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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Page 41 of 73

40 Birder's Guide to Travel | April 2018 Alaska's Vagrant Hotspots Jack Snipe, Willow Warbler, and Little Bunting. In addition, all of the first ABA records have occurred in the fall. Due to the prolonged nature of fall migration, I recom- mend a stay of at least two weeks in any of the three locations, and many birders choose even longer visits to increase their chances for the right weather conditions. If planning on making multiple visits over several spring or fall seasons, I suggest picking a slightly different time of year for each visit; for example, one August visit for shorebirds, one early September visit for passerines, and one October visit for mega-rarities. For an overview and comparison of each location, we will work our way from south to north, starting with Adak Island and finishing with Gambell on St. Lawrence Island. Adak Island Adak lies within the Andreanof Islands group in the central Aleutians about 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage. It is a large island, extending 34 miles in length and 22 miles in width, with elevations reaching nearly 4,000 feet on Mount Moffett. The island housed a large U.S. Naval Air Facility for many decades, but since the closure of the installation, birders can visit the island and take advantage of the remaining in - frastructure. A good road system covers the northeastern portion of the island, providing access to the best birding lo- cations. The rest of the island is trackless wilderness accessible only on foot. Due to its large size and varied to- pography, Adak Island has a diversity of habitats, including lakes, marshes, la- goons, creeks, cliffs, and ravines. Large bays and extensive beaches offer end- less sea-watching opportunities with the impressive Great Sitkin Volcano loom- ing in the background. The extensive wetlands attract vagrant waterfowl and shorebirds, making Adak one of the best places to see Smew, which occurs annually; Eastern Spot-billed Duck has been found more than once. Common Snipe is reliable, possibly breeding, and it is not uncommon to see two or three winnowing above Contractor's Camp Marsh. One of the most productive sites includes Clam Lagoon, where tidal mudflats have attracted the largest va- riety of Asiatic shorebirds. In addition to the expected Asiatic species, other spring rarities recorded here include Tundra and Taiga bean-geese, Common Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Far Eastern Curlew, Black- tailed Godwit, and Temminck's Stint, although most of these are very rare. Adak is situated about 440 miles east of Attu and lies too far from the major migration route to attract large numbers of Asiatic passerines during spring, but diligent birders can still hope to find Brambling and Eyebrowed Thrush. Former residents planted several stands of spruce trees with some forming the "famous" Adak National Forest, and some of these trees attract Hawfinches about every other year. It is also worth top to bottom: n Least and Crested auklets are some of the exciting non-vagrant birds you can see on Bering Sea islands. Photo © Don Henise n Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Photo © Stephan Lorenz n Eyebrowed Thrush. Photo © Gary H. Rosenberg

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