Friday, September 27, 2013

The Pribs--Days 11 and 12

The Pribilof Islands are not well known except by birders, and viewers of the reality show, "The Most Dangerous Catch".  Only about 450 people live in the town of St. Paul, and over 90% are Aleuts.

Day 11 began pretty well weatherwise, so we figured the new birders arriving today would have no problem landing.  About noon we found out that there were mechanical issues with their plane, and they would not be coming out until early the next morning.  Those of us in the group who were planning on leaving on Wednesday got to do some extra birding, but alas nothing great showed up for them to feel good about the day, especially when 3 of them ran into major money hassles with their airline about changing their tickets because they were going to miss flights home.  One of the cardinal rules about trips to distant small islands, or remote outback spots in Alaska is that you always add extra travel days at the end of your trip in case you have airplane problems.

Since I was able to do a blog post today, but do not have lots of new birds to report, I am adding some photos taken earlier in the trip.  At the seawatch location at Southwestern Point, a gray whale carcass has been providing food for arctic foxes as well as the glaucous-winged gulls (photo taken by Laura--click on any photo to enlarge).

Early in our trip, Laura also was able to get a nice shot of 2 red-throated pipits.  All of us with cameras continue to take shots of the fur seals.

This morning the plane did make it in at 7 PM, and 11 of our group departed to be replaced by 9 others on the plane plus 2 others who were already here on the island.  After breakfast and an orientation by our guides, we went birding despite the very poor weather conditions--high winds and rain.

One of our almost daily activities is to walk the crab pots which are stacked up for 8 months of the year except in the winter months when the crabbing is happening.  Since there are no trees on the island, any vagrant passerines that arrive may choose to visit the crab pots as surrogate trees.  Lots of great birds have been found in the pots, but many days you can take 20 minutes walking through them without finding anything other than gray-crowned rosy finches or lapland longspurs which are 2 of the local breeding passerines.  Yesterday when we walked through the pots we did find a first year hoary redpoll.

Since our new arriving birders were up at 1 AM to catch the 4 AM flight out here, and the weather was making it pretty miserable to be out birding, we decided to make it an early night by going back to the hotel right after dinner.  As it turns out, one of the new birders who came in is Neil Hayward, the Englishman who is doing a full ABA area big year.  Those who have been reading this blog of late know who he is.  It turns out that he will also be my roommate for the next few days since Dan has been able to move into his partner Doreene's room for the remaining days that they will be here.

Even though the weather was pretty awful, the group did relocate the common rosefinch late this afternoon.  Neil was able to see it which raises his year total to 715.  Over the past 2 days I have only added 3 more trip birds to the list. The good news for his big year effort and all the rest of us for our life lists is that today's crappy weather which came in from the west could bring some new and different Asian vagrants in the next 2 days.  Stay tuned!

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