Thursday, May 31, 2012

Our final day started with light winds and partly-cloudy skies.

We went down to the fish plant outflow at the Sweeper Cove Jetty and there was a huge slick of fish stuff. A large flock of Glaucous-winged Gulls was feeding. Barb quickly yelled “Black-headed Gull!” A Common Black-headed Gull had been seen here for a few days prior to our arrival, but had not been seen since, despite many birders looking for it. This is an uncommon bird on Adak. There have only been three records in the last seven years and we have seen all three!

Common Black-headed Gull, Sweeper Cove, May 31, 2012

Common Black-headed Gull, Sweeper Cove, May 31, 2012

Up at Landing Lights Beach, we had ten Rock Sandpipers–the most shorebirds that we have seen in one spot this trip.

Rock Sandpipers, Landing Lights Beach, May 31, 2012

Here is a better photo of the seal on seal rock.

Harbor Seal, Clam Lagoon, May 31, 2012

We ended the trip with 61 species, including two new species for our Adak list (Brant and Snow Goose).

We left at 6 pm and as we took off, I got some good photos of the town and airport.

Adak town and Airport, May 31, 2012

In all previous trips, I have not been able to get a photo of Mount Sitkin either on the arriving or departing flights. It has always been shrouded in clouds on those days. Well, I finally got one this trip.

Mount Sitkin, May 31, 2012

Located 15 miles east of Adak on Great Sitkin Island, Mount Sitkin is an active volcano.

All of our flights took off and landed on time and we arrived home Friday afternoon.

Right now, it looks like we may be going back in September. The DOT is putting the Adak flight contract out for rebid in June, and it is unlikely that a new airline will be in place before September. Alaska Airlines is required to continue the flights until a new carrier is in place. So we hope to get at least one more trip out there.

If, however, the replacement airline offers the same service as Alaska Air did, then we will continue to go there. If not, it would just be too much hassle.

We will let you know…



Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Well, more like “earthquake?”

At 11 pm last night we experienced our third earthquake on Adak. As in the past, it started with a bump (like someone slamming the door) and was followed by a few small shakes, lasting about 5-10 seconds. Probably a “one” on the Richter Scale. Being on the Pacific Ring of Fire (the Aleutians are volcanic in origin), quakes are expected events.

Today’s weather was grim, it rained most of the morning and the wind howled out of the north. By afternoon, at least it stopped raining for the most part. The only sun we saw while out birding today was at the base of Mount Adagdak, just north of Clam Lagoon.

Sunshine at Mount Adagdak, May 30, 2012

By evening, however, more sun finally broke through.

Renting vehicles up here is always an adventure. The 1990 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which we had been using the past few trips, finally developed more problems than we were willing to put up with. Ie. the accessories stopped working (due to a faulty ignition switch), so we no longer had heat or windshield wipers! Not a good plan on Adak. So we switched to a Chevy Silverado extended-cab pickup truck. As with most vehicles on Adak, it does not look pristine.

Chevy truck (dents built in)

The handle on the driver’s side door was broken off, so we had to improvise.

Improvised door handle

Also, the switch for the electric window was damaged and had to be pressed down really hard in order to activate it. We improvised a solution to that problem, too!

Spatula/window opener

In spite of the weather, we did see some birds today.

At least one of the Hawfinches made an appearance at the Naval Admin Bldg and we had another Pacific Golden-Plover at Contractor’s Marsh.

At Clam Lagoon, Frank walked the peninsula and found a male Brambling. Since the pair of Bramblings that were hanging out at the marsh edge had not been seen since Friday, 5/25 (and looked for many times since), we assume this is a new bird. But there is no way to be absolutely certain. The photo of the first male Brambling is not good enough to compare plumage with this one.

Brambling, Clam Lagoon, May 30, 2012

Harbor seals spend a lot of time in Clam Lagoon and up at the northwest corner is a little cove that we have christened Seal Rock Cove because at low tide, a seal is always perched on this exposed rock.

