Tom Goossens, Azalealaan 4
B-2275 LILLE, BELGIUM
e-mail: tomgoossens at pandora.be
Alaska was always one of my "dream destinations". The amount of species is rather low but the quality definitely makes up for this. Imagine McKay's Bunting singing from a rock, Bristle-thighed Curlews displaying overhead, several species of Auklets just a few meters away, Spectacled Eiders swimming around on a tundra pond and a Snowy Owl overlooking the tundra.
Then there are wonderful mammals like Brown- or Grizzly Bears, Humpback - and other Whales, Sealions, Moose, Caribou. THAT'S ALASKA !
If you want to see all the species of birds that Alaska has to offer, you should visit the following places (and target birds).
St. Paul Island (one of the Pribilof islands for the Auklets, Mc Kay's Bunting, Red-legged Kittiwake and Red-faced Cormorant and also a few Asian vagrants as a bonus!), Nome (Bristle-Thighed Curlew and Bluethroat), Gambel (St.Lawrence Island for Emperor Goose), Dutch Harbor (Whiskered Auklet), Barrow or Prudhoe Bay (Snowy Owl, Spectacled Eider and Waders), Kenai Peninsula (Marbled - and Kitlittz's Murrelet, Rhinoceros Auklet and the Interior (Smith's Longspur and Northern Hawk Owl).
I left Gambel (St. Lawrence Island) and Dutch Harbor out of my itinerary due to the high extra cost to visit these places. Dutch harbor is THE place to see the Whiskered Auklet and all the other Auklets. Gambel is your best bet to see Emperor goose in spring/summer. Although the latter shows up at Nome on there spring migration, your chances here are less than 50%! But you might get lucky. That was for me the case on St. Paul Island for the McKay's Bunting. The last three years there were almost no sightings of this species, when I was on the island, there were two singing males!
Through this way I want to thank Karen Hegyi and Darleen, Tom Lohman, Peggy Barnebey and Stephen & Elaine Boyd-Phillips for there warm hospitality and help to me.
Also I want to thank the people from the science station NARL in Barrow for helping me find the Spectacled Eider and the Field guides at St. Paul Island for there info on the McKay's Bunting and for driving me to places sometimes.
I hope you will find this report helpful in planning your ALASKA - trip.
1 June Departing Deurne (Antwerp) to Amsterdam and further to Seattle and finally Anchorage.
2 June ANCHORAGE
3 June ANCHORAGE to ST.PAUL ISLAND
4 - 8 June ST.PAUL ISLAND (PRIBILOFS)
9 June ST.PAUL ISLAND to ANCHORAGE
10 June ANCHORAGE
11 June ANCHORAGE to NOME
12 - 14 June NOME
15 June NOME to ANCHORAGE
16 June ANCHORAGE to BARROW
17 - 20 June BARROW
21 June BARROW to ANCHORAGE
22 - 23 June KENAI PENINSULA - SEWARD
24 June KENAI PENINSULA - HOMER
25 June KENAI PENINSULA - HOMER to ANCHORAGE
26 June KENAI PENINSULA - HOMER to ANCHORAGE to CANTWELL (INTERIOR)
27 June INTERIOR - DENALI HIGHWAY
28 June INTERIOR - DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE and further to FAIRBANKS
29 June INTERIOR - FAIRBANKS
30 June INTERIOR - FAIRBANKS to DELTA JUNCTION
1 July INTERIOR - DELTA JUNCTION to DENALI HIGHWAY
2 July INTERIOR - DENALI HIGHWAY to GLENALLEN
3 July INTERIOR - GLENALLEN to ANCHORAGE
4 - 5 July ANCHORAGE
6 July ANCHORAGE to SEATTLE
FLIGHT AND VISA
I booked all my flights in Belgium. I paid app. 90.000 BEF (2.300 $US) for the total package. This included flights: Antwerp - Amsterdam - Seattle - Anchorage - St.Paul - Anchorage - Nome - Anchorage - Barrow - Anchorage - Seattle - Amsterdam - Brussels. It needs some pursuing though because the travel agency came up first with a price of 250.000 BEF (6.410 $US). You have to shop around! No visa is required for the United States.
In Anchorage-city I often took the bus around. I think this is the only cheap thing in Alaska. The bus drove me to my destination within the city limits for just 1 dollar!!! It's definitely the cheapest way to get from the airport downtown. Buses stop running after 6.30 pm. A taxi downtown from the airport will cost you around 15 dollars. The last two weeks in Alaska I rented a car. I also arranged this in Belgium and choose "Alamo". An economy class car costed me 11.000 BEF (280 $US) a week. When I arrived at the airport in Anchorage to pick up my car they proposed an upgrade to a Chevrolet Blazer for an extra 4.000BEF (100 $US) for the two weeks. I took this and so I could sleep very comfortable in my car. If you rent a car when you already are in Alaska you'll have to pay almost double the price!
In Anchorage, I stayed in the Youth hostel for 16 $/night. The cheapest hotels here will cost you 60$/night and for the "Holiday Inn" you'll pay 200$/night! I brought my tent, which came in for use while staying in Nome and on St.Paul island (Although it's illegal to camp here without a permit).
I was very lucky to meet two Alaskan women while cuing up for the plane in Amsterdam!!! One lived in Barrow, the other in Fairbanks. They were very friendly, so I had a great place to stay in Barrow. First I was planning to camp here but that's definitely not a good idea. Although a bit expensive, you have to stay in a hotel here, it's definitely the safest way to go. The danger comes from Polar Bears, which sometimes wander close to the village and curious Eskimo people that can be a pain for a camper.
During my stay the exchange rate was as follows: 1 US $ = 39 BEF
I brought a small amount of cash together with Thomas Cook Travellers cheques and my VISA and American Express cards.
I only encountered Mosquitos in the inland of Alaska. June is a good month to travel. July is mosquito-month.
See the short text that I stated for each visited area.
ST.PAUL ISLAND (PRIBILOFS)
St. Paul island is the best place in Alaska to see most of the Alcids except the Whiskered Auklet.. It's also a place where you have a fair chance to see the enigmatic McKay's Bunting.
I visited the island from the 3rd until the 9th of June.
The weather is often terrible here. I had one full day of sun and one full day of rain. The other days it was cloudy with showers. Temperature here was 3-4 ºC in the morning and around 10 ºC in the afternoon. The day of my departure from the island there was fog coming in and the plane wasn't able to land. I had to stay a day longer on the island. If you plan your trip, reserve a day between two flights if you come from the Pribilofs, Nome or Barrow because of the airplane delays!
I stayed on the island in a tent to lower the costs. Normally it's not allowed to camp on the island unless you have obtained a permit from the U.S. department of fish and wildlife or the TDX Company.
The island has one hotel, the King Eider Hotel. If you want to stay here it's best to book a tour package or book the hotel very early because it's mostly booked out during June. Another possibility is "bed & breakfast", there are a few places on the island were you could do this. One of these places is "Lillian Capener's Bed&Breakfast", box 105 St.Paul Alaska 99660. The village of St.Paul has an "AC value store" were you could buy all the food and drink you want, a luxury in the middle of nowhere!
You can see most of the island specialties in walking distance from the village, sometimes long hikes though! I did a hike from St.Paul village to the Northeast point (20 km one way!!). One of the fieldguides of the tours told me that there was a male McKay's bunting singing there. I saw the bird so my tiring hike in the rain was very rewarding and on my way back, one of the fieldguides gave me a ride back to the village. It was three years ago that there was a singing male in June on the island!
A very good place for bird watching is "Salt lagoon". You should check this daily for migrants like, wader's gulls and ducks. Just before I arrived on the island there was a Ross'Gull hanging around here and I saw 2 Black-headed Gulls, 10 Slaty-backed Gulls (it was a very good year for this species), Vega Gulls and several Greenshanks and Common Sandpipers. It's also a good place to see the Red-legged Kittiwakes. They are often between the roosting Black-legged Kittiwakes and other gulls.
A good spot to view the alcids is between East-landing and Sealion Rock just southeast of town.
