Tuesday, Sept 27, 2011

Well, the trip started with a bang, but ended with a whimper.

But this is why we always spend two weeks. Sometimes the second week is the better, sometimes the middle of the trip, and sometimes the beginning. You never can predict what the weather will do (or bring).

I mentioned in an earlier post the flash of the white wings of the Rock Ptarmigan. Here is a photo of that, albeit from the rear…

Rock Ptarmigans, Clam Lagoon, 9/25/2011

As we took off, I got a few new photos of Clam Lagoon. In this photo, Clam lagoon is in the center with the flats at the left. You can see the peninsula (center left). Lake Shirley is top right (in the sunshine). The seawall extends through the top right quadrant.

Clam Lagoon, 9/25/2011

We got home a little late. The Chicago-Philly flight was delayed about 45 minutes and there was traffic backed up on the “Blue Route” which stretched out the drive home by an extra half-hour or so.

We hope you enjoyed this blog of our trip. We hope to do it again.

Overall, it was a good trip. We’ll be back…

Saturday, Sept 24, 2011

East winds all night raised hopes for something new. The day dawned cloudy, but quickly gave way to mostly sunny skies.

Although we did not get any new birds today, we did get some good photos.

We had another Vega Gull. This one a first-year bird.

Vega Gull, Clam Lagoon, 9/24/2011

The Sharp-tailed Sandpipers in the Clam Lagoon marsh have been uncooperative up til now. However, today they didn’t mind Frank’s presence and he got a few good shots, including a photo of a Pectoral and Sharp-tailed together!

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, 9/24/2011

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, 9/24/2011

Pectoral Sandpiper (left) and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, 9/24/2011

The verdict is still out on Isaac’s mystery shorebird. However, we don’t think it is a Broad-billed. It could be just another Dunlin, as they are highly variable in bill shape and length (however, we are certainly no experts!).

The trip list stands at 56.

We will be leaving Adak at 6 pm Sunday and be on airplanes and in airports for the next 16 hours or so, arriving in Philly around 2:15 pm Monday (we hope).

We will not be updating the blog until Monday evening (if awake). We hope it has news of a good last-day bird!

Friday, Sept 23, 2011

A change in the weather!

Today was overcast, rainy, and winds from the southeast to east.

The only new trip bird was White-winged Scoter. However, waterfowl continue to increase. We are now up to ten Eurasian Wigeon and more Mallards and Pintail have shown up.

The salmon run is about over. A few live fish can still be seen in the streams, but most are dead and the shorelines are littered with fishbones left by the Ravens, Eagles, and Gulls. Here is a flock of ravens at one of the creek outlets on Clam Lagoon waiting for the remaining salmon.

Ravens and Bald Eagle (perched) waiting for salmon, Clam Lagoon, 9/23/2011

Isaac had Sanderlings, a Dunlin, and an unidentified shorebird for a brief period at Clam Lagoon his afternoon (while we were in town getting gas!). He thinks it possibly could be a Broad-billed Sandpiper, but he was unable to get close and his photos of it are poor at best. He sent the photos to some shorebird experts. So the verdict is not yet in. We will certainly be scouring the flats tomorrow!

Here is a combination you don’t see every day…

Bald Eagle being serenaded by Aleutian Song Sparrow, Lake Andrew, 9/23/2011

And for the over-sixty crowd…

Want to see my flounder?

Thursday, Sept 22, 2011

Still nice sunny weather!

We are still waiting for some more Asian visitors. This nice weather just doesn’t cut it.

We mentioned the Rock Ptarmigans in an earlier post. We are now seeing them every day.

Rock Ptarmigan, USMC Memorial, 9/22/2011

The highlight of the day was a most-cooperative Gyrfalcon. Although he flushed from the post on which he was sitting when I got out of the car to try to get a photo, he obligingly circled back and cruised leisurely overhead, affording the following pics (it was hard to pick just one!).

Gyrfalcon, Shotgun Lake, 9/22/2011

Gyrfalcon, Shotgun Lake, 9/22/2011

Gyrfalcon, Shotgun Lake, 9/22/2011

Gyrfalcon, Shotgun Lake, 9/22/2011

Gyrfalcon, Shotgun Lake, 9/22/2011

Gyrfalcon, Shotgun Lake, 9/22/2011

The only shorebirds today were Oystercatchers, Turnstones, and Rocks.

