I had two birds of note on this final day of this trip.
One was a Common Raven — only the fourth that I’ve seen this trip.
The other was a gull that I could not identify.
I found it on NavFac Beach. It looked darker than the other gulls. But lighting can do that up here. However, when it turned, it was still dark.
It was Glaucous-winged sized, but had a darker mantle and black primary tips. However, it wasn’t as dark as a Slaty-backed or a Vega sup-species of Herring Gull.
I went down to the beach and got photos. No one else was able to find it later.
I sent the photos to Isaac Helmericks (my go-to Adak guy!) and he said “I would say it is a Glaucous-winged hybrid. The wing tips are not dark enough for a pure Herring/Vega and it’s not a Slaty-backed. Seen birds like this on Attu. I don’t think one can really know if they are hybrids with Slaty or Vega.”
So I guess I got a half-species for the trip list?
The highlight of this trip was the pod of Orcas!
No lifers, but several semi-lifers. Great photos of Tufted Duck and Red-throated Loon.
There were few shorebirds. No stints. No Sanderlings.
So, although my total Trip List 69 (and a half!) was above average, it was because of getting many common and uncommon species, rather than rarities.
Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, foggy in the morning, Wind variable 5-10 mph
And a bonus sunrise.
Only one new bird today, but Bramblings and Hawfinches continue to be seen.
I saw the Yellow-billed Loon again at the Kelp Bed off of Bayshore.
There are plenty of terns about — both Arctic and Aleutian.
An Arctic Tern at Clam Lagoon.
This eagle was dining on a dead Sea Otter.
I started dismantling the feeders this afternoon for storage. As I was heading back to town with two of them, I ran into Allen (who is out here mainly photographing birds) and he told me he had seen a Red-throated Loon up at the north end of Clam Lagoon (he showed me a distant, but identifiable photo).
So I decided to get back to town, unload the feeders and come back up and take as much time as needed to see this loon (I needed it for the trip list).
No sooner had I returned than I spotted the loon — AND IT WAS CLOSE TO SHORE! All of the other Red-throateds that I have seen out here were always distant.
Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional fine drizzle, Wind W 10-20 mph
A better day than yesterday. Two trip birds and some great photos of a couple “rarish” birds.
I went up to the Marsh to look for the Reeve and met Rick’s group there.
We walked into the area where it had last been seen and quickly found one (maybe two) Wood Sandpipers.
Shortly thereafter, I spotted the Reeve. This was a lifer for two of Rick’s group!
I then worked my way over to Andrew Lake where I found one of the Tufted Ducks — in full sunlight and CLOSE!
My best shot ever of my favorite duck.
I then headed north and did Clam Lagoon. The wind was fierce today and birds were just hanging on out on the flats. The only shorebirds I had were two Pacific Golden-Plovers.
No other notable birds up there.
By late afternoon, I had arrived back in town and found a very cooperative Brambling at the Naval Administration Building (remember where Sam was putting out seed when he spotted the Eye-browed Thrush!).
I then decided to do a late afternoon trip to Finger Bay and creek.
On the way, I stopped at the North Quarry to check the creek for tattlers and Lake Leone for waterfowl. I did not see any tattlers on the way in and the lake had only gulls.
On the way out, I stopped at the creek again and, as I lowered my window, I heard a tattler call and fly away. I didn’t see it, but figured it hadn’t gone far.
Sure enough, I found it just above the dam.
So a nice day!
The Trip List is 68 — one above average (of course every time I get above average, it raises the average…).
Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional light drizzle, Wind NW 10-20 mph
Although I added five birds to my trip list today, none of them were speaking Russian — or Chinese or Lao or any other Asian language — unfortunately.
But it was an interesting day.
I did my standard Sweeper Cove and Channel check in the morning and was pleased to count 13 phalaropes in Phalarope Cove — a new high.
Here is a nice shot of one not in the water.
I went by the Kuluk Drive feeder and saw one of the Hawfinches.
I decided to spend some time at Andrew Lake watching the seed I threw out yesterday in hopes the Brambling/bunting flock would find it.
No luck on that score, but as I traversed the road along the lake, a flock of four geese plopped down right in front of me (You’ll hear more about plopping-down birds later).
They were three Cackling Geese and one Greater White-fronted Goose. The White-fronted was only my 4th sighting out here, so that was a good bird.
The Cacklings were also interesting as two of them had the traditional white neck band while the other one appeared slightly smaller and had no neck band. Two Aleutians and one non?
I mentioned the Caribou tracks yesterday. Well apparently one of them did not get past a hunter’s bullet. I found a fresh gut pile there.
