Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Pribs--Days 4 to 6

Wifi service here at the King Eider Hotel is pretty erratic so I am going to do a fairly brief update for now.  The weather on Wednesday was more typical of the Pribs in the fall--mid 40's, windy, and spitting rain.  We did a seawatch again and my friend Laura got a nice shot of a slaty-backed gull.  We were able to see some short-tailed shearwaters, least auklets and ancient murrelets fly by the point.

We also got our first up close and personal look at a red-legged kittiwake (photo also taken by Laura--click on any photo to enlarge).  Other birds of interest for the day included an Aleutian cackling goose, a chipping sparrow and an American robin.

As the sign for St. Paul said in my last blog post, this island is the largest fur seal breeding location in the world.  In June the number of seals is on the order of 400,000, but in the fall there are many fewer still here.  That said, you still are amazed at the numbers that you encounter as you move around the island.  The seal pups are everywhere along the water's edge.

The rest of our birding group was supposed to arrive about 4 PM, but due to mechanical problems with the plane they did not get here until 7 PM.  We were just happy that they got here at all since it is common for weather to keep planes from landing here.  Like all new arrivals, they get to see the Russian Orthodox church as they drove into town.

On Thursday morning we all piled into the St. Paul Island Tour bus, and began a full day of birding after a hearty breakfast at the Trident canteen.  The weather was better than on Wednesday with no rain, not much wind and even some sun.  At the seawatch we had a peregrine falcon fly by.  We saw the red-necked stint again.  2 new birds in the morning were a eastern yellow wagtail, and an emperor goose.

After lunch we drove out to Polovina Hill, and discovered a streak-sided flycatcher which is a very nice Asian vagrant for the island.  The group also got to see a common snipe and a few sharp-tailed sandpipers.  After dinner we drove to the far northeast part of the island where the newly arrived birders were able to pick up a female brambling and the red-breasted nuthatch from prior days plus a red fox sparrow.

We stopped at Webster lake on the way back to walk the same celery patch that had produced the Middendorff's grasshopper sparrow last Monday.  We flushed a lincoln's sparrow which was the first ever seen by our guides on the island.  At the same time Gavin found a fork-tailed swift (also called a pacific swift) flying overhead.  Fortunately Laura was able to get a diagnostic shot of the bird showing its white rump.  This bird was not only a life bird for all of those in our group who saw it well enough to be able to count it, but was also a life bird for all 3 of our guides.

Today, Friday, was a brutal day weatherwise--driving rain with high winds.  As a result, while we tried to find some birds, we mostly got wet and cold.  No new birds were seen for the trip, and we stopped birding earlier than normal.  We are hoping the storm that passed over us today will bring some nice new birds on the west winds over the next couple of days. So far I have seen 68 different species on the island, and the flycatcher and swift were 2 more life birds for my ABA list. Stay tuned!

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