Birding the Americas Trip Report and Planning Repository
Return to the Main Index

Return to the North America Index
Return to the U.S.A. Index
Return to the Alaska Index


23 August - 2 October 2002

by Paul Lehman

The following is a summary of the species noted at Gambell, Saint Lawrence Island, Alaska between 23 August and 2 October 2002.  Between 23 and 28 August I was leading my annual WINGS tour, assisted this year by George Armistead (Philadelphia).  I took the group back to Nome on the 28th and then returned to Gambell on the 30th, with George remaining at Gambell.  He departed on 2 September, and after that I was alone except for a brief visit by Bob Dodelson (New Jersey) on 10-11 September and then was joined by David Sonneborn (Alaska) and Dona Coates (Kentucky) between 14 and 23 September.

The autumn of 2002 was spectacular for rarities.  Incredible.  Fabulous.  Asian highlights included first North American records of Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus), Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia carruca), and Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), the second record of Yellow-browed Warbler, the third record of Tree Pipit, the first northern Bering Sea and Alaska fall record of Reed Bunting, the second or third Alaska fall record of Bean Goose, “Kamchatka” Mew Gull, Oriental Cuckoo, Sky Lark, five flava Horned Larks, four Dusky Warblers, three Siberian Accentors, and two Little Buntings.  From the North American mainland came Warbling Vireo (second Bering Sea record), Magnolia Warbler (c.  third Bering Sea record), MacGillivray’s Warbler (first Bering Sea record), lutescens Orange-crowned Warbler, three Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and two Chipping Sparrows, plus more regularly occurring species, including an impressive total of six species of North American wood-warblers.  Also seen was a group of seven McKay’s Buntings. 

Asian shorebirds were below average, with a single Mongolian Plover, five Gray-tailed Tattlers, two Red-necked Stints, and a pathetically low total of only four Sharp-tailed Sandpipers.  One possible/partial explanation for the mediocre shorebird turnout was the fact that it was a relatively dry summer, so seasonal wetlands and rain pools near town were in shorter supply than normal.  Seabird numbers and variety after the end of August, though still interesting, were the lowest I had seen on any visit.  Perhaps the south and southwesterly winds (see below) were a major cause (as was the early fledging of many alcids)—so the weather (i.e., wind) that was good for Asian strays was poor for seawatching.  Certainly the best counts of seabirds during September were made, as usual, during moderate winds with a northerly component—particularly needed for seeing large numbers of Short-tailed Shearwaters.

Details (descriptions) of the better rarities make up a separate document.  I was able to video a large percent of this year’s rare birds, and have made a highlight videotape.

Birding effort was concentrated in the “Near,” “Far,” and “Circular” Boneyards, in the “Old Town” area north of the runway, and in and around the Point (=“Northwest Cape”).  These places each received about two, sometimes three, visits per day, depending on weather and birding conditions.  As in past years, the far and circular boneyards did best at attracting rarities, followed by the near boneyard third, and Old Town a distant fourth.  In the past, I thought these differences may have been the result of varying disturbance levels, but now I think the far and circular boneyards do best because they are located right up against 600-foot-tall Sevuokuk Mountain, and passerines coming in off the ocean may drop out at that point rather than try to fly up and over the mountain to uncertain habitats beyond.  The dump, nearby sewage “pond” (not very good in 2002), and “North Beach” (ditto) were also visited most days. 

Seabirding efforts varied greatly from day to day depending on what was going on there and elsewhere; thus variation in seabird counts from day to day need to be taken with at least a grain of salt.  In general, seawatching after August involved only a couple hours first thing each morning (when autumn seabird diversity appears to be highest).  Visits to the bottom end of the lake were made most (but not all) days through early September, but only very infrequently after that.  This area, although it was sometimes mildly interesting and did produce a few rarities, was never really good or excellent.  We rented a Honda four-wheeler during the WINGS tour, but not thereafter, so then paid for the occasional ride from local residents all during September, particularly from lodge employee Hansen.  Overall, even with one or a couple other birders present to help check areas, I believe that many areas receive incomplete coverage.  Who knows how many furtive species or especially those that remain only briefly (see below) I/we ended up missing altogether.  My guess is that when I am alone I find only about two-thirds of the rarities present in and around town, mostly the result of a not-insignificant percent of these birds remaining in the area for only a short time.

