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Field Guides Tour Report
Alaska II - Part Two (Nome, Seward & Barrow) 2018
Jun 14, 2018 to Jun 24, 2018
Tom Johnson & Cory Gregory

Salmon Lake, near Nome, provided a beautiful backdrop for Bluethroats, Hoary Redpolls, Long-tailed Jaegers, Arctic Ground Squirrels, and much more. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

From the lush coniferous forests blanketing Seward to the icy landscape of Utqiagvik, this 2nd part of the Alaska tour has a lot of offer, a lot of ground to cover, and a most-impressive collection of Alaskan specialties. We enjoyed decent weather, impressive scenery, a great mix of birds and mammals, as well as a great group of birders.

Our tour got under way when we flew to the south side of the Seward Peninsula where the city of Nome is situated 500+ miles to the northwest of Anchorage. Upon arriving in Nome, it didn't take long for highlights to start materializing: a Pomarine Jaeger was waiting for us on the beach, a Gyrfalcon chick was spied in a nest, Pacific Golden-Plovers dotted the moist tundra, and Aleutian Terns swooped overhead.

One of the attractions of birding in Nome in June is the scenic Teller Highway and the following day we ventured out some 50+ miles in search of wildlife. The Willow Ptarmigan dotted the roadsides, Long-tailed Jaegers cruised the hillsides, a beautiful pair of Northern Wheatears posed on roadside rocks, a Bohemian Waxwing was building a nest out of Muskox hair, and we even got to watch a White Wagtail at a nest. Meanwhile, songbirds were present in good numbers too with species like Golden-crowned Sparrow, Arctic Warbler, and Wilson's Warblers projecting their songs on the landscape. The barren portions of the road yielded Red Knots on their breeding grounds and a couple of Rock Ptarmigan that dust bathed right in front of us! That evening at the river mouth, Pete even found us a Surfbird. A great first day!

The next day in Nome found us exploring a different road, the Kougarok Road. A new suite of species was seen and it included highlights like a Wandering Tattler resting in a stream, an Eastern Yellow Wagtail foraging along the road, time spent with a nesting pair of Whimbrel up on the Curlew Hill, and a whole lot more Arctic Warblers in their creekside hideaways. Without a doubt, one of the highlights were the Bluethroats that were seen/heard as they gave their flight displays overhead. That evening we added another shorebird to our list, a lone Black Turnstone.

We woke up to our final morning in Nome. We made good use of our time though and we birded our way out the Council Road to Safety Sound. A distant Spectacled Eider was our first, a rare Double-crested Cormorant was offshore, and we tallied 3 Common Loons (not the common loon there!). Before long, however, it was time to say goodbye to Nome and we departed back to Anchorage. Upon landing and gathering our belongings, we drove straight on down to Seward where the habitat changed markedly.

Our boat trip out on Resurrection Bay, a highlight for many, was a great way to see some of the seabirds up close and personal. We had nice looks at both Marbled and Kittlitz's murrelets, a swarm of Rhinoceros Auklets, both Red-faced and Pelagic cormorants, and a good collection of marine mammals. Even at dinner that night, the largest mustelid species in the world, the Sea Otter, was spotted from the restaurant!

The next day in Seward started out with a visit to the famous feeders at Ava's house. Pine Grosbeaks and Red Crossbills fed side-by-side, Pine Siskins jockeyed for position, a Rufous Hummingbird displayed overhead, and some familiar Black-capped Chickadees and Downy Woodpeckers visited. Nearby, the marsh on Nash Road was hosting Trumpeter Swans, a few Ring-necked Ducks, and a nice drake Common Merganser. Meanwhile, the rich coniferous forests were busy with Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Varied Thrushes, Townsend's Warblers, Pacific Wrens, and a nice variety of kinglets and creepers. As we drove north back towards Anchorage, Tern Lake was busy with Arctic Terns, Mew Gulls, a couple of Greater Yellowlegs, and a distant Mountain Goat. A quick check of Potter Marsh and Westchester Lagoon yielded Barrow's Goldeneye, Hudsonian Godwit, and lots of fluffy gull and tern chicks.

Our flight up to Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow) the next morning delivered us to a completely different landscape and bird community. We had left the trees and bushes well to the south, the mountains and forests had given way to a marshy landscape still in the throes of a late spring; ponds and lakes were ice-covered and giant snow banks lined the roads. Still, despite the harsh surroundings, the area was teeming with wildlife. Fresh Water Lake Road was hosting an impressive variety of waterbirds like Brant, Greater White-fronted Geese, Long-tailed Ducks, and three of the most impressive sea ducks; King, Spectacled, and Steller's eiders! Pomarine Jaegers cruised by with their ever-impressive spoon-shaped tail streamers, a couple of Snowy Owls kept a watchful eye on the tundra, and, amazingly, even some Ross's Gulls had set up camp! Later that day, other open water was found hosting Yellow-billed Loon and Snow Goose while shorebirds worked the exposed patches of tundra. Semipalmated and Baird's sandpipers chased each other, a Ruddy Turnstone worked a salt lagoon, and both Red-necked and Red phalaropes were commonplace as they spun in circles.

