Adak – Day 3 & 4 – 12/18/11 Thru 12/19/11

Yesterday we worked the lagoons and open fresh water hard for ducks and the Whooper Swans.  All we were able to turn up was a Tufted Duck, Gadwall, American Wigeon and an American Green-winged Teal.  Isaac is very competent on his waterfowl identification.  He actually grew up on the Colville River Delta with waterfowl as pets.  Last night he showed me his photos of both the Tundra and Taiga Bean Geese that he’s seen on the island.  We also studied some of Isaac’s  photos of Common Pochard photos.  I’d have to say that Adak is now the best place in North America to search for Asian waterfowl.

Yesterday afternoon the FAA chartered a twin engine plane to send out both a technician and a certified weather monitor (he actually lives on Adak, but was off island in Anchorage.  Watching the plane taxi in on the runway was a happy sight for me.  I was happy to be leaving Adak, but I didn’t like the idea of leaving Adak empty handed.  Well, thinks have changed and I’m now stuck on Adak till Thursday afternoon.  I was pretty down when Isaac gave me the news this morning. But while discussing my situation with my brother Tom, he brightened up my day by reminding me that if I left Adak with zero birds, I’m a gonner anyways. He was right; no sense in crying over spilled milk.

This afternoon my mood brightened even more.  I finally was able to see a Whiskered Auklet. On Friday with the winds blowing out of the east and into Kuluk Bay, I was certain that I’d seen a dark auklet.  But it wasn’t possible to rule out Crested or Cassin’s Auklets, though Whiskered is certainly the default species here in Adak during the winter, in fact the only auklet that Isaac’s every seen in December or January.  Today the weather conditions were perfect, for sea watching.  The sun was behind my back, the waves in Kulak Bay were down and there was zero wind.  I was able to easily identify Common Murres and Pigeon Guillemots from almost twice the distance as was possible earlier in the week.  After about ½ an hour of scanning I saw a small black alcid way out and too far to ID.  Soon after that I was watching two flying Pigeon Guillemots going right when a flying Whiskered Auklet flew into the same field of view. Bingo!  Number 741.  Now to find those swans.

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18 Responses to Adak – Day 3 & 4 – 12/18/11 Thru 12/19/11

  1. John says:

    So far you’re only missing one bird Outside, the Nutting’s Flycatcher, so with the Whiskered Auklet, your situation is essentially a wash. Get the Whooper or anything else, and you’re still in the plus category from this trip…as long as you make it off island on Thursday!

  2. Nick says:

    Good luck getting done there! This trip was a swing for the fences, one you had to make at this stage of the game. Quite an experience in any case. Please may a Whooper come your way!

  3. Glad you got the auklet! Now go get the swan, then get the Nutting’s Flycatcher and Hooded Crane, and a Great Skua and you’ve tied the record. Go John Go!!!

  4. William Vanderpoel says:


    Let me know when you might try for the Flycatcher, it looks about equal distance between Phoenix and Las Vegas. Remote chance I could sneak away and go with you, could also pick up a Eurasian Wigeon in Phoenix (for me). Something else will still show up.


  5. Dennis W says:

    Congrats on the auklet, John. I know the swan is somewhere close. And then…that Nutting’s is just down the road, and I’m sure a few other goodies will pop up before year’s end—maybe right there on Adak. You’ve already “won” for sure, but I’m still sending out 746 vibes (and feeling a pinch of the sweet anxiety that’s driving you). Thanks for sharing your grand adventure.

  6. Anita Huffman says:

    Do you know about the Hooded Crane at Hiwassee Refuge in Meigs County, TN? Although I guess you’re still at Adak!

  7. Dave Brown says:

    I’m pretty sure that Hooded Crane will be written off as an escapee.I doubt very much it will even be voted for acceptance. I wouldn’t worry too much about that one. Sorry to still not have found a Lapwing or Euro Thrush. The total absence of NE winds this fall and mild weather in Europe have conspired to not bring us any Euro vagrants.

    Good Luck!

  8. Good luck John sorry you are stranded but there is a good reason I’m sure! Hopefully we’ll be reading about #742 – Whooper Swan tomorrow!

  9. William Vanderpoel says:


    Have you seen any seal species?


  10. Mark says:

    Any chance Sandy Komito is responsible for you being stranded?

  11. David B Johnson says:

    Go get ‘em John!!! Best wishes and finish STRONG!
    We’re all for you! Evanston North Shore Bird Club, Illinois Ornithological Society, Illinois Audubon Society, ….and more of us binocular, and scope carrying crazy sport birders!
    Whoo Hoo! ;-) dbj

  12. Julio says:

    You should try for the Falcated Duck at the Colusa NWR in California (3 hr drive from San Francisco airport). It is been seen by hundreds of birders already from the viewing platform. It has been seen there for 2 weeks now and there is no reason to think that it will go away anytime soon.

  13. Hi John,

    hope you got the Whooper Swan and some other birds on Adak! Hope you got off of there today as planned.

    Are you still planning to come to Tennessee for the Hooded Crane sometime before the end of the year? If so, we’d still love to meet you there.

    Good luck!


  14. Morgan Churchill says:

    Hopefully you are looking at it or heading to it right now, but the Dusky Thrush was reported today. Details on the AKBirding

  15. Greg Baker says:

    I am sure you heard that the Dusky Thrush was finally reported again (12/22), at Belmont and Forest Park (per Birding on the Net – Alaska). You have kept us in suspense the past few days regarding the Whooper Swan and any other collateral year birds you may have picked up on Adak after the Whiskered Auklet. We hope you get the thrush today as you sprint towards the finish line! Good luck, Greg Baker/Portland, Oregon

  16. Lamarr Eddings says:

    The wait for an uupdate is killing me! Let’s all hope foul weather has blown in a whole new crop of vagrants! Best wishes!

  17. Anita Huffman says:

    Yes, I’m starting to worry about them!

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