Even though the winds were from the wrong direction (south) yesterday, the storm apparently put down some new birds for us.
Nothing new at the feeders, but when we went down to Sweeper Channel, we found a Gray-tailed Tattler (our fourth fall sighting).
At Clam Lagoon, more shorebirds came in since yesterday. I had two Sharp-tailed and at least ten Pectoral Sandpipers, as well as the Marsh Sandpiper.
The Sanderling flock has grown to 32.
At the Seawall, it was every man (and woman) for himself!
After dinner, I went back out and had five Pacific Golden-Plovers along the roadside near Landing Lights. Three of these birds still had remnants of breeding plumage, making them different from the birds we saw a few days ago. I didn’t get photos of those three — it was too dark!.
At the Marsh, I flushed a snipe again and, as usual, was unable to identify it or get photos.
Temp in the 40s, A ray of sunshine early, then rain all day, Wind SSW 15-30 mph
Now that’s Adak weather!
Hardly any birds today, the constant rain and howling winds saw to that.
A brief rainbow when we first ventured out this morning.
Then the rains came!
Even the birds off the Seawall who are used to stormy seas were few and far between.
The plane arrived in spite of the weather and Bob and Steve departed this evening. Although they did not see a lot of Asian rarities, they will be among the elite few who have seen Marsh Sandpiper in North America!
As usual, the first thing we do is check the Seal Drive feeder. There was nothing new, but the seed was low, so we pulled in and reseeded it. Then we continued on the road that circles behind the feeder location back towards the main road. As we turned the corner, a flock of longspurs flushed. Not unusual, but one had a big white rump! Thankfully, the flock landed in the next driveway and we got good looks at them. There were TWO Bramblings with them!
This was a Year Bird, as we missed the one that was seen by others on our spring trip.
After checking some usual spots, we headed up to Clam Lagoon, where we had arranged to meet Bob and Steve to walk the flats. When we told them about the Bramblings, they headed back to town to look for them (unfortunately, they did not succeed). So I walked the flats alone.
I had four Pectoral Sandpipers (2 flushed, 2 did not) and the Marsh Sandpiper.
Also out on the flats was a flock of eight Sanderlings.
When we got around to the Seawall, there were another two-dozen Sanderlings sitting on Cormorant Rocks.
Also at the Seawall, the Red-necked Grebe numbers jumped from 3 the past week to more than two-dozen!
Short-tailed Shearwaters were passing by out at the horizon and we had one Laysan Albatross as well.
We are seeing more Greater Scaup and Northern Pintails. Not sure if some are migrating already or they are just concentrating more where we are birding.
Finally, here is a picture of one of the Song Sparrows that always follows/leads me out as I walk out on the Clam Lagoon Peninsula.
This brings our Trip List to 53 and our Year List to 83.
We woke up to Mount Moffet topped in a dusting of snow. It was melted by mid-afternoon, but the new snow on Mount Sitkin (1800 ft higher) remained.
We went down to Finger Creek where the salmon run seems about done and smaller than usual. We didn’t find anything new there, but on the way back we found a Gyrfalcon at the Hilltop Quarry, sitting on the same pinnacle that we saw one on in June.
When we got back to town, we heard from Bob and Steve that they went to the clinic and got diagnosed with a bad sprain (NOT broken!). So he is still in pain, but relieved.
We had two Aleutian Cackling Geese fly over and land at the airport (NOT a good idea!).
At Contractors Camp Marsh, we kicked out a flock of 6 either Pectoral or Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. They flew off into the central part of the marsh. We couldn’t get a good enough look at them or get them in the camera.
Then five Pacific Golden-Plovers flew out. But they landed nearby.
I also flushed a snipe, but could not determine the species.
At least one Short-tailed Shearwater continues in Kuluk Bay.
A marine biologist, who was out here to monitor sea mammals while the Marines were playing, confirmed that we were seeing a (or several) Minke Whale(s).
Our Trip List is up to 51 (54 is average). No change to the Year List.
Temp in the 50s, mostly sunny, very occasional light shower, Winds NW 5-15 mph
We started the day giving Bob and Steve the fifty-cent tour of Adak. We didn’t find anything new, but saw the usual suspects.
We then headed up to Clam Lagoon to try again for the Marsh Sandpiper.
