The Pribilofs

The Pribilofs are a group of four volcanic islands off the coast of mainland Alaska, in the middle of the Bering Sea. They aren’t particularly close to anything- about 200 miles north of Unalaska in the eastern Aleutians. The Russian Far East coast is roughly 500 miles to the northwest. They are mostly rocky and are covered with tundra, St. Paul is the largest island and has a village on it with a population of around 700 people. The islands were visited in 1788 by Gavriil Pribilof, a Russian merchant navigator. Pribilof had been actively searching for the fur seal rookeries for which they became famous. Thus the islands became a Russian territory until the Alaska Purchase of 1867.

Russian history is interesting- but I was of course journeying to St. Paul for something else Russian – rarities.  Lost winged waifs headed south to warmer haunts in Southeast Asia or Africa and now blown off course by westerly winds or destined to fly southeast instead of southwest due to faulty genetics.  Late September and early October can be exciting for rare passerines under the right conditions and westerly winds began last night and are forecasted to continue till at least Wednesday.

This isn’t my first trip to St. Paul. Peter Gent and I visited in June of 1998 to film Red-legged Kittiwakes for the Small Gulls of North America. Red-legged Kittiwake is the one new year-bird that is still pretty much certain to be there, though it’s getting a little late.

I’m assuming that there is an internet connection on St. Paul.  If so I’ll update tonight.

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2 Responses to The Pribilofs

  1. Greg Baker says:

    John…I have been following your blog almost daily since I met you birding in April in Texas…And vicariously enjoying your experiences from my office cubicle. Give the readers what they want?? I see you have 716 species and 3 months to go. As a reader I want to see you get 746 species, which is a tall order, buy then you are a tall guy. The best of luck and favorable winds!………Greg Baker, Portland, Oregon

  2. John Vanderpoel says:

    Thanks, Greg. I still need Ruff!!!!!

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