Saturday, May 29, 2021

Final day

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, Wind NNE 15-25 mph

The highlights of today were a Ruddy Turnstone (for the trip list) and the Eastern Spot-billed Duck which put in a brief appearance at Clam Lagoon.

Eastern Spot-billed Duck, Clam Lagoon, May 29, 2021

It had not been seen since it flew off on Wednesday afternoon! And that was with a lot of birders looking. We had stopped at the West Overlook and I noticed a funny-colored bird a hundred yards or so down the west edge of the lagoon, but couldn’t make it out looking through the windshield. Gabi quickly got the scope on it and exclaimed it was the duck!

After taking some very distant photos, I changed some camera settings to try for better, but when I looked back up, the duck was gone. Neither Gabi or I saw it leave, we both had looked away for a moment and — poof — gone.

Some new birders arrived on today’s flight, so I hope they get to see it.

The Whooper Swan was still on Haven Lake this morning, but we did not see the Hawfinch or cuckoo (not that they aren’t still there).

I had no incidents on the trip home, just long layovers in airports.

In spite of the rude interruption in the middle of the trip, I had a great experience.

I got two lifers — Willow Ptarmigan in Anchorage and Whooper Swan on Adak.

Added two-and-a-half birds to my Adak list — Whooper Swan, Black-bellied Plover, and Common Cuckoo. The cuckoo was the “half” because I had seen two cuckoos on previous trips. Both were immature birds in September and, although they were presumed to be Common, they were never definitive. This sighting confirmed the species for my list.

Added 4 birds to my Alaska list — Whooper Swan, Black-bellied Plover, Rufous Hummingbird, and Surfbird.

The trip list was 65 — 2 below average. Pretty good for missing half of the trip!

I will be back September 4th to the 18tth.

Come join me!

Friday, May 28, 2021

Temps in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional sprinkle, Winds NNE 10-15 mph

Our last full day on Adak.

We checked the feeders, but found nothing new.

At Finger Bay, we had a Horned Puffin, Red-necked Grebe, and Common Loon among others. No tattlers on the creek…

The Red-necked Phalaropes are starting to set up territories on the small ponds.

Red-necked Phalaropes, Andrew Lake Ponds, May 28, 2021

I took Gabi up to see White Alice, where we got a pair of Snow Buntings. At Haven Lake, the Whooper is still there.

Whooper Swan, Haven Lake, May 28, 2021

At Warbler Willows, a pair of Pacific Wrens were singing.

We are in a high tide/high-low tide cycle, so not much in the way of mud flats at Clam Lagoon. The Bar-tailed Godwits have moved out to the sandbars beyond Candlestick Bridge.

Other birders reported a Sanderling and Ruddy Turnstone at Airport Creek Bridge. We missed them.

The Common Cuckoo is still here and hanging out in one place, so everyone had gotten to see it. And some heard it calling.

Common Cuckoo, Adak, May 28, 2021
Common Cuckoo, Adak, May 28, 2021

We decided to call it quits early today to get some packing done, get dinner, and then maybe go back out.

Shortly after we got back to the house than we got a call about a couple of Snow Geese over the closed airport runway. Gabi was too tired, but I went out. I headed to the upper end of the Airport Channel where I could overlook the runway. No sooner had I pulled into the road than the geese landed 50 yards in front of me! This was only my third Snow Goose sighting on Adak.

Snow Geese, Adak Airport, May 28, 2021

So, the trip list is at 64 (slightly below average).

We leave around 1:30 tomorrow afternoon and I hope to arrive home around 6 PM on Sunday (about 24 hours of travel time).

My wrap-up post will be done on Monday.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Temps in the 40s, overcast, intermittent rain and drizzle, Wind SSE 15-25 mph

Hard to match a day like yesterday!

We checked the feeders first and saw the (or should I say “a”) Hawfinch at the Seal Drive Feeder. Yesterday evening, while cruising around looking for the Cuckoo, Gabi saw two Hawfinches there!

Hawfinch, Seal Drive Feeder, May 27, 2021

Some of the other groups re-found the cuckoo this morning. Some heard it calling!