Compared to my long stays in 1999 and 2001, the autumn of 2002 weather-wise had more winds from between the west and south, with much less of a NNE dominance that occurred in 1999, or the greater variability of 2001.  The weather this year throughout much of Alaska was mild for much of September, with hard-freezes not occurring even in the northern interior of the state until very late in the month.  The mild conditions on the mainland translated to slightly above-normal daytime temperatures at Gambell (remember the inescapable Bering Sea influence!) during September, with night-time temps very rarely falling below a balmy 39 degrees and daytime temps usually in the 40s, even reaching 50-52 degrees several days.  There were very few major storms, but several weather fronts did pass through at just the right time: moderate rain for at least several hours late at night through an hour or two after dawn, resulting in some good passerine fallouts and some great rarities, with either W or SW winds (e.g., 8 September) or E winds (e.g., 15 and 22 September). 

Other fallouts of rarities coincided with moderate W and SW (less often S) winds and at least a low (around 500 feet) ceiling (e.g., 29-30 August).  But of course some rarities turned up in just about any weather, and some Asian birds were found on days with light easterlies, and some North American mainland vagrants were found during light westerlies.  Summarizing some of the better “mini-fallouts” is as follows: 29-30 August produced the continuing Willow Warbler and Reed Bunting plus new Dusky Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, and Siberian Accentor; 8 September produced Lesser Whitethroat, Dusky Warbler, Siberian Accentor, and 2 Gray-cheeked Thrushes; 15 September saw the arrival of 8 Arctic Warblers, 2 Gray-cheeked Thrushes, 2 Yellow Wagtails, and 2 japonicus pipits; and 22 September was “mainland day” with Warbling Vireo, 3 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, lutescens Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler, and Savannah Sparrow.

The Siberian (Chukotsk Peninsula) mountains and the low mountains on the southwestern part of Saint Lawrence Island got their first coating of snow on 17-18 September, but this all soon melted.  Some flakes fell in Gambell, mixed with rain, the last several days I was present, but it amounted to nothing (temps were still around 38-40 degrees).  Day-by-day weather conditions are found at the end of this report.  Weather data at Gambell can be accessed easily from the automated weather station at the runway by calling 907-985-5733, or by listening to the same recording on an FM radio station (forgot the station number); also, Gambell temperature and wind are given hourly on “KNOM” (AM) out of Nome.

The numbers of most trans-Beringian landbird migrants during late August and early September were reasonable, but not as good for most species as in the 1990s.  Arctic Warblers and Red-throated Pipits were in good numbers this year, but Bluethroats were below average.  The overall trend for several of these species appears to be negative at Gambell.  But it should be stated that I have never arrived any earlier than 20 August, so I clearly miss a fairly substantial part of that migration, particularly involving early migrants such as Yellow Wagtail.  By arriving so late in the month, I also clearly miss a fair chunk of the shorebird migration.

As in previous visits, many of the migrant passerines—both Asian species and even many of the North American mainland wanderers—behaved like Asian species and were decidedly flighty or furtive.  Also, a few of the goodies in the far and circular boneyards clearly would go up onto the lower and mid- slopes of adjoining Sevuokuk Mountain and largely disappear for periods of time.  Most new rarities were not found until the PM, consistent with other years. 

It also was obvious, as in last year, that a number of the rarities that turn up do so only for a few minutes, an hour, or a few hours.  A majority of the goodies noted in this report as being present on only one day were, in fact, present (or at least find-able) for only two hours or less.  Most Asian birds remain for extended periods.  But North American warblers appear to be particularly brief in their stays.  Whether these birds are just moving around locally during the day, or are ranging much farther afield, is unknown. 

Also apparent is that a few rarities may move from the near to the far boneyard or may disappear for multiple days and then reappear, making it difficult to determine if one or more individuals are involved.  For example, this problem occurred in 2001 with a Siberian Accentor, “Red” Fox Sparrow, and Little Bunting, and this year it involved the Willow Warbler, Tree Pipit, MacGillivray’s Warbler, and possibly others.

