I’m on a northbound plane once again traveling to Alaska. This will be my sixth trip of the year! My destination will be Adak, which is one of the Andreanof Islands in the Aleutian Chain and is located almost 1200 miles southwest of Anchorage and 445 miles west of Dutch Harbor. In fact Adak is the westernmost city in Alaska. I’ll be birding with Issac Helmericks of Aleutian Outfitters. Issac is an interesting guy from a very interesting Alaska frontier family. We are going to attempt an actual Christmas Bird Count on one of the days. So why am I journeying to Adak in the middle of December? I’ll give you several reasons.
1) Adak is also the southernmost city in Alaska with latitude similar with Vancouver Island, BC. This means that there will be plenty of light to bird (if the holling winds and blowing rain don’t shut us down first). The daytime high temperatures are forecasted to remain in the 30’s while I’m there.
2) There are two regular birds on Adak that I hope to be able to add to my year-totals- Whiskered Auklet and Whooper Swan.
3) This fall has seen extraordinary fall weather in Alaska, particularly the western and central Aleutians. Storm after storm with sustained westerly winds has blown rarities in from the West. Alaska’s “storm of the century” blasted through Adak right while waterfowl and thrushes were moving south in Asia. Realistically, there could be other goodies on the island.
4) So little birding occurs in Adak this time of the year, its an opportunity to add to our knowledge base on bird distribution. By the way, I’ll be adding all my Adak sightings to e-bird
5) But in the end, the ultimate answer is that it’s going to be a wild adventure. How many times do you get the chance to do this stuff in a lifetime? If all goes well I’ll be in a small boat in the Bering Sea in DECEMBER! There are stories here that will hold the attention of my grandchildren for hours. (assuming I’ll be able to remember them when I’m 85 years old). I’m anxious, but first I have a meeting with Mr. Whitekeys and the Dusky Thrush.