Thursday, September 21, 2017

Temp in the 50s, drizzle on and off all day, occasional sunshine, wind N 10-20 mph

Since this was the anniversary of our (FIRST NORTH AMERICAN RECORD!!) Eurasian Sparrowhawk, we assumed we would get another…

Well, we got another long-tailed, short-winged lifer, but it wasn’t an accipiter.

On our way up to Clam Lagoon, as we crested the hill leading down to the Palisades Overlook, a medium-sized bird flew across the road, perched briefly on the guardrail, and then dropped into the ravine next to the road. We inched the truck forward and Barb spotted the bird sitting on a rock and quickly identified it as a cuckoo!

I jumped out and got a few photos before it flew across the road and disappeared over the cliff edge.

Cuckoo (Oriental — we hope!), Palisades Overlook, Sept 21, 2017

Our best guess at this point is an Oriental Cuckoo (most common in the Fall on the Aleutians — although the one we had in the Fall of 2009 was a Common Cuckoo). We are consulting others about its identity.

Before we got there, at Sweeper Cove, we had a Horned Grebe. Most of the grebes we see here are up at the Seawall, so this was unusual (for us).

At Contractor’s Camp Marsh we still had two Pacific-Golden Plovers.

Up at Clam Lagoon, we stopped at the West Overlook and Barb spotted a flock of shorebirds flying across the lagoon. They landed out on the Peninsula. We could see that there were 4 Sanderlings and 6 peeps, so I walked out there to get a closer look.

Five of the peeps flew off and the remaining one was a Western.

Sanderlings, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Just after I got back to the truck, the remaining 5 peeps flew in and landed just a short distance out on the flats. They were 4 Western Sandpipers and the Little Stint. We also saw a Pectoral Sandpiper nearby. I did not walk the marsh edge today.

There was nothing new at the Seawall. The surf was raging, making seeing anything beyond the crashing waves difficult. Also, the ocean spray was almost directly in our faces, so our binos and scope quickly became useless.  On the east side of the lagoon, we saw that the flock(?) of Emperor Geese had grown to 3!

At Candlestick Bridge, a tattered Black-legged Kittiwake didn’t seem to care that I was standing there, He was more interested in fishing.

Black-legged Kittiwake, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Back up at the north end of the lagoon, the kittiwakes were in for a bath.

Black-legged Kittiwakes (and a few Glaucous-winged Gulls, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Black-legged Kittiwakes (and a few Glaucous-winged Gulls, Clam Lagoon, Sept 21, 2017

Regardless of the cuckoo identification, our Year’s List stands at 92.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Temp in the 50s, drizzle in the morning, partly sunny late afternoon, wind NE 10-15 mph

Today’s excitement started early. After birding the usual places around town, we headed up to the Warbler Willows. I walked over and spotted a sparrow! I called to Barb and she came over and saw it as well. It was an immature Golden-crowned Sparrow!

Golden-crowned Sparrow, Warbler Willows, Sept 20, 2017

As far as we know, this is only the second record for Adak. Not a lifer, but an Adak bird for us and an Adak Year Bird for us. This set a Year’s List record for us — 91.

Up at Clam Lagoon, I spotted what looked like an Emperor Goose out on the flats, but closer inspection revealed two! They were both each standing on one leg…

Emperor Geese (pretending to be one), Clam Lagoon, Sept 20, 2017

As we were driving around, we noticed that the number of longspurs seemed to have dropped. They are finally starting to move out.

At the Seawall, there were at least a dozen Horned Grebes and 4 Red-necked Grebes. Also, the numbers of Common Murres were way up — over a hundred — when earlier in the trip we were seeing only a few at a time.

When we got back around to the west shore, I walked the peninsula and marsh edge. There was nothing out on the peninsula, but as I walked the marsh edge, three Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and a peep flushed in front of me. They landed not far ahead of me, so I approached slowly. I got good looks at two of the Sharp-tails, but could not see the peep.

They then flushed again, but this time were joined by many other Sharp-tails, Pectorals?, and peeps! There were about 15 birds in all. They flew back and forth and around, and I was able to get some flight shots. I don’t know what the peeps were, most likely the Western Sandpipers we’ve had the last few days, but I will study them more and ask others to look at them to see if we can figure them out. Here are a couple of the photos.

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Little Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 20, 2017

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 20, 2017

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Western Sandpipers and Little Stint(center bird), Clam Lagoon, Sept 20, 2017

When we got back near town, we decided to watch the plane arrive. However, a fog bank rolled in just before it was due. When the runway lights came on, we new it was near, even though we couldn’t see it.

We then heard it approaching — from the west! — and as it neared the runway (still not visible), it accelerated and aborted the landing. It flew off beyond our hearing, but the emergency vehicle stayed out by the runway and the lights remained on — until they didn’t!

The emergency vehicle drove up to the other end of the runway, so we figured the jet was in a holding pattern, waiting for visibility to improve. It did. After about 15 minutes, the fog lifted enough that we could see Zeto Point again, the runway lights came back on and the plane came in and landed. Late, but safe.

One week down, one to go.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Temp near 50, Mostly sunny, but overcast by mid-day, and showers by late afternoon, wind NE 15-25 mph increasing to 20-30 by late afternoon.

Nothing notable this morning until we got to Contractor’s Camp Marsh and found the Pacific Golden-Plover with the broken leg had at least made it a few miles south.

At the Landing Lights Jetty, a flock of 6 Rock Sandpipers put in their first appearance for our trip.

Rock Sandpiper, Landing Lights Jetty, Sept 19, 2017

At Clam Lagoon, I walked the marsh edge and had a cooperative Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 19, 2017

I also had a Pectoral Sandpiper.

As I neared the northern end — where Barb was parked — Barb notified me that there were three peeps on the flats ahead of me. They were still too far for photos, so I walked slowly in their direction. A fourth peep joined them.

I got distant photos before they flew off. They were three Western Sandpipers and the Little Stint.

At the Seawall, we had a Red-necked Grebe and lots of Short-tailed Shearwaters way off shore — no albatross, yet.

On the east Side of Clam Lagoon, we saw a flock of 6 medium-sized shorebirds flying. Fortunately, they flew towards us and landed just a short way up the edge, in the lee of the roadside. They were Pacific Golden-Plovers — 5 in juvenile plumage and one similar to the broken-legged one we had earlier (but with two good legs).

Pacific Golden-Plover, Clam Lagoon, Sept 19, 2017

We also saw a flock of about two dozen Sanderlings flying around the lagoon, but wouldn’t put down.

After dinner, we went back up to Clam Lagoon to see if anything new was brought in by the changing weather. We had no new birds, but the peeps were back at the same location as earlier — missing one Western. As we were watching them actively feeding, they suddenly stopped, looked alert, and crouched down. A Peregrine sailed by, apparently not noticing them — but they surely saw him!

Our trip list is 49, just 5 shy of our average September list.

Monday, September 18, 2017

It’s a tie!

Temp in the 50s, mostly sunny, Wind NE at 5-10 mph.

The morning birding was uneventful at the usual places. No new birds at any of the willows or spruces. However, we are starting to get activity (Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches) at the “thrush” feeder up near Navfac Creek. This is where we had as many as 8 Hawfinch last May! We hope this will attract passing vagrants.

At Clam Lagoon, we had a flock of 8 Sanderlings way out on the flats. No other species mixed in.

We drove out to the Loran Station, but did not add any new birds out there.

At the Seawall, we still had a Parasitic Jaeger joining in on the various gull feeding-frenzies. And I saw one lone Short-tailed Shearwater fly by.

Back on the western side, we had another Peregrine fly by. This one was in much better shape than the ragged one we had out at Lake Andrew yesterday.

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon, Sept 18, 2017

When we got down to the west side of the flats, I spotted three shorebirds feeding out from the marsh edge. They were two peeps and a plover.

The plover was a Pacific Golden-Plover with a broken leg.

Pacific Golden-Plover (with broken leg), Clam Lagoon, Sept 18, 2017

I had to walk out and circle around the peeps to get better lighting to tell what they were (and for photos). Luckily, they were not frightened by my presence and allowed me to get close enough to identify and photograph them

They were a Western Sandpiper and a Little Stint. They were soon joined by a second Western.

Western Sandpiper (left) and Little Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 18, 2017

Little Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 18, 2017

This is our third record of Little Stint on Adak (two photographed, all September). While Isaac was living here, he had one almost every fall.

Since I was already part-way down the marsh edge, I continued down, but only had a couple of Pectoral and Sharp-tailed sandpipers the rest of the way.

The Little Stint gives us a year’s list total of 90 — matching our previous best in 2007!

And we aren’t even through week one yet…

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Right church, wrong pew…

First a note about yesterday’s posting.

When we identified the warbler as an Arctic, we were going by the field guides on hand (all pre-2014). Unknown to us, the AOU split Arctic Warbler into three species back in 2014 — Arctic, Japanese Leaf, and Kamchatka Leaf warblers.

Study of specimens and other Arctic Warbler records from the Aleutians prior to 2014 shows that all identifiable records were Kamchatka Leaf Warblers. So ours is presumed to be as well.

However, separating these three species in the field is difficult, to say the least. Call is the best way to identify them, but ours did not call (and Barb has REALLY good hearing!).

I have put all 53 (yes, 53!) photos up on a web page at http://franklinhaas.com/Kamchatka/Kamchatka.html  for anyone interested at trying to establish the identity of this bird.

It is still a first for Adak (and us)!

So pre-2014, it was an Arctic Warbler (the church), today it is a Kamchatka Leaf Warbler (the pew)…

Now back to today.

Temps in the 50s, mostly cloudy, ENE wind at 10-20 mph

We had nothing new on our usual morning rounds (feeders, Sweeper Cove and Channel, Kuluk Bay, etc. However, the previous afternoon, while up at Clam Lagoon, we met the captain and a Fish and Wildlife inspector from the Early Dawn — a crab boat currently in port. The captain offered us some fresh brown crab, just stop by the boat!

So, this morning, we stopped by and they not only gave us some crab, they cooked it for us, too! So our dinner was set.

We headed up to the Warbler Willows and Adak National Forest, and except for Pacific Wrens, had no birds.

At Clam Lagoon, I walked the marsh edge and peninsula and had 2 sharp-tailed Sandpipers and 1 Pectoral.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, September 17, 2017

Barb had a lingering Parasitic Jaeger.

We headed over to the east shore of Lake Andrew. I got out and walked down to check the small ponds and two small clumps of spruces. As I was walking along, a bird flew overhead with the wings in a dihedral! At home this would be a Turkey Vulture! Then I thought of Northern Harrier! It was just a Short-eared Owl in a glide. Once it started flapping, it was obvious. It just shows how your mind works when you are not on your home turf…

Short-eared Owl, Lake Andrew, September 17, 2017

The owl was shortly joined by a Peregrine Falcon in order to perform some aerial ballet! The owl disappeared around the bend, but the Peregrine came back and flew around us before landing on a log at the water’s edge.

Short-eared Owl, Lake Andrew, September 17, 2017

Short-eared Owl (left) and Peregrine Falcon, Lake Andrew, September 17, 2017

Peregrine Falcon, Lake Andrew, September 17, 2017

Peregrine Falcon, Lake Andrew, September 17, 2017

As I continued on, a snipe flushed from almost under my feet and quickly disappeared into thick growth about a hundred yards away. I tried to find it again, but could not. So it is a snipe sp.

At the Seawall, Barb saw some Short-tailed Shearwaters. On the east side of Clam Lagoon, we spotted our first Emperor Goose for the trip. We also saw 6 small shorebirds flying across the lagoon heading northeast. They were too far away for us to identify them.

Back up at the Seawall, we had another feeding frenzy and, again, found a Pomarine Jaeger in the fray.

We saw at least three Peregrines today, and maybe four.

Our year’s list is now 89. One to go to tie our previous high.

The weather is forecast to be easterly winds for several days. Not the best for vagrants, but you never know!

PS: for those of you who have visited Adak, you will be puzzled to know that the Bay 5 restaurant is “closed for the season!” What season? We have no idea…

Where are we, the Hamptons?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

They just keep coming…

First a note about this post.

When we made this post on Saturday, we called the warbler below an Arctic. We did not realize that Arctic Warbler had been split several years ago into three species (see Sunday’s post). So if you read this post before Sunday, it said Arctic Warbler. I have edited t to now read “Kamchatka Leaf Warbler.”

Temps in the 50s, partly sunny, moderate WSW winds.

We lost internet access around 7:30 pm Friday and didn’t get it back until this afternoon. So if you missed Friday’s post, be sure to read it below.

Since it was relatively calm this morning, we decided to head straight to the Warbler Willows to see what might have arrived overnight. Unfortunately, although viewing was ideal, we did not find any new birds.

So we headed over to Adak National Forest. As we pulled up, Barb spotted a bird and said it was not the flycatcher, but was a small bird with a strong eyeline. I got on it and it appeared to be an Arctic Warbler — which would be a first for Adak! However, we know the pitfalls of identifying Asian warblers, so we took a lot of photos. The photos sure looked like an Arctic. We continued on our way and did some other birding (see below) and returned to ANF later in the afternoon. The bird was still there and was more cooperative. I got so many good photos, I couldn’t pare it down to less than these.

Later, when we got back to the house, we checked all of the references and compared it with online photos (and with help from Isaac!) and confirmed our initial identification was incorrect. Instead it was a Kamchatka Leaf Warbler (which was split from Arctic Warbler a few years ago) — a first for Adak!

And our second lifer for the trip.

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (Morning)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon, in the shade)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon, in the shade)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Adak National Forest, Sept 16, 2017 (afternoon, in the shade)

In between warbler-watching, we checked the High School Willows. No birds in the willows, but we had a flock of 79 Cackling Geese flying overhead.

Cackling Geese, over the High School Willows, Sept 16, 2017

We went down to Finger Creek and had a Snow Bunting at the quarry along the way. The salmon were running heavy.

At Clam Lagoon, a Parasitic Jaeger was still lingering. There were no shorebirds out on the peninsula and I did not walk the marsh edge today.

At the Seawall, we spotted another feeding frenzy fairly far out, and I was able to identify several Northern Fulmars in the mix. But no other pelagics.

Our year’s list is at 97.

Four days, two lifers. Not bad…

Friday, September 15, 2017

A nice day…

NOTE: We lost internet access around 7:30 pm Friday and didn’t get it back until Saturday afternoon, so this posting is late.