During autumn, Gambell has remained essentially unexplored by birders during the first three weeks of August and after the first few days of October.  As stated earlier, the former period is probably good for shorebirds, trans-Beringian migrants, and a few early landbird rarities.  The latter period likely produces only a small number of passerines, but what does show up is probably pretty interesting!  Local residents report seeing “strange-looking little birds” in the boneyards, in Old Town, or trying to seek shelter in buildings (such as at more primitive “camps” elsewhere on the island) from time to time during the latter fall (October+).  Who knows what is turning up during these periods…

Observers’ initials used: GLA- George L.  Armistead, DC- Dona Coates, BD- Bob Dodelson, PEL- Paul E.  Lehman, DWS- David W.  Sonneborn, WINGS- Wings tour (Paul Lehman and George Armistead, leaders).


RED-THROATED LOON: total of only 4 between 24 Aug- 27 Sep was somewhat fewer than normal.

ARCTIC LOON: none again this year, with now still only one bird seen by me in four years (on 22 Sep 1999), surprising given how regular they are here in spring.  Do they take a different route or come later in October?

PACIFIC LOON: total of 188 between 24 Aug- 1 Oct was fewer than normal.

YELLOW-BILLED LOON: total of 46 between 24 Aug- 1 Oct, with only 8 of these before 25 Sep, and then 16 birds on both 27 and 28 Sep each.  Peak counts in 1999 and 2001 were also made on 28 Sep.  As in other years, almost all birds in alternate plumage (only one in basic plumage, 8-10 Sep) and seen flying from W or SW to E or NE.

RED-NECKED GREBE: sightings on 17-18 Sep and 24 Sep could easily have involved just one bird.  This species has now occurred in the Point area four falls in a row.

NORTHERN FULMAR: up to 75/day during August, including a rare dark-morph bird on 23 Aug (north of normal), then only 1 to 4/day seen sporadically after that, with none after 19 Sep.

SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER: typically huge numbers present, although the truly large counts were made less frequently than normal, probably the result of the lack of strong north winds most days.  Peak numbers in late Aug were up to 150,000/day, quickly increasing in early Sep to a high count of 600,000 on 7 Sep (video), then dropping to a max.  of 400,000/day in mid-Sep and 50,000/day in late Sep.

PELAGIC CORMORANT: as in past years, numbers increased later in season, with up to 85/day, except for 250 on 27 Sep and 200 on 28 Sep; these latter two counts made up mostly of mid-sized migrant flocks flying south at moderate height.

BEAN GOOSE: 1 flew by the Point from W to E on 7 Sep (PEL).  This may be only the second or third fall record for the state.  See separate details.

EMPEROR GOOSE: according to local residents, our arrival on 23 Aug just missed the main out-migration in late August by a couple days, a time during which the first strong north winds of the season had blown.  We had only 1 bird on 28 Aug and 22 on 31 Aug.

SNOW GOOSE: a flock of 20 on 17 Sep was the only sighting and was fewer than normal; according to local residents who hunt this species on the southern and eastern parts of the island, this species arrived somewhat late this year, but by the latter part of Sep many thousands were present, as is typical.

"BLACK" BRANT: total of 119 seen on five dates between 27 Aug and 28 Sep.  Somewhat unusual was one on Troutman Lake, 28 Aug.

EURASIAN WIGEON: the third year in a row with small flock(s) past the Point, with 2 birds seen on 18 Sep.

NORTHERN PINTAIL: total of 144 seen between 23 Aug and 29 Sep, with most seen in late Aug and early Sep.

GREEN-WINGED TEAL: total of 14 seen from 23 Aug- 21 Sep, with up to 6 birds remaining for most of this period (video).  All birds were in eclipse/female plumage but were probably ìEurasianî Green-wingeds based on the boldness of the white borders to the speculum and on distributional grounds.

STELLER’S EIDER: total of 80 seen 24 Aug- 2 Oct, with a one-day high count of 18 on 28 Aug.

SPECTACLED EIDER: total of 39 seen 24 Aug- 28 Sep, with only 3 seen before 7 Sep, the date of the one-day high count of 14.  Unusual was the single bird that remained on Troutman Lake from 19-25 Sep (video).

KING EIDER: total of c.  610 seen between 23 Aug and 1 Oct, with a high one-day count of 90 on 26 Sep.  Amount of duplication probably fairly low but must occur to some degree.

