Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Temps in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional light shower, Wind N 10-15 mph

In the 13 years that we have been coming to Adak, we had never seen an adult-plumaged Slaty-backed Gull until this past May.

Today we had two of them. The first was out on Clam Lagoon. Not very close, but close enough.

Slaty-backed Gull with Glaucous-winged gull (back), Clam Lagoon, Sept 27, 2017

Slaty-backed Gull with Glaucous-winged gull (back), Clam Lagoon, Sept 27, 2017

We initially saw it from the west side. When we got around to the east side, it was still there, but just as far out.

We headed back up to the Seawall. We had only one Sanderling there. But, at the spot where the Sanderlings were yesterday, there was a small flock of gulls — including another Slaty-backed! They flew as soon as we pulled up, but I got flight shots.

Slaty-backed Gull with Glaucous-winged Gull (top), The Seawall, Sept 27, 2017

They flew up to the Breaches, so we went up there and got some more photos.

Slaty-backed Gull with Glaucous-winged Gull (left), The Breaches, Sept 27, 2017

Slaty-backed Gull with Glaucous-winged Gull (right).The Breaches, Sept 27, 2017

That made our Trip List 56 — two better than average.

Our Year’s List remained at 94!

The most frustrating event of the day was seeing the cuckoo again! We thought it had gone, but as we were driving back from the lagoon towards the Palisades, it flew from the roadside again and down to the spruce grove as it did a few days ago. Needless to say, I couldn’t jump out of the car quick enough to get flight photos. Oh well…

This was a great trip anyway.

2 lifers — Kamchatka Leaf Warbler (a first record for Adak) and Gray-streaked Flycatcher.

Two second records for Adak – Golden-crowned Sparrow and Gray-streaked Flycatcher.

Our third Little Stint

Our second Cuckoo (of indeterminate species).

A record Year’s List.

Our trip home was uneventful.

We will be back next May.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional light shower, Winds N 10-20 mph

Not much to report. We continue in the doldrums.

The 3 Emperor Geese put in an appearance at Clam Lagoon today.

A flock of about a dozen Snow Buntings was at Sweeper Cove.

The Sanderlings continue at the Seawall — with 2 Western Sandpipers now.

Up at the Seawall, a Song Sparrow let us know who was in charge.

Song Sparrow, guess where?, Sept 26, 2017

We made the mandatory drive up to White Alice, if for nothing else, the view. A flock of 6 ravens and three Bald Eagles were enjoying the updrafts.

Bald Eagle, White Alice, Sept 26, 2017

This will be my last posting until Friday, as we leave tomorrow evening and don’t arrive home until Thursday afternoon (assuming flights go as planned…).

The Trip List – 55 and Year’s List 94 remain unchanged.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional light shower, wind NNW 10-15 mph

As we pulled in to check out the High School Spruces this morning, a flock of a half-dozen-or-so Common Redpolls flew into the far-right bunch of trees. It was raining at the time, so I didn’t get out of the truck to get closer for a photo. We tried again later, but they were gone. Year bird number 94!

At Contractor”s Camp Marsh, a Peregrine flew overhead. As I was straining to photograph it straight up, I saw small birds flying overhead as well. They were Redpolls — about 30-40 of them. I didn’t get a Redpoll photo, but I got the falcon.

Peregrine Falcon, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, Sept 25, 2017

There was one Pectoral Sandpiper there as well.

At the Seawall, I picked out a breeding-plumaged Pacific Loon — number 55 for the trip list.

Also there, the Sanderling flock (which has increased to 34) was playing with the waves as they crashed on the beach — as Sanderlings are wont to do!

Sanderlings, Seawall,, Sept 25, 2017

One Western Sandpiper was with them.

Western Sandpiper with Sanderling, Seawall, Sept 25, 2017

Up at the Breaches, I usually see a shitload of gulls perched there. Today there was just a shitload of gull shit!

The Breaches

The other day, while walking the clam Lagoon mud flats, I found these tracks.

Rat Tracks, Clam Lagoon mud flats

They were about a hundred yards out on the flats!

And — speaking of rats — I have been setting a trap for rats next to our “feeder” behind the house (caught 3 so far!) to protect our seed. Occasionally, the trap is triggered, but no catch. It had triggered last night, but I didn’t bother resetting it this morning. When we stopped back at the house late this morning, I found this creature savoring the remaining peanut butter!

Slug on rat trap

No Emperor Geese or Cuckoo today.

Our trip list is 55, one above average, but high in quality.

Our Year’s List is 94.

A day-and-a-half to go…

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Another long-tailed raptor, but is it a lifer?

