Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, Wind w 15-20 mph

Final Day

Just as we were going out, Jon called to say the Sandhill Cranes were down near the Airport Ditch. We went down there, but the cranes were gone.

At Sweeper Cove we had another Horned Puffin.

Horned Puffin, Sweeper Cove

We went up to Clam Lagoon, but found no shorebirds on the peninsula. The flats had few birds, also.

On flight day, we tend to stay near town in case something goes wrong with the truck. The Brambling was at Seal Drive Feeder and Jon and Jim reported having two there later.

The Temminck’s Stint was still here.

Late in the afternoon, we were just driving towards town from Landing Lights when Jon called to say they just had two Tundra Bean Geese flying over and headed our way from town. We looked up and there they were, coming in for a landing on the other side of the airport runway. They disappeared over a little rise.

We drove up to the Airport Escarpment where we could see the runway and spotted them. The distance and heat waves prevented nice photos, but here is one anyway.

Tundra Bean Geese, Airport, May 30, 2018

That put our trip list at 80! One shy of our May record.

In summary, the trip was very good.

It started off with a bang — the Great Egret — but quickly got bogged down by east winds. However, the winds shifted for the second week and we did much better.

We had one Lifer — Spotted Redshank

Four new Adak birds for us — Great Egret, Spotted Redshank, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Hooded Merganser

The Semi was a new bird for Adak.

Other birds seen by other birders while we were there, but missed by us, include: Short-eared Owl, Peregrine Falcon, Red-necked Stint, Sandhill Crane, and Dunlin.

Barb now has 147 for Adak, I have 146.

A combined list of 152.

THE bird of the trip was, of course, the Spotted Redshank. Not a bird we really had expectations of.

We will be back in September.

PS: There was an article in the recent ABA publication Birder’s Guide to Travel on Adak, etc. There have been some changes (such as flight schedules) since that piece was put together. See my Guide to Birding Adak, Alaska at for current information.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Adak weather at its finest!

Temp in the 40s, overcast, drizzle most of the day, wind WSW 30-40 mph!

It was so lovely out, that Jon decided to take a stroll on the beach…

Jon Boone out for a leisurely beach stroll on a balmy day on Adak…

Notice the tilt towards the WSW…

We headed up to Clam Lagoon first thing to see what might have blown in overnight.

The Little Stint was still there, but not the Red-necked.

Little Stint, Clam Lagoon, May 29, 2018

Along the marsh edge, we found a Pectoral Sandpiper.

Out from the South Lookout, an adult Slaty-backed Gull was sitting with the Glaucous-winged Gulls.

Slaty-backed Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 29, 2018

We headed south, had a Hawfinch at the Adak National Forest, then went down to the marsh. Just as we were approaching, Jon called to say the Spotted Redshank was back!

We raced over to the area, but just as we arrived, it took off and disappeared. Barb saw it fly out, but I missed it. Although we all searched the area for some time, it was not refound.

By the way, the Greater White-fronted Goose that had relocated to the marsh the day before, watched with befuddlement at these strange beings racing around the marsh…

Down at Sweeper Creek, we found a Hawfinch in the lone spruce tree there, This is where we saw our first Adak Brambling.

Hawfinch, Sweeper Creek Spruce, May 29, 2018

The weather was horrible all day, so we took a break mid-afternoon.

When we went back out, we were driving up Bayshore and stopped to check the beach. I saw a small gull next to a large gull and my first reaction was “What’s the large gull?”

It should have been “What’s the small gull?”

It turned out to be a Mew Gull. Only the second that we have seen out here. The question then was “What subspecies?”

After checking the guides and the photos, we determined that it was the North American subspecies Larus canus brachyrhynchus.

Mew Gull Larus canus brachyrhynchus, Sandy Cove Beach, May 29, 2018

Mew Gull Larus canus brachyrhynchus, Sandy Cove Beach, May 29, 2018

Mew Gull Larus canus brachyrhynchus, Sandy Cove Beach, May 29, 2018

How this North American bird found its way out to Adak during a week of strong southwest winds is beyond me. It should have been one of the Asian subspecies.

