Total ABA Species Recorded During 2010 - 731

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Green Valley AZ

I flew Southwest from Norfolk through Nashville and Los Angeles to Tucson.  Yes, that's right.  You go to LA to get to Tucson!  The flight from LA to Tucson was a half hour late, but that didn't impact anything in AZ.  The rental car was ready and I drove it to Green Valley south of Tucson where I got a room and got out of the 100F out-of-doors.  The sun felt like it looks in the web photo.  There wasn't enough time to do anything useful today, so I got setup to go to Montosa Canyon tomorrow morning very early to look for Black-capped Gnatcatchers.  John and I had spent an early morning here in July.  In fact it was the last morning before we flew back home.  Obviously since I'm going back, we didn't get the bird.  I hope that changes tomorrow.  It will be hot again, and get there very quickly, so it will have to happen in the first hour or so.  After that, I'll seek someplace that has a little elevation and the cool that goes with it.  It's always exciting to be birding in SE AZ.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Still in Norfolk, but Not For Long

On Monday no good news came in from around the country about yet-to-be-seen yearbirds that were being seen by someone.  That meant that I didn't revise my travel plans and leave early.  So I stayed at home and enjoyed the buckets of rain pouring down on our house (web photo).  Early on when the rain was a bit lighter, I did see a few birds around the yard.  But after the deluge set in, it was difficult to see anything moving except the rain.  So for now the plans are to fly to Arizona on Wednesday, continuing on to California on Friday for a two-day pelagic over the weekend, and on to Barrow next week.  I'll be back in Norfolk on October 12

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bethany's Birthday

Today is my daughter Bethany's birthday.  She's a very young how ever old she is.  After all, she can't be very old since I'm so young.  Joyce and I drove down to Raleigh to spend the middle of the day with her and her family (shown in the photo at a friend's wedding last fall).  Last night they had held their highly successful backyard oyster roast so there was a little cleaning up still going on when we arrived.  We packed everyone up in their van and went to the restaurant of her choice where we all enjoyed the food and conversation.  When we got back to their house, she packed up a care package of some locally grown vegetables for us to take home.  We had brought a batch of chocolate-chip cookies.  I'll let you decide who won on that exchange.  On the drive home we ran into several horrendous thunder storms.  Along the way several cars had skidded off the road or had hydroplaned since there was a large amount of water on the highway.  We did make it home safely.  I found out from the rare bird website that a Yellow-Green Vireo had been seen today in San Diego.  I made a quick check of the airline schedules and saw that it would be possible for me to rearrange my Arizona, California trip to start in California.  But I'll wait until tomorrow and check with my contacts to see what the status is then before making any changes.  And from another part of the country comes a report of a La Sagra's Flycatcher in Florida.  Such are the ups and downs and tugs and pulls of a Big Year.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Kiptopeke Challenge

Ah yes, the Kiptopeke Challenge.  As has been the case the last few years, the day has started with an Eastern Screech-Owl at the Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR.  And as has also become the norm, we didn't follow that success with a Great Horned Owl although there are many of them around.  As it got lighter and the wind picked up, it was apparent that today was going to be an uphill battle to get landbirds.  The usual spots turned up no activity, no chips or tweets, and indeed a struggle it was.  But at Ramp Lane on the refuge we encountered about 250 Sandwich Terns with a few Royal Terns mixed in moving past in the predawn light.  This is by far the largest group of Sandwich Terns I've seen away from the breeding area on Wreck Island.  Overhead there were a few Sharp-shinned Hawks hunting and the sought-after White Ibis made their appearance.  A nearby perched and singing Marsh Wren was a bonus.  At GATR tract we actually encountered a few nice landbirds including a Summer Tanager, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and the gem-of-the-day, a Golden-winged Warbler, a bird we have actually gotten once before during a previous Challenge at Chincoteague NWR.  When we reached Kiptopeke SP, we saw friends Bob Anderson, Harry Armistead, and Zach Poulton who were participating in the Challenge while they manned the hawk platform.  At Oyster we caught the high tide, but still found a nice bunch of Greater Yellowlegs and an Eastern Meadowlark and some Savannah Sparrows on the shore.  The dump had a few Pied-billed Grebes, many Fish Crows, both night-herons, and our first Little Blue Herons, plus a lone American Black Duck.  Eyre Hall was quiet but we rousted out a Black-and-white Warbler plus Harry and Downy Woodpeckers.  Then it was on to Chincoteague with a not-so-brief stop at the Coffee House on the way.  There was open admission to get into Chincoteague, so the place was a bit crowded especially the beach.  The wildlife drive had a nice scattering of shorebirds including Pectoral and White-rumped Sandpipers and a few ducks.  A Peregrine kept the birds a bit on the jittery side.  At that point I left David Clark and Andrew Baldelli (photo including David's new Prius) to drive back to Norfolk so I could attend the performance of the Virginia Symphony.  I just couldn't stand to miss another concert this year.  I managed to make it to the performance and enjoyed it immensely.  David and Andrew persisted after I left and got quite a few more birds for the day including a couple Buff-breasted Sandpipers and a few warblers along the pony trail.  Our final total for the day was 111, symptomatic of the heat and southwest wind.  Maybe next year without the distraction of a Big Year, we can put our collective minds together, plan a good route, and win this thing.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Getting Set for the Kiptopeke Challenge