Migrant passerines can be discovered everywhere on the island, the southwest point, northeast point and around town are the best places to go look for them. I found a Siberian Rubythroat near East landing.
Nome lies in the western part of Alaska, on the Seward peninsula. It is THE place to see species like Bristle-thighed Curlew, Bluethroat, Northern Wheatear, Asian Golden Plover, Artic Warbler. You'll have a 50% chance in seeing Emperor Goose (I missed it!) or one of the rarer Gulls. I saw a Black-headed Gull here
Nome has a road system, which consists out of three roads, The Teller road, Kougarok- or Taylor road and the Council road. I only did the Teller and the Kougarok road. It is necessary to rent a car here because the Bristle thighed Curlew-site is 85 miles up the Kougarok road. Do this in advance! On my visit here all the cars were booked and I was very lucky that there was just one coming in. I always camped here or just slept in my car. The public beach just outside Nome is the perfect place to camp, and totally free! You have also a couple hotels here, and for this, the rule is also "book in advance" because there are a lot of birdwatchers here in June! There is a big supermarket in Nome with even a Burger King! For all information concerning accommodation and car hire you can contact the "Nome Convention & Visitors bureau" P.O. box 240 Nome, Alaska 99762 Tel (907)443.5535 Fax (907)443-5832 or visit there web site at www.nomealaska.org
The weather here varied, open sunny skies and one evening rain, temperature between 10 - 15ºC during the day and going down to -5ºC in the morning.
The visitor's center is the first place you should visit. The lady behind the desk knows a lot of the birds and there is a notice board where you can check and write down any unusual sightings of birds and mammals.
The "Kougarok road" is 85 miles long and winds trough some beautiful scenery. It's along this road that you have to look for Northern Wheatear, Gyrfalcon, Bluethroat, Bristle-thighed Curlew.
I found Bristle thighed Curlews on two spots along the Kougarok road. The first site (see map) was at MP 74 on the slopes of the hill on your left. A Bluethroat was singing here as well. The other site (see map) was at MP 85. It's a big walk from the road and very hard as well because it feels like walking on a field of bowling-balls!!! After this walk I was pleased to have solid ground under my feet again.
The village of Teller is worth to visit because there are sometimes White Wagtails around, a very rare species in Alaska. When I visited the place, there was one breeding pair but they didn't show themselves. It's also a good site to see Pelagic Cormorant, Black- and Pigeon Guillemot and Horned Puffin.
Near the city of Nome the best site is the Nome River mouth. This site lies at walking distance from Nome center along the "Council road". There was a group of birdwatchers that saw a Red-necked Stint here!
One of the best sites for rarities is "Safety Sound". It's a rest stop for many birds that wait for the ice to melt. Safety Sound lies 20-25 miles from Nome along the Council road. I found a Temminck's Stint here, 4 Sabine's Gulls flew over, Blue-winged Teal, and during a Seawatch here a Black-headed Gull flew past!
Barrow is the most northerly Eskimo-community and "Point Barrow" the most northern point of Alaska and the United States! Barrow is together with Prudhoe Bay the best place to see the Spectacled Eider and in good Lemming years there are always Snowy Owls around. Other good species here are Steller's- and King Eiders, Pomarine Skuas and different species of Waders like Pectoral Sandpiper.
Barrow is also the right place to come across a Polar Bear. These mammals look sweet and nice but are nothing like that. Compared with a Brown Bear, that is afraid of humans and will try to avoid contact with them, a Polar Bear takes humans as prey and will hunt you down if he spots you!!! The last deadly incident in the village of Barrow was in 1992 when a starved Polar Bear entered the village and took a man! So if planning to camp here, like I was gonna do, think twice and definitely do not camp on the beach as Polar Bears always are on the pack-ice. The best way to stay here is in a hotel. If you want to see a Polar Bear at a safe distance, there is a possibility to take a ride in the "Hummer" of "The Arctic Tour Company" - P.O.box 268 Barrow, Alaska 99723 Tel (907) 8524512 Fax (907) 8522095. They'll take you to Point Barrow, the best place to see the Polar Bear.
The weather here can be very winter-like in June. Temperatures on my stay went as low as -5°C with strong wind, so it felt like - 15°C. I also still had a bit of snow here. The lakes and ocean close to shore were still frozen. Be carefull not to go to early in June because when all the lakes are still frozen you'll have a hard time finding Spectacled Eider.
Spectacled Eider is THE bird to look for here. I found two birds near Freshwater lake. This is a lake south-southwest of the village. I got the information from scientists at N.A.R.L. This is a scientific station just outside Barrow that conducts all kind of research. When I was visiting some scientists at N.A.R.L. were doing research on Steller's Eider. They gave me a couple of photos taken from the air and showed me where they saw a pair of Spectacled Eider. It was a tiring hike, it took me 3 hours to locate the pair. Be prepared to walk around in the tundra here. Most of the time you wade trough water that lies on the permafrost, it's a must to wear rubber boots here! When I was leaving the scientists had found a group of 13 Spectacled Eiders at the end of "Gaswell road". This is another good site to watch birds. The road lies northeast from the village but the name-sign indicates another name, I lost the name that was on the sign.
The tundra behind N.A.R.L. is also very productive. At the station itself there were 2 Varied Trushes and the lake southwest of N.A.R.L. was frozen but a small stream came of this. Along this stream I found a Little Stint!!!
As you see you can amuse yourself here for 2-3 days.
The Kenai Peninsula lies south of Anchorage. It's beautiful and a must to visit. From ornithological point you have to visit Seward and Homer.
Seward is THE place to arrange a boat-trip for Alcids, Seabirds, Whales and other marine life. I went to sea with "Mariah Tours" and did the "Captain's Choice Tour" (Mariah Tours, P.O. box 1309, Seward AK 99664 tel. Toll free 0800-270.1238 or 907-224.8623 or fax. 907-224.8625. This tour is with a small boat (16 passengers), so the big advantage is that it is a bit of a personalized tour. Be sure to mention to the captain that you are a birdwatcher and also say which birds you want to see. The captain will gladly make an effort to go to places where you can see the species that you want. I was lucky that there were some birdwatchers on the boat, so birds became our main aim. We did a special stretch to see the Kittlitz's Murrelet and with success. It is best to arrange this boat-tour in advance because the "Captain's Choice Tour" is not done every day. There are a lot of other companies that offer Whaling trips, but these are mostly with big crowded vessels and there main things are scenery and Whales.
In Seward you'll see Bald Eagles in town. If you drive out Seward in the direction of Lowell point keep your eyes on the bay and stop once in a while. I had Marbled Murrelet, Harlequin Duck, Wandering Tattler and Spotted Sandpiper here.
On road from Seward towards Homer there are some good trails. I did a small stretch of the "Lost Lake Trail" (starts on MP 5 of the Seward Highway , just outside Seward) ,a small strectch of the "Ressurection Pass Trail"(starts on MP 52 on Sterling Highway or Highway 1) (See map) and the "Skyline Trail" (not on map), the last one in search for White-tailed Ptarmigans which I didn't find. The "Skyline Trail" starts at Milepost 61 of Highway 1 (Sterling Highway).
This is a village on the western side of the Kenai. It has a small peninsula called the "Homer Spit". This is a place where all the fishing activity is going on. It's a good spot for the Bald Eagle, they are very tame here because they are used to people. Other good birds to look for here are Kittlitz's Murrelet and Surfbird. For the last species it's probably the best site, if you don't see it here your chances are slim or you have to go uphill in "Denali National Park". I saw a Fin Whale from the "spit" while watching the see.
The Interior is the inland part of Alaska and is situated between Anchorage and Fairbanks. In this part of Alaska, the few highways are well developed and mostly paved. Only the best part for birdwatching, the Denali Highway, is a gravel-road, and most rental companies have a problem with going on these roads. Therefor you have to be very careful in driving of the paved roads. If you have to be towed here are have any problems with the car, the costs are on your account! But if you want to see the Smith's Longspur, you have to go along the Denali Highway. The species to see in the Interior are Smith's Longspur, Northern Hawk Owl, Upland Sandpiper, Trumpeter Swan. I've seen all these species along the Denali Highway (see plan). Also a must, is to visit "Denali National Park & Preserve". The top activity here is to watch the mammals, but there are some good birds around too.