Jon and Jim had three Sandhill Cranes today.

At 79 species so far, this is already our second-best May total.

One more day to find another good bird.

NOTE: This will be my last post until Friday morning, eastern time. We leave tomorrow evening around 6 pm and don’t get home until Thursday around 5 pm (which is noon Adak time)!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Temp in the 40s, Mostly cloudy, occasional fine drizzle, Wind SW 20-40 mph

The Brambling has settled in at the Seal Drive Feeder.

Brambling, Seal Drive Feeder, May 28, 2018

A Hawfinch is there, too (as well as at several other feeders).

At the Airport Ditch, at least one Wood Sandpiper and the two peeps are still being seen, as well as the Greater White-fronted Goose. Wood Sandpipers continue to be seen at multiple locations.

Greater White-fronted Goose, Airport Ditch, May 28, 2018

The goose was not seen there later in the day, but has moved up to Contractor’s Camp Marsh.

Jon and Jim also had a Dunlin today.

A flock of 18 Aleutian Cackling Geese flew over today.

At Lake Shirley/Lake Ronnie, the American Wigeon and Lesser Scaup were still present, but not the Hooded Merganser or Tufted Duck.

Jon and Jim refound the Gadwall hiding in a small reedy pond on the approach to Lake Shirley.

At the Seawall, we finally spotted a Short-tailed Shearwater flying by.

At Clam Lagoon, I again walked the marsh edge. Right near the beginning, the American Green-winged Teal posed.

American Green-winged Teal, Clam Lagoon, May 28, 2018

A little farther up, A Pectoral Sandpiper flew out.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, May 28, 2018

As Barb pulled up to the West Lookout (where she would pick me up), she saw a  small to medium-sized shorebird on the nearby flats, but it flew off before she could get the scope on it.

As we were coming back around the lagoon, we ran into Jon and Jim who said they just had a Red-necked Stint out on the peninsula.

I walked out, and just as I rounded the bend, a peep flew out and away and I could not relocate it. I assumed it was the stint.

After dinner, I went back up to the peninsula and walked out, hoping the stint had returned. My experience with stints out here has been that they stay a few days and are friendly.

Well, as I walked out, the same thing happened — a peep flew out and disappeared. However, this time it circled back and landed thirty yards behind me. It was a Little Stint — our first spring record. Many more are seen in the fall.

So I don’t know what I saw earlier — the Red-necked or the Little. Maybe tomorrow.

Little Stint, Clam Lagoon, May 28, 2018

So new birds are coming in each day. More strong SW winds are expected to continue through Wednesday. Unfortunately, we leave on Wednesday! Who knows what else will be blown in. In the meantime, we keep on lookin’…

The trip list is 77.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Temp in the 40s, overcast, heavy rain starting in early afternoon, Wind SSE 10-15 increasing as the day went on

At Sweeper Cove this morning we finally got a Horned Puffin for the trip. Alcids in general have been low in numbers here this year. Don’t know why…

At the Seal Drive Feeder, we got a Brambling. Jim and Jon have seen several so far, but not at feeders.

Brambling, Seal Drive Feeder, May 27, 2018

The Hooded Merganser and Lesser Scaup were seen at Lake Smith today by Jon and Jim. This lake is along the drive up to Lake Ronnie, and ducks frequently go between the two. The American Wigeon were on Lake Shirley and the Seawall produced nothing new.

There are Wood Sandpipers in a number of locations. Not a major invasion (like a hundred), but still not bad. Very easy to see.

I decided to walk the Clam Lagoon Marsh Edge. Although it is better in fall, you never know. I tried calling Jon and Jim to join me, but couldn’t reach them.

I walked down to the flats and shortly after, a Mallard jumped out in front of me and. instead of flying away — as Mallards are wont to do out here — she flayed about as if injured. This was the same “broken wing act” we saw by the Semipalmated Plover a few days ago. There were chicks nearby.

