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Field Guides Tour Report
Alaska I - Part Two (Nome, Seward & Barrow) 2018
Jun 7, 2018 to Jun 17, 2018
Chris Benesh & Doug Gochfeld


Long-tailed Jaegers were downright common in Nome, and watching these nimble aerialists glide over the endless tundra never got old. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

Few combinations of destinations exemplify the vastness and the wildness of Alaska as well as Nome, Seward, and Barrow. Between the pristine mixed forests and glacial beauty of the Kenai Peninsula, the endless tundra hills of the Seward Peninsula, and ice-locked, snow-laden Barrow, with life bursting from every seam of land that was free of snow, our trip around some of the extreme reaches of Alaska was truly fantastic.

Our trip to Nome saw weather that was just about as perfect as you could ask for, including the stunning lenticular cloud formations that dotted the sky during our full day trip out the Kougarok Road. Nome delivered on the rarity front, with a gaudy Red-necked Stint, a couple of Slaty-backed Gulls, and a most excellent Lesser Sand-Plover, but it was most remembered for the extravaganza of breeding birds that we experienced, from Rock Ptarmigans and Long-tailed Jaegers, to Northern Wheatears, Bluethroats, and Arctic Warblers, and all with a constant background din of Gray-cheeked Thrush song. Bohemian Waxwings were a welcome surprise here as well. The unquestionable highlight for many, however, was the abundance of loons in full breeding regalia. As a bonus to the already phenomenal loon show which we bore witness to, we also scored all five species of loons in the world in just one hour!

Our boat trip out of Seward was touched by lady luck herself, with seas calm enough to allow us out to the Chiswell Islands, and a sky that had enough cloud cover so that we didn’t burn up and so that viewing conditions were optimal all day in all directions. Tanya and Calley were great at getting us in position to see all the wildlife you could dream of, and they even dropped a hydrophone into the water while a pod of Orcas were transiting under the boat, allowing us a window into the lives of these amazing creatures which are usually hidden under the veil of the deep blue sea. In addition to other mammals (including Mountain Goats, Steller’s Sea Lions, and lunge-feeding Humpback Whales), there were indeed birds on the boat trip as well. These were highlighted by great looks at Kittlitz’s Murrelet, good numbers of Rhinoceros Auklets, a few each of Parakeet Auklets and Ancient Murrelets, and about gazillion Tufted and Horned Puffins buzzing around the beehive in the Chiswells.

Heading to Barrow in mid-June this year was like heading to a different planet, with sea ice extending from shore as far as the eye could see, and a layer of snow blanketing most of the arctic tundra. Despite the wintry conditions, the breeding birds were very much on site, with scores of Red Phalaropes and Pectoral Sandpipers already on site and displaying. The Eider show this year was magnificent- we saw almost 100 (!!!) Steller’s Eiders and a handful Spectacled Eiders on our very first afternoon, and King and Common Eiders were out and about as well, giving us yet another sweep! A displaying Buff-breasted Sandpiper, vagrant Little and (2) Red-necked Stints right next to each other, a Yellow-billed Loon, and a couple of phenomenally white Snowy Owls were even more icing on the cake.

Thanks for joining us for our journey through some of the remote and wild places of the final frontier. It was a true joy for both Chris and I to travel with such a fabulous group of folks, and the conditions cooperated for us wonderfully. So long, until next we meet somewhere afield in this great big bird-verse!

