Temp in the 50s, mostly cloudy, sunnier in the afternoon, wind NW 10-15 mph
Lapland Longspurs are in abundance this time of year — gathering in flocks, flying up from the roadside, and just being nuisances. This one stayed still long enough for a photo.
As Isaac once answered us when we asked how soon the longspurs leave in the fall “Not soon enough!”
There are daily flocks of Aleutian Cackling Geese flying over.
I went down to Finger Bay today and had 11 Black Oystercatchers there. No other birds of note, but the salmon run has started. The creek had some salmon in it, but not the thousands to come over the next few weeks. And the creekside is not yet festooned with rotting salmon carcasses.
I added two White-winged Scoters at the Seawall.
The stint saga continues. It now appears that the bird with the Sanderlings on Monday was a Red-necked and the one with the Western Sandpipers yesterday (and today!) is probably the same bird.
And the Least Sandpiper is still here.
The Western Sandpiper flock is now 12.
But the most fun for me so far this trip has been seeing the Short-tailed Shearwaters close to shore at the Seawall. I love pelagics. I think they are some of the neatest birds in the world. But I have had so many experiences with seasickness on boat trips to see these birds that many of the experiences were less than enjoyable!
So I take great pleasure in seeing (closeup) pelagic birds with my feet firmly planted on solid ground (ground that doesn’t move — except for the earthquakes…).
So here is a photo gallery of the Seawall shearwaters.
They were constantly flying and diving. They would take short hops over the water and plunge under — very similar to the many alcids out here. I always thought of shearwaters as skimmers — picking up food near the surface. So this was interesting to watch.
The group from Tennessee left today, so I will be birding alone on the island until Gabi and Michelle arrive on Saturday.
Temp in the 50s, mostly cloudy, rain starting after 8 pm, winds light and variable.
Another interesting day.
First, the stint from yesterday has been confirmed as a Red-necked.
Anyone who has followed this blog knows that my stint identification skills ain’t!
At best my odds of getting an ID correct are 50/50 (and that’s being kind).
But as long as I have a camera and friends who have much better shorebird identification skills, the correct ID will eventually be made.
While Tennessee headed down to Finger Bay, I checked out all of the vagrant passerine habitat (spruces and willows) as I worked my way north.
Still no vagrant dickey birds…
All of the action today centered on Clam Lagoon (really?).
I walked out the peninsula and had a flock of ten peeps. It looked like 2 Red-necked Stints and eight Western Sandpipers. I took a bunch of photos to confirm my first impression later. Note: I don’t carry a scope on these forays — relying on my camera, instead. So any preliminary ID is through binos and viewing the photos on my camera’s screen.
Later this morning, when Tennessee got back within radio range, I alerted them to the birds. They had arrived at Clam Lagoon and the gals were walking the marsh edge, while the guys drove the truck up to the peninsula to start from that end.
They told me they had just flushed a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, so I headed their way and joined the walk.
Earlier, after walking the peninsula, I had walked the marsh edge, but didn’t find any shorebirds. However, a Peregrine flew over.
A quick note about Clam Lagoon marsh edge walking…
The ideal way to do it is to have at least two birders. One walks along the edge and the other walks through the reeds. This way, any birds on the edge can be spotted by the edger and any birds hiding in the reeds can be flushed by the reeder.
Obviously, when I am alone, I have to make a choice. I prefer walking the edge, as there is then a better chance of actually seeing the birds on the ground — rather than just flying away — and it also allows me to take a wide berth around any birds I do find so as not to flush them.
The sharp-tail and Ruff were both reed birds today — hence I didn’t see them on my pass by.
But I saw them now.
I returned to my car while the others headed out to the peninsula to look at the peeps.
When I came by later, they said they had a dozen birds out there and were working on the ids. This evening they report one Red-necked Stint and the rest were Westerns.
When I got back to the house and downloaded my photos, I discovered that one of my “Red-necks” was a Least Sandpiper! I have seen them three times on Adak before, but always in May. I know of nine other records for Adak — all in May. So this is probably the first fall record for Adak.
As for the stint(s), I’m still working on it. There was definitely one Red-necked, but there may have been two.
Less-exciting birds today included more Cackling Geese flying over, more Short-tailed Shearwaters hanging around, and 30 Rock Sandpipers down at Sweeper Channel,
Temp in the 50s, rain most of the day until after 4 pm, wind light and variable.
The day started out slow but ended with a bang.
The rain was generally light, but enough to be a nuisance.
The Tennessee group went out on a boat today looking for auklets, but came up empty-handed.
I added some common birds to my trip list — Ancient Murrelet, Common Loon, Rock Ptarmigan, etc.
At the Seawall, a Short-tailed Shearwater was flying around relatively close.
Last night, the Tennessee group told me they had two Wood Sandpipers at Lake Shirley. This morning, I found them in the small pond next to the lake.
I didn’t see many other new birds, so I quit early and had dinner. The rain finally stopped and the sun broke through, so I decided to take a “quick” run up to Clam Lagoon to see if the rain had prompted any new birds to plop down.