The "Fairbanks" area was very disappointing for birding. Near "Delta Junction" were also some good birding spots.
In the Interior, I first encountered Mosquitos, and there are a lot of them. So long sleeves, gloves, a hat and mosquito head-net are necessary. With all this clothing, the weather here is a disadvantage because the temperature is often 20ºC+.
DENALI NATIONAL PARK & PRESERVE
When I was visiting the park, there was a nesting site of a Gyr Falcon next to the road. Near "Wonder Lake" we observed a male Spruce Grouse and on the "Eielson visitors centre" I saw a Says Phoebe. Furthermore there were 4 Golden Eagles spotted!
You can only visit the park on a Shuttle bus. These are busses that drive routes in the park. You start near the visitor centre and you can go all the way to "Kantishna". I took a ride to "Wonder Lake" and back and this is an 11 hours drive! You have to pay according to where you want your turning point. You have to book your seat on the bus at least a week in advance because the park is the number one attraction of Alaska and there are a lot of people that visit it during the summer months. It's possible to leave the bus wherever you want. You just yell, "stop" and the driver will stop instantly. Also if you see an interesting animal, yell, "stop" and the driver will stop the bus so that everyone can look at what you've seen. This method works well because everybody is looking for mammals and other interesting things. I can tell you the views here are breath-taking.
If you plan on visiting the park it is best to make arrangements at least a week in advance because Denali N.P. is the "number one" attraction in Alaska. You can make reservations at Denali Park Resorts VTS, 241 West Ship Creek Ave., Anchorage, AK 99501. You can phone 1-907-272-7275 (international), 1-800-622-7275 (nationwide) or 272-7275 for when in Anchorage (lines open from March until September !). You can also fax on 1-907-264-4684.
For more information you can also visit the "Alaskan Public Lands Information Center" at 605 W.4th Avenue Anchorage, AK 99501 Tel (907)2712737 or in Fairbanks at 250 Cushman Street Fairbanks, AK 99701 Tel (907)4517352. They sell books and beautiful postcards and show very good movies about the Alaskan nature.
Nature and landscapes along the Denali Highway are definitely as beautiful as in Denali N.P. itself!
The "Denali Highway" was for me a top-birding area with observations of Northern Hawk Owl, Smith's Longspur, Trumpeter Swan, Say's Phoebe, Bohemian Waxwing, Least Sandpiper, Upland Sandpiper.
I will give mileage's on were I saw which species. Mileage's are measured starting from Cantwell, set your gage here on zero.
Mile 9,2 Northern Hawk Owl 1 bird observed late in the day just next to the road
Mile 29,6 Blackpoll Warbler Brushkana Campground
Mile 30,6 Upland Sandpiper (2 birds), Least Sandpiper (2 birds) and 15 White-winged Crossbills 300 North off the road
Mile 52 Say's Phoebe and 2 Bohemian Waxwings at the Campground there
Mile 54 SEE MAP
Delta junction is situated at the intersection of the Highway 4 and the Highway 2 (leads to Canada).
A very good place to look for birds is the "Delta Barley Project" (see map). It's some sort of agricultural project with large plains and grass areas . I've seen Upland Sandpipers, Northern Hawk Owls, American Kestrel and Red-tailed Hawk here. I didn't see the Sharp-tailed Grouse and the Mountain Bluebird but they should breed near the "Delta Barley Project".
If you pass "Sawmill Creek road" (Delta Barley Project) when coming from "Delta Junction", a bit further you will pass the "Ruffed Grouse Habitat" on your right. I did here a short stop and found Spruce Grouse and Chipping Sparrow here.
I left from Deurne with a flight to Amsterdam (40 min). In Amsterdam, I met two ladies, Karen and Peggy. Karen lived in Barrow and Peggy in Fairbanks and they instantly offered me to come over and visit. It was very convenient having a place to fall back on, especially in Barrow where I was planning on camping. Camping is not a good idea here (read Barrow).
My flight to Seattle went smooth (10h05min) and then the plane to Anchorage (3h33min), arriving in Anchorage around 6 pm. (I had about two hours delay on schedule) I took a taxi downtown to the Youth hostel. This was a bit pricey, 16$ for a 10 minute drive! The cheapest way to go downtown from the airport, are the public buses (just one dollar and they drive you around the city!) There is one pitfall here, they only serve the airport during normal working hours and I was just to late to catch a ride. The weather the first day in Anchorage was not so good, heavy clouded and rain.
In the morning I went to explore the city to do some shopping. Then I went to the University through the "Chester Creek trail", my first contact with the Alaskan bird-life. A good spot was "Goose Lake" on the University grounds. After the university I went in the direction of the airport. This was a long hike. Near "Conner's lake" I met Phil, a birdwatcher from Washington and he had a car! We went to "Potters Marsh", but this was not so good as expected, very few birds. We drove on then, to "Hillside Park". This was better with observations of the first Varied Thrushes and a few Gray Jays. In the evening we drove down to "Westchester lagoon". The best birds here were 2 fly-over Sandhill Cranes, ± 10 Short-billed Dowitchers, ± 15 Hudsonian Godwits and a Ring-necked Duck.
Weather: Sunny with few clouds and windy ± 10ºC
Costs: food 9,20$; bus 1$
Last night at 3 am, the fire alarm started ringing in the Youth hostel, "WAAAAA Where am I, I'm not in my own bed!?!" was my first reaction. Then I realized that I was in a Youth hostel in Anchorage. The alarm was false! I was leaving for St. Paul today. The plane left at 00.45 pm and we landed at St.Paul around 6 pm after two stops, one in Bethel and one on St. George (another island of the Pribilofs). The weather on St. Paul was very clouded but no rain. The first evening here produced a few Rock Sandpipers, Short-eared Owl, 5+ Slaty-backed Gulls and I found a Black-headed Gull!
Weather: Heavy clouded and foggy 4 - 10ºC
Costs: food/drink 36,31 $
I got up at 7.00 am and took a walk to the shop in the village to buy some food and drinks. Around St. Paul village are excellent birding spots, bird-cliffs and a swampy area just in front of the village. My first Alcids were noted, Parakeet-, Least-, and Crested Auklet, Horned- and Tufted Puffin on cliffs near the village of St. Paul. This was also good for Red-faced Cormorants. The harbor always had one or two immature Pelagic Cormorants and a lot of Harlequin Ducks.
In the afternoon I went more to the middle of the island in search for the McKay's Bunting. I only saw Snow Buntings here, ± 10 Rock Sandpipers and some Red-necked Phalaropes.
In the evening the daily visit to the "Salt lagoon". This produced Common Goldeneye, ± 10 Red-legged Kittiwakes, ± 10 Slaty-backed Gulls, Oldsquaw, 1 Yellow Wagtail. There were now already two Common Black-headed Gulls!!, one in first summer plumage and one still in first winter-plumage.
I met one of the tour-guides and we spoke about the McKay's Bunting. He told me that there were no singing males in the three last springs and there were two this year. One of them was singing near "Northeast point" ± 15 miles from my campsite. The guide mentioned to me that there was a logbook for observations in the "King Eider Hotel". The last few days there was a sighting of a Ross's Gull that unfortunately had left by now, there were several Common Cuckoos and Siberian Rubythroats on the island, the guide himself had found a Red-breasted Flycatcher the day before, the first for the island. I mentioned to him that he had to check for the correct subs. because in Europe they are talking of splitting the Red-breasted Flycatcher. We discussed also over the dark type Gulls on "Salt lagoon" He told me that the real dark ones were Slaty-backed Gulls and the medium dark were Vega Gulls. This year was great for the Slaty-backed Gulls, the past years this was a rarity here and now there were at least 10 birds on the lagoon.