-Doug


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



Sabine's Gulls were around in good numbers this year, and we saw them in both Nome (where we had more than a dozen all told!) and Barrow. This individual was one of a couple who showed no fear of us, and went about their business foraging just a few feet off shore as we stood gawking at them from the water's edge. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

BIRDS
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE (Anser albifrons) – The most memorable were a hilarious pair having an identity crisis in a flock of Sandhill Cranes standing on the road blocking our path as we went out the Kougarok Road in Nome. They were also downright abundant on the tundra around Barrow.
BRANT (BLACK) (Branta bernicla nigricans) – Nome and Barrow.
CACKLING GOOSE (Branta hutchinsii) – A few scattered around Nome and then a pair on our final morning Barrow.
CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis) – We saw some of these on the journey from Anchorage to Seward.
TRUMPETER SWAN (Cygnus buccinator) – We stopped for great views of a pair on the way from Seward to Anchorage.
TUNDRA SWAN (WHISTLING) (Cygnus columbianus columbianus) – A few around Nome, but really excellent looks in Barrow, where they were fairly common.
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata) – Nome and en route from Seward.
AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana) – Nome and en route from Seward.
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos) – A few around Nome and in transit from Seward.
NORTHERN PINTAIL (Anas acuta) – Common in Nome and abundant in Barrow.


This Harlequin Duck took us by surprise as it careened around a bend in the stream where we were watching an American Dipper family, and swam right in front of us at point blank range. We apparently took it by an equal amount of surprise, because as soon as it saw us, it turned right back around, and went upstream. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

GREEN-WINGED TEAL (AMERICAN) (Anas crecca carolinensis) – Common in Nome and at least a pair in Barrow.
RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris) – Seen by some from the van as we drove by Potter Marsh in Anchorage.
GREATER SCAUP (Aythya marila) – Nome and Barrow.
STELLER'S EIDER (Polysticta stelleri) – W.O.W. Wow, wow, wow, what a spectacle we experienced on our first afternoon in Barrow. We watched dozens of these in the lightly falling snow as they cavorted and courted on a large melt lake on the tundra. We had an exceptional count of just over 100 individuals, 96 of which were in a very small stretch along the Gaswell Road.
SPECTACLED EIDER (Somateria fischeri) – Amidst the spectacle of Steller's Eider were at least 6 very stellar Spectacled Eider. We even got to see these extremely range restricted and most sought after of all the eider species performing some head-bobbing courtship displays. A very cool experience all around.
KING EIDER (Somateria spectabilis) – A handful around Nome including a gorgeous drake which we were able to scope around Cape Nome. Then quite a few around Barrow, including a flock of almost 40 individuals migrating north not too far off shore.
COMMON EIDER (PACIFIC) (Somateria mollissima v-nigrum) – Very common around Nome, especially at Safety Sound. There were also a few around Barrow, giving us the eider sweep there. One of the strangest sights of the trip was a young male Common Eider joining a group of Glaucous Gulls investigating and/or feeding on an unidentified mammal carcass on the Chukchi Sea ice.


Sometimes the Sea Otters of Seward looked cute and cuddly as could be, but lest we forget, there's always a ravenously hungry savage below the surface. Photo by participant Pieter Poll.

HARLEQUIN DUCK (Histrionicus histrionicus) – Around Nome, from the boat ride in Seward, and an awesome adult male that floated down the river at Chugach State Park right by us while we were watching the Dippers!
SURF SCOTER (Melanitta perspicillata) – A flyby flock seen from the boat in Seward, which was interestingly comprised of almost only males, were our only ones of this portion of the tour.
WHITE-WINGED SCOTER (NORTH AMERICAN) (Melanitta fusca deglandi) – Off shore at Nome. We scrutinized those that were close enough to examine, and they all appeared to be of the expected North American subspecies deglandi.
BLACK SCOTER (Melanitta americana) – A few off shore at Nome.
LONG-TAILED DUCK (Clangula hyemalis) – These delightful ducks were common around Nome and Barrow, where in addition to getting to see them in several plumages, we were intermittently serenaded by their funky vocalizations.
COMMON MERGANSER (Mergus merganser) – Some very confiding birds across from the hotel in Seward, and some folks even got to see the little babies riding on the parents' backs!
RED-BREASTED MERGANSER (Mergus serrator) – Common around Nome, though not in huge numbers.
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
WILLOW PTARMIGAN (Lagopus lagopus) – A few scattered around the Nome road system, including some very vocal birds near town!
ROCK PTARMIGAN (Lagopus muta) – Despite it being rumored to be a bad year for them, we had excellent luck with them, seeing no less than five individuals between the Kougarok and Teller Roads in Nome, including a female on a nest!