Trip list is at 54.

PS: When we recounted the first week’s summary, we forgot to mention that Frank had two lifers, not just one; Black-footed Albatross. How soon we forget…

Wednesday, Sept 21, 2011

Partly sunny and light winds.

More waterfowl are moving in. We had more Pintails, Eurasian Wigeon, and Black Scoters. Had our first Shovelers of the trip. Also, three more Emperor Geese.

Emperor Geese, Clam Lagoon, 9/21/2011

Shorebirds are scarce and no “funny-looking” passerines. Only three-and-a-half days to go.

Waiting for the next wave…


Tuesday, Sept 20, 2011

Bright and sunny, light wind.

No lifers, but added a few trip birds. The first Eurasian Wigeon of the season and a flock of Emperor Geese (also first of the season).

Emperor Geese, Clam Lagoon Seawall, 9/20/2011

A Pectoral Sandpiper at Lake Jean, posed nicely for us.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Lake Jean, 9/20/2011

Had some more Ruddy Turnstones and Rock Sandpipers. You may be wondering why Ruddy and not Black. Although Black Turnstones nest north of the Aleutians in Alaska, there are only two records for the entire Aleutian chain! I guess they don’t like crossing the Bering Sea.

Ruddy Turnstones and Rock Sandpiper, Landing Lights Beach, 9/20/2011

And last, but certainly not least, we finally had a cooperative Peregrine Falcon.

Peregrine Falcon, Sweeper Cove, 9/20/2011

Trip list is now 52.

Monday, Sept 19, 2011

Anther typical day on Adak. Intermittent showers and intermittent sun.

No new birds. Frank did not walk the lagoon today (trying to give his little toe a rest! He believes it is broken).

The highlight of the day was a flock of a dozen Rock Sandpipers on the seawall. It’s pretty grim when Rock Sandpiper is the highlight!

Rock Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon Seawall, 9/19/2011

Too bad eagles up here aren’t tame…

Bald Eagle, Clam Lagoon, 9/19/2011

Sunday, Sept 18, 2011

The first half of our trip was pretty good.

One lifer (Little Stint) and several semi-lifers. A semi-lifer is a bird that falls into one or more of the following categories:

1. Different age/sex/plumage
2. Different race/subspecies
3. Better or longer looks
4. Photos (or better photos)

The semi-lifers were:

Red-necked Stint (Age/plumage)
Common Sandpiper (Looks/better photos)
Ruff (better photos)
Vega Gull (Race/subspecies)
Slaty-backed Gull (Age/plumage)
Baird’s Sandpiper (better photos)

Today was very windy, but partly sunny. After checking Sweeper Cove and other points south, we headed up to Clam Lagoon. The only new bird there was a lone Black Scoter.

Black Scoter trying to wake up sleeping Harlequin Ducks, 9/18/2011

While going past Lake Shirley, a Peregrine swooped at a couple of Bald Eagles and Frank got a few photos of the bird.

Peregrine Falcon, Lake Shirley, 9/18/2011

With the winds out of the north, Frank walked the edge of Clam Lagoon from north to south (duh!). The Ruff and a couple of Pectoral Sandpipers were there, but there was no Stint on the peninsula.

As Frank was walking the edge, a Peregrine flew by and was promptly pursued by two Parasitic Jaegers (2 of the 3 we saw today).

Peregrine Falcon pursued by two Parasitic Jaegers, Clam Lagoon, 9/18/2011

Our trip list (Adak only) stands at 49. Our average fall total has been 59, so we are a little low with a week to go. Our best fall trip was in 2007, when we had 68!

The forecast is for north and northwest winds the next few days, so prospects are good.

Saturday, Sept 17, 2011 – Addendum

The “Japonicus” American Pipit that Isaac reported the other day turned out to be an American race after he studied his photos.

Re: the Vega Gull. Several trips ago, while at the same spot (the fish factory outflow), I was fifty yards up the shore photographing Harlequin Ducks when Barb spotted a darker-backed gull in the gull flock. By the time I got back to the car, the bird was gone and I never saw it. She was confident that it was a Vega. So this trip’s bird was new for Frank, but not for Barb.

Saturday, Sept 17, 2011

Today broke overcast, but calm.