Utqiagvik provided some birds that were a complete surprise. For example, a Gray-tailed Tattler appeared in a puddle in the middle of town, a Varied Thrush hopped on the tundra far, far away from its preferred conifer forests, an out-of-season Sanderling and Red Knot were found near town, and even a Cliff and Barn swallow were spotted catching insects. What wasn't a surprise was the good time we had in the far north! Whether it was standing on the sea ice scoping Ross's Gulls, or watching the local traditional Nalukataq (blanket toss) happen right outside our hotel, Utqiagvik actually had a lot to offer.

Tom and I sincerely hope that you had a fun time birding the many corners of Alaska and that these memories will last a lifetime. A major shout-out to the tour manager, Karen, for all her hard work and preparation for this tour. And lastly, thanks to you all for making this a fun bunch of birders!

Until we meet again, good birding!

- Cory

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

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
SNOW GOOSE (Anser caerulescens) – We enjoyed watching two of these white geese on the snowy landscape of Utqiagvik on the North Slope. They were, however, greatly outnumbered by the following two species.
GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE (Anser albifrons) – A common species on the North Slope, these were tallied daily.
BRANT (BLACK) (Branta bernicla nigricans) – This was another common species of goose in Utqiagvik. Although outnumbered by the previous species, these were seen at a variety of locations on a daily basis.
CACKLING GOOSE (Branta hutchinsii) – Our birding in Nome yielded a few of these small, white-cheeked geese. Specifically, we tallied them along the Teller Road, the Nome River mouth, and Safety Sound. Although the taxonomy of white-cheeked geese in Alaska can seem squishy at times, these in Nome are thought to be the Taverner's subspecies.
CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis) – We scoped a number of these at Westchester Lagoon and Potter Marsh near Anchorage.
TRUMPETER SWAN (Cygnus buccinator) – Two swan heads were seen sticking out of the marsh along Nash Road in Seward. We saw a couple more along the roadsides between Seward and Anchorage.
TUNDRA SWAN (WHISTLING) (Cygnus columbianus columbianus) – Wow, more than 100 were seen in Safety Sound in Nome! We would see these northern swans again in Utqiagvik, often split out in pairs.
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata) – A few of these large-billed dabblers were spotted in Nome, such as at the rivermouth, but they were never very abundant.
GADWALL (Mareca strepera) – Our only sightings of this black-rumped dabbler came from Nome and then again at Potter Marsh near Anchorage.

A most-stunning image, this Red-throated Loon in Anchorage was beautifully photographed by participant Don Faulkner.

EURASIAN WIGEON (Mareca penelope) – A pair of these uncommon dabblers, with the male showing his rufous head, were feeding in the lagoon at Safety Sound on our first day of tour. Nearby, we also saw a hybrid pairing of Eurasian x American Wigeon.
AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana) – Good numbers of these were spotted in Nome and again at Potter Marsh near Anchorage.
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos) – Although never abundant, this familiar dabbler was spotted at a variety of places like Seward, Tern Lake, Potter Marsh, and Westchester Lagoon.
NORTHERN PINTAIL (Anas acuta) – This attractive duck was the most numerous dabbler in Nome and Utqiagvik.
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (AMERICAN) (Anas crecca carolinensis) – Just a handful of these, the smallest dabbler in the world, were spotted in Nome and Utqiagvik.
RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris) – We found this handsome diving duck a couple of times; first in the marsh on Nash Road in Seward and then again at Potter Marsh near Anchorage.
GREATER SCAUP (Aythya marila) – This diving duck was fairly common in Nome and we saw a few more in Anchorage and Utqiagvik. On this tour, this species typically outnumbers the smaller Lesser Scaup.
LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis) – Westchester Lagoon in Anchorage was the only spot we found this diver. Compared to the previous species, these are smaller with a more peaked head.
STELLER'S EIDER (Polysticta stelleri) – On the thawed and ice-free patches of tundra in Utqiagvik, we found this amazingly-colored eider alongside phalaropes and jaegers. This vulnerable eider has one of the most northern distributions of any duck.
SPECTACLED EIDER (Somateria fischeri) – Wow, we had beautiful looks at this northern specialty during our time in Utqiagvik! Although our first sighting came from Nome, we saw the ones on the tundra along Fresh Water Lake Road much better.
KING EIDER (Somateria spectabilis) – A gorgeous sea duck and a specialty of this tour. Our first ones were spotted offshore in Nome but we caught up to many more in Utqiagvik.
COMMON EIDER (PACIFIC) (Somateria mollissima v-nigrum) – The Safety Sound area in Nome provided us with a couple of flocks of this northern duck. In Utqiagvik, this was the least common of the eiders despite the name.
HARLEQUIN DUCK (Histrionicus histrionicus) – A stunner! We tallied small numbers of these rock-loving ducks daily during our time in Nome.
SURF SCOTER (Melanitta perspicillata) – At least 50 of these sea ducks were tallied from the boat trip in Seward.