We saw several confiding male Rock Ptarmigans very well in various places around Nome, but by far our most memorable encounter with the species was a female sitting very well camouflaged on a nest. After observing her for a while, you could look away for just an instant and be totally confounded when trying to re-find her. Another true wonder of nature. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

Gaviidae (Loons)
RED-THROATED LOON (Gavia stellata) – Just incredible numbers of stunning breeding plumaged birds around Nome. One of the commonest waterbirds there, but no less awesome each time you see one!
ARCTIC LOON (Gavia arctica) – The culmination of our grand slam (+1) loon evening where we saw all five loon species (this being the rarest and our primary target on this evening) in the world within one hour around Safety Sound. We found a pair on Norton Sound (initially spotted by eagle-eyed Derek) and were able to scope them for quite a while.
PACIFIC LOON (Gavia pacifica) – A few here and there around Nome, and a couple around Barrow as well.
COMMON LOON (Gavia immer) – A few around Safety Sound- more than usual.
YELLOW-BILLED LOON (Gavia adamsii) – One in gorgeous evening light on the ocean opposite Safety Sound in Nome, and then another one in Barrow on one of the salt lagoons and also hauling out on the snowy shoreline alongside that water.
Podicipedidae (Grebes)
RED-NECKED GREBE (Podiceps grisegena) – On the Nome and Seward legs.
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
PELAGIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax pelagicus) – A few around Nome and then plenty on the Seward boat trip.
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus) – Quite a few on the boat trip out of Seward, including some in high breeding plumage with white breeding plumes on the head.
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius) – Quite a few around Nome.
SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus) – An immature bird sneaking around Ava's house, but the swallows found it and mobbed it mercilessly.
BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) – Many on the Seward leg, including five kettling with each other at once as we were leaving breakfast on our final morning.
ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (Buteo lagopus) – One way out by Coffee Dome along the Kougarok Road on the Seward Peninsula (near Nome).


Not only does Nome have a fantastic array of arctic and subarctic breeding birds, but it is a great spot to try and find vagrant birds from Asia. Despite this reputation, it was still a pleasant surprise to see this Lesser Sand-Plover (formerly called Mongolian Plover) on our first full day of birding. Photo by participant Pieter Poll.

Gruidae (Cranes)
SANDHILL CRANE (Antigone canadensis) – A bunch around Nome, including some blocking the road along with a couple of Greater White-fronted Geese.
Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)
BLACK OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus bachmani) – A very vocal and showy male on the Seward boat trip.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER (Pluvialis dominica) – In several places in appropriate habitat in both Nome and Barrow, with exceptional views in Nome provided by our proximity to breeding territories, and in Barrow by the snow concentrating them around the roads.
PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER (Pluvialis fulva) – Good views in multiple places around Nome, especially the Nome River Mouth, but also a freshly arrived migrant on our final morning at Derby Creek.
LESSER SAND-PLOVER (MONGOLIAN) (Charadrius mongolus stegmanni) – A big surprise was this excellent vagrant from Asia at Derby Creek in Nome on our first morning in the area!
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus) – Breeding around Nome and Barrow.


