Saturday, June 8, 2019

Temp in the 40s, Partly Sunny, Wind SE 5-10 MPH

Our final day.

Nothing new. The Hawfinch has not been seen since early yesterday. The Godwit and Brant are still here.

However, we did have a Common Snipe pose for us this morning.

Common Snipe, Contractor’s Camp Marsh. June 8, 2019

Chris Feeney is staying until the 12th, so we hope he gets some new birds. And the Adak Pelagic birders will be around after their trip (depending on weather).

We ended up with 70 species (slightly better than average).

Our strategy of coming a week later this year paid off in what was certainly not a good year. We got several Asian birds after all of the earlier groups had left — Common Greenshank, Eye-browed Thrush, Brambling, Hawfinch, Wood Sandpiper, (Siberian) Whimbrel.

And we had some unusual birds for Adak — Snow Goose, Brant, Tundra Swan, Northern Shoveler, Herring Gull (American), Bank Swallow.

A Long-tailed Duck lingering well into June was interesting, as was the Horned Grebe (of which there were only 2!).

We had only two Bar-tailed Godwits, but the earlier groups only had one!

There were a lot of snipe around this year (both Common and Wilson’s) and no one had any trouble seeing both.

On the other hand, there were very few Rock Ptarmigans.

The spring Long-billed Dowitchers were new for our spring trips (and beautiful birds, to boot).

Two Wandering Tattlers and a Thick-billed Murre were nice finds.

Our best bird however was the Bank Swallow, as that was a new Adak bird for us.

Our trip home was uneventful and we will be planning our September trip shortly. However, the military is planning on running some exercises on Adak this September and have not yet settled on a date. So we can’t plan until we know — it would not be fun to be scanning seabirds at the Seawall and have a thousand marines storming ashore!

We will let you know…

Friday, June 7, 2019

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, Wind SE 5-10 mph

A fishing boat came in this morning, so we hoped there would be stuff coming out of the Fish Factory outflow off the Sweeper Cove Breakwall, thus attracing gulls. We checked several times in the morning and later in the afternoon, but saw no activity. However, there are always a few gulls hanging around – just in case – and this morning we had two Herring Gulls (American subspecies).

Two days ago, our Ford Expedition had a flat ire, so we got a late start that morning. Today, down at Finger Bay, our vehicle failed to start! Luckily, Bill and John were there and gave me a ride up to the top of the hill where I could get a Cell Phone signal and call for assistance! Otherwise, it would have been a one-mile uphill climb! Anyway, we got another truck (lost two hours of birding time) and soldiered on.

While waiting for the calvary, I got some nice oystercatcher flight photos.

Black Oystercatcher, Finger Bay, June 7, 2019

Black Oystercatcher, Finger Bay, June 7, 2019

Puffins, all of a sudden, are showing up all over. We had several close Horned Puffins today and many Tufteds farther out.

Horned Puffin, Sweeper Cove Breakwall, June 7, 2019

We saw the Hawfinch briefly this morning, but not later in the day.

The Bar-tailed Godwit and Brant were still on Clam Lagoon, and the Long-tailed Duck was still at the Seawall.

Long-tailed Duck, Seawall, June 7, 2019

We leave tomorrow afternoon (around 5 pm) and expect to arrive home around 5 pm Sunday.

So my next posting will be Monday morning.

Jon is leaving with us, but Chris will be here until Wednesday. Also, the boat from Attu arrives tomorrow. We don’t know if any of them will remain on the island or just fly out with us. However, the three birders who arrived two days ago should be joined by other birders coming in on the flight for the pelagic trip, and they usually get a day or two to bird on the island after the boat trip. So there will be some coverage for a few days after we leave.

Our trip list stands at 69.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, wind SE 5-10 mph

A sunny, balmy day. Not exactly “good bird” weather…

A flock of Rock Sandpipers have been hanging around the Landing Lights Jetty and nearby beach. We had 16 today. Here are a few of them.

Rock Sandpiper, Landing Lights, June 6, 2019

The Brant and Hawfinch are still here, but we did not see the godwit today.