Of all the Rock Ptarmigans we saw, quite a few were photogenic! Photo by participant Becky Hansen.

WHITE-WINGED SCOTER (NORTH AMERICAN) (Melanitta fusca deglandi) – Some folks saw this chunky sea-loving species on Day 3 in Nome.
BLACK SCOTER (Melanitta americana) – Our final morning in Nome yielded a couple of these in the Safety Sound area. With a little imagination, we were able to see the orange knob atop the bill.
LONG-TAILED DUCK (Clangula hyemalis) – An abundant and handsome diving duck found daily in Utqiagvik.
BARROW'S GOLDENEYE (Bucephala islandica) – We found an attractive male at Westchester Lagoon in Anchorage fraternizing with the scaup and grebes.
COMMON MERGANSER (Mergus merganser) – The marsh on Nash Road in Seward was hosting a handsome male. Near our hotel in Seward, there were a few females spotted as well.
RED-BREASTED MERGANSER (Mergus serrator) – This tweezerbill was spotted on each of our days in Nome in varying numbers. Safety Sound was a reliable spot and we tallied 1-2 dozen there most visits.
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
WILLOW PTARMIGAN (Lagopus lagopus) – The Nome-Teller Highway yielded quite a few of these classic Alaskan "chickens". In the end, we tallied 14 on that day alone!
ROCK PTARMIGAN (Lagopus muta) – This ptarmigan was always outnumbered by the previous species. In Nome, we spotted these on two different days; 3 along the Teller Highway and another one on the Kougarok Road. At one point, we had a pair waltz out in front of us and proceed to dust-bathe!
Gaviidae (Loons)
RED-THROATED LOON (Gavia stellata) – A very common loon in Nome, these were seen daily. In Utqiagvik, they continued to be fairly common and we had nice looks at a pair in a salt lagoon in town.
PACIFIC LOON (Gavia pacifica) – We saw this attractive diver more often in Utqiagvik than in Nome. Still, they were fairly common in both locations. Of all the loons, we tallied this species on more days than the others.
COMMON LOON (Gavia immer) – Despite the name, these are typically uncommon on this tour. Still, we stirred up a good number along the Council Road in Nome.
YELLOW-BILLED LOON (Gavia adamsii) – A major target! A tough bird to see well, and the largest of all the loons, one of these was seemingly at home in one of the salt lagoons in Utqiagvik.
Podicipedidae (Grebes)
RED-NECKED GREBE (Podiceps grisegena) – There was no shortage of these attractive waterbirds at Westchester Lagoon in Anchorage. We even got to watch as youngsters climbed onto the backs of the parents, as is typical of grebes! [N]
Procellariidae (Shearwaters and Petrels)
SOOTY SHEARWATER (Ardenna grisea) – About a dozen or so of these dark tubenoses were spotted on the boat trip out of Seward.
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
RED-FACED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax urile) – This was another specialty species we spotted from the boat out of Seward. We had good numbers too, more than 20 near Spire Cove.
PELAGIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax pelagicus) – We had one of these near Safety Sound in Nome and then many more near Seward. Compared to the previous species, these are smaller overall with thinner bills and less red on the face.
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus) – Seen distantly in Nome (where it is rare) and then again in Seward (where they are common). This is our most widespread cormorant in North America.