I also took a splendid photo of a Lapland Longspur — another abundant species on the island that I tend to overlook.
On my first foray up to Clam Lagoon, I saw this nice pair of Marbled Murrelets. They are all paired up at this time.
I also thought this guy looked cute.
I went back to town for a pit stop and lunch and then went back up to Clam Lagoon.
Up til now, the visibility off the Seawall has been terrible. So there was no use trying a seawatch. But today was different. So I set myself up looking seaward, focused my scope just short of the horizon, and with 5 seconds had a Laysan Albatross and a Short-tailed Shearwater! I only spent about 20 minutes there, but ended up with 15 albatross, 1 shearwater, and a Gyrfalcon (hunting the bay).
Sam caught up to me just as I was finishing. I continued down the east shore of the lagoon to Candlestick Bridge. Sam arrived a few minutes later.
Sam and Steve walked down to the beach as I turned around to return around the lagoon.
Halfway up the flats, I spotted to shorebirds that had not been there when either I or Sam drove by a few minutes earlier. They were Bar-tailed Godwits. Two males. The one that had been seen this past week was a female.
As I was sitting there, a rain squall blew in. I waited it out and was rewarded with two Pacific Golden-Plovers. I have had other days like this where birds com down to the flats during rain squalls.
It was getting late (for me), so I decided I would go back to town, shower, have dinner and then come back up to see what other birds had fallen out of the sky!
I radioed Sam about the birds and left.
I ran into Rick’s crew on the way back and gave them the info.
On my way back up to the Lagoon, I stopped at the Airport Creek Bridge (I ALWAYS stop there!) and found my first Ruddy Turnstone for the trip.
I ran into Rick’s group again as they were leaving the lagoon. They said the godwits and plovers flew off shortly after the arrived to see them
I continued on anyway.
I finally arrived once again at the east shore flats.
But, once again, a rain squall cam through, and in the middle of it I saw to shorebirds plop down. They were the godwits! Then a few minutes later, three golden-plovers plopped down!
So I upped my Pacific Golden-Plover total for the day by one.
Unfortunately, no more strays showed up.
Obviously, birds are on the move. More coming tomorrow…
Temp in the 40s, overcast, light drizzle much of the day, Wind SW 10-20 mph
Whoops! I forgot to take the weather photo this morning.
Well, the Russians haven’t made it here yet. Maybe tomorrow…
Low tide was not going to be until 4:30 this afternoon and the high tide was extra high because of the southerly winds pushing it into Clam Lagoon, so I decided to concentrate on the southern half of our birding area until this afternoon.
I ran into Rick’s group and gave them a brief tour of the Airport Ponds and Contractors Marsh. I led them to a spot in the marsh where snipe have been readily heard and seen and, as we got out of the vehicles, the Wood Sandpiper flushed from nearby. I let them chase it down and I went on my way. They got great looks after I left.
I went over to Lake Andrew and threw some seed on the ground near where the Bramblings and bunting have been hanging out. Hopefully, that will lure the Rustic Bunting into view.
While there, I spotted some Caribou hoofprints.
As mentoined a few days ago, seeing Caribou in the north half of the island in other than winter is highly unusual.
After lunch, I started towards Clam Lagoon. I stopped on Bayshore Highway to check the kelp bed off shore and spotted a loon. It was a Yellow-billed. I can’t tell you on how many trips other birders spotted Yellow-bills, but we didn’t. So it was nice to see one myself. You can barely pick out the yellow bill in this very distant photo (easily seen in the scope, however).
On the way up to Lake Ronnie, I took this photo of a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers. They are so abundant out here, you forget to notice how colorful they are.
At Lake Ronnie, I finally ran into the Lesser Scaup that had been reported last week.
When I was out with Steve Carroll the other morning, he pointed out a local island called Battleship Rock. I didn’t know that before.
When I originally had driven the Seawall and gone past Lake Shirley, there were no birds of note. But on the return trip, the ducks had returned to Lake Shirley and brought a Tufted Duck with them!
Then, at the Seawall, I found one Arctic and four Pacific loons and a Steller’s Sea Lion!
Temp in the 40s, overcast, rain, Wind SW 10-20 mph
It looks like the heaviest rain passed south of us, but it was still raining lightly all day. The wind has picked up and is coming from the Southwest, which is ideal for Asian strays. The winds are forecast to be SW to NW to SW for most of this following week, so things are looking promising.
I only picked up one species today — Emperor Goose — out on Goose Rocks!
