the ravens and the Peregrine that had already staked it out.

Gyrfalcon, Contractor's Marsh, Sept 17, 2013.

Gyrfalcon, Contractor’s Marsh, Sept 17, 2013.

Common Raven chasing Gyrfalcon, Contractor's Marsh, Sept 17, 2013.

Common Raven chasing Gyrfalcon, Contractor’s Marsh, Sept 17, 2013.

We proceeded up to Adak National Forest and found a threesome of Pacific Wrens.

Pacific Wren, Adak National Forest, Sept 17, 2013.

Pacific Wren, Adak National Forest, Sept 17, 2013.

While photographing these erstwhile little birds, another bird flew around to a higher branch. It was not a wren! It was a crossbill–as you can see, aptly named.

Crossbill, Adak National Forest, Sept 17, 2013.

Crossbill, Adak National Forest, Sept 17, 2013.

We both identified it as a Red Crossbill (juvenile–hence no red), but got equivocal when we studied the photos. It might be a White-winged Crossbill. We have solicited help from experts and will let you know the results.

Crossbill, Adak National Forest, Sept 17, 2013.

Crossbill, Adak National Forest, Sept 17, 2013.

In any case this is a terrific record. A Red would be a first for Adak and a White-winged a second!

At Haven Lake, a flock of ducks included wigeons, Mallards, and Common Teal. We also heard a snipe there.

At Clam Lagoon, only a few Sharp-tails and Pectorals were out feeding on the flats–and scooted back into the marsh.

The seawall was quiet, except for 15 Red-necked Grebes, 20 turnstones, and a Pacific Golden-Plover.

Pacific Golden-Plover, Seawall, Sept 17, 2013.

Pacific Golden-Plover, Seawall, Sept 17, 2013.

.At Lake Shirley, we caught a Peregrine bathing. It flew up towards the seawall, where we caught up with it shortly.

Peregrine Falcon Seawall, Sept 17, 2013.

Peregrine Falcon Seawall, Sept 17, 2013.

We went over to a marsh near the road to Lake Andrew, where I walked to see what I could find. All I kicked up was a Pectoral. But while I was doing that, Barb took this picture of a moth that landed on the windshield (Lepidopterists, feel free to chime in!).

Moth, Sept 17, 2013.

Moth, Sept 17, 2013.

Back at Adak National Forest, we tried again for the crossbill. No luck. However, we enjoyed the aerial antics of some Common Ravens.

Common Ravens, Adak, Sept 17, 2013.

Common Ravens, Adak, Sept 17, 2013.

We started checking all of the conifers that had cones to see if the crossbill showed up elsewhere. As we approached the Naval Admin Bldg feeder (seed thrown on the sidewalk under a spruce tree), we saw it was just about out of seed. So we pulled up next to it and as I reached for the door handle to get out, I looked up to see a Brambling not ten feet away! It promptly flew off. I scattered some fresh seed and we went to check on another feeder. Nothing there, so we returned to the Naval feeder and the Brambling was back.

Brambling, Naval Admin Bldg, Sept 17, 2013.

Brambling, Naval Admin Bldg, Sept 17, 2013.

As I said, a good day for dickey birds!

Our trip list is 61, just one off our best September list.

A day and a half to go.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Falcons!

Temp about 50, overcast, rain in late afternoon, SW wind 10-20 mph.

As we were driving north on Bayshore Drive this morning, I spotted a falcon flying over the Water Towers Bluff. It “looked funny,” so we drove up to the bluff to try to get a better look. It had flown off by then, so who knows?

At the Elfin Forest, we were excited when a few ducks swam out of the nearby pond, as this is where the Baikal Teal hung out last September. Alas, it was not to be–just Common Teal and Mallards.

At Clam Lagoon, the Sharp-tail/Pectoral flock was again feeding out on the flats. I walked the marsh edge, but didn’t find anything new.

On the east side of Clam Lagoon, I spotted a Peregrine Falcon sitting out on the flats and then saw a larger falcon about 40 yards away, also standing on the flats. It was a Gyrfalcon–our first for this trip.

Gyrfalcon, Clam Lagoon, Sept 16, 2013.

Gyrfalcon, Clam Lagoon, Sept 16, 2013.

Gyrfalcon, Clam Lagoon, Sept 16, 2013.