Weather: Rain and strong wind (east), 4ºC in the morning and 14ºC in the afternoon
Costs: shop 15,5$
I was awake at 5.30 am and left for a 15 mile walk to "Northeast point" in search for the McKay's Bunting. It was raining heavily. Along the way I observed several Rock Sandpipers and near "Big Lake", 2-3 Common Sandpipers, a Tattler spec. and a Common Tern (subs. longipennis!). On the Northeast point near "Brewster Lake" there was a pair of Steller's Eiders flying past, furthermore a drake Bufflehead, 2 Vega Gulls and a Parasitic Jaeger. In the distance I noticed some rocks, just a few rocks in a grassy area. I walk towards them and there he was. a beautiful male McKay's Bunting singing his heart out. I was filled with relief that I got this species, shaking on my legs of excitement, tired of the walk and completely wet. The life of a birdwatcher can be hard! The Red-breasted Flycatcher that had been found here was gone.
I was lucky because I got a ride back with one of the guides on the island.
In the afternoon I did again a walk around "Salt Lagoon" and spotted 10 Slaty-backed Gulls, 3 Vega Gulls, 1 Herring Gull, ± 10 Red-legged Kittiwakes, again 2 Black -headed Gulls and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits.
Weather: In the morning rain, later clouded with late afternoon a sunny sky!! 4ºC in the morning and
15ºC in the afternoon.
Due to the rain I left my warm sleeping bag not earlier than 10.00h! I walked towards the rookery close to "Salt Lagoon" and later to "Antone Lake" where the previous day an Eye-browed Thrush was found. I got a lift of one of the tour busses. Near the Rookery I spotted 4 Northern Fulmars and near "Antone Lake' , on the sea, there were 2 White-winged Scoters. I saw 2 Greenshanks and when I got back to my tent 16 Canada Geese, of the rare subs. leucopareia ,flew over. In the afternoon I walked again towards "Salt Lagoon", the village and in the direction of "Reef Point". The only good new birds were a pair Tufted Ducks.
Weather: Sunny but cold in the morning (slightly below 0ºC), later more clouds.
Costs: shop 6$
In the morning, I walked towards "Salt Lagoon", the "Village Marsh" and "Reef Point". The most important sightings were still the pair Tufted Ducks, 4 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Semipalmated Plovers, the traditional Gulls including the 2 Black-headed Gulls, a Yellow Wagtail, Greenshank and near the village finally my subs. Winter Wren!
In the afternoon I walked down to "Loran station" to check the pools around there. I found 3 Wood Sandpipers and saw a sandpiper spec. probably a Baird's Sandpiper. Other birds here were 1 Slaty-backed Gull, 2 Oldsquaw, 2 Red-necked Phalaropes and 5 Rock Sandpipers.
Weather: Heavy clouded in the morning, average 8-10ºC and in the afternoon the whole island was in the fog!
Costs: Shop 9$; calling card 10$
I walked to the village to check the logbook in the "King Eider Hotel". There was again an observation of a Siberian Rubythroat, this time near the village, on the cemetery. I went down there to check, but with no luck. I went back to my campsite to pack the tent but when I got there the fog was coming up very quickly. By the time I got to the airport the fog was so thick that the plane couldn't land. This is a normal thing for St. Paul so keep this in mind if you book your plane-tickets for connecting flights in advance, always leave one day in between! The next day there was no plane of "Penair" coming in and this was the company that I came with so I asked to change my ticket so I could take the flight the next day with "Reeve Aleutian Airways". This was no problem and they even did it with no extra costs.
After this I went back to the village put my tent up again and decided to do some seawatching from "East Landing". A good choice because I saw a fly-by adult summer Red Phalarope, a Northern Fulmar, several species of Alcids including 3 Ancient Murrelets. Top of the bill was when I got up to move on, I flushed a Passerine between the rocks, a split second later I saw it hopping over the rocks, it had a red throat...adrenaline through my vanes. It was a beautiful male SIBERIAN RUBYTHROAT. At last I found one after hearing that there were several on the island the last few days (± 6 birds). Afterwards I went back to my campsite passing "Salt Lagoon". A new bird here was an adult light phase Pomarine Jaeger.
Weather: In the morning still fog, ± 5ºC, heavy clouded and a lot of rain
In the morning, I went down to the village again. Due to the heavy rain birdwatching was nearly impossible. I met Mark, a fisherman that worked on a very big fish trailer that was in the harbor. We got a couple of beers and started talking about life, as he knew it and the way it was in Europe. It was a very interesting conversation. Around midday I packed my stuff and left for the airport, off to Anchorage. On the plane I met a couple that stayed in the "Holiday Inn" and they were picked up in Anchorage by the Shuttle bus from the hotel so I joined them. The Holiday Inn was close to the Youth Hostel and it saved me a 15 $ taxi drive! On the way downtown, just outside the airport area we spotted the first Moose, it was huge! I had diner at "Humpy's", a nice place with live bands close to the Hostel.
Weather: beautiful summer weather, open sky and sun 20º+
Costs: postcards 5 $; bus 1$; movies 5$; laundry 3$; MacDonald's 7,2$; stamps 29,7$; shop 10$
In the morning I did some shopping in town and went to the "Bureau of Land Management" for info on "Denali national park & Preserve". In the afternoon I walked all the way to 36th avenue to watch "Star Wars" in the cinema. Afterwards I visited "Westchester Lagoon", that produced Yellow-rumped- and Orange-crowned Warbler, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, a male Lesser Scaup, several Greater Scaups, Canada Goose and Northern Shoveler.
In the evening again to "Humpy's" to get a beer with some girls from Holland and New Zealand that I had met in the Hostel.
Weather: (Anchorage) open and sunny, in the morning already 15ºC
(Nome) open and sunny with some rain in the evening
Costs: bus 1$; drinks 6$; pizza 28$!
I left in the morning for Nome. After landing I walked towards the village, a local asked if I wanted a ride. There was already another couple of backpackers in his pick-up truck who later proved to be the only Belgians I came across. They were from "Aalst".
I immediately went to "Stampede Car Rentals". "No more cars" they answered my question, so I tried the only other company that rents cars "Alaska Cab" and I got the same answer there. I saw my Bristle-thighed Curlew fly away because the place to see this species is 100 miles away! I walked now to the information center to see if there were any more cars for rent in Nome. They told me that the two companies that I've already visited were the only rentals in town. At "Stampede's" was one car available just for tomorrow morning so I went back there to rent that one. Thanks to one of the employees there, who kept looking for a car that could return, they found one that returned the next day. Yahoo. I had one. A good advise is to rent a car here well in advance because the place is crowded with birdwatchers in this season. I went back to the information/visitors center for info to watch birds close to the village. In the visitor-center is a good bulletin board for sightings of rare birds and mammals. I went for a walk to the mouth of the Nome river where I saw my first Aleutian Terns and along the Nome-bypass which produced: American Tree Sparrow, Oldsquaw, Arctic Terns, Savannah Sparrow, Greater Scaup, Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Common- and Red-breasted Merganser, Semipalmated- and Western Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Yellow- Wilson's and Orange-crowned Warbler, American Robin, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Yellow Wagtail, Long-tailed Jaeger, Short-eared Owl, Wilson's Snipe, White-crowned Sparrow, Mew Gull, Glaucous Gull, Lapland Longspur and one Pacific Golden Plover.
In the evening I had a very expensive pizza for diner, if you go out here to have diner, you'll pay al lot of money!
Weather: In the morning heavy clouded but no rain and in the afternoon open and sunny
Costs: shop 28$, car rental + insurance (three days) 180,62$
At 8.00h awake and doing the Nome-bypass again without any new birds, I did see an Arctic Ground Squirrel here. Around 10.00h I went to "Stampede Car Rental" to get my car, a Ford Bronco. Now shopping and off for the "Kougarok road". The scenery here is beautiful and Moose and Caribou were spotted. On the crossing of the "Kougarok rd" with "Grand River" 2 Golden Eagles and Golden-crowned Sparrow were observed and along the road Rock Ptarmigan, Hoary Redpoll, Oldsquaw, Red-breasted Merganser, Yellow Warbler.
