Barrow is simply fascinating at this time of the year. There was already a carpet of snow on the ground when we arrived yesterday and it snowed more last night and this morning. First of all, realize that most of the birds that breed here are long gone though we did see a lost Palm Warbler in Barrow today. But there was excellent gull activity on Monday and some interesting birds today.
We’re here with John Puschock’s Zugunruhe Tours. Zugunruhe is German for migratory restlessness. His tour company specializes in tours to the edges of North America. In 2010 on a Zugunruhe Tours to Attu, they found the first accepted North American record of Solitary Snipe.
What a trip this has been. Just to stand on Point Barrow at the top of the United States is exciting, but to watch dozens of Ross’s Gulls feed in the Arctic Ocean surf less than 30 feet off shore is a once in a lifetime thrill!
We saw at least 237 Ross’s Gulls on Monday including 2 smartly plumaged young birds.
Maybe 50 Ross’s were flying east today. Other exiting birds. The Arctic Ocean held other surprises as well. Lots of King and Common Eiders and five Spectacled Eiders as well. A Sabine’s Gull was feeding with the Ross’s Gulls on Monday. Today John Puschock spotted a Black Guillemot just off shore which was a year-bird for Bill (he’s actually approaching 600 species for the year). By far the strangest thing we saw in the Arctic Ocean was a flock of five Rock Ptarmigan flying 150 yards off shore! That’s right over the Arctic Ocean. They then swerved landward and landed close to us. How Bizarre is that?
We spent quite a bit of time today photographing Snowy Owls. The count today was at least fifteen different individuals. It’s been a good year for the owls with lots of lemmings in the tundra. Even so there were some scuffles. Our trip list total is 15 birds. All in all it was a great trip that I’d heartily recommend to everyone.