The boat trip out on Resurrection Bay near Seward really delivered! We had great looks at a slew of seabirds and gorgeous glaciers. Photo by participant Bonnie Schwartz.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
GOLDEN EAGLE (Aquila chrysaetos) – We were birding our way down the Teller Rd in Nome when one of these materialized right overhead. Beautiful!
NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius) – Two of these were seen in Nome on back-to-back days; first along the Teller Road and then again along the Kougarok Road.
BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) – It's not Alaska without some Bald Eagles, right? We had a number of these majestic raptors during our time in Seward. They were especially fond of the fish hatchery, for obvious reasons. [N]
ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (Buteo lagopus) – This northern buteo showed up a couple of times near Nome where they breed. We enjoyed scope views as they perched high on some mountaintops near the road.
Gruidae (Cranes)
SANDHILL CRANE (Antigone canadensis) – Although we saw some distantly in Potter Marsh near Anchorage, our best numbers came in Nome where there were a couple of small flocks near Safety Sound.
Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)
BLACK OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus bachmani) – The boat trip out of Seward yielded three of these fun, rock-loving shorebirds.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER (Pluvialis dominica) – We saw this beautiful plover in both the Nome area and Utqiagvik. In Nome, they preferred the higher and more barren habitat compared to the following species. In Utqiagvik, this is the more common of the two species and we tallied them daily.
PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER (Pluvialis fulva) – These were spotted in Nome near the rivermouth, the Teller Road, and again near Safety Sound.
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus) – These sharp little plovers were fairly widespread in Utqiagvik and we had amazing looks at some near one of the salt lagoons in town. [N]
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
WHIMBREL (HUDSONIAN) (Numenius phaeopus hudsonicus) – This curlew was seen especially well near Nome where there was a pair nesting on top of the "curlew hill" out the Kougarok Road. This subspecies is the widespread breeding one in Alaska whereas the "Siberian" subspecies is a vagrant to western Alaska. [N]

One of the scarcest shorebirds on the trip was Surfbird. This one we saw in Nome was a stunner though! Photo by participant Becky Hansen.

BAR-TAILED GODWIT (Limosa lapponica) – We had a few of these long-distance migrants wading in a stream near Nome. We went on to see more, including a dozen, at the mouth of the Nome River.
HUDSONIAN GODWIT (Limosa haemastica) – A single "hudwit" was present on the island at Westchester Lagoon in Anchorage during our visit there.
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres) – Not abundant at this time of year, only a few of these attractive shorebirds were seen in Utqiagvik at one of the salt lagoons.
BLACK TURNSTONE (Arenaria melanocephala) – We spotted one of these foraging along a beach near Safety Sound in Nome one evening.
RED KNOT (Calidris canutus) – There were two sightings of this beautiful northern shorebird at either ends of the tour. First, at the breeding grounds high on the mountains near Nome, and then again at a salt lagoon in Utqiagvik.
SURFBIRD (Calidris virgata) – This was an excellent find, spotted by Pete, at the Nome River mouth one evening.
SANDERLING (Calidris alba) – This nicely-colored sandpiper, and one we don't expect in Utqiagvik at this time of year, was at one of the salt lagoons in town.
DUNLIN (Calidris alpina) – A few of these black-bellied shorebirds were breeding up in Utqiagvik during our time there. We saw them along Freshwater Lake Road and Cake Eater Road. The subspecies that breeds along the North Slope, C. a. arcticola, winters in coastal E. Asia and has been studied as a potential Avian Influenza carrier.
BAIRD'S SANDPIPER (Calidris bairdii) – There are quite the long wings on this long-distance migrant. We spotted some of these north of Utqiagvik at the old runway.

We were treated to a fine diversity of gulls on this tour. One of the highlights was the sharp pair of Sabine's Gulls in Utqiagvik. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla) – We had just a couple of brief views near Safety Sound in Nome. This tiny species isn't found farther north in Utqiagvik.
PECTORAL SANDPIPER (Calidris melanotos) – The tundra around Utqiagvik was alive with the odd, low-pitched bubbly hoots of this shorebird. There, this species transforms into quite the aerial display artist!
SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (Calidris pusilla) – A common and widespread peep both in Nome and Utqiagvik. We stumbled onto a few nests near one of the salt lagoons in Utqiagvik as well. [N]
WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri) – Widespread in Nome where we tallied 100+ one day near the rivermouth. In Utqiagvik, they were around but were outnumbered by the previous species.
LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus) – These waders were fairly common in Utqiagvik where they breed on the moist tundra (Short-billed do not breed in that part of Alaska).
WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata) – Fairly common. We had a scattering of sightings including a few times we heard the winnowing sound of their display flights.
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus lobatus) – A common and widespread shorebird in Nome and Utqiagvik. This was the most-commonly seen phalarope on this tour. Their spinning antics sure kept us entertained!
RED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus fulicarius) – A classic species of the far north, this fantastic shorebird was commonplace in Utqiagvik where we saw them daily. With phalaropes, the females are the more brightly colored sex.

