Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Pribs--Days 18 to 20

I did my last post mid day on the 18th day of the trip, so I still had more birding to do that day as well as days 19 and 20.  Before heading out to bird in the afternoon, I snapped a shot at the airport of Scott Schuette (left), and Gavin Beiber who was flying out with the second ABA group.  Coming in to join us were 4 more birders.  Of these I only knew Bill Frey who was on the gray-headed chickadee raft trip I took back in June of 2011. 

We got settled into the duplex most of us were staying at for the next few days, and headed out to bird.  We stopped at Antone Lake to scan the water to see if anything new might have come in.  Almost immediately Scott was as excited as I had seen him over the 2+ weeks of birding with him because he had found a spectacled eider (click on any photo to enlarge).  This was a life St. Paul Island bird, and an ABA lifer as well for him.  It also raised his island life list up to just 5 birds behind Gavin's.  He immediately called Doug who was not with us to come out because the eider would be the same for him--a double lifer.  It is also the first spectacled eider seen by any bird guide on the island.  Based on the rarity of this bird on St. Paul, I was ecstatic since it was a lifer for me too.

Not being familiar with the species, neither Doug nor Scott were sure whether we had found an eclipse male or a female.  I emailed Gavin today to get his opinion, and he thought it was probably an eclipse male.  Whichever it is, it is unquestionably a spectacled eider.

With winds coming out of the east and north over the next 2 days, we began to see a few migrants from North America including yellow-rumped warblers, ruby-crowned kinglets, golden-crowned sparrows, juncos, American pipits, a white-crowned sparrow, a robin and a gray-cheeked thrush.  We also saw 2 more bramblings which raised the trip total for me to 6 in all.  We kept hoping a McKay's bunting would show up with all the new snow buntings coming to the island, but we found none. We did some seawatching which meant more fly-by red-faced cormorants (photo taken earlier by Laura).

The number of seals has continued to decline, but there were still a few mothers around with nursing pups.  My last afternoon I spent a bit of time watching the young seals still hanging around the bachelor beach.  They reminded me of our puppy, Castagno, playing with my daughter's dog, Mira.

On day 19 the sun was out much of the day, and we crossed paths again with the white-tailed eagle near weather bureau lake (photo taken earlier by Laura).  And early in the afternoon on the 20th we saw it again in the upper cut of the quarry, and then a bit later over weather bureau lake.  For 3 of the remaining birders it was a life bird.

As my time here wound down, I had mixed feelings about flying out.  I was pretty tired from all the daily birding in one of the most difficult places to bird because of the terrain and weather, but I was also leaving before the next big storm which could be bringing more Asian vagrants.  Unlike John Vanderpoel, who had a siberian accentor back in 2011 during his big year, after walking through the famed crab pots every day they failed to deliver an Asian rarity during my stay.

I enjoyed almost 3 weeks of very good birding, as well as getting to know some new birders.  Many of them have birded for years, and many of their ABA area life lists are north of 700 bird species.  In fact, Paul Sykes (left) and Larry Peavler rank number 2 and 3 on the ABA area life list at 883 and 882 birds respectively.  Paul is one of the few living people who has the long extinct Bachman's warbler on his life list.  Larry has made 49 trips over the years to Alaska to find new birds.  Having already spent 2 weeks here this fall, they are hoping over the next few days to see another of the Asian rarities still not on their list.  This is the 3rd fall they have visited the Pribs to find more rare birds.  No matter what, they both soon will go see the nutmeg mannikin to raise their totals.

Before leaving ahead of me Laura took a lovely photo of a sunset that we all enjoyed one day.  I am now sitting in my hotel in Anchorage.  Neil Hayward flew in last night from his short trip up to Barrow.  He is waiting to talk with Scott, but may return to St. Paul tomorrow for 3 more days of birding there in hopes of finding a few more Asian rarities before he flies to southern California later this coming week.  I finished up with 92 bird species for my 20 days on the island, and missed eye-browed thrush and parakeet auklet.  I had set a target of 10 new life birds, and ended up with 9 (1 code #2; 3 code #3; and 5 code #4).  After I return home on Tuesday I will do another big year update.  Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. And the sun sets over another extreme birdwatching trip!
    Glad you had a good one, sorry you didn't hit 10. I look forward to more stories and was happy to enjoy this one vicariously with the cold rainy weather not sounding too pleasant.