Sweeper Cove and Kuluk Bay were like glass. It was very easy to pick out alcids, etc. on the water, but because it was so peaceful, there weren’t many.

However, we did see our first Black Oystercatcher of the trip on one of the rocky islands just off shore.

By the time we got up to Clam Lagoon in late morning, it was still calm. We spotted a shorebird nestled against the edge of the marsh, so Frank decided to walk the edge again to see what was there.

The bird turned out to be the Ruff hanging out with a Pectoral Sandpiper.

A few other shorebirds of undetermined species flushed along the way and back into the marsh.

Ruff, Clam Lagoon, 9/17/2011

As Frank got near the north end of the marsh, it began to rain, so he did not go out the peninsula to see if the stint was still there.

Along the seawall, we saw more Horned Grebes, our first Common Loon of the trip, and five Rock Sandpipers flew by (our largest count for the trip).

The bay was calm and a lot of birds were feeding there, but nothing out of the ordinary.

When we returned to town later in the afternoon, we went down to Sweeper Cove and drove over to the jetty. A lot of gulls had gathered at the fish processing plant outflow. This plant had been shut down the past few years, disappointing birders, as it attracted a lot of gulls. Well, it opened back up this summer, and a fishing boat had just arrived earlier in the afternoon and it was churning.

We studied the gulls and Barb soon picked out a darker-backed one. After a minute or two, frank finally found the one she was looking at and started taking pictures (what else?). It turned out to be a Vega Gull. This species is recognized by Europe, but is still considered a race of Herring Gull by the AOU. We’re counting it!

Vega Gull (front) with Glaucous-winged Gull, Kuluk Bay, 9/17/2011

We headed back towards the house and stopped at the Bayshore Overlook for one last glance at the bay. We spotted a large swarm of shearwaters out in the bay heading north. We quickly drove north up to Palisades Overlook, hoping to catch them nearby, but apparently they took a right and headed back out to sea! Oh well, next time.

The weather forecast is for 25-40 mph winds tonight, gusting up to 60! Hope it brings some new birds.

Friday, Sep 16, 2011

Another pleasant day on Adak, hence no new birds. We didn’t even add a trip bird!

The Red-necked Stint, Baird’s Sandpiper, and Ruff are still here, but the number of Pectorals has gone down to a few (from about a dozen).

One interesting note. Rock Ptarmigan are abundant on Adak and are seen easily as you drive around. They are out in the middle of the road or on the edges and flush, flashing their white wings. This trip, we saw one “chicken” on Sunday, and then no more until today. Isaac said they are more secretive when they have young around, but on past September trips we have seen them out in the open with a dozen young in tow (see photo on the Birding Adak link on my home page). So we thought it was highly unusual not to see but one!

Well today changed all that. We saw a couple dozen.

We have learned from our trips up here that no two visits are alike. The breeding birds in spring arrive at different times in different years and the migrants are all over the map; both in numbers and occurrence.

A good example is Wood Sandpiper. On our first trip (May 2005), we had half-a- dozen and they were tame and easily approachable. The following spring, Schutsky’s tour group (Bird Treks) had over a hundred. The following spring we had one! Subsequent trips produced none, one, and four. So what seemed from the first two spring trips to be an easy bird to get here turned out not to be.

Here’s another Red-necked Stint photo. However, this one is showing cleavage!

Red-necked Stint, 9/16/2011

Thursday, Sept 15, 2011

Bad weather, good birds. Good weather, no birds!

After three days of wind, rain, and clouds, today dawned bright, sunny, and calm. The calm changed through the day, but the bright and sunny did not.

We found fewer shorebirds today and the only rarity still here was the Red-necked Stint. We could not find either Common Sandpiper, the Ruff, or the Little Stint. Even the Red-necked’s companion Westerns were gone.

It was a nice day for taking pictures, but that was about it.

Isaac found a “Japonicus” American Pipit (we did not see it) and saw several interesting passerines flying by, but neither he nor we could find any on the ground.

So here are some pictures of common stuff.

"Aleutian" Pacific Wren, 9/15/11

Common Murres, 9/15/2011

Horned Puffin, 9/15,2011

Baird's Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, 9/15/2011

Pigeon Guillemot, 9/15/2011

Immature Glaucous-winged Gull, 9/15/2011

Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011

We’re overrun with em!

Barb’s comment upon finding our second Common Sandpiper of the day/trip!