About that initial sighting…

Charlie and Tatum were at the Underground Bar and Grill talking to the some of the locals, when one of them mentioned a bird he had just seen nearby that was “like a kestrel, but larger.” Charlie showed him a photo of a Eurasian Hobby, and he said that was it. And so the chase commenced… So it wasn’t any of the birders that identified the cuckoo as a Hobby.

After heading north, we checked the south end of Clam Lagoon. Still no Spot-billed Duck. But we saw the Brant again.

After checking Shotgun Lake, we decided to go over to Lake Andrew via that road. Good thing we did, as we found a Wood Sandpiper in one of the small wetlands along the way. A lifer for Gabi! Too far for a photo, however…

We returned to Clam Lagoon and at the Breaches had four cooperative Black Oystercatchers. Always a photogenic bird.

Black Oystercatcher, the Breaches, May 27, 2021

Gabi finally got a great look at a Red-faced Cormorant and several Aleutian Terns (both lifers).

Here is the Mandatory Annual Adak Rainbow photo…

Rainbow over Pistol Pond and Shotgun Lake, May 27, 2021

The trip list is 61 — below the average 67 — but not bad considering I missed a whole week!

One more full day and then a half-day Saturday.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

It was the best of times, It was the worst of times.

So where the hell was I?

Oh yeah…

5/19 – Woke up with abdominal pain

Adak Clinic

Appendicitis? No.

Kidney Stone? Yes.


Hospital, Anchorage.

Passed ( the stone, not me…)

Discharged (3:30 AM!)

Thursday and Friday in Anchorage

5/22 – Fly back to Adak

Whoops! Can’t land. Too windy! Back to Anchorage

Sun, Mon, Tues in Anchorage

Returned to Adak today.

You can read more details at the end of this post.

So where was I when so rudely interrupted?

Temp in the 40s, mostly overcast, wind SE 10-15 mph

While I was gone, the guys still out here started finding all kinds of goodies.

Whooper Swan, Wood Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Eastern Spot-billed Duck, Hawfinch.

I could only pray to the bird gods that they would stay long enough for me to see them.


We (Gabi and I — see below) headed up to Haven Lake for the swan. YES!

A lifer!

Whooper Swan, Haven Lake, May 26, 2021

Then up to Clam Lagoon for the duck. YES! (but flew off before photo-op).

Dipped out on the Terek Sandpiper.

Drove around the lagoon, picking up lifers for Gabi. The Bar-tailed Godwit flock had grown to four.

When we had arrived at the Adak Airport, Sam and Steve informed us that they had a Temminck’s Stint in Sweeper Channel! That was our next stop. YES!

Temminck’s Stint, Sweeper Channel, May 26, 2021

We did not see the Hawfinch, but it was late in the day and we didn’t linger.

A great return to Adak.

As I was writing this blog, we got a call on the radio of a possible Eurasian Hobby over by the bar! So off we went.

Met the other birders and chased the bird (a cuckoo, not a falcon) around for a half-hour. Finally got it sitting. A Common Cuckoo! My previous cuckoo sightings on Adak were both immatures in the Fall, basically unidentifiable to species. So this was a nice find.

Common Cuckoo, behind Sandy Cove Bluffs, May 26, 2021
Common Cuckoo, behind Sandy Cove Bluffs, May 26, 2021
Common Cuckoo, behind Sandy Cove Bluffs, May 26, 2021

I will update the trip list tomorrow.

Now, about that interruption…

I woke up on 5/19 with gas pains and other pains in my abdomen (front and back). After four hours of no relief, I went to the clinic for help. At first they thought it might be appendicitis, and started the procedures for arranging a MedEvac. As the morning and afternoon wore on, the pains in the front dissipated, but the pain in my lower rear back persisted. I had had a kidney stone many years ago, and it sure felt like that. Kidney stones can be painful and generally non-critical, but they can also do some serious damage. (Side note: one of the taxi drivers that I used while I was in Anchorage had lost a kidney to kidney stones when he was 25!). So better safe than sorry.

The plane finally arrived around 7 pm and off to Anchorage I went (in pain).

When I landed in Anchorage, I was still hurting and they gave me some serious pain medication which alleviated it.