The American Wigeon continues to hang out with the Eurasians on Haven Lake.

And the Long-tailed Duck is still at the Seawall.

We hadn’t seen Buffleheads since June 1, so it was a surprise to see two today at Clam Lagoon.

Bufflehead, Clam Lagoon, June 6, 2019

As we were heading home late in the afternoon, Jon called to say he had a Wood Sandpiper. We went and saw it, but couldn’t get John and Bill on the radio. The bird was down the little road near the Power Plant. It had flushed when they drove down the road and eventually flew behind a warehouse there where there is a very tiny wet area. The very same thing happened to us a couple of years ago – same flush-spot, same end-spot — only there were 3 instead of 1 sandpiper.

Wood Sandpiper, near the Power Plant, June 6, 2019

After leaving there, we were able to finally raise Bill and John, but the bird was gone when we got back there. This was the first Wood Sandpiper in several days.

Late in the day, Jon and Chris had a King Eider and a Herring Gull at the Seawall.

Our Trip List remains at 67.

Wednesday June 5, 2019

Temp in the 40s, overcast, Wind SE 5-10 mph

The Brant, Bar-tailed Godwit, and Hawfinch are still here.

The latest record for the godwit on Adak is June 15, so we are creeping up on it. Unfortunately, we leave on the 8th and Chris leaves on the 12th, so if this bird stays beyond the 12th, we will not know.

This is the first June record for Brant on Adak, but there are a couple of June records for other Aleutian Islands (Nizki and Amchitka).

We had an American Wigeon hanging out with the Eurasian Wigeons on Haven Lake.

At the Seawall, the Long-tailed Duck was still here. There are records of this species remaining all summer. Also, 2 Pacific and one Common Loon (we had another Common Loon on Lake Leone).

Shearwaters were still flying by the Seawall at the horizon.

As mentioned in a previous post, there are fewer than normal ptarmigan around. Here is one who stood still.

Rock Ptarmigan, Adak, June 5, 2019

Rock Ptarmigan, Adak, June 5, 2019

We had three Ancient Murrelets in Sweeper Cove.

The Horned Grebe was still in Sweeper Cove. There are no Horned Grebe records for June on Adak, so this is a late date.

Up at the North Quarry, a Snow Bunting posed a second.

Snow Bunting, North Quarry, June 5, 2019

Finally, at the Seawall, we had a Thick-billed Murre. The inverted “V” neckline was visible, but it dove and emerged too far out for photos. Maybe tomorrow. They are uncommon this time of year.

Jim Deforge left today, but two more birders arrived early for the Adak Pelagic trip which starts on Saturday.

Trip List is 67.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Large waterfowl and passerines…

Temp in the 40s, overcast, occasional drizzle, Wind SE 5-10 mph

Not as many Tufted Puffins and other alcids off the Sweeper Cove jetty this morning. The feeders continue to attract Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches, but nothing else (except the Hawfinch at the Thrush Feeder).

The Snow Goose did not leave after all. It just moved to a different part of the Marsh, where we saw it this morning. This is only the third record for Adak (and we’ve seen two of them!).

Snow Goose, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, June 4, 2019

As mentioned above, the Hawfinch is still around, but the Brambling has not yet discovered a feeder.

At Clam Lagoon’s West Lookout, I spotted a Brant on the east side. We called the guys and met them on the east side, where we all got nice views. This is our second Brant record for Adak and one of only a dozen or so overall.

Brant, Clam Lagoon, June 4, 2019

Brant, Clam Lagoon, June 4, 2019

After viewing the Brant, we continued back along the Seawall and saw the (a) Long-tailed Duck again.

As we were heading back to town, the Low Tire Pressure light came on, so we headed for the house and called for assistance. I measured the tire pressure and it was on 27 – the other tires were 45. They came over, removed the tire, inflated it and looked for leaks. None were found. So they put the tire back on and we will keep an eye on it.

While we were waiting, the guys called and said a Tundra Swan was at the Airport Ponds. After getting back on the road, we went over there and saw it. By comparing the photos, we determined this was the same bird we had last seen on the 29th.

