Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Parasitic Jaeger off the CT coast

Hurricane Dorian ever so slightly (and quickly!) brushed southern New England on Sep 6-7. Not surprisingly, it didn't pack much rarity punch here. Still, some southern terns were deposited to Atlantic Canada and could conceivably pass through as they reorient. This possibility added a bit of extra motivation to bird the CT coast by boat sometime this week. Today was my first chance to do so, as I've been busy at work.

I left New Haven Harbor around 8:30am and headed east. The forecast was iffy in that there was a chance a swell could kick up from the east, in which case I would have to abort. Luckily that never happened, and I was able to cover way more ground that I had expected...all the way to the Rhode Island line and back.

Immediately evident was the departure of terns from New Haven Harbor. The theme continued to Falkner Island, where five early GREAT CORMORANTS were roosting. In fact, I didn't see a tern until I hit Madison on the outbound leg of the journey. I ran the middle of the sound, staying on the CT side, all the way to the "ferry lanes" near The Race. It was dead.

three of the five Great Cormorants off Guilford, CT

From there I angled back inshore, entered Fishers Island Sound, and went east all the way to Stonington and the RI line. There wasn't much happening here, either.

On the return leg I ran inshore, sticking pretty close to the coast, checking harbors, breakwaters, islands and jetties. Terns began to show off East Lyme, and they were present on and off westward to Clinton. The greatest concentration was between Old Saybrook and Clinton. COMMON TERNS were dominant except at the mouth of the Connecticut River, where a count of 74 FORSTER'S TERNS was notable. The lower CT River definitely holds the state's highest density of Forster's.

Just west of Cornfield Point I spotted a jaeger pursuing a Laughing Gull in the vicinity of a feeding tern flock. Speeding closer, binocular views revealed it to be a PARASITIC JAEGER, by far the least rare jaeger species in CT. It was a crisp juvenile with warm buff fringes to dark chocolate-brown feathers. I watched this bird terrorize terns and gulls for a little while before it settled on the water.

Parasitic Jaeger

Later this afternoon, Old Saybrook residents and old friends John & Anders Ogren were able to successfully chase the bird from their boat.

Any encounter with a jaeger in CT waters is an exciting event, but being able to get up close and personal via boat is a rare treat.

 - NB

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Quick hit Hudwit and Stilt Sand

I spent the majority of the 5th and 6th in the field with still a pretty heavy focus on shorebirds. We're getting to the point in the season when birders understandably shift their interest from shorebirds and terns to passerines and hawks. There will still be quality shorebirding for a bit longer, though numbers will really drop off (and have already begun to).

An early morning visit to Hammonasset Beach SP on the 5th found hardly any shorebirds on the lawns, but a decent landbird movement overhead. BOBOLINKS dominated, passing in singles and small flocks. The highlight came in the form of my first DICKCISSEL of the year, giving its flight call as it flew westward down the coast.

Some dedicated landbirding in Guilford found a few feeding flocks of common species. AMERICAN REDSTARTS are still dominating the warbler mix, which is typical for the date.

For the midday period I walked out Sandy Point in West Haven. Shorebird numbers never really got very high there this year, and they have trailed off to rather modest numbers at best. Still, there's been a bit of diversity. While I was watching a juvenile LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL on the water, I heard a nasal bark-like call that I couldn't immediately place. I looked up to see a HUDSONIAN GODWIT flying in from the north. It didn't seem very interested in landing, banked left, and continued out of sight to the east. A juvenile RED KNOT, oddly uncommon in Connecticut, was also present, settled in with the BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER flock.

Hudsonian Godwit (molting adult)

Red Knot with Black-bellied Plovers

Also of note, while my butterfly knowledge is severely lacking, I noticed a CLOUDLESS SULPHUR flying northeastward down the beach and out over the harbor. And then another. And another. I ended up noting five of them on my walk back, which seemed like a lot to me.

Cloudless Sulphur

I began the next day at Milford Point. Hurricane Dorian was due to brush us every so slightly later that day, passing well to our southeast. While the chances of something getting blown into Long Island Sound were slim, the possibility of knock-downs was there. There were no surprises here, but I was happy to see the three continuing AMERICAN AVOCETS once again. Two each "Eastern" and "Western" WILLETS were cool side-by-side.

