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 45 of 73

44 Birder's Guide to Travel | April 2018 Alaska's Vagrant Hotspots Plovers, and White Wagtails arrive to nest in and around the village. Red-throated Pipits are regular trans-Beringian mi- grants alongside the expected Northern Wheatears and secretive Bluethroats, and in June Arctic Warblers move through. Shorebird migration is in full swing by the end of May; regular species that may arrive in the corner marsh or the grav- el ponds include Wood and Common sandpipers, Common Greenshank, and Common Snipe. Rarities like Green Sandpiper, Eurasian Dotterel, Great Knot, and Pin-tailed and Jack snipes have been recorded once or twice in recent years. Gambell is rightly famous for vagrant passerines. Some of the hoped-for spe- cies in spring include Eurasian Skylark, Dusky Warbler, Siberian Rubythroat, Red-flanked Bluetail, Siberian Stonechat, Eyebrowed Thrush, Olive-backed Pipit, and Hawfinch. In recent spring sea- sons, Common Chiffchaff, which was first recorded in the ABA Area in 2012, has been seen almost annually, and Common House Martin has made sev- eral appearances. The main season for Asian rarities at Gambell is fall. During the past decades, this seems to be the best location to see Old World warblers and buntings. The fall season starts during the last week of August and continues at least into the middle of October, although daylight and birders thin out towards the end of the fall season. In addition to the afore- mentioned first ABA records, Gambell has hosted an incredible Eurasian Wryneck, one of the few ABA records of Wood Warbler, the second ABA record of Siberian Blue Robin, and multiple Pallas's Buntings plus Yellow-browed Bunting. Many birders consider the fall season the true rarity season here. Gambell can be reached by daily flights from Nome. The Sivuqaq Inn provides accommodation. Due to the increased popularity of birding in Gambell, the inn can fill up quickly during the prime season and it is possible to stay with lo- cals in the village. There are no restau- rants in Gambell and the grocery store is limited, so it is best to bring all food and supplies. Once on the island, ATVs can be rented from locals in order to reach birding sites more efficiently. Final Thoughts Birding in western Alaska is always ex- citing, no matter which hotspot birders decide to visit. It is important to keep in mind that weather and chance play major roles, and to encounter a good number of Asiatic vagrants requires pa- tience, time, and sometimes just plain luck. Not every rarity will arrive from the Old World side of the Bering Sea, and this holds especially true for the fall season when many North American strays show up on St. Paul Island and at Gambell. That little brown bird flitting among Gambell's boneyards may not be a desired Asiatic bunting but a Chipping Sparrow, and the tiny fluttering songbird among St. Paul's crab pots may turn out to be a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. But in these remote places, birders armed with determination, a sense of adventure, and good humor may very well stumble onto a new ABA bird. n Tufted Puffins, which breed on St. Paul Island, may not be vagrants, but they're still worth your attention. Photo © Gregory Smith

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