Gyrfalcon, Clam Lagoon, Sept 16, 2013.

They both took off and interacted briefly over the nearby bluff.

Peregrine Falcon (left) and Gyrfalcon, Clam Lagoon, Sept 16, 2013.

Peregrine Falcon (left) and Gyrfalcon, Clam Lagoon, Sept 16, 2013.

On our return trip past the seawall, I noticed a falcon flying over the sea. It was hunting–what, I do not know. It would hover over a spot like a Kestrel and then dive at something on the surface. As far as I could tell, it came up empty-handed every time. It was not diving at birds, but some other sealife. We watched it for about ten minutes, and it never caught anything, but was very determined. It appeared to be the Gyrfalcon.

Gyrfalcon hunting over Sitkin Sound, Sept 16, 2013.

Gyrfalcon hunting over Sitkin Sound, Sept 16, 2013.

We continued north along the seawall, and while scanning the almost completely calm sea, spotted 20(!) Red-necked Grebes. A new high for us. Obviously, they were on the move last night.

Red-necked Grebes, Seawall, Sept 16, 2013.

Red-necked Grebes, Seawall, Sept 16, 2013.

The wind is forecast to be from the south, southwest, and west the next few days. The fallout last week came during a rain storm with strong south winds. Here’s hoping!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lifer! Lifer! (well, not an avian lifer, but a lifer nonetheless!)

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, SW wind 10-20 mph.

At Sweeper Cove this morning, we found a pod of about 10-11 Pacific White-sided Dolphins! A lifer for us. Trying to get photos was difficult to say the least. Trying to anticipate where they would next breach and snap the photo before they submerged was a real treat! However, I did manage to get one identifiable photo and a picture of them as they swam away into Kuluk Bay.

Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Sweeper Cove, Sept 15, 2013.

Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Sweeper Cove, Sept 15, 2013.

Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Sweeper Cove, Sept 15, 2013.

Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Sweeper Cove, Sept 15, 2013.

In Kuluk Bay, near Navfac Creek, we spotted a Common Loon, Oldsquaw, and both White-winged and Black scoters. Waterfowl is starting to move, as we are seeing new species and some birds in breeding plumage, not just eclipse.

At Clam Lagoon, a flock of 14 Sharp-tailed and 10 Pectoral sandpipers were out feeding on the flats. There was nothing out on the peninsula, but a nice juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper was joined by a “Songpiper.”

Pectoral Sandpiper and Song Sparrow, Clam Lagoon, Sept 15, 2013.

Pectoral Sandpiper and Song Sparrow, Clam Lagoon, Sept 15, 2013.

The Song Sparrows on Adak spend as much, if not more, of their time along the shoreline–both of the lagoon and the sea. We affectionately refer to them as Songpipers.

At the seawall, the sea was calm. The four Horned Grebes were still here, as was the Red-necked Grebe.

Horned Grebe, Seawall, Sept 15, 2013.

Horned Grebe, Seawall, Sept 15, 2013.

At Candlestick Bridge, the Harbor Seals were out sunning.

Harbor Seals sunning at Clam Lagoon, Sept 15, 2013.

Harbor Seals sunning at Clam Lagoon, Sept 15, 2013.

Our trip list stands at 56, just six shy of our best September list.

Keep ’em comin’!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Temp in the 50s, mostly sunny, S wind 10-20 mph

We new it would be hard to top yesterday’s sightings–and we didn’t…

Our wake-up call this morning was a 4-point-something aftershock.

No new trip birds. Nothing of interest to photograph.

At Clam Lagoon, I walked out to the peninsula. A plover-sized shorebird flushed way ahead of me and disappeared around the point. It may have been the Mongolian. The only other shorebirds out there were two Rock Sandpipers.

As I started back, Barb called to let me know she had five shorebirds again in the same spot as yesterday–3 Pectorals and 2 peeps (one larger than the other). It looked like the Temminck’s Stint was still here. But not to be.

The larger peep was a Baird’s like yesterday, but the smaller one was a Western.

That’s it! Nothing else to report. Waiting for the next weather system to bring new birds.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Lifer! Lifer!

Temp in the 50s, mostly sunny, west wind 10-20 mph.

After the usual Sweeper Cove/Creek/Feeders route, we headed up to White Alice (a hill west of town where the communication towers are located) and picked up a number of Snow Buntings.

