Westchester Lagoon & Teller Road
Wednesday, June 17th: We met for breakfast at 6. After breakfast we drove over to Westchester Lagoon. There was a little complication due to road work, so we had a short walk to get there. Our main target bird was Hudsonian Godwit. We immediately saw 4 of them on the island. As I scanned the edge of the island, I noticed a Red-necked Phalarope on the left end, next to a Lesser Scaup. There was also an American Herring Gull with chicks, as well as Mew Gulls and Arctic Terns with chicks. There were several Red-necked Grebes on nests, both on the island and on little tufts of ground out in the water. The right end of the island had some Greater Scaup. Pretty soon, a Lesser Yellowlegs flew in.
A Northern Shoveler was bathing at the far end of the lagoon. We noticed a flyover group of European Starlings (this is one of the few locations for them in Anchorage). Another member of the group found a Red-throated Loon. When I looked through her scope, there was a Bald Eagle drinking at the water's edge visible at the edge of view. Finally, we added a drake Gadwall. By then it was time to head back to the hotel, collect our stuff, and go to the airport.
Getting the vans was rather complicated as our guides had to go to the hotel to get the vans, and then come back for us. As we waited at the airport, we spotted a few birds including Glaucous Gull and White-crowned Sparrow. Then we went to lunch. We ate at a Subway with a view of the Bering Sea. I added a Dark-winged Scoter (i.e., Surf or Black) and Tree Swallow.
After a brief stop at the hotel, we headed for a location near the airport where Aleutian Terns are breeding. We saw our first of many Long-tailed Jaegers for the day. Pretty soon, we had Aleutian Tern. We also found Northern Pintail, Lapland Longspur, Savannah Sparrow, and a heard-only Gray-cheeked Thrush. We got a look at the thrush later on along the Teller Road.
We turned around and headed out the Teller Road. We quickly found some Tundra Swans in a pond. A couple of Sandhill Cranes were spotted along the road. We found Pacific Loon as well as a number of Red-throated Loons. While searching for other birds, an American Tree Sparrow popped up. At this point, Golden-crowned Sparrow was heard. We later got good looks at one. A group of prehistoric-looking Muskox was a treat. Cliff Swallow was at one of the bridges. One place where we stopped to look for Arctic Warbler, Barry Zimmer flushed a Willow Ptarmigan. Western Sandpiper and Pectoral Sandpiper were found in a roadside pond. A little farther on, we spotted a Moose with two youngsters.
At mile 34, we left the main road for a loop around a side road. Here we encountered Northern Wheatear, Pacific Golden-Plover on the lower slopes and American Golden-Plover on the rockier uplands. Up here, I also got my life Rock Sandpiper. We also found both forms of Redpoll, Horned Lark, and Snow Bunting up here, as well as an Arctic Ground-Squirrel.
I was surprised that there was almost no snow. One of the roads we took 14 years ago had just been opened and had a lot of snow piled up on the side. This year, we saw only small patches of snow.
On our way back we found Red-breasted Merganser, a pair of Whimbrels, Merlin and Wilson's Snipe. We saw a lone Muskox as we got closer to town. We also saw a number of Rock Pigeons as we neared Nome. They are free-flying, but someone appears to be keeping them. This is how Rock Pigeons have been introduced around the world. Some keeps free-flying pigeons. If conditions are right, some fly away and successfully breed. Pretty soon, there's an introduced population. I don't expect this to happen at Nome as they will find winter food hard to come by in the wild.
By now, it was well after 7 and time for dinner at Airport Pizza (we didn't get there until around 8). After dinner we made a late excursion to the mouth of the Nome River, hoping for Bar-tailed Godwit and Red-necked Stint (seen by others earlier today). On the way, we noticed a dead Walrus on the shore. It is amazing how big they are.
When we got to the rivermouth, we found the Bar-tailed Godwits. I spotted a Red Phalarope, a bit of a surprise at Nome. I caught up on Semipalmated Sandpiper. We also found Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, and Long-tailed Duck. We had no luck with the stint. A stop at a pond on the way by added Red Knot. By now it was after 11pm and we headed back to the hotel for some rest, even thought it was still over 2 hours to sunset.
I ended the day with 62 species of bird including 1 lifer (!). This brought the trip total to 85 species of bird. Two new mammals brought the mammal count to 9.
Aurora Inn, Nome