By the way, I didn’t mention last night that as they were walking through the marsh to get to where the sandpiper was last seen, Bob slipped on a log while trying to cross a stream and sprained/broke(?) his left ankle! However, he persevered and continued down the half-mile or so to where the ducks flushed, taking the sandpiper with them.
So, this morning, Steve and I walked out on the flats (low tide) to try to see the sandpiper and hoped that it would be in a position for Bob to see it from shore with the scope.
YES! Steve had an up-close-and-personal look and Bob got a satisfactory look with the scope.
The bird was still there when we left.
We believe this is only the ninth record for North America (and our second)!
Remarkably, the Short-tailed Shearwaters continue in Kuluk Bay – even in this sunny, balmy weather. We have never seen anything like it. They are not real close, but close enough for the photo from two days ago.
The only other bird of note today was an Oldsquaw (so sue me!), down off the Sweeper Cove breakwall. When we left here in June, there was one hanging out at the Seawall. We assume this is the same bird, as there are previous records of lone birds spending the summer here.
This brings our Trip List to 48. The Year List remains at 82.
Temp in the 40s, overcast, dry in the morning, steady rain from noon to 3 PM, then more rain after 3:45 PM!, Wind E 5-15 mph
Despite the good morning weather, we didn’t find anything new.
We did however, see the whale that has been hanging around closer up – although we did not see anymore of it than before. It was in Sweeper Cove. We saw it as we were driving out the breakwall.
We believe it is a Minke Whale. If there are any whale experts out there, please feel free to correct us.
We didn’t see any shorebirds at Contractors Camp Marsh. The rainfall before we arrived must have been way above normal, as we have never seen the marsh flooded as deep as it is now. As mentioned yesterday, the main road is under 6 inches of water. The area where we had the Spotted Redshank last year is a lake. Usually, half of this would be dry.
At Candlestick Bridge, we saw a Peregrine Falcon chasing a Kittiwake and was soon joined by a second Peregrine. The two falcons soon gave up the chase and flew off in different directions – as did the Kittiwake… We later saw a Peregrine harassing the teal flock on Clam Lagoon.
At the Seawall, there were three Emperor Geese out on Goose Rocks (for which it is named!).
Several Short-tailed Shearwaters are still hanging around. We saw several fly in front of the hovercraft as it was leaving late this afternoon (see below).
The Marsh Sandpiper is still here.
On today’s flight, Bob and Steve Bossert arrived to add two more sets of eyes to help find more birds. It was pouring rain when they arrived, but I led them up to Clam Lagoon and showed them where I last saw the sandpiper this afternoon and then left them go for it.
Being late in the afternoon, the resident flock of several hundred Common Teal (and others) were out feeding in the area of the sandpiper and apparently flushed as Bob and Steve got nearer, and took the sandpiper with them. They saw what they believe was the bird, but will try again tomorrow morning in better conditions – and without the excitable teal flock to interfere!
We had two Rock Ptarmigan today, the most we have had this trip.
There were 12 Black Scoters off the Palisades Overlook.
The Sanderling flock was on the east side of Clam Lagoon this afternoon.
The Marines are leaving. No grand invasion (bad weather — such wimps!). According to news reports, there were 3000 marines aboard that assault ship! That would have been an interesting experience to watch. As it was, there was absolutely no infringement on our birding activity while they were here.
Here are a few shots of one of the hovercrafts going out to the mothership. The amount of spray it generates all but obscures it as it gets going.
Temp in the 50s, mostly sunny, wind NW turning to SW 5-15 mph
A sunny day on Adak!
We were greeted by a sun-bathed Mount Moffet this morning.
Out on Kuluk Bay, I saw two Cackling Geese.
At the Landing Lights, there were four turnstones and three Rock Sandpipers.
There was nothing new at the Forest, Warbler Willows, or the Thrush Feeder, so we headed into Contractors Camp Marsh.
Because of the heavy rains, the main road that runs east/west through the marsh has been flooded with 6-8 inches. So we were reluctant to drive it. Instead, we drove up to the flooded part and I got out to walk up the flooded road.
Just as I started into the deepest part, two shorebirds (one large, one small) flushed from nearby and flew around the corner of an old building foundation. I walked up on the foundation and Barb drove up near it and then joined me.
When I initially saw them, I recognized the smaller bird as a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and the larger one appeared to be a Tringa. I said “Here we go again!”
However, when I got a good look at the bird, it sure looked like a Greater Yellowlegs! They were in heavy migration back home just before we left for here. We are VERY familiar with them.