I got some information from the visitor center that I should look for the Bristle-thighed Curlews on Milepost 74 (see map in Nome-section). Here I saw at least 2 Bristle-thighed Curlews, a singing male Bluethroat, American Golden Plover, Rock Ptarmigan, Willow Ptarmigan, Long-tailed Jaegers.
It's difficult to notice the Bristle-thighed Curlews if you don't know there call because there are a lot of Whimbrels in this area. The call is diagnostic and the rufous rump is also a good field mark when they fly around.
After this, I drove on to another known site for the Curlews, at MP 85-86 (see map in Nome section). It was already late; along the gravel road there were a lot of Willow Ptarmigans sand-bathing. I stopped the car just over the "Kougarok bridge". Here, a Red Fox walked just next to the car!
Weather: Open and sunny, warm with a colder breeze
Costs: shop 6,5$ Fuel 24$
At 6.30h I got out my sleeping bag to make a walk in the tundra at MP 85 (see map in the Nome section). The tundra here is terrible to walk on. It's like walking on bowling balls floating on water. My ankles ache like hell! To get back on the gravel road was a true relief. My walk here produced at least 3 Bristle-thighed Curlews, a fly over White-fronted Goose, breeding Bar-tailed Godwits, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Harrier, Hoary Redpolls, Long-tailed Jaegers. I also saw here my first Musk ox (±10 animals). After this walk, I drove back to Nome stopping en route a few times. At MP 25 I saw a Gyr Falcon and on MP 28 a second year Golden Eagle, Rough-legged Hawk, 1 Wandering Tattler and another 2 Musk ox. When I got back in Nome, I checked the observations bulletin at the "Information Center" and there was a sighting of a Lesser Sand Plover near "Safety Lagoon". I drove down there to check, but I didn't found the Plover. I did see 4 Black Turnstones, 20+ Common Eiders, 6 Sandhill Cranes, 3 Parasitic Jaegers, ±10 Black Brants, 1 male Common Goldeneye, a male Blue-winged Teal, 20+ Aleutian Terns, 3 Tundra Swans, 10+ Western Sandpipers, ± 10 Dunlins and I found a Temminck's Sandpiper!
Then I drove to the village of "Teller" to look for Pigeon Guillemot. It was already late when I got there and I had strong backlight, so no luck.
Weather: Open and sunny, very cold in the morning -5ºC
Costs: Calling card 20$, food 13,5$
In the morning a short drive back to "Teller". On the way down, there was a Musk ox standing on the road, a beautiful animal. In Teller there was a breeding pair White Wagtail, but I didn't find it. I did see 10+ Pigeon Guillemots, 10+ Black Guillemots, 50+ Pelagic Cormorants, 10+ Horned Puffins, Red throated Loons, Black Scoters, Common Eiders, Semipalmated- and Western Sandpipers.
On the way back to Nome there were suddenly 3 young Grizzly's crossing the road. That was a thrill, my first Grizzly's! Also on the way back were a few Willow Ptarmigans, Long-tailed Jaegers and a Semipalmated Plover. After arriving in Nome again, I drove to "Safety Lagoon". This was very rewarding with: 100+ Tundra Swans, 50+ Western Sandpipers, 50+ Semipalmated Sandpipers, 3 Red Knots, 20+ Bar-tailed Godwits, 10+ Dunlin, 2+ Red-necked Phalaropes, 1 Ruddy Turnstone, 30+ Sandhill Cranes, Canvasback, 100+ Greater Scaup, 100+ Pintails, 10+ Black Brants, 20+ Eiders, 1 Pacific Loon, 50+ Oldsquaw, a few American Wigeons, 1 Black-bellied Plover, 4 migrating Sabine's Gulls, 200+ Glaucous Gulls, 30+ Aleutian terns, 30+ Artic Terns, 5+ Parasitic Jaegers,... After visiting the lagoon, I went to check the Nome River mouth because a group birdwatchers saw here a Red-necked Stint. I failed to see this species but had a lot of sandpipers here, some Aleutian Terns and a Lesser Yellowlegs. Then I went back in the direction of "Safety Lagoon" and did some seawatching near MP 31 along the Council Road, it was already 23.30 hrs. The seawatch produced again a Black-headed Gull (this time it was an adult summer), 2 White-winged Scoters, Black-legged Kittiwake, 1 Pacific Loon, 25+ Oldsquaw, 10+ Black Scoters.
Weather: again beautiful weather but more wind. The temperature in the morning was 12ºC.
Costs: Gas 42$, food 8$, Taxi 16$, Youth hostel 16$
I got up in the morning at 07.00 hrs and did seawatch until 10.00 hrs. This produced 6 Surf Scoters, 3 White-winged Scoters, 1 adult summer Yellow-billed Loon, 3 Pacific Loons, several Common Murres, 10+ Pelagic Cormorants, 3 Horned Puffins, 10+ Black Brants, 10+ Black Scoters.
After this I had to go back to town to catch the plane to Anchorage.
When I got back in Anchorage I took a taxi to the Youth Hostel.
Weather: in Anchorage clouded with sun and warm ± 22ºC
In Barrow clouded and cold ±5ºC
Costs: bus 1$, food 11$, socks 7$
I got up at 8.00 hrs and went to check the bus stop to see when I had to go for the Airport. I still had some time and went shopping in town for cards and stamps. Around 12.00 hrs I left for the airport and I arrived in Barrow at 19.00 hrs. I tried to phone Karen but I got no answer. I started talking on the airport in Barrow and trough one of the stewardesses I came in contact with one of the guides/bus drivers of one of the hotels there. His name was Stephen. He offered me to stay at his place; there I met his wife Elaine. They were very helpful and kind to me. On the way to there place I saw 2 Snow Buntings. Everything in Barrow looked still very frozen and I was wondering if the Spectacled Eiders had already arrived there? Stephen and Elaine told me that the "Break-up" was late this year but a lot could change in a few days.
Weather: In the morning clouded and foggy, this cleared in the afternoon.
Costs: drawing 30$, shop 12$
In the morning I went to the "Courthouse" to meet Karen, she worked here. We were going to meet for lunch. I did a walk then towards "Freshwater lake". Here I saw 4 Snowy Owls, Red- end Red-necked Phalaropes, Pomarine Skua, Pectoral- and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitcher, Pintail, 3 pairs Steller's Eider, 4 Red-throated Loons, Lapland Longspurs, Snow Buntings and Hoary Redpolls.
At noon I had lunch with Karen and two of her friends, Tom and Trish. Afterwards I went to the library because they had some computers there and the possibility to send some e-mail. Around five I went back to the "Courthouse" and Karen and me drove to her place. There I met Karen's roommate Darleen. We had something to eat and afterwards we drove to NARL to meet some of the scientists who were working on some projects here. One of these projects was a study of the Steller's Eider population and their fluctuations. Sadly they were all in the field so we drove to "Gaswell road to do some birdwatching. This produced Savannah Sparrow, Pintail, Wilson's Snipe, Red- and Red-necked Phalaropes, Snowy Owl, Short-eared Owl, Red-throated Loon, Pomarine Jaeger, 1 Hudsonian Godwitt, Glaucous Gulls and 4 Green-winged Teals. After this back to NARL and now there was one of the guy's who did research on the Steller's Eiders. A couple of days earlier he had seen 2 Spectacled Eiders near "Freshwater lake". I got some Air photos from him and that was my target place for tomorrow.
Weather: In the morning foggy but this cleared soon and it was clouded with a little sunshine and
some drizzle and snow, temperature ±5ºC
Costs: Taxi 11$, food 70$
I took a taxi in the morning to "Freshwater Lake" and started my walk there. It's very difficult to walk here because there is water everywhere so it's constant wading. Rubber boots are a must here. After 3,5 hours looking (and wary for Polar Bears!) I saw a head of a male Spectacled Eider above the tundra vegetation. The blood in my vanes was boiling, this was pure excitement, my legs were shivering. After I was a bit recuperated of the thrill I got closer and found a pair Spectacled Eiders. This walk also had 8 King Eiders, 4 Steller's Eiders, 5 Snowy Owls, 50+ Red Phalaropes, 15+ Red-necked Phalaropes, ± 10 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 50+ Pectoral Sandpipers, ±10 Long-billed Dowitchers, ±10 American Golden Plovers, Pintail, 2 Green-winged Teals, 6 Black Brants, 4 White-fronted Geese, 20 Common Eiders, 4 Red-throated Loons, 3 Pacific Loons, a Wilson's Snipe, a Raven and 20+ Pomarine Jaegers.