COMMON EIDER: as in previous years, numbers low early in period, with only 5 seen before mid-Sep, then increasing in late Sep, with 107 seen in all, but the highest one-day count being only 13 birds.  Some duplication likely.

HARLEQUIN DUCK: seen daily, with most counts between 6 and 20 birds; large amounts of duplication likely from day to day; highest one-day count was 46 on 13 Sep.


BLACK SCOTER: 2 on 31 Aug.

LONG-TAILED DUCK: total of only 32 seen, 25 Aug- 27 Sep.  Larger numbers occur later in the season, according to local residents, and the species even over-winters locally in leads in the pack-ice.  Somewhat unusual were 2 birds on Troutman Lake on 16 Sep.

RED-BREASTED MERGANSER: this species is surprisingly scarce here in early fall, and this year actually produced more than normal, with 8 on 28 Sep and 1 on 30 Sep.

ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK: up to 3 present daily along the slopes of Sevuokuk Mtn., from our arrival on 23 Aug through 18 Sep (video), were likely a locally nesting family group.

GYRFALCON: total of three birds: 1 on 1-2 Sep, 1 from 14-21 Sep (video), and 1 on 19 Sep.

PEREGRINE FALCON: 1 on 25 Sep was probably fairly late for this latitude (?); previous late date was 15 Sep (2000).

SANDHILL CRANE: flock of 12 on 18 Sep were the only ones seen this year.

PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER: total of 139 between 23 Aug and 2 Oct, with a one-day high count of 34 on 29 Aug.  Fewer than in past years present on a daily basis around Old Town and the near boneyard.  The last adult was seen on the early date of 27 Aug.  A late influx of 11 birds were seen on 1 Oct (video), with 5 still present when I departed the next day.

MONGOLIAN PLOVER: 1 juv on 31 Aug (PEL).

WANDERING TATTLER: 1 on 25 August.  As in past years, this seems to be the dominant tattler in Aug, but all tattler records in Sep have been of Gray-taileds.

GRAY-TAILED TATTLER: total of 5 juvs seen and heard as follows: 1 on 31 Aug (GLA), 2 from 1-4 Sep (PEL video, GLA), 1 on 2 Sep (PEL video), and 1 on 7 Sep (PEL).

WHIMBREL: 1 hudsonicus on 1 Sep (PEL video, GLA) was only my second for Gambell.  There are several other local records.

SANDERLING: 2 juvs on 29 Aug (GLA); rare but annual.

RUDDY TURNSTONE: 4 on 25 Aug were the only ones seen, a low total.

WESTERN SANDPIPER: total of 37 from 23-30 Aug was a mediocre total and an early departure.

RED-NECKED STINT: up to 2 juvs from 24-26 Aug (WINGS, PEL video).

PECTORAL SANDPIPER: total of only 31 between 24 Aug- 24 Sep was a very low total.  Previous years recorded from 150-375 individuals.

SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER: a very poor year for this species as well, with only 4 juvs seen as follows: 1 on 9 Sep, up to 2 from15-17 Sep, 1 on 18 Sep.  Past years have averaged some 45 birds.

ROCK SANDPIPER: a mediocre year for this species, with up to 11 /day seen in late Aug and early Sep, but then none seen around town after 7 Sep, but 5 at the first headlands to the south on 16 Sep.

DUNLIN: a low total of c.  50 seen 23 Aug- 8 Sep.

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER: a low total of 17 seen 25 Aug- 16 Sep.

SNIPE SP.: 1 briefly seen on 11 Sep (BD).

RED-NECKED PHALAROPE: total of 9 seen 24-29 Aug.  Typical to have all birds gone by early Sep.

RED PHALAROPE: following spectacular concentrations present in 1999 and 2001, this year was very poor for this species, with a total of only 21 birds seen 23 Aug- 26 Sep.

POMARINE JAEGER: total of 200 seen 25 Aug- 30 Sep.  The highest one-day count was 60 on 7 Sep.  The first juvenile appeared 22 Sep.  A flight of 35 birds on 25 Sep, of which 90 percent were adults, was unusual for that late a date.

PARASITIC JAEGER: total of c.  70 between 24 Aug and 18 Sep, with a one-day high count of 22 on 27 Aug.  Several birds lingered in the Point area for extended periods.