Well, I was right and the bird with it was a Sharp-tailed!
The yellowlegs is only the fifth record for Adak – all in September or October. And, of course, a new Adak bird for us.
The Short-tailed Shearwaters continue to hang around in Kuluk Bay and we also had one sitting on the water and fishing near Goose Rocks on the Seawall.
At the Breaches, I had a Pacific Loon.
At the Seawall, there were still 3 Horned Grebes and 3 Red-necked Grebes, as well as a pair (male/female) of White-winged Scoters.
I walked the Clam Lagoon Peninsula and Marsh edge today, but only got three Pectoral Sandpipers for my effort. No Marsh Sandpiper.
We are finally seeing more wrens – probably due to the nice weather today.
Last night, after dinner, the sun came out, so we went up to Clam Lagoon to see if anything dropped in. Well, by the time we got up there, it started to rain again! However, we did witness a large number of waterfowl feeding up near the West Lookout. There were several hundred, mostly Common Teal, but also some Pintails and Mallards. The interesting thing is we have seen a lot of Northern Pintails since we got here, but they have all been females or young. But with this flock were several adult males! Go figure…
As I said, it was raining, the lighting was terrible, so we didn’t spend a lot of time scoping through the flock for oddballs.
Since tonight was fair and sunny, we again went up after dinner to spend some time looking through the flock for who-knows-what. However, they did not cooperate. Instead, they stayed down in the southwest corner (poor lighting and distant).
But, when we first arrived, we scanned the peninsula, and there were eight Sanderlings! We had not seen any earlier in the day.
Then, while vainly scanning the distant, backlit flock of ducks, the Marsh Sandpiper walked out of the reeds behind them. So it is still here after all!
Two more birders are arriving tomorrow, so it looks good for them.
The Marine invasion never took place. They were loading up the hovercraft for departure this evening.
Their mother-ship finally ventured near enough to shore for us to see it (but still not close).
Temp in the 40s, overcast, rain much of the day, wind N 10-15 mph
Last May, we noticed a dearth of Rock Ptarmigan. Lisa (F&WS) informed us that the berry crop was very low last winter and ptarmigan survival rates were poor. The paucity remains, as we have only seen three ptarmigan since we arrived. Normally in the fall, we frequently see family groups of 6-10 at a time! Apparently the breeding season did not go well either.
Also, there seem to be fewer Pacific Wrens around. In fall, we usually see them almost everywhere – trees, bushes, Seawall, etc., what with all of the young scattered about. But this year we have only seen a few.
There are at least two Peregrine Falcons here – one in town and at least one at Clam Lagoon (possibly two up there).
At clam Lagoon, in addition to seeing the Marsh Sandpiper again, I got a photo of just a few of the Common Teal that apparently had a successful breeding season…
At the Seawall, a couple of Stellar’s Sea Lions watched us carefully.
Short-tailed Shearwaters continue to fish in Kuluk Bay. About a dozen have been there the past few days.
As we stopped on the hill above the NavFac Beach (to see what the Marines were up to), a flock of Aleutian Cackling Geese flew over.
Today’s Marine activities included bringing a number of vehicles and supplies ashore using hovercraft.
The invasion was delayed again due to weather.
Two Septembers ago, we ran into a crab boat captain (Mark), who was very friendly, asked us what we were doing (this was out near Clam Lagoon) and told us about his crab fishing, etc. (this time of year he fishes for Brown Crab – the sweetest crab meat). After conversing awhile, he asked if we would like a couple of crab! We were going home in two days, so we couldn’t take them with us, but we said we (meaning Barb) could eat one here. So he invited us down to his boat where he cooked one up for us! We took it back to the house and Barb feasted for two days!
Last year, we missed him, but this year the Early Dawn (his boat) pulled in as we were down at Sweeper Cove looking for gulls, etc. Again, he offered us a crab. And here it is!
Again, he cooked it for us and Barb ate some for dinner tonight.
Temp in the 40s, overcast, light rain all day, wind S turning to SE 5-15 mph
With the strong NW winds the past day-and-a-half, we expected to find new birds. We did, just not rarities (but they are probably here somewhere…).
Still nothing new at the feeders, but the Thrush Feeder has a dozen rosy-finches.
At the Seawall, we saw a pair of Red-throated Loons. Only the fifth time for us out here.
