Monday, May 29, 2017

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional light shower, Wind SW 10-15 mph

Our extra day on Adak didn’t add any new birds to the list.

We still had 4 Hawfinch, a few Bramblings, and the Far Eastern Curlew.

At Landing Lights, several Ruddy Turnstones and Rock Sandpipers are hanging around.

Ruddy Turnstone (with Rock Sandpiper), Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2017.

We left Adak at 1:00 pm, flew to Anchorage, then Seattle, then Chicago, and then Philadelphia. The amazing thing was at both Seattle and Chicago, the gate we arrived at was right next to the gate from which we were leaving! No hiking a mile down the concourse…

As we were landing at Philadelphia, the plane aborted at the last minute. That certainly woke us up! The plane that had landed ahead of us apparently did not get off of the runway fast enough. So we circled around and landed — still on time.

We got home about 1:30 pm.

Trip Summary

What a great trip!

81 species smashed our previous May high of 76.

We had two lifers — White Wagtail and Yellow Wagtail.

In addition to those, we added Pomarine Jaeger and Tree Swallow to our personal Adak lists.

We had 7 semi-lifers:

  • Mongolian Plover – first breeding plumage
  • Common Greenshank – three together — all of our previous sightings were of singles.
  • Slaty-backed Gull – first adult plumage. All of our previous records were immatures.
  • Rustic Bunting – breeding plumage and photo. Our previous record was non-breeding, brief, no photos
  • Bramblings – although we have seen more than one Brambling at a time out here, we had never seen 100s.
  • Red-necked Stint – Our previous high was 2. The 62 we counted (verified by photos) is likely a new North American high.
  • Black-headed Gull – Three together.

This was a trip of “flocks” — being defined as three or more.

No sooner than we had arrived, than a flock of 30+ Bramblings were found. And they just increased from there.

We had a flock of Common Greenshanks, a flock of Black-headed Gulls, a flock of Hawfinches, and an unprecedented flock of 62 Red-necked Stints.

The Far Eastern Curlew (2 years in a row) was unexpected.

The best moments of the trip were the pair of breeding-plumaged Mongolian Plovers (I know, I know — Lesser Sand-Plovers!), both wagtails, and the Rustic Bunting.

Although not an Asian rarity, the Tree Swallow was an interesting record.

The other birders who were out there were all a delight to interact with. Over our two weeks, there was a combined total of 25 birders on the island and a few more arrived as we left! That may be a record, also.

We will be back in September…


Sunday, May 28, 2017

What? Sunday?

It was bound to happen.

Temp in the 40s overcast, light rain showers, Wind S 10-20 mph.

After 20 trips out to Adak, we finally had a flight cancelled. The same volcano that caused the cancellation of last week’s flight did ours in also.

The “good” news is that they have rescheduled it for tomorrow, so we hope to be home by Tuesday. We will see.

In the meantime, we got a little more birding in and will bird a little tomorrow morning.

Today, we added Arctic Loon to our trip list (before the cancellation) and the Black-headed Gull that was hanging out at Landing Lights was joined by two more!

Black-headed Gulls, Landing Lights Beach, May 28, 2017.

Black-headed Gull, Landing Lights Beach, May 28, 2017.

Black-headed Gulls, Landing Lights Beach, May 28, 2017.

Black-headed Gulls, Landing Lights Beach, May 28, 2017.

One of the Wood Sandpipers at the Marsh, has become very cooperative.

Wood Sandpiper, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 28, 2017

This is very typical of this species out here. You can drive right up next to them — within ten feet or so — and they just look at you or calmly walk away, only occasionally flushing.

That’s all I have tonight. Between rescheduling flights, partial unpacking, and reorganizing our menus (good thing we bring extra!), I am pooped.

Next posting will be on Wednesday — we hope!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Temp in the 40s, overcast, Wind SE 10-25 mph.

We saw our second Wandering Tattler of the trip at Landing Lights Beach, and this one stayed long enough for a portrait.

Wandering Tattler, Landing Lights Beach, May 27, 2017.

The 4 Hawfinches are still here, but fewer and fewer Bramblings remain. The Buffleheads have all but departed, only a few are still here.

The Far Eastern Curlew is still on Clam Lagoon, but the Bar-tailed Godwit has left and we could not find the stints or Dunlins today.

At Andrew Lake, another Common Loon was cooperative.

Common Loon, Andrew Lake, May 27, 2017.

We added Long-tailed Duck to the triplist, giving us 80!

We finally caught up with the Black-headed Gull at Landing Lights Beach. This time he didn’t disappear…

Black-headed Gull, Landing Lights Beach, May 27, 2017.

However, the big news out here is the gas station is offline. They say it won’t be fixed until Tuesday! Fortunately, we were able to scrounge up some gas to get us through tomorrow, but other birders coming in may have some problems. This has happened to us before, so we are not terribly surprised.