Wonderful Whimbrels were one of our prizes on our tundra hike seventy miles north of Nome. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
WHIMBREL (HUDSONIAN) (Numenius phaeopus hudsonicus) – Good views in Nome, especially on Coffee Dome.
BAR-TAILED GODWIT (Limosa lapponica) – Really nice views in Nome multiple times, including a very close and obliging male at Derby Creek during our visit with the Sand-Plover.
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres) – A good number around Barrow. Often we'll only eke out a couple up there, but we had double digits on the garbage strewn shoreline of one of the open bodies of water on our final evening.
BLACK TURNSTONE (Arenaria melanocephala) – Two evenings in a row in Nome (Safety Sound and the Nome River Mouth outlet).
RED KNOT (Calidris canutus) – A few of these regionally difficult to see birds around breeding habitat along the Teller Road.
SURFBIRD (Calidris virgata) – Along the ocean side shore of Safety Sound on two different days.
RED-NECKED STINT (Calidris ruficollis) – Any trip where you see even one of these is a good one, and so seeing one well at the Nome River Mouth would've been enough, but then we saw two wonderful high-breeding-plumaged birds together on our final evening in Barrow, and alongside a breeding-plumage Little Stint for good measure!
SANDERLING (Calidris alba) – Our final two outings in Barrow produced these high Arctic breeders for us.
DUNLIN (Calidris alpina) – Nome and Barrow.
LITTLE STINT (Calidris minuta) – An immaculate breeding-plumaged adult on our final evening in Barrow, and a phenomenal after-dinner bird! Adults are very rare in Alaska indeed, so this was a very surprising pickup.


As if we hadn't already had our share of rarities, we got word of this Little Stint (normally found in Eurasia) on our final evening in Barrow, and we raced out right after dinner to find it still on-site and being spectacularly confiding. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla) – A few around Nome, where they breed.
BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (Calidris subruficollis) – Our first evening in Barrow produced one of these doing its awesome raised wing display amid a snow shower out on the tundra, making for a truly magical experience all around.
PECTORAL SANDPIPER (Calidris melanotos) – Excellent views of them flying around doing their really cool displays all around the tundra in Barrow.
SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (Calidris pusilla) – A good number around Nome, but it is the dominant species of small calidrid in Barrow, where we even got to see some copulations and a couple of egg-filled nests on the tundra.


We were awed by the deft footwork of this Mountain Goat as it went about its everyday business on a cliff overlooking Resurrection Bay. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri) – Common in Nome and we even saw a handful in Barrow, where they are much less common.
LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus) – A few had arrived in Barrow by the time we got into town, though they didn't have much usable habitat to utilize due to the snow cover.
WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata) – A bunch around Nome, including males calling from utility wires, dredges, and other prominent perches that aren't often associated with this otherwise sneaky, cryptic, species.
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus lobatus) – Lots around Nome and a good number around Barrow. They nest in both locations.
RED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus fulicarius) – One of the most common birds around Barrow, watching these do their thing despite the snow and ice blanketing their breeding habitat never got old.
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius) – Nome.
WANDERING TATTLER (Tringa incana) – A couple around Nome, including good views at Safety Sound late our first evening, as well as some around appropriate breeding habitat along rivers farther inland.
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes) – At least one around Nome.
Stercorariidae (Skuas and Jaegers)
POMARINE JAEGER (Stercorarius pomarinus) – We had a few around Nome, but we had our best views in Barrow, which included a very tame adult that flew by us and then landed on a dead Arctic Fox on Nunavak road and proceeded to start feasting! A couple of dark morph individuals up north added some nice flavor as well.
PARASITIC JAEGER (Stercorarius parasiticus) – Some phenomenal point blank views in Nome, and a few birds around Barrow as well.
LONG-TAILED JAEGER (Stercorarius longicaudus) – Awesome. We saw them frequently around including a group of 18 flying around the tundra along the Council Road one evening. The birds on Coffee Dome were really fun as well, as they looped around in front of one of the most breathtaking landscapes one could conceive of.
Alcidae (Auks, Murres, and Puffins)
COMMON MURRE (Uria aalge) – Some very good groups on the breeding cliffs at the Chiswells, though there were some large expanses of rock that were atypically lacking murres as well.
THICK-BILLED MURRE (Uria lomvia) – Our captains were able to bring us to the best spot for this low density breeder in the Chiswells, and we were able to spot quite a few among the groups of the much more numerous Common Murre.
PIGEON GUILLEMOT (Cepphus columba) – Quite a few near Seward.
MARBLED MURRELET (Brachyramphus marmoratus) – Good looks from the boat in Seward, and then very good scope views the next morning as we birded our way out of Seward.
KITTLITZ'S MURRELET (Brachyramphus brevirostris)
ANCIENT MURRELET (Synthliboramphus antiquus) – Good looks at a small group on the water as we were motoring out to the Chiswells. What elegant little alcids!
PARAKEET AUKLET (Aethia psittacula) – A couple around the Chiswells, including one standing on a ledge in the shadows of a nesting area.
RHINOCEROS AUKLET (Cerorhinca monocerata) – Great numbers of, and great looks at, this well-named, strange looking puffin/auklet combination around Aialik Bay!
HORNED PUFFIN (Fratercula corniculata) – The bee hive and surrounding islands and waters was indeed truly buzzing with these, as well as the next species.
TUFTED PUFFIN (Fratercula cirrhata) – One of the iconic alcids of the northwest. As with the last species, a truly phenomenal experience around the breeding islands on the Chiswells, where they were swirling around and over and through us as we navigated in between their cliff nests.