The outermost fringes of Hurricane Dorian slowly approach

Heading east, Hammonasset was dead quiet. As the outermost rain bands from the hurricane inched closer, I checked Griswold Point in Old Lyme. This used to be a prime shorebird spot, but recent storms have battered and eroded the point to a shell of its former self. Sadly, not even any Piping Plovers or Least Terns bred successfully this year, which is a first as far as I can remember. Anyway, birds were predictably scarce, but a single Tringa-like shorebird flew in by itself, which I had initially assumed would be a Lesser Yellowlegs. Better views revealed it to be a juvenile STILT SANDPIPER, once of those shorebird species that is far more regular in neighboring coastal states than it is in Connecticut. It never really got settled and flew off in a just a couple minutes. Bird of the day, for sure.

Stilt Sandpiper

The wind picked up a bit from the east, and showers began. I spent the next couple hours "sound-watching" from Cornfield Point in Old Saybrook. There were enough terns moving around to keep me occupied, some 600 total of four species (566 Common, 25 Forster's, 14 Roseate, 4 Black).

I stopped back into Hammonasset on my way home, as it was really raining at that point and I expected shorebirds to be downed on the lawns, but again, no dice.

 - Nick

Monday, August 26, 2019

SFBY Spell Broken

The last six weeks or so have been quite slow around here. Shorebird and tern diversity has been low - not something you want if you're doing a big year of any kind. The weather has honestly been too nice. Connecticut lacks extensive shorebird habitat. That fact, combined with our east-to-west coastline and proximity to Long Island, make it too easy for shorebirds to fly right over us on their way south. So, we need inclement weather to drop those migrants out of the sky and force them to land in CT. Other than a couple lines of strong storms and one or two dreary mornings, our days have been dry and sunny! Perfect beach weather, not so perfect shorebirding weather. Not surprisingly, those few moments of inclement weather have resulted in the few appearances by scarce species such as Stilt Sandpiper and Marbled Godwit.

I've been looking forward to the last week of August because, even on beautiful days, diversity should be increasing as we reach peak juvenile migration. Juveniles migrate later than adults and are more likely to wander a bit outside their species' ideal migration route.

Two of those species are "grasspipers" that we almost exclusively see as juveniles in late summer: BUFF-BREASTED and BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS. Right on time, I had one of each at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison yesterday morning.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

The evening high tide at Milford Point did not produce anything new for me, but three WHIMBREL were a highlight.


Black-bellied Plovers and Ruddy Turnstone against dramatic skies

Whimbrel and Black-bellied Plovers

The evening before, I boated to the mouth of the Connecticut River in search of terns. The flock out there did not disappoint - the five regularly-occurring species for this time of year were present: COMMON, ROSEATE, FORSTER'S, LEAST, and BLACK.

Forster's Tern (juv)

Common Tern

Roseate Tern

Roseate Tern

Common Tern (juv)

Forster's Tern (juv)

Roseate Tern (juv)

Roseate Terns

juvenile Common (left) and Forster's Terns

 - NB

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

CT Self-Found Big Year 2019

Back on January 1st I began a Self-Found Big Year in my home state of Connecticut. Uncertainty in my work schedule for 2019 meant that travel would be difficult to plan and I would be spending far less time out-of-state than I would in a typical year. I had been toying around with the idea of a "SFBY" for a few years, and the fact that I would be home for most of the year led to an attempt in 2019.

What is a Self-Found Big Year? The idea is that you can only count towards your total those birds that you, well, find yourself! In other words, no chasing, not even for common species. How great is that?! But as it turns out, there is a massive gray area within the definition of a self-found bird, which is something I will illustrate with examples later on. There are no official "Self-Found" rules, so I have had to work through this as I go. I had given the potential ground rules quite a bit of thought over the years and had discussed the concept in some detail with friends, particularly with Ian Davies and Steve Howell, both of whom have developed some version of their own personal guidelines.

I was not at all sure if I would finish the SFBY, or how long I might last. It would all depend on how much fun I was having with it. Back a handful of years ago I started a traditional Big Year on New Years Day. I did not last even two weeks. Chasing all those birds found by others was boring, tedious, and honestly miserable. That is not why I bird. Among many other reasons, I bird for the thrill of the discovery. For the unknown. To explore.

Going into the year, I had some questions. What was my self-found total from 2018, which felt like a typical year in the field for me, just to serve as a reference? What is a reasonable target number?

As it turns out, it's impossible to retroactively come up with a SFBY total. Why? Partially because of that gray area of what exactly constitutes self-found, and partially because it's impossible to remember the circumstances of every sighting. If the presence of any bird at a particular location is known in any way, it does not count as self-found. This means that even if you're walking down a trail by yourself and you overhear someone mention that they had a Bay-breasted Warbler a few minutes ago, that bird can no longer count as self-found if you see it later on. Or if you know the two places where Upland Sandpipers return to breed every year, those don't count either. Without delving deeply into particulars (yet), that is probably the most basic self-found rule there is.