This will be our last post until Tuesday. We leave tomorrow at 6 pm Adak time, and arrive (hopefully!) home around 5 pm eastern on Monday.

What a fantastic trip!

Friday, May 26, 2017

They keep coming…

Temp in the 40s, partly cloudy, wind East 10-15 mph.

We can’t have a trip to Adak without at least one alcid photo.

Ancient Murrelet, Sweeper Cove, May 26, 2017.

No sooner had we made a couple of standard stops this morning than we get “a call from Jim” telling us he has a Far Eastern Curlew on the Clam Lagoon East Side Flats! As usual, we are as far away as possible, but Barb presses the pedal and we arrive on the seen in 23 minutes. Sure enough, our second Far Eastern Curlew in as many years — and our third overall.

Far Eastern Curlew, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2017.

Far Eastern Curlew, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2017.

Far Eastern Curlew, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2017.


While Jim’s group went up to Lake Ronnie — and had a pair of Tufted Ducks — we were at Lake Shirley watching another male Tufted. We later found another pair on the Airport Ponds, making 5 still present.

The stint flock is now down to 45 Red-necked Stints and 3 Dunlin. Surprisingly, no other passing shorebirds — we assume there have been a few — joined in. Our experience out here shows that shorebird flocks attract other shorebirds. But, except for the Dunlins, no others were seen (and I took hundreds of photos of the flock each day and checked all of them carefully).

The lone Bar-tailed Goodwit remains.

We had nothing else unusual until after lunch when “a call from Jim” informed us they had a Tree Swallow at Contractors’ Camp Marsh! Although not an Asian vagrant, it is still a rarity on Adak — only a half-dozen records-or-so.

This time, we were only minutes away, but assumed the bird had simply been a fly-by.

Nope, it hung around, hunting over the main lake of the marsh. I waited and waited until finally it flew above the horizon and nearby where I could see it in the camera’s viewfinder and started snapping.

Tree Swallow, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 26, 2017.

Tree Swallow, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 26, 2017.

Tree Swallow, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 26, 2017.

I’m still amazed that I was able to get those shots…

There are still 4 Hawfinches coming to the Thrush Feeder, but the number of Bramblings has declined.

Later in the afternoon, as we were descending the hill to Navfac Creek, we checked the gull flock on the beach and again, Barb saw a dark-backed gull. However, this time it stayed long enough for photos. It was an adult Slaty-backed Gull — our first adult of this species.

Slaty-backed Gull, Navfac Creek Beach, May 26, 2017.

Slaty-backed Gull, Navfac Creek Beach, May 26, 2017.

Slaty-backed Gull, Navfac Creek Beach, May 26, 2017.

Slaty-backed Gull, Navfac Creek Beach, May 26, 2017.

Our trip list is a whopping 79!

Two days to go.

PS: The make-up flight from Anchorage arrived today.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, wind WNW 15-25 mph.

The Common Sandpiper (or another one) that has been hanging around Sweeper Channel was there again this morning and actually didn’t fly off before we got there!

Common Sandpiper, Sweeper Channel, May 25, 2017.

At Contractors’ Camp Marsh, we finally caught up with a couple of friendly Wood Sandpipers.

Wood Sandpiper, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 25, 2017.

Overnight, the Red-necked Stint flock grew to 62(!), but we lost 2 Dunlin, as there were only 7 this morning. As far as we can tell, this is a North American record for quantity of Red-necked Stints.

Red-necked Stints and Dunlins, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2017.

As we were leaving Shotgun Lake, the Peregrine Falcon that has been hanging around — but eluding us — made an appearance.

Peregrine Falcon, Shotgun Lake, May 25, 2017

On out second trip around Clam Lagoon this afternoon, as we just got to the Seawall, we got a call from Jim that they had 2(!) Lesser Sand-Plovers — or Mongolian Plovers, as I like to call them — on the Clam Lagoon Flats.

We raced around and, low-and-behold, there they were — up-close-and-personal — right along the edge of the lagoon about 30 yards from the roadside. We have seen them before on September trips — in non-breeding plumage — so this was an extra treat, seeing them in all their finery.

Lesser Sand-Plovers, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2017.

Lesser Sand-Plover, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2017.

Lesser Sand-Plover, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2017.


As we were driving back o town, we scoped a flock of gulls on Navfac Beach and saw what appeared to be a dark-backed Gull. We were too far to be sure, so I went down the road a bit and climbed the sand dune to get a closer look. Just before I crested the dune, they all took off, but then returned. I could not find a (or the) dark-backed gull, but as I was scanning the flock, a Black-headed Gull flew in and settled in behind all the big guys! I started walking up the dune to get a better angle, but I couldn’t relocate him. I assume he flew off as I was watching where I was stepping.