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, Wind WSW switching to WNW 20-30 mph.

We went over to the Seal Drive feeder to put out seed and discovered, to our dismay, that some moron cut down the smaller of the two spruces that were there! Presumably for a Christmas tree! There are probably fewer that a hundred trees on Adak. How thoughtless!!

We checked Sweeper Cove, then got gas (still a bargain at only $6.49/gal!). As we left the gas station, we had a Gyrfalcon fly by.

We headed up to the Warbler Willows. The willows were swaying and bouncing strongly in the wind, so no bird dared show itself, except one brave Pacific Wren.

At the Adak National Forest (about 30 of the aforementioned trees) we had a Pacific Wren, I also saw another bird disappear into the forest, but I thought it was just another wren. It did not reappear.

I walked the Elfin Forest. No birds.

At Clam Lagoon, I walked the marsh edge, finding only a couple of Pectoral Sandpipers and a peep which flew away too fast for me to identify.

Pectoral Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 15, 2017

We did not see anything different at the Seawall. Lake Shirley produced our first Greater Scaups of the trip! Were are they all? Lake Ronnie also had two more.

On the east side of the lagoon – out towards the middle – we spotted a flock of 12 Sanderlings. We could not pick out any other species mixed in.

Back up at the Seawall, things were picking up. At the southern end, Barb saw some feeding frenzies further up, so we drove up and started scanning the flocks of gulls and alcids.

We soon discovered the source was a whale. We only got brief views (as is typical for us up here!), but our best guess is a Minke Whale.

While scanning the flocks, I picked up a Pomarine Jaeger, quickly followed by a Parasitic! This is only our second Pomarine that we have seen out here (our first was this spring).

We then saw three White-winged Scoters to add to the trip list.

When we were finished scanning the action, we continued up the Seawall and spotted a loon. At first, the pale bill made us think it was a Yellow-billed, but we quickly came to our senses and correctly identified it as a Common.

Common Loon, Seawall, Sept 15, 2017

When we got back around to the eastern side, I walked out the peninsula, hoping to find the Sanderlings – and possibly some friends…

No go.

So I decided to walk the marsh edge again. This time, in addition to the three Pectoral Sandipers, I also had a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. I also finally got a look at the peep that flew away earlier (at least I assume it was the same bird), and it turned out to be only a Western Sandpiper.

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 15, 2017

We headed back south and stopped again at the Adak National Forest. Barb spotted a bird sitting on the willows and said it was our flycatcher from the other day. Indeed it was. The ANF is less than a mile (as the flycatcher flies…) from the Warbler Willows. It was more cooperative this time and I got better photos.

Gray-streaked Flycatcher, Adak National Forest, Sept 15, 2017

Gray-streaked Flycatcher, Adak National Forest, Sept 15, 2017

The only other birds of note today were three more Greater Scaup on Lake Leone – which is next to the quarry south of Sweeper Cove. We rarely see any waterfowl there at all.

In 2007, we had a total of 90 species for our Adak Year’s List. Since we had 81 this past May, we were hoping to possibly exceed that. However, one advantage in 2007 was having a boat available to go out for the auklets – 5 species of them! So getting to that magic number this year will be difficult — but not impossible. So far, we have added five species for the year – Pectoral Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Sanderling, and Gray-streaked Flycatcher. So we are already at 86!

Keep those westerlies blowing!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Rain, rain, rain…

Temp in the 50s, rain in the morning becoming drizzle by mid-afternoon, wind SE 20-40 mph.

The power outage last night lasted until 12:30 am and many houses still don’t have power today. The phone system also crashed, but the internet came back up this morning.

The rain (heavy) started last night around 9 pm and was heavy until early afternoon, when it lessened to drizzle, and then on-and-off light showers. The rain (and wind!) made birding most of the day very difficult.

Down near Sweeper Cove, we came upon this trio of Northern Pintails taking refuge from the wind in this roadside puddle.

Northern Pintails, near Sweeper Cove, Sept 14, 2017.

We found our first shorebird of the trip, a Pectoral Sandpiper, at Contractor’s Camp Marsh.

There were no shorebirds on the Clam Lagoon flats and none out on the peninsula. I will be walking the Clam Lagoon marsh edge tomorrow.

We added the usual suspects to the trip list — puffins, murrelets, murres, cormorants, etc., plus a late Parasitic Jaeger and a pair of Black Scoters.

At the Seawall, a lot of Black-legged Kittiwakes were hanging out, with one particularly perturbed at the Glaucous-winged Gull invading its space!

Black-legged Kittiwake with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Seawall, Sept 14, 2017.

And others just hanging out.

Black-legged Kittiwakes, Seawall, Sept 14, 2017.

We couldn’t find any new birds at Warbler Willows today, but conditions were less than ideal.

There is a fishing ship in Kuluk Bay, but it appears to be idle, as even the gulls are ignoring it. And no fishing boats were in the docks at the fish-processing plant. So no new gulls for now.

The next few days’ forecast is for westerly winds — ideal for vagrants.

We will be looking…

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Nice start!

Our flights to Anchorage were uneventful.

After doing our food shopping, we went out and did a little birding, but didn’t find anything unusual.

This morning we headed up to Arctic Valley, as we always do. Since we started coming up here, we have driven up the Arctic Valley Road (which goes up to the Arctic Valley Ski Area) one of the easier roads to drive and get up to high elevation. We always make it our first priority in order to get up there before any other vehicles. The point being to find ptarmigan out on the roadsides before they get scared off.

Well, every time we have done this, one or more vehicles have beaten us to it, and we see no chickens of any kind!

Until today…

Just a mile or two up the road, we spotted a dark lump on the side of the road, which turned out to be a Spruce Grouse! Then another mile or so and we saw another one, and then farther up, another one!

Spruce Grouse, Arctic Valley Road, Anchorage, Sept 13, 2017 (Number 1)

Spruce Grouse, Arctic Valley Road, Anchorage, Sept 13, 2017 (Number 2)

Spruce Grouse, Arctic Valley Road, Anchorage, Sept 13, 2017 (Number 3)

We were really hoping for Willow Ptarmigan (the only one we don’t have), but at least we had grouse.

Once we got to the top, there were no other vehicles there – hence our success.

It was very windy in Anchorage today. The wind noise may also have helped to mask the sound of our car as we came upon the grouse. The wind made dicky-birding difficult, to say the least.

Later, we were birding along Ship Creek and Barb spotted a Greater Yellowlegs. Last year, I saw one, but Barb missed it. So now she picked up an Alaskan bird that I had on her.

Greater Yellowlegs, Old Power Plant Pond, Ship Creek, Anchorage, Sept 13, 2017

Our flight to Adak left early. In talking to the flight attendants (whom we have gotten to know over the years) we found out that the fish-processing plant on Adak was back to full time operation. They said they had been having 50-60 passengers per flight out to Adak – very unusually high. This bodes well for Adak’s economy and possibly for birders looking for gulls. The plant discharges waste into the bay and that attracts and concentrates the gulls. We will see.

The weather when we arrived was partly sunny and in the 50s. There was a moderate south wind.

After unpacking and getting our gear together, we headed up to Clam Lagoon. There was nothing special there. On the way back we decided to stop at the Warbler Willows – a practice that we have adopted since having the Wood Warbler there three years ago. We stop there at least twice-a-day in the fall.

I got out of the car and walked over to get a view of the willows and spotted a bird in the far willows that I had never seen before. I called to Barb and she came over as I was taking photos.

She saw the bird – it was sitting mostly in the open – and I then circled around to try to get closer. Unfortunately, the bird disappeared into the thicker bushes and did not reappear.

However, I did get some nice photos.

It was a Grey-streaked Flycatcher! Only the second record for Adak. The previous one was seen by Jon Pushock and Devitch Farbotnik back in 2004.

Gray-streaked Flycatcher, Warbler Willows, Adak, Sept 13, 2017

Gray-streaked Flycatcher, Warbler Willows, Adak, Sept 13, 2017

Not a bad start for the trip!

This evening, just after looking at the photos on the computer, the power went out. That was around 8, it is now 9:45. We have had power outages many times before out here, so we are not worried. And it’s not very cold, yet.

So if you are wondering why there was no posting Wednesday night, that is why.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional light shower, Wind SW 10-15 mph

Our extra day on Adak didn’t add any new birds to the list.

We still had 4 Hawfinch, a few Bramblings, and the Far Eastern Curlew.

At Landing Lights, several Ruddy Turnstones and Rock Sandpipers are hanging around.

Ruddy Turnstone (with Rock Sandpiper), Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2017.

We left Adak at 1:00 pm, flew to Anchorage, then Seattle, then Chicago, and then Philadelphia. The amazing thing was at both Seattle and Chicago, the gate we arrived at was right next to the gate from which we were leaving! No hiking a mile down the concourse…

As we were landing at Philadelphia, the plane aborted at the last minute. That certainly woke us up! The plane that had landed ahead of us apparently did not get off of the runway fast enough. So we circled around and landed — still on time.

We got home about 1:30 pm.

Trip Summary

What a great trip!

81 species smashed our previous May high of 76.

We had two lifers — White Wagtail and Yellow Wagtail.

In addition to those, we added Pomarine Jaeger and Tree Swallow to our personal Adak lists.

We had 7 semi-lifers:

  • Mongolian Plover – first breeding plumage
  • Common Greenshank – three together — all of our previous sightings were of singles.
  • Slaty-backed Gull – first adult plumage. All of our previous records were immatures.
  • Rustic Bunting – breeding plumage and photo. Our previous record was non-breeding, brief, no photos
  • Bramblings – although we have seen more than one Brambling at a time out here, we had never seen 100s.
  • Red-necked Stint – Our previous high was 2. The 62 we counted (verified by photos) is likely a new North American high.
  • Black-headed Gull – Three together.

This was a trip of “flocks” — being defined as three or more.

No sooner than we had arrived, than a flock of 30+ Bramblings were found. And they just increased from there.

We had a flock of Common Greenshanks, a flock of Black-headed Gulls, a flock of Hawfinches, and an unprecedented flock of 62 Red-necked Stints.

The Far Eastern Curlew (2 years in a row) was unexpected.

The best moments of the trip were the pair of breeding-plumaged Mongolian Plovers (I know, I know — Lesser Sand-Plovers!), both wagtails, and the Rustic Bunting.

Although not an Asian rarity, the Tree Swallow was an interesting record.

The other birders who were out there were all a delight to interact with. Over our two weeks, there was a combined total of 25 birders on the island and a few more arrived as we left! That may be a record, also.

We will be back in September…

 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

What? Sunday?

It was bound to happen.

Temp in the 40s overcast, light rain showers, Wind S 10-20 mph.

After 20 trips out to Adak, we finally had a flight cancelled. The same volcano that caused the cancellation of last week’s flight did ours in also.

The “good” news is that they have rescheduled it for tomorrow, so we hope to be home by Tuesday. We will see.

In the meantime, we got a little more birding in and will bird a little tomorrow morning.

Today, we added Arctic Loon to our trip list (before the cancellation) and the Black-headed Gull that was hanging out at Landing Lights was joined by two more!

Black-headed Gulls, Landing Lights Beach, May 28, 2017.

Black-headed Gull, Landing Lights Beach, May 28, 2017.

Black-headed Gulls, Landing Lights Beach, May 28, 2017.

Black-headed Gulls, Landing Lights Beach, May 28, 2017.

One of the Wood Sandpipers at the Marsh, has become very cooperative.

Wood Sandpiper, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 28, 2017

This is very typical of this species out here. You can drive right up next to them — within ten feet or so — and they just look at you or calmly walk away, only occasionally flushing.

That’s all I have tonight. Between rescheduling flights, partial unpacking, and reorganizing our menus (good thing we bring extra!), I am pooped.

Next posting will be on Wednesday — we hope!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Temp in the 40s, overcast, Wind SE 10-25 mph.

We saw our second Wandering Tattler of the trip at Landing Lights Beach, and this one stayed long enough for a portrait.

Wandering Tattler, Landing Lights Beach, May 27, 2017.

The 4 Hawfinches are still here, but fewer and fewer Bramblings remain. The Buffleheads have all but departed, only a few are still here.

The Far Eastern Curlew is still on Clam Lagoon, but the Bar-tailed Godwit has left and we could not find the stints or Dunlins today.

At Andrew Lake, another Common Loon was cooperative.

Common Loon, Andrew Lake, May 27, 2017.

We added Long-tailed Duck to the triplist, giving us 80!

We finally caught up with the Black-headed Gull at Landing Lights Beach. This time he didn’t disappear…

Black-headed Gull, Landing Lights Beach, May 27, 2017.

However, the big news out here is the gas station is offline. They say it won’t be fixed until Tuesday! Fortunately, we were able to scrounge up some gas to get us through tomorrow, but other birders coming in may have some problems. This has happened to us before, so we are not terribly surprised.

This will be our last post until Tuesday. We leave tomorrow at 6 pm Adak time, and arrive (hopefully!) home around 5 pm eastern on Monday.

What a fantastic trip!

Friday, May 26, 2017

They keep coming…

Temp in the 40s, partly cloudy, wind East 10-15 mph.

We can’t have a trip to Adak without at least one alcid photo.

Ancient Murrelet, Sweeper Cove, May 26, 2017.

No sooner had we made a couple of standard stops this morning than we get “a call from Jim” telling us he has a Far Eastern Curlew on the Clam Lagoon East Side Flats! As usual, we are as far away as possible, but Barb presses the pedal and we arrive on the seen in 23 minutes. Sure enough, our second Far Eastern Curlew in as many years — and our third overall.

Far Eastern Curlew, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2017.

Far Eastern Curlew, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2017.

Far Eastern Curlew, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2017.

Wow!

While Jim’s group went up to Lake Ronnie — and had a pair of Tufted Ducks — we were at Lake Shirley watching another male Tufted. We later found another pair on the Airport Ponds, making 5 still present.

The stint flock is now down to 45 Red-necked Stints and 3 Dunlin. Surprisingly, no other passing shorebirds — we assume there have been a few — joined in. Our experience out here shows that shorebird flocks attract other shorebirds. But, except for the Dunlins, no others were seen (and I took hundreds of photos of the flock each day and checked all of them carefully).

The lone Bar-tailed Goodwit remains.

We had nothing else unusual until after lunch when “a call from Jim” informed us they had a Tree Swallow at Contractors’ Camp Marsh! Although not an Asian vagrant, it is still a rarity on Adak — only a half-dozen records-or-so.

