Day 1 - Arrival in Nome today. Dinner together this evening as a group.
Day 2 - We will begin at East End Park to view breeding Long-tailed Ducks, Red-throated Loons, Red-necked Phalaropes and Short-billed Gulls. Great stop for photo ops of these breeding birds that most of us don't see very often. The shrubs around the ponds are littered with singing Gray-cheeked Thrushes and Yellow Warblers.
We will then continue on by driving the Council Road, stopping at the Nome River Bridge to view Aleutian Terns up close and personal as they fish in front of us. We will continue to the Safety Sound Bridge, all the while making stops to look at breeding and displaying Semipalmated Sandpipers and Lapland Longspurs. Before we get to the Safety Sound Bridge we will stop at Hastings Creek where we hope to see a breeding pair of Eastern Yellow Wagtails, as well as a Bank Swallow colony. We will look for any rarities like Spectacled Eider and Red-necked Stint that tend to show up here. Muskoxen frequent this area and with luck we'll see these iconic Arctic mammals.
As we depart we will make our next stop at Cape Nome, where we will see Thick-billed Murres, Pacific Loons, Black-legged Kittiwakes and Possible Black Guillemots. We will scope here for Horned and Tufted puffins as well.
Once we arrive at the Safety Sound Bridge we will scope from the bridge for King Eiders, Spectacled Eiders and for possible Ross’s and Ivory gulls. If Ross’s or Ivory gulls show up in Nome this is the place. We should see Rock Sandpiper here among the shorebird flocks and many Black-legged Kittiwakes. Tundra Swans congregate in the nearby streams and Common Eiders dot the shore. With any luck, an Emperor Goose will be seen as well. We will also scan the waters for all 5 species of North American loon, including Yellow-billed and Arctic loons, which can be found from this spot.
As we continue on to the town of Council we will look at an active Golden Eagle nest, see many Rough-legged Hawks, and look for boreal birds as the elevation changes and we go from tundra to coniferous trees. We will stop at the summit to view breeding Semipalmated Plovers and Northern Wheatears and more Muskox. We could see Grizzly Bears, Arctic and Red foxes and Moose along the way as well. When we eventually arrive to the town of Council after 50km on the road we will have had good chances to see Northern Hawk Owl, Boreal Chickadee, White-winged Crossbill, Canada Jay, Rusty Blackbird, and Northern Shrikes that sing on territory.
We will come back to our hotel and rest before dinner.
For those who are energetic after a rest we will meet up for some twilight birding. This is the land of perpetual light so there is daylight at even one am for those who like photography some of the best light is between 12-3 am. For those who want to join me we will go out at midnight to photograph Long-tailed Jaegers, Whimbrel , Willow Ptarmigan and Lapland Longspurs that nest less than 2 km from the hotel in beautiful arctic tundra.
Day 3 - We will have a later start the next morning after having breakfast at the Polar Cafe, and will drive to the town of Teller via Teller Rd. On the way to Teller Rd we will stop along the roadside and will look for Gyrfalcon and hunting Short-eared Owl. We will stop at a small creek where Arctic Terns nest.
We will also stop in a boulder field near Woolley Lagoon Rd where we will search for Northern Wheatears singing and displaying as they vie for the female’s attention. These amazing birds fly all the way from their wintering grounds in Africa.
Along Teller Road, we will stop at view breeding Pacific Golden-Plovers and Long-tailed Jaegers. On small ponds in this area we will look for breeding Bar-tailed Godwits, as well as Whimbrels and Red-necked Phalaropes on the small ponds. We will also see Rock Ptarmigan and Willow Ptarmigan in several spots along the road. Once we arrive to the Inupiat village of Teller, after driving 72 miles, we will go to the local cemetery where we should see a breeding pair of 'black-backed' White Wagtails. We will next Visit the sewage lagoons for more birds and will scope for seabirds from the beach and have a nice lunch in town before heading back for rest before dinner in Nome.
Day 4 - On the next day we will be up at 6 am to leave at 7am with our packed breakfast and head out to Coffee Dome for a hike to see the Bristle-thighed Curlew up mile 72. You must get to the curlews early morning before they disperse. Please wear sturdy shoes for this uphill hike we will take it slow and bird on our way up. We should see breeding plumaged American Golden-Plovers, Willow and Rock Ptarmigan, Whimbrel, Lapland Longspurs and Common and Hoary redpolls. When we get to the top of Coffee Dome Mtn we will have spectacular views of the Kugliak Mountain range and should see see and hear the Bristle-thighed Curlews singing.
