Sunday, September 14, 2014

So close and yet so far…

Temp in the low 50s, partly cloudy, moderate to light wind

Got out at first light today. The wind was blowing steadily, but diminished as the day went on until it was almost calm by noon. It started to pick up again in late afternoon.

In Sweeper Cove, we found our first Black Oystercatchers of the trip — eight of them. In Sweeper Channel, there were two Shovelers. They looked like a pair in eclipse plumage. So they could have been the ones we had in May.

We started to drive north towards Clam Lagoon, but noticed a lot of activity on the now-calm Kulik Bay. We stopped and started scoping and were rewarded with hundreds of auklets! Most were way out at the limit of the scope, but a few ventured in close enough to be identified. One particular bird came in and joined a flock of eider and was easily identified as a Crested Auklet (crest and all!). This was a lifer for Frank (Barb had seen these on a previous boat trip out of Adak)!

In addition to the Crested, we could also make out Least and Whiskered Auklets. However, nothing was within camera range.

As the auklets dispersed seaward, we continued up to Clam Lagoon. Frank walked the marsh edge and the peninsula. Along the marsh edge, he found two Sharp-tailed Sandpipers.

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 14, 2014.

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 14, 2014.

The peninsula only had a few Rock Sandpipers.

The road from town to (and including) the west shore of Clam Lagoon was recently graded. So it is smooth sailing from town to the Blue Building feeder at the northwest corner of Clam Lagoon where — by-the way — we had a Brambling today.

Brambling, Clam Lagoon Blue Building, Sept 14, 2014.

Brambling, Clam Lagoon Blue Building, Sept 14, 2014.

The seawall provided our first Horned Grebes for the trip, and although there was a lot of activity there, the only shorebirds were Rock Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstones.

We continued down to Lake Shirley, where the flock of Greater Scaup had grown dramatically from yesterday. We scanned through the flock and although the wigeon that we had the previous few days were gone, we were surprised by a Tufted Duck. This is the first Tufted Duck that we have had on a September trip. Like the aforementioned shovelers, one of the birds we had on the last day of our May trip was a Tufted Duck on Lake Shirley! Did this bird stay? Who knows…

When we got back to town, we ran into the police chief and got more details on the “small hawks” he mentioned. Well, after a few questions, we determined he was describing Peregrines (like Sparrow Hawks, but bigger…).

We headed over to Sweeper Creek, and had a flock of 21 Cackling Geese fly over — also a first for a September trip.

Barb decided to get pizza for dinner, so stopped at the new restaurant — the Bluebird Cafe!. The the co-owner mentioned she had a pretty bird in her yard this morning. She went on to accurately describe a Siberian Rubythroat! This was less than a hundred yards from our house!!! Aarghhhh! Of course we set about scouring the area, to no avail.

And so it goes…