By the time I got to the CT-Scan (a couple hours later), it turns out the stone had already moved down to the bladder. Crises resolved! They kicked me out of the hospital at 3:30 AM!

I finally found a hotel that wasn’t booked up and got a few hours sleep. All day Thursday I had a low fever, so I stayed in my room and rested. The fever broke Thursday night and I felt like a new man. Still, I didn’t do much on Friday, just waiting to get on Saturday’s flight back to Adak. (The Medevac is only one-way.)

During all of this, there were other birders heading out to Adak expecting me to meet them at the Adak Airport (Including a group of 4 “girls” from Denali who arrived on the day I was Medevaced out). The others were surprised to see me at the Anchorage Airport instead. I gave them my story and looked forward to returning to Adak.

One of those was Gabi. She had tried to join two of the groups that were coming out on the 22nd, but they were full, so I offered to let her stay with me.

We took off, got to Cold Bay, took off again, got to Adak, but turned around at the last minute because the cross winds were too great! Talk about adding insult to injury…


Back to Anchorage. There was no room at the inn, so David Sonneborn offered to put me up for the night. And Gabi offered me the use of her car!!!!!

I found a motel for the remaining nights and David also lent me a pair of binoculars.

So I did some Alaska mainland birding for a few days and added several birds to my Alaska list.

The first was Rufous Hummingbird down in Girdwood. Then Surfbirds on the Coastal Trail near West Chester Lagoon. Those, plus the Willow Ptarmigan from earlier in the trip.

Near Girdwood, I had a nice look at a Spruce Grouse (cell-phone photo).

Spruce Grouse, Girdwood, May 24, 2021

At Lake Hood, I saw Barrow’s Goldeneyes up-close-and-personal (and no good camera!)

Barrow’s Goldeneye, Anchorage, May 24, 2021

The one thing I hate about Alaska is there is no scenery…

So I went to the airport today, got on the plane and it actually landed on Adak.

Back in business, albeit for only three days.

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Temps in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional sprinkle, winds NNE 5-10 mph

Concerning Adak Garganey records, the last record was on Aug 28, 2011 at Clam Lagoon (Isaac Helmericks). No sign of them today…

No sign of the Black-headed Gull today.

At Clam Lagoon this morning, there were no birds on the peninsula and the Brant was not seen.

At the Seawall, several Pacific and Common loons remain as well as one Arctic. Also, I had my first Red-necked Grebe for the trip. At least one Long-tailed Duck also remains.

On the east side of Clam Lagoon, the Bar-tailed Godwit flock has tripled.

Bar-tailed Godwits, Clam Lagoon, May 18, 2021
Bar-tailed Godwit, Clam Lagoon, May 18, 2021. Is that a long bill or what?!

The Aleutian Terns returned in force overnight, with several dozen resting and flying about Clam Lagoon.

Aleutian Terns, Clam Lagoon, May 18, 2021

While watching Clam Lagoon for any new drop-ins, I spied some hanky-panky going on.

Glaucous-winged Gulls making more Glaucous-winged Gulls, Clam Lagoon, May 18, 2021.
Was it good for you?

The Sandhill Crane was relocated today between the town dump and Pectoral Marsh.

Here is the Annual Mandatory Eagle Close-up.

Bald Eagle, Landing Lights, May 18, 2021

And finally, for you avian coprologists…

Common Raven poop, Blue Buildings Feeder, May 18, 2021

The trip list is 53.

More birders arriving tomorrow and some leaving.

Monday, May 17, 2021

The day started with a bang… and got better!

Temps in the 40s, mostly cloudy, winds light NNE

As I was loading up the truck this morning, Sam told me that yesterday he had seen what he was pretty certain were a pair of Garganey! They had flushed from Sweeper Creek and quickly disappeared, providing only a quick view and no photo-op.

So this morning I headed to the Airport Channel (a good place for birds like this to hide out) and, lo and behold, as I pulled into the road that runs by the channel, two ducks exploded out and also quickly disappeared! I saw them well enough to identify them as Garganeys, but again, no photo-op.