Given the impossibility of recalling such details of circumstances for every species, I couldn't come up with an accurate self-found total for 2018. But here's what I figured based on my knowledge of birding my home state for over 20 years now. I thought that, with some effort, 250 would be fairly easy given my experience level. But 300 is a fantastic traditional (with chasing) big year in CT, so that would probably be out of reach. So, why not shoot for something like 275?

As of today, I stand at 252 for the SFBY. So far, so good!

I know now that I'm going to finish this thing. It has been a total blast, and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

At the end of the year I'll be writing a piece for the ABA's Birder's Guide series and will likely give a couple talks for local clubs. My hope is that the SFBY will gain some traction and become a thing. In the meantime, I will probably provide the occasional update in this space.

 - NB

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Alaska June 2019 - Kenai Fjords (4 of 4)

June 23
What better way to cap a trip than with a day on the ocean? The day-long Northwestern Fjord boat tour out of Seward, just over a two-hour drive south of Anchorage, would be my last bit of birding in Alaska this time around. On board I was lucky to meet Peter Burke (CO) and Kevin McGowan (NY) on the bow, and the three of us stood watch for the duration of the trip.

We lucked out with great weather yet again. Calm seas really aided in alcid spotting.

view from Resurrection Bay
The harbor itself held a few PIGEON GUILLEMOTS and many SEA OTTERS. As we motored out of Resurrection Bay, our first HORNED PUFFINS and MARBLED MURRELETS appeared and hinted at what would follow. The sheer number of birds nesting on the offshore islands was staggering. Seabird colonies in peak breeding season are total mayhem. COMMON MURRES, TUFTED PUFFINS and BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES were particularly abundant, swarming at times.

Sea Otter

Common Murre
Tufted Puffin

Our Captain knew the birds quite well and knew exactly where to take us for those highly sought-after species, the first of which was RED-FACED CORMORANT. We ended up seeing six or seven of these birds today.

Red-faced Cormorants

The Chiswell Islands held good numbers of PARAKEET AUKLETS, my one lifer of the day. As we crossed the last bit of open sea before entering glacier waters, we spotted our first RHINOCEROUS AUKLETS. The narrow zone where the glacier water meets the ocean water is what produced a handful of the local KITTLITZ'S MURRELETS.

Kittlitz's Murrelet

The Northwestern Glacier itself was magnificent. We saw and heard a bit of calving, which added to the experience. It's a shame to think how quickly glaciers like this one are retreating thanks to our rapidly changing climate. The talk on the deck among both passengers and crew was heavily laden with educational points about said climate change and the plastics problem that our oceans are facing. It was refreshing to hear honest and objective conversation about issues that rarely seem to get a fair shake from most mainstream media outlets. These are sobering topics that should not be avoided, but rather discussed...calmly and impartially.

Northwestern Glacier

As we began our journey back towards Seward, the three of us remarked that we had seen eight species of alcid to this point but still had a shot at a couple more. Moments later, while we were really moving northeastward, we kicked up an ANCIENT MURRELET that paced the boat for several seconds for all to see.

As we approached the Beehive Islands, a THICK-BILLED MURRE crossed the bow, and we added another 18 of them on the Beehives themselves. Alcid species #10.

Thick-billed and Common Murres

We encountered two species of whale on the ride back: HUMPBACK and FIN. The Humpbacks were their usual cooperative selves, while the Fins were steadily on the move, as they always are.

Fin Whale

We were still adding species as we crossed our final section of open water: SOOTY SHEARWATER, PARASITIC JAEGER, and LONG-TAILED JAEGER.

It's safe to say that I was in my happy place all day out there. I cannot recommend this trip enough. Eight hours may sound like a long time to be out there, but it really does fly by with so much life to see. There was always something to look at, even while we were running at high speeds between islands.

Surf Scoters

Dinner and drinks were had in town with Peter and the just-arrived Ithaca crew, who would take the same tour the following day. They did even better, seeing all the specialties noted above plus ORCA!

(In chatting with the crew, they estimated that Orcas are seen on 20% of the trips. This remains the only place in the world I've seen Orcas, when I was last out there in 2012.)