We then headed to Clam Lagoon, where I decided to walk the marsh edge. I kicked out a number of Pectoral and Sharp-tailed sandpipers, some of whom landed on the flats, fed awhile, and then flew back to the marsh.

About halfway up, Barb called me about a few birds closer to her position up at the northwest corner of the tidal flats. She had three Pectorals and a peep and possibly the Mongolian Plover (I know! Its called Lesser Sand-Plover now, but Mongolian is way cooler!). Barb has nicknamed the plover “dumpy” as that is how it looks when first seen through the scope. I was still too far away to see them. They flew off and then appeared to return, but now it was a different mix of birds. There were still three Pectorals, but now there were two peeps–a small one and a larger one.

I finally got close enough to start photographing them and trying to identify them through my binos. The larger peep was an obvious Baird’s Sandpiper–one of the easier peeps to identify.

Baird's Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 13, 2013.

Baird’s Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 13, 2013.

The other (smaller) peep looked gray. As I got closer, I saw it had yellow legs! Now I new it was a Temminck’s Stint! A lifer! I photographed the heck out of it, and we studied the photos very carefully when we got back, and confirmed my initial impression. I know from past experience how faulty field observations and first impressions can be. However, the photos confirmed it as a juvenile Temmincks Stint.

Temminck's Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 13, 2013.

Temminck’s Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 13, 2013.

Temminck's Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 13, 2013.

Temminck’s Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 13, 2013.

I circled around the stint and headed out to the peninsula. Shortly after I rounded the bend, I saw movement ahead. It was the Mongolian Plover. This time, not so wary. The photos I got are still not Nat Geo quality, but much better than yesterday.

Mongolian Plover, Clam Lagoon, Sept 13, 2013

Mongolian Plover, Clam Lagoon, Sept 13, 2013

We also saw a Red-necked Grebe today to bring our trip list to 51.

Not a bad start to our second week.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, NW wind 10-20 mph swinging to the west.

At Clam Lagoon, the Mongolian Plover continues to hang in with a Semipalmated Plover and a Western Sandpiper. This trio will not allow close approach. The Mongol takes off first quickly followed by the other two. So, although I got better photos today, they are still from a great distance and greatly enlarged.

Mongolian Plover, Clam Lagoon, Sept 12, 2013

Mongolian Plover, Clam Lagoon, Sept 12, 2013

Mongolian Plover (left) with Semipalmated Plover, Clam Lagoon, Sept 12, 2013

Mongolian Plover (left) with Semipalmated Plover, Clam Lagoon, Sept 12, 2013

Mongolian Plover (right) with Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 12, 2013

Mongolian Plover (right) with Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 12, 2013

The only other shorebirds we had at the lagoon today were three Pacific Golden-Plovers. And 9 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and 4 Pectoral Sandpipers briefly stepped out of the marsh to show themselves.

At the seawall, the surf was up!

Seawall surf, Sept 12, 2013.

Seawall surf, Sept 12, 2013.

We had mostly Rock Sandpipers and Sanderlings there, but also a nice juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper.

Juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper, Seawall, Sept 12, 2013

Juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper, Seawall, Sept 12, 2013

Also at the seawall, while scanning the shearwaters way off-shore, we picked out a Northern Fulmar and an albatross of undetermined species.

Lake Shirley, in addition to being a good place for waterfowl and an occasional shorebird, is best known as the gulls bathtub. It is a freshwater lake and the gulls come over from the saltwater Clam Lagoon to bathe. There is usually a steady stream of gulls coming and going there.

Gulls bathing in Lake Shirley, Sept 12, 2013

Gulls bathing in Lake Shirley, Sept 12, 2013

Rental vehicles on Adak are always iffy, but this trip we have a nice 2001 Honda CRV! It is quiet and everything works (except the clock and auxiliary power port)!

Honda CRV, Sept 12, 2013

Honda CRV, Sept 12, 2013

The trip list stands at 48.

One week down and one to go…

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Temp near 50, overcast, rain all day, NW wind 20-30, gusting up to 45+!

The weather was worse today than yesterday. We added no new birds to our trip list, but we got to see some of the birds from yesterday’s fallout in more comfortable conditions (from the car).

