Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Temps in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional light shower, Wind N 10-15 mph

In the 13 years that we have been coming to Adak, we had never seen an adult-plumaged Slaty-backed Gull until this past May.

Today we had two of them. The first was out on Clam Lagoon. Not very close, but close enough.

Slaty-backed Gull with Glaucous-winged gull (back), Clam Lagoon, Sept 27, 2017

Slaty-backed Gull with Glaucous-winged gull (back), Clam Lagoon, Sept 27, 2017

We initially saw it from the west side. When we got around to the east side, it was still there, but just as far out.

We headed back up to the Seawall. We had only one Sanderling there. But, at the spot where the Sanderlings were yesterday, there was a small flock of gulls — including another Slaty-backed! They flew as soon as we pulled up, but I got flight shots.

Slaty-backed Gull with Glaucous-winged Gull (top), The Seawall, Sept 27, 2017

They flew up to the Breaches, so we went up there and got some more photos.

Slaty-backed Gull with Glaucous-winged Gull (left), The Breaches, Sept 27, 2017

Slaty-backed Gull with Glaucous-winged Gull (right).The Breaches, Sept 27, 2017

That made our Trip List 56 — two better than average.

Our Year’s List remained at 94!

The most frustrating event of the day was seeing the cuckoo again! We thought it had gone, but as we were driving back from the lagoon towards the Palisades, it flew from the roadside again and down to the spruce grove as it did a few days ago. Needless to say, I couldn’t jump out of the car quick enough to get flight photos. Oh well…

This was a great trip anyway.

2 lifers — Kamchatka Leaf Warbler (a first record for Adak) and Gray-streaked Flycatcher.

Two second records for Adak – Golden-crowned Sparrow and Gray-streaked Flycatcher.

Our third Little Stint

Our second Cuckoo (of indeterminate species).

A record Year’s List.

Our trip home was uneventful.

We will be back next May.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional light shower, Winds N 10-20 mph

Not much to report. We continue in the doldrums.

The 3 Emperor Geese put in an appearance at Clam Lagoon today.

A flock of about a dozen Snow Buntings was at Sweeper Cove.

The Sanderlings continue at the Seawall — with 2 Western Sandpipers now.

Up at the Seawall, a Song Sparrow let us know who was in charge.

Song Sparrow, guess where?, Sept 26, 2017

We made the mandatory drive up to White Alice, if for nothing else, the view. A flock of 6 ravens and three Bald Eagles were enjoying the updrafts.

Bald Eagle, White Alice, Sept 26, 2017

This will be my last posting until Friday, as we leave tomorrow evening and don’t arrive home until Thursday afternoon (assuming flights go as planned…).

The Trip List – 55 and Year’s List 94 remain unchanged.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional light shower, wind NNW 10-15 mph

As we pulled in to check out the High School Spruces this morning, a flock of a half-dozen-or-so Common Redpolls flew into the far-right bunch of trees. It was raining at the time, so I didn’t get out of the truck to get closer for a photo. We tried again later, but they were gone. Year bird number 94!

At Contractor”s Camp Marsh, a Peregrine flew overhead. As I was straining to photograph it straight up, I saw small birds flying overhead as well. They were Redpolls — about 30-40 of them. I didn’t get a Redpoll photo, but I got the falcon.

Peregrine Falcon, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, Sept 25, 2017

There was one Pectoral Sandpiper there as well.

At the Seawall, I picked out a breeding-plumaged Pacific Loon — number 55 for the trip list.

Also there, the Sanderling flock (which has increased to 34) was playing with the waves as they crashed on the beach — as Sanderlings are wont to do!

Sanderlings, Seawall,, Sept 25, 2017

One Western Sandpiper was with them.

Western Sandpiper with Sanderling, Seawall, Sept 25, 2017

Up at the Breaches, I usually see a shitload of gulls perched there. Today there was just a shitload of gull shit!

The Breaches

The other day, while walking the clam Lagoon mud flats, I found these tracks.

Rat Tracks, Clam Lagoon mud flats

They were about a hundred yards out on the flats!