Mallard doing a “broken wing act”, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2018

Shortly after, Barb called to let me know there was a large shorebird ahead of me — probably a Common Greenshank, She was scoping from the truck at the South Lookout.

Right after she called, I came upon a peep right in front of me. I couldn’t see the shorebird Barb had located due o the vegetation. So I concentrated on the bird at hand. I got several excellent photos, and as I was talking with Barb on the radio, Jon chimed in and asked what was happening. We told him about the two birds and invited them to join me. They said they would be right there.

I decided to not move so I wouldn’t flush the birds, but within a minute, they both took off for parts unknown!

Jon and Jim arrived a few minutes later and we walked the length of the edge and out the peninsula to no avail. However, we flushed a pipit, which Jon called an American. I somehow got photos of it in flight and confirmed Jon’s identification.

American Pipit, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2018

The peep turned out to be the Semipalmated Sandpiper from two days ago down near the airport. The breast and back feathers molting in were identical.

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, May 27, 2018

We split up and Barb and I went down to Warbler Willows. Although not leafed out, yet, (and much better in the fall) we still check them — just because.

When we got there, a Common Redpoll was sitting there, but quickly flew away.

The rain was coming down in buckets at this point and the wind was increasing, so we went back to the house for a break.

When we went back out, the weather was still miserable, but we persevered.

At the Airport Ditch, we found a pair of geese. One Aleutian Cackling and a Greater White-fronted. However, the White-fronted was no larger than the Cackling! This should not be — we thought. We tried to make the White-fronted into a Lesser White-fronted, to no avail. We later learned that the smallest Greater White-fronted was no larger than a large Cackling. Oh well, at east a trip bird.

Greater White-fronted Goose (right) and Aleutian Cackling Goose, Airport Ditch, May 27, 2018

Greater White-fronted Goose, Airport Ditch, May 27, 2018

We called Jon and Jim and they added it to their list as well.

After we left, they refound the Temminck’s Stint there.

I went out after dinner to see if anything else was blown in. On my way up past the airport, several shorebirds flew across the road. I couldn’t tell what they were in the poor light and driving rain, and, of course, they landed behind some grasses. I got out of the truck and walked over and discovered they were just Rock Sandpipers.

Rock Sandpiper, Airport, May 27, 2018

As i drove up the road, many more flew off the side of the road. They had been sheltering in the lee of the sand dune between the road and the beach.

Our trip list is now 74!

More strong SW winds coming!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

A waterfowl day.

Temp in the 40s, overcast turning partly sunny. Wind SW 5-10 increasing as the day went on.

At least one Hawfinch remains at the Adak National Forest and Jon and Jim saw one in town and one down near Sweeper Cove today.

There are a few more Wood Sandpipers around at various places.

Neither the Spotted Redshank, or the two peeps were seen today.

At Contractor’s Camp Marsh, a lot of snipe were calling and winnowing. I managed to get a shot of a Common.

Common Snipe, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May 26, 2018

At Lake Jean, we had a Common Loon and a flock of 48 Cackling Geese flew over.

Aleutian Cackling Geese, Lake Jean, May 26, 2018

At the Seawall, there were several Pacific Loons and dozens of White-winged Scoters.

You may be wondering why I haven’t yet posted a photo of the Tufted Duck at Lake Shirley.

Well, Lake Shirley is approximately two-and-a-half football fields wide! And the ducks tend to stay on the far side (see my Common Greenshank photos from last May to see the quality of photos at that distance).

Well today, as we approached the lake, the Tufted Duck was on this side. Of course, as soon as she saw us she started to swim away, but not before I was able to finally get a photo.

Tufted Duck, Lake Shirley, May 26, 2018

As I was concentrating on taking the above photo, Barb was trying to get my attention, but I was so focused, it wasn’t sinking in. There was a pair of American Wigeon close by! 99% of the wigeon out here are Eurasian, so American is noteworthy.

American Wigeon, Lake Shirley, May 26, 2018

We continued up to Lake Ronnie.