Tundra Swan, Airport Ponds, June 4, 2019

Earlier in the day, the guys told us they had a breeding-plumaged Horned Grebe down at the Marina. It wasn’t there when we checked, but they later refound it out in Sweeper Cove, where we got to see it. The one we had on the Seawall was still in winter plumage, so this makes a total of 2 for the trip.

Horned Grebe, Sweeper Cove, June 4, 2019

We then went to the Sweeper Channel. While scoping some waterfowl upstream, I spotted a swallow! We called the guys and they arrived shortly. After searching downstream, where I thought I last saw it, Barb spotted it back upstream, just where we found it before. It was quickly identified as a Bank Swallow (or Sand Martin as the Brits call it). I went and sat on the bank of the channel for a half-hour or so attempting to get identifiable photos of this VERY fast-flying little bird. After a couple hundred photos (many of them blank!), here are my best efforts.

Bank Swallow, Sweeper Channel, June 4, 2019

Bank Swallow, Sweeper Channel, June 4, 2019

Bank Swallow, Sweeper Channel, June 4, 2019

Bank Swallows are circumpolar, so this guy could have arrived here from either the east or west! This as an Adak bird for us. And it is one of only a few for Adak.

Our Trip List is 66.

Keep ‘em comin’…

Monday, June 3, 2019

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, wind variable 5-15 mph

A very pleasant day on Adak. Less wind, some sun, and no rain.

Kuluk Bay was flat and calm this morning, so alcids that normally are too far off shore to see in choppy or wavy seas were visible today. We had 80+ Tufted Puffins and one Horned Puffin.

We were cruising around town this morning (looking for passerines) when Jon called us about a Snow Goose up at the Marsh. We got there shortly, and yup, there was a Snow Goose! We have only seen Snow Goose out here once before, in May, 2012. So this was a pretty good bird.

Snow Goose, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, June 3, 2019

Snow Goose, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, June 3, 2019

Snow Goose, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, June 3, 2019

It flew around a bit and then landed back in the marsh again. It was gone this afternoon. Of course, where we come from — Lancaster County, Pennsylvania — two months or so ago, we had thousands of these at the nearby Middle Creek Wildlife Management  Area. A beautiful sight, but hardly rare. It’s all relative…

After viewing the goose, we checked the Thrush Feeder and the Hawfinch was still there. By the way, the boat from Attu is due back here on the 8th and they have not seen a Hawfinch there, so they are hoping this bird hangs around! Come to Adak where the good birds are…

We started heading towards Clam Lagoon, when the guys called again to tell us they had a Brambling at Warbler Willows! It had flown off by the time we got back there, but we hope it will find one of the feeders and settle in for a few days.

While looking for the Brambling, Chris pointed out a Pacific Wren for us. These wrens can be difficult to find in the spring, unlike in the fall when young’uns are about and you are tripping over them!

The guys walked out the Peninsula and had the Bar-tailed Godwit being pursued by a Parasitic Jaeger. So I don’t know if we will see her again…

At the northwestern quadrant of the lagoon, many murrelets were enjoying the calm water. Both Marbled and Kittlitz’s were courting and calling.

Up at Lake Ronnie, I had a Lesser Scaup hanging out with the Greaters.

The Lapland Longspurs have been particularly accommodating this year for photos. In the past, they always seemed too fidgety. This year, they are standing on their posts or rocks and standing still between changing positions. Here are a few shots.

Lapland Longspur, Palisades Overlook, June 3, 2019

Lapland Longspur, Palisades Overlook, June 3, 2019

Lapland Longspur, Palisades Overlook, June 3, 2019

Lapland Longspur, Palisades Overlook, June 3, 2019

Last fall, I mentioned how I found the fall Long-billed Dowitchers in a different posture (and hence “jizz”) than spring birds. Spring birds looking more snipe/woodcock-shaped, while fall birds were tall and slender. Here is a prime example comparing this year’s birds with one from a few Septembers ago.

Long-billed Dowitchers. May 28, 2019 (left), Sept 13, 2009 (right)


Our Trip List is 62.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, occasional light drizzle/rain, Wind variable 10-15 mph

The winds are shifting. Sometimes today they were from the northwest, other times northeast, sometimes calm.

