Grand Alaska Part I: Nome & Barrow: Jun 07—16, 2019
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Past Field Lists:
- May 23, 2019: Grand Alaska: Pribilofs & Anchorage Pre-Trip
- May 29, 2019: Grand Alaska: Nome & Gambell
- Jun 16, 2019: Grand Alaska Part II: Anchorage, Denali & Kenai Peninsula
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Set amidst the finest scenery on the planet (mostly Part II), participants can expect exhilarating birding through the forests, tundra, and coasts of one of the world’s truly elite destinations. Focus on all Alaskan specialty birds and mammals, with possibility of Siberian vagrants at Nome and Barrow. Divided into two sections to allow participants greater scheduling flexibility. Part I visits Nome and Barrow, where the focus is on the tundra-breeding specialties of northern Alaska, while Part II covers Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula, and the Denali region, where the emphasis is on the southern coast, and the boreal forest and taiga-muskeg habitats of the interior.
Part I of our Grand Alaska trip focuses on the tundra regions of northern Alaska, and offers some of the most exciting birding to be found on the North American continent. After overnighting in Anchorage, we’ll head straight to the gold-rush capital of Nome. Here, we may find a Slaty-backed Gull from Siberia loafing on the town waterfront, or migrating Yellow-billed Loons flying right past our hotel. Regal pairs of Harlequin Ducks ride the rapids of the many rivers while Wandering Tattlers teeter along the gravel shores. Aleutian and Arctic terns, gulls, and Bar-tailed Godwits and other shorebirds gather in impressive numbers at the Nome River mouth and Safety Sound, as elegant Long-tailed Jaegers patrol the adjacent tundra. The hills inland from Nome provide nest sites for lordly Gyrfalcons, as well as for their principal prey—Rock and Willow ptarmigans.
Traveling still further inland, we should be treated to the exuberant flight songs of the dazzling male Bluethroat and, with luck, views of the rare and iconic Bristle-thighed Curlew. Our three-and-one-half days here should give us ample time to explore all three roads leading out of Nome, as well as the myriad microhabitats that harbor an impressive diversity of breeding birds ranging from alpine nesting Northern Wheatears, Golden-crowned Sparrows, Surfbirds, and Red Knots, to willow-lined river basins patrolled by Northern Shrikes and ringing with the songs of warblers, sparrows, and Rusty Blackbirds. Mammal viewing is typically excellent as well, with Muskox, Moose, and Grizzly (Brown Bear) among the frequently seen possibilities.
Barrow is an entirely different world! In a setting of 24-hour sunlight, the bird life is unmistakably High Arctic. Three species of eiders nest here (the magnificent King, the beautiful Steller’s, and the bizarre Spectacled), with the males resplendent in their breeding dress, and there is no more accessible place in all of North America to see them.
Displaying sandpipers are everywhere—Baird’s turning circles with one wing stretched to the sky, Pectorals with their ruffs distended as they perform their strange hooting flights, dressy Dunlins singing shrill “songs” from atop moss-covered hummocks, and ponds alive with gorgeous Red and Red-necked phalaropes. Brilliant Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs are the common passerines! Yellow-billed Loon, Red-necked Stint, and Sabine’s Gull are regular migrants that are seen in some years by our groups, and there is always the very real chance of some Asiatic vagrant showing up (vagrants seen on our past visits have included Temminck’s Stint, Gray-tailed Tattler, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, and Ross’s Gull). If the lemming population is not in a crash year, we should be treated to the sight of Snowy Owls and Pomarine Jaegers cruising over the tundra. Even Polar Bear (seen by several of our past tours) is a possibility here!
Good accommodations; easy to moderate terrain; easy, short walks with one optional hike at Nome involving difficult terrain; internal flights to Nome and Barrow; mostly long days in the field at Nome (typically with picnic lunches and late dinners); other days with early dinner followed by optional post-dinner birding (primarily at Barrow); generally cold (Barrow and often Nome) to mild (sometimes Nome) climate.