Harbor Seal, Clam Lagoon, May 30, 2012

Back in town, one of the feeder areas that had not yet produced anything had a Hawfinch at it this afternoon. We can’t tell if this is a new one or one of the two that had been coming to the Naval Admin Bldg.

This will be our last posting until we get home, as we leave Adak at 6 pm tomorrow, spend the next fourteen hours or so in airplanes and airports, arriving home late Friday afternoon. So look for a final post and recap on Saturday.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Added a few trip birds today, but no lifers.

The number of godwits has increased to eight, which means some new birds arrived. As I was walking the Clam Lagoon marsh edge, a flock of seven godwits flew in and landed no more than thirty yards from me and proceeded to feed and get even closer as if I didn’t even exist. I was not hiding. There is no place to hide on a mud flat!

We refound the Snow and White-fronted geese and the loner White-fronted had joined them, so now it was two and two. As we were driving up towards Contractor’s Marsh, Barb heard a Common Greenshank. However, we never saw the bird. Later, on another approach to the marsh, we saw a flock of Aleutian Terns headed for the marsh with three shorebirds tagging along. Barb dropped me off so I could walk through the marsh to look for the shorebirds while she drove around the roads that criss-cross the marsh. Just as I got out of the car, a large flock of Aleutian Terns started flying overhead. Although lighting conditions were terrible, I did get a few decent photos.

Aleutian Tern, Contractor's Marsh, May 29, 2012

I walked back and forth through the marsh and as I approached the large pond at the western edge, three shorebirds plopped in right in front of me! Unfortunately, they were just Red-necked Phalaropes, instead of something new (or rare). Phalaropes are one of the few bird species in which the female is the more brightly plumaged and the male does most of the nesting duties. Here are a few photos.

Red-necked Phalarope (female), Contractor's Marsh, May 29, 2012

Red-necked Phalaropes (male - left), Contractor's Marsh, May 29, 2012

Red-necked Phalaropes, Contractor's Marsh, May 29, 2012

We continued up to Clam Lagoon, where the otters continue to delight.

Sea Otter with pup, Clam Lagoon, May 29, 2012

On the east side of the lagoon at the seawall, I was able to pick out a Laysan Albatross and Short-tailed Shearwater way out on the horizon. These were new for the trip, as was the aforementioned Greenshank.

On our way back up the east side of the lagoon, we spotted the geese and called Isaac, as he only got a fleeting look at them as the flew off the other day. I decided to walk the Clam Lagoon edge to look for hiding shorebirds. As I walked out onto the flats, a flock of Arctic Terns decided I was worth investigating and hovered overhead while screaming at me.

Arctic Tern, Clam Lagoon, May 29, 2012

The Brant was feeding on the flats, so I got some closer photos of it, standing and in flight.

Brant, Clam Lagoon, May 29, 2012

Brant, Clam Lagoon, May 29, 2012

No, I didn’t scare it off. It just flew 20 yards or so. I flushed a small shorebird from the edge of the marsh. It was a peep or a stint, but it circled up high and flew off to the south. Frustrating!

After dinner, I went down to the Hawfinch feeder to see if I could get a photo of both Hawfinches together. Earlier in the day, we saw both of them, but the one was chasing the other so much, I couldn’t get a photo. While waiting for the Hawfinches to show themselves, I got some neat photos of the Gray-crowned Rosy Finches (the “House Sparrow” of Adak).

Gray-crowned Rosy Finch, Naval Admin Bldg, May 29, 2012

Gray-crowned Rosy Finch, Naval Admin Bldg, May 29, 2012

Only one Hawfinch showed up while I was waiting, but posed nicely for me.

Hawfinch, Naval Admin Bldg, May 29, 2012

Hawfinch, Naval Admin Bldg, May 29, 2012

Hawfinch, Naval Admin Bldg, May 29, 2012

And, last but not least, this bird knows his place…

Hawfinch, Parking in the appropriate spot...

Our trip list is up to 60, about average for a spring trip. One-and-a-half days to go. Hoping for a late surprise.