This time, we were only minutes away, but assumed the bird had simply been a fly-by.

Nope, it hung around, hunting over the main lake of the marsh. I waited and waited until finally it flew above the horizon and nearby where I could see it in the camera’s viewfinder and started snapping.

Tree Swallow, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 26, 2017.

Tree Swallow, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 26, 2017.

Tree Swallow, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 26, 2017.

I’m still amazed that I was able to get those shots…

There are still 4 Hawfinches coming to the Thrush Feeder, but the number of Bramblings has declined.

Later in the afternoon, as we were descending the hill to Navfac Creek, we checked the gull flock on the beach and again, Barb saw a dark-backed gull. However, this time it stayed long enough for photos. It was an adult Slaty-backed Gull — our first adult of this species.

Slaty-backed Gull, Navfac Creek Beach, May 26, 2017.

Slaty-backed Gull, Navfac Creek Beach, May 26, 2017.

Slaty-backed Gull, Navfac Creek Beach, May 26, 2017.

Slaty-backed Gull, Navfac Creek Beach, May 26, 2017.

Our trip list is a whopping 79!

Two days to go.

PS: The make-up flight from Anchorage arrived today.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Double-wow!

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, wind WNW 15-25 mph.

The Common Sandpiper (or another one) that has been hanging around Sweeper Channel was there again this morning and actually didn’t fly off before we got there!

Common Sandpiper, Sweeper Channel, May 25, 2017.

At Contractors’ Camp Marsh, we finally caught up with a couple of friendly Wood Sandpipers.

Wood Sandpiper, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 25, 2017.

Overnight, the Red-necked Stint flock grew to 62(!), but we lost 2 Dunlin, as there were only 7 this morning. As far as we can tell, this is a North American record for quantity of Red-necked Stints.

Red-necked Stints and Dunlins, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2017.

As we were leaving Shotgun Lake, the Peregrine Falcon that has been hanging around — but eluding us — made an appearance.

Peregrine Falcon, Shotgun Lake, May 25, 2017

On out second trip around Clam Lagoon this afternoon, as we just got to the Seawall, we got a call from Jim that they had 2(!) Lesser Sand-Plovers — or Mongolian Plovers, as I like to call them — on the Clam Lagoon Flats.

We raced around and, low-and-behold, there they were — up-close-and-personal — right along the edge of the lagoon about 30 yards from the roadside. We have seen them before on September trips — in non-breeding plumage — so this was an extra treat, seeing them in all their finery.

Lesser Sand-Plovers, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2017.

Lesser Sand-Plover, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2017.

Lesser Sand-Plover, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2017.

Wow!

As we were driving back o town, we scoped a flock of gulls on Navfac Beach and saw what appeared to be a dark-backed Gull. We were too far to be sure, so I went down the road a bit and climbed the sand dune to get a closer look. Just before I crested the dune, they all took off, but then returned. I could not find a (or the) dark-backed gull, but as I was scanning the flock, a Black-headed Gull flew in and settled in behind all the big guys! I started walking up the dune to get a better angle, but I couldn’t relocate him. I assume he flew off as I was watching where I was stepping.

But wait, there’s more…

We had just finished eating dinner, when Jim called to say they had a White Wagtail at Landing Lights Beach. We raced up there, where they were standing on the dunes, watching as the bird took flight. However, we saw it and followed its flight path. It disappeared up the beach toward Nacfac Creek, so we raced up there and, as we stopped, I spotted the bird down on the creek where it flows onto the beach. The others quickly caught up and got to see it again, also.

White Wagtail, Navfac Creek Beach, May 25, 2017.

So after 20 trips to Adak, always wanting — but failing — to see a wagtail, we have now had two of each — white and yellow!

Our trip list is now 77! Our best ever, and there are still three days to go!

What’s gonna show up next?

PS: The flight to Adak today was cancelled due to volcanic ash erupting out of a volcano somewhere east of us. They plan a flight tomorrow. Lets hope the volcano doesn’t stop our Sunday ride home.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, West wind 20-30 mph.

Jim’s group found another (or the same) Common Sandpiper early this morning in Sweeper Channel. Of course, it flew off before I could get there…

The gull I mentioned yesterday is a “Vega” Herring Gull.

“Vega” Herring Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2014.

At Clam Lagoon, the Red-necked Stint flock grew to 50 overnight and the Dunlin number jumped to 9.

The Bar-tailed Godwit flock has dwindled down to just one lone soul.

Bar-tailed Godwit, Clam Lagoon, May 24, 2017.

The Aleutian Tern numbers have steadily increased since last week.

Aleutian Terns, Clam Lagoon, May 24, 2017.

There may be more than 50 Brambling still here, based on counts at feeders and flocks seen in the field. There are now 4 Hawfinch coming to the Thrush Feeder.

Hawfinch, Thrush Feeder, May 24, 2017.

The fish-processing ship is still attracting Laysan Albatross, Short-tailed Shearwaters, and a few Fulmars.

No new species today, but the wind is supposed to stay west until tomorrow night, so let’s hope more shorebirds join the flock on Clam Lagoon.

Four days to go…

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Wow!

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, Wind SW 20-40 mph Occasional brief sprinkle, and even some hail!

We had nothing new in town or at Sweeper, so we headed north. We saw the Hawfinch and Bramblings at the Thrush Feeder. We got a call from Jim, informing us they had an Eye-browed Thrush at the Adak National Forest. Of course, it flew away before we arrived! That makes 4 Eye-browed Thrushes we have missed on this trip!

They also told us they had 2 Wood Sandpipers at the marsh.

We went up to Clam Lagoon, and scoped the flats. I found a large (30-40) flock of shorebirds out in the middle and I assumed they were Sanderlings. We drove up to the west observation point and I walked out onto the flats to have a look. Our previous experience with Sanderlings out here is when you find a nice-sized flock like this, you check it to see if anything else has joined them.

I don’t take my scope out on the flats, just my camera. I got close enough to take a bunch of pictures. With binos, I could see there were several Dunlin mixed in with them. See?

When I got back to the truck, I took a quick look to see what else I might have missed. Sure enough, I quickly picked out a Red-necked Stint in the first good photo i looked at.

We called Jim’s group and luckily, they were not far and joined us shortly. As they were getting ready to walk out, I looked at more photos and soon realized that there wasn’t just one Red-necked Stint, but ALL of them were!!!

There were no Sanderlings. These were all breeding-plumage stints.

The most Red-necked Stints we had ever seen out here at one time was two!

This was unbelievable.

Eventually, we counted 45 stints, 5 Dunlin, and 1 Red-necked Phalarope. The count was made from the photos.

Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Dunlins, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Dunlins and Red-necked Phalarope, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Red-necked Phalarope (5th bird from left) and Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Dunlins and Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Initially, the flock was around 30+, but we came back a few hours later and it had grown to the numbers cited above (45 RNST, 6 DUNL, and 1 RNPH).

There are records such as this from the Western Aleutians (Attu and Shemya), with as many as 50. But this is certainly a record for the Central Aleutians.

On the second trip around to look at the stints, another birding group showed up — Yvonne’s group — and they walked out with me to get nice looks at them also.

We continued around to the Seawall and then Lake Shirley. As I was scanning the ducks, I saw some gray shorebirds on the far shoreline. They were 3 Common Greenshanks.

3 Common Greenshanks, Lake Shirley, May 23, 2017.

Common Greenshank, Lake Shirley, May 23, 2017.

Again, Jim’s group caught up to us and saw the birds. We then decided to walk around to get closer views (as you can see from my photos, Lake Shirley is far across). However, as we rounded a bluff that hid our approach, they flew off. But as they did, another bird called from nearby. It was a Wood Sandpiper. We hadn’t even noticed it, being so caught up with the greenshanks.

There was still a pair of Tufted Ducks on Lake Ronnie, and Jim’s group had a Black-headed Gull fly by as they were scanning from Zeto Point.

On the way back along the Seawall, we had a flock of 6 Ruddy Turnstones.

Yesterday, I mentioned a “funny-looking” gull — all immature gulls are “funny-looking” to me! Well, the gull experts have weighed in to identify it as a Slaty-backed Gull.

Slaty-backed Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 22, 2017.

Slaty-backed Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 22, 2017.

We found another “funny-looking” gull today. I will post it when we figure it out.

Our trip list is 73, just 3 shy of our record. The winds are still from the southwest…

Monday, May 22, 2017

Temp in the 40s, rain, overcast, Wind WSW 15-30 mph.

One of the few days that we have had on Adak where it rained pretty constantly all day — although the intensity varied.

Last night, Jim and John went out, but turned the wrong direction — easy to do when you first arrive here — and stumbled on a Common Sandpiper in a slough next to the airport! It was still here this morning, although I couldn’t get photos.

Up at Contractors’ Camp marsh, they heard, and later saw, a Wood Sandpiper. We went there later in the day and heard it call, but couldn’t find it.

We had an immature gull up at Clam Lagoon which we could not identify. We sent photos to several birders who are much better than us at identifying gulls. We will post the photos and identification once we get it figured out.

The Hawfinch and flock of Bramblings continue to visit the Thrush Feeder, and 6 more Bramblings are visiting the Blue Building Feeder. The Brambling numbers are way down. We are not seeing the large flocks as we drive around. The ones that are still here are mostly at feeders now.

At the Seawall, I spotted a flock of about 20 shorebirds flying, but they were too far away to identify. They flew back into the Seawall down towards the Breaches, but when we got back down there, I couldn’t find any. Probably Turnstones or Sanderlings. Maybe we will find them tomorrow.

The strong westerly winds are slated to continue until Saturday morning. They brought in a couple of sandpipers already. Keep em coming…

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, Wind W 15 to 30 mph.

No new birds today.

It is spring, so here are some flowers.

Arctic Daisies, Adak, May 21, 2017

Dandelions — they grow everywhere, Adak, May 21, 2017

The fish-processing ship was active today and we saw at least 4 Laysan Albatrosses out there, but no other stiff-wings.

There are still 20 or so Bramblings and 1 Hawfinch coming to the Thrush Feeder and 3 Bramblings at the Blue Building Feeder.

We also had another Hawfinch in town, but he has not yet shown up at a feeder.

The west wind today made Kuluk Bay and Sitkin Sound in the lee, so they were relatively calm. Without waves crashing over it, Goose Rocks provided a safe haven to rest.

Goose Rocks festooned with gulls, eider, and cormorants, May 21, 2017

All of the other birders left today, but three more arrived. So we will still have the benefit of extra eyes and ears this week.

Lastly, all of the deteriorating buildings here have created a new art form — broken-window-art. A few samples…

Raptor swooping in…

Kingfisher? Pileated?

Keep those west winds blowing!

Saturday, May 20,2017.

Temp in the 40s, sunny and calm at dawn, overcast and wind West at 15-25 mph by evening. No rain.

Okay, let’s get it over with…

Mandatory Bald Eagle head shot, Adak, May 20,2017.

The bay was calm this morning, making it easier to spot alcids at a distance. We picked up both puffins and saw a lot of Ancient Murrelets and Common Murres.

Keith’s group went out on the Puk-Uk this morning and, although they did not see large numbers of birds, they did get the target species — Whiskered and Crested auklets — and more.

I forgot to mention yesterday that the Bar-tailed Godwit flock had dwindled to four. Today there were only two. They are moving on.

The Bramblings are also moving on. We are seeing far fewer numbers the past two days. However, there are still about 20 at the Thrush Feeder, as well as the Hawfinch.

My Yellow Wagtail perch experiment has to pay off, but as I walked out there today, they flew out and back towards Barb, who saw them briefly. Still no photos!

At the Seawall, John pointed out a Yellow-billed Loon to us — still too far for photos. He had an Arctic Loon yesterday, but we did not see it today.

A pair of Snow Buntings are frequenting the Sandy Cove Bluffs Rock Feeder.

Snow Bunting, Sandy Cove Bluffs Rock Feeder, , May 20,2017.

We have not seen the injured Tufted Duck at the Airport Ponds today, but there was a healthy pair there as well as a pair on Lake Ronnie.

Tufted Ducks, Airport Ponds, May 20,2017.

The fish-processing ship was processing today, attracting a large flock of gulls, but no pelagics. Also, this ship is anchored farther out in the bay, making identifying odd gulls almost impossible.

Our trip list is 66 — two over our average — after less than a week and within shooting range of our May high of 76.

The wind has shifted to the west and is supposed to increase in speed and become southwest with rain the next few days. Ideal for dropping Asian birds on us.

Our fingers are crossed…

Friday, May 19, 2017

More dickey birds…

Temp in the 40s, Partly sunny!, Wind N 10-15 mph.

Did we mention the earthquakes? We had one on Monday morning about 3:30 and another around 9:30 PM last night. Now these are not building-tumbling temblors. These are more three-shakes-and-done. They are most noticeable when lying in bed, as the bed rocks a little.

Also yesterday, we saw an injured male Tufted Duck at the Airport Ponds. Its left wing appeared to be damaged somehow. It could not lift it to flap it. We did not see it today.

The Yellow Wagtails up at the marsh have been frustrating me no end! I have been trying to get a photo, but every time I approach the area, they see me before I see them and they take off. They hide in the reeds and are impossible to see. So I am trying a new tactic. I went out and placed some sticks (pieces of boards) into the marsh where they hang out and hope they will perch on them (sure!). This was suggested by Keith’s group.

As we were driving out of the marsh (after placing the sticks) we got a call from Keith’s group that they had a Hawfinch at the Thrush Feeder (less than a quarter-mile from where we were). John’s group was also just leaving the marsh, so we all arrived shortly and the Hawfinch flew in, then out, then in, etc. affording everyone good views and photo-ops.

Hawfinch, Thrush Feeder (near Navfac Creek), May 19, 2017.

That now makes six Asian passerine species! Wow!

Over at Haven Lake, we found a good bird — American Wigeon. All wigeon out here are presumed Eurasian until proven otherwise. Americans occur here every year, but in very low numbers.

We went up to the Blue Buildings to try for the Eye-browed Thrush. While walking around looking for it (we did not see it) I found a pair of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches courting. While one just sat nearby (I assume the Female), the other cocked his tail and fluttered his wings, trying to impress.

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch courting, May 19, 2017

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch courting, May 19, 2017

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch courting, May 19, 2017

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch courting, May 19, 2017

The fish-processing ship left last night, but what appears to be another is now anchored in Kuluk Bay. Although a fishing boat tied up to them this morning, we have not seen any signs of fish-processing going on and the gulls are ignoring it.