I returned to Norfolk today a bit zonked.  It was, however, good to get home where a Blue Jay was bathing in our bird bath (Charles Harper web snatch).  I celebrated by taking a little snooze since my day had started at 4:30am with the airport shuttle in Ft. Lauderdale.  This coming Saturday David Clark, Andrew Baldelli, and I will also have an early start, this time on Virginia's Eastern Shore as part of CVWO's fundraiser, the Kiptopeke Challenge.  I hope you've made a pledge or have contributed to CVWO by clicking on the link in the upper left of this blog and following the directions there.  I don't think I'll get any new birds during the day to increase my year's list (except maybe the White-cheeked Pintail, if I choose to count it), but it will be a fun day and we plan to obtain a good count.  Dare I hope for over 130!  That might happen if Mr. Weather gives us a break this year and drops a big wave of migrants.  That would be fun to sort through all those birds.  Tomorrow I'm finalizing my plans for the couple of weeks after the Challenge.  It will involve a multi-day pelagic out of San Diego and possibly a run to Alaska to see the Ross's Gull migration at Barrow, if I can find the airline miles to cash in.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

They're So Cute!

I was prepared to spend the whole day if necessary to keep from repeating the negative outcome of our April try at the Budgies. The location was the same as it was then. I knew how to get there. I just felt if I was a little more persistent, things would work out. You'll see that I didn't need to worry. The motel I fell into last night was a Hampton Inn, about three cuts above my usual level of overnight accommodations. It was so nice, I just couldn't get myself away from the high thread count sheets, the thick towels, the warm breakfast. Eventually I did leave and drove to the Budgie spot arriving before 9:00am. I took a walk around the neighborhood and as soon as I turned the corner, there they were, all lined up on a telephone wire. There were eight of them in all which has to be most of what's left of this population. In a few years there won't be any and ABA will remove Budgerigar from its list just as it did the Crested Myna, the Blue-Gray Tanager, and the Black Francolin. I recall when I saw my first countable budgies. It was in the 80's. I waited several years to go see them, because you had to go to St. Petersburg and I wasn't all that hot to check off an exotic. But around that time my folks acquired a place in Sarasota where they went for the winter and my sister and I alternated visiting them at Christmas. So it became a little more reasonable thing to attempt. One year, on our way back to Norfolk, I drove somewhat out of our way to the local streets in St. Petersburg where you were supposed to find the Budgies. Before you got to the area where they were, you could hear them screeching. When you did get there, the telephone wires were loaded with them by the hundreds and hundreds. Most of them were green, but there were a few of the varietals that aviculturists created for the pet trade. It's hard to believe how quickly that scene became a thing of the past, and we're indeed reduced to a couple of handfuls. The current last stand is a location where an individual supposedly fed a large group of them up to a few years ago. A neighbor told me today that the flock was over a couple hundred birds. He wasn't sure whether the person feeding them was alive any longer, but I suspect he/she has passed away or moved. I'm happy to say that I've now added them to the year's list (#704). After taking a satisfactory photo, I got back in the car and set the gps for Ft. Lauderdale where I arrived five hours later, checked in my car two days early, changed my return airline ticket to a flight tomorrow, got a motel room, wrote this blog, and planned to watch a baseball game on TV. You're right! It won't be the Cards.
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Day in the Everglades

