For our tour description, itinerary, past triplists, dates, fees, and more, please VISIT OUR TOUR PAGE.
See this triplist in printable PDF format with media only on page 1.
The spectacular sight of Denali as seen from a viewpoint just south of Cantwall along the Parks Highway. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
The Field Guides Alaska Tour Part One will go down as one of the most memorable ones in recent years. The combination of favorable winds on St. Paul and good weather overall set us up for a nice diversity of species and some wonderful scenery. I get asked a lot whether I ever get tired of going to Alaska after so many years. I can’t imagine tiring of all of the wonderful sights and wildlife encounters that make this a premier destination.
Our tour got off to an amazing start with a short visit to Bethel on route to St. Paul Island. Strong westerly winds had set us up for an unusual visit to the island, with one of the more vagrant rich visits in memory. Just as soon as we dropped off our bags in our rooms, we were off to Marunich to look for Gray-streaked Flycatcher, Terek and Common sandpipers, along with our first taste of St. Paul’s normal bird life. That evening, we headed to the northeast part of the island to feast on Eyebrowed Thrushes, Olive-backed Pipits, and Bramblings, along with a massive number of Red Phalaropes! The breeding seabirds of St. Paul were kept largely off of their breeding cliffs by the strong southerly component to the wind, but we managed to see them floating on the water or flying past us. The winds set us up for a productive seawatch near Reef Rookery where we had a few Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels and a stream of Fulmars. Ponds also proved productive, and we were able to add Common Greenshank, Common Snipe, and a rare Long-toed Stint to our growing list of rarities. Eventually, we were off again to the mainland in preparation for our journey north to Denali.
After a morning visit to Westchester Lagoon, we were off to the Sockeye Burn to seek out woodpeckers. An American Three-toed Woodpecker nest was the big highlight there. Then we stopped along the Parks Highway in a few spots, picking up some nice birds along the way. Our next morning was a glorious one along the Denali Highway, but not before making a short detour south of Cantwell to take in the mighty view of Denali. What a sight! Then we headed east, birding our way surrounded at times by mountains in every direction! Highlights were numerous, but included our first pair of Willow Ptarmigan. The second morning was spent looking for grouse before catching the shuttle bus into the park itself. Early on were two terrific sightings, a male Spruce Grouse and a Northern Hawk Owl. Just past Polychrome Pass was a Gyrfalcon showing well for us! Mammals were cooperative with a terrific Toklat Grizzly at one point, as well as Caribou, Moose, Dall’s Sheep, Arctic Ground-Squirrels, and even a Hoary Marmot. None of us will soon forget the overzealous shushing from our cautious driver. Our drive back down to Anchorage was also rewarding, with better views of White-winged Crossbill, a wonderful Short-tailed Weasel for part of the group, and a wonderful Black-backed Woodpecker at the Sockeye Burn on our second visit there.
Thanks to each of you for making part one such a success! It was a real treat for Doug and I to spent time with you in this magical place! — Chris
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
Sheltering from the wind and enjoying a wonderful seawatch on St. Paul Island. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
CACKLING GOOSE (ALEUTIAN) (Branta hutchinsii leucopareia)
CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)
TRUMPETER SWAN (Cygnus buccinator)
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)
EURASIAN WIGEON (Mareca penelope)
A Gray-streaked Flycatcher sheltering among the rocks at Marunich on St. Paul Island. A super rare bird for North America. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (Anas acuta)
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (EURASIAN) (Anas crecca nimia)
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (AMERICAN) (Anas crecca carolinensis)
One of the two Terek Sandpipers goes flying past us at Marunich on our first afternoon there. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
CANVASBACK (Aythya valisineria)
RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)
GREATER SCAUP (Aythya marila)
LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis)
KING EIDER (Somateria spectabilis)
Doug's diagnostic shot of the Long-toed Stint showing the long legs projecting beyond the tail tip. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
HARLEQUIN DUCK (Histrionicus histrionicus)
SURF SCOTER (Melanitta perspicillata)
WHITE-WINGED SCOTER (NORTH AMERICAN) (Melanitta fusca deglandi)
LONG-TAILED DUCK (Clangula hyemalis)
BUFFLEHEAD (Bucephala albeola)
This Bar-tailed Godwit put in a visit at the Salt Lagoon. Photo by participant Pieter Poll.
