Travel to Alaska

Saturday, June 13th: Got to the airport in plenty of time. We boarded slightly ahead of schedule, then sat there in the plane for a while. Not sure why. We were about 40 minutes late pulling away from the gate, but only 15 minutes behind schedule landing at Dallas Fort-Worth.

I had plenty of time at DFW. Took the train from D to C. Got a sandwich. After eating, I took a walk around the terminal. The incoming flight was delayed a bit, so we had an extra half hour. It was a long flight to Anchorage. We got there about 20 minutes late.

After picking up my checked bag, I got the rental car and hit the road. It was a long day, so I didn't stop to for birding or photography. I could ducks and gulls (and maybe a tern or two) as I passed Potter Marsh, but didn't stop to ID them. The four Canada Geese that flew over the road toward Turnagain Arm were the only ones I ID'd.

The Hotel Alyeska looks comfortable. I only did what I had to before dropping into bed.

I ended the day with 1 species for the trip.

Prince William Sound

Sunday, June 14th: I got up early, and decided to go for a hike. Since I had to come back for breakfast, and was committed to being in Whittier shortly before 11, I had only limited time.

North Face Trail

Part of the solution to limited time was to use on of the hotel trailheads. I was planning to do the Winner Creek Trail, but found my feet taking me up the North Face Trail, even though I knew I didn't have time to do the whole thing. I did have time to do about 1.7 miles of it, climbing about 1100 vertical feet. The entire trail runs from the lower tram station (at the hotel) to the upper tram station, 2000 feet higher.

The birds started on the hotel grounds, with Myrtle Warbler, Varied Thrush, and Pine Siskin. A short distance up the trail I spotted a Sooty Fox Sparrow. There were a number of them singing, starting already in the parking lot. I didn't recognize the song at first as it is different from the Red Fox Sparrow. Ruby-crowned Kinglet was heard next (and later), but I didn't see one today. I did see several Wilson's Warblers, and one of the many singing Hermit Thrushes. Farther up the trail I ran into a flock of Redpolls. I only recognize one redpoll species, but these were the darker Common Redpoll form.

I didn't add anything new after the Redpolls. I returned to the hotel for breakfast. On my way to the parking lot I found American Robin and Violet-green Swallow as well as my first mammal of the trip, Red Squirrel.


I left for Whittier at about 9:35. The key thing is to in line at the tunnel for the 10:30am opening. The Whittier tunnel has only one lane. It's open westbound on the hour and eastbound on the half hour. This schedule can be affected by trains that also use the one-lane tunnel.

A guy at the toll booth was feeding a Common Raven. While waiting for the tunnel to open, I heard the “free beer” of an Alder Flycatcher. Once through the tunnel, the next problem was to find parking. Well, there was parking, but the sign was pretty opaque where to pay. I walked over to a nearby store and asked. They told me there was a machine outside the harbormaster's building. After paying, I walked back to get checked in. I noticed Black-legged Kittiwakes flying around before leaving. We would see many kittiwakes on the boat trip.

It was still early, so I walked around a little, finding Northwestern Crow and a dark Song Sparrow. The Song Sparrow was singing, so there wasn't any danger of confusing it with a Sooty Fox Sparrow. While waiting by the boat, I also spotted a Glaucous-winged Gull.

Prince William Sound

We boarded the boat shortly after noon. Boarding closed at 12:30. We had to wait on a couple of other boats, then headed out. At first the mammals provided the excitement, with Sea Otters and Dall's Porpoise (seen poorly at first, but better later). We also found Humpback Whale. Then the captain spotted a Bald Eagle perched in a tree in the Esther Passage. I think we also saw the Mountain Goats in here.

We visted a number of glaciers. The floating ice near Surprise Glacier was being used by a number of Harbor Seals. On the way back, we passed an number of small groups of otters. It turned out that one of them wasn't otters, but alcids. I think they were murres (the shape was right, they weren't auklets or murrelets). Sea Otters float on their backs. Some of them had pups on their bellies. I noticed two other alcids flying away. They appeared to be Marbled Murrelets. Our last stop before returning to port was a kittiwake colony across from Whittier. We got back to port a little later than planned, about 5:40pm.

There was plently of time to get in line for the 6pm westbound tunnel opening. It was delayed slightly due to a train coming through. I made a stop on the Seward Highway just west of Twentymile Creek. There I added Arctic Tern and Mew Gull.

Back at the hotel I decided to eat at one of their better restaurants, Sakura. When I got back to the room, I looked at the iPhone health app, and it said I had taken nearly 20,000 steps today, and climbed the equivalent of 72 floors (most of that on my morning hike). The health app also gives a mileage estimate based on the step count. As is usual with pedometers, this can be wildly inaccurate (it added 2 miles to my hike!). For distance, trust the GPS, not the health app.

I ended the day with 20 species of bird, making 21 for the trip. I also saw 6 mammal species.

Alyeska Resort, Girdwood