Adak – Day 1 – 12/16/11

My flight arrived last night on schedule, which left us two hours to bird Adak.  Issac had seen a Merlin earlier in the day (rare for the Aleutian Islands) so we spent some time trying to relocate it without success. We did see three duck species –the Aleutian race of the Green-winged Teal, Greater Scaup and over ten Eurasian Wigeons.  There were Snow Buntings, Redpolls and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches as well.

The Aleutian Outfitters Lodge is surprisingly comfy compared to Gambel and St. Paul.  Crystal Helmericks is the lodge cook and the spaghetti dinner she prepared last night was tasty.  Some hearty oatmeal this morning and we were ready to go.

Isaac has been birding since he was a small boy growing up on a homestead in Northern Alaska on the Colville River Delta. It was easy to start a passion for birding when there were birds like Spectacled and King Eiders and Yellow billed loons nesting several hundred yards from his house.  Now he’s a bird guide on Adak, where Eurasian rarities are always a possibility.

This morning it was snowing.  As I understand it four days ago there wasn’t any snow on the ground, but now it was white with high drifts in some spots.  As we left, Isaac commented that this was indeed “extreme birding”.  Welcome to my world in 2011.  Even with snow, Isaac found a way to position the truck so we could scan the harbor and immediate ponds.  I was surprised when three Emperor Geese swam right by us.

Emperor Goose at Sweeper Cove in Adak, AK (Photo by John Vanderpoel)

This must be the easiest place in America to see and photograph this goose.  We ended the day with 275  Emperor Geese!  Anyway we eventually got stuck.

Stuck in Ice and Snow (Photo by John Vanderpoel)

We knew the road base was firm gravel so Isaac worked and worked to dig us out and eventually we popped out of this ice made rut.  In the process I managed to fall in to about 18” of water.

After drying our cloths and lunch, we ventured again outside.  The snow/rain had virtually stopped and the wind became insignificant.  We were able to scan with our scopes – 30 Marbled Murrelets was very cool. We had one probable Whiskered Auklet at a pretty far distance.  We hope to get better looks today.  We ended the day at Clam Lagoon where there were perhaps 500 ducks and another 150 Emperor Geese.  I was tired by the time we returned home, but we ended the day with 36 bird species. Dinner with home made biscuits, wild red salmon caught in Adak  and cherry pie sure hit the spot.  Tomorrow we ride ATVs to search for the Whooper Swans.  Just another walk in the park on this Big Year adventure?

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2 Responses to Adak – Day 1 – 12/16/11

  1. Ride ‘em cowboy on those snowmachines today, John! Those swans and auklet are out there somewhere,


  2. Alison Quinn says:

    Great shot of the Emperor Goose, John. We’ll all whoop it up when you see the swan!

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