Last Day in Barrow
Monday, June 29th: We met for breakfast in the hotel at 6:30. Then we headed out to bird. We did a little more inland birding, then concentrated on the coast. The idea was that we thoroughly checked all the ponds, and that the coast gave us the best chance to find a male King Eider (our last target bird at Barrow). It also gave us the best chance to find something interesting.
We did see a group of mostly male King Eiders fly by, but they weren't real close. I think they were not that satisfactory for those who still needed the bird. We also got some better looks at Yellow-billed Loons. They were distant, but in good light with the bill showing really well. A nice group of Surf Scoters also flew by. These would turn out to be my last new bird of the trip. We also saw a dark morph Parasitic Jaeger (all the Parasitics we saw at Barrow were dark morphs), a Pomarine Jaeger, and 3 Whimbrels.
We then headed back to the hotel to check out and store our bags. Then we went out for more birding. If I have the timing right, this time we found a close group of 40 Steller's Eiders on the Chukchi Sea (Arctic Ocean). There were also some Murres, an apparent Thick-billed and 2 likely Common Murres.
Then it was time for lunch, so we headed back to the hotel. After lunch, we grabbed the luggage we were checking and headed to the airport to get boarding passes and check the luggage. I was glad to be able to check my bag through all the way to Miami. The agent couldn't give me a boarding pass for the following legs, and told me I could get them in Anchorage, which I later did.
We then did one more round of birding, out to Freshwater Lake. We did find two species we had not seen at Barrow, Gadwall and Long-tailed Jaeger. Then it was back to the airport to wait for boarding. The plane left for Anchorage shortly before 7pm. When we arrived the gate for the Los Angeles flight was right next to where we came in. As mentioned above, I got my boarding passes for the ANC-LAX and LAX-MIA legs in Anchorage. The group started breaking up at this point, with some staying in Anchorage overnight, and others catching various flights. There were 3 of us on the flight to Los Angeles.
I ended the birding day with 31 bird species, 1 of them new for the trip. This brought the final trip total to 171 species of bird including 4 lifers and one non-lifer ABA bird. No new mammals means the final mammal count is 16.
Night on Plane
Tuesday, June 30th: Morning found us approaching Los Angeles. Every thing was on time. My only problem was that I got only a little sleep. It was a long walk through tunnels to the American gates. When I got there I changed my boarding pass for the last leg from an Alaska boarding pass to an American boarding pass for the code-shared flight to Miami. The reason for doing this was to get my Group 1 boarding. Interestingly, the other two from our group who were on the plane with me to LA were at the same gate. They weren't going to Miami, but taking the next flight, to Dallas-Fort Worth.
The plane left on time for the 5 or so hour flight to Miami. This time, I got quite a bit more sleep. I was the first one from our plane to get to the baggage carousel, even though I was in row 15. Perhaps some of the others didn't know that you have to pass the exit to get to the shortcut to baggage claim. Eventually, the bags showed up. Mine wasn't the first, but came fairly early. I was in luck getting the FastPark shuttle. It appeared just as I got out the door, and I was in my car before 4:30pm (Miami time, 4 hours ahead of Alaska time).
That was the last nice part of the journey. Fortunately, I grabbed a nice, cold bottle of water when I left the FastPark parking lot. I had no idea how long it would take to get home! I figured it was rush hour and might take 1 1/2 hours. I wish!!
I knew I was in trouble the moment I turned on to Le Jeune. There was barely room for me to make the turn. We proceeded to crawl south past the airport to 836. More than 50 minutes later, I was still not on 836, but could see it was not moving. No wonder it was taking so long. My next chance to turn was at the light just before the ramp, about 1.5 miles from where I turned on Le Jeune. I took the opportunity and turned left (south). Traffic was better this way, but since I'd made almost no progress, I figured another 1 1/2 hours to get home due to rush hour. This was about right. Going south was not bad. Going west was still slow. I ended up taking Bird Road to 874, which took me to 104th St. about 5 miles from home. It took only a few extra minutes to get home from there (15 instead of 10). The total trip home from the airport took 2 hours and 20 minutes, longer than it took to go the 725 miles from Barrow to Anchorage. I got home right at 20 hours from the time the plane took off from Barrow.