From the south side, I saw the Sanderlings were back out in the middle of the flats.
I moved up to the peninsula parking spot and now saw that they had moved farther towards the east side of the lagoon. But, more importantly, they were now joined by a small brown shorebird. It was way too far, and the heat waves to much to identify it from where I was.
I had been in touch with the Tennessee group a few minutes earlier. They were on the eastern side of the lagoon, so I alerted them to the bird and then started “racing” around the lagoon to join them.
When I got to them, they had the bird in their scopes, but it was still too far away — and now backlit!
We walked out onto the flats to get as close as we could, but the lighting was terrible. We all took what photos we could.
At one point, I ventured closer, keeping my eyes on the flock. Once I stopped, I looked around and not 20 feet from me were two Ruddy Turnstones! Tunnel vision…
Anyway, we decided it was a stint. Studied the bird in the scopes and field guides. I was leaning Red-necked, but knew it would take looking at the photos to be sure.
The birds eventually flew — the sun was setting — so I took the others up to the Breaches where I believe Sanderlings like to roost. No luck there, but had a half-dozen or so more Ruddy Turnstones. Also, as we pulled up to the Breaches, a flock of Cackling Geese flew over.
When I got back to the house and reviewed the photos I became very confident that it was a Little Stint! However, after communicating with Isaac, he feels it might be a Red-necked! Here are my photos. See tomorrow’s blog for a followup.
Not a bad way to end a long day.
PS: The Tennessee group also had a Pacific Golden-Plover today and the(a) Common Redpoll at the Elfin Forest.
Well, I’m finally here. And its downright tropical. 60 degrees!
Arrived close to on-time. Unpacked, made a sandwich and went birding.
At the Palisades, there were a half-dozen Short-tailed Shearwaters sitting and flying around the bay. Too far for photos. There were also three Parasitic Jaegers — of interest only because two of them were light morphs. 99% of jaegers up here are dark morph.
As I was driving by the East Side Ponds, a flock of a dozen Rock Sandpipers flew in and started bathing.
There were both Red-necked and Horned Grebes at the Seawall. No loons. The usual alcids, puffins, guillemots, murres.
At Lake Shirley, there were 63 Eurasian Wigeon.
At Candlestick Bridge, the shearwaters were closer (but not close). I took some photos anyway.
As I was driving back up the east side of the lagoon, the other group was on the flats and alerted me to a flock of 30 Sanderlings out in the middle. They weren’t there when I scoped that area earlier.
By the time I got back around to the west shore, the other group had flushed a Ruff along the marsh edge. I walked out and joined them and got a so-so photo.
The other group (Lizzie, Cally, Kevin, and John) are from Tennessee. They had not been in touch with me, so I didn’t know they were coming until I ran into them at the Anchorage airport. Nice to have some extra eyes and ears.
On my way up to Clam, I stopped at the National forest. Two birds flew out as I pulled up. One was a Song Sparrow which circled and returned. The other (smaller) bird disappeared. I stayed there for about 15 minutes (eating a late lunch), but did not see the other bird return. Later, the Tennessee group reported a Common Redpoll there.
The flight was canceled due to the crew being stranded elsewhere.
Luckily, I was able to get a new reservation at the Holiday Inn Express and even got a rental car!
This is when I would usually report the birds I had in Anchorage on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. Well, not much to report.
Let’s go back a day. Thursday night, I went to bed at 9 pm, planning to get up at 2 am for the car ride to the airport at 3 am.
Well… at 9:30 pm, the power went out! (I know, I know, too many exclamation points!) Over the previous two days, I had 4 power outages due to Ida. They generally lasted 5 to 10 minutes and no problems for me, as I have a whole-house generator that kicks in automatically.
So, I assumed this would be the same scenario. No such luck. It lasted two hours. That would not have been a problem except the generator is located just below my bedroom window! So no sleep that night. Maybe 2 hours.
So by the time I got to Anchorage on Friday and did my food shopping I was way too tired to go back out for birding. So no birds on Friday.
Jump up to today.
By the time I got my luggage back (the flight was cancelled after I had already checked in) and got a car, it was 11:30 am.
I decided to go back down to Girdwood and see if I could rustle up a Chestnut-backed Chickadee (which I need for my Alaska list). No such luck. The birding was poor. My entire list for that area was 2 robins, 1 Varied Thrush and a magpie.
I stopped at Potter marsh on the way back and got the usual suspects along with a flock of Greater Yellowlegs. At Ship Creek, there was a nice flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls (and the usual other stuff).
A make-up flight has been scheduled for tomorrow and I am booked on it.
By the way, there is a group of four other birders also going out on that flight, so I won’t be the lone birder out there.
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.
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!
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.
I took Gabi up to see White Alice, where we got a pair of Snow Buntings. At Haven Lake, the Whooper is still there.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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…
The trip list is 61 — below the average 67 — but not bad considering I missed a whole week!
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!
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!
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.
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).
At Lake Hood, I saw Barrow’s Goldeneyes up-close-and-personal (and no good camera!)
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.