Alaska: St. Paul; Nome & Anchorage
May 27 - June 7, 2023
Leader: Jan Hansen
$6,795 from Anchorage
This tour offers participants a chance to visit two of Alaska's best birding areas: St. Paul Island and Nome. We will spend four days exploring the sea coast and tundra around the hard scrabble town of Nome, where birds like Red-necked Stint, Aleutian Tern, Northern Wheatear, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Arctic Warbler and Bluethroat lend the avifauna a decidedly Siberian flavor. Dare I say that over the course of our time in Nome, the spectacular will become mundane? Long-tailed Jaegers, Arctic Terns and Willow Ptarmigan are just three examples of birds that will be seen with such regularity that they will eventually become a distraction from other less abundant target species. One of these target species will be Bristle-thighed Curlew, one of the world’s rarest birds, with an estimated population of only around 10,000 individuals. The only known accessible breeding site for this species is on a dome ridge about 70 miles north of Nome and we will devote one entire day traveling to this area to search for curlews among the more common Whimbrel. Early June is a peak time for migrants and Asian vagrants to be moving along the coastal areas near Nome and past trips have recorded Yellow-billed and Arctic loons, Bar-tailed Godwit, Slaty-backed Gull, Red Phalarope, Brambling, Stejneger's Scoter and Emperor Goose among the more common and expected species. We will spend 4 nights in Nome, which will allow us plenty of time to explore all of Nome’s most productive areas more than once and to take advantage of the ever changing component of birds that are present at this season. St. Paul Island, part of the Pribilofs island group, lies in the middle of the Bering Sea. St. Paul is famous for its nesting seabirds and annually hosts thousands of Parakeet, Least and Crested auklets, Tufted and Horned puffins, Northern Fulmar and Black-legged Kittiwakes in noisy cliff colonies just a stone's throw from observers. Sprinkled among these hordes will be a few Red-legged Kittiwakes and Red-faced Cormorants adding a bit of spice to the spectacle. In addition to the nesting cliffs, St. Paul harbors many other interesting birds including Rock Sandpiper (very common), King Eider, Harlequin Duck and Graycrowned Rosy-Finch. Tufted Duck, Bar-tailed Godwit and Brambling are annual visitors and if winds are from the west any number of Asian vagrants can be make an unexpected appearance. Historically, the end of May has been one of the premier times to find Asian shorebirds and passerines on St. Paul with Eyebrowed Thrush, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper and Common Cuckoo being examples of regular visitors. Time at at these two venues will surely result in a lengthy bird list that is certain to be filled with many life birds for everyone involved. That, coupled with the spectacular and unforgettable landscapes that will be the daily backdrop for our travels, is sure to make this trip one of the most memorable you have ever experienced.