As I was scanning the Red-breasted Mergansers, Mallards, and Scaup, I noticed a pair of Lesser Scaup (usually annual, but not common).

Then I noticed a smaller bird with the mergansers. It turned out to be a female Hooded Merganser. A rare bird out here and an Adak bird for us.

Hooded Merganser (back) with Red-breasted Merganser, Lake Ronnie, May 26, 2018

So three waterfowl for the trip list and one new Adak Bird. No lifers, but still a good day.

We have added 4 new birds to our Adak list so far on this trip — Great Egret, Spotted Redshank, Semipalmated Sandpiper (also a first for Adak) and Hooded Merganser.

The trip list is now 68.

The southwest winds are picking up again…

Friday, May 25, 2018

They just keep coming…

Temp in the 40s. partly sunny, showers in the morning, Wind North 15-20 mph

Note: If anyone read yesterday’s blog before I corrected it, please note that the “Little Stint” was actually a Semipalmated Sandpiper. More on this below.

It took ten days, but we finally got out mandatory rainbow photo for the trip.

Rainbow, Adak,, May 25, 2018

We decided to head up to Adak National Forest first thing this morning in order to see the Hawfinches before they hid on us all day!

Well, we got there, and although it took about 15 minutes, they finally appeared.

We headed down the hill, checked the Thrush Feeder, then went into the marsh.

At the “Plover Spot”, we saw 3 Pacific Golden-Plovers. Then I saw another shorebird which I immediately recognized as a Spotted Redshank! In breeding plumage no less!

Thankfully, Jim and Jon were in radio distance and got to our location in a few minutes. This was a lifer for Jim, Jon, and me. Barb had one in New Jersey many years ago, but this was a semi-lifer, as her previous one was in non-breeding plumage.

No question on this ID.

Spotted Redshank, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May 25, 2018

Spotted Redshank, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May 25, 2018

Spotted Redshank, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May 25, 2018

Spotted Redshank, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May 25, 2018

Spotted Redshank, Contractor’s Camp Marsh, May 25, 2018

There are two other records for Adak — one on May 30,1972 and one on Sept 20,1975.

What a bird!!!!

A nice way to start the day.

Now, about yesterday…

I am allowed to make one bone-headed ID mistake each trip. Yesterday’s Little Stint was this trip’s quota.

When I saw the bird, I new it was a peep/stint. It had dark legs, so Least, Long-toed, and Temminck’s were ruled out. Baird’s and White-rumped are very distinctive, so they were ruled out also. That left Western, Red-necked, and Little. Westerns have long bills and always some rufous feathers somewhere, so that eliminated that species.

So that left the two stints. Having seen both Red-necked and Little, I felt confident that I could tell them apart. The bird just didn’t look like a Red-necked to me, so I convinced myself (and the others around me) that it was a Little Stint.

After posting it to this blog last night, I received several messages from good birding friends who are much better at this than I am, pointing out that this was in fact a Semipalmated Sandpiper!

Semi had never even crossed my mind, as they have never occurred here (although Isaac had a glimpse of what he thought as one several years ago) and are rare in the Aleutians as a whole.

So. The bird was a Semipalmated Sandpiper. New for Adak and new for our personal Adak list (and trip list),

Back to today.

We headed up to Clam Lagoon. There was a Common Loon on the lagoon — unusual location.

The score today at Lake Shirley was Tufted Duck 1; Gadwall 0.

As we drove down the east side of the lagoon, we got a call from Jon that there was another peep with the one from yesterday and they thought t might be a Temminck’s!

We raced around the lagoon (boy, we wish Candlestick Bridge was repaired — maybe when we win the lottery…)

We got there and saw the bird. It had yellow legs, which meant it was either a Least Sandpiper, a Long-toed Sandpiper, or a Temminck’s Stint. The Long-toed is fairly distinctive in shape and appearance, so was ruled out.