But wait, there’s more…

We had just finished eating dinner, when Jim called to say they had a White Wagtail at Landing Lights Beach. We raced up there, where they were standing on the dunes, watching as the bird took flight. However, we saw it and followed its flight path. It disappeared up the beach toward Nacfac Creek, so we raced up there and, as we stopped, I spotted the bird down on the creek where it flows onto the beach. The others quickly caught up and got to see it again, also.

White Wagtail, Navfac Creek Beach, May 25, 2017.

So after 20 trips to Adak, always wanting — but failing — to see a wagtail, we have now had two of each — white and yellow!

Our trip list is now 77! Our best ever, and there are still three days to go!

What’s gonna show up next?

PS: The flight to Adak today was cancelled due to volcanic ash erupting out of a volcano somewhere east of us. They plan a flight tomorrow. Lets hope the volcano doesn’t stop our Sunday ride home.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, West wind 20-30 mph.

Jim’s group found another (or the same) Common Sandpiper early this morning in Sweeper Channel. Of course, it flew off before I could get there…

The gull I mentioned yesterday is a “Vega” Herring Gull.

“Vega” Herring Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2014.

At Clam Lagoon, the Red-necked Stint flock grew to 50 overnight and the Dunlin number jumped to 9.

The Bar-tailed Godwit flock has dwindled down to just one lone soul.

Bar-tailed Godwit, Clam Lagoon, May 24, 2017.

The Aleutian Tern numbers have steadily increased since last week.

Aleutian Terns, Clam Lagoon, May 24, 2017.

There may be more than 50 Brambling still here, based on counts at feeders and flocks seen in the field. There are now 4 Hawfinch coming to the Thrush Feeder.

Hawfinch, Thrush Feeder, May 24, 2017.

The fish-processing ship is still attracting Laysan Albatross, Short-tailed Shearwaters, and a few Fulmars.

No new species today, but the wind is supposed to stay west until tomorrow night, so let’s hope more shorebirds join the flock on Clam Lagoon.

Four days to go…

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, Wind SW 20-40 mph Occasional brief sprinkle, and even some hail!

We had nothing new in town or at Sweeper, so we headed north. We saw the Hawfinch and Bramblings at the Thrush Feeder. We got a call from Jim, informing us they had an Eye-browed Thrush at the Adak National Forest. Of course, it flew away before we arrived! That makes 4 Eye-browed Thrushes we have missed on this trip!

They also told us they had 2 Wood Sandpipers at the marsh.

We went up to Clam Lagoon, and scoped the flats. I found a large (30-40) flock of shorebirds out in the middle and I assumed they were Sanderlings. We drove up to the west observation point and I walked out onto the flats to have a look. Our previous experience with Sanderlings out here is when you find a nice-sized flock like this, you check it to see if anything else has joined them.

I don’t take my scope out on the flats, just my camera. I got close enough to take a bunch of pictures. With binos, I could see there were several Dunlin mixed in with them. See?

When I got back to the truck, I took a quick look to see what else I might have missed. Sure enough, I quickly picked out a Red-necked Stint in the first good photo i looked at.

We called Jim’s group and luckily, they were not far and joined us shortly. As they were getting ready to walk out, I looked at more photos and soon realized that there wasn’t just one Red-necked Stint, but ALL of them were!!!

There were no Sanderlings. These were all breeding-plumage stints.

The most Red-necked Stints we had ever seen out here at one time was two!

This was unbelievable.

Eventually, we counted 45 stints, 5 Dunlin, and 1 Red-necked Phalarope. The count was made from the photos.

Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Dunlins, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Dunlins and Red-necked Phalarope, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Red-necked Phalarope (5th bird from left) and Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Dunlins and Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Initially, the flock was around 30+, but we came back a few hours later and it had grown to the numbers cited above (45 RNST, 6 DUNL, and 1 RNPH).

There are records such as this from the Western Aleutians (Attu and Shemya), with as many as 50. But this is certainly a record for the Central Aleutians.

On the second trip around to look at the stints, another birding group showed up — Yvonne’s group — and they walked out with me to get nice looks at them also.

We continued around to the Seawall and then Lake Shirley. As I was scanning the ducks, I saw some gray shorebirds on the far shoreline. They were 3 Common Greenshanks.

3 Common Greenshanks, Lake Shirley, May 23, 2017.

Common Greenshank, Lake Shirley, May 23, 2017.

Again, Jim’s group caught up to us and saw the birds. We then decided to walk around to get closer views (as you can see from my photos, Lake Shirley is far across). However, as we rounded a bluff that hid our approach, they flew off. But as they did, another bird called from nearby. It was a Wood Sandpiper. We hadn’t even noticed it, being so caught up with the greenshanks.

There was still a pair of Tufted Ducks on Lake Ronnie, and Jim’s group had a Black-headed Gull fly by as they were scanning from Zeto Point.