And — speaking of rats — I have been setting a trap for rats next to our “feeder” behind the house (caught 3 so far!) to protect our seed. Occasionally, the trap is triggered, but no catch. It had triggered last night, but I didn’t bother resetting it this morning. When we stopped back at the house late this morning, I found this creature savoring the remaining peanut butter!

Slug on rat trap

No Emperor Geese or Cuckoo today.

Our trip list is 55, one above average, but high in quality.

Our Year’s List is 94.

A day-and-a-half to go…

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Another long-tailed raptor, but is it a lifer?

Temps in the 40s, partly sunny, occasional drizzle, wind N 10-15 mph

At Contractor’s Camp Marsh, the gimpy Pacific Golden-Plover was still hanging around.

Nothing new at any of the willows or spruces.

We approached the cuckoo area very slowly today in hopes we could spot it before it flew away again. No dice. Another hundred yards down from where we saw it yesterday, it sprang from the side of the road and disappeared once more — in spite of a lot of searching.

We will try again tomorrow.

Nothing obvious out on the Clam Lagoon Flats.

As we drove up to Shotgun Lake, a harrier popped out from the side of the road. Unlike last time, I was able to get photos before it disappeared over a ridge. The AOU just recently recognized Northern Harrier as a separate species from the Hen Harrier of Eurasia. So we need to be sure which species this is. It appears to be a Northern Harrier, but we will need further study to be sure. The first harrier we had in 2009 was a North American bird. The second one we had flew away too quickly to be either studied or photographed.

Northern Harrier?, near Shotgun Lake, Sept 24, 2017.

Northern Harrier?, near Shotgun Lake, Sept 24, 2017.

Northern Harrier?, near Shotgun Lake, Sept 24, 2017.

Northern Harrier?, near Shotgun Lake, Sept 24, 2017.

Northern Harrier?, near Shotgun Lake, Sept 24, 2017.

On the other side of Clam Lagoon, there were still 3 Emperor Geese and 30 Sanderlings.

Lake Ronnie had a large flock of waterfowl, mostly Mallards, with some Eurasian Wigeon, Greater Scaup, Common Teal, Northern Pintails, and Red-breasted Mergansers.

Back at Clam Lagoon, I walked out the Peninsula and saw that the Sanderlings had moved to the point. However, they flew before I could see if any of our peeps were with them.

I am getting better at getting flight shots of birds. Here is a sampling from today’s Clam Lagoon marsh edge walk.

Wilson’s Snipe, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Wilson’s Snipe, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Pectoral Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Pectoral Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

We did not see the Little Stint today. We have not seen a jaeger since Tuesday, the 19th.

Still no dowitcher or turnstone.

Our trip list is 53. Our Year’s List is 93!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Cuckoo redux…

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, Wind N 10-15 mph

No new birds today, but the Gyrfalcon that we saw 10 days ago finally made a reappearance.

Gyrfalcon, Adak, September 23, 2017

Gyrfalcon, Adak, September 23, 2017

Gyrfalcon, Adak, September 23, 2017

On our way up to Clam Lagoon, we ran into (not literally!) the cuckoo again just north of where we had it two days ago. Again, it flew across the road, down the embankment and then over to a stand of spruces about 500 feet off the road. No chance for photos. I — like a ninny — decided to walk(?), hike(?), trudge(?) over there in order to get those diagnostic flight photos everyone wants.

So I trudged over there through waist-high vegetation, absolutely uneven under-footing, and hidden streams. As I got to the spruces, the bird flew out and disappeared up a ravine. I could hardly get my footing, let alone raise my camera fast enough to get photos!

I decided my legs would give out long before the cuckoo’s wings would, so I gave up the chase.

The good news is it is still here and hanging around the road. We will try a stealthier approach tomorrow.

In other news…

The Emperor Goose flock remains at 3. The Sanderling flock remains at 30 and they were actually feeding along the Seawall today. The surf and wind direction have changed enough to make the Seawall more shorebird-friendly.

Later in the evening, the Sanderling flock was out on the Clam Lagoon Peninsula, along with the four Western Sandpipers and the Little Stint.