All three species of jaegers were seen well on tour including this dark Parasitic Jaeger in Utqiagvik. Photo by participant Don Faulkner.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius) – We spotted a few of these sandpipers in the Nome and Seward area. The bobbing behavior that this species is known for was quite noticeable!
GRAY-TAILED TATTLER (Tringa brevipes) – Seeing this rare and accidental vagrant in Utqiagvik was a real highlight! Thanks to some folks with the USFWS, we caught wind of this rarity and found it in town where it hung out for a couple of days. Typically, this shorebird breeds in northeast Siberia and winters in southeast Asia and Australia.
WANDERING TATTLER (Tringa incana) – Near Nome, one of these surfaced along the Kougarok Road where we watched it sitting among rocks in a stream. At times, all that was obvious through the scope were the yellow legs!
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca) – Tern Lake near Seward hosted a pair of these long-legged and long-billed Tringas.
Stercorariidae (Skuas and Jaegers)
POMARINE JAEGER (Stercorarius pomarinus) – One of these brutes was sitting on the beach in Nome upon our arrival. Later on tour, in Utqiagvik, we had wonderful views as they flew by us showing the full spoonage of their tails!
PARASITIC JAEGER (Stercorarius parasiticus) – A fairly common jaeger on tour, these were spotted in both Nome and Utqiagvik on several days. We especially enjoyed the dusky/dark morphs in Utqiagvik.
LONG-TAILED JAEGER (Stercorarius longicaudus) – What a stunner! This graceful arctic predator was most common around Nome where we tallied them daily.
Alcidae (Auks, Murres, and Puffins)
COMMON MURRE (Uria aalge) – More than 50 of these alcids were seen from the boat trip out of Seward.
THICK-BILLED MURRE (Uria lomvia) – A few distant murres offshore Nome, seen distantly through the scopes, proved to be this species.
PIGEON GUILLEMOT (Cepphus columba) – About a dozen of these striking alcids were seen during our Resurrection Bay boat trip.
MARBLED MURRELET (Brachyramphus marmoratus) – Like the previous species, this small alcid was spotted from the boat during our saltwater adventure.
KITTLITZ'S MURRELET (Brachyramphus brevirostris) – We connected with this major target on our boat trip out of Seward. This near-threatened seabird was named after the German zoologist Heinrich von Kittlitz who first collected this species.
RHINOCEROS AUKLET (Cerorhinca monocerata) – More than 100 of these were spotted from the Resurrection Bay boat trip in Seward.
HORNED PUFFIN (Fratercula corniculata) – There was no shortage of these colorful alcids on our Resurrection Bay boat trip! A master of holding fish in its giant bill, this species has been found carrying 65 fish at one time!
TUFTED PUFFIN (Fratercula cirrhata) – This is a beautiful seabird we tallied from our Seward boat trip on our 5th day of tour. Any day with puffins is a good day!

Perhaps the most popular birds during our stay in Utqiagvik were these two Ross's Gulls that had set up camp near Fresh Water Lake! By the end of our stay, up to three were being seen together. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla) – A common and widespread gull around Nome and Seward. [N]
SABINE'S GULL (Xema sabini) – Although first seen distantly in Nome, we got cracking views of this arctic gull in Utqiagvik. There was a pair or two along Fresh Water Lake Road that were especially gorgeous.
ROSS'S GULL (Rhodostethia rosea) – Three of these hard-to-see arctic gulls had set up camp near Fresh Water Lake in Utqiagvik, much to our delight! Picked as a highlight by both Pete and Peter, this sighting was one of the rarest of our tour. Lucky indeed are the few birders that get to see these in their fine breeding plumage!
MEW GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus canus brachyrhynchus) – An abundant gull in Nome, Seward, and Anchorage. These were tallied daily until we ventured farther north to Utqiagvik where they are absent. [N]
HERRING GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus argentatus smithsonianus) – We had a couple of these, in varying ages, when we first arrived in Nome. Generally speaking, this subspecies is told apart from the following one by having a paler mantle, pale eye, and a different-colored orbital ring.
HERRING GULL (VEGA) (Larus argentatus vegae) – At least one or two of the Herring Gulls we found in Nome were this Asian subspecies. The feathering coming in on the mantle looked darker than one would expect on a smithsonianus.
SLATY-BACKED GULL (Larus schistisagus) – This big, 4-year Asian gull is always a treat to see in the US. We tracked down one or two youngsters in Nome where they were fond of the big black pipe spewing dredged water along the beach.
GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL (Larus glaucescens) – This was the common and widespread big gull around Seward.
GLAUCOUS GULL (Larus hyperboreus) – Different from the previous species in having pure white wingtips, this was the common large gull in Nome and Utqiagvik. In Nome and Seward, we even got to see a "Nelson's" gull which is a the hybrid mixing of Glaucous Gull and Herring Gull.