The day started with rain and fog. Just enough to prevent us from identifying the swarm of shearwaters in Kuluk Bay. The sun came out about a half-hour later, but the shearwaters were gone.

We headed up to Contractor’s Marsh, but just as Frank started to walk it, it started to rain again and he thought better of it.

So we headed for Clam Lagoon (where else?) and Frank walked the edge of the marsh. He kicked out about a dozen shorebirds including Pectoral, Sharp-tailed, Baird’s, and a Ruff.

Baird's Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, 9/14/11

From left vto right, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Ruff, Baird's Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, 9/14/11

After the walk, we headed around to the seawall, where we relocated the Common Sandpiper and got better photos of it. We also saw a Rock Sandpiper there, our first of the trip.

Common Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon Seawall, 9/14/11

We continued around to Candlestick Bridge and back. When we got back to the western side of Clam Lagoon, Frank walked out the peninsula and found that the two Western Sandpipers and the Red-necked Stint were still there.

We went back down to town and checked Sweeper Creek channel. What did we find, but another Common Sandpiper! Hence Barb’s comment…

Isaac arrived shortly after we called him and got to see it also.

Common Sandpiper, Sweeper Creek, 9/14/11

We then headed back up to Contractor’s Marsh and Frank began to walk it. He saw a couple of Pectorals and at least one Sharp-tail and two smaller shorebirds that flew away and could not be relocated.

Also on our trip around Clam Lagoon earlier we saw the Slaty-backed Gull that Isaac had told us about.

Slaty-backed Gull, Clam Lagoon, 9/14/11

No lifers today, but still a good day all around.

Tuesday, Sept 13, 2011

Another day on Adak. Another stint!

The weather today was typical of Adak; 20-25 mph winds gusting up to 40, showers in the morning followed by steady rain in the afternoon.

By the time we got to Clam Lagoon in the afternoon, it was raining steadily and blowing hard. We were able to spot two of the Western Sandpipers and the Red-necked Stint from the road. We continued around Clam Lagoon, finding our first Ruddy Turnstones and a couple Pacific Golden Plovers. We continued on to Candlestick Bridge without noticing anything new. On the way back along the seawall, Frank saw a small shorebird fly in. It was a peep of some sort, but he was not sure what species. He started to take photos, while Barb tried to crane her neck to see through the other side of the car to see the bird. She caught a glimpse, but then the bird disappeared into the rocks.

Frank continued to scan the rocks for the peep, when what should pop up, but a Common Sandpiper! Frank yelled “Common Sandpiper” and started frantically to take photos. Barb was able to see this bird and got satisfying looks. This was our second Common Sandpiper on Adak. We had one on our first trip in May 2005, but this view (and photos) was much more satisfying.

This would be a lifer for Isaac, so Barb left me standing in the rain to keep tabs on the bird while she drove to a location where she could get cell phone reception to call Isaac. After several tries, she finally found a spot and got through to Isaac and he headed straight for our location. Of course, as soon as I got out of the car and Barb drove off, the Common Sandpiper disappeared!

Isaac arrive a short time later. While discussing the Common Sandpiper location with him, Frank showed him the photo of the peep. Isaac found it interesting, but did not commit an identification at that time. After about half an hour, Isaac relocated the Common Sandpiper and everyone was happy.

Common Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon Seawall, 9/13/2011

We returned to our house, Frank changed out of his soaking wet jeans, downloaded the photos to the computer and we tried to identify the peep. We had pretty much settled on Little Stint, when Isaac arrived and confirmed the bird, having relocated it as well!

With the sun having broken through the downpour, we hurriedly drove back up to the seawall, and after about twenty minutes, Barb spotted the Little Stint and got great looks at it (as did Frank).

Little Stint, Clam Lagoon Seawall, 9/13/11. Note the strong white "V" on the back.

Little Stint. 9/13/2011

Little Stint, 9/13/2011

This was a lifer for both of us.

We headed back to town. As we approached Palisades Overlook, we saw a new fishing vessel approaching the factory ship anchored in Kulik Bay. We stopped to look at it and saw a lot of bird activity around it. There were hundreds of shearwaters and gulls ahead of and trailing the ship. The shearwaters were mostly Short-tailed, but Barb thought she may have seen some with more white in the underwing, hinting at Sooty, but was not positive at that distance. However, Frank set up the Questar and quickly picked out a Black-footed Albatross! Another lifer for Frank and a more memorable sighting for Barb, as the lifer she had was while throwing up on a pelagic off Washington!

