Alaska: Barrow Extension Jun 25—27, 2018

Posted by Brian Gibbons

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Brian Gibbons

Brian Gibbons grew up in suburban Dallas where he began exploring the wild world in local creeks and parks. Chasing butterflies and any animal that was unfortunate enough t...

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The report of Ross’s Gulls in Barrow had taunted us for more than a week. Would they hold on for one more day for us to experience this rare Arctic gull in the midnight sun? After our arrival, car rental, check-in, and dinner we would find out. A few miles out of town on the Freshwater Lake, Michael exclaims, “I think I’ve got three Ross’s Gulls in flight over the tundra.” I couldn’t believe it, a trio of my most-wanted bird in the world was chasing around in front of us in all their rosy glory. These dainty gulls have a tiny black bill and a red eye ring that was rimmed by charcoal feathers. A complete black collar that sets off the head and the pink hue of the breast and belly made this rare gull a gorgeous prize for us.

Ross's Gull, adult male

Ross’s Gull, adult male— Photo: Brian Gibbons

 

After the initial buzz of the Ross’s wore off, we busied ourselves with looking over the wondrous tundra which had just been exposed from its months-long encapsulation in snow and ice. This newly exposed land was humming with activity. A pair of Steller’s Eiders fed in a pond, a couple of Spectacled Eiders poked their heads up on a distant tundra ridge, and then a stunning male King flew past, giving us just a glimpse of its gaudy head. Pectoral Sandpipers were hooting all over the tundra with their enormous, nearly obscene chests throbbing as they chased each other in their bid to find the prime spot to woo the most female Pecs. Long-billed Dowitchers sang overhead and chased in between their sewing machine feeding bouts. Semipalmated Sandpipers hovered in the wind on vibrating wings, singing their trilling songs. In the distance Snowy Owls lurked in the dry tundra, awaiting a twitch from an unwary lemming. Overhead, Pomarine, Parasitic, and Long-tailed jaegers cruised the tundra looking for trouble. Pacific Loons yodeled on the edge of slowly emerging Freshwater Lake. All this was happening while the trio of pink gulls was feeding on the tundra nearby. After a couple of hours of this frenzy we decided to call it a night; it was 11pm with the sun still shining brightly. Some of us couldn’t resist and returned for photography of the Ross’s Gulls—I admit to taking more than 1,000 photos of the gulls!

Read Brian’s full report in his Field Report.