Much of people's puffin attention in Alaska is often reserved for their big and showy tufted cousins, but with views like this, it was impossible to overlook the classy elegance of the many Horned Puffins that we saw in Seward. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla) – Many around Nome, where we could compare them to the superficially similar Mew Gulls, and positively hordes around the Chiswell Islands in Seward!
SABINE'S GULL (Xema sabini) – Very good numbers around Nome, including ten in view at once on our final morning. We had some exceptional close up views of them on our first evening in the same area as well, as they foraged around in the surf, apparently indifferent to our presence.
MEW GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus canus brachyrhynchus) – Lots around Nome and plenty around Seward as well.
HERRING GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus argentatus smithsonianus) – A few each around Nome and Seward.
HERRING GULL (VEGA) (Larus argentatus vegae) – We saw several of these darker-mantled, dark-eyed, asian versions of Herring Gull in Nome, most of which were adults.
SLATY-BACKED GULL (Larus schistisagus) – An adult at Safety Sound and then a young bird at the Nome River Mouth outlet.
GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL (Larus glaucescens) – Nome and Seward.
GLAUCOUS GULL (Larus hyperboreus) – A lot around Nome, but especially common in Barrow, where we counted around 1,000 (!!!) in the vicinity of the dump, and where it is overwhelmingly the most common gull species.
ALEUTIAN TERN (Onychoprion aleuticus) – Very cool experiences with these and their House Sparrow-like calls in Nome, especially in numbers around the Nome River.
ARCTIC TERN (Sterna paradisaea) – Common around Nome, these long-distance migration champions were the most widespread of the Laridae for us, appearing in Nome, Seward, Anchorage, and even Barrow.


Aleutian Terns may have some vocalizations that sound like House Sparrows, but that's where the similarities end. We were treated to plenty of these graceful masters of the ocean winds during our time in Nome. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) – Around Seward. [I]
Strigidae (Owls)
SNOWY OWL (Bubo scandiacus) – We ran into a couple of immaculate males during our time in Barrow, and had the privilege of watching one glide around with its neck outstretched in a very odd way, dive into the snow, and come out with a fat Nearctic Brown Lemming (or, as some in the group called it, a Lemming Merengue Pie), which it proceeded to swallow whole, getting it down the hatch in about two seconds flat. Just a fantastic creature!
SHORT-EARED OWL (Asio flammeus) – One over a distant hillside while we were looking at our first Muskox in Nome, and then on multiple days along Nunavak Road in Barrow, including one that was ghostly-pale.
Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)
RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus) – Brief views at the feeders in Seward.
Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon) – A flyby at Ava's.
Picidae (Woodpeckers)
HAIRY WOODPECKER (Picoides villosus) – At least three at the feeders in Seward.
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
MERLIN (Falco columbarius) – We had one land on the road and then take off and give chase to something while we were driving out the Council Road on our first afternoon in Nome.
GYRFALCON (Falco rusticolus) – At a nest in the Nome area- very cool to see!
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus) – Nome, a pair in the Chiswells, and a young bird flying over the tundra at Barrow while we were watching the Buff-breasted Sandpipers.