It was a lifer for Steve and some of the new birders that arrived today.
I had another Brambling at the High School Spruces. They’re everywhere!
This morning, I joined Ivan as we searched for the Rustic Bunting he found yesterday. In the constant rain and wind, it was no fun — and no success. Ivan also had a Least Sandpiper near there. We did not relocate that either.
Maybe tomorrow, between rain showers, conditions will be better for finding the bunting.
The ponds adjacent to Lake Andrew are great places for Red-necked Phalaropes.
After that, I did my usual rounds and got to the airport just after two to bid farewell to Ivan and welcome the new batch of birders.
The house they are staying in is very near to where the Hawfinches are coming to a feeder. As we drove up to their place, we passed the Hawfinch feeder and they saw several flying around!
They were most interested in the Rustic Bunting, so I took them up there and we searched in vain. We did see a flock of six Brambling, but no bunting.
Some of them also needed the Emperor Goose, so I took them up there and, luckily, it was still there.
I then took them back to town and showed them where the Eye-browed Thrush had been hanging out and I then abandoned them to their own devices and quit for the day.
Temp in the 40s, overcast, showers starting late afternoon, wind SW 5 mph, increasing as the day went on.
There is a strong storm system coming from Russia that is starting to hit us tonight. It should bring some interesting birds…
If you read last night’s blog, I listed a Common(?) Gull. We have now changed it to Short-billed and I have updated yesterday’s blog and eBird list.
The gull was still present earlier today, but I did not see it when I went back up to Clam Lagoon this evening.
The other good news is that the Eye-browed Thrush appears to be settling in. There is a junk pile in town that it is favoring and it was seen there several times today. And I finally got a good photo.
Here is the mandatory annual eagle closeup. An eagle overlooking the palisades…
I went up to North Lake and while I didn’t see any birds, I did get a panoramic view of Clam Lagoon.
At Clam Lagoon, the Bar-tailed Godwit and Short-billed Gull were still present.
Both yesterday and today, there were Red-necked Phalaropes in Phalarope Cove (in Sweeper Cove). I had named this cove as such because of this very behavior — gathering in this spot. However, the last few years, I had not seen any phalaropes in the cove! It is nice they are gathering there again. Here is one from near Lake Shirley today.
Most of the Sea Otters have pups right now.
Sam and Steve had a flock of 8 Bramblings at Andrew Lake this afternoon (and a possible thrush)!
On a very different note, Sam and Steve found the skull of a Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel out near Candlestick Bridge. We assume it was left there by a jaeger.
The Trip List is 58 (67 is average for my May trips)
I took Steve Carroll (my landlord on Adak) out birding this morning to give him a taste of what we birders do all day up here.
We didn’t see anything rare, but he got nice looks at a lot of common birds (a number of which he hadn’t known about). He thoroughly enjoyed it and I enjoyed his glee at seeing the birds up close and personal.
After that, I went on my usual foray.
At the Kuluk Drive feeder, I finally saw more than one Hawfinch. Three flew in, but immediately left. So no pics.
On the Seawall, I had both Arctic and Pacific loons together again. But this time they stayed for a photos.
Shortly after seeing these loons, Ivan called and said he had 5 Pacific Golden-Plovers and a Short-billed Gull on the east side flats.
I got down there in a minute and eventually found them.
The gull was out on the flats, so I ambled down and walked out to get flight photos (essential for separation of the various Common/Short-billed Gull species and subspecies).
After viewing the photos I took, we all thought it was a Common Gull (the Eurasian version of the North American Short-billed Gull — once all lumped under Mew Gull). However, there are other birders more skilled in gull identification than we are. So I sent the photos and asked their opinions.
After review by Isaac, Aaron, and David, we have agreed it is a Short-billed.
Here are two of the plovers.
And their tracks…
On the way back to town, I stopped at the Marsh and had two more Pacific Golden-Plovers. They were at the usual spot on Redshank Drive.
I then went up to two little wet areas just on the south side of the “White Building.” This has been a favorite spot of mine over the years, in that I can drive right up to it and scan it without leaving the car (using the car as a blind). I have had Wood Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, snipe, Ruff, plovers, etc. here. This is where Sam had the Wood Sandpiper yesterday.
Well… Today the Wood was back!
At Sweeper Channel, one of the more colorful versions of Rock sandpiper was present.
I then got another call from Ivan saying he had relocated the Eye-browed Thrush! I raced over there, to no avail. The bird was being as skittish as ever. Ivan got a distant, so-so photo, but better than mine. We could not find the bird again.