Monday, May 28, 2012

Not much to report. The law of diminishing returns…

The day started out calm. Kuluk Bay and Sweeper Cove looked like sheets of glass. That changed quickly however, and the wind picked up, fog moved in, and rain started. It wasn’t heavy rain, but enough to be a nuisance. It drizzled on and off all day and the wind shifted to the north. However, there were actually a few spots of sunshine (briefly) as well.

We stopped at the Quarry again and the Pacific Wren was on his usual perch singing away.

Pacific Wren, Quarry, May 28, 2012

We continued down to Finger Creek, but the road along the creek was flooded, probably due to melting snow spurred on by the recent rainfall.

Finger Creek and flooded road, May 28, 2012

We have never seen Finger Creek this high. On our way up to Clam Lagoon, we saw a flag flying at one of the memorial sites in honor of Memorial Day. This is the first time we have seen a flag up here.

Memorial Day, May 28, 2012

At Clam Lagoon, the Brant was still present, but no sign of the other geese. At Candlestick Bridge, the five Bar-tailed Godwits were feeding.

Bar-tailed Godwits, Candlestick Bridge, May 28, 2012

We drove out to the Loran Station, which is the northern point of Adak, to scan for pelagic species (shearwaters, albatross, etc.), but no luck.

We had no new birds today, but we did find another Bar-tailed Godwit down at Sweeper Creek.

Bar-tailed Godwit, Sweeper Creek, May 28, 2012

Only two-and-a-half days left. Hoping for something new…

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The bad weather ended more quickly than originally forecast, and although it wasn’t perfect, the rain was sporadic today and the winds were not as strong as predicted.

It was a slow day, bird-wise. No new birds, not even trip birds. We saw one of the Hawfinches this morning and there were a lot of gulls at the fish plant outflow pipe. However, they were all Glaucous-winged.

At Clam Lagoon, the five Bar-tailed Godwits were feeding on the flats. The Snow and White-fronted geese were in one of the Seawall Ponds. The Brant was on Goose Rocks (so named by us because on our first trip here an Emperor Goose was on it). The Tattler was no longer at the inlet, but a lot of terns were feeding just inside the lagoon. Here is a little gallery of Arctic Tern photos.

Arctic Tern, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2012

Arctic Tern, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 201

Arctic Tern, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2012

As we went back around the lagoon, we ran into Paul and Bob, who stated they just saw the Brant in the main lagoon. We don’t know if the Brant that we saw on Goose Rocks was the same one or not.

The boat from Attu (the Puck-Uk) arrived late morning. We met it at the dock and gave John Puschok and Isaac Helmericks the info on the geese. They loaded up their tour group and headed for Clam Lagoon. They found the geese and the Brant (two new Adak birds for John, one for Isaac).

On our way back up to Clam Lagoon, we spotted the other White-fronted Goose at Contractor’s Marsh. We did another tour of Clam Lagoon, and although we did not find any new birds, I did get a nice shot of one of the Jaegers.

Parasitic Jaeger, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2012

We then went to Lake Jean. The Common Loons were still there, but this time they were close enough together that I could get them in the same photo.

Common Loons, Lake Jean, May 27, 2012

Our trip list is at 57. Not bad considering that we haven’t had east winds that drive shearwaters and albatross in closer to shore and we did not take a boat trip to look for auklets. We have had some fantastic birds show up in the last few days of May in the past. We hope history repeats itself.



Saturday, May 26, 2012

The weather is changing. As I write this, it is raining and the wind is howling. Today started out calm enough, but as the day went on the wind shifted around to the southeast and started to pick up strength. Gusts up to 55 mph are predicted tonight and tomorrow. But the morning and early afternoon were not too bad, just some light precipitation.

Up at Lake Jean, which is an arm of Andrew Lake, we had 2 Common Loons in breeding plumage — always a treat.

Common Loon, Lake Jean, May 26, 2012

In the small ponds next to Andrew Lake, the Red-necked Phalaropes are setting up shop to nest. They started arriving last week or so and are still in small flocks before establishing territories.