 - Nick

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Alaska June 2019 - Utqiagvik/Barrow (3 of 4)

June 19
For this leg of the journey, we traded Matt (who was going to wander around Denali for a few days) for Sarah Dzielski. The four of us touched down that evening in Utqiagvik (Barrow), where we were greeted with bright sunny skies and warmer-than-expected temperatures.

Disclaimer: Our few days in Utqiagvik were a bit of a blur, so this may not all be in perfect order! 24-hour sunlight and a very irregular [read: lacking] sleep schedule made our time there feel a bit like one really extended daytime period...which technically isn't wrong. Up there, north of the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn't set at this time of year.

We had prepared for seasonably cool temperatures (think 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit) with unpredictable cloud cover. We were kinda thrilled to feel much warmer than this, at least for most of our time there.

Anyway, that first evening involved looking unsuccessfully for the Little Stint that had been found near town just the day or two before. We oriented ourselves around town and spent some time along Cake Eater Road, one of the better birding roads in the area. We didn't make it as far as we should have thanks to the constant presence of RED PHALAROPES that were begging to be photographed.

Red Phalarope
June 20-21
The next morning we caught up with the LITTLE STINT near the base of Cake Eater Road. This was a bright adult in high breeding plumage that couldn't really be confused with anything else!

Little Stint (left) with Semipalmated Sandpiper

From there we continued down Cake Eater and Gas Well Roads. PECTORAL SANDPIPERS were abundant and actively "booming" their way across the tundra. POMARINE and PARASITIC JAEGERS patrolled the land. Our first of many LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS made an appearance.

After some time, we managed to find a pair of STELLER'S EIDER, which held our attention for a minute.

Steller's Eider

Tempted by the day's unseasonably warm temperatures (well into the 60s), Tom, Sarah and I talked ourselves into taking the Polar Plunge in the heat of the day. The iciness of that water is difficult to describe in words, but I can say that after only 20 seconds or so my feet were already tingling. Props to Tom for urging us to do this and being the first one in the water.

post plunge

Turns out, quitting birding is not easy when it's sunny all the time. Tom and Sean took well-deserved afternoon naps while the sun was at its brightest in the mid-afternoon, but Sarah and I couldn't flip the switch to "off" so kept birding. Our efforts paid off, albeit briefly, in the form of an adult "VEGA" HERRING GULL that whipped past on its way to the landfill off Gas Well Road.

The four of us reconvened for a wonderfully sunny evening around Freshwater Lake, where courting PACIFIC LOONS stole the show for a while. As we were on our bellies photographing the loons, a pair of SABINE'S GULLS, which breed at the lake, made a few close passes. The debate over "sexiest gull in the world" rages on, but anyone who doesn't have Sab's in their Top 3 should find another hobby.

Pacific Loons
Pectoral Sandpiper

Midnight came and went, and we found ourselves still on the tundra. Up for a bit of a break from birding, we acted on a tip and went in search of Lemmings, the default tundra rodent in these parts. Sure enough, the little buggers were right where we were told they'd be. Resisting the urge to chase down one of them was impossible. If we could catch them this easily, they must make for some easy jaeger/owl prey.


Invigorated by the stunning golden sunlight amid crystal clear skies, Sarah and I decided we would bird through the "night" while Tom and Sean slept a bit. Looking back, this was a great decision and a surreal experience. Imagine the still, windless tundra cloaked for hours in the sort of sunlight you can only briefly enjoy just after sunrise or before sunset at the lower latitudes we call home. A complete lack of manmade sound - no humans, no vehicles. But this does not mean silence, because shorebirds are displaying in all directions, and Pacific Loons are yodeling all around you, at the top of their lungs. A pair of SPECTACLED EIDER were much closer to the road than usual. Oh hey, there's a bright-eyed male Snowy Owl hunting on that slope, and a dark-morph Parasitic Jaeger drifting between us and the owl. I'm not sure if it was this ambiance, or the lack of sleep, or a bit of both...but I definitely felt like I was in a bit of a trance as we stood there.

Spectacled Eider

Snowy Owl

Parasitic Jaeger

Before and after tundra time, Sarah and I hit the coast for a bit. We took our obligatory Polar Bear Watch from the base of Point Barrow, but per usual could only turn up loafing ice seals. Of note, a Polar Bear had been seen swimming between masses of sea ice earlier that morning...right near where we swam, actually. Over the course of our stay, we would scan for bears from the base of Point Barrow at least half a dozen times, but we never connected.

The 21st was our last full day in Barrow, and the four of us thoroughly enjoyed more of the same tundra birding. A thick fog rolled in that evening, enough to shut down flights in and out of town. There would be no midnight birding on this night.