Kittlitz's Murrelet were one of the many prizes on our boat trip out of Seward. We were graced with a very tolerant pair, who allowed us to circle them for good views. This was one of the last North American breeding bird species to have its nest described to science, and with good reason: they nest on inaccessible scree slopes of coastal mountains and volcanoes! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
ALDER FLYCATCHER (Empidonax alnorum) – In Seward and in transit from their to Anchorage. [*]
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri) – A very serendipitous drop-in of one at Bear Lake.
BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE (Pica hudsonia) – Seward and Anchorage.
NORTHWESTERN CROW (Corvus caurinus) – This is the crow we see around Seward, though the differences between the more widespread and familiar American Crow are negligible, and it's possible that these being a separate species may not last for too much longer.
COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax) – The most widespread corvid across our route, with the most memorable interaction being the pair defending their nest against an interloping Red Fox near Safety Sound in Nome.
Alaudidae (Larks)
HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris) – We heard one calling along the Teller Road. [*]
Hirundinidae (Swallows)
TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor) – Plenty around Nome and Seward.
VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW (Tachycineta thalassina) – Seward.
BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia) – In a couple of spots around Nome.
CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) – Nesting under a few of the bridges along the Nome road system.


The landscape along the Kougarok Road is always guaranteed to awe, and in addition to that, our day along the Kougarok also featured a jaw-dropping cloudscape, with batallions of layer-cake-like lenticular clouds filling the sky for miles. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)
BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE (Poecile atricapillus) – Bear Creek.
CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE (Poecile rufescens) – Several around Bear Creek.
Sittidae (Nuthatches)
RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis) – A couple in Seward.
Troglodytidae (Wrens)
PACIFIC WREN (Troglodytes pacificus) – We got to watch a male exuberantly singing near Bear Lake, much to the delight of all. How can such a loud sound come out of such a small instrument?!
Cinclidae (Dippers)
AMERICAN DIPPER (Cinclus mexicanus) – At Bear Creek and then again in the Chugach. The latter experience proved to be a truly moving experience for all, as we got to watch a newly fledged young be fed by an adult before it flew off upstream on its own, teetering on the edge between being able to make it on its own and still needing some help. Watching it bounce up and down like it had coiled springs inside of it only added yet another layer of adorable.
Regulidae (Kinglets)
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula) – Several around Bear Creek.
Phylloscopidae (Leaf Warblers)
ARCTIC WARBLER (Phylloscopus borealis) – They arrived at Nome right on cue, and not only did we have some singing birds on territory along the Kougarok, but we saw one or two newly arrived migrants that had just come in from over the Bering Sea and Norton Sound on our final morning- a great reminder for what an incredible life these tiny puffs of feathers lead!