Red-necked Phalaropes, Andrew Lake, May 26, 2012

The flock of 5 godwits that were on the beach yesterday, were on the Clam Lagoon flats this morning. We were looking for the Snow Geese, as this would be an Adak bird for Isaac when he gets back on Sunday. We did not see them today, but other birders on the island did report them. So we are hoping they will hang in one more day. The Brant was still in the same area as yesterday.

As we travelled around Clam Lagoon, a Black Oystercatcher crouched down near a rock in hope of avoiding detection.

Black Oystercatcher, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2012

The (or “a”) Wandering Tattler showed up at the Clam Lagoon Inlet and, unlike yesterday, posed in the open for all to see.

Wandering Tattler, Clam Lagoon Inlet, May 26, 2012

A lot of Aleutian Terns were feeding off of the inlet. There numbers are increasing every day. As we drove back around the lagoon, we spotted a different-looking duck. It was a female Northern Shoveler — an uncommon species on Adak.

Northern Shoveler, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2012

When we got to the other side of the lagoon, we met Bob and Warren who stated they had a Dunlin along the marsh edge earlier in the day. So I decided to walk out there and try to see (and photograph) it. Of course, as soon as I got out on the flats, it started to rain. Not heavy, just a nuisance. However, I did find the Dunlin.

Dunlin, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2012

The Bramblings were not seen by Bob or me, so they must have moved on. We went down to the Hawfinch feeder and saw both Hawfinches. However, the one refused to come in while the other was nearby, so I couldn’t get a photo of them together, unlike last May.

While watching the Hawfinches, a Song Sparrow came in to feed. The Song Sparrows on Adak are not like the ones back home. These are larger and darker.

"Aleutian" Song Sparrow, Adak, May 26, 2012

We are hoping the nasty weather over the next day or so blows in some goodies.

Friday, May 25, 2012

What’s good for the goose…

Guess what? We started the day at Sweeper Cove jetty and then checked for the Hawfinches. No luck. As we continued along Sweeper Cove, we ran into Ted Kenefick and Peter Harrison (yes, of Seabirds fame) who had a flat tire and no tool to get the spare! After futile attempts to release the spare tire, we gave them a lift up to Will’s so they could rent a vehicle until someone could fix the tire.

We checked Sweeper Creek and various feeders and eventually headed up to Clam Lagoon. There, we met Paul Mayer and Bob (sorry, forgot your last name) who had just come off of the flats. They said there was a dark duck or small goose across the way, so I set up my scope (a Questar) and quickly confirmed it was a Brant! A new bird for our Adak list. In addition, they stated that as they were coming out of town earlier, they saw two Snow Geese and a Greater White-fronted Goose flying towards the airport. Snow goose would also be a new Adak bird for us and we had previously seen only one White-fronted, so this was tantalizing news. They also said they saw a small shorebird out on the flats.

We continued around Clam Lagoon to the southwest access point and Paul, Bob, and I walked out the peninsula. No small shorebird, but we did see a female Bar-tailed Godwit and the Bramblings.

We went around to the other side of the lagoon and found the Brant.

"Black" Brant, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2012.

This was the western race, previously known as Black Brant.

We continued down to Candlestick Bridge and scanned the inlet and the beaches. Note: In all of the trips we have made to Adak (this is our 11th) we have never seen a single shorebird on the beaches next to the inlet. Yet, as I scanned the beach, I found 5 Bar-tailed Godwits (1 male and 4 female). So we were now up to 6 godwits for the day. In the picture below, the male is on the right.

Bar-tailed Godwits, Palisades Beach, May 25, 2012.

As we headed back up past Lake Shirley, a Bald Eagle was mantling some prey on a post next to the road. Eagles are remarkably tame up here.

Bald Eagle, Lake Shirley, May 25, 2012.