 After a nice Denny's breakfast, I returned to Gate 3 on Long Pine road in the Everglades NP where the couple, Ron and Carol from west of Austin TX, whom I had met last night,was looking upward but (for the moment) not at the Cuban Pewee.   Another birder there, Mark Berney from Ft. Lauderdale, heard a call which he tracked down and it turned out to be the Cuban Pewee which obligingly landed on a bare branch for a photo.  Everyone got good views and I got a photo.  The call is a series of slightly upturned...wheeeet...notes.  It gave this call repeatedly even though many of those times we couldn't see the bird.  However we did get several nice views of the bird.  After satisfying myself with views of the pewee, I spent a little time looking for the Western Spindalis which had been reported not too long ago.  But nothing much was calling or moving, so I hopped in the car and motored slowly southward toward Flamingo where I was to meet Pete Frezza.  While I was waiting for Pete at Flamingo, I found a young Lark Sparrow hopping around near the marina store.  There were also a couple of Manatees swimming around near the boat launch, the best views I've ever had of that mammal.  After Pete arrived, he launched the boat and we took off over Florida Bay toward the section known as Snake Bite which has nothing to do with getting bitten by a reptile!  It took about twenty minutes to get to the area where a few American Flamingos had been seen, but when we did arrive, there they were - four beauties that spent most of the time with their heads tucked.  However, when we were at some distance, they did pick up and fly low with their heads and legs extended, turn around, and return to their original location.  All of that so I could see that beautiful deep pink and black wing pattern.  To get close enough for a photo, Pete had to pole the boat over the shallows.  After much poling, I was able to get the photo shown here.  Very exciting since this was the first time I had seen them in the ABA area since my first time in the 70's.  After we got back to the dock at Flamingo, I set the gps for Hernando Beach FL, the site of the few remaining countable Budgerigars.  I was shocked to see that it was 400 miles away.  Oh well!  A yearbird is a yearbird, eh?  About 9:30pm I checked into a motel and crashed.  Tomorrow is budgie day.  The two birds today brings the total to 703.Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cuban Pewee - not yet

It was to have been an easy travel day, but, of course, it wasn't.  My Southwest plane did leave right on time.  There was a stopover in Jacksonville with no change of planes.  But after the plane's door was closed we sat there for awhile until it was announced that there was a mechanical problem which they worked on until a further announcement told us we would have to be moved to another plane.  So we trouped out of the plane and across the way to another plane going to Fort Lauderdale.  We were seated before the other passengers who were about to board.  Strangely, we all fit and Southwest didn't have to fly two planes to Fort Lauderdale.  Remember People's Express!  They pulled that move all the time.  But then again it may just be my suspicious mind.  The two plus hour delay cost me just enough time to put me into Miami traffic so I didn't get to the Everglades until 6pm.  I spent an hour at the pewee spot with not a nibble.  I did see a couple of Red-bellied Woodpeckers, though.  (photo)  I'll be back tomorrow.  The highlight of the day was spending a couple of hours chatting with Becky and Debbie White.  We caught up on what's been happening in our collective lives.  And oh yes; how could I forget.  The Cards played a makeup game in Florida with the Marlins for which the timing was perfect for me to listen to while driving.  However, Carpenter gave up a grand slam and the Cards scored no runs all in a one hour and fifty-two minute game.  Perhaps shorter is better when you lose.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Back Home

Most of yesterday was spent in moving me from the west coast back to Norfolk, VA.  There was no birding involved.  I'm still trying to get rid of this respiratory problem, so I rested as much as I could.  The nonstop flight from SFO to Dulles got off the ground an hour late requiring me to hustle a bit when we landed.  However, the flight attendants had asked all those with more than a half hour connect time to stay seated until the rest of us exited, and that worked out very well.  As I came forward from the back of the plane, I thanked all those who were still in their seats.  And my bag also made the connection, because it was there in Norfolk for me.  Yes!!
Today I have been preparing for a jaunt to Florida to try for the Cuban Pewee which still seems to be hanging around.  I'm also going to do a boat out into Florida Bay to see if I can find some Flamingos.  If my endurance lasts, I'll drive north to look for the few remaining countable Budgerigars.  So we'll see how it goes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Half Moon Bay Pelagic II