The usual places had few or no birds. After making the usual rounds, we ended up back at Clam Lagoon in late afternoon as the tide was coming in.

Many of the birds from yesterday were still hanging around, and as the tide filled the lagoon, the flats got more and more constricted to the northwest corner, where we could sit and watch from the car. Although the lighting, wind, and rain still made photography iffy, we were able to view many of the birds well with the scope.

There were Sharp-tailed, Western, Rock, and Pectoral sandpipers, both Red-necked and Little stints, Sanderlings, and the Mongolian Plover. All except the plover came to the near shore at some point. The plover was only seen briefly way out on the peninsula and I decided NOT to walk out there in these conditions.

One entertaining scene was shorebirds bathing–in the POURING RAIN!

Rock Sandpiper, Sanderling, and Western Sandpipers bathing, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2013.

Rock Sandpiper, Sanderling, and Western Sandpipers bathing, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2013.

On our past September trips, we would only see one or two jaegers, as they generally leave by mid-September. So it was a treat today to see eight at one point. In addition, one was in some sort of intermediate plumage–mostly dark, but with some light patches around the head. We caught the following bird with dinner in hand (beak?).

Parasitic Jaeger (with dinner), Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2013.

Parasitic Jaeger (with dinner), Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2013.

It is supposed to be sunny tomorrow, so maybe there will be better photo-ops if any of the shorebirds stick around.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Temp around 50, overcast, light drizzle/rain in the afternoon, light S wind increasing to 10-20 mph by afternoon.

An uneventful morning. No birds on the Clam Lagoon Peninsula. No shorebirds along the seawall except Rock and turnstone. However, we did see a Herring “Vega” Gull at the seawall.

At Candlestick Bridge, a large flock of Eider and Mergansers was present.

Common Eiders and Red-breasted Mergansers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 10, 2013.

Common Eiders and Red-breasted Mergansers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 10, 2013.

We came back around to the west side and I decided to walk the Clam Lagoon marsh edge from south to north. I got about a third of the way up when four shorebirds dropped from the sky onto the flats a short distance from me. They were Sharp-tailed Sandpipers! Not hidden in the marsh!

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 10, 2013.

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 10, 2013.

No sooner had I taken a few photos of them than they were joined by two Pacific Golden-Plovers. Then a couple of Pectoral Sandpipers appeared.

Then they flew up and away. I proceeded up the marsh edge, then out the peninsula. Out there were a couple of Western Sandpipers and a Rock Sandpiper. All of a sudden, a mixed flock of shorebirds flew by me, including at least one Sanderling. They circled back out to the flats, where they were joined by many others. Shorebirds kept appearing and joining the others scattered across the flats. I headed back towards the flock. However, ever since I started this walk the wind and rain had been increasing. As I approached the birds, they kept a good distance away, frequently flying up, circling and landing in a new location. These conditions prevented me from getting anything but very marginal photos and at a great distance.

However, in between trying to get photos, I scanned the flock trying to identify as much as possible. Barb also was scanning through them with a scope from the car.

The highlight of the flock was a Mongolian Plover (Lesser Sand Plover to you “young uns”)! I got terrible, but identifiable photos.

Mongolian Plover (front), Clam Lagoon, Sept 10, 2013.

Mongolian Plover (front), Clam Lagoon, Sept 10, 2013.

Mongolian Plover, Clam Lagoon, Sept 10, 2013.

Mongolian Plover, Clam Lagoon, Sept 10, 2013.

This was our second Mongolian Plover that we have had on Adak.

In addition to the plover, other goodies included at least two Red-necked Stints and at least one Little Stint. The birds kept moving and mixing, so it was hard to keep track of how many of everything.

The final tally (our best guesstimate) was 28 Sanderlings, 2 Pacific Golden-Plovers, 3 Semipalmated Plovers, 8 Western Sandpipers, 8 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, 4 Pectoral Sandpipers, 2 Red-necked Stints, 1 Little Stint, 1 Mongolian Plover, 1 Long-billed Dowitcher, and several Rock Sandpipers. There may have been more.

In all of our trips out here, we had never seen a fallout like this. Not only was there a variety of shorebirds, they were out on the flats, not hidden in the marsh. The only bad thing was the conditions for photography.