We stopped at the “breach” (a portion of the seawall that was topped by winter storms) and walked out to the rocky beach to look for shorebirds. After scanning for a few minutes, I spotted a Wandering Tattler. Unfortunately, by the time I lowered my binos and lifted up my camera, he was gone. So no photo. However, that was the first reported Tattler this spring. The previous groups had not found any. While waiting at the truck for me to return, Barb spotted a Peregrine Falcon harassing a Bald Eagle. She called me and I got to see it as well.

We started back towards town, and ran into Monte and his group and shared sightings. As we pulled away, I spotted three geese flying overhead. It was the two Snows and the White-fronted. They were headed towards Clam Lagoon, so we did a 180 and raced up there in time to see them land on the flats on the east side. It was 4 pm, so we decided to go back into town, get gas (it closes at 5) and then come back up to try to get photos.

As we came back up to the lagoon and were racing around the north end, I saw a bird fly out from the near shore to the waters edge. But this was not a pattern I was used to up here, so I told Barb to stop. I quickly saw it was a Greater White-fronted Goose!

Greater White-fronted Goose, north end of Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2012.

We said to each other that this was probably the one that was with the Snows and it was not a good sign that they had split. Ie. the others may have continued on. However, we continued on, and as we neared the south end of the seawall, there were the two Snows and another White-fronted! So there were at least two White-fronted.

Snow Geese and Greater White-fronted Goose, Clam Lagoon Seawall, May 25, 2012.

We continued down towards Candlestick Bridge and checked again for the Brant. We didn’t see it at first, but then it came flying in from the north and a Parasitic Jaeger took up after it and chased it for a minute or two.

Brant being pursued by Parasitic Jaeger, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2012.

At Candlestick Bridge, we found Bob and Warren and Monte’s group. Bob and Warren followed us back to see the geese. We stopped and saw the Brant, then headed back to where we saw the Snows. They were gone. We continued up to the north end where we saw the single White-fronted, but he too was gone. So we started scanning the lagoon, and soon Bob spotted the Snows over on the far shore. Barb quickly spotted the White-fronted with them. Bob and Warren went back to the breach to look for the Tattler, while Barb and I headed back towards town.

We checked on the Hawfinch and found one. This one was different than he one we saw the other day; it had less white in the wing and a slightly longer bib.

Hawfinch, Naval Administration Building, May 25, 2012.

Not a bad day. We picked up two new birds for our Adak list and saw Bramblings and a Hawfinch again. Let’s keep em’ coming!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

A so-so day after yesterday’s excitement.

We started the day at Sweeper Cove and checked on the Hawfinch. No luck (but more on that later…).

Heading up Bayshore Drive, we flushed the Ruddy Turnstones again, but this time instead of flying over the hill, they landed next to the road.

Ruddy Turnstones, Bayshore Drive, May 24, 2012

We birded around the usual spots without finding anything new and headed back to town for a break. In all of the years (since 2005) that we have been coming up here, we never drove up the hill that has the water towers. So we decided to today and got great views of the town of Adak.

The town of Adak, looking south. May 24, 2012

The place we now stay in is located just below center in the above photo. Here is a closer look.

Our abode on Adak. The near half of the blue house.

We headed up to Clam Lagoon and halfway around ran into Bob and Warren who said the Bar-tailed Godwit was still around down near Candlestick Bridge (this is a washed out bridge at the southeast corner of the lagoon over the inlet). We continued around and found the Godwit sleeping.

Bar-tailed Godwit, Clam Lagoon, May 24, 2012

For the non-birders reading this blog, this is a bird that usually flies non-stop from Alaska to Hawaii!

Last night I had posted our sightings to the Alaska Birding Listserve and this morning got an email from a birderĀ  (Monte) who was on his (and three friends’) way to Adak on today’s flight. So we met the plane when it arrived this afternoon and filled them in on our sightings. In addition, there were two other pairs of birders arriving. Most of them were staying until Sunday when the Attu boat returns to Adak to take it the rest of the way to Dutch Harbor for some seabirding. They were all interested in seeing the Hawfinch. We gave them directions and then headed back out.

We went to the fish factory outflow at Sweeper Cove to see if there was any gull activity. There were 30 or 40 gulls. Two were in a fight, grabbing each other’s bills and thrashing at each other.

