Friday, 10 June 2016

Alaska - 10th June (Day 14)

Today was our last morning at Nome and so in desperation to see Emperor Goose we did a seawatch from 06:00 until 09:00 in the hope that one would fly by but it was not to be. We settled at Point Nome, now a gravel quarry with rock revetment seawalls and a rather unappealing location especially considering the beauty of the Nome area in general. Still, it was a fairly entertaining seawatch with Tufted Puffin (3), Black Guillemot (2), White-winged Scoter (15), White-billed Diver (1), Vega Gull (2) and Common Porpoise (2), amongst others. But I wished we had spent our time scanning Safety Sound and enjoying the many birds present here instead.  On our return to Nome we called into Hastings Creek and Nome River Mouth adding Caspian Tern to our trip list and a vagrant Eastern Phoebe to our list, the latter gets the vote for dullest bird of the trip!!

Pacific Diver - Point Nome, Nome

Vega Gull (1st summer) - Point Nome, Nome

Vega Gull (1st winter) - Point Nome, Nome

Vega Gull (1st winter) - Point Nome, Nome

Glaucous Gull (adult) - Point Nome, Nome

Glaucous Gull (2nd winter moulting to adult) - Point Nome, Nome

Arctic Ground Squirrel - Point Nome, Nome

Long-tailed Skua - Hastings Creek, Council Road, Nome

Long-tailed Skua - Hastings Creek, Council Road, Nome

Long-tailed Skua - Hastings Creek, Council Road, Nome

Long-tailed Skua - Hastings Creek, Council Road, Nome

Long-tailed Skua - Hastings Creek, Council Road, Nome

Eastern Phoebe - Hastings Creek, Council Road, Nome

Caspian Tern - Nome River Mouth, Council Road, Nome

Nome was and is a gold mining town

Nome sign

Our only sighting of our nemesis the Emperor Goose at Anchorage Airport

Back at the hotel we packed our bags and flew back to Anchorage (12:05-13:30), had a 3.45 hour stop over in the airport and then flew onto Barrow (17:15-19:05). After collecting our bags we headed to the car hire and picked up our 10 seater 4x4 van from UIC car hire. After a Korean meal at the Northern Lights Restaurant we spent the afternoon birding the Gas Pipe Road from 17:00 until 02:00 enjoying the 24 hour daylight hours. The tundra was flat and scattered with pools and ponds, some shallow which could be transversed in willies, other a little deeper. Snow still lay in deeper pockets despite the beautiful blue skies and warm conditions and the sea was still frozen with thick pack-ice that had rifted into a myriad jagged peaks. The birding was fantastic with breeding waders abundant on the tundra. Red Phalarope were very tame and we marvelled at their striking plumage, a far cry from their British name of Grey Phalarope in their red-garb with white face masks and golden streaked mantles. These birds occurred on most of the small pools and puddles that dotted the tundra and were very approachable. Red-necked Phalarope were equally as abundant frequently occupying the same pools as their larger cousins. Pectoral Sandpiper performed their amazing displays with extended chests inflated into dangling sacs exaggerating their pectoral streaks and producing a resonant booming during the low level display flights. Skuas over the tundra included Long-tailed Skua, Arctic Skua and a pair of Pomarine Skua. Other species here included American Golden Plover, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Wilson’s Snipe, Long-billed Dowitcher, Pacific Diver, Red-throated Diver, Tundra Swan, Long-tailed Duck and Greater White-fronted Goose. However, it was the eider that stole the show, King Eider males were stunning but the Spectacled Eider were mind-blowing when we first set eyes upon them decked out in their black and white plumage with green caps, large white eyepatches circled by black spectacles and burning orange bills. The nostril of the bill shrouded in a bulbous feathered mound of green and white. These are almost mystical birds in any birders books, we felt very privileged to be able to see them and drank in every detail. Back at the Airport Inn at 02:30 we went to bed with the sun still shining and having pretty much forgotten our Emperor Goose dip of the early part of the day – well almost!

Approach to Barrow showing numerous frozen lakes

Barrow showing the frozen Chukchi Sea

Our hotel and transport for our stay in Barrow

The frozen Chukchi Sea off Barrow

Greater White-fronted Goose of race gambelli - Cakeeater Road, Barrow 

Greater White-fronted Goose of race gambelli - Cakeeater Road, Barrow 

Red-necked Phalarope - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Spectacled Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Spectacled Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Spectacled Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Spectacled Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Pectoral Sandpiper - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Pectoral Sandpiper - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Dunlin of race articola - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Dunlin of race articola - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Dunlin of race articola - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Pectoral Sandpiper - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Stout - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Stout - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Arctic Skua (dark phase) - Gas Well Road, Barrow

King Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

King Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

King Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

King Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

King Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

King Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

King Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

King Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

King Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

King Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

King Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

King Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

King Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

King Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Lapland Bunting - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Red Phalarope - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Red Phalarope - Gas Well Road, Barrow

King Eider and Spectacled Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Spectacled Eider - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Pomarine Skua (intermediate) - Gas Well Road, Barrow

Links to the other days of the trip (click to view)