Oh, by the way, did we mention that Adak had a 7.1 earthquake a week and a half ago and has been having aftershocks ever since? We had a 4.8 aftershock two nights ago and a 4.1 today.

.Keep those birds coming!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Temp in the mid-50s, mostly sunny, light to moderate NW wind swinging around to the west by afternoon.

Just another balmy, sunny day on Adak…

The morning started with two of yesterday’s Semipalmated Plovers which had made their way down to the Sweeper Channel.

Just up the road apiece, we spotted a Snow Bunting for the trip list.

We drove up to the Marine Memorial and found several (of the thousand) longspurs perched in the spruces.

Lapland Longspurs, Marine Memorial, Sept 9, 2013.

Lapland Longspurs, Marine Memorial, Sept 9, 2013.

I walked across part of Contractor’s Marsh, but didn’t scare up anything. However, a young Bald Eagle was curious about my presence.

Bald Eagle, Contractor's Marsh, Sept 9, 2013.

Bald Eagle, Contractor’s Marsh, Sept 9, 2013.

Even on nice days like this, Mount Moffet usually keeps some clouds obscuring its top.

Mt Moffet, Sept 9, 2013.

Mt Moffet, Sept 9, 2013.

But, a few hours later, it showed itself.

Mt Moffet, Sept 9, 2013.

Mt Moffet, Sept 9, 2013.

While walking through the Elfin Forest looking for stray Asian passerines, one of Adak’s giant Song Sparrows posed for me.

Song Sparrow, Elfin Forest, Sept 9, 2013.

Song Sparrow, Elfin Forest, Sept 9, 2013.

I walked out the Clam Lagoon Peninsula, but had no shorebirds. We ran into scattered Rock Sandpipers and one turnstone as we drove around to the seawall and Candlestick Bridge.

On the way back, I walked the peninsula again, this time finding four shorebirds. There were three Western Sandpipers and a slightly larger bird that I was unsure about. The jizz said Dunlin, but I had never seen a Dunlin in this plumage before. So I was puzzled.

Dunlin and 3 Western Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 9, 2013.

Dunlin and 3 Western Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 9, 2013.

Once I got back to the car, a quick look at Paulson’s Shorebird Guide revealed that it was a juvenile plumage which is usually molted out of before migration and rarely seen south of the breeding grounds. So this counts as a semi-lifer (a new plumage that we had not seen before)!

Our trip list stands at 41. Hoping the weather changes and brings some new birds.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Temp around 50, mostly cloudy, light NE wind switching to moderate NW wind by afternoon.

We went down to Finger Bay and Creek this morning. No new birds, but had a lot of Pink Salmon spawning.

Worked our way north to Clam Lagoon and I walked out the peninsula to see if the Westerns were still around. They weren’t, but as I rounded the bend, three small plovers flew ahead of me a short distance. My adrenaline started flowing, as Semiplamated Plovers shouldn’t be here this late and Common Ringed Plover would be a lifer for us.

I radioed Barb what I was seeing, and she read the differentiating details from the shorebird book to me as I photographed them and studied them in the scope. Sad to say, all features pointed to Semis, not Ringed.

Semipalmated Plovers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 8, 2013.

Semipalmated Plovers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 8, 2013.

Semipalmated Plovers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 8, 2013.

Semipalmated Plovers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 8, 2013.

Semipalmated Plover, Clam Lagoon, Sept 8, 2013.

Semipalmated Plover, Clam Lagoon, Sept 8, 2013.

As with the number of Westerns yesterday, this was still a significant record, as we had never seen Semis on any of our previous September trips. So, no lifer, but a nice record.

We continued around to the seawall and had some Rock Sandpipers and four Horned Grebes, but nothing else significant. At Candlestick Bridge, about 50 Common Eiders (all females and immatures) were roosting on the beach.

We drove up the road towards Zeto Point in order to scan Lake Ronnie, where ducks like to hide. There were about 20 Mallards, 5 Greater Scaup, and 2 Northern Pintail.

We came back around the lagoon and I decided to walk the marsh edge, since it was two days since the last time. I don’t like to walk it too frequently, as it disturbs the birds (Although in some years, the birds don’t flush and don’t seem to mind! However, this year they seem very skitterish.). About a dozen Pectorals and 4 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers flew out along the way and one Long-billed Dowitcher stayed.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 8, 2013.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 8, 2013.