BARROW'S GOLDENEYE (Bucephala islandica)
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
SPRUCE GROUSE (Falcipennis canadensis)
WILLOW PTARMIGAN (Lagopus lagopus)
RED-THROATED LOON (Gavia stellata)
HORNED GREBE (Podiceps auritus)
One of the many Red Phalaropes seen at St. Paul. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
RED-NECKED GREBE (Podiceps grisegena)
Procellariidae (Shearwaters and Petrels)
NORTHERN FULMAR (Fulmarus glacialis)
FORK-TAILED STORM-PETREL (Oceanodroma furcata)
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
RED-FACED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax urile)
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)
A couple of views of the immature White-tailed Eagle seen well on the northeast part of the island. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
GOLDEN EAGLE (Aquila chrysaetos)
NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)
BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
WHITE-TAILED EAGLE (Haliaeetus albicilla)
RED-TAILED HAWK (HARLAN'S) (Buteo jamaicensis harlani)
One of the several Eyebrowed Thrushes seen at Hutch Hill. Yet another Siberian species! Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
WHIMBREL (SIBERIAN) (Numenius phaeopus variegatus)
BAR-TAILED GODWIT (Limosa lapponica)
HUDSONIAN GODWIT (Limosa haemastica)
LONG-TOED STINT (Calidris subminuta)
One of the Olive-backed Pipits we encountered at Hutch Hill as the light was fading. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
ROCK SANDPIPER (PTILOCNEMIS) (Calidris ptilocnemis ptilocnemis)
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)
WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)
COMMON SNIPE (Gallinago gallinago)
WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata)
We had quite an influx of Brambling on the island including this male from Hutch Hill. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
TEREK SANDPIPER (Xenus cinereus)
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus lobatus)
RED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus fulicarius)
COMMON SANDPIPER (Actitis hypoleucos)
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
A wonderful shot of the Pribilof form of Pacific Wren. When we end up with 30000 species of birds in the world, this will be its own species. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
COMMON GREENSHANK (Tringa nebularia)
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)
Stercorariidae (Skuas and Jaegers)
POMARINE JAEGER (Stercorarius pomarinus)
Alcidae (Auks, Murres, and Puffins)
COMMON MURRE (Uria aalge)
THICK-BILLED MURRE (Uria lomvia)
Looking a bit out of place in the surf at Marunich was this Crested Auklet. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
PARAKEET AUKLET (Aethia psittacula)
LEAST AUKLET (Aethia pusilla)
CRESTED AUKLET (Aethia cristatella)
HORNED PUFFIN (Fratercula corniculata)
TUFTED PUFFIN (Fratercula cirrhata)
One of the wonderful Least Auklets seen near Antone Lake on St. Paul. These little birds are packed full of energy. Photo by participant Pieter Poll.
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla)
RED-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa brevirostris)
SABINE'S GULL (Xema sabini)
BONAPARTE'S GULL (Chroicocephalus philadelphia)
BLACK-HEADED GULL (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
A wonderfully evocative shot of an Arctic Tern captured by Pieter Poll.