Yesterday was a repositioning day moving from Santa Rosa to my motel near the San Francisco airport.  In addition to making it easy to get to the airport, this is also a convenient location to stay when doing Half Moon Bay pelagic trips.  I had to get a few snack supplies for the boat trip and work on arrangements for the trip next week.
Today I drove over the coastal range on a winding road in the fog to get to La Granada on Half Moon Bay where the marina and the boat are located.  We did get started on time but the first hour plus was fogged in.  We finally started getting enough visibility that we could see the birds.  The species composition was pretty much the same as on Monday.  We got out to warmer water, about 62F, where we did run into several flocks of storm-petrels sitting on the water.  We worked them as carefully as we could.  It's difficult to get very close to these flocks before they break up and fly away.  But on the day we did have six species of storm-petrel: Ashy (photo) the most common by far, Black, Fork-tailed, Wilson's, Leach's, and Least.  During the long day of chumming a couple of Laysan Albatrosses (photo) came in.  But the bird of the day was a Flesh-footed Shearwater that came through the chumming at the back of the boat and kept on going.  I got a reasonable pic (photo).  This was a yearbird and brought the total to 701.  On the way back to the marina we encountered a group of feeding Humpback Whales.  It's been a good year for krill here along the California coast and the whales were chowing down.  They roll on their side and push forward with their mouths open.  Then they close their mouths and squeeze the excess water out through the baleen and swallow.  The whales weren't the only creatures feeding on the krill.  Lots of squid were doing it too.  We noticed the squid first by their water squirts that shot out of the water.  That's a product of their method of propulsion.  We netted a couple of them and some krill to take a closeup look.  I got my hand inky as a consequence of trying to pick up a fallen squid.  The krill are pink, shrimplike organisms about an inch long.  The squid were about six inches long.  We spent about an hour watching this spectacle.  During this feeding process, the whales were all around us, sometimes coming right under the boat.  Tomorrow I fly to Norfolk so Saturday will be a travel day.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bodega Bay Pelagic II

Since I had scouted out the commute to the boat dock yesterday, it was an easy drive today with only a few bits of fog here and there. The boat was again the New Sea Angler which was our boat from here last month. The good news was that the fog which hung over the hills I drove through wasn't too bad although it came and went for much of the way out to sea. The water temperature was in the mid fifties so I was glad to have my warm clothes on. We got out about 40 miles into some warmer water and that paid off because we had a great, close flyby of a Cook's Petrel. This was not a new bird for me, but it was certainly a much better look than the one I had out of Santa Barbara. However, it was new for Chris Hitt who had missed the bird on that earlier trip.  Although I didn't get any new yearbirds, the trip had a lot of birds. We had Ashy, Black, Fork-tailed, and Wilson's Storm-Petrels; Sooty, Pink-footed, and Buller's Shearwaters; Black-footed Albatross; Northern Fulmars, both dark and light; all three jaegers (Parasitic photo) and South Polar Skua (photo); Western, California, Heerman's and Sabine's (photo) Gulls; Arctic Terns; Common Murres, Cassin's and Rhinoceros Auklets; Tufted Puffin (photo); Xantu's Murrelets; Red and Red-necked Phalaropes.  Tomorrow is a day to rest and recover from this cold I brought back from Alaska that I can't seem to shake. On Friday I go out from Half Moon Bay again, hopefully picking up a yearbird.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010


During the fall, Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory operates a songbird banding station, a hawk migration count, a hawk banding station, and a monarch butterfly tagging program at Kiptopeke State Park on Virginia's Eastern Shore.  Those programs have produced invaluable data to aid in wildlife conservation and management.  Each program is staffed by a paid, highly qualified, knowledgeable and hardworking young biologist.  CVWO needs to raise funds annually to staff these positions.  The biggest fundraiser is the fall birdathon known as the Kipotpeke Challenge.  This year's challenge is on Saturday, September 25, and I plan to participate with David Clark on the Laughing Falcons team as I have done in the past.  If you have enjoyed following my Big Year on this blog, please consider making a donation to CVWO to support their work.  You can do so by clicking on the tiny CVWO link at the upper left side of this blog page above the picture of me, and following the directions given there.  Your support would help continue the important work this organization is doing.  You can read more about CVWO at their website