More and more Bramblings are finding our feeders. Here are some more photos.

Bramblings at a “feeder”, Adak, May 19, 2017

Bramblings, Adak, May 19, 2017

Brambling, Adak, May 19, 2017

Just as the Yellow Wagtail is frustrating me photo-wise, Barb is getting just as frustrated not being able to see the Rustic Bunting and White Wagtail since we first found them. Each day since, other groups have seen one or the other or both, but every time we stop by, they are nowhere to be found! This afternoon, we made a concerted effort that only resulted in my seeing the wagtail fly across the creek and out-of-sight over the bluff (Barb didn’t see it!) and Barb getting a brief glimpse of the bunting before it vanished into the weeds. So, still frustrated…

The Puk-Uk arrives tonight and Keith’s group will be going out for auklets tomorrow. Then, on Sunday, the boat leaves for Attu.

Our trip list is 62.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Temp in the 40s, Overcast, but higher ceiling than recent days, making it brighter, NNE wind 10-15 mph, no rain!

Both wagtails were seen again today. It is unclear whether we have one wandering Eye-browed Thrush or as many as three! One has been seen the past two days up at the Blue Building Feeder at the northwest corner of Clam Lagoon and today one was found hanging around one of the old buildings at Contractors’ Camp Marsh.

Red-necked Grebes moved in last night, with 12 off the Seawall. The tern numbers (Arctic and Aleutian) also jumped overnight with dozens of them coursing over Clam Lagoon and the Seawall.

The fish-processing ship stopped processing yesterday afternoon and all of the pelagics left. A small fishing boat came in late this morning and the processing started up again. But no pelagics showed up today. However, a Pomarine Jaeger joined the feeding frenzy (spotted by Stefan, and later photographed — poorly — by me). Since the ship was a half-mile offshore, I set my camera up and started snapping pictures of the flock of birds, in hopes of picking out something interesting when I downloaded them. It worked. I found a Glaucous Gull in several of the photos. That plus the jaeger brings our trip list up to 60.

Glaucous Gull with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Kuluk Bay, May 18, 2017.The tour groups left today, as did the Anchorage/California group and Andrew from the Anchorage group. John Puschok arrived today with three birders in preparation for their Attu trip. Their boat — the Puk-Uk — is expected to arrive tomorrow night, giving the Anchorage group a chance to go out and see the Whiskered (and other) Auklets.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Temp in the 40s, overcast, foggy at times, occasional drizzle, Wind 15-25 NW.

Bramblings have started to show up at the feeders in town, but they seem not to linger. This is in contrast to our previous records of one or two birds finding a feeder and then staying there to feed and roost.

The Bramblings are everywhere. One observer today tallied 166! There are many more. There are records of such fallouts on the Western Aleutians, but this is the first such recorded event for the Central Aleutians. It is very enjoyable.

Brambling, Adak, May 17, 2017

The Rustic Bunting and White Wagtail were seen again today in Sweeper Channel!

Across from the High School Spruces, a Semipalmated Plover was trying to lure us away doing the “broken wing” act.

Semipalmated Plover doing the “broken wing” act, May 17, 2017

The fish processing ship in Kuluk Bay continues to attract large pelagics. Today, in addition to many Laysan Albatross, there were several Black-footed Albatross. But still too far for good photos.

The Bar-tailed Godwits continue on Landing Lights Beach.

Bar-tailed Godwits, Landing Lights Beach, May 17, 2017

At Lake Andrew, we had two Common Loons.

Common Loon, Lake Andrew, May 17, 2017

We learned late today, that there was a Yellow-billed Loon on the eastern side of Lake Andrew (in easy photo distance) since Monday! We had only gotten over there once so far this trip and it was fogged in. Yellow-billed is the one loon we have seen several times out here that has never been within photo range. Aargh!!!

There was a pair of Tufted Ducks on Lake Ronnie and several Black Oystercatchers at several locations. The only other shorebird of note was a Wandering Tattler at Clam Lagoon.

One of the other groups had a Short-eared Owl.

We ended today with a call from Aaron that there were a Herring Gull and a Vega Gull at Clam Lagoon. Vega Gull is an Asian subspecies of Herring Gull. We have seen the Vega variety before, but not the “American” Herring Gull out here.

So we headed up there and got to see the Herring, but the Vega had flown off.

“American” Herring Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 17, 2017

Our trip list is 58.

Many of the birders here are leaving tomorrow, but a few are staying until Sunday.

We will miss the extra eyes and ears.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Second time’s the charm, almost…

Temp in the 40s, W wind 10-25 mph, overcast, sporadic rain.

The feeders have still not attracted much, although a few Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches have found a few of them. We added a lot of common — and one not-so-common — Adak migrants today, raising our trip list to 52.

There was nothing unusual at Sweeper Cove or Sweeper Creek. We tried for the Eye-browed Thrush again, but no luck. The Tufted Duck count at the Airport Ponds is up to 3. A quick run around Contractors’ Camp Marsh yielded our first Red-necked Phalarope for the trip.

We spent all morning around town and nearby, checking a lot of places. We planned to go up to Contractor’s Camp Marsh after lunch with Stefan’s group and the guys from Anchorage. It s always better to do such a large area with extra eyes and ears.

We met up with them and while Barb stayed back at the truck, I walked out with the others. At the edge where the drier section met the wetter section, one of the guys spotted the Yellow Wagtails in the marsh. Of course, they disappeared into thicker vegetation before I could catch up to them! However, they soon took flight, and both Barb and I got views of them in the air. They circled around and returned to the same area, but disappeared again as quickly as before. They flew two more times, but Barb and I never got up-close-and-personal views. But, it was good enough for now. No photos…

I plan to try again in the next few days when the wind subsides a bit.

While we were there, we also had a number of Wilson’s and Common snipe, and four Pacific Golden-Plovers.

Pacific Golden-Plovers, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 16, 2017.

We headed up to Clam Lagoon and played leap-frog with Stefan. He got to the Blue Building Feeder before us and found the Eye-browed Thrush there. Of course, it flew away before we got there! So another miss.

Along the northern shore of Clam Lagoon, a gray Gyrfalcon flew by us headed for Stefan. We called him and his group also saw it.

At the northeastern corner, there was a feeding frenzy going on.

Glaucous-winged Gull feeding frenzy, Clam Lagoon, May 16, 2017.

We saw the usual suspects along the Seawall and east side of Clam Lagoon.

We had one Bar-tailed Godwit at Clam Lagoon and saw 16 others down on Landing Lights Beach.

It was getting late, so we headed back to town. By the way, we have been running into several flocks of Bramblings up and down Bayshore Drive, as far north as Contactors’ Camp Marsh. However, they have been very flighty and haven’t hung around for photo-ops.

We checked the Seal drive feeder — nothing — and as we drove out of that area, Barb drove up one of the nearby loops that has a spruce tree at one of the abandoned houses. We didn’t see anything there, but as we rounded the bend, a flock of Bramblings flew out. This time however — maybe it was the pouring rain — they were a little more cooperative.

Bramblings, Adak, May 16, 2017.

11 of the 30+ Bramblings, Adak, May 16, 2017.

Bramblings, Adak, May 16, 2017.

Brambling bathing (in the rain no less!), Adak, May 16, 2017.

See? We weren’t making this up!

In addition to the 52 species we have seen so far, the other groups have also had Eye-browed Thrush, Peregrine Falcon, Common Redpoll, Black Oystercatcher, and maybe a few others.

The winds are supposed to switch back to a more northerly direction the next few days. Not the best scenario.

Regardless, we will be out there looking…

Monday, May 15, 2017

You win some, you lose some.

Temp in the 40s, overcast, rain and drizzle much of the day, some sun late in the day, Wind 15-30, NW.

We started out on our usual routine of checking feeders, Sweeper Cove and Channel.

We had just put out seed yesterday, so except for Rosy-Finch and Snow Bunting at the Sandy Cove Bluffs feeder, there was no action. At Sweeper Cove, we had our first Ancient Murrelet of the trip.

As we were driving up Bayshore Drive, we spotted the Brambling flock — but again, non-cooperative. We then got a call from Stefan that he had found an Eye-browed Thrush at the High School Spruces. We (and the other groups nearby) headed over there. The bird was not being terribly cooperative, and since we have seen them previously on Adak, we headed out to look for other stuff while the other groups tried to get better looks at the thrush. They eventually all got satisfactory views. We tried later in the day, but did not see it.

There is a fish-processing ship anchored in Kuluk Bay and it has attracted Laysan Albatross and Fulmars. These birds are coming in much closer to shore than normal, providing nice views through a scope, but not very good photos. I took some anyway…

Three Laysan Albatross and Glaucous-winged Gulls, Kuluk Bay, May 15, 2017.

Laysan Albatross and Glaucous-winged Gull, Kuluk Bay, May 15, 2017.

Laysan Albatross and Glaucous-winged Gull, Kuluk Bay, May 15, 2017.

Laysan Albatross and Glaucous-winged Gulls, Kuluk Bay, May 15, 2017.

We headed north. At the Navfac Creek overlook, there was a flock of 150+ Black Scoters.

We headed up to Clam Lagoon. The tide was in as we started around, so we headed over to the Seawall. There, we had 5 Pacific Loons, a Red-necked Grebe, and the usual sea ducks and cormorants.

We came back around Clam Lagoon. The tide was starting to recede and one Bar-tailed Godwit was feeding on the flats. As we were leaving the lagoon, we ran into Stefan who told us they had 14 godwits down on Navfac Creek Beach. He also told us Aaron had been trying to reach us because he had found two — not one, but TWO! — Yellow Wagtails at Contractor’s Camp Marsh! Our nemesis birds on Adak are wagtails. Both yellow and white have occurred on the island while we have been here, but we have always missed them.

So, although the birds had been seen several hours ago — and passerines tend not to stick around Adak unless at a feeder — we headed down to the marsh to look for them. By this time the wind had increased to 25-30 MPH and it was drizzling. We drove and walked around the area where they had been seen, but no luck.

So we continued south, tried briefly for the thrush, and then did Sweeper Creek and Channel. We drove up the channel, watching and listening to the resident Rock Sandpipers. At the place where the road ends,we stopped as usual and scanned the streamsides. No sooner had we stopped than Barb yelled “White Wagtail!”

Sure enough, a White Wagtail was actively feeding across the creek along the edge of the vegetation. So we didn’t get the Yellows, but this was nice compensation. We quickly called the other groups and they all started heading our way.

White Wagtail, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

White Wagtail, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

White Wagtail, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

As I was taking photos of the wagtail, I turned away for a second and lost sight of him. I put up my binos and scanned the streamside and spotted a little-brown-job with a distinctively-marked head pattern. I said to myself, “I’ve never seen one of those before!” and quickly alerted Barb to it as I started taking photos of this new bird. It turned out to be a Rustic Bunting. Readers of our previous blogs may remember that we had a Rustic Bunting in September 2014. However, that was a fall-plumaged bird, not striking like this guy. Also, that sighting lasted ten seconds at most and afforded no photo opportunity.

This was  MUCH nicer.

Rustic Bunting, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

Rustic Bunting, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

Rustic Bunting, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

Rustic Bunting, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

The wagtail and bunting worked their way down the channel towards Sweeper Cove. By the time the other birders arrived, the wagtail was gone, but the bunting was still visible. Most of them got good views, but the bird was very active and was hard to pin down. As they were watching the bunting, I walked down to the Sweeper Estuary (as I call it), and there was the wagtail. I radioed the others, and they came down and many of them saw it before it took off, heading towards the airport. We found out later that Stefan and his group — who were out of range when we found these birds — later found the wagtail in the estuary. But not the bunting.

Although we had seen White Wagtails in Europe last year, this was a North American bird for us. And the Bunting was certainly a more enjoyable sighting than our first one. The nice looks at albatrosses was also very rewarding.

Not a bad day.

So…

So far, there have been 5 species of Asian passerines. Unheard of! Two or three is what we usually expect. There had been very strong southwest winds for several days before our arrival, and we suspect that is what brought all of these birds here. Who knows what else lurks out there as I write this…

I mentioned yesterday that there were 18 birders out here. That might be a record. In any case, there’s High Lonesome, led by Stefan, with Joe and Susan; Wilderness, led by Aaron, with Kris, Steve, Luann, and Mike; 4 from Anchorage, Keith, Eric, Enric, and Andrew; and a group of 6 from Anchorage and California, Sue, Frank, Mark, Janet, and Susan — yes, there are three Sues!

Some of them are only staying until Thursday.  They certainly lucked out on the right week so far.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

We started this trip on a bad note. Our limo driver overslept! Instead of picking us up at 2:45 am, he didn’t arrive until 3:30. With many apologies, he put the pedal-to-the-metal and got us to the airport at 4:30 for a 5 am flight. Fortunately, we had TSA PreCheck, so we sailed through security and arrived at the gate just as the last passengers were boarding. Whew!

We got to Chicago on time and the flight from there to Anchorage arrived a little early. We got the car, checked in at the motel and headed out to shop. On the way, we stopped at Spenard Crossing, having heard that a pair of Redheads were there. That would be a state bird for us. We got them.

Redhead, Spenard Crossing, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

Also there, Barb spied a Mew Gull nesting 20 feet up in a spruce tree! We still are not accustomed to seeing gulls and shorebirds up in trees…

Mew Gull on nest, Spenard Crossing, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

We got our shopping done, got supper, and crashed for the night.

Sunday morning, we headed up to Arctic Valley (as usual). Keith Confer, an Anchorage resident — a birder going out to Adak — had scouted the area out for Willow Ptarmigan — one of our nemesis birds. He had heard some up there and some friends of his had flushed some in recent days. So I walked up the trail and played the call and got a response! The bird was calling from a willow thicket that I could not get very near, as there were several inches of fresh snow and walking off-trail was treacherous. The bird did not call again and did not show itself. So my sum experience with Willow Ptarmigans at this point is finding feathers a couple of trips back and now hearing one. So I guess that makes it two-thirds of a lifer…

Although we didn’t see the ptarmigan, we did see a few of the regular species up there.

A very angry-looking Golden-crowned Sparrow.

Golden-crowned Sparrow, , Arctic Valley, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

A fairly cooperative Savannah Sparrow.

Savannah Sparrow, Arctic Valley, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

And plenty of Robins.