In the afternoon I visited Nalukatak. This is a traditional Eskimo celebration of the successful whale-hunt. In the evening we had a barbecue at Karen's. On my way back to here place I saw a Lemming!
Judging on the many Pomarine Jaegers and Snowy Owls this was a good Lemming-year.
Weather: Sunny and warm for Barrow ± 5-10ºC. Sometimes there was some fog coming in.
Costs: shop 17$
After seeing the Spectacled Eider yesterday, the stress was gone and I slept late today. Tom, Karen's friend, went down to the airport for the second time to get to Anchorage and he came back again, the plane still could not land! A common problem here in Alaska.
I did my laundry at Karen's place and went down to the local museum to check on the history of the native Eskimo's. After that I visited Stephen and Elaine again where I could eat some whale-meat. I was thinking "How can they eat this stuff all year round?". In the evening I went back for a walk in the direction of "Freshwater Lake" and noted at least 8 Snowy Owls!
Weather: In the morning cold with snow, later that day clouds, sun, fog and snow!
Costs: Pizza for two 18$
I woke up at 5 am and made a walk of ± 24 km to NARL and back through the Tundra. I noted: 2 Varied Thrushes, Red- and Red-necked Phalarope, 5 Steller's Eiders, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, 3 White-fronted Geese, Snow Bunting, Lapland Longspur, Savannah Sparrow, Pomarine Skua, 1 Western Sandpiper, Semipalmated- and Pectoral Sandpiper, 1 adult summer LITTLE STINT!, Oldsquaw, 1 female Surf Scoter, Semipalmated Plover, American Golden Plover, Long-billed Dowitcher, Red-throated Loon, Raven, ±90 Glaucous Gulls! and Hoary Redpoll. I went to NARL to return the photos that they gave me. They told me that they saw a group of 13 Spectacled Eiders and a few Sabine's Gulls yesterday on the far end of Gaswell Road. In the afternoon Karen and me drove down there but we where short in time to make the walk all the way to the place where the birds were seen. I had to catch a plane back to Anchorage. We checked my luggage in and went for a pizza. There was an electrical breakdown in town, therefore the instruments on the airport where disturbed and the plane that was coming in had been diverted to Prudhoe Bay. So I was stuck again. We went back and I stayed at Karen's place for a daylonger.
Weather: Barrow was very cold -5ºC with strong wind chill factor 3, cloudy and foggy.
Anchorage was clouded with ±15ºC
Costs: shop 47,46$, movies 4,75$
I got up at 7.30 hrs and Karen drove me to the Airport. Around 14.00 hrs I arrived back in Anchorage. I reserved a car for two weeks from now, a normal economy car. When I got to the "Alamo" counter they made me an offer to upgrade the car to a Chevrolet Blazer. It was a good offer so I took the Blazer and it turned out to be the ideal vehicle. I went shopping and saw a movie at the cinema. Afterwards I drove to "Hillside Park". I did a short walk there, which produced: Northern Tree-toed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, Varied Thrush and Pine Siskin. Around 9 pm I drove further towards Seward with a stop at "Potters Marsh". Here I saw a Moose just next to the car in the parking lot and further some Tree Swallows and Green-winged Teals.
Weather: heavy clouded with showers, ±12ºC
Costs: Whaling and seabird trip 135$, food 8,5$, entrance at "Exit Glacier" 5$
I got up at 7 am to book my boat-trip for tomorrow. In Seward you'll see Bald Eagles perched in town and on the masts of the yachts in the harbor. I drove towards "Lowell Point" and saw 2 Hermit Thrushes, Fox Sparrow, Pelagic Cormorant, 6 Marbled Murrelets, Glaucous-winged Gull, Raven and Mew Gull. After this I visited "Exit Glacier" where I only saw Wilson's Warbler. An Airstrip is always a good spot to watch birds so I paid the Airfield in Seward a visit. Here I lured two Alder Flycatchers out with the tape. Also Lincoln Sparrow, Bald Eagle and Glaucous-winged Gull there. Then I walked a piece of the "Lost Lake Trail" where I had 2 Swainson's Thrushes, a few Varied Thrushes and 3 Townsend's Warblers. In the evening I did the "Two Lakes Trail" again with American Robin, Raven, Mallard, Violet-green Swallow, Glaucous-winged Gull and Pine Siskin.
Weather: Open and sunny 15 - 17ºC
Costs: Shower 2$, Bear bells 6$, Fuel 15$
Today, the boat-trip was on the program. I did this trip with "Mariah Tours". I definitely can recommend this tour. I was also lucky that there were more birdwatchers on the boat so that birdwatching and the Kittlitz's Murrelet where the targets. We left at 7.30 am and returned at 5.30 pm.
The trip was great and produced: 10 Bald Eagles, 2 Northwestern Crow, 2 Black Oystercatchers, Double-crested Cormorants, Pelagic- and Red-faced Cormorants (10 birds), Black-legged Kittiwake, Glaucous-winged Gull, Mew Gull, Common- and Thick-billed Murre, 100s of Horned- and Tufted Puffins, 100+ Parakeet Auklets, 50+ Ancient Murrelets, 2 Rhinoceros Auklet, 30+ Marbled Murrelets, 1 KITTLITZ'S MURRELET, 10s Pigeon Guillemots, male Common Merganser, 2 White-winged Scoters, 20+ Surf Scoters, 20+ Harlequin Ducks and Hermit Thrush (heard). Mammals were also seen, 2 Humpback- and 2 Fin Whales, Sea-otters, 30+ Steller's Sea Lions, 2 Harbor Seals and 3 Mountain Goats. It was an unforgettable experience. After we got back I went to check the bay in front of the harbor on the way to "Lowell Point". Here I saw 6 males Harlequin Ducks, a Spotted Sandpiper and a Wandering Tattler. In the evening I left for Homer. On the way to Homer I noted a Moose with calf.
Weather: Sunny and warm
Costs: book 14,95$, food 8,5$, Fuel 12$
I woke up at 5.30 am and drove to Homer-spit in search for the Surfbirds. I looked 6 hours for these birds to come across them when I was almost back on my car. I walked almost the whole of the "spit". I noted a very tame Bald Eagle and 4 more, 5 Common Loons, 4 Western Sandpipers, 10 Semipalmated Plovers, Glaucous-winged Gulls, Mew Gull, 1 Herring Gull, 50+ Surf Scoters, a Harlequin Duck, 20+ Common Murres, 2 KITTLITZ'S MURRELETS, Arctic Terns, 20+ Aleutian Terns, 20+ Northwestern Crows and 3 Surfbirds. On "Beluga Lake" there was a Black-necked Grebe. Late afternoon I visited the airfield area in Homer. This spot should have breeding Aleutian Terns but I couldn't find them. Instead I saw Greater- and Lesser Yellowlegs, Sandhill Crane, Wilson's Snipe, Alder Flycatcher, Black-billed magpie, Savannah Sparrow and Mew Gull. After this I left in the direction of "Soldotna". On the way I stopped on several lakes.
Watson Lake: Yellow-rumped Warbler
Egumen Lake: Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-crowned Sparrow, 2 Gray Jays, and 2 Dark-eyed Junco's and Arctic Tern
Kelly Lake: female Surf Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Common Loon
Peterson Lake: Common Loon, 5 Bonaparte's Gulls and Mew Gull
Then I drove on until the starting point of the "Skyline Trail".
Weather: heavy clouded ± 15ºC with a drizzle.
In the morning I made a walk along the "Skyline Trail", in search for the White-tailed
Ptarmigan but I doubt that this is a good area for this species. I saw 5 American Pipits, a Townsend's Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, 2 Golden-crowned Sparrows and 3 Alder Flycatchers.