LONG-TAILED JAEGER: total of 17 adults this year, with 1 on 26 Aug, a record one-day count of 15 on 27 Aug, and a slightly late bird on 10 Sep.  As seems typical, no juveniles were seen.

ìKAMCHATKAî MEW GULL: one juvenile from 24-27 August (WINGS, PEL video).  This bird frequented the afternoon gull roost along the northeast shore of Troutman Lake.  See separate details.  This is the second fall record, the first being another juvenile at the same spot in late August 1997.

HERRING GULL: one adult smithsonianus on 9 Sep (PEL).  See separate details.  There were also a couple probable immatures.  Very rare visitor, though exact status uncertain.

"VEGA" HERRING GULL: counts during late August and early September were 25-40/day, with a one-day high count of 60 on 1 Sep; then smaller numbers of 10-25 day into late Sep, and only 4-7/day after 28 Sep.

SLATY-BACKED GULL: seen about half the days, 23 Aug- 2 Oct, with a season total of 10 birds and no more than 3 in a day; several birds remained for extended periods of time.

GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL: record numbers present this year.  Previous years had high one-day counts around 12-14 birds.  This year, late Aug and early Sep were typical, with less than 10/day.  But then 31 were counted flying N past the Point into brisk N winds on 7 Sep, and 74 were counted heading S into SW winds on 10 Sep (PEL video), which must be a record count for the northern Bering Sea (?).  About 90 percent of the birds were juveniles.  Numbers were still 15-20/day from 26 Sep- 2 Oct, when I departed.

GLAUCOUS GULL: up to 150-200 seen most days, with a high count of 250 on 1 Sep.  Numbers were lower after early Sep, with maximum counts around 100/day, except for 150 on 27 Sep.  These numbers are lower than normal.

SABINE’S GULL: none seen...

BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE: up to 500/day throughout the period, with the maximum count being 600 on 1 Oct.  The first juveniles appeared 6 Sep and quickly became fairly numerous.

ARCTIC TERN: none seen...

ALCIDS: alcid numbers this year dropped off earlier than in other years, indicative of either an early or a poor nesting season.  The former is the probable reason, as I heard from a biologist that alcids were ahead of schedule this year at Little Diomede Island.  In past years at least the puffins were still coming to the cliffs when I departed at the beginning of Oct, but this year even they were mostly finished by the third week of Sep.

COMMON MURRE: up to 10,000/day during late Aug, 4000/day in early Sep, then quickly dropped off after 11 Sep to 10-15 from 14-16 Sep, only single digits on 17-18 Sep, and single individuals on 22 and 27 Sep.

THICK-BILLED MURRE: up to 1500/day during late Aug, then up to 300/day through 5 Sep, but only 1 or 2 every few days after 7 Sep through 29 Sep.

BLACK GUILLEMOT: none seen...

PIGEON GUILLEMOT: up to 120/day during late Aug and early Sep, then only up to 40/day after that, except for days with stronger north winds when 145 seen 18 Sep and 156 seen 26 Sep, all flying north into the wind, as in 2001.

KITTLITZ’S MURRELET: 1 on 26 Sep.  Rare visitor, with one or two seen every other year; this bird also possibly late at this latitude?

ANCIENT MURRELET: 1 on 9 Sep and 4 on 10 Sep; this species is proving to be a rare but annual fall visitor from the south in very small numbers.

PARAKEET AUKLET: up to 1000/day in late August, quickly dropped off near the end of the month, with only single digits the first week of Sep and none seen thereafter except for 1 on 18 Sep.

LEAST AUKLET: departed nesting sites early this year, with only up to 70/day during late Aug and the only bird seen after 28 Aug being 1 on 27 Sep.  Although many birds probably head south during Sep, there are probably also many remaining locally offshore into the late fall, far more than this very low total indicates; numbers appear from shore in late fall if wind conditions appropriate, which they were not this year.  Unlike last year, juveniles did not linger in the Point area.

CRESTED AUKLET: also departed nesting sites early this year.  Although up to 300,000/day seen in late Aug, numbers dropped off rapidly after that, with maximum counts in early Sep not exceeding 5000, and only single birds seen sporadically from mid-Sep onwards, except for 40 on 18 Sep and 30 on 21 Sep.  As in Least Auklet, numbers of this species probably remain locally offshore later into the fall but are seen from shore only during stronger north winds, which were very rare this year.  Also unlike last year, juveniles did not regularly frequent the Point area.