American Robin, Arctic Valley, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

Robins are plentiful in Anchorage, but I just hadn’t taken the time to photograph one before.

We also saw several Snowshoe Hares — already in their summer coats.

Snowshoe Hare, Arctic Valley, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

We birded several other locations. There was a pair of Greater White-fronted Geese at Potter’s Marsh — a new Alaska Mainland bird for us — and finally ended up at Lake Hood. There we found a pair of Barrow’s Goldeneyes and the friendly Red-throated Loon was back.

Barrow’s Goldeneyes, Lake Hood, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

Red-throated Loon, Lake Hood, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

On to Adak. Our flight left about a half-hour late.

We arrived, got to our house, and started unpacking. We go a call from Aaron Lang that there was a flock of about 30 Brambling up near where Isaac used to live! We had never seen more than one or two Brambling at a time out here and the maximum we had ever seen during our two-week stays was about six!

We finished unpacking, loaded up the truck with our birding gear and headed out. We set birdseed out at several of the usual locations. We had a pair of Tufted Ducks on the Airport Ponds. We did a quick run up to Clam Lagoon and Shotgun Lake. We didn’t see anything obviously different, so we headed back down to look for the Bramblings.

As we dove through the area, Stefan, from Hi-Lonesome Bird Tours was also looking. He went one way, we another. He called us shortly after we split up to say he had found them. We went to his location and watched as a large flock of Bramblings worked their way up the roadside and finally disappeared up a hillside. I was unable to get photos, as they stayed just far enough ahead and kept moving. Maybe tomorrow. It was still pretty exciting.

There are 18 other birders here besides us. Lots of eyes and ears!

It is midnight here so I am signing off and will fill you in with the details of the other groups here tomorrow.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, occasional light shower, Wind WNW 15-25 mph

No new birds to end the trip.

We searched for the Eurasian Sparrowhawk some more, but did not find it.

You can see some more details on the sighting at http://franklinhaas.com/EUSP/EUSP.html

Here is the mushroom that I mentioned last week. It appears to be Volvariella speciosa. I now have encountered all of two species of mushrooms on Adak. New slogan — Adak: Not a mycologist’s paradise!

Volvariella speciosa, Adak, September 13, 2016.

Volvariella speciosa, Adak, September 13, 2016.

Our flights home were uneventful until we got to the Philadelphia Airport. At baggage claim, one of our bags showed up on the carousel, but then it stopped. It turned out that there was some mechanical problem with the conveyor belts down below. It took over an hour before the rest of our luggage appeared!

The trip was a great trip.

It started out with great looks (and numbers) of Short-tailed Shearwaters, a Red-throated Loon for our Adak list and a rare (for Adak) Red Knot.

The second week started off in the doldrums, but finished with a bang — a first confirmed North American record of Eurasian Sparrowhawk! Note: John Puschock had a Eurasian Sparrowhawk on Adak a few years ago, but was unable to get diagnostic photos.

Our triplist was only 52 — 2 below our average, with no Asian passerines and few shorebirds.

We will return in May.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Temp in the 50s, mostly sunny, Wind W 15-25 mph

We checked the feeders and Sweeper Cove. Nothing new. The high tide made Sweeper Creek shorebird-unfriendly.

So we checked the High School Willows (nothing) and then the High School Spruces. As I scanned the trees, I saw a gray shape that wasn’t there previously! I got the scope on it and discovered an accipiter. The bold facial pattern led us to believe it was a Northern Goshawk! But, after posting the photos to the IDFrontiers listserve, it was pointed out to us that it was a female Eurasian Sparrowhawk (which looks like a small Goshawk)! This should be the first accepted North American record!!!!! (John Puschock had one a few years ago, but it was not accepted by the Alaska Records Committee and there were at least two sight records from Attu.)

Northern Goshawk, High School Spruces, September 21, 2016

Eurasian Sparrowhawk, High School Spruces, September 21, 2016

Northern Goshawk, High School Spruces, September 21, 2016

Eurasian Sparrowhawk, High School Spruces, September 21, 2016

For more details about this sighting, go to http://www.franklinhaas.com/eusp/eusp.html

Not a bad bird for our penultimate day!

We checked every tree we could find today, hoping it would be perched in one of them, but no luck.

Speaking of raptors, you can never have too many photos of Peregrines. This one was circling me at Clam Lagoon today — I guess he couldn’t find any shorebirds to catch.

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon, September 21, 2016

Peregrine Falcon, Clam Lagoon, September 21, 2016

At the Seawall, we had a flock of 30 Ruddy Turnstones. No other shorebirds today.

Also, at the Seawall, I spotted an albatross way out, but could not determine the species.

Our trip list is now 52.

We leave tomorrow around 6 pm and expect to arrive home late Friday afternoon.

I will post our wrap-up blog on Saturday.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, no rain until late afternoon, Wind W 20-30 mph

There were new birds on the island today, just not new birds for our trip list!

We did not see any shearwaters in Kuluk Bay today and at the Seawall, they were few and far out.

Also at the Seawall, the number of Red-necked Grebes jumped to 15 from 7. No loons today.

Near the Palisades Overlook, we came upon a lone Cackling Goose sitting in the middle of the road. It flew off to the side when it saw us.

Cackling Goose, Palisades Overlook, September 20, 2016

Cackling Goose, Palisades Overlook, September 20, 2016

After the last two September trips where we found good birds (Wood Warbler and Blackpoll Warbler) at Warbler Willows, we now check that location twice-a-day. So far, to no avail…

If there are any Asian birds that blew onto the island the last two days, we haven’t found them yet.

PS: They got the gas pumps fixed.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Temp in the 50s, partly sunny, very occasional sprinkle, wind WSW 15-30 mph

No new birds today.

The only shorebirds today were a pair of Western Sandpipers at Clam Lagoon. The pair of Pacific Loons are still at the Seawall.

There was a large flock of waterfowl on Shotgun Lake today, including about 50 Northern Pintails, 15 Mallards, and 4 Eurasian Wigeon.

The most interesting event of the day was a Steller’s Sea Lion off the Seawall that attracted a flock of gulls. You can see why in the pictures below.

Steller's Sea Lion with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Seawall, September 19, 2016

Steller’s Sea Lion with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Seawall, September 19, 2016

Steller's Sea Lion with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Seawall, September 19, 2016

Steller’s Sea Lion with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Seawall, September 19, 2016

Steller's Sea Lion with fish (this is what all the fuss was about!), Seawall, September 19, 2016

Steller’s Sea Lion with fish (this is what all the fuss was about!), Seawall, September 19, 2016

The tides out here are an enigma. For instance, since we got here, the tide has been low in the morning and high in the afternoon. Then, this past Saturday there was this very low tide in the afternoon! Since then, the tide has been high 24-hours a day! This is not unusual, we have experienced such odd tide schedules here on past trips. In fact we have experienced a week or more of consistent high tide and vice versa!

I decided to do some research on this and found a great visual tide chart at http://www.tide-forecast.com/locations/Adak-Bight-Adak-Island-Alaska/tides/latest

It turns out that the tide isn’t high all of the time — it just looks that way. The tide is currently in the following pattern — very low tide in the middle of the night (when — foolish us! — we’re sleeping), then a normal high tide, then only a very small dip to low tide, then high tide, and then a big drop to low tide in the middle of the next night. So during the day, it looks like high tide all of the time! Now, why it doesn’t go to a normal low tide during the day, we don’t understand. We think it might have something to do with the interactions between the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea, but we could be way off base. I guess we need a tide expert…

By dawn tomorrow, there will have been more than 24 hours of west winds (strong west winds). If they brought any good birds in today, we didn’t see them. Maybe tomorrow…

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Rain, rain, rain…

Temp in the 50s, rain all day, overcast, wind S 30-40 mph

It has rained all day today and the wind was a steady gale. Although the clouds lightened a bit an hour ago (it is now 8:30 pm), it quickly clouded in again and there is a fine drizzle now.

It is supposed to clear overnight and be sunny tomorrow, with WSW winds.

In spite of this, we added a bird today — Pacific Loon. There were two at the Seawall. Unlike all of the other loons we have seen this trip, these still had much of their breeding plumage.

We had two more Emperor Geese on Clam Lagoon and one Parasitic Jaeger.

We had NO identifiable shorebirds today — this may be a first! We saw a couple flying by the Seawall far out, but could not tell what they were.

The shearwaters continue to fly by at a great distance, but a few still come within binocular range. We even saw a few from Candlestick Bridge. Still no other pelagics.

At the north end of Clam Lagoon, the south winds were casting a lot of stuff on the shoreline, to the delight of the gulls. We saw gulls dining on a crab, a starfish, and some sort of other crustacean.

The conditions today did not lend themselves to photography!

When we went to get gas yesterday afternoon, there was a sign that said “Out of Order — we are trying to fix it as fast as we can.” The notice was dated the day before. It is still not fixed, but we expect whatever parts were needed arrived on the flight from Anchorage this afternoon. We found someone with gas reserves to lend us, so we are not stranded yet

Speaking of the plane…

The weather here when the plane was due to arrive was rainy, very windy, and fogged in. We were not sure it was going to land. We were out at the Kuluk Bay Overlook when the plane was due. At the very last minute, it appeared out of the fog and touched down. Thank heavens for instrument landing technology! A few years ago, the plane would not even have left Anchorage with these weather conditions.

The triplist is 50.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Temp in the 50s, Partly sunny, scattered drizzle late in the PM, Wind SW 15-30 mph

No new birds today. In all of our trips up here there are always a few days — usually in the middle — when we don’t get anything new. This is that stretch of days. We are hoping that the westerly winds that started yesterday will blow something in.

At Clam Lagoon today, we had 5 Sanderlings, 2 Western Sandpipers, 6 Pectoral Sandpipers, and 1 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Its amazing how little effect the strong winds have on these little birds feeding on an open mudflat. I was hard-pressed to keep upright!

Western Sandpiper (front) and Sanderling, Clam Lagoon, September 17, 2016

Western Sandpiper (front) and Sanderling, Clam Lagoon, September 17, 2016

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, September 17, 2016

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, September 17, 2016

At the Seawall, we had three Ruddy Turnstones and one Rock Sandpiper.

Ruddy Turnstone, Seawall, September 17, 2016

Ruddy Turnstone, Seawall, September 17, 2016

Again, there were shearwaters well withing binocular range. And again, we spent some time scanning for other pelagics, to no avail!

We saw at least two — maybe three — Peregrines today.

Come on, west winds!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Temp in the 50s, mostly sunny, wind NW 10-15 mph

Except for a brief shower at dawn — which created the following rainbow — this was the most precipitation-free day so far.

Rainbow, Adak, September 16, 2016

Rainbow, Adak, September 16, 2016

Note: this satisfies the annual rainbow photograph quota for 2016.

At Sweeper Cove, two Emperor Geese flew over — apparently not the ones we saw the other day, as there was no juvenile with them.

At Sweeper Channel, there were a couple of cooperative wigeon.

Two Eurasian Wigeon and a Common Teal, Sweeper Channel, September 16, 2016

Two Eurasian Wigeon and a Common Teal, Sweeper Channel, September 16, 2016

The number of Eurasian Wigeon are slowly increasing this trip, but have not yet exploded like last September’s trip, when the number tripled overnight.

At Clam Lagoon, there were two Western Sandpipers and two Sanderlings out on the flats.

Two Western Sandpipers (left) and two Sanderlings, Clam Lagoon, September 16, 2016

Two Western Sandpipers (left) and two Sanderlings, Clam Lagoon, September 16, 2016

At the Seawall, the shearwaters were mostly far out, with an occasional few coming within binocular range. With good viewing conditions, we spent a lot of time scanning the birds at the horizon, looking for albatrosses. No luck!

At Lake Shirley, the Peregrine made another appearance, this time sitting for a while.

Peregrine Falcon, Lake Shirley, September 16, 2016

Peregrine Falcon, Lake Shirley, September 16, 2016

No new birds today.

The trip list remains at 49.

PS: When we mention that this or that bird has not been seen by us the last few trips, etc., keep in mind that we are on the island only two weeks in May and two weeks in September each year. That leaves eleven months with no birders out here recording the birdlife. It was different when Isaac lived here for five years, but not now. So we are just recording a glimpse of the birdlife on Adak each trip.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Temp in the 50s, mostly cloudy, occasional rain/drizzle, wind N 10-20 mph

This morning there were still a few shearwaters close to shore in Kuluk Bay. We have never before had so many consecutive days with shearwaters being close like this. Although the majority of the shearwaters are passing by farther out, there is still a smattering of birds venturing in closer. This has been a real treat. Still no other pelagics, however…

At Sweeper Cove, there was a Black Oystercatcher (one of 5 we saw today).

We decided to make our obligatory drive up to White Alice (a promontory west of town on which the cell towers are located and affords a view of Shagak Bay on the west side of the island). We frequently see Snow Buntings up there, but not today. However, there was a family (families?) of Ravens cavorting in the wind.

Common Raven, White Alice, September 15, 2016

Common Raven, White Alice, September 15, 2016

On the way back down, Barb spotted a Gyrfalcon which went by too fast for me to get photos.

At the Palisades Overlook, there was a feeding frenzy of gulls and kittiwakes. While scanning through them, I found a Parasitic Jaeger. This jaeger had some pale coloration on the belly, unlike 99% of the jaegers up here which are normally dark.

At Clam Lagoon, it was raining again, so I did not walk out the peninsula. However, we spotted the Sanderling flock out on the flats. It had grown to 15 birds.

At the Seawall, Barb saw an Arctic Loon. The grebes were still there. There was another feeding frenzy which, this time, was joined by 2 or 3 more Parasitic Jaegers.

At Candlestick Bridge, we again saw the whale for four surfacings of one-second each! Based on the size and dorsal fin, it was likely a Minke.

At Lake Shirley, a Peregrine Falcon made an appearance.

Peregrine Falcon, Lake Shirley, September 15, 2016

Peregrine Falcon, Lake Shirley, September 15, 2016

When we got back to the other side of the lagoon, I walked out the peninsula. The Red Knot was not there. No where any other shorebirds either. I walked down the marsh edge and had only two Pectoral Sandpipers and a Long-billed Dowitcher, none of which hung around long enough to be photographed.

Our triplist is 49.

One week down, one to go.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Temp in the 50s, mostly cloudy, occasional rain/drizzle, Wind NW 10-15 mph

Kuluk Bay off Sweeper Cove was like a sheet of glass this morning — a strong contrast to the rough seas since we arrived. There were a lot of birds (but most far out), including still a few shearwaters.