I drove further towards "Cooper Landing" for a walk on the "Resurrection Trail". This produced a few Golden-crowned Kinglets, 2 Fox Sparrows, Dark-eyed Junco, 2 Bald Eagles, Townsend's Warbler, 3 Brown Creepers, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Black-capped Chickadee, Mew Gull, Common Redpoll and heard a Western Wood Pewee.
Weather: Cloudy with a lot of sun and warm, 17-18ºC
Costs: shop 28,5$, fuel 28$
This morning Portage with Portage Glacier was on the program. Near the visitors center is a hotel where there are some Hummingbird-feeders and other feeders. Here I saw 3 Steller's Jays, Black-billed Magpie, 2 Fox Sparrows, 2 White-crowned Sparrows and a Three-toed Woodpecker. I didn't see any Hummers here, too early? On the way to "Potters Marsh" 6 Bald Eagles and one Varied Thrush. "Potters Marsh" proved to be more productive now with Western Wood-Pewee, 3 Alder Flycatchers, American Robin, 2 Northern Waterthrushes, female Pine Grosbeak, Black-capped Chickadee, Yellow-rumped Warbler, 3 Rusty Blackbirds, 5 Lincoln Sparrows, Common Redpoll, Tree Swallow, Lesser Yellowlegs, Wilson's Snipe, one Red-necked Phalarope, Canvasback, Red-necked Grebe, Pacific Loon, Mew Gull and Arctic Tern. I went into town for shopping and then I drove towards the "Denali Highway"! Let the Mosquito's come!
Weather: partly clouded with a lot of sun, 17ºC, in the evening some rain
Costs: shower 4$
I woke up at 6.30 am and left immediately for "Brushkana Campground" to look for the Smith's Longspur. I didn't find them there so I drove further until MP 55 from Cantwell. When you are in Cantwell set your mileage on zero.
Most important species I saw along the "Denali Highway" were Northern Hawk Owl, Blackpoll Warbler, 2 Upland Sandpipers, 4 Least Sandpipers, Merlin, 50+ Lesser Scaup, 6 Barrows Goldeneyes, Tundra Swans, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Cliff Swallow, Bohemian Waxwing, Say's Phoebe, ± White-winged Crossbills, Gray Jay and SMITH'S LONGSPUR. In the evening I drove on to "Denali National Park" and slept on a parking lot along the Highway. Still on the "Denali Highway" I observed a Porcupine. That's a strange mammal.
Weather: In the morning heavy clouded, in the afternoon some sun, ±16ºC
Costs: Park/bus 32$, Fuel 15$
The bus where I had reserved a seat left at 5.15 am and returned around 4.15 pm. The Mammals were the major thing today. We saw 2 Grizzly's, ± Dall Sheep, 20+ Caribou, Arctic Ground Squirrel, Red Squirrel, a Red Fox (intermediate form) and a female with calf and two bull Moose. A Spruce Grouse was a new bird for me. Further White-crowned Sparrow, Mew Gull, Arctic Tern, Say's Phoebe, one adult Gyrfalcon, 4 Golden Eagles, 3 Northern Harriers, an adult Common Loon, Lesser Scaup and Wilson's Warbler. After "Denali National Park" I drove on to Fairbanks. I saw a fly-over Sharp-shinned Hawk. After arriving in Fairbanks I called Peggy, a friend of Karen's who I also met in "Schiphol" in Amsterdam. We agreed to meet in the morning, so I drove on for "China River State Park", this was not productive. I did see my first Beaver here.
Weather: Beautiful summer weather, 25ºC!
Costs: food 20$
In the morning I called Peggy and we visited the "Alaska Pipeline", went into town, had lunch and cached a movie in the evening, in all a non-birding day.
Weather: again summer weather, 25ºC
Costs: shop & food 18$, Fuel 15$
I woke up at 7.30 am. I could send some e-mail on Peggy's computer and then I took off for "Delta Junction". First I stopped at the Forestry department (Dept. Of Natural Resources, 3700 Airport Way, 99709 Fairbanks) to check if they knew some burned-over sites where I could look for Black-backed Woodpecker. I got some tips and I visited one of the sites. I didn't find the Black-backed Woodpecker but I did see Northern Flicker (Yellow shafted) and a Solitary Sandpiper.
When I got to "Delta Junction" I visited the "Delta Barley Project". This place was good for 4 American Kestrels, 4 Upland Sandpipers, 2 Sandhill Cranes, 3 Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Flicker and 3 Northern Hawk Owls! After this visit I drove a little further to the "Ruffed Grouse Habitat" where I camped in my car.
Weather: again summer weather, ±20ºC
Costs: Stamps 9,9$, Fuel 17$
In the morning I did a walk in the "Ruffed Grouse Habitat" but I didn't see any Ruffed Grouse. I did see a Spruce Grouse, furthermore 3 Gray Jays, 3 Northern Flickers, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow rumped- and Orange-crowned Warbler, Pine Siskin and a male Chipping Sparrow!
Then I drove on towards Paxson. While driving I noted an immature Bald Eagle, a Common Loon, American Kestrel and 5 Herring Gulls.
In Paxson I took the "Denali Highway" again because I still didn't have a Trumpeter Swan. I drove until "Brushkana Campground" again and back. On the way back I had a flat tire. On the way over I passed a place where they did tire repair so I had it fixed there. This time I saw along the "Denali Highway" 4 Smith's Longspurs, 3 Trumpeter Swans, 5 Tundra Swans, Barrows Goldeneye, 2 Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, female Harlequin Duck, 2 Least Sandpipers, 2 Long-tailed Jaegers.
In the evening I saw a Caribou and again 2 Porcupines.
Weather: Beautiful summer weather, 20+ºC
Costs: Tire repair and shower 16$, shop 7$, Fuel 17$
I was still on the "Denali Highway" and made a stop on the "Tangle Lakes Campground". Here I saw a Long-tailed Jaeger, Yellow-rumped-, Wilson's- and Orange-crowned Warbler, Cliff Swallow, Northern Waterthrush.
After leaving the "Denali Highway" I drove in the direction of Glenallen. On the way 2 Bald Eagles. I made a stop near M 118 where I saw Short-eared Owl, American Tree Sparrow, an immature male Northern Harrier, Gray Jay.
Weather: Sunny and warm 20-25ºC
Costs: Carwash 3$, food&drinks 13$
I drove back to Anchorage, did some shopping, watched a movie and prepared my itinerary for Washington State a bit (after Alaska I was going to Washington state for a week but that's another report).
Then I paid "Conner's Lake" in Anchorage a visit with the best species being a Bonaparte's Gull, 2 Pacific Loons, a flyover Merlin and Wilson's Snipe. Another visit to "Westchester Lagoon" produced 10+ Red-necked Grebes, 11 Hudsonian Godwits, 40+ Dowitchers spec. (prob. Short-billed).
In the evening I drove to the "Arctic Valley Ski Resort " and on my way up there a Lynx crossed the street!!!
Weather: Summer again ±25ºC
Costs: Movie 5$, food 11$, Fuel 8$
I camped on the parking lot of the "ski resort". In the middle of the night an MP (Military police) woke me up and asked what my business here was. I explained that I was a birdwatcher and that was all right for him. You are close to Military area's here.
I got up at 6 am and walked up the mountain. I found 20+ Golden-crowned Sparrows, 3 American Pipits and a female Rock Ptarmigan with 5 youngsters.
In the evening I called Tom, a friend of Karen's, and he offered me to stay at his place for the night. I returned my car to the airport.
Weather: Summer weather ±25ºC
Costs: food & drinks 45$, souvenirs 210$
In the morning I did some birdwatching in the neighborhood where Tom lives, that's in the suburbs of Anchorage. I saw nothing new here. A Brown Creeper is worth mentioning. Tom drove me to the airport in the evening; I had a night flight to Seattle.
1. Common Loon /Northern DiverGavia immer
24-06 5 Spit - Homer
1 Kelly lake - Kenai peninsula
1 Peterson lake - Kenai peninsula
28-06 1 Wonder lake - Denali National Park
01-07 1 drive from Delta Junction to Paxson
One adult summer bird in Nome on the ocean on june 15.
