You win some, you lose some.
Temp in the 40s, overcast, rain and drizzle much of the day, some sun late in the day, Wind 15-30, NW.
We started out on our usual routine of checking feeders, Sweeper Cove and Channel.
We had just put out seed yesterday, so except for Rosy-Finch and Snow Bunting at the Sandy Cove Bluffs feeder, there was no action. At Sweeper Cove, we had our first Ancient Murrelet of the trip.
As we were driving up Bayshore Drive, we spotted the Brambling flock — but again, non-cooperative. We then got a call from Stefan that he had found an Eye-browed Thrush at the High School Spruces. We (and the other groups nearby) headed over there. The bird was not being terribly cooperative, and since we have seen them previously on Adak, we headed out to look for other stuff while the other groups tried to get better looks at the thrush. They eventually all got satisfactory views. We tried later in the day, but did not see it.
There is a fish-processing ship anchored in Kuluk Bay and it has attracted Laysan Albatross and Fulmars. These birds are coming in much closer to shore than normal, providing nice views through a scope, but not very good photos. I took some anyway…
We headed north. At the Navfac Creek overlook, there was a flock of 150+ Black Scoters.
We headed up to Clam Lagoon. The tide was in as we started around, so we headed over to the Seawall. There, we had 5 Pacific Loons, a Red-necked Grebe, and the usual sea ducks and cormorants.
We came back around Clam Lagoon. The tide was starting to recede and one Bar-tailed Godwit was feeding on the flats. As we were leaving the lagoon, we ran into Stefan who told us they had 14 godwits down on Navfac Creek Beach. He also told us Aaron had been trying to reach us because he had found two — not one, but TWO! — Yellow Wagtails at Contractor’s Camp Marsh! Our nemesis birds on Adak are wagtails. Both yellow and white have occurred on the island while we have been here, but we have always missed them.
So, although the birds had been seen several hours ago — and passerines tend not to stick around Adak unless at a feeder — we headed down to the marsh to look for them. By this time the wind had increased to 25-30 MPH and it was drizzling. We drove and walked around the area where they had been seen, but no luck.
So we continued south, tried briefly for the thrush, and then did Sweeper Creek and Channel. We drove up the channel, watching and listening to the resident Rock Sandpipers. At the place where the road ends,we stopped as usual and scanned the streamsides. No sooner had we stopped than Barb yelled “White Wagtail!”
Sure enough, a White Wagtail was actively feeding across the creek along the edge of the vegetation. So we didn’t get the Yellows, but this was nice compensation. We quickly called the other groups and they all started heading our way.
As I was taking photos of the wagtail, I turned away for a second and lost sight of him. I put up my binos and scanned the streamside and spotted a little-brown-job with a distinctively-marked head pattern. I said to myself, “I’ve never seen one of those before!” and quickly alerted Barb to it as I started taking photos of this new bird. It turned out to be a Rustic Bunting. Readers of our previous blogs may remember that we had a Rustic Bunting in September 2014. However, that was a fall-plumaged bird, not striking like this guy. Also, that sighting lasted ten seconds at most and afforded no photo opportunity.
This was MUCH nicer.
Rustic Bunting, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.
The wagtail and bunting worked their way down the channel towards Sweeper Cove. By the time the other birders arrived, the wagtail was gone, but the bunting was still visible. Most of them got good views, but the bird was very active and was hard to pin down. As they were watching the bunting, I walked down to the Sweeper Estuary (as I call it), and there was the wagtail. I radioed the others, and they came down and many of them saw it before it took off, heading towards the airport. We found out later that Stefan and his group — who were out of range when we found these birds — later found the wagtail in the estuary. But not the bunting.
Although we had seen White Wagtails in Europe last year, this was a North American bird for us. And the Bunting was certainly a more enjoyable sighting than our first one. The nice looks at albatrosses was also very rewarding.
Not a bad day.
So far, there have been 5 species of Asian passerines. Unheard of! Two or three is what we usually expect. There had been very strong southwest winds for several days before our arrival, and we suspect that is what brought all of these birds here. Who knows what else lurks out there as I write this…
I mentioned yesterday that there were 18 birders out here. That might be a record. In any case, there’s High Lonesome, led by Stefan, with Joe and Susan; Wilderness, led by Aaron, with Kris, Steve, Luann, and Mike; 4 from Anchorage, Keith, Eric, Enric, and Andrew; and a group of 6 from Anchorage and California, Sue, Frank, Mark, Janet, and Susan — yes, there are three Sues!
Some of them are only staying until Thursday. They certainly lucked out on the right week so far.