Monday, September 13, 2010

Half Moon Bay Pelagic I

Chris and I carpooled to the boat dock arriving plenty early.  Before leaving the dock I have to make sure that I've got warm clothes on because the weather out on the Pacific Ocean is plenty cool.  As is true on most pelagic trips you also have to bring your own food for the day, since very few boats have a galley serving food.  So I had to make sure I had my food supply.
There were a lot of birds on the jetties as we left the harbor including Double-crested Cormorants, Brown Pelicans, Western and Heerman's Gulls, and Elegant Terns.  A few Pigeon Guillemots and Western Grebes were bobbing around on the water.  Although the deep, cold water which is close to shore provides much pelagic excitement, the captain set a course to get us out to the albacore fishermen in the warm water. Please realize that Pacific coast warmer water is in the 60's, whereas our Atlantic warmer water is in the 80's. A big difference! We did manage to make it out to the albacore grounds, but it wasn't very birdy. One of the albacore fisherman gave Debi Shearwater a couple of albacores since it was her birthday.  Wes Fritz, the master chummer, did spot a Cooke's Petrel, but none of the rest of us could get on it before it disappeared. However, the pelagic bird show on the way out was quite a spectacle. We had Black-footed and Laysan (photo) Albatrosses, Ashy, Black, Fork-tailed, and Wilson's Storm-Petrels, Pink-footed, Sooty, and Buller's (photo) Shearwaters, Northern Fulmars (mostly dark phase), Red and Red-necked Phalaropes (photo) migrating by the thousands, Arctic Terns, Common Murres, Cassin's and Rhinoceros Auklets, and all three jaegers plus South Polar Skua (photo). But Chris and I are tough customers. We wanted something new for the year and neither of us got a new bird.   We got back to the dock a bit late.  I dropped Chris off at his truck and headed north, driving to Santa Rosa where I got a room in a Motel 6 for three nights.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chris Hitt

     I slept late and then worked on my blog.  While I was working in my room this morning, I heard music coming from the room where the motel's continental breakfast was served.  The room had became a "store front" church.  The best thing about that was the music which was of the gospel variety with three or four part harmony and plenty of rhythmic clapping even though there was a drum set accompaniment.
    Chris Hitt (shown in the photo with his family), who is doing a lower-48 big year, will be on the boat trips I'm taking off Half Moon Bay and Bodega Bay.  He offered and I gratefully accepted sharing his motel room.  We had made arrangements to meet at his motel this afternoon.  So I drove south on US101 only to find that at 3 am this morning a multi-car accident had occurred with two deaths and the freeway has been closed ever since.  With help from my gps I navigated around the stoppage and made it to the motel.  A short time later Chris arrived and we compared notes on our bird wantlists.  When we went out to find some dinner, the Chinese restaurant he had chosen was having a bash;  a group had reserved the whole restaurant.  So instead we went to a nearby Whole Foods, a grocery chain with which Chris was associated before his retirement, and there got supplies for tomorrow's pelagic trip and picked up some sushi for dinner back at the motel.  We watched a bit of the Cardinals' game on TV since the game with Atlanta was the Sunday night game.  Tomorrow the pelagic trip.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Travel Day and More on Mystery Bird

I certainly didn't think my Big Year would include finding a new bird for North America. When I found the bird last Thursday in the near bone yard on Gambell, it struck me as something like an Acrocephalus warbler, but I wasn't sure. I don't have a lot of experience with Locustellas, another Old World warbler genus, but my bird didn't strike me as from that genus. It had a big, pink bill, brief eye stripe, dark eye line, nonpatterned warm, brown back, all of which fit Acrocephalus better than Locustella. When Paul Lehman got over there to look at it, his first reaction was something like a Paddyfield Warbler which seemed about right to me. So we'll see what the experts say. It's not as easy to get Asian experts as it is to get European ones, but someone should be able to ID it.  The photograhers trailed the bird around until it fortuitously flew up on the roof of a nearby house and Barrett was able to get some decent photos.
     My exit from Alaska was put on hold when the plane from Kotzebue had mechanical problems that required a substitute plane be flown in from Anchorage.  The new departure time at 1:30am required that I rebook all my connections today at additional cost.  Those flights took me through Anchorage, Seattle, Salt Lake City, to San Francisco where I arrived around 4pm but without my bag.  I picked up my rental car, drove to my nearby motel, and waited until about 10pm when my bag finally caught up with me.  Although my clothes and toiletries were important, the bag's arrival was even more of a help because I had packed my electronic cables including the one to recharge my cellphone in my checked luggage - not a good idea.  My cellphone was dead, but it came back to life with a bit of a charge.  An interesting side note: my flight from Salt Lake City to San Francisco flew over the Ruby Mountains in Nevada where John and I saw the Himalayan Snowcocks last month.  Lamoille Canyon and Island Lake had gotten a dusting of snow and reminded me of our first try for those birds in June.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dusky Warbler - #700