I searched all of the nearby ponds and streams for the next hour or so, to no avail. Maybe they will appear again and sit still long enough for a photo. We will all keep looking.

The last Garganey sighting on Adak was in September 2007.

We are starting to see some activity at the feeders. Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches are showing up. That is a positive sign (it has been 20 months since the local birds have seen birdseed!).

At Clam Lagoon, the Brant is still present. And the (or a) Bar-tailed Godwit reappeared, as well as the Sanderling.

Also, the Black-headed Gull is still hanging around.

By the time I got to the Seawall, it was time for lunch, so I watched the bayside as I was eating. A Steller’s Sea Lion swam by and there were numerous loons — mostly Pacific — but at least one Arctic.

Arctic Loon, Seawall, May 17, 2021

After lunch, I decided to scan the horizon for stiff-wings and was rewarded with at least one Layson Albatross and many Short-tailed Shearwaters.

As I was scanning for more, I saw a flock of dickey-birds (that’s a technical term!) flying in off the bay towards me. They were too far out to identify in the scope, but they flew with a bouncing motion like finches. As they got closer, I lost them in the scope and tried to relocate them with my binoculars. No luck.

So there is a flock of finches of indeterminate identification roaming the island. Redpolls? Brambling?

I continued around Clam Lagoon, stopping as usual at Lake Shirley. This year, Lake Shirley has been a bust! The few ducks that are using it fly away as soon as a vehicle rounds the bluff from the Seawall. Many of the other waterfowl here seem extra-jumpy this year, which is surprising, as there were few hunters here over the winter. Go figure…

Also, there have been no Tufted Ducks. Since 2005, we have had only two May trips without Tufteds (2012 and 2013), so it is unusual not to see any.

As I was driving down the east side of the lagoon, a Pluvialis plover flew by with white rump. The only Pluvialis with a white rump is Black-bellied, and there are only a handful of records on Adak! But, yes it was!

Number 155 for my Adak list!

Black-bellied Plover, Clam Lagoon, May 17, 2021
Black-bellied Plover, Clam Lagoon, May 17, 2021
Black-bellied Plover, Clam Lagoon, May 17, 2021
Black-bellied Plover, Clam Lagoon, May 17, 2021

Not a bad day…

The trip list is 50.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, wind ENE 10-15 mph

Still nothing exciting. No action at the feeders, yet…

The Brant is still at Clam Lagoon. I found three Pacific Golden-Plovers in the middle of the road near Palisades Lake. They flew off the road as I neared them.

Pacific Golden-Plover, near Palisades Lake, May 16, 2021

The highlight of the day was a Black-headed Gull that Sam and Steve found early this morning near the Landing Lights. It stayed in the area all day, flying up to Navfac Beach and back.

Black-headed Gull, Navfac Beach, May 16, 2021
Black-headed Gull, Navfac Beach, May 16, 2021
Black-headed Gull, Navfac Beach, May 16, 2021

There was a large (80+) flock of Black Scoters off of the Candlestick Bridge. More White-winged Scoters today as well.

There were a lot of Pacific Loons up and down the coastline. I estimated a total of 25! There were several Common Loons as well, and Sam and Steve found a Yellow-billed Loon at Lake Andrew (of course it was gone by he time I got there!). Yellow-billed Loons just don’t like me. Whenever they see me coming, they either disappear or swim out so far as to be unphotographable!

The Hi-Lonesome tour group went out on a boat for Auklets, etc. today, but I haven’t talked to them yet about how successful it was.

The trip list is 43, but I haven’t been beating the bushes for local birds like Snow Bunting and Pacific Wren, yet.

More travel details

In addition to the flight changes mentioned yesterday, I also encountered rental car changes. I had originally reserved a small SUV for Anchorage. I had read that there was a shortage of rental cars because the rental companies sold off much of their fleet during the pandemic travel slowdown. So I was a little surprised that I had no problem reserving the car I wanted.

Well… After my flight schedule changed, I cancelled the reservation and went to reserve a new one for the new time frame. Not only did they no longer have any SUVs (of any size) available, the daily rental prices had doubled or tripled! So I reserved a standard car.