These Kittlitz's Murrelets were a star of the show during our Resurrection Bay boat trip out of Seward. Photo by participant Pete Peterman.

ALEUTIAN TERN (Onychoprion aleuticus) – We had excellent looks at this specialty tern, including their white foreheads, in Nome near the rivermouth. The loud chirps that this species gives sound very un-tern like.
ARCTIC TERN (Sterna paradisaea) – An abundant tern on tour, these were spotted nearly every day. The ones at Potter Marsh and Westchester Lagoon were especially photogenic! [N]
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) – Seen in urban areas around Anchorage and Seward. [I]
Strigidae (Owls)
SNOWY OWL (Bubo scandiacus) – High on the arctic tundra roams this quintessential northern owl. Some of the males we saw in Utqiagvik were about as white as a bird can be. We even got to watch as one regurgitated a pellet near one of the salt lagoons in town.
SHORT-EARED OWL (Asio flammeus) – A nicely-patterned owl of open country, these were spotted a few times near Utqiagvik on the North Slope.
Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)
RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus) – Ava's Place in Seward is a reliable spot for this hummer. We watched as a male repeatedly zoomed overhead, giving his impressive display flight.
Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon) – Not an abundant species in this part of the world. We saw one nicely at the marsh on Nash Road near Seward and then we heard another near the Primrose Campground north of Seward.
Picidae (Woodpeckers)
DOWNY WOODPECKER (Picoides pubescens) – One of these tiny woodpeckers flew in to Ava's feeders in Seward.
HAIRY WOODPECKER (Picoides villosus) – The bigger cousin of the previous species, one of these was also spotted at Ava's near Seward.

This Gyrfalcon was nesting near Nome and, from a respectable distance, we got to enjoy extended views as it passed overhead and soared high above the Arctic landscape. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
MERLIN (Falco columbarius) – A few lucky folks watched one of these speedy falcons chasing after a bird along the Kougarok Road in Nome.
GYRFALCON (Falco rusticolus) – In Nome, we had an amazing experience watching a youngster in a nest and the adult as it made several passes overhead. This is the largest falcon species on the planet and one of the most impressive birds of prey to watch as it masters the wind and harsh northern environments. [N]
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus) – Another impressive falcon, a few sightings were scattered throughout the tour including one in Nome and another in Utqiagvik.
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
ALDER FLYCATCHER (Empidonax alnorum) – We heard a couple of these northern empids along Nash Road in Seward but it wasn't until Potter Marsh that we got to see one.
Laniidae (Shrikes)
NORTHERN SHRIKE (Lanius borealis) – This predatory songbird played coy the first time near Nome. However, we tallied 5 along the Teller Road the following day.
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri) – The only spot we encountered this attractive western jay was along Bleth Street in Seward.
BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE (Pica hudsonia) – Fairly common around Anchorage including right around our hotel.
NORTHWESTERN CROW (Corvus caurinus) – We enjoyed views of this small crow in Seward and then again at a pitstop east of Anchorage. In fact, we found one of the strange, long-billed individuals there that hardly looks like a crow!

Participant Bonnie Schwartz had a good eye for dramatic landscapes. She beautifully captured this image from the Resurrection Bay boat trip.

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax) – A common and widespread species throughout the tour. [N]
Alaudidae (Larks)
HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris) – We chanced into one or two on the high tundra along the Teller Road in Nome.
Hirundinidae (Swallows)
TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor) – A familiar swallow, these blue and white insect-eaters were spotted a few times including in Nome and in the Seward area.
VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW (Tachycineta thalassina) – Our day birding the Seward area yielded a few of these including at Ava's feeders, Bleth Street, and Nash Road.
BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia) – The first evening in Nome provided a dozen or so of these swirling around the cut banks along the Council Road. [N]
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica) – A rare bird anywhere on this tour, one of these materialized in front of us as we were driving through Utqiagvik! Once in a while, this species will attempt breeding in town.
CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) – Although we saw a few of these in Nome, more noteworthy was one we found in Utqiagvik alongside the Barn Swallow.
Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)
BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE (Poecile atricapillus) – One of these popped in to the feeders at Ava's Place in Seward.
CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE (Poecile rufescens) – This was another chickadee we saw quite nicely in the Seward area (Bleth Street).

The mature forests around Seward hosted a variety of chickadees, kinglets, and warblers. Here's a Chestnut-backed Chickadee photographed by guide Cory Gregory.