Snow Bunting

Bowhead Whale carcass, mostly picked clean

June 22
We had one attainable objective for our last morning here, and that was to score a decent view of YELLOW-BILLED LOON. The species was much more elusive than we were expecting going in, and thus far we had only seen a few distant flybys along the coast. Luckily we stumbled across the Field Guides tour led by Tom Johnson and Cory Gregory, which happened to have a couple YBLOs in scopes near the edge of the pack ice. Still not the killer views we were hoping for, but was still nice to get them on the water.

Tom, Sean and Sarah flew out late morning to begin their few days on the Kenai Peninsula. I could not get on the same flight as my three companions so had to settle for an evening departure. Forced to bird Utqiagvik for a few more hours wasn't the worst thing, despite the fact that temperatures had returned to normal, and a few snowflakes even began to fall.

I overlapped by a couple hours with Andrew Dreelin, who had just arrived on the plane that would bring Tom, Sean and Sarah to Anchorage. Right off the bat he wanted to check the start of Cake Eater Road for stints...either the Little Stint we had seen a few days prior or the Red-necked that was just found there early that morning. Well, Andrew's timing couldn't have been better, as we had the RED-NECKED STINT already in view, which was briefly joined by the LITTLE STINT. For a brief moment, the two rarities were in the same binocular field. Double stint lifer for Andrew!

Red-necked Stint

Before long it was time to pack my belongings for my PM flight to Anchorage, a task which I leisurely performed from the bluff by the airport with the scope set up, in case anything interesting flew by. Two whale blows quickly caught my attention, and my mind of course immediately went to Bowhead Whale. However, repeated views revealed them to be GRAY WHALES. Still cool, but not the hoped-for arctic species.

The airport was hectic thanks to the airlines trying to catch up from yesterday's weather cancellations, but my flight left on time and arrived safely in Anchorage that evening.

 - NB

Friday, July 12, 2019

Alaska June 2019 - Nome (2 of 4)

June 15
Tom Auer, Matt Strimas-Mackey and I arrived in Nome around midday and immediately got to birding. Sean Bachman would be flying in later this evening. We started at the Nome River Mouth, which quickly became my favorite birding spot in Nome. This lagoon and sandspit is a concentration site for gulls and terns in addition to providing tidal mudflats for shorebirds and nesting habitat for terns. ALEUTIAN TERN is one of the stars here, present by the dozen. On this first visit we had our only SABINE'S GULL of the Nome leg.

Aleutian Tern

As we worked eastward along the Council Road, we stopped at Hastings Creek and picked up EASTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL. The rest of the afternoon was spent along the Safety Sound, where we had our first BAR-TAILED GODWIT and later two RED-NECKED STINTS. LAPLAND LONGSPURS were everywhere. Less common shorebirds included a RED KNOT and a BAIRD'S SANDPIPER. Tom picked up on a EURASIAN WIGEON among the large numbers of Americans. A lone SURFBIRD flew along the rocky channel at the bridge.

Lapland Longspur

Before we knew it, we had to pick up Sean at the airport. Word had come in of a White Wagtail hanging around the harbor, and we took a quick look for that after we grabbed Sean. No joy. Our first WANDERING TATTLER was nice.

We decided we would run the coast eastward again (Council Road) in an attempt to pick up the goodies that Sean had missed in his absence that afternoon. Nome River Mouth, take two. This is the kind of spot you want to check over and over again. There is a pretty steady turnover happening most of the time. We were excited to see a SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER visit the feeding frenzy in the rip. Tubenoses from shore are always welcome. Two first summer SLATY-BACKED GULLS were also present this time.

Short-tailed Shearwater

Further east, as the sun got lower in the sky, we enjoyed our first of a few SHORT-EARED OWLS on the hunt. Sadly, though, we could not replicate Red-necked Stint success for Sean.

As tempting as it was to stay out past midnight with the sun still above horizon, we all needed some rest at this point.

June 16
This morning it was time to explore in a different direction. The road that runs northward out of town is called Kougarok Road, where we would target Bristle-thighed Curlew at a known location. En route we were sure not to miss BLUETHROAT (heard only) and ARCTIC WARBLER. But our efforts would be focused on the famous Coffee Dome at milepost 72.5-ish. This is known to be a moderately difficult (read: obnoxious) hike thanks to a very uneven and erratically spongy ground. Not quite as expected, by me anyway, was the ridiculous mosquito density. It was about as bad as I've experienced anywhere in some time. Newsflash: we field tested heavy DEET versus some natural crap, and the DEET is what got the job done.

