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.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 40 of 73

39 April 2018 | Birder's Guide to Travel following prolonged west winds. Due to Gambell's proximity to the Russian mainland, only a short period of west winds can be productive. The optimal time to catch spring mi- gration in western Alaska ranges from mid-May to mid-June. Spring migra- tion is more concentrated compared to the fall season, and during May and June it is possible to observe pulses of shorebirds, waterfowl, and passerines heading north to reach their breeding grounds. This allows birders to hope for several Asian strays during a rela - tively short visit, but I still recommend a minimum one-week stay during the spring season. A longer trip increases the chance to catch a weather system conducive for vagrants. The number of rare birds present depends on wind di - rection, and birders should not expect more than a handful of vagrants (which would still be considered a very good trip) during a few days. All three islands host several spe- cies of Asian vagrants annually. Some of the more expected waterfowl species include Eurasian Wigeon and Tufted Duck, while regular shorebirds include Wood Sandpiper, Lesser Sand-Plover, Ruff, and Common Snipe. Black-headed and Slaty-backed gulls are often present in the spring. Passerines are generally uncommon; however, White Wagtail (breeds on Gambell), Olive-backed and Red-throated pipits, Eyebrowed Thrush, Brambling, and Hawfinch are annual. The fall season tends to be more pro- tracted with peak movements of shore- birds, waterfowl, and passerines occur- ring at different times. Shorebirds visit mainly from mid-August to the begin- ning of September, whereas waterfowl tend to migrate later, often into October. Sharp-tailed Sandpipers pass through starting in August and can occur in large numbers in the fall, especially on St. Paul Island. Gray-tailed Tattler and Little Stint are also expected fall species, while Common Sandpiper and Temminck's Stint are less reliable. Among passerines, warblers and flycatchers migrate earlier and are most likely during the last week of August and first week of September, whereas finches and buntings often occur well into the month of October. In general, the fall season is highly productive, although un- predictable, with rarities occur- ring almost anytime between August and October. Some of the more expected fall passerines include Brambling, Rustic Bunting, Red-flanked Bluetail, and with luck Common Rosefinch. In addition, fall is the season for mega-rarities and first ABA records, with a total 15 new species for the ABA and North America being found in re- cent years. These have included such stunners as Eurasian Sparrowhawk on Adak Island, and Northern Boobok, Solitary Snipe, Common Redstart, and Pallas's Rosefinch on St. Paul Island. In terms of new ABA birds, Gambell takes the crown with no less than nine additions during the past two decades: Willow Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Pallas's Leaf Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, and Yellow-browed Bunting. In other words, Gambell is a great place to find Old World warblers in the New World! With increased coverage during the fall season, several Asiatic vagrants that had been considered extremely rare are now known to be nearly annual, such as top to bottom: n Gray-tailed Tattler. Photo © Stephan Lorenz n Pallas' Bunting. Photo © Gary H. Rosenberg

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Birder's Guide - MAR 2018