Temps in the 40s, partly sunny, occasional drizzle, wind N 10-15 mph

At Contractor’s Camp Marsh, the gimpy Pacific Golden-Plover was still hanging around.

Nothing new at any of the willows or spruces.

We approached the cuckoo area very slowly today in hopes we could spot it before it flew away again. No dice. Another hundred yards down from where we saw it yesterday, it sprang from the side of the road and disappeared once more — in spite of a lot of searching.

We will try again tomorrow.

Nothing obvious out on the Clam Lagoon Flats.

As we drove up to Shotgun Lake, a harrier popped out from the side of the road. Unlike last time, I was able to get photos before it disappeared over a ridge. The AOU just recently recognized Northern Harrier as a separate species from the Hen Harrier of Eurasia. So we need to be sure which species this is. It appears to be a Northern Harrier, but we will need further study to be sure. The first harrier we had in 2009 was a North American bird. The second one we had flew away too quickly to be either studied or photographed.

Northern Harrier?, near Shotgun Lake, Sept 24, 2017.

Northern Harrier?, near Shotgun Lake, Sept 24, 2017.

Northern Harrier?, near Shotgun Lake, Sept 24, 2017.

Northern Harrier?, near Shotgun Lake, Sept 24, 2017.

Northern Harrier?, near Shotgun Lake, Sept 24, 2017.

On the other side of Clam Lagoon, there were still 3 Emperor Geese and 30 Sanderlings.

Lake Ronnie had a large flock of waterfowl, mostly Mallards, with some Eurasian Wigeon, Greater Scaup, Common Teal, Northern Pintails, and Red-breasted Mergansers.

Back at Clam Lagoon, I walked out the Peninsula and saw that the Sanderlings had moved to the point. However, they flew before I could see if any of our peeps were with them.

I am getting better at getting flight shots of birds. Here is a sampling from today’s Clam Lagoon marsh edge walk.

Wilson’s Snipe, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Wilson’s Snipe, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Pectoral Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

Pectoral Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 24, 2017

We did not see the Little Stint today. We have not seen a jaeger since Tuesday, the 19th.

Still no dowitcher or turnstone.

Our trip list is 53. Our Year’s List is 93!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Cuckoo redux…

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, Wind N 10-15 mph

No new birds today, but the Gyrfalcon that we saw 10 days ago finally made a reappearance.

Gyrfalcon, Adak, September 23, 2017

Gyrfalcon, Adak, September 23, 2017

Gyrfalcon, Adak, September 23, 2017

On our way up to Clam Lagoon, we ran into (not literally!) the cuckoo again just north of where we had it two days ago. Again, it flew across the road, down the embankment and then over to a stand of spruces about 500 feet off the road. No chance for photos. I — like a ninny — decided to walk(?), hike(?), trudge(?) over there in order to get those diagnostic flight photos everyone wants.

So I trudged over there through waist-high vegetation, absolutely uneven under-footing, and hidden streams. As I got to the spruces, the bird flew out and disappeared up a ravine. I could hardly get my footing, let alone raise my camera fast enough to get photos!

I decided my legs would give out long before the cuckoo’s wings would, so I gave up the chase.

The good news is it is still here and hanging around the road. We will try a stealthier approach tomorrow.

In other news…

The Emperor Goose flock remains at 3. The Sanderling flock remains at 30 and they were actually feeding along the Seawall today. The surf and wind direction have changed enough to make the Seawall more shorebird-friendly.

Later in the evening, the Sanderling flock was out on the Clam Lagoon Peninsula, along with the four Western Sandpipers and the Little Stint.

There are a lot of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches coming to the three feeder areas, but nothing else so far.

Still no dowitcher or turnstones…

But the most important news of the day was Penn State’s come-from-behind, last-second victory over Iowa!!!!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Temps in the 40s, overcast morning turning to partly sunny late in the day, Wind N 10-20 mph.

We have never had a September trip without Black Oystercatcher, but it took ten days to finally catch up with one — actually six today.

The other big misses so far are Ruddy Turnstone and Long-billed Dowitcher. We have had them on every September trip. But, so far, they have eluded us.

Here is the obligatory Bald Eagle photo for the trip.

Bald Eagle, NavFac Beach, Sept 22, 2017

There was still one Pacific Golden-Plover at Contractor’s Camp Marsh.

I walked the Clam Lagoon marsh today and had several Sharp-tailed and Pectoral sandpipers.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 22, 2017

Along the edge, there are always tracks from the flock of Common Teal that feed there every day (mostly in late afternoon).