Arctic Warbler

Making it all worthwhile were the four BRISTLE-THIGHED CURLEWS actively calling and displaying in the vicinity of the top of the dome. We also enjoyed AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER and of course WHIMBREL, though the curlews outnumbered the Whimbrel for us.

Bristle-thighed Curlews

American Golden-Plover

you can see the cloud of mosquitos around us

Bristle-thighed Curlew habitat

On the way back, a detour down the Hot Springs spur yielded NORTHERN WHEATEAR, but not the hoped-for Rock Ptarmigan. Both GOLDEN EAGLE and GYRFALCON nests were also enjoyed, in addition to a ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK.

Later that afternoon we finally did catch up with the WHITE WAGTAIL in the harbor as we started our daily coastal run. We set up for our first sea watch at Cape Nome, and while not much was moving, a HORNED PUFFIN made a close pass.

Another check at the Safety Sound bridge failed to re-find those stints. We did nab Sean the Eastern Yellow Wagtails we had the day before, though.

June 17
Today was Teller Road day, the last of the three major roads that lead away from Nome. This is the western-most and leads one through a different sort of tundra that held a contrasting mix of breeding shorebirds.

Our first stop was a nesting AMERICAN DIPPER, which was a much anticipated lifer for Sean. Does anyone else remember that awful "Dip" song by Freak Nasty? No? Ok, good talk. Do yourself a favor and don't YouTube it.

Further down the road we ran into our first of several PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVERS (both GP species are present here). A long walk at the mile 34 ridge was very productive - ROCK PTARMIGAN (finally), ROCK SANDPIPER (killer views!), and nesting NORTHERN WHEATEARS. Plus RED KNOT and both GOLDEN-PLOVERS. Our first AMERICAN PIPIT and HORNED LARK of the trip. A herd of MUSK OXEN was somewhat approachable without pissing them off, as far as we could tell.

Rock Sandpiper

Rock Ptarmigan

Northern Wheatear

Matt sniffs the musk

The Feather River crossing was full of wagtails - a very active pair of EASTERN YELLOW plus a bonus male WHITE. We also had killer views of a male WILLOW PTARMIGAN. Matt "flushed" a MUSK OX from the willows; the two would later come to a peaceful understanding of one another.

Eastern Yellow Wagtail

Willow Ptarmigan

Musk Ox

Thanks to a tip from a friend, a patch of nearby tundra netted us BAR-TAILED GODWIT, PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER, and LONG-TAILED JAEGERS. By the way, LTJA was the dominant jaeger here with Parasitic coming in a distant second. We did not see any Poms in Nome, actually.

Long-tailed Jaeger

Evening along the coast was uneventful, but we never tired of the Aleuts.

Aleutian Tern

Aleutian Tern

June 18
Tom had been itching to do an early morning seawatch from Cape Nome, and this would be the day for it. Unfortunately not much was moving. Most of the Council Road was quiet, in fact.

At our final check of the Safety Sound bridge area, Sean scoped his life RED-NECKED STINT, which we had just about given up on finding for him. This appeared to be a duller bird than the two bright ones we had a few days prior.

Constant scoping for Arctic Loon never produced one, though a SURFBIRD on the beach was nice, especially for Sean who missed the one we had that first afternoon.

Somewhat embarrassingly, up to this point we had not actually seen a BLUETHROAT. So we wanted to make an effort for that before the morning got too far along. Luckily we didn't have to go too far, as continuing birds in the mile 10-12 region of the Kougarok Road came through for us.

With the inland birds out of the way at this point, we were pretty much left to re-checking coastal spots. The Nome River Mouth had a first summer BLACK-HEADED GULL and a nice adult SLATY-BACKED GULL.

Our final evening in Nome was marked by our best mammal observation of the trip. While seawatching at Cape Nome, a local family drove up in their ATV and let us know that they just spotted a WALRUS on the rocks nearby. It flushed out to sea when they approached it, but suspected that it might be unwell and was likely to return to shore. Sure enough, after a while we scoped this massive animal from a distance. It appeared to be making a move back towards land, so we moved closer and waited. A ruckus from more locals seemed to keep it from hauling out again, and it continued down the coast in the direction of town.


June 19
We had a few hours on our final morning in Nome and used it to check the coast in a last-ditch effort at something like a flyby Emperor Goose, which had been very scarce locally this spring. As usual, the river mouth was birdy, but we couldn't pull out anything new.

Midday flight to Utqiagvik (Barrow).

 - NB