Two Glaucous-winged Gulls fighting, Sweeper Cove jetty, May 24, 2012

They eventually flew off with one in pursuit of the other. In the photo below, all of the birds are Glaucous-winged Gulls. This is why I hate large gulls!

Glaucous-winged Gulls, Sweeper Cove jetty, May 24, 2012

Here is an adult portrait (much easier to identify than all of the immature plumages).

Glaucous-winged Gulls, Sweeper Cove jetty, May 24, 2012

While watching the gulls, we got a call from one of the newly-arrived birders that they couldn’t find the right location for the Hawfinch. So we drove over there and guided them over the phone to the location. The Hawfinch was there! While waiting for them to arrive, I spotted another bird about fifty yards away near a chainlink fence. I thought it might be another Hawfinch! The Hawfinch at the feeder flew over to the fence and both birds flew around the corner of the building. One Hawfinch came back shortly, followed by a Lapland Longspur. So I thought I must have mistaken the Longspur. We headed back to the house and then headed out to dinner. As we were on our way, we got a call from that birder saying they had two Hawfinches side-by-side (well, actually squabbling over who owned the birdseed!). So I had been correct in identifying the second bird.

We had a Hawfinch on our first trip to Adak in May 2005, but then not again until May 2010. Then last May we had three! We already have two this trip, so it will be interesting to see how many more we find.

Our odds of finding something new on the island increased with all of the new eyes that arrived today, so we are optimistic about the next few days.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

It was a good day on Adak! It was partly sunny and the winds were light and variable, mostly coming from the east. They are supposed to swing to the north for the next day or so. However, the past two days of westerlies have been good to us.

We started at Sweeper Cove (as usual). We saw our first Horned Puffins of the trip. Pigeon Guillemots are abundant on Adak and pose nicely for pictures.

Pigeon Guillemot, Sweeper Cove, May 23, 2012

We headed down to Finger Bay, stopping at the quarry for Pacific Wren. The quarry is the one place on the island that you can count on findingĀ  this intrepid little bird. How they survive Bering Sea winters, we will never know. This little guy was singing his heart out (as usual).

Pacific Wren, Quarry, May 23, 2012

At Finger Bay we added an Arctic Loon and found this Glaucous-winged Gull trying to dismember a crab.

Glaucous-winged Gull with crab, Finger Bay, May 23, 2012

We headed back north, checking feeders along the way. As we were driving up Bayshore Drive, five shorebirds flushed from the side of the road and disappeared over the sand dune. The last bird to flush was a Semipalmated Plover, but we did not get good looks at the other four. Frank walked up on the dune to look for them and they flushed again and flew over the nearby hill; two Pacific Golden-Plovers and a Ruddy Turnstone. We did not see the fifth bird.

We continued up Bayshore and got nice looks at an Arctic Tern.

Arctic Tern, Landing Lights Beach, May 23, 2012

We headed to Contractor’s Marsh and Frank started to walk it while Barb circled around to meet him on the other side. As I was walking, I got a call from Warren stating they had a Ruff about an hour earlier at the marsh, but it flew out of site towards Landing Lights Beach. Thinking of the fifth shorebird that we never relocated earlier (which was just south of Landing Lights Beach), we suggested it might be the Ruff. So we met up with them and searched that area. Barb drove around to the other side of the hill where we had seen the other shorebirds fly, and flushed two Turnstones, which obligingly flew back over to where I and Bob, and Warren were. So the fifth bird was probably the other Turnstone. No sign of the Ruff.

I still remember the first breeding-plumaged Lapland Longspur that we saw on our first trip to Adak in 2005. It was impressive then and still is today.

Lapland Longspur, Adak, May 23, 2012

We headed up to Clam Lagoon and I walked the marshy shoreline looking for shorebirds. No shorebirds, but I relocated the Bramblings that Bob and Warren had found yesterday. They didn’t stay still long enough to get good photos, but I got an identifiable one of the male. The birds flushed and flew a few hundred yards behind me, and I wasn’t going to chase them just for a better photo, so this will have to do.