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches and Song Sparrows have found our various feeders, so activity is picking up — just waiting for an Asian passerine to stop by.

We headed up to Contractors Camp Marsh, where I walked a portion of it while Barb drove around. We flushed many Pectoral/Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and at least one Snipe (Wilson’s until proven otherwise).

As I was out walking, Barb found two Long-billed Dowitchers.

Long-billed Dowitchers, Contractors Camp Marsh, September 14, 2016

Long-billed Dowitchers, Contractors Camp Marsh, September 14, 2016

We then checked Warbler Willows — no luck — and headed to Adak National forest to stop for lunch and see if any funny-looking birds might pop out of the trees. No funny-looking ones did, but a curious Song Sparrow had to check out our truck.

Song Sparrow on hood of truck, Adak National Forest, September 14, 2016

Song Sparrow on hood of truck, Adak National Forest, September 14, 2016

There are a lot of young Song Sparrows (and young every other species) around this time of year, but the young Song Sparrows always seem extra curious and tame.

The Red Knot is still out on the Clam Lagoon Peninsula.

At the East Side Ponds, a pair of Pacific Golden-Plovers few in front of us and landed on an island in the middle.

Pacific Golden-Plover, East Side Ponds, September 14, 2016

Pacific Golden-Plover, East Side Ponds, September 14, 2016

The water was relatively calm at the Seawall and we saw 7 Red-necked Grebes and 5 Horned Grebes — no loons today. There were 5 Black Oystercatchers on Goose Rocks. Only a few shearwaters were seen passing by.

At Candlestick Bridge, we saw the back and dorsal fin of a cetacean. It showed that much of itself three times (one second each) and then disappeared. This has been our experience with most whales and dolphins up here. They do not linger and certainly don’t stay at the surface for more than a second. All of those videos that you see on television nature specials, where the whales or dolphins are swimming along the surface, frequently breeching, etc…. ALL LIES!

Back at the Seawall, we found a lone Western Sandpiper.

Western Sandpiper, Seawall, September 14, 2016

Western Sandpiper, Seawall, September 14, 2016

We returned to Contractors Camp Marsh to look for more shorebirds. In the area where we had the dowitchers, there was a flock of Common Teal and Northern Pintails. The pintails were stretching up there necks and picking off bugs. I wanted to get a photo of that behavior, but by the time I got into position, they decided to tuck their heads in and take a post-prandial nap!

We saw more Pectorals, etc., but no new species.

We did a late-afternoon check of Sweeper Cove and were surprised by a flock of 18 Cackling Geese flying over. Although not rare, this is only the second of our nine September trips that we have seen them (we almost always get them on our May trips).

Our triplist is 48.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Temp in the 50s, mostly cloudy, occasional light rain/drizzle (the “occasions” being when we stop and get out of the truck!), wind S 10-15 mph.

Not much new birdwise today.

We added Black Oystercatcher to the trip list.

The Red Knot is still here and the Sanderling flock has increased to 11. Also, we had an immature Peregrine Falcon today.

Our one incident today happened near the Seawall. There is some old chainlink fencing here and there, often topped with barbed wire. Such exists at the south end of the Seawall. As we were parked there, Barb glanced at the nearby fencing and saw a longspur hanging from the top wire — and fluttering.

I went over and saw that it had gotten its foot caught in one of the barbed wire barbs. The fence was too high for me to reach, so Barb pulled the truck next to it and I climbed on the bed to reach it. Its foot was already mangled and bloody, but I managed to pull it out and the bird flew away.

Longspurs sure have sharp beaks!

Lapland Longspur caught in barbed wire, September 13, 2016

Lapland Longspur caught in barbed wire, September 13, 2016

When we went down to Finger Creek the other day, before turning down the switchback to get to the road next to the creek, I walked over to the bluff that overlooks the creek to see if the road had cleared from the flooding of the past few days. It had, but as I looked down, I was surprised to not see salmon in the creek. This creek is usually brimming with salmon this time of year.

However, when we drove down to creekside, I could see why I had that impression. The stream was full of salmon, but unlike previous years, the water was still so high that their dorsal fins and backs were not sticking out of the water! The water has normally been so low that you see hundreds of salmon backs and fins all across the creek!

Barb photographed the Salmon eggs (roe) in the stream.

Salmon eggs, Finger Creek, September 12, 2016

Salmon eggs, Finger Creek, September 12, 2016

I found a new mushroom today and am working on its Identification (with the assistance of Kitty LaBounty). I will post it once she IDs it.

Our triplist is 43.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Temp in the low 50s, partly cloudy in the AM, overcast and light rain in the PM, Wind SSE 10-20 mph

At Sweeper Cove this morning, we found three Emperor Geese — two adult and one juvenile. We had never seen a juvenile before, so this was a semi-lifer. Also, we hadn’t seen any Emperor Geese since September 2014, so it was nice to find some again.

Emperor Geese, Sweeper Cove, September 12, 2016

Emperor Geese, Sweeper Cove, September 12, 2016

Emperor Geese, Sweeper Cove, September 12, 2016

Emperor Geese, Sweeper Cove, September 12, 2016

We went around Sweeper Cove and headed up Bayshore. Nothing new, but there was more variety in the bay now that the sea had settled down.

At the Landing Lights, I found a dead juvenile Tufted Puffin.

Juvenile Tufted Puffin, Landing Lights, September 12, 2016

Juvenile Tufted Puffin, Landing Lights, September 12, 2016

We checked Warbler Willows and Lake Jean. Nothing new.

At the Palisades Overlook, there was a lot of activity in the bay — mostly kittiwakes and gulls.

At Clam Lagoon, I walked out the peninsula and the Red Knot was still there. But it had no companions.

Red Knot, Clam Lagoon, September 12, 2016

Red Knot, Clam Lagoon, September 12, 2016

We drove out to the Loran Station and had a nice view, but no pelagics. On the way back we had another Peregrine Falcon.

At the Seawall, Barb spotted a loon which we quickly identified as a Red-throated. This was exciting, as this is the last loon species we needed for our Adak list! Soon after, a second one joined the first. Unfortunately, the waves were still too high and the birds too distant for me to get a photo. Maybe they will hang around…

Some Ruddy Turnstones fly by and we saw a couple of Marbled Murrelets and two Horned Grebes.

There were still Short-tailed Shearwaters flying close to shore. Still no other pelagics.

From the east shore of Clam Lagoon, we spotted some shorebirds way out on the edge of the flats. They were the Red Knot and nine Sanderlings. Like the geese, we hadn’t seen any Sanderlings out here since September 2014.

Returning to the Seawall, we found two Arctic Loons! As we left the Seawall, a Peregine flew by. All three of our Peregrine sightings have been adults, so we don’t know if it is one bird or three.

Our trip list is 42.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Lifer? Knot!

Temp in the 50s, mostly cloudy, a little drizzle in the AM, Winds N 15-20 mph

With the improving weather, we headed up to Clam Lagoon to get the morning low tide.

We didn’t see anything new on the open flats, so went to the Peninsula. I walked out and around the second bend, spotted a medium-sized shorebird. I was unable to identify it and started taking photos. It kept moving out towards the end of the spit, where it was joined by a Western Sandpiper.

Both birds allowed close approach and I was able to get definitive photos of both. However, when I got back to the truck and compared the larger bird to the field guides, we were stumped. It didn’t quite match anything we could find.

Well,when we returned to the house later and sent photos to John Puschock and Isaac Helmericks (our go-to guys), they quickly responded that it was a juvenile Red Knot.

Somehow, we had gotten it into our brains that Red Knots had shorter bills than this, so we discounted it out-of-hand when paging through the field guide! It has been awhile since we have seen a knot.

So, no lifer, but at least a new Adak bird for us. This may be only the 5th or 6th record for Adak.

Red Knot, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2016

Red Knot, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2016

Red Knot and Red-necked Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2016

Red Knot and Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2016

Red-necked Stint, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2016

Western Sandpiper, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2016

After seeing the knot, I walked the marsh edge and found two Pectoral and one Sharp-tailed sandpipers.

We continued around the lagoon to the Seawall, where we saw more shearwaters, but not nearly as many or as close as the previous two days.

When we got back around to the west side, I walked out the peninsula again and found the Red Knot and stint, but they flew off. As they flew away, they were joined by five other small shorebirds. I decided to just wait awhile and, sure enough, two of the peeps returned to the shoreline near me. They were Western Sandpipers.

Western Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2016

Western Sandpipers, Clam Lagoon, Sept 11, 2016

At the Adak National Forest, we had a “live” Pacific Wren.

Pacific Wren, Adak National Forest, September 11, 2016

Pacific Wren, Adak National Forest, September 11, 2016

We were able to drive around Contractors Camp Marsh today, but did not find anything new. However, nearby we found our first Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch for the trip!

Next, we headed down to Finger Bay. The road along the creek that was flooded yesterday was now relatively clear, although several salmon were stranded in the larger puddles in the road. We didn’t see anything new there, but on the way back, we had a Peregrine Falcon near Sweeper Cove.

Our trip list is now at a more respectable 36.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Temp in the upper 40s, overcast, rain, NE wind 30-50 mph.

At Sweeper Cove this morning, we still saw a shearwater or two, plus there were more birds generally — puffins, guillemots, etc.

In Kuluk Bay, off Navfac Creek, we saw a pair of White-winged Scoters.

By mid-morning we hadn’t found anything else new and headed back to the house for a pit stop. A hunter (Nick), who we met on the plane, was next door, and mentioned that near the hut that he and his son had camped in the night before (near Finger Bay), was a large tub with several drowned green birds! Well, that certainly peaked our interest!

So we headed down there. We found the hut and the large plastic tub with three drowned birds in it. The sides of the tub were too slippery for the birds to climb out, so once they flew in (for what purpose, we aren’t sure) they simply could not escape and finally succumbed.

They weren’t green, but the algae growing on them was…

There were two Pacific Wrens and a Song Sparrow.

Drowned Song Sparrow and Pacific Wren, Near Finger Bay, September 10, 2016.

Drowned Song Sparrow and Pacific Wren, Near Finger Bay, September 10, 2016.

Drowned Pacific Wren, Near Finger Bay, September 10, 2016.

Drowned Pacific Wren, Near Finger Bay, September 10, 2016.

To prevent any more fatalities, I threw a couple of small boards into the water to give any future drop-ins some purchase for flying out.

At Finger Bay, we finally saw a couple of Pelagic Cormorants and a few Harlequin Ducks. They DO exist!

We headed back north.

We were going to drive through Contractors Camp Marsh, but the heavy rain has flooded many of the roads. Although they were covered by only a few inches of water in most places, there is so much debris that flies around there (boards with nails, metal roofing, etc.) that unless you can see the road surface, it is unwise to drive there. So we continued north.

At the Seawall, there were very few shearwaters visible and the surf was pounding. The tide was so high and the waves so large that Goose Rocks were only visible briefly every few minutes!

We had a Greater Scaup at Lake Shirley.

On the eastern side of the lagoon flats, we spotted two shorebirds — one large and one small — way out. They were too far for pictures and the 40 mph wind and rain made the photographic conditions even worse. However, I had to try to get close enough to them to identify them, so I climbed down the embankment and started wading out towards the birds. I got a couple of distant photos before they took off. Here is the best one.

Mystery shorebirds, Clam Lagoon, September 10, 2016.

Mystery shorebirds, Clam Lagoon, September 10, 2016.

We don’t know what they were. We thought they might be yesterday’s Greenshank and a Dunlin. We sent the photo to some better birders and they also were unsure, but they suggested the larger bird might be a godwit. However, godwits are rare on Adak in the fall. Maybe tomorrow’s weather — less rain — will enable us to find them in more ideal viewing conditions.

Down at Candlestick Bridge, Barb saw some shorebirds fly along the edge of the beach and disappear around the bend, so I walked down there and found a dozen Rock Sandpipers and one Ruddy Turnstone.

Rock Sandpiper, Candlestick Bridge, September 10, 2016.

Rock Sandpiper, Candlestick Bridge, September 10, 2016.

We went back around the lagoon and I walked out the Peninsula (in driving wind and rain), in hopes that the mystery shorebirds had taken shelter in the lee.

No such luck.

We headed back to the house and called it a day.

The triplist is up to 27.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Shearwaters redux…

Temps in the high 40s, overcast, rain, east wind 15-30 mph

Although we have experienced more days with rain than without on our trips to Adak, we have only had a few where it rained all day and night. This is one of those.

It started raining last night and is not expected to stop until tomorrow night. This has been a steady rain — no letup — although the intensity has varied. And the wind is relentless.

We were excited yesterday at the close shearwaters up at the Seawall. Well, today was even more exciting, as the shearwaters were in Kuluk Bay by the thousands and flying by the Kuluk Bay Overlook at (relatively) close range. We have had them in Kuluk Bay on east winds before, but usually for an hour or so in the morning and then they moved out to sea. Today, they were in the bay all day. We even had a couple fly briefly into Sweeper Cove.

We watched them for some time, looking for other pelagic species, but found none!

Here are a few more shearwater photos.

Short-tailed Shearwaters, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwaters, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016

Note the legs sticking out beyond the “short tail.”

So we headed up to Clam Lagoon. I spotted a medium-sized, gray and white shorebird feeding near a flock of Common Teal. The distance and weather conditions made it difficult to determine what it was, so I clambered down to the mudflats to get a closer look, while Barb kept tabs on it from the truck.

No sooner had I started walking towards it, than the teal all took flight, as did the shorebird. Barb was able to see the distinctive flight pattern of a Common Greenshank. It landed way out in the middle of the flats, but then took off again and flew out of view (so no photos).

There were 6 Parasitic Jaegers still hanging around. They usually leave here by mid-September.

We continued around the lagoon and as we approached the East Side Ponds, a shorebird flew up and away. Our impression was the Greenshank.

The Seawall had its share of Shearwaters, but farther out than yesterday.

There was a flock of Northern Pintails on Lake Shirley.

We headed back down to the Kuluk Bay Overlook to watch the shearwaters some more. As I was scanning through them, a flock of shorebirds came into view. They were Red Phalaropes.

Red Phalaropes (and a Glaucous-winged Gull), Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016.

Red Phalaropes (and a Black-legged Kittiwake), Kuluk Bay, Sept 9, 2016.