Not a bad day…

Monday, 9/12 Addendum

A couple of things I forgot to mention in yesterday’s report.

The Red-necked Stint was “unfortunate” because we had a breeding plumage Red-necked Stint last spring (in fact only about 50 yards from where we found yesterday’s bird!). So it wasn’t even an Adak bird for us. It was a semi-lifer though, as we had never seen a juvenile.

You can see photos of last May’s birds at:


Also, yesterday, while scanning the bay from Palisades Lookout, Frank spotted a feeding frenzy off Zeto Point. He put the scope on it and, although most of the birds were Glaucous-winged Gulls, there were a few Fulmars there as well. This was an Adak bird for Frank. Barb had seen many Fulmars off Adak on a boat trip several years earlier.

Later, while scanning from the seawall off Clam Lagoon, Frank was able to pick out hundreds of Short-tailed Shearwaters WAY out. Visible only through the scope. On easterly winds, these streams of shearwaters can be visible with binoculars and identifiable in the scope. There are usually a few Layson Albatross mixed in.

You can get a full overview of birding Adak, photos, maps, and more at our home page www.franklinhaas.com. Just click on Birding Adak.

Monday, Sept 12, 2011

Well, we got a stint today! Unfortunately, it was a Red-necked, not a Long-toed.

We birded most of the “usual” spots, seeing the expected species. Lots of young Lapland Longspurs, Aleutian Song Sparrows, Aleutian Gray-crowned Rosy Finches, Glaucous-winged Gulls, Common Teal, Mallards, etc.

The Bald Eagles, gulls, and ravens were feeding on the salmon runs which are just about over.

In mid-afternoon, Frank walked out the peninsula on Clam Lagoon and found four shorebirds; three Western Sandpipers and a dark-legged juvenile Stint. Having absolutely no experience with juvenile stints, he took a lot of photos in hopes of pinning it down later. Since it was possibly a Little Stint (a lifer), Barb trudged out to see it as well. Although we hoped it was a Little, we both felt it was probably a Red-necked. Later that afternoon, Isaac pointed out to us the salient features that confirmed our suspicions (but not desires) that it was a Red-necked.

Western Sandpiper (left) and Red-necked Stint (right), Clam Lagoon, 9/12/2011.

Note the fairly pale coverts (Little has much darker) and the lack of streaking on the breast (it is more of a wash).

Our bodies are still adjusting to the time zone difference (5 hours), so we are exhausted at 6 in the evening! We will be well-adjusted just in time to return home…

Note: the date that I put on the Three-toed Woodpecker photo should have been 9/11, not 9/10.

Sunday, Sept 11, 2011

We are here! Our flights were on time and uneventful.
On Saturday, when we got to the motel, we found that one of our bags (which we had shipped earlier in the week) was soaking wet! It was shipped on 9/6, just as Hurricane Lee was hitting he northeast, so it must have sat on a loading ramp at the Newark Airport in the driving rain. However, nothing was harmed, just wet.

Then Frank managed to hit his little toe on something and it got nice and big and black and blue. So we make a nice pair hobbling around looking for birds, what with Frank’s toe and Barb’s bad hip!

We birded around Anchorage Sunday morning and added two state birds to our list; Varied Thrush and Northern Three-toed Woodpecker.

Northern Three-toed Woodpecker, Anchorage, 9/10/2011

The Adak flight left on time and when we got here, Isaac informed us of a Long-toed Stint up at Clam Lagoon which he found on Saturday. Isaac is the Alaska Airlines station manager out here and a superb birder. That’s who we rent the house and jeep from.
We quickly unpacked, got semi-organized, and headed for Clam Lagoon. The bird had been seen lingering in the marsh grasses that line the western shore of the lagoon, along with a dozen Pectoral and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers.
We walked the edge of the marsh and kicked out several Pectoral and Sharp-tails, and one Long-billed Dowitcher, but no stint. We will ry again tomorrow. The Dowitcher was the first of the season apparently, as Isaac had not yet seen any

Pectoral Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Adak, 9/11/2011

Nothing else of note at this point. Hoping for better birds tomorrow.