Brambling, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2012

We continued around Clam Lagoon. On the east side, we spotted a Bar-tailed Godwit out in the middle of the flats. The ones we saw the other day did not stay around (even for the time it took us to drive around the lagoon), but this one stayed as we drove back around to the other side. We hope it attracts others. In past trips we have had dozens of godwits stopping to feed on the flats, but some years, only one or two. We hope this turns into the former.

We headed back into town and down to Sweeper Cove and creek. As we were going by Sweeper Cove, we stopped at the Naval Administration Building where we had scattered birdseed. On the ground, under the spruce tree was a male Hawfinch. I quickly snapped some photos, then called Warren and Bob (this would be a lifer for Bob!). However, all we got was voicemail! Warren had been having problems with his Iphone (no ring or sound, although he could make and receive calls?!). We left the message and continued birding.

After getting gas ($6 a gallon!), we headed back up to Contractor’s Marsh, where luckily we ran into Bob and Warren. I think they made record time getting down to the Hawfinch once we filled them in! The bird was still there (pigging out on the sunflower seed and chasing away the rosy finches) and everyone was happy.

Hawfinch, Naval Administration Building, May 23, 2012

Hawfinch, Naval Administration Building, May 23, 2012

No lifers for us, but it is always a good day when you see both a Brambling and Hawfinch on the same day. We are up to 49 species for the trip.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

We started today as usual, checking Sweeper Cove and the various places that we put out seed in hopes of attracting passing vagrants. The local Gray-crowned Rosy Finches have discovered most of the feeding spots, so we hope that they will in turn attract other species (at least that is how it worked in the past).

While scanning Sweeper Cove, we saw a flock of two-dozen passerines flying across the cove towards Sweeper Creek. We drove down there and scoured the area, but could not relocate them. A large flock of birds in this season is unusual, as most breeders on Adak arrive here in dribs and drabs and quickly set up territories. Who knows what they were…

Note: You can see maps and pictures of the places mentioned in this blog by clicking on Birding Adak on our home page (

While we were scanning the Airport Ponds for waterfowl, a half-dozen Aleutian Terns flew in, the first for this year. We later also saw an Arctic Tern.

Rock Ptarmigans are plentiful this year and explode from the side of the road as we drive by. Here is one standing and flying.

Rock Ptarmigan, near Lake Andrew, May 22, 2012

Rock Ptarmigan, near Lake Andrew, May 22, 2012

Up at Haven Lake (on the way to Lake Andrew) we had Wilson’s Snipe winnowing and calling. Common Snipe were reported last week, but we have not yet found any.

On the way back to town from Lake Andrew, we spotted two Pacific Golden-Plovers on the side of the road. These were in nicer plumage than the one we saw yesterday. The plumage descriptions match the three birds that Bob and Warren had reported to us yesterday up near Contractor’s Marsh.

Pacific Golden-Plover, near airport, May 22, 2012

Bob Schutsky and Warren Hanson found a pair of Brambling at Clam Lagoon as they were walking the marsh edge in search of shorebirds! You can see pictures of Bramblings (and other birds) that we had on Adak last May at

I hope to walk Clam Lagoon tomorrow. If I find the Bramblings, I will post their picture(s) here.

Before we arrived, Isaac (the resident birder, who is co-leading a trip to Attu right now) informed us that he had found a lot of owl pellets in the stand of spruce trees just past Palisades Overlook. He did not have a chance to return to look for the owl that might be roosting there before he had to leave for the Attu trip. So today I hiked down to the spruce grove and did some searching. I found a lot of pellets (see below), but no owl. None of the pellets looked fresh, so I suspect it was a wintering bird who has since departed. The only owl we have ever seen on Adak was a Short-eared Owl (which are suspected to have bred on Adak at one time).

Owl pellet. One less rat on Adak!

Winds were westerly today and are supposed to be southwesterly tomorrow. Here’s hoping for more new birds!