We will descend and travel back slowly birding the Kougarok Rd. We should see Wandering Tattlers, Northern Waterthrush, Blackpoll and Wilson’s warblers, and Fox Sparrow. We will stop at Salmon Lake where we will have lunch and search for the sought after Bluethroat . If we dip here we will stop at KM 27 where we should see several. We will stop at KM 21 to look in the willows for the beautiful singing old world warbler, the much desired Arctic Warbler!
Dinner back in Nome.
Day 5 - The next morning, after breakfast, we will bird the town and airport ponds for waterfowl. We will stop in the harbour where we will see many Sabine’s Gulls, up close Arctic Terns, Black-legged Kittiwakes and we will see Spotted Seals hunting fish. We will be looking for passerines like White Wagtail, 'slate-colored' Fox Sparrow, and American Tree Sparrows. Next we will be birding the nearby local ponds at East End Park for breeding shorebirds and loons. We will look at many beautiful Glaucous and Slaty-backed gulls around towns.
We will head to the Nome River Mouth where we will look for terns, gulls and shorebirds, and we will watch Inupiat locals fish off the sandbars.
Next we will head to the Safety Sound Bridge on the Council Rd to look for more rarities. We will stop and look at the old railway line and the famous train to nowhere which is now a monument. We will look at old historic dredgers too. We should see Aleutian Terns, Common Eiders, Tundra Swans, several different loon species and have more chances at seeing Emperor Geese and Brant. After a nice day of relaxed birding and photography we will have dinner and take it easy.
Day 6 - Today we will be birding the Kougarok Rd we will look for warblers and passerines and look for Eastern Yellow Wagtails. We will drive right to the end of Kougarok Rd at the Kougarok Bridge which ends shy of the town of Taylor (only accessible by ATV) and have stunning views of the Kugliak Mtns as we go through very diverse habitats from arctic tundra to deciduous trees. We will do our best to find an active Northern Goshawk, Rough-legged and Gyrfalcon nest on this road. We should also run into Greater White-fronted Geese and many passerines as well.
By the Kuzitrin River bridge we should see Alder Flycatcher and Say’s Phoebes and nesting Red-necked Grebes.
Day 7 - The next day we will search along Teller Rd we will go up Anvil Mtn and see Rock Ptarmigan up close and other higher elevation species like American Pipit and Horned Larks. We will look at House Rock where we should see nesting Gyrfalcons. We should see many Muskoxen and caribou today and will be on the lookout for Snowy Owls hunting in the tundra. We should see many Harlequin Ducks and Common Mergansers at the Snake River Bridge. We will take the Dexter Bypass Rd and end up back on the Kougarok Rd and have lunch once again at Salmon Lake where we should see Bluethroats and Hoary Redpolls just to name a few. After dinner in Nome, anyone who wants to go birding this evening can join us.
Day 8 - Tour ends this morning after breakfast. If there is any time for birding before our flights we can do that.
Utqiagvik (Barrow) Extension
Day 1 - Flight from Nome to Anchorage, where we spend the night in anticipation of flight the next morning.
Day 2 to 4 -
We take an early morning flight from Anchorage, to Utqiagvik, the most northerly city in Alaska, on June 14. Utqiagvik, which is mostly inhabited by the Inuit, has 24 hour sunlight at this time of year. As our home base for three nights, there is comfortable lodging and several varied restaurants, and best of all, access to wonderful high-latitude tundra rich in breeding birds. We’ll have the better part of 3 days to explore this remarkable environment in search of the breeding birds that have made Barrow famous. We will look for Steller’s and Spectacled eiders and see many Common and King eiders and Red Phalaropes on the numerous lakes and ponds along the roads. We will see such shorebirds like Pectoral, Semipalmated, and Western sandpipers, Dunlin, and Long-billed Dowitchers on their tundra breeding grounds. The tundra around Barrow is rife with breeding shorebirds, and they often allow close up photo opportunities. We will keep our eyes open for the attractive Sabine's Gull, as well as waterbirds like Long-tailed Ducks and Yellow-billed Loons. A highlight, should we be fortunate enough to witness it, will be Snowy Owls and possibly all three species of jaegers (Long-tailed, Parasitic and Pomarine), catching and eating lemmings. The tundra in Barrow is rich with nesting shorebirds and allow for close-range photography.
We will keep an eye out for rarities such as Ruff, White-rumped, Buff-breasted, Curlew, and Stilt sandpipers, Red-necked Stint, and Gray-tailed Tattler and even rarer Siberian vagrants. We may even get lucky and see a Polar Bear as we search for Ross's and Ivory gulls. We should see Caribou and Arctic Fox on this trip too. Night in Utqiagvik.
Day 5 - After breakfast, we will catch flights back to Anchorage, where the tour will conclude.