Sittidae (Nuthatches)
RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis) – Ava's feeders in Seward had at least one of these visiting.
Certhiidae (Treecreepers)
BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana) – The mature forests around Seward provided us with this unassuming species. It slowly crept upwards along the tree trunks, in a spiraling pattern.
Troglodytidae (Wrens)
PACIFIC WREN (Troglodytes pacificus) – Like the previous couple of species, this was seen in the mature forests around Seward. The rich coniferous forests along Bleth Street is a good spot to hear their run-on, tinkling song.
Regulidae (Kinglets)
GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus satrapa) – The high and clear "see-see-see" call notes gave the presence away of this tiny songbird in the conifer woods around Seward.
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula) – We spotted this small and hyperactive insect-eater along the Divide Trail near Seward. We even got to see the ruby crest flared up a couple of times.
Phylloscopidae (Leaf Warblers)
ARCTIC WARBLER (Phylloscopus borealis) – There's no place like Nome for finding this specialty! The willow thickets and short deciduous forests gave way to quite a few of these along the Teller and Kougarok Roads. In North America, Alaska is the only state that these breed in. In the winter, they migrate west over the Bering Strait and south into Asia.
Muscicapidae (Old World Flycatchers)
BLUETHROAT (Luscinia svecica) – This beaut was a star of the show during our time in Nome. Similar to the previous species in the breeding/migrating strategy in Alaska, these were also found along the Kougarok Road. Near the parking area at the curlew hill, these were even giving flight displays!
NORTHERN WHEATEAR (Oenanthe oenanthe) – A tame pair was seen nicely as we birded the barren and rocky habitat along the Teller Road in Nome. This ended up being our only sighting of the tour.

One of the highlights in Nome was watching this White Wagtail visiting a nest. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH (Catharus minimus) – A fairly common thrush all around Nome, these were heard singing even in the middle of town.
HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus) – This was the Catharus thrush we saw with rusty tones on the tail. We chanced into some along Bleth Street and again along the Divide Trail near Seward.
AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius) – Common and widespread around Nome and Seward but absent in Utqiagvik (as expected).
VARIED THRUSH (Ixoreus naevius) – This attractive thrush of the northwestern US/Canada was finally seen quite nicely in the Seward area during our full day there. Noteworthy, however, was one that we saw out of range up on the tundra of Utqiagvik!
Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)
EASTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL (Motacilla tschutschensis) – This attractive songbird can be a tricky one to pin down in the Nome area. We had our first along the Kougarok Road where it was found walking down the shoulder. We later found another pair near the mouth of the Nome River.
WHITE WAGTAIL (Motacilla alba) – One of the scarcest breeding birds in the US, this species is found mostly in the Old World. We had beautiful looks at a nesting bird along the Teller Road near Nome. [N]
AMERICAN PIPIT (Anthus rubescens) – Just a handful of these were seen on tour including some near Safety Sound in Nome and again along the road to Teller.
Bombycillidae (Waxwings)
BOHEMIAN WAXWING (Bombycilla garrulus) – Seeing this rare species on this tour would be a highlight any day of the week. We did one better though and actually found a nest near Nome! The nest, amazingly, was being constructed with Muskox hair. [N]

Bohemian Waxwing is a rare bird on this tour. Despite this, we saw several and participant Don Faulkner captured this image of one near a nest!

Calcariidae (Longspurs and Snow Buntings)
LAPLAND LONGSPUR (Calcarius lapponicus) – A beautiful (and abundant!) passerine in Nome and Utqiagvik.
SNOW BUNTING (Plectrophenax nivalis) – In Utqiagvik, this striking songbird is one of only a few breeding passerines. They were tallied each of our days there and were quite widespread. [N]
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis) – Not an uncommon warbler in the lush thickets around Nome. Seeing them, however, was challenging at times!
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Oreothlypis celata) – A fairly common warbler of Nome and Seward.
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia) – Same as the previous species, this bright and familiar songbird was seen well in Nome and Seward.
BLACKPOLL WARBLER (Setophaga striata) – The only locations that we saw this boreal breeder was along the Teller and Kougarok roads in Nome. The song, which is extremely high-pitched, can be hard to hear sometimes.
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) (Setophaga coronata coronata) – A common warbler in the Seward area, these were seen in a variety of habitats. This subspecies, which is the same one that's found in eastern North America, has a white throat.
TOWNSEND'S WARBLER (Setophaga townsendi) – A couple of these descended from their treetop haunts and gave us all a great showing along Bleth Street in Seward. Seward is about as far north as this species is found.
WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla) – Detected both in the Nome area as well as in Seward, this brightly-colored warbler has a sharp, black cap. The chanty song was especially commonplace along the Teller Hwy near Nome.
Passerellidae (New World Buntings and Sparrows)
AMERICAN TREE SPARROW (Spizelloides arborea) – We reached the breeding range of this northern sparrow during our time in Nome. The bicolored bill, dark breast spot, and rufous cap were all on display nicely.
FOX SPARROW (SOOTY) (Passerella iliaca sinuosa) – There are several subspecies of Fox Sparrow and the ones we found around Seward looked very different from the ones we saw in Nome! The Sooty group is found along the West Coast down to California.
FOX SPARROW (RED) (Passerella iliaca zaboria) – The subspecies we saw in Nome, classified in the "Red" group, ended up being rather common in brushy habitats along the Teller Road and Kougarok Road.
WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (GAMBEL'S) (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii) – The soundscape in Nome was filled with the familiar song of this attractive sparrow. We saw them daily along each of our main road destinations.