There are a lot of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches coming to the three feeder areas, but nothing else so far.

Still no dowitcher or turnstones…

But the most important news of the day was Penn State’s come-from-behind, last-second victory over Iowa!!!!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Temps in the 40s, overcast morning turning to partly sunny late in the day, Wind N 10-20 mph.

We have never had a September trip without Black Oystercatcher, but it took ten days to finally catch up with one — actually six today.

The other big misses so far are Ruddy Turnstone and Long-billed Dowitcher. We have had them on every September trip. But, so far, they have eluded us.

Here is the obligatory Bald Eagle photo for the trip.

Bald Eagle, NavFac Beach, Sept 22, 2017

There was still one Pacific Golden-Plover at Contractor’s Camp Marsh.

I walked the Clam Lagoon marsh today and had several Sharp-tailed and Pectoral sandpipers.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 22, 2017

Along the edge, there are always tracks from the flock of Common Teal that feed there every day (mostly in late afternoon).

Common Teal tracks. Note how different they are from the American Green-winged Teal tracks you are more familiar with…

Since we have been here, we have seen Red-breasted Mergansers in only small flocks. Usually, we see much larger numbers this time of year. Well we found them today in the bay north of Candlestick Bridge where a few hundred were hanging out.

The Emperor Goose number stands at three. And there was a flock of 30 Sanderlings on the flats today.

When we came back round to the West Viewpoint, again we saw peeps out towards the peninsula, so out I trudged out to determine what they were. They turned out to be 4 Western Sandpipers and our Little Stint. One of the Westerns had an extraordinarily long schnoz…

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 22, 2017

More tomorrow…

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Temp in the 50s, drizzle on and off all day, occasional sunshine, wind N 10-20 mph

Since this was the anniversary of our (FIRST NORTH AMERICAN RECORD!!) Eurasian Sparrowhawk, we assumed we would get another…

Well, we got another long-tailed, short-winged lifer, but it wasn’t an accipiter.

On our way up to Clam Lagoon, as we crested the hill leading down to the Palisades Overlook, a medium-sized bird flew across the road, perched briefly on the guardrail, and then dropped into the ravine next to the road. We inched the truck forward and Barb spotted the bird sitting on a rock and quickly identified it as a cuckoo!

I jumped out and got a few photos before it flew across the road and disappeared over the cliff edge.

Cuckoo (Oriental — we hope!), Palisades Overlook, Sept 21, 2017

Our best guess at this point is an Oriental Cuckoo (most common in the Fall on the Aleutians — although the one we had in the Fall of 2009 was a Common Cuckoo). We are consulting others about its identity.

Before we got there, at Sweeper Cove, we had a Horned Grebe. Most of the grebes we see here are up at the Seawall, so this was unusual (for us).

At Contractor’s Camp Marsh we still had two Pacific-Golden Plovers.

Up at Clam Lagoon, we stopped at the West Overlook and Barb spotted a flock of shorebirds flying across the lagoon. They landed out on the Peninsula. We could see that there were 4 Sanderlings and 6 peeps, so I walked out there to get a closer look.

Five of the peeps flew off and the remaining one was a Western.

Sanderlings, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Just after I got back to the truck, the remaining 5 peeps flew in and landed just a short distance out on the flats. They were 4 Western Sandpipers and the Little Stint. We also saw a Pectoral Sandpiper nearby. I did not walk the marsh edge today.

There was nothing new at the Seawall. The surf was raging, making seeing anything beyond the crashing waves difficult. Also, the ocean spray was almost directly in our faces, so our binos and scope quickly became useless.  On the east side of the lagoon, we saw that the flock(?) of Emperor Geese had grown to 3!

At Candlestick Bridge, a tattered Black-legged Kittiwake didn’t seem to care that I was standing there, He was more interested in fishing.

Black-legged Kittiwake, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Back up at the north end of the lagoon, the kittiwakes were in for a bath.