3. Pacific Loon/Pacific Diver Gavia pacifica
This species was rather common on lakes. I saw my first Pacific loon in Anchorage on Goose lake at the University grounds. In Nome you have a chance of seeing the Eurasian Artic Loon (Gavia artica). It is very difficult to separate these species in the field. The best fieldmark is the white patch on the rear flank in Artic Loon. Pacific Loon is lacking this. Beware though that this feature is best seen on a flat watersurface. A bird on the ocean needs to be looked at much carefully but it should be douable they told me. I was not fortunate to observe Artic Loon in Alaska.
02-06 ca 10 Westchester lagoon - Anchorage
03-07 ca 40 Westchester lagoon - Anchorage
63. Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus
17-06 1 Freshwater lake - Barrow
18-06 ca.10 Freshwater lake - Barrow
20-06 1 NARL - Barrow
64. Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago Subs. delictata (Wilson's Snipe)
02-06 1 Goose lake - Anchorage
11-06 few Nome-bypass - Nome
13-06 1 Kougarok road - Nome
17-06 1 Gaswell road - Barrow
18-06 1 Freshwater lake - Barrow
24-06 few Airport - Homer
03-07 1 Connors lake - Anchorage
65. Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
14-06 1 Safety lagoon - Nome
66. Black Turnstone Arenaria melanocephala
13-06 4 Safety lagoon - Nome
67. Surfbird Aphriza virgata
24-06 3 Spit - Homer
68. Rock Sandpiper Calidris ptilocnemis
Breeding bird on St. Paul island with a maximum of ca.10 birds on 04-06.
69. Red Knot Calidris canutus
14-06 3 Safety lagoon - Nome
70. DunlinCalidris alpina Subs. articola
13-06 10+ Safety lagoon - Nome
14-06 10+ Safety lagoon - Nome
71. Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla
Common in Nome (14-06 max. of 50+ birds at Safety lagoon) and Barrow.
72. Western Sandpiper Calidris mauri
Common in Nome with maximum 50+ birds at Safety lagoon on the 14th of June
20-06 1 NARL - Barrow
24-06 4 Spit - Homer
13-06 2 Kougarok road - Nome
27-06 1 male Denali highway
28-06 3 Denali National Park
110. Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
30-06 3 Delta Barley project
111. Rough-legged Hawk Buteo lagopus
13-06 1 Kougarok road/MP 85 - Nome
112. American Kestrel Falco sparverius
30-06 4 Delta Barley project
113. Merlin Falco columbarius Subs. suckleyi
27-06 1 Denali highway
03-07 1 Connors lake - Anchorage
114. Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus
13-06 1 Kougarok road/MP 25 - Nome
28-06 1 Denali National Park
115. Spruce Grouse Dendragapus canadensis
28-06 1 male Denali National Park
01-07 1 male Ruffed Grouse habitat - Delta Barley project
116. Rock Ptarmigan Lagopus mutus
12-06 1 Kougarok road - Nome
1 Kougarok road/MP 74 - Nome
04-07 1 fem. + 5 juv. Arctic valley ski resort - Anchorage
117. Willow Ptarmigan Lagopus lagopus
12-06 9 Kougarok road - Nome
14-06 few Nome-Teller road - Nome
01-07 2 Denali highway
118. Rock Dove Columba livia
Seen on different sites nearly all domesticated
119. Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus
One bird was seen on several days at St. Paul island.
11-06 2 Nome bypass - Nome
12-06 1 Kougarok road/MP 74 - Nome
13-06 1 Kougarok road/MP 85 - Nome
17-06 1 Gaswell road - Barrow
02-07 1 Glenallen to Anchorage MP 118
178. Asian Rosy Finch Leucosticte arctoa Subs. umbrina
Common on St. Paul island
DETAILED MAMMAL LIST
1. Grizzly Bear Ursus horribilis
14-06 3 immature Nome-Teller road - Nome
28-06 2 adults Denali National Park
2. Sea Otter Enhydra lutris
23-06 20+ Boattrip - Seward
3. Red FoxVulpes fulva Cross phase
12-06 1 Kougarok road MP85 - Nome
28-06 1 Denali National Park
4. Arctic Fox Alopex lagopus
Blue phase- seen every day on St. Paul island, often very tame here!
5. Lynx Lynx canadensis
03-07 1 Arctic Valley Ski Resort - Anchorage
This observation was a real surprise, it's very difficult to spot a Lynx. This one crossed the road when I was going up to the resort. It was late in the day but not dusk yet.
6. Hoary Marmot Marmota caligata
25-06 1 Skyline trail - Kenai peninsula
7. Arctic Ground Squirrel Citellus parryi
Common around Nome, Denali National Park and Denali Highway.
23-06 3 near Homer - Kenai peninsula
04-07 20+ Arctic Valley Ski Resort - Anchorage
8. Red Squirrel Tamiasciurus hudsonicus
Common in the Interior and the Kenai peninsula
9. Brown Lemming Lemmus trimucronatus
18-06 1 village - Barrow
10. MuskratOndatra zibethica
02-06 1 Potters Marsh - Anchorage
11-06 1 Nome bypass - Nome
11. Beaver Castor canadensis
28-06 1 China River State Park - Fairbanks
12. Porcupine Erethizon dorsatum
27-06 1 Denali highway
01-07 2 Denali highway
13. Snowshoe Hare Lepus americanus
Regularly seen in the Interior and the Kenai peninsula.
14. Caribou/Reindeer Rangifer tarandus
I saw the herd on St. Paul island, common around Nome and a few (real wild Caribou) in Denali National Park. It's difficult to distinguish Reindeer from Caribou (domesticated animals from wild ones), so I placed them all under R. tarandus. This latin name is used for the whole Reindeer/Caribou group as one species!
01-07 1 Denali highway
15. Muskox Ovibos moschatus
13-06 12 Kougarok road - Nome
14-06 1 Nome-Teller road - Nome
Muskox was extinct in Alaska. There was a succesfull reintroduction on St. Lawrence island. When there were to many animals on St.Lawrence, they were replaced on the Alaskan mainland. Now there is a healthy population around Nome and in other areas in Alaska.
16. Moose Alces alces
I saw my first Moose not far from the Airport of Anchorage on the 9th of June.
12-06 1 female Kougarok road - Nome
13-06 1 female Kougarok road - Nome
21-06 1 female Potters Marsh - Anchorage
23-06 2 (female and young) road to Homer - Kenai peninsula
24-06 1 female near Homer - Kenai peninsula
27-06 3 (2 female and young) Denali highway
28-06 2 bulls Denali National Park
02-07 1 female Glenn highway
03-07 1 female Conners lake - Anchorage
04-07 1 female Airport - Anchorage
17. Mountain Goat Oreamnos americanus
23-06 1 female and young Boattrip - Seward
18. White Sheep or Dall SheepOvis dalli
28-06 50+ all females and young Denali National Park
19. Finback Whale Balaenoptera physalus
23-06 2 Boattrip - Seward
24-06 1 Homer spit - Homer
20. Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae
23-06 2 Boattrip - Seward
21. Northern Sea Lion or Steller Sea Lion Eumetopias jubatus
23-06 30+ Boattrip - Seward
22. Alaska Fur Seal Callorhinus ursinus
Common (10's) on the beaches of St. Paul island. When I was there, the Fur Seals were just arriving. If you visit the island later then june you'll see thousands of these seals on the beaches.
23. Harbor Seal Phoca vitulina
One or two were always present in the harbor of St. Paul.
23-06 2 Boattrip - Seward
"Alaska" Lonely Planet travel survival kit
"A Bird Finding Guide to Alaska" by Nick Lethaby
"Field Guide to the Birds of North America" - National Geographic Society
"Mammals" by William H. Burt and Richard P. Grossenheider - Peterson Field Guides
"Birds of the World - a checklist" by James F. Clements - Pica Press
Report:"Low Budget Bird trip to Alaska" by Jan Van der Laan and Arnold Meijer
Report:"A No Budget Bird trip to Alaska" by Wim & Raymond van Splunder