We had just seen our first Adak Red Phalarope this past May (a lone bird). We new that they migrated past Adak regularly, but are seldom seen from land here. So this was a treat.

The weather has been so bad that we haven’t even seen Harlequin Ducks, Cormorants, of Rosy-finches! Our meager trip list is all of 18!

The rain is supposed to start diminishing tomorrow night and the winds shift back to northwest.

There are probably some good birds hunkered down on the island right now, so we hope better weather will allow us to find them.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Mostly cloudy, temp in the low 50s, moderate (and increasing) east wind.

We arrived in Anchorage yesterday after an uneventful day of travel.

This morning, we did some usual birding around Anchorage.

We added one new mammal to our Alaska list — Red Squirrel.

Red Squirrel, Potters Marsh, Anchorage, Sept 8, 2016

Red Squirrel, Potters Marsh, Anchorage, Sept 8, 2016

We also added Steller’s Jay.

Steller's Jays, West Chester Lagoon, Anchorage, Sept 8, 2016

Steller’s Jays, West Chester Lagoon, Anchorage, Sept 8, 2016

At Potters marsh, a kingfisher posed for us.

Belted Kingfisher, Potters Marsh, Anchorage, Sept 8, 2016

Belted Kingfisher, Potters Marsh, Anchorage, Sept 8, 2016

And at West Chester Lagoon, Barb spotted a cooperative Gadwall for me to photograph.

Gadwall, West Chester Lagoon, Anchorage, Sept 8, 2016

Gadwall, West Chester Lagoon, Anchorage, Sept 8, 2016

Barb also spotted a Rusty Blackbird while I was around the bend. We could not relocate it when I got back to her.

Shortly thereafter, a Merlin flew in and soon a flock of half-a-dozen magpies and several Steller’s Jays were involved — chasing and being chased through the treeline. This was still going on 20 minutes later as we left.

At Ship Creek, we saw some interesting behavior by a Magpie. It was down at the water’s edge, constantly chattering, and poking at and picking up various objects. At one point, it picked up an egg-shaped pebble (about 3/4 inch) and placed it into a crevice in a small log laying by the streamside. It then picked up a small twig (about 3 to 4 inches long) and placed it in the same crevice on top of the pebble. It then went over to the water, picked up another pebble, but dropped it in the water. It then fished out of the water a small wad of algae and laid it on the log it was standing on. It tried to pick up some more pebbles out of the water, but dropped all of them. It then pick up the algae and dropped it back into the water. All the while, chattering…

We have no idea what this was all about…

We arrived on Adak a little early, got unpacked and headed up to Clam Lagoon. We didn’t see any shorebirds or other birds out of the ordinary, so we drove around to the Seawall. As mentioned above, there were east winds. Usually on east winds, we can see the shearwaters and albatrosses flying by — although still pretty far out. However, as soon as we stopped and started scanning, we spotted shearwaters flying between us and Goose Rocks! Only once before had we seen them this close, and then it was only one bird.

Now there were a few dozen flying around and sitting on the water. There were many more flying by at a distance, but the closer ones were a treat.

Short-tailed Shearwaters, Seawall, Sept 8, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwaters, Seawall, Sept 8, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Seawall, Sept 8, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Seawall, Sept 8, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Seawall, Sept 8, 2016

Short-tailed Shearwater, Seawall, Sept 8, 2016

This was the best view we had ever had of shearwaters from terra firma!

Barb had a glimpse of a small gull with a black hood, but it flew away before we could identify it. We hope it reappears.

It is 10:30 here. I am going to bed…

Europe — Wednesday, June 29, 2016 and Wrap-up

We didn’t add any new birds on our final day, although Frank got to see a Yellowhammer, which Barb had seen earlier in the trip. Also, we added one bird after-the-fact from photos – Western Bonelli’s Warbler. We birded areas where we had started the trip two weeks ago, hoping a morning outing would be more productive – it wasn’t.

We got to the airport early. We usually request a wheelchair for Barb at airports, but she thought the Zurich Airport was small enough that she wouldn’t need one. We found out otherwise when we arrived.

So for our departure, we asked for assistance. The check-in attendant directed us to a waiting area to request a wheelchair. We pushed the button and the voice on the other end said to wait there and some one would be there shortly. Well, 40 minutes later(!!) a guy shows up with a motorized cart. We get in and after several elevators and concourses, we arrive at the security checkpoint. We get through that and then go on another elevator, down another concourse, another elevator and arrive at a garage with vans. We transferred to a van and then were driven out to the international terminal. Then another elevator, a wheelchair, another concourse to our destination! It was like something out of a Monty Python movie…

The flight home was uneventful and on time, as was our limo drive home.

Here are some scenery photos, comments, and observations about our trip.

Above Treeline

Above Treeline

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

View from the cable car looking back up at Gemmi.

View from the cable car looking back up at Gemmi.

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

One of the brief views we got from Gemmi, looking for Lammergeiers.

One of the brief views we got from Gemmi, looking for Lammergeiers.

Leuk, Switzerland

Leuk, Switzerland

Leuk, Switzerland (Wallcreeper area)

Leuk, Switzerland (Wallcreeper area)

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Memory Lane

Barb did get to see where she had lived 53 years ago. So that part of the trip was successful. Here are comparison photos.Cugy2

Roads

The roads in Switzerland were very well-maintained – in France, not so much.
We drove mostly on secondary (and tertiary) roads, except when time was of the essence. The major highways were up to US standards in width, lanes, etc. The lesser roads were remarkably narrow – frequently no more than a car-and-a-half wide (frequently less) – and no shoulders.
So trying to bird along them was difficult at best. We could stop to look at a bird, but if another vehicle came along, we frequently had to move to a wider portion of the road to let them pass, thereby losing the birding opportunity.

The drivers in both countries, being familiar with the local roads, drove them a lot faster than we felt comfortable with – especially downhill on mountain roads. And motorcycles were the worst! We had never seen so many motorcycles. They rarely obeyed the speed limit, passed on curves, tailgated, and just generally were pests. Considering the speed at which they descended the curvy mountain roads, we assume that a few thousand feet below each curve there is a pile of dead motorcyclists that nobody cares about…

We used a Garmin GPS to navigate and it did a pretty good job. But it appeared to not have a grasp on what a good road is versus a narrow country lane. It frequently took us on roads which had a posted speed limit of 50, but could not be driven more than 35 – thereby greatly increasing the time it took to get from point A to point B.

In towns and villages, the roads were often even narrower (they refuse to tear down old buildings to modernize their road system) and making turns and getting around oncoming traffic was a treat.

Stop signs and traffic lights are rarities away from the cities. Many of the intersections are round-a-bouts (traffic circles). This keeps traffic moving, but could be daunting when traffic is high.

Barb did all of the driving (I’m the navigator and photographer) and she did a fantastic job considering the conditions. But we would both be frazzled at the end of the day!

Hotels

We were not interested in staying at luxury resort hotels, but just average hotels. Except for the first night, we used Booking.com to find and book hotels from night to night. We booked our first week of the trip before we left and then did day-to-day booking the rest of the trip (to give us some flexibility).

We decided for the first night that we would stay in a familiar place to ease the transition. We are members of the Holiday Inn Priority Club and stay at Holiday Inn Express whenever we can. They meet our needs, are comfortable, have a great free breakfast, and a refrigerator in the room for cooling drinks for the next day.

Well, apparently Holiday Inn does not keep the same standards in Europe as in the US! The room was small, instead of two queen beds, it was two twin beds (I almost rolled out of bed when I turned over the first night!), parking was not free, the entrance to the hotel had no cover, so we had to unload our luggage in the rain, no refrigerator, it offered “free” WiFi, but it was slower than a phone modem from 20 years ago – you had to pay extra for “fast” wifi, there were no electrical receptacles next to the beds, so I had to borrow an extension cord and run it across the room in order to plug in my CPAP (I have sleep apnea) – I’m surprised they didn’t charge for the extension cord!

The rest of the hotels we stayed in were okay, although they still tended to have much smaller rooms and beds than we are accustomed to. We always selected a hotel that offered breakfast and had a restaurant, however, several times, the restaurant was closed or the breakfast was not offered until 8 AM. So we had to scramble to get convenient meals.

Two of the hotels had small refrigerators in the room – but they didn’t work!

The hotels offered free WiFi and were usually fast connections, but one kept failing.

The hotels were very modern and clean on the inside, often old-looking on the outside. There generally was no coffee-maker in the rooms and when we did have one it was instant coffee.

The shower/tub stalls (especially in France) would have a hand-held shower and only a half-door. This meant you had to be very careful where you positioned yourself and the direction you sprayed or the bathroom floor would get all wet! Very impractical…

Birding

It was breeding time in Europe and we saw a number of juvenile birds during our trip. We knew birds during this period would not always be easy to see, but we were confident we could draw them out. At home, pishing will often bring out birds from hiding as their curiosity makes them investigate the odd sounds. In Europe, not a single bird responded to our pishing! We tried the usual pishing, squeaking and variations, but not one bird expressed any curiosity whatsoever.

The other strategy for seeing birds (especially during the breeding season) is playing their song so they come out to defend their territory against the intruder. Again, not a single bird responded to their call! We had a hard time figuring out what birds were calling, but even when we did, playing their call did not help. We had at least 20 to 30 birds that we heard, but never saw.

Of course, water birds were visible. And raptors.

Access to birding areas was also a problem. As far as we could find, there is only one book for finding birds in Switzerland, and it is 16 years old. It really should have been titled “The Hikers Guide to Finding Birds in Switzerland!” Most of the birding areas described consisted of getting to the area by public transport and then taking a 10-kilometer hike! Since Barb cannot walk great distances, we had to read between the lines and re-interpret the maps to find automotive access and short walks. This often failed. Many of the preserves had no public parking at all! And the maps for most preserves had no scale, so figuring out how far we might have to walk at any particular site was difficult.

The group of birds we missed the most were woodpeckers. We had two sightings of Middle-spotted Woodpecker, and that was it. We heard no drumming anywhere.

So we ended up with just 98 species (77 lifers) in two weeks. Pathetic…

Habitat

The northern part of Switzerland was remarkably similar to Pennsylvania – wooded hillsides and agricultural valleys. The mixture of trees was different – more conifers – but many of the tress looked familiar, poplars, basswood, sycamores, hornbean, oaks, etc. There were a lot of viburnums and elderberry in the understory.

The southern part of the country was the Alps, of course. We got above the treeline twice. Once using the cable car to look for the Lammergeier and once over a mountain pass. It looked very similar to Colorado.

In France, much of the area we birded along the Mediterranean coast reminded us of Florida and Arizona – flat, hot, sandy. Even inland, it resembled southeast Arizona – dry hillsides, olive-colored vegetation. But the vegetation was not thorny like Arizona.

The Crau in France was unique. It was flat, dry, and the ground was, in essence, cobblestones! Walking off the trails was impossible. No birds either.

Miscellaneous

In addition to Switzerland and France, we passed through portions of Italy, Austria, and Germany. The borders were open, no stopping.

On one of the autobahns, we stopped at a rest area and had this for a toilet.

Rest stop toilet

Rest stop toilet

The seat was spring loaded. You had to get ready to sit down, then push the seat down and sit on it. Once finished, the seat sprang up and automatically flushed!

We rented a Mazda CX-5 diesel manual transmission SUV. We got 44 mpg. It was comfortable, handled well, and just small enough to navigate the narrow roads. When you stopped at an intersection, if you put it in neutral, the engine stopped and would restart when you put it in gear. Also, the wipers had a rain sensor, so they automatically turned on in the rain.

Every gas station in America that has a convenience store has ice. Not in Europe! Out of all of the gas stations we stopped in or passed, we only saw one with an ice machine. So we were unable to have cold drinks in our cooler.

Everywhere we went in Switzerland (and to a lesser extent in France) there were cranes.

Cranes

Cranes

Every construction site of even just 2 or 3-story buildings had a crane looming over it. There must be some construction technique or OSHA-type requirements there that required cranes.

Best Birds

The best birds were Flamingo, Kingfisher, Roller, Bee-eater, Northern Lapwing, White Stork, Squacco Heron, Alpine Chough, and kites.

Biggest miss – European Robin!

Most-wanted birds that we missed – Lammergeier, Wallcreeper, Hoopoe

Trip List (* = lifer)

Graylag Goose*
Mute Swan
Ruddy Shelduck*
Common Shelduck*
Mallard
Green-winged Teal
Red-crested Pochard*
Common Pochard*
Tufted Duck
Little Grebe*
Great Crested Grebe*
Greater Flamingo*
White Stork*
Great cormorant
Gray Heron*
Purple Heron*
Little Egret*
Cattle Egret
Squacco Heron*
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Eurasian Spoonbill*
Short-toed Snake-Eagle*
Eurasian Sparrowhawk*
Red Kite*
Black Kite*
Common Buzzard*
Eurasian Moorhen*
Eurasian Coot*
Black-winged Stilt*
Pied Avocet*
Northern Lapwing
Common Sandpiper
Slender-billed gull*
Black-headed gull
Yellow-legged gull*
Little tern*
Common Tern
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse*
Rock Pigeon
Common Wood-Pigeon*
European Turtle-Dove*
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Common Cuckoo
Alpine Swift*
Common Swift*
Common Kingfisher*
European Roller*
Middle Spotted Woodpecker*
Lesser Kestrel*
Eurasian Kestrel
Eurasian Hobby*
Eurasian Jay*
Eurasian Magpie*
Yellow-billed Chough*
Eurasian Jackdaw*
Carrion Crow*
Common Raven
Calandra Lark*
Crested Lark*
Eurasian Crag-Martin*
Barn Swallow
Common House-Martin*
Great Tit*
Eurasian Blue Tit*
Eurasian Nuthatch*
Eurasian Treecreeper*
Western Bonelli’s Warbler*
Eurasian Wren
Eurasian Reed-Warbler*
Great Reed-Warbler*
Zitting Cisticola*
Sardinian Warbler*
Eurasian Blackcap*
Common Nightingale*
Common Redstart*
Black Redstart*
Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush*
Blue Rock-Thrush*
Whinchat*
Eurasian Blackbird*
Fieldfare*
European Starling
Alpine Accentor*
Western Yellow Wagtail*
Gray Wagtail*
White Wagtail*
Water Pipit*
Yellowhammer*
Common Chaffinch*
European Greenfinch*
Eurasian Siskin*
European Goldfinch*
Eurasian Linnet*
European Serin*
House Sparrow
Italian Sparrow*
Eurasian Tree Sparrow*

Summary

We ain’t goin’ back…

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

We birded this morning in Ramosch — a small village in the eastern tip of Switzerland.