Black-legged Kittiwakes (and a few Glaucous-winged Gulls, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Black-legged Kittiwakes (and a few Glaucous-winged Gulls, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Regardless of the cuckoo identification, our Year’s List stands at 92.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Temp in the 50s, drizzle in the morning, partly sunny late afternoon, wind NE 10-15 mph

Today’s excitement started early. After birding the usual places around town, we headed up to the Warbler Willows. I walked over and spotted a sparrow! I called to Barb and she came over and saw it as well. It was an immature Golden-crowned Sparrow!

Golden-crowned Sparrow, Warbler Willows, Sept 20, 2017

As far as we know, this is only the second record for Adak. Not a lifer, but an Adak bird for us and an Adak Year Bird for us. This set a Year’s List record for us — 91.

Up at Clam Lagoon, I spotted what looked like an Emperor Goose out on the flats, but closer inspection revealed two! They were both each standing on one leg…

Emperor Geese (pretending to be one), Clam Lagoon, Sept 20, 2017

As we were driving around, we noticed that the number of longspurs seemed to have dropped. They are finally starting to move out.

At the Seawall, there were at least a dozen Horned Grebes and 4 Red-necked Grebes. Also, the numbers of Common Murres were way up — over a hundred — when earlier in the trip we were seeing only a few at a time.

When we got back around to the west shore, I walked the peninsula and marsh edge. There was nothing out on the peninsula, but as I walked the marsh edge, three Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and a peep flushed in front of me. They landed not far ahead of me, so I approached slowly. I got good looks at two of the Sharp-tails, but could not see the peep.

They then flushed again, but this time were joined by many other Sharp-tails, Pectorals?, and peeps! There were about 15 birds in all. They flew back and forth and around, and I was able to get some flight shots. I don’t know what the peeps were, most likely the Western Sandpipers we’ve had the last few days, but I will study them more and ask others to look at them to see if we can figure them out. Here are a couple of the photos.

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Little Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 20, 2017

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 20, 2017

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Western Sandpipers and Little Stint(center bird), Clam Lagoon, Sept 20, 2017

When we got back near town, we decided to watch the plane arrive. However, a fog bank rolled in just before it was due. When the runway lights came on, we new it was near, even though we couldn’t see it.

We then heard it approaching — from the west! — and as it neared the runway (still not visible), it accelerated and aborted the landing. It flew off beyond our hearing, but the emergency vehicle stayed out by the runway and the lights remained on — until they didn’t!

The emergency vehicle drove up to the other end of the runway, so we figured the jet was in a holding pattern, waiting for visibility to improve. It did. After about 15 minutes, the fog lifted enough that we could see Zeto Point again, the runway lights came back on and the plane came in and landed. Late, but safe.

One week down, one to go.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Temp near 50, Mostly sunny, but overcast by mid-day, and showers by late afternoon, wind NE 15-25 mph increasing to 20-30 by late afternoon.

Nothing notable this morning until we got to Contractor’s Camp Marsh and found the Pacific Golden-Plover with the broken leg had at least made it a few miles south.

At the Landing Lights Jetty, a flock of 6 Rock Sandpipers put in their first appearance for our trip.

Rock Sandpiper, Landing Lights Jetty, Sept 19, 2017

At Clam Lagoon, I walked the marsh edge and had a cooperative Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 19, 2017

I also had a Pectoral Sandpiper.

As I neared the northern end — where Barb was parked — Barb notified me that there were three peeps on the flats ahead of me. They were still too far for photos, so I walked slowly in their direction. A fourth peep joined them.

I got distant photos before they flew off. They were three Western Sandpipers and the Little Stint.

At the Seawall, we had a Red-necked Grebe and lots of Short-tailed Shearwaters way off shore — no albatross, yet.

On the east Side of Clam Lagoon, we saw a flock of 6 medium-sized shorebirds flying. Fortunately, they flew towards us and landed just a short way up the edge, in the lee of the roadside. They were Pacific Golden-Plovers — 5 in juvenile plumage and one similar to the broken-legged one we had earlier (but with two good legs).

Pacific Golden-Plover, Clam Lagoon, Sept 19, 2017

We also saw a flock of about two dozen Sanderlings flying around the lagoon, but wouldn’t put down.

