Birder's Guide

MAR 2018

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Alaska's Vagrant Hotspots 38 Birder's Guide to Travel | April 2018 of Gambell on St. Lawrence Island just south of the Bering Strait. All three loca - tions provide regular flight service, good accommodations, and reliable access— along with a wide variety of rarities. Each site can be visited in the spring and fall through organized birding trips offered by several tour companies. This article provides a brief overview of each location, summarizes which va- grant birds are likely to be seen, com- pares spring and fall visits, and offers basic logistical information. While each island is worth a visit in its own right for the stunning scenery, massive seabird colonies, Alaska specialty birds, and wildflower displays, this article focuses on Asian vagrants, which are best found during spring and fall. One of the most important things to realize while vagrant hunting in western Alaska is that weather, especially wind direction, is a key factor in terms of how many rarities can be found. Asian vagrants reach these islands for various reasons, including drift vagrancy, over- shooting, and misorientation, and wind direction plays an important role in each of these. Because all three locations lie to the east of the Asian mainland, the most favorable winds are southwest or west winds. Low-pressure systems mov- ing across the Bering Sea with significant west winds and associated rain may be the most productive weather to bring Asian vagrants to Adak and St. Paul is- lands. The most promising conditions occur a day or two after a wind shift 52˚ 54˚ 56˚ 58˚ 60˚ 62˚ 64˚ 66˚ clockwise from top left: n Marsh Sandpiper. Photo © Stephan Lorenz n White Wagtail. Photo © Stephan Lorenz n Birding at Gambell. Photo © Stephan Lorenz

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