Here are some of our many highlights, compressed into just a few minutes of multimedia fun! Video by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Muscicapidae (Old World Flycatchers)
BLUETHROAT (Luscinia svecica) – What.A.Bird! We got to see the flight displays of multiple very cooperative individuals along both the Teller and Kougarok Roads on consecutive days, and between its acrobatic multitasking flight display and its gorgeous gorget, it was one of the most memorable species of the tour.
NORTHERN WHEATEAR (Oenanthe oenanthe) – Good views of a singing and displaying male along the Teller Road, and then a female flew north across the Council Road on our final morning, having apparently just arrived from its migration over the sea.
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH (Catharus minimus) – Gray-cheeked Thrushes are incredibly abundant in Nome, and we were virtually never without these great musicians playing in the background.
HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus) – Some beautiful song renditions at Bear Lake.
AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius) – Common everywhere except Barrow.
VARIED THRUSH (Ixoreus naevius) – Heard from the boat in Seward, and then seen at Ava's.
Sturnidae (Starlings)
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) – We were almost able to miss them, but alas, some insisted on laying eyes on them during the Seward to Anchorage leg. [I]
Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)
EASTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL (Motacilla tschutschensis) – Great views of several individuals around Nome.
AMERICAN PIPIT (Anthus rubescens) – A few around Nome, including some very good views along the Council Road.
Bombycillidae (Waxwings)
BOHEMIAN WAXWING (Bombycilla garrulus) – A surprise for the part two tour, this species was undergoing a major irruption beyond its normal breeding haunts this spring, with especially good numbers around Nome, where it is normally absent, but where we saw a flock of twenty individuals! Many of them ended up nesting around Nome after we departed. We also had one land briefly at Ava's house before flying off over our heads, marking the first time either Chris or Doug had seen one in Seward.
Calcariidae (Longspurs and Snow Buntings)
LAPLAND LONGSPUR (Calcarius lapponicus) – Common breeders in both Nome and Barrow.
SNOW BUNTING (Plectrophenax nivalis) – Abundant in Barrow, especially around town.


Bluethroats were performing their wonderful parachuting aerial displays with vigor along some of the willow-lined creeks that we drove through just outside of Nome. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis) – Quite a few in the willow-lined riparian corridors in Nome. Their songs were a staple when we were looking for and at Bluethroats.
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Oreothlypis celata) – Nome, where they were exceptionally common, and Seward, where they were fairly common (and even heard from the boat!).
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia) – Nome and Seward.
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) (Setophaga coronata coronata) – Around Bear Lake.
TOWNSEND'S WARBLER (Setophaga townsendi) – A great show by a few of these near Bear Lake.
WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla) – Very common in Nome and then again near Seward.


These beauties, likely of the genus Dryas of the Rosaceae family (and probably either D.integrifolia or D.octopetala), were just one species of the dizzying array of blooming flowers that carpeted the landscape (including this tundra setting) through our travels. Photo by participant Jean Rigden.

Passerellidae (New World Buntings and Sparrows)
AMERICAN TREE SPARROW (Spizelloides arborea) – A few on the first couple of days in Nome.
FOX SPARROW (SOOTY) (Passerella iliaca sinuosa) – In Seward.
FOX SPARROW (RED) (Passerella iliaca zaboria) – The ones in Nome best fit into this category, although they may not be truly or purely P.i.zaboria.
DARK-EYED JUNCO (SLATE-COLORED) (Junco hyemalis hyemalis) – A few on the Seward leg.
WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (GAMBEL'S) (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii) – Common on the Nome and Seward legs, and then we saw a couple of them among some snowmobiles and pallets outside the hotel in Barrow, where they are uncommon (there are very few species of expected passerine in Barrow, thanks to the lack of anything resembling a tree).
GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia atricapilla) – Several places around Nome.
SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis) – Scattered very widely in many different kinds of open habitat. Especially common breeders around the tundra of Nome and Barrow.
SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia) – Very good looks at Ava's.
LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii) – Bear Creek.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
PINE GROSBEAK (Pinicola enucleator) – A couple of fantastic males countersinging in Seward.
COMMON REDPOLL (Acanthis flammea) – A bunch here and there around the Nome road system.
HOARY REDPOLL (Acanthis hornemanni) – Great views at the feeder in Barrow, and plenty mixed with Commons in the Nome area.
RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra) – A good experience with both males and females of what were apparently type 3 birds in Seward.
PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus) – Quite a few around Ava's feeders in Seward.