Long-billed Dowitcher, Clam Lagoon, Sept 8, 2013.

Long-billed Dowitcher, Clam Lagoon, Sept 8, 2013.

We still had one Parasitic Jaeger hanging around.

We are up to 39 species for the trip. Our average for previous September trips is 51, so for the first few days, this number is okay.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Sanderlings are coming! The Sanderlings are coming!

Or not…

Temp near 50, overcast, on and off (mostly off) light rain, 20-30 mph east winds swinging to NE by late afternoon.

There were few birds out on the bay and in Sweeper Cove this morning due to the high seas and strong wind.

We headed out to Lake Andrew and finally found some Mallards (usually in abundance on Adak).

Mallards, near Lake Andrew, Sept 7, 2013.

Mallards, near Lake Andrew, Sept 7, 2013.

At the Palisades Overlook, we spotted a few hundred Short-tailed Shearwaters that had blown into the bay.

At Clam Lagoon, I decided not to walk the flats and we continued around to the seawall. With very strong winds and high surf, picking out birds was not easy. We had a Horned Grebe and got a glimpse of a loon which we soon lost in the surf and never did identify to species.

An immature kittiwake caused us some momentary excitement. They are so boldly marked, compared to the adults. We often wonder why 99% of the kittiwakes we see here are adults. Where are the young birds?

There were several feeding frenzies going on with multiple species of birds joining in.

Feeding Frenzy, Glaucous-winged Gulls, Horned Puffin, Common Murre, Adak, Sept 7, 2013.

Feeding Frenzy, Glaucous-winged Gulls, Tufted Puffin, Common Murre, Adak, Sept 7, 2013.

When we came back around the lagoon, we scanned the peninsula and saw a small flock (maybe a dozen) of shorebirds. A flock this size usually indicates Sanderlings, which is a good thing. Our experience in fall has been that when a flock of Sanderlings move in, they stay awhile and tend to attract other shorebirds to join them, leading to some goodies (stints, etc).

They flew up for a few seconds and we noticed a larger shorebird mixed in. So I trudged on out to get a closer look (and photos). When I got out there, they turned out to be Western Sandpipers and one Rock Sandpiper. The most Western Sandpipers that we have ever had on Adak was two! And, according to the Birds of the Aleutians book, they only occur in twos and threes on the islands. So this was a very good record.

Western Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 7, 2013.

Western Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 7, 2013.

We studied the photos carefully when we got back and all ten were westerns–no stints (However, if anyone can say otherwise, please do).

As I was walking back towards Barb and the car, she radioed that she had a light-morph jaeger. Ninety-nine percent of all Parasitic Jaegers that occur on Adak are dark-morph. So the possibility that this was a Pomarine Jaeger instead was very high! Unfortunately, it turned out to be a Parasitic, still a nice bird, but not new for our Adak list.

Parasitic Jaeger, Clam Lagoon, Sept 7, 2013.

Parasitic Jaeger, Clam Lagoon, Sept 7, 2013.

In addition to the light-morph, there were three dark-morph jaegers. Most jaegers leave Adak by mid-September, so this was a good number.

As we were going down the hill above Navfac Ceek, a bright yellow bird zipped by and behind us. The only regularly-occurring yellow bird on Adak is Yellow Wagtail, which would be a lifer for both of us. However, an hour of searching failed to find it, so it will go down as another coulda-been…

At the Landing Lights bridge, a couple of guys flagged us down and asked for a ride down to the Sweeper Cove jetty. They were hunter/fishermen who had already bagged there Caribous and now were doing some fishing. One was from Hawaii and the other from Idaho. We dropped them off at the end of the jetty and, as we drove back, we spotted an alcid close by. It was an immature Tufted Puffin–much more cooperative than the one we saw last year.

Juvenile Tufted Puffin, Sweeper Cove, Sept 7, 2013.

Juvenile Tufted Puffin, Sweeper Cove, Sept 7, 2013.

So, not a bad day.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Temperature around 50, mostly sunny, light south wind.

Our first full day of birding on Adak was nice for shorebirds.

Our first of the day were three Black Oystercatchers in Sweeper Cove. Then we had a half-dozen Rock Sandpipers in Sweeper Channel.

Rock Sandpiper, Sweeper Channel, Sept 6, 2013.

