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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43 April 2018 | Birder's Guide to Travel well-stocked grocery store is available. The local Trident fish-processing plant has a canteen that doubles as the local restaurant. Gambell, St. Lawrence Island Gambell is a small Siberian Yupik com- munity on the northwestern tip of St. Lawrence Island in the northern Bering Sea just south of the Bering Strait. Similar to St. Paul Island, an unexpected number of bird species have been re- corded in this northern outpost with the current list standing at 278 for the Gambell vicinity. More important for birders trying to increase their ABA lists, nine first ABA records have been docu- mented during the past two decades, predominantly during the fall season. Of all three sites, Gambell is by far the clos- est to Asia, lying merely 45 miles from the coast of the Chukchi Peninsula. On a clear day, the Russian mountains are clearly visible. St. Lawrence Island is significantly larger than Adak Island or St. Paul Island, encompassing 2,000 square miles, but birders are limited by a stan- dard land crossing permit to the envi- rons of Gambell, where the farthest ac- cessible birding area lies approximately five miles south of the village. Gambell has no roads or vehicles, so birders cov- er the hotspots on foot or by rented ATV. Due to its northern location, the sparse habitats in the immediate vicin - ity of Gambell are composed of gravel flats and low tundra vegetation on the slopes of Sevuokuk Mountain, the high- est point near the village. Other habitats accessible to birders include small marshes, a sizable lake, bays, gravel ponds, and of course the famed "bone- yards". The boneyards are midden sites that attract most of the vagrant passer- ines. Although these sites are relatively barren during the spring, once fall ar- rives, tall wormwood and Arctic sage grow to two feet high, providing shelter for flycatchers, warblers, buntings, and finches. The majority of Asian rarities on Gambell have been found in the bone- yards, with smaller numbers discov- ered among the boulder fields along the mountain slope or in the village itself. The best weather conditions to carry Asian strays to Gambell are southwest or west winds, but a variety of winds or changes in wind direction can lead to the arrival of a rarity. The island's close proximity to the Russian mainland means that strong storms are not neces- sary to carry Asian strays to Gambell. Even light, variable winds are often pro- ductive. Due to the limited area acces- sible to birders, birding in Gambell can be much more repetitive than St. Paul or Adak islands, and dreaded north winds often blow for several days, especially during the fall season, making the arrival This table uses eBird data to summarize Asiatic vagrants recorded on Adak Island, St. Paul Island, and Gambell, St. Lawrence Island. These species totals leave out trans-Beringian migrants (such as Northern Wheatear, Bluethroat, Arctic Warbler, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Red-necked Stint) but include Asiatic species widespread as migrants/winterers in the ABA Area and some very localized breeders (e.g., Eurasian Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Common Ringed Plover, Red-throated Pipit, White Wagtail). The spring season is defined as May through June, although on Adak and in Gambell most birding cover- age occurs only between mid-May and mid-June. Fall is defined as August through October, but there is little to no coverage after mid-October. Fall coverage was very limited on St. Paul Island prior to 2007 and has been generally limited on Adak Island, whereas Gambell has been covered extensively during the fall season. St. Paul Island has been covered extensively during the summer, leading to some notable records. The numbers below are absolute numbers; for simplicity, birding effort was not taken into account and was not standardized between seasons or years. Year Adak Spring (Fall) St. Paul Island Spring (Fall) Gambell Spring (Fall) 2007 7 (12) 20 (26) 12 (18) 2008 8 (N/A) 15 (17) 12 (15) 2009 N/A (4) 17 (12) 16 (15) 2010 5 (N/A) 8 (12) 17 (13) 2011 7 (6) 16 (25) 8 (20) 2012 5 (4) 13 (19) 15 (16) 2013 3 (8) 13 (25) 16 (18) 2014 6 (4) 20 (27) 13 (22) 2015 14 (7) 19 (28) 14 (21) 2016 12 (5) 20 (19) 19 (12) ABA firsts (1997–2006) 0 0 4 ABA firsts (since 2007) 1 4 5 All-time total species 53 85 82 of rarities unlikely. It serves birders well to bring time and patience, as it can take a few days (or weeks) before the right wind directions deposit Asian vagrants. The same holds true for St. Paul and Adak islands, of course. Fortunately, the well-known point at Gambell plays host to one of the world's finest seawatches, with loons, eiders, alcids, jaegers, and gulls passing by at a steady clip during migration. During the spring season, several Asian migrants that are difficult to see elsewhere in the ABA Area occur regu- larly at Gambell. During the first week of June, Common Ringed Plovers estab - lish territories adjacent to Semipalmated

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