Our Orca experience in Seward was definitely one of the more memorable episodes of the tour, from the undersea communication which we had the privilege of eavesdropping on by means of a hydrophone, to their playful cavorting around the boat. Photo by participant Pieter Poll.


MAMMALS
SNOWSHOE HARE (Lepus americanus) – Great views for some in Nome.
ALASKAN HARE (Lepus othus) – It was a very good year for them around Nome, and we saw a couple on our way back from Coffee Dome along the Kougarok Road.
ARCTIC GROUND SQUIRREL (Spermophilus parryii) – Plenty of these around Nome.
RED SQUIRREL (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) – On the way back from Seward to Anchorage.
BEAVER (Castor canadensis) – We saw one swimming in a river in Nome along the Council Road, and it eventually hauled itself up on the far shore so that we could get a bead on it.
NEARCTIC BROWN LEMMING (Lemmus trimucronatus) – Plenty around Barrow this year, especially around the great feeders!
ORCA (Orcinus orca) – AWESOME! One of the most magical experiences of a tour filled with its share of magic was when Calley dropped a Hydrophone into the water while most of an Orca pod was passing by under us and communicating loudly and frequently. Getting this good of an aural window into their fascinating lives was an exceptionally rare event, and it was spiritual enough to bring Chris to tears.
DALL'S PORPOISE (Phocoenoides dalli) – Some happily feeding Dall's Porpoises briefly interacted with the boat, but were so focused on food that they didn't bother riding our bow wake. We then saw some later that were feeding very close to some Orcas, though they were most likely the local Orcas whose diets are mostly fish.
FIN WHALE (Balaenoptera physalus) – Brief views of this, the second largest mammal on Earth.
HUMPBACK WHALE (Megaptera novaeangliae) – Some very cool lunge feeding behavior by Humpbacks in Seward this year!


This Red Fox ended up being fairly curious about us on one of our evening voyages out to Safety Sound in Nome. Photo by participant Pieter Poll.

RED FOX (Vulpes vulpes) – We saw these a couple of times around Nome, including an extremely inquisitive one at the Safety Sound bridge and another one getting assaulted by a pair of Common Ravens near their nest a few miles to the west.
SEA OTTER (Enhydra lutris) – The Sea Otters put on a fabulous show with their cuddly yet ferocious (and always hilarious) antics around Seward.
STELLER'S SEA LION (Eumetopias jubatus) – A bunch of them around the Chiswell Islands near Seward.
HARBOR SEAL (Phoca vitulina) – On the Seward boat trip.
SPOTTED SEAL (Phoca largha) – Nome and Barrow. The ones at Barrow were scrutinized to make sure we weren't overlooking any Ringed Seals, but everything we saw within the same zip code appeared to be this species.
MOOSE (Alces alces) – We actually got lucky seeing these multiple times in Nome, where they are sometimes hard to come by, including a really nice spot by Cheryl of one hiding in the willows as we were passing over the Sinuk River.
REINDEER (Rangifer tarandus sibiricus) – We saw these in the distance along the Kougarok Road in Nome. [I]
MOUNTAIN GOAT (Oreamnos americanus) – We had some really good looks at a few from the boat, including one making its mountainside balancing act look very easy, and a mother and kid hunkering down on the the slope nearby. Then the next day at the feeders, Dave put on his super power eyeballs and spotted a couple of them on a majestic mountaintop about two time zones away which we were able to watch in the scope for a while.
MUSKOX (Ovibos moschatus) – We saw these throwbacks to the ice age several times in Nome- what strange and wonderful beasts!


We didn't let the mounds of snow stop us from trying to get a good look at Steller's and Spectacled Eiders. In fact, not only were we looking at both those species, so iconic to Barrow, but we also saw King and Common here, giving us a clean sweep of the eider species in the world from one spot! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.


ADDITIONAL COMMENTS


Totals for the tour: 147 bird taxa and 19 mammal taxa