Alaska: Birding the Outposts

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Sabine’s Gull by tour participant Josh Galicki ©

 

Alaska’s wild and beautiful spaces have long captivated birders and naturalists alike. With miles of unspoiled wilderness, unending layers of snow-covered peaks, rugged hillsides and tundra landscapes aside the Bering Sea, magnificent fjords of the craggy Kenai Peninsula, islands draped with seabirds of all shapes and sizes, glaciers calving into dark blue waters, impenetrable boreal forests and rolling tundra under the mammoth backdrop of North America’s tallest mountain peak, it’s easy to see why! Our ‘Birding the Outposts’ tour of Alaska offers a complete sampling of Alaska’s birdlife by visiting four distinctive areas: Northwest Alaska’s Seward Peninsula and historic Nome; remote Arctic outpost of Barrow, exhilarating Kenai Peninsula and neighboring Kenai Fjords National Park; and extensive forests, taiga and tundra beneath the gaze of Denali (Mt. McKinley). A post tour extension to the spectacular Pribiloff Islands will be offered for those interested in visiting St. Paul Island’s impressive seabird cliffs teeming with puffins, auklets and kittiwakes and we will have a 3-night stay here so we can fully appreciate the extraordinary birding opportunities that this island provides.

Birding the land of the midnight sun falls into several broad categories: spectacular movements of migrants, Alaska’s colorful breeding birds and the anticipation of finding an Asiatic stray. Just a few highlights of breeding species would include: Pacific, Red-throated and Arctic Loons, four eider species topped by the spectacular Spectacled and Steller’s, Pacific Golden-Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Red-necked Stint, Ivory Gull, Ross’s Gull, Arctic and Aleutian Terns, Arctic Warbler, Bluethroat, Red-throated Pipit, plus seabird cliffs with literally millions of murres, guillemots, auklets and puffins. Even the most ardent birder’s appetite is satisfied by visiting many of the best birding and scenic areas in the country. A hearty menu composed of: Northern forest species (Northern Hawk Owl, Boreal Owl, Boreal Chickadee, Bohemian Waxwing, Varied Thrush, crossbills, finches and more); tundra species (nesting loons, shorebirds and jaegers, Rock and Willow Ptarmigan, Bluethroat etc); colonial seabirds (Common & Thick-billed Murres, Black & Pigeon Guillemots, Marbled, Kittlitz’s and Ancient Murrelets, Cassin’s, Parakeet, Crested, Rhinoceros and Least Auklets and Horned and Tufted Puffins); western Alaska nesters (Bar-tailed Godwit, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Red-necked Stint, Arctic Warbler, Red-throated Pipit and McKay’s Bunting) can all be expected.

Boreal Owl by Kim & Cindy Risen ©

What about the unexpected? Well, Far Eastern Curlew, Mongolian and Common Ringed Plovers, Eurasian Dotterel, Common Greenshank, Wood, Green and Terek Sandpipers, Little, Temminck’s and Long-toed Stints, Grey-tailed Tattler, Great Knot, Ruff, Black-tailed Gull, Eye-browed and Dusky Thrushes, Siberian Rubythroat, Siberian Stonechat, Olive-backed Pipit, Rustic Bunting, Common Rosefinch, Hawfinch, Eurasian Bullfinch and Brambling are examples of Asian strays seen on Kim’s previous “Birding the Outposts” tours.
This tour is making an extra effort to find all of Western Alaska’s breeding birds and to increase our chances of finding Asiatic vagrants. Accordingly, we’re spending seven days in Nome and Barrow during the prime migration period to maximize our chances of observing Alaska’s migrants from Asia/Siberia and those fantastic Arctic breeders. Highlights from Kim’s previous Alaska tours include great looks at all of the nesting western Alaska birds including the much-wanted Bristle-thighed Curlew, migrants such as all four eiders (Common, King, Steller’s and Spectacled), four loons (Arctic, Pacific, Yellow-billed and Red-throated) and great flocks of waterbirds and shorebirds, vagrants like Curlew Sandpiper, Great Knot, Grey-tailed Tattler, Red-throated Pipit, McKay’s Bunting and Hawfinch, and breeding species Emperor Goose, displaying Bar-tailed Godwits, Red-necked Stint and Gyrfalcon nesting at eye level, Sabine’s Gull, Aleutian Tern, Arctic Warbler, Golden-crowned Sparrow, all three skuas, both Rock and Willow Ptarmigan and lots of interesting country.

Spectacled Eider by tour participant Josh Galicki ©

Leaders: Kim Risen and Nick Bray.

 

Group size: Minimum for tour to go ahead 6 and maximum 10 with 2 leaders.

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