We’ve seen two Temminck’s Stints here, one in spring and one in fall. At first, this bird did not strike me as a Temminck’s — the jizz just wasn’t right. But after looking at it more carefully (especially after yesterday’s fiasco), I was finally convinced it was.

But, just to be certain, I sent photos to my friends — Aaron and Isaac — and they concurred.


This also was a lifer for Jon and Jim!

Here are a few photos.

Temminck’s Stint, Airport Ditch, May 25, 2018

Temminck’s Stint, Airport Ditch, May 25, 2018

Temminck’s Stint, Airport Ditch, May 25, 2018

Temminck’s Stint (left) and Semipalmated Sandpiper, Airport Ditch, May 25, 2018. Photo by Jim DeForge.

Its amazing how different a bird can look in different positions and lighting!

While observing the peeps, a nearby Semipalmated Plover kept chasing them away anytime they got near her nesting area.

She tried to lure us away as well.

Semipalmated Plover trying to lure us away from her nest with her “broken wing” act. No, we did not step on it! May 25, 2018

Later, we went back up to Adak National Forest, just to see if anything new showed up. We pulled up and a few minutes after sitting there, a bird flew out and started flycatching above the forest. It landed briefly, but not long enough for me to get the camera on it. It then continued flycatching back and forth across the road and trees until it finally flew east and disappeared. It was flying so erratically that I could not get my camera on it. When it had landed, i did see that i had a long tail (like a Song Sparrow, for instance), but we could not tell what it was. It was totally backlit as well.

We called Jon and Jim and they arrived, but none of us could relocate the mystery bird.

One that got away…

On the way back to town, there were a couple of Glaucous Gulls hanging out near the Landing Lights.

Two Glaucous Gulls with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Landing Lights, May 25, 2018

The trip list is 65.

Keep em comin!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The westerlies strike again!

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, occasional light rain, Wind NW 10-20 mph

Although we didn’t see them today, the Hawfinches were seen both this morning and evening at Adak National Forest. (Basically, when they see us coming, they hide…)

Also seen this morning by Jon and Jim was a flock of 8 Brambling. We missed those also.

However, at Lake Shirley, we saw both the Tufted Duck and the Gadwall.

Only three Pacific Golden-Plovers at the marsh today.

The excitement started after dinner. I went out to head for Clam Lagoon and Jon And Jim headed south. I shortly got a call from them informing me that the Wood Sandpiper that they had seen earlier (and we had missed!) was back at the ditch along the airport.

I picked up Barb and we headed down there. We didn’t see it at first, so we split up, with Barb driving up the ditch and me walking back were we came from. She soon found the bird, came back and picked me up, and drove back up there.

The ditch was on her side of the truck, so I was trying to look around her to see it. I got on a shorebird, but it wasn’t a Wood Sandpiper. She quickly pointed out to me that I was looking too far left. I took my eyes off the my bird and saw the Wood Sandpiper a few yards up the shoreline, then quickly returned my attention to my bird.

It was a peep. Dark legs,small pointy bill, little breast markings, molting from non-breeding to breeding, short compact build.

I called Jon and Jim and they arrived shortly.

The bird was very cooperative, feeding actively and not paying much attention to us.

After a little discussion, it was determined that the bird was a Little Stint!


After posting this, we got word from better birders that the bird in question is a Semipalmated Sandpiper! Not a rarity elsewhere, but a first for Adak!

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Airport Ditch, May 24, 2018


Semipalmated Sandpiper, Airport Ditch, May 24, 2018 (Bill looks thicker because of mud on it)

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Airport Ditch, May 24, 2018

Semipalmated Sandpiper and Red-necked Phalarope, Airport Ditch, May 24, 2018

Wood Sandpiper and Semipalmated Sandpiper, Airport Ditch, May 24, 2018

Wood Sandpiper, Airport Ditch, May 24, 2018

So new birds are still popping in.

The trip list is 62.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The westerlies are paying off!

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy off-and-on rain, Wind SW 15-30 mph

The day started off wet and windy, with no new birds.