The mother Red-breasted Merganser was still minding her young (singular). Here is a slightly better photo of the young bird (taken through the rain).
On the east side of Clam Lagoon we had our first Emperor Geese for the year (we missed them in May). There were four birds.
The number of Ruddy Turnstones is up this year. We are finding flocks at Landing Lights, the Seawall, and around Clam Lagoon.
I did not walk the marsh edge today, so do not know if the marsh Sandpiper is still here.
Pectoral Sandpipers are starting to show up in any roadside puddles with a little bit of vegetation. Typical in the fall.
Later in the afternoon, as we were pulling out of our driveway, a Common Raven was sitting on the back of the pickup truck next door. Did you know the Common Raven is the largest passerine in the world? And the Kamchatka subspecies (what we have out here) is the largest subspecies?
The Marine landing has been a fizzle so far. When we were up at the Blue Building Feeder, we saw one landing craft speeding towards NavFac Beach. When we got down there a few hours later, there were a dozen-or-so Marines standing around with a couple of Humvees, two fuel trucks, and a navy bulldozer working on the beach. We weren’t sure whether the dozer was repairing damage or preparing for a larger contingent tomorrow.
We will see.
It was a miserable day with the constant rain. Usually, the rains out here are intermittent, making it bearable. But every once in a while, we get one of these days…
The Trip List is 44 (54 is average) and the Year List is 80 (82 is average).
Temp in the 40s, overcast, a little sunshine by late afternoon, on and off sprinkles, Wind West at 20-40 mph
Nothing new today.
We’ve had strong NW to W winds the past 24 hours, so we expect new birds will be appearing shortly. Just not yet today…
Offshore from Sweeper Cove this morning were a few Short-tailed Shearwaters, but not much else.
We are in a stretch of extra-high tides right now, so Sweeper Creek offers no shorebird-friendly shoreline.
There were more turnstones at Landing Lights and one Rock Sandpiper.
At the Seawall and the Breaches, we had even more turnstones, rock Sandpipers, and the Sanderling flock.
The Marsh Sandpiper is still present at Clam Lagoon, but the Westerns and stint were not seen today.
From the Palisades Overlook, we watched a couple of shearwaters partake in a gull/alcid feeding frenzy where a whale of some sort was feeding. Never did get a look at the whale, just its water-churning, etc.
There were also two Parasitic Jaegers out there.
The strong winds made for stormy seas, so the naval ship in Kuluk Bay moved farther out and there were no exercises today. There is also a Coast Guard cutter here. We assume that is taking part as well.
Oh, wait – its not the Russians, just the marines… more on that later.
Temp in the 50s, overcast, light rain or drizzle until late afternoon, wind SSW 10-20 mph
I am allowed one bone-headed misidentification per trip. I hope yesterday’s was this trip’s quota!
When we initially saw what turned out to be the Marsh Sandpiper, we knew it was a Tringa, but were unsure which one. I got a bunch of photos and, upon arriving back at the house, we studied them.
Although the bird looked slim-and-trim like a Marsh, the bill gave us pause. It seemed heavier than it should be and the lower mandible had a distinct upward bend to it. Nowhere could we find a photo (not just an illustration) of a Marsh Sandpiper with a bill like that! So, fixating on the bill without studying the other plumage characteristics (such as a white supercilium behind the eye – which eliminates greenshank!) We settled on a slim Common Greenshank – maybe a young bird with a not quite developed bill.
We were met the following morning with email from several qualified observers pointing out the error of our ways. At least we got the stint right!
We hope the rest of the good birds we get will be like the Spotted Redshank from May 2018 – no confusing that sucker…
The Thrush feeder is attracting Gray-crowned Rosy-finches, but nothing at the other feeders, yet…
I did not walk Clam Lagoon today. I try to do it every other day so as not to harass the migrants that are resting and refueling. However, that cuts down on the daily list.
The near-constant precipitation cut down on the passerines, but the usual waterfowl were out and about. We had nothing different until we got to the east side of Clam Lagoon, where we found a flock of 25 Sanderlings. We didn’t have any this past spring so they were a year bird.
At Candlestick Bridge, coming out of the fog were three Short-tailed Shearwaters. We later saw them again from the Palisades Overlook.
We have been checking the National Forest and Warbler Willows at least twice daily, but so far have found only Song Sparrows and Pacific Wrens.