After dinner, we went back up to Clam Lagoon to see if anything new was brought in by the changing weather. We had no new birds, but the peeps were back at the same location as earlier — missing one Western. As we were watching them actively feeding, they suddenly stopped, looked alert, and crouched down. A Peregrine sailed by, apparently not noticing them — but they surely saw him!

Our trip list is 49, just 5 shy of our average September list.

Monday, September 18, 2017

It’s a tie!

Temp in the 50s, mostly sunny, Wind NE at 5-10 mph.

The morning birding was uneventful at the usual places. No new birds at any of the willows or spruces. However, we are starting to get activity (Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches) at the “thrush” feeder up near Navfac Creek. This is where we had as many as 8 Hawfinch last May! We hope this will attract passing vagrants.

At Clam Lagoon, we had a flock of 8 Sanderlings way out on the flats. No other species mixed in.

We drove out to the Loran Station, but did not add any new birds out there.

At the Seawall, we still had a Parasitic Jaeger joining in on the various gull feeding-frenzies. And I saw one lone Short-tailed Shearwater fly by.

Back on the western side, we had another Peregrine fly by. This one was in much better shape than the ragged one we had out at Lake Andrew yesterday.

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon, Sept 18, 2017

When we got down to the west side of the flats, I spotted three shorebirds feeding out from the marsh edge. They were two peeps and a plover.

The plover was a Pacific Golden-Plover with a broken leg.

Pacific Golden-Plover (with broken leg), Clam Lagoon, Sept 18, 2017

I had to walk out and circle around the peeps to get better lighting to tell what they were (and for photos). Luckily, they were not frightened by my presence and allowed me to get close enough to identify and photograph them

They were a Western Sandpiper and a Little Stint. They were soon joined by a second Western.

Western Sandpiper (left) and Little Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 18, 2017

Little Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 18, 2017

This is our third record of Little Stint on Adak (two photographed, all September). While Isaac was living here, he had one almost every fall.

Since I was already part-way down the marsh edge, I continued down, but only had a couple of Pectoral and Sharp-tailed sandpipers the rest of the way.

The Little Stint gives us a year’s list total of 90 — matching our previous best in 2007!

And we aren’t even through week one yet…

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Right church, wrong pew…

First a note about yesterday’s posting.

When we identified the warbler as an Arctic, we were going by the field guides on hand (all pre-2014). Unknown to us, the AOU split Arctic Warbler into three species back in 2014 — Arctic, Japanese Leaf, and Kamchatka Leaf warblers.

Study of specimens and other Arctic Warbler records from the Aleutians prior to 2014 shows that all identifiable records were Kamchatka Leaf Warblers. So ours is presumed to be as well.

However, separating these three species in the field is difficult, to say the least. Call is the best way to identify them, but ours did not call (and Barb has REALLY good hearing!).

I have put all 53 (yes, 53!) photos up on a web page at  for anyone interested at trying to establish the identity of this bird.

It is still a first for Adak (and us)!

So pre-2014, it was an Arctic Warbler (the church), today it is a Kamchatka Leaf Warbler (the pew)…

Now back to today.

Temps in the 50s, mostly cloudy, ENE wind at 10-20 mph

We had nothing new on our usual morning rounds (feeders, Sweeper Cove and Channel, Kuluk Bay, etc. However, the previous afternoon, while up at Clam Lagoon, we met the captain and a Fish and Wildlife inspector from the Early Dawn — a crab boat currently in port. The captain offered us some fresh brown crab, just stop by the boat!

So, this morning, we stopped by and they not only gave us some crab, they cooked it for us, too! So our dinner was set.

We headed up to the Warbler Willows and Adak National Forest, and except for Pacific Wrens, had no birds.

At Clam Lagoon, I walked the marsh edge and peninsula and had 2 sharp-tailed Sandpipers and 1 Pectoral.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, September 17, 2017

Barb had a lingering Parasitic Jaeger.