Up at the plover hotspot, the number of Pacific Golden-Plovers was up to 10. And these appeared to be new birds, as the birds we had two days ago were all in breeding plumage, save one. Today’s were mostly in non-breeding plumage or in-between. So there is a daily turnover going on. We are not just seeing the same birds over and over.

Pacific Golden-Plover, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 23, 2018

At Clam Lagoon, the murrelets are all paired up. But they are difficult to get close to. This is about the best I can get.

Marbled Murrelet, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2018

At Lake Shirley, the Tufted Duck is still present, but the Gadwall is not.

That was about all we had to report today, but then Jon Boone and Jim Deforge arrived on today’s flight, stowed their gear, and went out birding.

I was about to start tonight’s blog, when I got a call from Jim informing us that hey had two Hawfinches at the feeder at Adak National Forest!

Good thing I filled that feeder this afternoon!

We quickly headed up there and saw them. Here are two photos of the male and one of the female.

Hawfinch (female and wet!), Adak National Forest, May 23, 2018

Hawfinch (male), Adak National Forest, May 23, 2018

Hawfinch (male), Adak National Forest, May 23, 2018

Gary Lyon arrived tonight as well, and he and his group also got the Hawfinches. It looks like they won’t be sailing to Attu until Friday at the earliest.

We just new the past day-and-a-half’s winds had brought in something. We just had to find them.

The westerlies continue. We hope to find more goodies tomorrow.

The trip list is 60.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional light shower, Wind SW 20-30 mph

The wind is supposed to have a westerly bent for the rest of our stay, so things should be picking up.

Today was the first day of sustained SW wind, so we hope tomorrow will bear fruit.

To see what the winds are doing up here, click on the following link.,56.69,1291/loc=-178.723,51.805

We had several loons today, including 4 Pacific, 1 Arctic, 1 Common, and 1 Red-throated. The Arctic was a trip bird.

The only other new trip bird today was a Green-winged Teal (American – vertical stripe). The most abundant duck on Adak is the Common Teal (Eurasian – horizontal stripe). The Europeans have split Common from Green-winged, but the Americans have not (except us!).

Here is a shot of a common Teal.

Common Teal, Clam Lagoon, May 22, 2018

So, OUR trip list stands at 59.

The Tufted Duck was back on Lake Shirley today. We did not see the Gadwall, as most of the ducks took off as we rounded the bend.

There were only two Pacific Golden-Plovers today.

More birders are arriving tomorrow. More eyes (more birds?)!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Temp in the 40s, Overcast, then partly sunny, then overcast and rain, Wind S 5-10 increasing as the day went on.

The weather is finally changing. Not a minute too soon!

Staring at the same birds each day can get tiring — Ie. No new birds today.

The morning feeder-check produced a nice Snow Bunting.

Snow Bunting, Sandy Cove Cliffs Rock Feeder, May 21, 2018

We only found one Pacific Golden-Plover up at the plover spot today — although they may have just been feeding elsewhere.

The birdlife off the Seawall was minimal, to say the least. One Pacific Loon, hardly any Eider or Harlequin Ducks, a few Red-breasted Mergansers, and the normal Pelagic and Red-faced cormorants. No scoters, grebes, other loons or alcids!

The Gadwall was still with the scaup on Lake Shirley. The swan was gone.

All of the feeders now have activity at them, so we hope the Asian birds brought in with the change of weather will be attracted to the feeding activity.

The fish factory was processing today, so there was a good number of gulls at the outflow pipe off the Sweeper Cove Breakwall.

Glaucous-winged Gulls feeding at Fish Factory Outflow, May 21, 2018

Unfortunately, they were all Glaucous-winged. Not even the several Glaucous Gulls in the area joined in!

The other group of birders that we expected on Saturday changed their plans and three of them arrived by sailboat today and the rest will arrive by plane on Wednesday. Then they are off to Attu! By sailboat!!!

The Kuaka, Small Boat Marina, May 21, 2018

You won’t find us on something that small…

The trip list remains at 57.

The weather is changing!