In late afternoon, we checked the fish factory outflow at the Sweeper Cove breakwall and, although there was no great gathering of gulls, there was a Crested Auklet (not close) present.
This is the only Auklet that we have seen from shore more than once. We have had them in three Septembers so far.
While scanning for other auklets, etc, Barb had a sea mammal surface and disappear (as usual for us!). We have no idea what it was.
As we were returning to our house to settle in for the night, the roar of military helicopters filled the air.
The Marines are coming out here this week to run some exercises – including storming the beaches!
It will be interesting…
Our trip list is 42 and Year List is 79.
The weather patterns continue to roll through at a breakneck pace, so we expect new birds to come along.
Temp in the 50s, overcast, occasional light rain, wind variable 5-15 mph
The weather systems in the north Pacific and Bering Sea are moving rapidly west to east – unlike the stationary weather patterns of this past May. We anticipated that this would bring better birds.
We were not wrong…
We started the day with our usual routine around Sweeper Cove and creek, etc. We started seeding some bird feeders.
Our first good bird of the trip was a Peregrine Falcon over the Sandy Bluff (we didn’t have one this past May).
At the Landing Lights, we had a Ruddy Turnstone and a Rock Sandpiper.
While scanning the bay at Palisades Overlook, an Orca surfaced right in my scope’s field! Of course, it then went under and made VERY brief surfacings over the next 15 minutes or so. Never got a photo! We also saw a couple of Black Oystercatchers there.
We headed up towards Clam Lagoon, checking on willows and trees along the way. We didn’t see any new passerines, but Kuluk Bay provided alcids, scoters, eiders, etc.
At Clam Lagoon, I decided to walk the marsh edge and the peninsula.
A Young Glaucous-winged Gull was standing near the edge of the marsh displaying its pristine plumage.
The edge netted three Pectoral Sandpipers, one Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, and a Marsh Sandpiper!
Out on the peninsula, I spotted three peeps. Two were obviously Western Sandpipers, but the third looked different – shorter bill, plumage differences, etc. I thought the third bird was a Red-necked Stint, but as anyone who follows this blog knows, I struggle with these guys! So, once we got home, I sent photos to Isaac, who confirmed my initial identification. Thanks Isaac!!
The Seawall had both Red-necked and Horned Grebes (we missed Red-necked in May), and a Pacific Loon. We also had a flock of 18 Ruddy Turnstones there.
On both Lake Shirley and the lagoon were a lot of waterfowl. Just the usual suspects, Eurasian Wigeon, Mallards, Norther Pintails, Common Teal, Greater Scaup, and Red-breasted Mergansers.
An interesting find was a mother merganser with one VERY young offsping. Not only are the typical merganser families much larger, but to have this young a bird was unusually late in the season. The following is not a great photo, but it does show what I’m talking about.
We had only 70 species on our May trip, but we have already added seven to that list for our year list!
Our flights were uneventful. We did our shopping and a little birding, got supper and turned in.
On Saturday morning, we headed down to Potters Marsh in hope that the Falcated Duck that had been there in May and June just might still be hanging around.
We spent a couple of hours to no avail. If it was still there, it wasn’t showing itself to us…
There were a lot of waterfowl (teal, gadwall, scaup, mallard, wigeon, shoveler, etc.), but no falcated. There also a lot of yellowlegs — far more than we had ever seen there before.
We also had several Rusty Blackbirds.
So we headed up to Arctic Valley and, although we were not the first vehicle up the road, we still managed to see two Spruce Grouse along the way.
The other bird of note was a Sharp-shinned Hawk — only the second that we had seen in Alaska.
The flight to Adak was a bit bumpy, but arrived on time. However, there was a contingent of naval personnel who had just completed a military exercise waiting to go home. Since the TSA inspectors arrive on Adak on the incoming flight, the outgoing luggage can’t be inspected until they arrive. So since there was such a large number of passengers (highly unusual for Adak), and they wanted to get the plane back as soon as possbile, the ground crew delayed delivering the incoming luggage to the baggage area until after they had loaded the outgoing luggage!
So we didn’t get our luggage for more than an hour (we went to out rental unit and unpacked our carry-on and stuff that we store there while we waited.
After finally getting our luggage and getting the food stowed away, we finally got out to do a little birding. The only bird of note was a Parasitic Jaeger on Clam Lagoon. They usually leave around mid-September.
It was late in the day, so many birds had already turned in for the night. Very few passerines were seen.