However, the birds didn’t change much.

We saw another Red-throated Loon at the Seawall and a couple of Common Loons elsewhere.

The guys had two Wandering Tattlers at the same location where we found one two days ago.

The Hawfinch is still here, as are the Whimbrels and Bar-tailed Godwit.

Bar-tailed Godwit, Clam Lagoon, June 2, 2019

Whimbrel (Siberian race), Bayshore Road Beach, June 2, 2019

Whimbrel (Siberian race), Bayshore Road Beach, June 2, 2019

These three Whimbrels are extremely flighty. Whimbrels that we have found here in the past have usually been fairly approachable. Not these guys! Just poking your head over the dunes to check the shoreline sends these guys flying. Yet, they keep sticking around…

The Lupine is beginning to bloom and I found a new flower to add to my flower photos page – Lyrate Rockcress (Arabidopsis lyrata). I found it while walking over the dunes to look at the Whimbrels!

Lupine beginning to bloom, June 2, 2019

Lyrate Rockcress (Arabidopsis lyrata), June 2, 2019

Jon had a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and a couple of Wood Sandpipers at the Marsh today. We get a lot of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers in the fall, but this my be the first spring record for Adak. Unfortunately, we did not see it.

Our bird feeder at the house consists of an old cable spool that the guys rolled over from nearby. The Rosy-Finches love it, as do the ravens. However, the ravens have now started to tear it apart to get at the seeds between the boards!

Raven damage to feeder (with a Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch looking on).

Trip List is stuck at 59.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, wind N 10-20 mph NO RAIN!

This is our first Adak trip in June since 2008. In that year, we came out on May 29 and stayed until June 12. The plan was to stay late enough so that when we got back to the mainland, we could spend a few days up at the Denali Highway looking for Arctic Warblers, Smith’s Longspur, and Willow Ptarmigan. Unfortunately, we were still too early because the warbler and longspur had not yet returned, and we did not get up early enough to find ptarmigan out on the edge of the road. So we dipped out on all three, but still had a good time and saw a lot of other Alaskan birds.

On Adak that year, we were still novices at finding “goodies”, the weather was balmy, and the only bird of note was a Northern Wheatear. However, we did have a number of notable June records for Adak – Emperor Goose, Bufflehead(1), Gadwall.

For the mandatory Bald Eagle photo for the year, I present our national emblem in all his glory!


We found that the Hawfinch had moved down the hill to the Thrush Feeder (probably because the rat at the National Forest was eating all of the bird seed!).

Hawfinch, Thrush Feeder, June 1, 2019

The Eye-browed Thrush was not seen today.

At the Warbler Willows, we did not have any warblers, but this Lapland Longspur posed nicely.

Lapland Longspur, Warbler Willows, June 1, 2019

At Lake Andrew, we had a Common Loon and another one from the Palisades Overlook.

Up at the Seawall, we finally found a lone Black-legged Kittiwake out on Goose Rocks and a lone Horned Grebe at Janet’s Cove. We normally have dozens of Red-necked Grebes and a dozen Horned Grebes here in May, but this is the only grebe we have seen so far. And the other birding groups before us did not do much better. Don’t know why…

Parasitic Jaegers are hard to photograph because they are an all-dark bird. So this pair in decent lighting was a treat.

Parasitic Jaegers, Clam Lagoon, June 1, 2019

As we were going back to town, we stopped to scan the beach near where the Whimbrels were yesterday and found one out on the beach. As we continued down the road, the other two flushed off of the sand dunes, were joined by their beach-mate and flew back up the beach.

After dinner, I went back out with Chris and Jon and we had a pair of American Wigeons in Sweeper Channel. A species we had missed so far this trip. Eurasian Wigeons are the “common” ones out here, but each year, a few Americans show up.

American Wigeon, Sweeper Channel, June 1, 2019

The Trip List is at 59.

No new lifers or Adak birds so far, but still not a bad first week.

