Travel to Alaska
Monday, June 28th: We met at 7. The hotel restaurant was not open early for breakfast today, so we drove over to the Osaka. I was out a little early and walked over to the shore where I noticed some Black-legged Kittiwakes. Today we covered all of the main roads around Barrow (some twice), with lunch at Arctic Pizza.
We saw more of some of the same birds as yesterday before encountering our first Snowy Owl of the trip. We saw several of them nesting, but Snowy Owl numbers were much lower than in 2001. Owl researcher Denver Holt told us that lemmings numbers and sizes were low. This explains why only low numbers of owls were present this year. The Snowy Owls were not the only birds nesting, and we encountered both nesting and baby birds all day. Baby birds included Greater White-fronted Geese and Pectoral Sandpipers.
Back near town while searching for loons, I spotted a Ruddy Turnstone on the near shore (we found one other today). We soon had distant looks at 4 Yellow-billed Loons on a lake and decided to try to work our around it in search of a better view. Our journey there took us to the coast where we found more Black-legged Kittiwakes and a few Sabine's Gulls. In both cases, we found both adults and immatures. We also saw a flyby of several Red-breasted Mergansers. Somewhere between the first look at the loons and the Sabine's Gulls, we also had a flyby Common Eider.
We eventually got to our loon vantage point. Unfortunately, 3 of the loons had disappeared. All was not lost as one loon was left. We were closer to the one that was left, and had good light that let us clearly see its yellow bill. It wasn't a great look, but was a lot better than my life bird in the Bering Sea near Safety Lagoon in 2001 (Nome). Soon after this we saw a female Harlequin Duck, an unusual bird for Barrow.
After lunch we went in search of King Eider. We didn't find any, but did find a few Baird's Sandpipers. Later on, we had a flyby Barn Swallow, another unusual bird for Barrow. We added a Peregrine Falcon before we finished for the day. Dinner was at 7 at the hotel, and we did not go out for any after-dinner birding. I think we were all pretty tired by this point. Tomorrow, we will renew our search for the King Eider. Only a few of us saw it at Nome, and we all still want to see the drake.
I ended the day with 39 species of bird, 6 of them new for the trip. This brought by trip total to 170 species of bird including 4 lifers. No new mammals means the mammal count stands at 16.
Top of the World Hotel, Barrow