We headed over to the east shore of Lake Andrew. I got out and walked down to check the small ponds and two small clumps of spruces. As I was walking along, a bird flew overhead with the wings in a dihedral! At home this would be a Turkey Vulture! Then I thought of Northern Harrier! It was just a Short-eared Owl in a glide. Once it started flapping, it was obvious. It just shows how your mind works when you are not on your home turf…

Short-eared Owl, Lake Andrew, September 17, 2017

The owl was shortly joined by a Peregrine Falcon in order to perform some aerial ballet! The owl disappeared around the bend, but the Peregrine came back and flew around us before landing on a log at the water’s edge.

Short-eared Owl, Lake Andrew, September 17, 2017

Short-eared Owl (left) and Peregrine Falcon, Lake Andrew, September 17, 2017

Peregrine Falcon, Lake Andrew, September 17, 2017

Peregrine Falcon, Lake Andrew, September 17, 2017

As I continued on, a snipe flushed from almost under my feet and quickly disappeared into thick growth about a hundred yards away. I tried to find it again, but could not. So it is a snipe sp.

At the Seawall, Barb saw some Short-tailed Shearwaters. On the east side of Clam Lagoon, we spotted our first Emperor Goose for the trip. We also saw 6 small shorebirds flying across the lagoon heading northeast. They were too far away for us to identify them.

Back up at the Seawall, we had another feeding frenzy and, again, found a Pomarine Jaeger in the fray.

We saw at least three Peregrines today, and maybe four.

Our year’s list is now 89. One to go to tie our previous high.

The weather is forecast to be easterly winds for several days. Not the best for vagrants, but you never know!

PS: for those of you who have visited Adak, you will be puzzled to know that the Bay 5 restaurant is “closed for the season!” What season? We have no idea…

Where are we, the Hamptons?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

They just keep coming…

First a note about this post.

When we made this post on Saturday, we called the warbler below an Arctic. We did not realize that Arctic Warbler had been split several years ago into three species (see Sunday’s post). So if you read this post before Sunday, it said Arctic Warbler. I have edited t to now read “Kamchatka Leaf Warbler.”

Temps in the 50s, partly sunny, moderate WSW winds.

We lost internet access around 7:30 pm Friday and didn’t get it back until this afternoon. So if you missed Friday’s post, be sure to read it below.

Since it was relatively calm this morning, we decided to head straight to the Warbler Willows to see what might have arrived overnight. Unfortunately, although viewing was ideal, we did not find any new birds.

So we headed over to Adak National Forest. As we pulled up, Barb spotted a bird and said it was not the flycatcher, but was a small bird with a strong eyeline. I got on it and it appeared to be an Arctic Warbler — which would be a first for Adak! However, we know the pitfalls of identifying Asian warblers, so we took a lot of photos. The photos sure looked like an Arctic. We continued on our way and did some other birding (see below) and returned to ANF later in the afternoon. The bird was still there and was more cooperative. I got so many good photos, I couldn’t pare it down to less than these.

Later, when we got back to the house, we checked all of the references and compared it with online photos (and with help from Isaac!) and confirmed our initial identification was incorrect. Instead it was a Kamchatka Leaf Warbler (which was split from Arctic Warbler a few years ago) — a first for Adak!

And our second lifer for the trip.

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (Morning)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon, in the shade)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon, in the shade)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon, in the shade)

In between warbler-watching, we checked the High School Willows. No birds in the willows, but we had a flock of 79 Cackling Geese flying overhead.

Cackling Geese, over the High School Willows, Sept 16, 2017

We went down to Finger Creek and had a Snow Bunting at the quarry along the way. The salmon were running heavy.

At Clam Lagoon, a Parasitic Jaeger was still lingering. There were no shorebirds out on the peninsula and I did not walk the marsh edge today.

At the Seawall, we spotted another feeding frenzy fairly far out, and I was able to identify several Northern Fulmars in the mix. But no other pelagics.

Our year’s list is at 97.

Four days, two lifers. Not bad…

Friday, September 15, 2017

A nice day…

NOTE: We lost internet access around 7:30 pm Friday and didn’t get it back until Saturday afternoon, so this posting is late.

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, Wind WSW switching to WNW 20-30 mph.