We finally saw a flock of Tree Sparrows (Red cap, black cheek, white collar, small bib).

We also picked up Common Sandpiper and Gray Wagtail — though no photos of either.

We also saw a male Whinchat.

We then headed through Austria back to northeast Switzerland. We went this way to avoid going over the mountains. Instead we went under them — through four 4-mile tunnels and one 8.6-mile tunnel (and many shorter ones)!

We are spending tonight in St Gallen. Tomorrow morning, we will bird the areas that we did in mid-afternoon on our day of arrival. Then on to the airport and home.

We expect to arrive home around 11:30 pm tomorrow. I have a bunch of Bird Screen orders to fill, PSO duties, and PAMC stuff to attend to before I will finish up the trip blog.

I will be adding a large section of non-birding stuff — from hotels to habitat descriptions, etc. So tune in again in a few days.

The trip list is 97 with 76 lifers.

Only a few photos today.

Whinchat, Ramosch, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Whinchat, Ramosch, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Tree Sparrow (finally!), Ramosch, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Tree Sparrow (finally!), Ramosch, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Mallard, St Gallen, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Mallard, St Gallen, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Eurasian Coot, St Gallen, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Eurasian Coot, St Gallen, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

We started the day in Locarno, Switzerland.

Since arriving in Europe, we forgot that there were not just House Sparrows, but also Tree Sparrows (which look similar). We had been ignoring the many “House” Sparrows all along. We finally wizened up and started to pay attention.

The Tree Sparrow is first recognized by a red cap (instead of gray on the House Sparrow). So this morning while birding a local park, we spotted some red-capped “House” Sparrows. Ahah! Well — not so fast.

They turned out to be Italian Sparrows (A cross between House and Spanish sparrows) now considered by some authorities as a separate species. The Italian Sparrow has the red cap, but also has the black chest of a House Sparrow and lacks the black cheek and white collar of the Tree Sparrow.

So we are still looking for Tree Sparrows.

We also added Water Pipit to our trip (and life) list. The Water Pipit was split from what is now known as the American Pipit several years ago.

Tomorrow, we head north towards Zurich.

The trip list is 93 with 73 lifers.

Only two photos today.

Wood Pigeon, Locarno, Switzerland, June 27, 2016

Wood Pigeon, Locarno, Switzerland, June 27, 2016

Italian Sparrow, Locarno, Switzerland, June 27, 2016

Italian Sparrow (with breakfast), Locarno, Switzerland, June 27, 2016

Sunday, June 26, 2016, Leuk, Switzerland

Today we hunted for our two most-wanted birds — Lammergeier and Wallcreeper..

We went to where a local Swiss birder referred us — Leuk.

We followed the directions to a chasm of shear rock faces over a roaring stream cascading down the mountainside. We stared at the canyon walls for almost two hours, hoping to see a Wallcreeper fly. They are almost impossible to pick out on the rock face.

No luck!

We did see some other new birds — Alpine Chough and Alpine Swift — and got some photos of other birds.

We then took the cable car from Leukenbad up to Gemmi — which had been recommended to us as THE place in Switzerland to see Lammergeier.

As we entered the cable car and looked up at the cables, they disappeared into the clouds — as did we.

It was totally socked in up top, and we only had a few minutes at a time of breaks in the cloud cover below for us to scan. So we dipped out on that one too!

However, we did pick up Alpine Accentor and Snowfinch for the trip.

We are now heading to the eastern tip of Switzerland to finish up before heading back towards Zurich.

The trip list is 91 with 71 lifers.

Here are more photos.

Juvenal Black Redstart, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Juvenal Black Redstart, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Eurasian Jay, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Eurasian Jay, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Eurasian Jay, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Eurasian Jay, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Crag Martin, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Crag Martin, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Alpine Chough, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016 (Barb took this one with her cell phone!)

Alpine Chough, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016 (Barb took this one with her cell phone!)

Alpine Chough, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Alpine Chough, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Alpine Accentor, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Alpine Accentor, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

We birded The Dombes in France today. It is an area just north of Lyon consisting of hundreds of lakes and marshes, which are alternately drained and filled for agricultural purposes, making for a rich variety of wetlands throughout the year, but also making it difficult to know which ones to go to!

In the middle of all of this is the Parc des Oiseaux (Bird Park). We thought it was a nature preserve. It was a zoo — not only figuratively in number of people there, but also literally!

However, the habitat attracts native birds as well, so we decided to take advantage of the photo ops. I tried to take photos only of native birds taking advantage of the zoo’s hospitality — but I am not sure in all cases.

We then visited some of the nearby lakes and found Spoonbills, Lapwings, stilts, and Ruddy Shelducks, as well as our only nuthatch for the trip.

We then drove back to Switzerland, where we plan to try for Wallcreeper and Lammergier tomorrow! Our most-desired birds for the trip.

Tune in tomorrow for the results…

Trip list is 87 with 68 lifers.

Here are some photos.

Wood Pigeon, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Wood Pigeon, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Eurasian Spoonbills, Black-winged Stilts, Lapwings, Black-headed Gull, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Eurasian Spoonbills, Black-winged Stilts, Lapwings, Black-headed Gull, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Shelduck, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Shelduck, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Pochard, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Pochard, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Eurasian Nuthatch, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Eurasian Nuthatch, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Moorhen (Gallinule?), The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Moorhen (Gallinule?), The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Lapwings, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Lapwings, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Gray Heron, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Gray Heron, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Great Cormorant, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Great Cormorant, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Black-headed Gull, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Black-headed Gull, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Thursday and Friday, June 23-24, 2016

No, we didn’t die…

The internet connection at the hotel we stayed in last night kept disconnecting, so I gave up trying to update the blog. Also, our days seem to be getting longer and busier, giving me less time to work on the blog. I will add a lot more when we get home.

In the meantime…

Although we added new birds each day, few were expected species at the locations we went to. Most were birds seen while traveling from one birding “hot spot” to another. Many of the birding sites are not as described in the book.

Be that as it may, we are still seeing birds and hearing a lot more that we cannot identify.

Yesterday, we added Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Thrush. Today, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Crag Martin, Black Redstart, and Whinchat.

Tomorrow is our last day in France — back to Switzerland.

The trip list is 80 with 63 lifers.

Here are some more photos.

Whinchat, France, June 24, 2016

Whinchat, France, June 24, 2016

Crag Martins, Doux Valley, France, June 24,2016

Crag Martins, Doux Valley, France, June 24,2016

Chaffinch, France, June 24, 2016

Chaffinch, France, June 24, 2016

Common Buzzard being harassed by Eurasian Kestrel, France, June 24, 2016

Common Buzzard being harassed by Eurasian Kestrel, France, June 24, 2016

Linnet, Old Island Marsh, France, June 23, 2016

Linnet, Old Island Marsh, France, June 23, 2016

Black Redstart, Dentelles de Montmirail, France, June 23, 2016

Black Redstart, Dentelles de Montmirail, France, June 23, 2016

 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

As productive as yesterday was, today was the opposite.

We headed for The Crau, a dry, desert like area just east of the Camargue. We hoped to see Little Owl, Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Lesser Kestrel, and more.

Not to be…

The temperature was in the 80s, not a cloud in the sky, and no shade.

We arrived at the museum in town to purchase an entrance pass, got a map and headed out to the preserve. Unfortunately, the map did not have a scale on it (all of the maps we have gotten at local preserves, etc. have been very poor), and so what looked like a short stroll around the preserve became a slog of several kilometers!

Barb turned back after we realized how far around it would be, but I slogged on. But I soon realized it was a lot farther than I had figured. So I also turned back.

If it weren’t for Jackdaws, Magpies, and Kites, I wouldn’t have seen anything.

While waiting for me to return, Barb had a Lesser Kestrel. This is THE place in France to see them — the place is managed for them. Well, I have to say their management plan sucks…

After returning to the car, we drove down a short road and did find a Calandra Lark.

We left that section and headed to the nearby landfill (don’t birders go to the neatest places?) to look for Egyptian Vultures which are supposed to summer there. When we got to the landfill, there was absolutely no dumping going on, so there were no birds hanging around — let alone, vultures.

We did however, find a Crested Lark.

Crested Lark, The Crau, France, June 22, 2016

Crested Lark, The Crau, France, June 22, 2016

We decided to go over to Berre Lake, which, although highly developed, was supposed to have some bird-friendly areas. By the time we got there, the traffic was horrible, routes that we expected to take were closed for construction, and it certainly had not cooled down. So we headed back.

By the way, France has an interesting definition of two-way road!

The road to our hotel. This is what France calls a two-way road! Note the width of the car hood.

The road to our hotel. This is what France calls a two-way road! Note the width of the car hood.

This road is barely wide enough for a car and bicycle to pass each other. If you meet a car coming, someone has to pull into a driveway or off the road to get by. And we thought Swiss roads were birder unfriendly…

With all that said, the trip has been fun so far. Here are a few photos of where we stayed the last two days (and tonight). It is very rural, lots of trees and bushes, but few birds…

It was originally built in the 16th century as a priory. It has 6 acres.

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Our room exterior, June 22, 2016

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Our room exterior, June 22, 2016

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Hotel grounds, June 22, 2016

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Hotel grounds, June 22, 2016

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Our room, June 22, 2016

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Our room, June 22, 2016

The trip list is 73 with 56 lifers.

Tomorrow we head north.

Tuesday, The Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Today we birded the Camargue, a huge coastal preserve on the Mediterranean in southeastern France. It is like Brigantine on steroids. Marshes, salt-pans, brush, ponds, woods, etc. I have no idea how large it is, but is somewhere around 20 x 25 miles.

There were a lot of birds. Some of them, we couldn’t identify until we got back to the hotel and studied the photos!

The highlights were the Flamingos (of course), but also the Bee-eaters, and Short-toed Eagle. We discovered the eagle was banded when we saw the photos. The Bee-eaters, unfortunately stayed just far enough away that the photos were not sharp — but certainly enjoyable.

We will be birding more of this area tomorrow.

The trip list is 70 with 53 lifers.

Here is a gallery of some of today’s birds.

Zitting's Cisticola (Fan-tailed Warbler), Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Zitting’s Cisticola (Fan-tailed Warbler), Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Yellow Wagtail, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Yellow Wagtail, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Yellow-legged Gull, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Yellow-legged Gull, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

White Stork, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

White Stork, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Turtle Dove, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Turtle Dove, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Stonechat, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Stonechat, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Short-toed Eagle (with leg band), Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Short-toed Eagle (with leg band), Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Sardinian Warbler, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Sardinian Warbler, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Lizard, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Lizard, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Little Egret, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Little Egret, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Eurasian Jackdaw, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Eurasian Jackdaw, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Glossy Ibis, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Glossy Ibis, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Greater Flamingo, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Greater Flamingo, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Cattle Egret, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Cattle Egret, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Black-winged Stilt, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Black-winged Stilt, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Black-headed Gull, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Black-headed Gull, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Bee-eaters, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Bee-eaters, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Avocet, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Avocet, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

 

Monday, June 20, 2016

We spent most of today traveling (7 hours) from Cugy to Arles, France.

We got in a little birding in Switzerland and added Wren (our Winter Wren) to our list.

As we neared our hotel near Arles, Barb spotted some Cattle Egrets and, shortly thereafter, a European Roller.

European Roller, Arles, France, June 20, 2016

European Roller, Arles, France, June 20, 2016

That was our only lifer for today.

We will be birding the Camargue — a large coastal preserve — the next few days. The most notable bird that breeds here is Flamingo! Plus, we should see some shorebirds, gulls, terns, waders, etc. (At least they won’t be hiding in the trees…)

41 lifers so far.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

We started down memory lane today by driving over to Cugy (where Barb had lived for 5 months). Remarkably, we found her old apartment building — although with some changes (I thought we had brought along photos of it from 1963, but apparently not, so we will post comparison photos when we get home).

Barb's apartment building, Cugy, June 19, 2016

Barb’s apartment building, Cugy, June 19, 2016

Barb's apartment building, Cugy, June 19, 2016

Barb’s apartment building, Cugy, June 19, 2016

Okay, enough of non-birding!

We headed up to a nature preserve called Chavornay — a wetland, fields, and marsh. Just before we got there, we found a Eurasian Collared-Dove.

Eurasian Collared-Dove, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Eurasian Collared-Dove, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

At the first pond, a Purple Heron was preening.

Purple Heron, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Purple Heron, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

From the observation blind, we saw Coots, Tufted Ducks, and this Great Cormorant.Great Cormorant, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Great Cormorant, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Another Purple Heron flew by.

Purple Heron, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Purple Heron, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Also there, a Reed Warbler posed.

Reed Warbler, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Reed Warbler, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

I decided to walk down to check a nearby channel. Although I didn’t find any new birds, I did find Deer tracks — the closest we have come so far to seeing any wild mammals here.

Deer track, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Deer track, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

And another frog (at all of the wetlands we have visited so far, the frogs and toads are in full chorus).

Frog, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Frog, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

While I was doing that, Barb started walking back to the car. In a field of Swiss Chard (!), she found a Yellow Wagtail, which conveniently reappeared when I caught up.

Yellow Wagtail, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Yellow Wagtail, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

We next headed for the Vallee de Joux. As we pulled into the first wetland parking area, a Hobby flew in and raced back and forth over the stream and marsh for several minutes.

Hobby, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Hobby, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Hobby, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Hobby, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Out on the lake were many Coots, Great Crested Grebes, and Black-headed Gulls. We drove down the lakeside, but didn’t find anything new. But as we pulled into a parking lot to turn around, a small bird flitted into a tree in front of us. It was a Redstart.

Redstart, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Redstart, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Although Tufted Ducks are common here, most of the ones we have seen have been distant. So a closer one on a pond was nice.

Tufted Duck, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Tufted Duck, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

While driving back to the hotel, we spotted a Common Buzzard.Common Buzzard, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Common Buzzard, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

In Pennsylvania, when a farmer is out mowing the hay, he is followed by a swarm of swallows. Here, he is followed by kites!

Kites, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Kites, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Kites, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Kites, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Kites (Red on right), near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Kites (Red on right), near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Black Kite, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Black Kite, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

The triplist is 52, with 40 lifers.

We head to France and the Camargue (a large coastal preserve) tomorrow.