Nome & Barrow Photo Workshop

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Day 1 – Arrival in Anchorage
Please plan to arrive at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) by mid afternoon today. Please call the complimentary hotel shuttle upon your arrival. A room will be reserved in your name. We will meet for dinner and an orientation session at 6:00pm. Night: Anchorage

Day 2 – Anchorage
Today we will visit a number of sites around Anchorage to photograph some of the common Alaska breeding birds such as Red-necked Grebe, Pacific Loon, Greater Scaup, Common and Barrow’s goldeneye, Red-necked Phalarope, Mew Gull, Arctic Tern, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Alder Flycatcher, Swainson’s Thrush, Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped warblers, and Fox Sparrow.

Orange-crowned Warbler. Photo by tour participant Josh Galicki ©.

Days 3 – 9 – Nome
After our morning flight to Nome, which is located beside the Being Sea and is a mecca for birders wanting to experience the best of arctic birding, we’ll spend the remainder of our day east of Nome near Safety Lagoon. One should expect to encounter a good variety of birds even though we travel only a short distance from town. Our first loons, eiders, Tundra Swan, Brant, White-winged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, displaying shorebirds including Hudsonian Godwit, Whimbrel, Pacific and American Golden Plovers, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Wandering Tattler, Surfbirds, Black Turnstones, Long-tailed Jaeger, Eastern Yellow Wagtails will all present themselves. As it does not get dark here until very late as we’re just below the Arctic Circle, we’ll need to keep an eye on the clock so that we don’t stay out too late!

We’ll cover all of the roads leading from Nome:

• North along the Kougarok Road looking for tundra species and two of the rarest breeding birds in North America—Bluethroat and Bristle-thighed Curlew. We’ve never missed this dynamic duo and we’ll have time to search until we’re successful. We’ll enjoy other species of note as we travel through this singularly beautiful and desolate area including Gyrfalcon, Willow and Rock Ptarmigan, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, American Pipit, Northern Wheatear, Arctic Wrabler and a host of newly arrived migrants.

• East along the Council Road visiting Cape Nome, Safety Lagoon and the mouth of the Nome River. We’ll search for Pacific and Red-throated loons, shorebirds, all three jaegers, Arctic and Aleutian Terns and hope for an Asian stray & there’s sometimes Emperor Goose present here as well. As we near Council we begin to encounter more trees and their resident species. Arctic Warbler, Varied Thrush, Common and Hoary redpolls, warblers like Wilson’s, Blackpoll, Orange-crowned and Northern Waterthrush and, if extreme luck is with us, perhaps a Boreal or Northern Hawk Owl.

• North along the Teller Road covering vast expanses of rocky tundra. Here Rock Ptarmigan, Rough-legged Hawk, Black-bellied Plover, White Wagtail and Northern Wheatear are more easily found. Willow thickets along rushing rivers hold singing Wilson’s & Orange-crowned Warblers, Northern Waterthrush, Grey-cheeked Thrush, Bluethroat, American Tree Sparrow and Arctic Warbler, along with shedding Musk Oxen! This area has had its share of goodies in recent years as well, with Common Ringed-Plover, Common Sandpiper, Red-throated Pipit and Hawfinch providing the most exciting examples.

Bluethroat. Photo by tour participant Josh Galicki ©.

And we have plenty of time to locate the enigmatic, rare and hard-to-find Bristle-thighed Curlew. Non-birding photography highlights could include American Beaver, Caribou and Musk Ox. Nights in Nome.

Day 10 – Nome – Anchorage – Barrow

We’ll have time to enjoy one last bit of photography near Nome before checking out of the hotel and transferring to the airport for our flight to Barrow. Maybe a close Rough-legged Hawk, Slaty-backed Gull or some stately Sandhill Cranes will entertain us before our departure. Upon arrival in Barrow we’ll check into our hotel, enjoy a quick dinner then depart for some photography in the lovely evening light.

Upon our arrival, both the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas are likely to be icebound. In order to be prepared for cold temperatures (20 to 40 degrees F without wind-chill) during our stay, you need to have heavy winter clothing that can be layered to combat the elements. Likewise, tall waterproof footwear or chest waders are required to navigate the wet, thawing tundra. As the sun never sets upon Barrow during the summer months, we’ll have after-dinner outings as the light for photography can be beyond spectacular. During our visit to Barrow, we’ll focus on finding Spectacled, King and Steller’s eiders, high arctic breeders and any vagrants that we might be able to find. Night in Barrow

Days 11 – 13 – Barrow

After our first breakfast above the Arctic Circle, we’ll begin exploration of various roads around Barrow and we plan to travel all of the area’s accessible roadways. Not as difficult as you might think as there are only about 55 miles of tracks we’ll be able to travel. While we’ll often stay on roadways, the tundra is wet and, as stated above, you’ll want high waterproof footwear or waders so that closer views/photos of nesting eiders, loons, shorebirds and other goodies like Snowy Owl are possible. The surrounding tundra teams with frantic shorebirds preoccupied with their breeding displays. Examples include Pectoral, Baird’s, Buff-breasted and, with a bit of good fortune, White-rumped or Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. During good years for lemmings, Snowy Owls and Pomarine Jaegers may be quite common.

Pectoral Sandpiper. Photo by tour participant Josh Galicki ©.

On one day an evening outing to Point Barrow is planned (if the necessary vehicles are available) as that’s the best time to search for mammals. We’ll look hard for Polar Bears. In spring they are often found near whale carcasses that have been hauled onto the beach by local natives. If conditions are favorable (i.e. carcasses are present and the pack ice is nearshore), our chances of finding one of these glorious animals is quite good. We’ll also search for avian specialties of the point as well. Examples include the striking trio of Spectacled, Steller’s and King Eiders, Yellow-billed Loon, Black Guillemot and Common Black-headed Gull. Other gulls such as Ivory and Ross’s are rare at this time of the year, but we have found them in the past. Open water can be present at the very tip of the point with birds often seeking shelter there. We’ll see what our visit brings to us. If all else fails, you can still say you stood at the northernmost point of the United States. We’ll take the requisite group photo to prove it! Nights in Barrow.

Day 14 Barrow – Anchorage.
Today is a clean-up day! We’ll spend our hours searching for any regular species that might have eluded us thus far. We’ll use the rest of our time to search for rarities like Ruff, Red-necked Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and maybe one of the rare gulls. We’ll drive Barrow’s now familiar roads, checking the customary lakes, melt ponds and open water along the shore before taking a flight back to Anchorage. Night in Anchorage.

Day 14 – Back Home.
You can plan your return flight for anytime today. The complimentary hotel shuttle will take you and your gigabytes of fantastic images to the airport. Safe travels and see you soon on another spectacular NatureScape Photo Adventure!

 

Intro Itinerary Tour Pricing & Information Gallery Bird List Registration