We went over to the Seal Drive feeder to put out seed and discovered, to our dismay, that some moron cut down the smaller of the two spruces that were there! Presumably for a Christmas tree! There are probably fewer that a hundred trees on Adak. How thoughtless!!

We checked Sweeper Cove, then got gas (still a bargain at only $6.49/gal!). As we left the gas station, we had a Gyrfalcon fly by.

We headed up to the Warbler Willows. The willows were swaying and bouncing strongly in the wind, so no bird dared show itself, except one brave Pacific Wren.

At the Adak National Forest (about 30 of the aforementioned trees) we had a Pacific Wren, I also saw another bird disappear into the forest, but I thought it was just another wren. It did not reappear.

I walked the Elfin Forest. No birds.

At Clam Lagoon, I walked the marsh edge, finding only a couple of Pectoral Sandpipers and a peep which flew away too fast for me to identify.

Pectoral Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 15, 2017

We did not see anything different at the Seawall. Lake Shirley produced our first Greater Scaups of the trip! Were are they all? Lake Ronnie also had two more.

On the east side of the lagoon – out towards the middle – we spotted a flock of 12 Sanderlings. We could not pick out any other species mixed in.

Back up at the Seawall, things were picking up. At the southern end, Barb saw some feeding frenzies further up, so we drove up and started scanning the flocks of gulls and alcids.

We soon discovered the source was a whale. We only got brief views (as is typical for us up here!), but our best guess is a Minke Whale.

While scanning the flocks, I picked up a Pomarine Jaeger, quickly followed by a Parasitic! This is only our second Pomarine that we have seen out here (our first was this spring).

We then saw three White-winged Scoters to add to the trip list.

When we were finished scanning the action, we continued up the Seawall and spotted a loon. At first, the pale bill made us think it was a Yellow-billed, but we quickly came to our senses and correctly identified it as a Common.

Common Loon, Seawall, Sept 15, 2017

When we got back around to the eastern side, I walked out the peninsula, hoping to find the Sanderlings – and possibly some friends…

No go.

So I decided to walk the marsh edge again. This time, in addition to the three Pectoral Sandipers, I also had a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. I also finally got a look at the peep that flew away earlier (at least I assume it was the same bird), and it turned out to be only a Western Sandpiper.

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 15, 2017

We headed back south and stopped again at the Adak National Forest. Barb spotted a bird sitting on the willows and said it was our flycatcher from the other day. Indeed it was. The ANF is less than a mile (as the flycatcher flies…) from the Warbler Willows. It was more cooperative this time and I got better photos.

Gray-streaked Flycatcher, Adak National Forest, Sept 15, 2017

Gray-streaked Flycatcher, Adak National Forest, Sept 15, 2017

The only other birds of note today were three more Greater Scaup on Lake Leone – which is next to the quarry south of Sweeper Cove. We rarely see any waterfowl there at all.

In 2007, we had a total of 90 species for our Adak Year’s List. Since we had 81 this past May, we were hoping to possibly exceed that. However, one advantage in 2007 was having a boat available to go out for the auklets – 5 species of them! So getting to that magic number this year will be difficult — but not impossible. So far, we have added five species for the year – Pectoral Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Sanderling, and Gray-streaked Flycatcher. So we are already at 86!

Keep those westerlies blowing!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Rain, rain, rain…

Temp in the 50s, rain in the morning becoming drizzle by mid-afternoon, wind SE 20-40 mph.

The power outage last night lasted until 12:30 am and many houses still don’t have power today. The phone system also crashed, but the internet came back up this morning.

The rain (heavy) started last night around 9 pm and was heavy until early afternoon, when it lessened to drizzle, and then on-and-off light showers. The rain (and wind!) made birding most of the day very difficult.

Down near Sweeper Cove, we came upon this trio of Northern Pintails taking refuge from the wind in this roadside puddle.

Northern Pintails, near Sweeper Cove, Sept 14, 2017.

We found our first shorebird of the trip, a Pectoral Sandpiper, at Contractor’s Camp Marsh.

There were no shorebirds on the Clam Lagoon flats and none out on the peninsula. I will be walking the Clam Lagoon marsh edge tomorrow.