On the way back along the Seawall, we had a flock of 6 Ruddy Turnstones.

Yesterday, I mentioned a “funny-looking” gull — all immature gulls are “funny-looking” to me! Well, the gull experts have weighed in to identify it as a Slaty-backed Gull.

Slaty-backed Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 22, 2017.

Slaty-backed Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 22, 2017.

We found another “funny-looking” gull today. I will post it when we figure it out.

Our trip list is 73, just 3 shy of our record. The winds are still from the southwest…

Monday, May 22, 2017

Temp in the 40s, rain, overcast, Wind WSW 15-30 mph.

One of the few days that we have had on Adak where it rained pretty constantly all day — although the intensity varied.

Last night, Jim and John went out, but turned the wrong direction — easy to do when you first arrive here — and stumbled on a Common Sandpiper in a slough next to the airport! It was still here this morning, although I couldn’t get photos.

Up at Contractors’ Camp marsh, they heard, and later saw, a Wood Sandpiper. We went there later in the day and heard it call, but couldn’t find it.

We had an immature gull up at Clam Lagoon which we could not identify. We sent photos to several birders who are much better than us at identifying gulls. We will post the photos and identification once we get it figured out.

The Hawfinch and flock of Bramblings continue to visit the Thrush Feeder, and 6 more Bramblings are visiting the Blue Building Feeder. The Brambling numbers are way down. We are not seeing the large flocks as we drive around. The ones that are still here are mostly at feeders now.

At the Seawall, I spotted a flock of about 20 shorebirds flying, but they were too far away to identify. They flew back into the Seawall down towards the Breaches, but when we got back down there, I couldn’t find any. Probably Turnstones or Sanderlings. Maybe we will find them tomorrow.

The strong westerly winds are slated to continue until Saturday morning. They brought in a couple of sandpipers already. Keep em coming…

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, Wind W 15 to 30 mph.

No new birds today.

It is spring, so here are some flowers.

Arctic Daisies, Adak, May 21, 2017

Dandelions — they grow everywhere, Adak, May 21, 2017

The fish-processing ship was active today and we saw at least 4 Laysan Albatrosses out there, but no other stiff-wings.

There are still 20 or so Bramblings and 1 Hawfinch coming to the Thrush Feeder and 3 Bramblings at the Blue Building Feeder.

We also had another Hawfinch in town, but he has not yet shown up at a feeder.

The west wind today made Kuluk Bay and Sitkin Sound in the lee, so they were relatively calm. Without waves crashing over it, Goose Rocks provided a safe haven to rest.

Goose Rocks festooned with gulls, eider, and cormorants, May 21, 2017

All of the other birders left today, but three more arrived. So we will still have the benefit of extra eyes and ears this week.

Lastly, all of the deteriorating buildings here have created a new art form — broken-window-art. A few samples…

Raptor swooping in…

Kingfisher? Pileated?

Keep those west winds blowing!

Saturday, May 20,2017.

Temp in the 40s, sunny and calm at dawn, overcast and wind West at 15-25 mph by evening. No rain.

Okay, let’s get it over with…

Mandatory Bald Eagle head shot, Adak, May 20,2017.

The bay was calm this morning, making it easier to spot alcids at a distance. We picked up both puffins and saw a lot of Ancient Murrelets and Common Murres.

Keith’s group went out on the Puk-Uk this morning and, although they did not see large numbers of birds, they did get the target species — Whiskered and Crested auklets — and more.

I forgot to mention yesterday that the Bar-tailed Godwit flock had dwindled to four. Today there were only two. They are moving on.

The Bramblings are also moving on. We are seeing far fewer numbers the past two days. However, there are still about 20 at the Thrush Feeder, as well as the Hawfinch.

My Yellow Wagtail perch experiment has to pay off, but as I walked out there today, they flew out and back towards Barb, who saw them briefly. Still no photos!

At the Seawall, John pointed out a Yellow-billed Loon to us — still too far for photos. He had an Arctic Loon yesterday, but we did not see it today.

A pair of Snow Buntings are frequenting the Sandy Cove Bluffs Rock Feeder.

Snow Bunting, Sandy Cove Bluffs Rock Feeder, , May 20,2017.

We have not seen the injured Tufted Duck at the Airport Ponds today, but there was a healthy pair there as well as a pair on Lake Ronnie.

Tufted Ducks, Airport Ponds, May 20,2017.

The fish-processing ship was processing today, attracting a large flock of gulls, but no pelagics. Also, this ship is anchored farther out in the bay, making identifying odd gulls almost impossible.

Our trip list is 66 — two over our average — after less than a week and within shooting range of our May high of 76.

The wind has shifted to the west and is supposed to increase in speed and become southwest with rain the next few days. Ideal for dropping Asian birds on us.

Our fingers are crossed…