My last day in Gambell "dawned" dark, windy, and rainy.  So, what's new!  After breakfast of French toast and bacon, I made the decision not to participate in this morning's seawatch, and instead to begin the process of getting my stuff together.  That decision held for a couple of hours, even after the return of our guys from the seawatch.  But it went out the window when the two-way radios chattered that Aaron Lang had found a Dusky Warbler near the radio towers near the point.  It didn't take me long to get ready for the soggy out-of-doors and to hop on the back of the ATV behind Bill and race over the gravel to the point.  The bird was not being seen when we arrived.  All of the birders present formed the usual line and swept through the area with the result that the bird was re-found.  As with the warbler yesterday, this bird was flushed and re-flushed until all those who wished had gotten satisfactory looks at it.  I was congratulated all the way around for reaching the Seven Hundred Mark, a mark I didn't think was possible when I began this year.  Getting to 700 was a large, joint effort, the product of much help from an enormous number of people all of whom I collectively thank here and now.  But the year is not over yet, and there are a few more birds I can get, and I intend to keep trying.  This afternoon, if the airline gods are with me, I'll board the Bering Air late afternoon flight (the one that didn't come two days ago!) for Nome.  Then it's on to Anchorage and California on a red-eye, where I'll do a series of three pelagic trips before I go back to Norfolk.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A New Bird

We did the usual seawatch today, now with our group reduced in size but augmented by the addition of the Wilderness Birding group.  We did see a Red-necked Grebe and a distant Kittlitz's Murrelet which were both new for the trip although not for the year.  We followed that activity with a march through the far boneyard and then I decided to walk the near boneyard by myself.  I had Bill Mauck let me out near the runway and I did a complete meandering search.  I had almost completed the circuit when I flushed a small, brown bird which landed so I could see it for a moment.  It had a pink bill and a brief eye-stripe.  I new it was a new bird.  So after making sure I knew which clump of wormwood it was hiding in, I called Paul Lehman on the two-way radio, and he came over from the lodge.  He was able to get a brief look at the bird and thought it might actually be an Acrocephalis warbler of a new species for North America.  All the birders converged and for four and a half hours we chased the bird around the boneyard until some satisfactory pictures had been obtained.  After studying the photographs, the current concensus is that the bird is an adult Middendorf's Grasshopper-Warbler.  All of the fall bird records of that species except one have been young birds.  So it doesn't look like it will be a first NA record, but it will be a life, ABA, and yearbird.  The total is now 699.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Group Splits Up

Four members of our WINGS group are going on to the Pribiloffs with Gavin Bieber as leader.  John Spahr is heading back to Virginia.  I'm staying two additional days.  The Pribiloff group and some others were expecting to leave this morning, but the fog prevented the Bering Air flight from coming to Gambell.  So we all birded some more, had lunch, and those who were leaving got packed up and hoped the later flight would make it.  As the afternoon flight time approached, everyone wondered whether Bering Air would arrive.  An ERA plane arrived and since they had a couple of spaces available, two of the group including John departed early on that flight to Nome.   We then got word that the Bering Air flight had been cancelled, so it looked like the others would be here for another day.  Gavin had to change all the ground and flight reservations for his group.  However, a call came in that a second Bering Air flight that had gone to Savoonga, which is the other village on St. Lawrence Island, was coming to Gambell and was ten minutes away.  So....Gavin resurrected all of his transformed reservations, and everyone got their stuff together and made the flight.  It turns out to have been a good thing that two of our group got on the earlier plane, because the Bering Air plane that did arrive was smaller and could not have carried the weight required to get everyone back to Nome.  Ah well!  The joys of air travel, especially in Alaska.  So John's gone, and I do miss him, and I'm on my own for awhile.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A New Group Arrives