One to go.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Temp in the 40s, overcast and rain in early morning, partly sunny in the afternoon, Wind NNW 10-15 mph

The passerines are coming! The passerines are coming!

Nothing new around town, so we headed up to Lake Andrew, where we had one of the many Red-necked Phalaropes that nest here.

Red-necked Phalarope, near Lake Andrew, May 31, 2019

We then headed towards Clam Lagoon. The guys were ahead of us at the West Lookout, getting ready to walk out the peninsula, We stopped at the Palisades Overlook and spotted an Arctic Loon. We called the guys and they came back to us and all got it. It was an Adak Bird for Jon and Jim and a year bird for Chris.

They went back and walked out the peninsula while we scanned from the South Lookout. They shortly radioed that they had an Eye-browed Thrush! We quickly got over there and I walked out there, but they had only seen it briefly and it had flown away. Oh, well…

A consolation prize was the Bar-tailed Godwit flew into a mudflat close to the road where Barb could get a great look at it.

Bar-tailed Godwit, Clam Lagoon, May 31, 2019

We continued around the lagoon, but found no new birds. As we were leaving Candlestick Bridge, the guys called o report a Hawfinch at Adak National Forest!

We continued back around the lagoon and down to the forest where we saw the Hawfinch.

Hawfinch, Adak National Forest, May 31, 2019

The sun came out this afternoon and highlighted a Common Teal nicely.

Common Teal, Sweeper Channel, May 31, 2019

After returning to the house, we got a call from the guys that the thrush had returned to the peninsula and was behaving tamely. They came down and picked me up and we walked back out and indeed the thrush walked out of the reeds and gave us nice photo-ops.

Eye-browed Thrush, Clam Lagoon, May 31, 2019

After dinner, Jon, Jim, and I went back out. Jim suggested going up Bayshore Drive to look for the Whimbrels we saw there yesterday (As if they would still be there!). Lo and behold, as we were driving up the drive, they flew by and over to the beach. Way to go, Jim!

We went up to the Forest and took another gander at the Hawfinch and called it a day.

While we were gone, Barb watched our feeder. Here are a few of the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches eating our seed.

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches on our “Feeder”, May 31, 2019

Not a bad day!

Trip List is 56.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Oystercatcher, Clam Lagoon, May 30, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Common Greenshank, Clam Lagoon, May 30, 2019

Common Greenshank, Clam Lagoon, May 30, 2019

Common Greenshank, Clam Lagoon, May 30, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wandering Tattler, North Quarry, May 30, 2019

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

Common Loon, Lake Leone, May 30, 2019

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

Wood Sandpiper, Airport Ditch, May 30, 2019

Not a bad day…

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

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

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

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

But we will keep on lookin…

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

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

Still no Asian passerines.

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

Wood Sandpiper, Airport Ditch, May 29, 2019

Here is my mandatory annual photo of a Rock Sandpiper.

Rock Sandpiper, Sweeper Channel, May 29, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No new birds today.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

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

Birds are moving!

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

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

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

The Tundra Swan is still hanging around the Marsh.

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

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

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

Arctic Tern, Clam Lagoon, May 28, 2019

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

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

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

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

There was also another Pacific Golden-Plover nearby.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

46 species and counting.

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

Monday, May 27, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arctic Terns, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2019

Arctic Terns, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2019

Aleutian Terns, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2019

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

Northern Shovelers, East Side Ponds, May 27, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still north winds…

Sunday, May 26, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wood Sandpiper, near Andrew Lake, May26, 2019.

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

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

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

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

Arctic Tern, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2019

Arctic Terns, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2019

Arctic Terns, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2019

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

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

Northern Shovelers, near Clam Lagoon, May26, 2019.

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

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

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

That only worsened my confusion — an unexpected species…

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

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

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

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

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

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

More tomorrow.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Hello from Adak!

Our flights were uneventful.

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

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

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

Gadwall, Potter Marsh, Anchorage, May 24, 2019

Gadwall, Potter Marsh, Anchorage, May 24, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

No new Alaska birds.

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

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

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

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

We are hoping for a change to southwesterlies…

More tomorrow.