Rock Sandpiper, Sweeper Channel, Sept 6, 2013.

After getting some additional food shopping done, we headed up to Contractor’s Marsh, where I started to walk across the marsh. No sooner had I gone a bit, Barb flushed three shorebirds from the side of the road. When she circled back to find them, she saw a fine Sharp-tailed Sandpiper sitting right out in the open. I caught up to her and tried to get a photo, but it flushed, along with several others, and as it circled, more joined the flock, eventually totaling twelve. They were mostly Pectoral Sandpipers, but a few were Sharptails.

We continued up to Clam Lagoon, where I walked the edge of the marsh and then the peninsula. In the marsh, I flushed at least a dozen Pectoral Sandpipers, six Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, a possible Baird’s Sandpiper, and two Long-billed Dowitchers. There were no shorebirds out on the peninsula, but there was a nice flock of Red-breasted Mergansers (albeit in winter plumage).

Red-breasted Mergansers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 6, 2013

Red-breasted Mergansers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 6, 2013

We could not find the geese that we saw last night, but we did see the Peregrine several times and at least one Parasitic Jaeger.

Along the way, a Raven posed nicely for us.

Common Raven, Adak, Sept 6, 2013.

Common Raven, Adak, Sept 6, 2013.

As we rounded the northeast corner of Clam Lagoon, we always check a stony section where several years ago we had a nice flock of Ruddy Turnstones — usually to no avail. Well this trip was different. A flock of 15 were there.

Along the seawall, traditionally the best place to find shorebirds is on beds of kelp washed up on shore. Today, the only kelp was confined to about a hundred-yard stretch, which made it easy to look for these elusive critters.

As we came upon the kelp bed, Barb spotted two Pacific Golden-Plovers.

Pacific Golden-Plover, Clam Lagoon Seawall, Sept 6, 2013

Pacific Golden-Plover, Clam Lagoon Seawall, Sept 6, 2013

We then saw several Rock Sandpipers and, shortly thereafter, several more turnstones.

Since it was a good visibility day and the wind was swinging around to the east, we scanned the horizon for Short-tailed Shearwaters and saw bunches of them streaming by. They are usually seen with scopes only, but today we saw several well within binocular range — which was a treat.

As we continued south along the seawall, I spotted two terns flying directly overhead. However, by the time we were able to jump out of the car to try to get a better look at them, all we saw was the north end of a horse going south! By all accounts, they were probably Arctic Terns, as there are no records of Aleutian Terns this late in the season, but Arctics have been recorded up to September 30.

Throughout the day, hundreds of Lapland Longspurs flew down the road in front of us and dozens of Song Sparrows flew along the side of the road or serenaded us from the tops of Cow Parsnips.

Not much in the way of waterfowl, as their migration has not yet gotten into full swing.

More tomorrow…

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Our flights on Wednesday from Philly to Seattle and Anchorage were early and less than half-full. A stark contrast to the overbooked flights last May.

We arrived in Anchorage at midnight, got some sleep, got a little birding in this morning, did our food shopping, packed and headed to the airport.

We birded Potter Marsh, which was surprisingly devoid of birdlife. This Long-billed Dowitcher was the highlight.

Long-billed Dowitcher, Potter Marsh, Anchorage, Sept 5, 2013

Long-billed Dowitcher, Potter Marsh, Anchorage, Sept 5, 2013

We arrived on Adak early and were pleasantly surprised to see that someone had finally repaired the welcome sign (the left third of the sign was missing ever since we started going to Adak in 2005).

New airport sign, Sept 5, 2013

New airport sign, Sept 5, 2013

After unpacking, we made a quick trip up to Clam Lagoon. The only birds of note were a pair of Emperor Geese and a Peregrine Falcon. It was nice to see a Peregrine, as we missed it on our May trip.

Up at the “Blue Building”, we found a carcass of undetermined species. Our guess is a murrelet. We will let you know once some experts chime in.

Bird carcass, Clam Lagoon, Sept 5, 2013

Bird carcass, Clam Lagoon, Sept 5, 2013

Bird carcass, Clam Lagoon, Sept 5, 2013

Bird carcass, Clam Lagoon, Sept 5, 2013

We are dead tired and are going to bed with dreams of Pratincoles and Falcated Teals dancing in our heads…