Common Teal tracks. Note how different they are from the American Green-winged Teal tracks you are more familiar with…

Since we have been here, we have seen Red-breasted Mergansers in only small flocks. Usually, we see much larger numbers this time of year. Well we found them today in the bay north of Candlestick Bridge where a few hundred were hanging out.

The Emperor Goose number stands at three. And there was a flock of 30 Sanderlings on the flats today.

When we came back round to the West Viewpoint, again we saw peeps out towards the peninsula, so out I trudged out to determine what they were. They turned out to be 4 Western Sandpipers and our Little Stint. One of the Westerns had an extraordinarily long schnoz…

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 22, 2017

More tomorrow…

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Temp in the 50s, drizzle on and off all day, occasional sunshine, wind N 10-20 mph

Since this was the anniversary of our (FIRST NORTH AMERICAN RECORD!!) Eurasian Sparrowhawk, we assumed we would get another…

Well, we got another long-tailed, short-winged lifer, but it wasn’t an accipiter.

On our way up to Clam Lagoon, as we crested the hill leading down to the Palisades Overlook, a medium-sized bird flew across the road, perched briefly on the guardrail, and then dropped into the ravine next to the road. We inched the truck forward and Barb spotted the bird sitting on a rock and quickly identified it as a cuckoo!

I jumped out and got a few photos before it flew across the road and disappeared over the cliff edge.

Cuckoo (Oriental — we hope!), Palisades Overlook, Sept 21, 2017

Our best guess at this point is an Oriental Cuckoo (most common in the Fall on the Aleutians — although the one we had in the Fall of 2009 was a Common Cuckoo). We are consulting others about its identity.

Before we got there, at Sweeper Cove, we had a Horned Grebe. Most of the grebes we see here are up at the Seawall, so this was unusual (for us).

At Contractor’s Camp Marsh we still had two Pacific-Golden Plovers.

Up at Clam Lagoon, we stopped at the West Overlook and Barb spotted a flock of shorebirds flying across the lagoon. They landed out on the Peninsula. We could see that there were 4 Sanderlings and 6 peeps, so I walked out there to get a closer look.

Five of the peeps flew off and the remaining one was a Western.

Sanderlings, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Just after I got back to the truck, the remaining 5 peeps flew in and landed just a short distance out on the flats. They were 4 Western Sandpipers and the Little Stint. We also saw a Pectoral Sandpiper nearby. I did not walk the marsh edge today.

There was nothing new at the Seawall. The surf was raging, making seeing anything beyond the crashing waves difficult. Also, the ocean spray was almost directly in our faces, so our binos and scope quickly became useless.  On the east side of the lagoon, we saw that the flock(?) of Emperor Geese had grown to 3!

At Candlestick Bridge, a tattered Black-legged Kittiwake didn’t seem to care that I was standing there, He was more interested in fishing.

Black-legged Kittiwake, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Back up at the north end of the lagoon, the kittiwakes were in for a bath.

Black-legged Kittiwakes (and a few Glaucous-winged Gulls, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Black-legged Kittiwakes (and a few Glaucous-winged Gulls, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Regardless of the cuckoo identification, our Year’s List stands at 92.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Temp in the 50s, drizzle in the morning, partly sunny late afternoon, wind NE 10-15 mph

Today’s excitement started early. After birding the usual places around town, we headed up to the Warbler Willows. I walked over and spotted a sparrow! I called to Barb and she came over and saw it as well. It was an immature Golden-crowned Sparrow!

Golden-crowned Sparrow, Warbler Willows, Sept 20, 2017

As far as we know, this is only the second record for Adak. Not a lifer, but an Adak bird for us and an Adak Year Bird for us. This set a Year’s List record for us — 91.

Up at Clam Lagoon, I spotted what looked like an Emperor Goose out on the flats, but closer inspection revealed two! They were both each standing on one leg…

Emperor Geese (pretending to be one), Clam Lagoon, Sept 20, 2017

As we were driving around, we noticed that the number of longspurs seemed to have dropped. They are finally starting to move out.

At the Seawall, there were at least a dozen Horned Grebes and 4 Red-necked Grebes. Also, the numbers of Common Murres were way up — over a hundred — when earlier in the trip we were seeing only a few at a time.

When we got back around to the west shore, I walked the peninsula and marsh edge. There was nothing out on the peninsula, but as I walked the marsh edge, three Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and a peep flushed in front of me. They landed not far ahead of me, so I approached slowly. I got good looks at two of the Sharp-tails, but could not see the peep.

They then flushed again, but this time were joined by many other Sharp-tails, Pectorals?, and peeps! There were about 15 birds in all. They flew back and forth and around, and I was able to get some flight shots. I don’t know what the peeps were, most likely the Western Sandpipers we’ve had the last few days, but I will study them more and ask others to look at them to see if we can figure them out. Here are a couple of the photos.