This Red Crossbill was being kept company by Pine Siskins and Pine Grosbeaks at Ava's feeders near Seward. Photo by participant Becky Hansen.

GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia atricapilla) – Mixed in with the previous species in Nome was this good-looking western specialty. We had especially nice scope views of one perched atop a building as it sang repeatedly.
SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis) – An abundant sparrow throughout tour.
SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia) – Ava's feeders in Seward were hosting several of these. However, you might have noticed how large and dark the coastal subspecies is there!
LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii) – Only a couple of these sharply-marked sparrows surfaced on tour including one along Nash Road in Seward and another at Potter Marsh near Anchorage.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
PINE GROSBEAK (Pinicola enucleator) – In Seward, a few of these large finches were attending Ava's feeders and we got to enjoy views of them side-by-side with crossbills.
COMMON REDPOLL (Acanthis flammea) – A handful of these small finches were sprinkled throughout the tour including some in Nome.
HOARY REDPOLL (Acanthis hornemanni) – Although some of these pale finches were seen briefly in Nome, better views were had in Utqiagvik where they came into the "forest" feeders along the shore. There is a chance that this species will be lumped with Common Redpoll in the coming years.
RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra) – The only spot we saw this distinctive finch was at Ava's in Seward. She had quite the flock attending her feeders and we got to study the different colorations of males, young males, and females.
PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus) – A whole hoard of these were also attending Ava's feeders in Seward. These are about the same size as a goldfinch but with a plethora of brown streaking.

SNOWSHOE HARE (Lepus americanus) – We lucked into a couple of these northern hares along the Kougarok Road in Nome.
ARCTIC GROUND SQUIRREL (Spermophilus parryii) – Also in Nome, these were seen along the roadside on multiple days.
RED SQUIRREL (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) – Common during our time around Seward.
MUSKRAT (Ondatra zibethica) – Two of these aquatic mammals were seen; first in Nome and then again at Potter Marsh.
NEARCTIC BROWN LEMMING (Lemmus trimucronatus) – At least a couple of us had brief views near Utqiagvik.
DALL'S PORPOISE (Phocoenoides dalli) – Seen on our Resurrection Bay boat trip out of Seward.
HUMPBACK WHALE (Megaptera novaeangliae) – A classic whale species, this was seen from the boat during our trip out of Seward.

There are mammals and then there are BIG mammals. This Muskox near Nome definitely qualified as the latter. Photo by participant Pete Peterman.

RED FOX (Vulpes vulpes) – It was quick and nimble but most of us still managed a view of this canine as we birded in Nome.
BROWN (INCL. GRIZZLY) BEAR (Ursus arctos) – High on the slopes of a hillside in Nome, a very big (and pale) bear was spotted and scoped.
SEA OTTER (Enhydra lutris) – It was a blast watching the antics of this critter, the largest mustelid, during our time in Seward.
STELLER'S SEA LION (Eumetopias jubatus) – These are big guys, the males can weigh as much as 1.2 tons! We spotted this species during our Resurrection Bay boat trip.
HARBOR SEAL (Phoca vitulina) – Seen in Resurrection Bay near Seward.
SPOTTED SEAL (Phoca largha) – The seals we saw offshore in Nome were probably this species.

Whether it was the birds, mammals, or scenery, this Alaska tour had it all. Here's a view the group enjoyed as we birded near Seward. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

RINGED SEAL (Phoca hispida) – At least one of the many seals we scoped offshore in Utqiagvik was this species. There were a few others though that were hard to determine.
MOOSE (Alces alces) – Such a classic animal of the Alaskan wilderness (and towns, in some cases!). We had good luck with these in Nome and at least one was spotted on three different days there.
MOUNTAIN GOAT (Oreamnos americanus) – On a mountainside above Tern Lake north of Seward, a few of these were scoped from a distance.
MUSKOX (Ovibos moschatus) – Such an amazing animal, these were seen at close range just outside of Nome. Even in the town of Nome, it wasn't uncommon to see these roaming around.


Totals for the tour: 155 bird taxa and 17 mammal taxa