When I arrived at the Rental Car center at the Anchorage Airport, I asked if they had any cancellations and had any SUVs in the parking lot.THEY DID! So I ended up in a Toyota 4Runner (a lot larger than I needed), but a great birding car (height and visibilty-wise). And double the price of my original reservation.

So if you are planning a birding trip, reserve your vehicle early!

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Nemesis no more!

Temp in the 40s, overcast to partly sunny, NW wind 15-20 mph

Getting Here

If you are not interested in my travel perambulations, just scroll down to Now for the Birds.

Nineteen months since I have been here! Just a few things have happened in that time… A bittersweet return, to say the least.

The usual flights that I would take to get here were changed because of the pandemic, so instead of flying out of Phillie at 6 am on Friday and arriving in Anchorage at 1 pm, I left at 5 pm on Thursday and arrived just after midnight. So I had all day Friday to bird and shop. However, the Adak flight has changed as well. It used to leave at 2:30 pm and arrive around 4:30. Now it leaves at 9:30 am, stops in Cold Bay, and arrives on Adak around 12;30 pm.

So there was no time to bird Anchorage this morning, but more tme to bird on Adak after arriving (but less on the day leaving Adak). I will elaborate on other travel issues in a later blog (on one of those boring days…).

Now for the Birds

In Anchorage on Friday, Dave Sonneborn graciously offered to take me chicken hunting again (with a camera, not a gun) as he did two years ago (unsuccessfully, last time). We again went up to Glen Alps, walked down the trail to the power line trail and started walking and scanning the open patches near and far. A few hundred yards down the trail he found a nice male not more than twenty yards off the trail! This is the only native chicken I still needed for the ABA area, so Thank You, David! Barb and I had tried for this bird many times, but just failed to connect.

Willow Ptarmigan (male), Glen Alps, May 14, 2021. About to pluck some buds off his namesake.

As I was photographing this bird, a female stepped out from behind a nearby bush and joined him.

Willow Ptarmigan (female), Glen Alps, May 14, 2021.

We stopped by Potter marsh and then Dave had other things on his agenda for the day, so he dropped me off back at the hotel. I went and did my food shopping, then decided to go up to Arctic Valley. We had always gone up there in the early morning, so I thought it might be a different experience in the afternoon. Nope!

However, I got a nice shot of an Orange-crowned Warbler.

Orange-crowned Warbler, Arctic Valley, May 14, 2021

But the highlight was an addition to my Alaska Mammal list. A Porcupine!

Porcupine, Arctic Valley, May 14, 2021

I didn’t have anything out of the ordinary the rest of the day, got back to the hotel, had dinner, and fell exhausted into bed.

Got up the next morning and headed to the airport. Met two birders (Sam and Steve) with whom I had been in email touch with, as well as the Hi-Lonesome tour group.

Sam and Steve are staying in Unit D of the same 4-plex as I am. So I offered to give them the 50-cent tour.

We headed out and filled feeders around town (this means scattering birdseed on various driveways, etc).

We went by Sweeper Cove and then Sweeper Channel. At the channel, the usual Rock Sandpipers were in full display. This was a lifer for Steve!

Rock Sandpiper, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2021

We went by the Airport Ponds, and Contractors Marsh but didn’t see anything of note. As we approached the Thrush Feeder, Sam pointed out a Sandhill Crane in a nearby field! Not a rarity, but uncommon on Adak.

Sandhill Crane, near the Thrush Feeder, May 15, 2021

When we got to Clam Lagoon, we stopped at the South Lookout and Sam spotted a Brant! That was only the fourth one I have seen out here.

Brant, Clam Lagoon, May 15, 2021

There were the usual assortment of ducks, including one American Green-winged Teal.

Out on the Penninsula was a lone Sandering. And a lone Bar-tailed Godwit was out in the middle of the flats,.

Highlights at the Seawall included two Long-tailed Ducks, Pacific and Common loon, Arctic Tern, and Horned Grebe. A pair of American Wigeon down near Candlestick Bridge topped of the list (the majority of Wigeon out here are Eurasian).

Not a ‘Stop the presses!” kind of start, but satisfying non-the-less.

Looking forward to a full day tomorrow.