We added the usual suspects to the trip list — puffins, murrelets, murres, cormorants, etc., plus a late Parasitic Jaeger and a pair of Black Scoters.

At the Seawall, a lot of Black-legged Kittiwakes were hanging out, with one particularly perturbed at the Glaucous-winged Gull invading its space!

Black-legged Kittiwake with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Seawall, Sept 14, 2017.

And others just hanging out.

Black-legged Kittiwakes, Seawall, Sept 14, 2017.

We couldn’t find any new birds at Warbler Willows today, but conditions were less than ideal.

There is a fishing ship in Kuluk Bay, but it appears to be idle, as even the gulls are ignoring it. And no fishing boats were in the docks at the fish-processing plant. So no new gulls for now.

The next few days’ forecast is for westerly winds — ideal for vagrants.

We will be looking…

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Nice start!

Our flights to Anchorage were uneventful.

After doing our food shopping, we went out and did a little birding, but didn’t find anything unusual.

This morning we headed up to Arctic Valley, as we always do. Since we started coming up here, we have driven up the Arctic Valley Road (which goes up to the Arctic Valley Ski Area) one of the easier roads to drive and get up to high elevation. We always make it our first priority in order to get up there before any other vehicles. The point being to find ptarmigan out on the roadsides before they get scared off.

Well, every time we have done this, one or more vehicles have beaten us to it, and we see no chickens of any kind!

Until today…

Just a mile or two up the road, we spotted a dark lump on the side of the road, which turned out to be a Spruce Grouse! Then another mile or so and we saw another one, and then farther up, another one!

Spruce Grouse, Arctic Valley Road, Anchorage, Sept 13, 2017 (Number 1)

Spruce Grouse, Arctic Valley Road, Anchorage, Sept 13, 2017 (Number 2)

Spruce Grouse, Arctic Valley Road, Anchorage, Sept 13, 2017 (Number 3)

We were really hoping for Willow Ptarmigan (the only one we don’t have), but at least we had grouse.

Once we got to the top, there were no other vehicles there – hence our success.

It was very windy in Anchorage today. The wind noise may also have helped to mask the sound of our car as we came upon the grouse. The wind made dicky-birding difficult, to say the least.

Later, we were birding along Ship Creek and Barb spotted a Greater Yellowlegs. Last year, I saw one, but Barb missed it. So now she picked up an Alaskan bird that I had on her.

Greater Yellowlegs, Old Power Plant Pond, Ship Creek, Anchorage, Sept 13, 2017

Our flight to Adak left early. In talking to the flight attendants (whom we have gotten to know over the years) we found out that the fish-processing plant on Adak was back to full time operation. They said they had been having 50-60 passengers per flight out to Adak – very unusually high. This bodes well for Adak’s economy and possibly for birders looking for gulls. The plant discharges waste into the bay and that attracts and concentrates the gulls. We will see.

The weather when we arrived was partly sunny and in the 50s. There was a moderate south wind.

After unpacking and getting our gear together, we headed up to Clam Lagoon. There was nothing special there. On the way back we decided to stop at the Warbler Willows – a practice that we have adopted since having the Wood Warbler there three years ago. We stop there at least twice-a-day in the fall.

I got out of the car and walked over to get a view of the willows and spotted a bird in the far willows that I had never seen before. I called to Barb and she came over as I was taking photos.

She saw the bird – it was sitting mostly in the open – and I then circled around to try to get closer. Unfortunately, the bird disappeared into the thicker bushes and did not reappear.

However, I did get some nice photos.

It was a Grey-streaked Flycatcher! Only the second record for Adak. The previous one was seen by Jon Pushock and Devitch Farbotnik back in 2004.

Gray-streaked Flycatcher, Warbler Willows, Adak, Sept 13, 2017

Gray-streaked Flycatcher, Warbler Willows, Adak, Sept 13, 2017

Not a bad start for the trip!

This evening, just after looking at the photos on the computer, the power went out. That was around 8, it is now 9:45. We have had power outages many times before out here, so we are not worried. And it’s not very cold, yet.

So if you are wondering why there was no posting Wednesday night, that is why.