Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Pribs--Days 1 to 3

I flew on Saturday the 14th to Anchorage where I met up with Laura Keene, a birding friend from Ohio.  The flight on Sunday from Anchorage out to St. Paul required us to stop at Dillingham to add more fuel, but also meant they were able to add a few more pieces of luggage to the overweight plane.  As a result my main bag arrived with me, but Laura's did not.  We were met by Scott Schuette and Doug Gochfeld, our guides for the trip.  Our 3rd guide, Gavin Bieber, was on the plane with us, and his luggage also had been bumped because of too much weight.  The sign on the way into town is very outdated--much closer to 300 different species of birds have now been recorded on the island.

We dropped our gear off at the duplex we would be staying at for the first 3 nights, and were introduced to the Trident seafood canteen where we would be eating our meals.  The food is nothing to write home about, but there is plenty of it with a range of choices that will more than fill up your plate.

After eating dinner,  Scott and Gavin took us out to bird until it got dark around 9:30.  We began the trip quite well, seeing 25 species including 2 bramblings, 2 common snipe and several red-legged kittiwakes mixed in with 100's of black-legged kittiwakes.  We went to sleep feeling very good about our first less than 1/2 day of birding on St. Paul.

We awoke on Monday morning to a mostly sunny day which is never to be expected at St. Paul.  Doug met us at 9 AM to begin our day.  We were treated to lots of horned puffins (photo above--click on any photo to enlarge) and a fair number of tufted puffins.  We also did some sea watching in hopes of finding some auklets for Laura's life list (photo below of Laura and Doug).  By this time of year the auklets have mostly left St. Paul, but we did see both common and thick-billed murres.

We walked town marsh and found 3 sharp-tailed sandpipers which are expected in the fall.  By the end of our first 3 days of birding we had the pleasure of seeing quite a few like the one below.

After lunch all of us walked a celery patch at Webster.  Much to our surprise and delight we flushed a Middendorff's grasshopper warbler--only the 2nd to ever be recorded on the island.  It took us awhile to relocate it, but we finally did which resulted in some pretty good photos like the one below taken by Laura. We could not believe our good fortune in finding an Asian rarity that certainly was not on our list of target birds for the trip.

After dinner we birded some other key spots and found a lesser sand plover, a warbling vireo and an American tree sparrow.  We headed back to the duplex with a stop to pick up Laura's luggage that had arrived on a cargo plane feeling pretty tired from our 10 hours of birding.  We added 20 more trip birds for the day.

Tuesday's weather was almost identical to Monday.  Scott picked us up at 9 AM, and we proceeded to visit some of the same places from the day before.  We added 10 new birds for the trip including a red-necked stint, a red-breasted nuthatch and a yellow-rumped warbler.  Tomorrow we will be joined by a large group of birders to begin an ABA sponsored week of birding.  Our friends Dan and Doreene will be arriving as part of the group.  After 3 days the trip list was up to 55 species, and the red-legged kittiwake, the common snipe and the Middendorff's grasshopper warbler were all life birds for me. Stay tuned!


  1. Congratulations on the warbler, Chris. Wish I was there

  2. sounds swell so far, sunshine and 3 life birds already and you got your luggage too-great news.
    Here at topsail, just the usual suspects, terns, gulls and plovers loafing at the tip of the island. Enjoying great swimming and long walks on the beach!