Today the Wilderness Birding Adventure group arrived to take up residence in the red house.  That's the same house our group stayed in during our June visit earlier this year.  It was good to see the leaders, Aaron Lang, Dave Porter, and Bob Dittrich, again.  The new group will add some new eyes and enthusiasm to the search for birds.  We did pick up Yellow-billed Loon and Orange-crowned Warbler today as new birds during our stay, but no new yearbirds.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Tale of Two Tattlers

Instead of doing the usual seawatch this morning, John and I headed east and south along the road that goes along the base of the mountain to the east of Troutman Lake.  We knew this to be one of the best areas to search for tattlers.  After we had gone about half-way, we elected to leave the ATV behind and walk the tundra along the edge of the lake in case a shorebird was tucked in and out of view from the road.  It paid off when John spotted a bird ahead of us that was definitely a tattler.  We put the word out on the two-way radio although the message turned out to be somewhat garbled by the wind and distance.  Eventually other members of the group got the word and converged on our location.  Paul Lehman worked his way into a position close to the bird and handed down the decision we didn't want to hear.  The bird was a Wandering Tattler, a bird we had seen earlier in the year in California.  Pretty disappointing!  We did the far boneyard since we were in the area without finding anything, then returned to the lodge.  I had a cup of coffee, took a shower, and changed clothes.  While I was getting dressed, a radio message came through from Paul Lehman at the sewage pond.  He had a Gray-tailed Tattler.  I quickly finished dressing, donned my outdoor clothes, and John and I steamed off on our ATV to the sewage pond where we got great views of the new yearbird.  So after getting skunked for seven days, we finally broke the drought and the total is now 698.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Birds and Whales

Late today while we were running the beach looking for shorebirds and scanning offshore, we noticed a group of birds feeding over a Gray Whale.  There were three Short-tailed Shearwaters, eight Sabine's gulls, and many Red Phalaropes.  Earlier in our beach run we had seen a large group of gulls, mostly Black-legged Kittiwakes and Glaucous Gulls, in a feeding frenzy over a tight school of small fish.  There were also four Parasitic Jaegers in the group.  This morning it was so foggy we couldn't conduct our usual seawatch.  We took a spin around Troutman Lake and there were more than a hundred Crested Auklets with a few Least Auklets on the lake where they had dropped in instead into the Bering Sea because of the fog.  Later this afternoon the auklets had disappeared, hopefully making it successfully to the open water.  A few young Crested Auklets also ended up crashing into the boneyards where members of our group picked them up and transported them to the seashore.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Along the vast pebble beach on the west side of the point, there has been a goodly amount of marine vegetation cast up over the past couple of days.  Shorebirds have been poking around in it and we've been able to get some great looks at them.  These include Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, Pacific Golden-Plovers, Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitchers, Western Sandpipers, and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Maybe a Dusky Warbler

The weather wasn't too bad today, but the birding results were pretty much the same.  Nothing new.  During one traverse of the far bone yard, a bird was flushed that to the leaders looked like a Dusky Warbler, another leaf warbler that's on the brownish side.  It couldn't be re-found even after several further traverses of the bone yard later in the day.  We continue to circumnavigate Troutman Lake, hoping for the Gray-tailed Tattler.  Maybe soon.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Common Rosefinch

This afternoon co-leader Gavin Bieber found a Common Rosefinch on the lower slopes of the mountain.  This is about the sixth fall sighting here.  Everyone was able to get satisfactory looks, many through a scope.  For most it was a life bird but for John and me it wasn't even a year bird.  We had seen one in June when we were at Gambell this spring.  The weather today is milder with the wind coming from the East and periods of low clouds and drizzle.  We did have a few flocks of shorebirds overhead from time to time including a group of seven Bar-tailed Godwits.  Up to this point Paul Lehman had seen only three singles in the fall.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It Got Away

Today in the far bone yard another North American rarity was glimpsed well enough by Paul Lehman to identify it, but not well enough by anyone else to count it.  The bird was a Yellow-browed Warbler, one of the leaf warblers from Asia that has been seen about a half-dozen times in the US.  We recrossed the bone yard multiple times but no additional sightings were forthcoming.  We covered the slope above the bone yard thoroughly several times as well.  The rain and twenty mph winds didn't help.  We're supposed to get more of that tomorrow.  Ah, yes!  Fall birding at Gambell.  A challenge indeed!