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Little Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 20, 2017

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 20, 2017

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Western Sandpipers and Little Stint(center bird), Clam Lagoon, Sept 20, 2017

When we got back near town, we decided to watch the plane arrive. However, a fog bank rolled in just before it was due. When the runway lights came on, we new it was near, even though we couldn’t see it.

We then heard it approaching — from the west! — and as it neared the runway (still not visible), it accelerated and aborted the landing. It flew off beyond our hearing, but the emergency vehicle stayed out by the runway and the lights remained on — until they didn’t!

The emergency vehicle drove up to the other end of the runway, so we figured the jet was in a holding pattern, waiting for visibility to improve. It did. After about 15 minutes, the fog lifted enough that we could see Zeto Point again, the runway lights came back on and the plane came in and landed. Late, but safe.

One week down, one to go.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Temp near 50, Mostly sunny, but overcast by mid-day, and showers by late afternoon, wind NE 15-25 mph increasing to 20-30 by late afternoon.

Nothing notable this morning until we got to Contractor’s Camp Marsh and found the Pacific Golden-Plover with the broken leg had at least made it a few miles south.

At the Landing Lights Jetty, a flock of 6 Rock Sandpipers put in their first appearance for our trip.

Rock Sandpiper, Landing Lights Jetty, Sept 19, 2017

At Clam Lagoon, I walked the marsh edge and had a cooperative Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 19, 2017

I also had a Pectoral Sandpiper.

As I neared the northern end — where Barb was parked — Barb notified me that there were three peeps on the flats ahead of me. They were still too far for photos, so I walked slowly in their direction. A fourth peep joined them.

I got distant photos before they flew off. They were three Western Sandpipers and the Little Stint.

At the Seawall, we had a Red-necked Grebe and lots of Short-tailed Shearwaters way off shore — no albatross, yet.

On the east Side of Clam Lagoon, we saw a flock of 6 medium-sized shorebirds flying. Fortunately, they flew towards us and landed just a short way up the edge, in the lee of the roadside. They were Pacific Golden-Plovers — 5 in juvenile plumage and one similar to the broken-legged one we had earlier (but with two good legs).

Pacific Golden-Plover, Clam Lagoon, Sept 19, 2017

We also saw a flock of about two dozen Sanderlings flying around the lagoon, but wouldn’t put down.

After dinner, we went back up to Clam Lagoon to see if anything new was brought in by the changing weather. We had no new birds, but the peeps were back at the same location as earlier — missing one Western. As we were watching them actively feeding, they suddenly stopped, looked alert, and crouched down. A Peregrine sailed by, apparently not noticing them — but they surely saw him!

Our trip list is 49, just 5 shy of our average September list.

Monday, September 18, 2017

It’s a tie!

Temp in the 50s, mostly sunny, Wind NE at 5-10 mph.

The morning birding was uneventful at the usual places. No new birds at any of the willows or spruces. However, we are starting to get activity (Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches) at the “thrush” feeder up near Navfac Creek. This is where we had as many as 8 Hawfinch last May! We hope this will attract passing vagrants.

At Clam Lagoon, we had a flock of 8 Sanderlings way out on the flats. No other species mixed in.

We drove out to the Loran Station, but did not add any new birds out there.

At the Seawall, we still had a Parasitic Jaeger joining in on the various gull feeding-frenzies. And I saw one lone Short-tailed Shearwater fly by.

Back on the western side, we had another Peregrine fly by. This one was in much better shape than the ragged one we had out at Lake Andrew yesterday.

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon, Sept 18, 2017

When we got down to the west side of the flats, I spotted three shorebirds feeding out from the marsh edge. They were two peeps and a plover.

The plover was a Pacific Golden-Plover with a broken leg.

Pacific Golden-Plover (with broken leg), Clam Lagoon, Sept 18, 2017

I had to walk out and circle around the peeps to get better lighting to tell what they were (and for photos). Luckily, they were not frightened by my presence and allowed me to get close enough to identify and photograph them

They were a Western Sandpiper and a Little Stint. They were soon joined by a second Western.

Western Sandpiper (left) and Little Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 18, 2017

Little Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 18, 2017

This is our third record of Little Stint on Adak (two photographed, all September). While Isaac was living here, he had one almost every fall.

Since I was already part-way down the marsh edge, I continued down, but only had a couple of Pectoral and Sharp-tailed sandpipers the rest of the way.

The Little Stint gives us a year’s list total of 90 — matching our previous best in 2007!

And we aren’t even through week one yet…