MEW GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus canus brachyrhynchus)
HERRING GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus argentatus smithsonianus)
GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL (Larus glaucescens)
GLAUCOUS GULL (Larus hyperboreus)
ARCTIC TERN (Sterna paradisaea)
The lighting was tough, but Doug managed to capture a shot of the Northern Hawk Owl that generated a lot of excitement on the bus ride. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
NORTHERN HAWK OWL (Surnia ulula)
SHORT-EARED OWL (Asio flammeus)
DOWNY WOODPECKER (Picoides pubescens)
HAIRY WOODPECKER (Picoides villosus)
Our second visit to the Sockeye Burn paid off with this Black-backed Woodpecker! Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
AMERICAN THREE-TOED WOODPECKER (Picoides dorsalis)
BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER (Picoides arcticus)
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
GYRFALCON (Falco rusticolus)
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER (Contopus cooperi)
WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus sordidulus)
Our first Willow Ptarmigan discovered along the Denali Highway. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
ALDER FLYCATCHER (Empidonax alnorum)
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
GRAY JAY (Perisoreus canadensis)
BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE (Pica hudsonia)
COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)
TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)
This wonderful male Spruce Grouse was standing at the side of the road as we headed past. Too bad our driver did not have a little bit more finesse in backing up for it. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW (Tachycineta thalassina)
BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia)
CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)
Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)
BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE (Poecile atricapillus)
BOREAL CHICKADEE (Poecile hudsonicus)
We were fortunate to get some wonderful looks at Boreal Chickadee, including this one. Photo by participant Pieter Poll.
PACIFIC WREN (ALASCENSIS GROUP) (Troglodytes pacificus alascensis)
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula)
Muscicapidae (Old World Flycatchers)
GRAY-STREAKED FLYCATCHER (Muscicapa griseisticta)
SIBERIAN RUBYTHROAT (Calliope calliope)
NORTHERN WHEATEAR (Oenanthe oenanthe)
This Toklat Grizzy eyes us cautiously between munches. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH (Catharus minimus)
SWAINSON'S THRUSH (Catharus ustulatus)
HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus) [*]
EYEBROWED THRUSH (Turdus obscurus)
AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)
Cher spotted this wonderful Short-tailed Weasel at Byers Lake that seemed to be following the path of a Red Squirrel. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
VARIED THRUSH (Ixoreus naevius)
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]
Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)
OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT (Anthus hodgsoni)
AMERICAN PIPIT (JAPONICUS) (Anthus rubescens japonicus)
Calcariidae (Longspurs and Snow Buntings)
LAPLAND LONGSPUR (Calcarius lapponicus)
One of the many wonderful Moose seen on the trip. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
SNOW BUNTING (Plectrophenax nivalis)
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Oreothlypis celata)
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)
BLACKPOLL WARBLER (Setophaga striata)
Denali National Park is an outstanding place to see Caribou. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) (Setophaga coronata coronata)
WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)
Passerellidae (New World Buntings and Sparrows)
AMERICAN TREE SPARROW (Spizelloides arborea)
FOX SPARROW (RED) (Passerella iliaca zaboria)
DARK-EYED JUNCO (Junco hyemalis)
This Hoary Marmot lounges lazily at the Eielson Visitors Center inside the park. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (GAMBEL'S) (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii)
SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)
LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
BRAMBLING (Fringilla montifringilla)
GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCH (PRIBILOF IS.) (Leucosticte tephrocotis umbrina)
Some of the wonderful moments of the tour as captured through the eye of our very own Doug Gochfeld.
COMMON REDPOLL (Acanthis flammea)
WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL (Loxia leucoptera)
SNOWSHOE HARE (Lepus americanus)
HOARY MARMOT (Marmota caligata)
ARCTIC GROUND SQUIRREL (Spermophilus parryii)
RED SQUIRREL (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
ARCTIC FOX (Alopex lagopus)
BROWN (INCL. GRIZZLY) BEAR (Ursus arctos)
STOAT (SHORT-TAILED WEASEL) (Mustela erminea)
NORTHERN FUR SEAL (Callorhinus ursinus)
HARBOR SEAL (Phoca vitulina)
MOOSE (Alces alces)
CARIBOU (Rangifer tarandus granti)
REINDEER (Rangifer tarandus sibiricus) [I]
DALL'S SHEEP (Ovis dalli)
Totals for the tour: 122 bird taxa and 13 mammal taxa