Adak – Day 2 – 12/17/11

Yesterday, Isaac and I spent most of the day on ATVs searching for the Whooper Swans.

Ready to Ride (Photo by Tifiny Kalberg)

Friday it was extremely difficult to drive the road to Lake Andrew, the largest fresh water lake in the Aleutians, but on the ATVs we had no trouble making it.  There were good numbers of ducks on the lake as well as a Red-necked Grebe, but the swans weren’t to be found.  Isaac has seen them fly over town twice this winter and figures they’re moving back and forth between Andrew Lake and Lake Constance.  In fact he saw a group of five earlier in December at Lake Constance.  The trouble is that there is a good deal of snow on the ground and we knew it would now be impossible to climb over the pass on our ATVs. We’d have to hike several miles.  Actually, with Isaac leading the way and searching for the best path, we were able to drive the ATVs farther than Isaac thought on the trail towards Lake Constance, but the pass had too much snow to trudge through.

Isaac Helmericks (Photo by John Vanderpoel)

We were blocked in. We had driven 37 miles on the ATVs yesterday over all kinds of terrain, but had no swans to show for our efforts.  That’s the bad news.

I guess the good news is that I have extra time on Adak to explore other ways to reach Lake Constance.  Isaac will drive his snow mobile over the pass and scout Lake Constance.  If the swans are in we could launch a zodiac in Shagak Bay then motoe around the sheltered side of the island into Expedition Harbor.  Lake Constance would be a short hike from that harbor. We could also use the zodiac to get further out to search for Whiskered Auklet.  Extra time might allow us to find both target species.

Unfortunately, the reason we have this extra time is some more bad news.  There is a problem with the FAA automated weather monitor on Adak.  Alaska Airlines can’t send a plane to Adak until it’s fixed.  Earliest I could leave would be Monday, but possibly not till Thursday!  I’m stuck on Adak.  And the weather is perfect.

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12 Responses to Adak – Day 2 – 12/17/11

  1. William Vanderpoel says:

    Ouch, maybe the extra time can lead to some additional birds!


  2. Sorry that you’re stuck on Adak John and that Alaska hasn’t rewarded any new birds yet this trip! Really hope that the trend changes.

  3. Bill Kaempfer says:

    Weather perfect here for the Valmont count–high of 50, sunny and zero wind. But just like your day–nothing rare. Off to Ft. Morgan and Sterling next.

  4. Tina Jones says:

    Hi John,
    Hang in there. I know You will find the Whooper. Pretty sure if the lakes have food for them they will stay. Wow, it looks like the tropics up there, nice and balmy. Everyone is rooting for you. I sure am. Yeah, the plus now ,is you might see 2 bird species. Keep warm and don’t lose your focus. Keep your focus,

  5. Falcated Duck at Colusa NWR:
    In this vein, it is also important to note that, according to the refuge
    biologist, the bird has both hind toes!
    Bruce Deuel
    Red Bluff

    If this duck is accepted and you didn’t try for it, your going to kick yourself in the ARSE. It might even cost you the record. I hope Dunn didn’t steer you away from it….DJ

  6. Sam Plew says:

    Is a bush plane a possibility for the swan? May the weather work in your favor for the next few weeks.

    Lions came back today to win by one in the fourth quarter! Go for the win, John. It is yours for the taking. Snatch an unexpected bird like the Great Horned Owl on Jan. 2nd. Let it fly to you out of the dark. (Just let it be a better bird!)

  7. John Vanderpoel says:

    Hi Sam,

    I like your thinking!!!

  8. John Vanderpoel says:

    Hi Don,

    I got the Falcated Duck before the Dec. 11 Pelagic trip.


  9. Nutting’s Flycatcher reported in Arizona, see here for details:

  10. Steve Bobonick says:

    John…this just posted on AZ-NM listserve
    Steve B.

    Subject: WAZ: FW – NUTTING’S FLYCATCHER reported from Bill Williams Delta
    From: David Stejskal
    Date: Mon, 19 Dec 2011 13:07:18 -0500

    Hi birders,

    I just got a call from David Vander Pluym in Lake Havasu City and he reports
    that he and Lauren Harter have just gotten photos and diagnostic sound
    recordings of a NUTTING’S FLYCATCHER in the riparian area of the Bill Williams
    Delta this morning. They saw the bird in the area yesterday, from what I
    understand, and went back this morning to confirm their suspicions. David said
    that Lauren will be posting directions to the bird later today on this listserv
    (I don’t have the directions, I’m just getting the word out for those
    interested in heading out there today).

    Thanks to David for the call and please stay tuned for more details from


    Dave Stejskal
    Field Guides Inc.

  11. Al Trompler says:

    Well, we don’t know when (if?) you’ll be back in the lower 48, but a Nutting’s Flycatcher has been reported in the Lake Havasu area.

  12. Mike Hendrickson says:

    Nuttings Flycatcher showed up in Arizona. Hope you can get to it by January 1st. Hope you get the hell out of there with the swan soon! Clock is ticking.

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