HORNED PUFFIN: up to 4000/day through early Sep, up to 100/day through mid-Sep, but only fewer than 10/day through 24 Sep and none seen after that, which is an early departure.  More non-breeding plumaged birds seen passing the Point beginning in early Sep than in past years.

TUFTED PUFFIN: as with Horned Puffin, this species appeared to finish nesting early this year, with up to 800/day through early Sep, then up to 100/day during mid-Sep, and only single digits after that through 29 Sep.  More immatures, sub-adults, and otherwise non-breeding-plumaged birds seen this year passing the Point than in previous years.

ORIENTAL CUCKOO: 1 hepatic-morph in both near and far boneyards on 15 Sep (DWS, PEL video, DC).  See separate details.  Second fall record for Gambell.

SNOWY OWL: 3 present at bottom end of lake 30 Sep- 1 Oct (video).  According to local residents, this species is found regularly in the Gambell area most years in late fall and winter.

SHORT-EARED OWL: 1 on 15 Sep (PEL, DWS).  Rare migrant; I had seen only one previously.

WARBLING VIREO: 1 in far boneyard on 22 Sep (PEL video, DC).  See separate details.  This is only the second Bering Sea record, with one previous fall record from Wales.

COMMON RAVEN: seen daily, with up to 15/day early on, then numbers increasing as the season progressed, and a high count of 27 on 28 Sep.

SKY LARK: 1 in Old Town on 28 Sep (PEL video) for the second fall record.  See separate details.

HORNED LARK: 1 of Asian race flava at bottom end of lake on 1 Sep (GLA, PEL video) and 4 flava together near runway on 13 Sep (PEL video).  See separate details.  There are at least a couple previous fall records of this race.

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET: 3 on 22 Sep (PEL video, DC) arrived that day with a number of other mainland strays.  My only other RCKIs at Gambell were two birds in 1999.

WILLOW WARBLER: 1 from 25-30 Aug was the first North American record (PEL video, WINGS, GLA ph., Stavros Christodoulides ph.).  Seen in near boneyard on 25 Aug, 2/3 way down east side of Troutman Lake on 26 Aug, and in circular boneyard on 29-30 Aug, so at least one bird present.  See separate details.

DUSKY WARBLER: total of four seen as follows: 1 in far boneyard on 29-30 Aug (GLA, PEL), 1 in near boneyard 8-10 Sep (PEL, BD), 1 in far boneyard 8-9 Sep (PEL video), and one in near boneyard 19 Sep (PEL, DC, DWS).  See separate details.

YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER: 1 in circular boneyard 30 Aug (GLA ph., PEL video) was the second record for North America.  See separate details.

ARCTIC WARBLER: a good year for this species, with a total of 74 for the season, with a total of 66 from 23 Aug- 11 Sep, including a record one-day total of 29 on 23 Aug, and then a record-late flight of 8 new birds on 15 Sep and 1 remaining record-late on 16 Sep.

LESSER WHITETHROAT: 1 in far boneyard 8-9 Sep (PEL video) for a first North American record.  See separate details, including comments on subspecies involved.

SPOTTED FLYCATCHER: 1 in circular boneyard 14 Sep (PEL video, DWS ph.) for a first North American record.  See separate details.

BLUETHROAT: a poor year for this species, with only 5 between 31 Aug- 11 Sep.

NORTHERN WHEATEAR: a mediocre year, with a total of 43 birds between 23 Aug- 9 Sep, with a one-day high count of 17 on 28 Aug; and an additional record-late bird on 17 Sep.

GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH: total of 9 seen between 23 Aug- 15 Sep.

SIBERIAN ACCENTOR: total of three birds as follows: 1 (early) in far and circular boneyards 29-31 Aug (GLA ph., PEL video), 1 (early) in far and circular boneyards 8-9 Sep (PEL video), and 1 in near boneyard 1 Oct (PEL video).  See separate details.  There are two previous fall records.

YELLOW WAGTAIL: total of 88 between 23 Aug- 15 Sep, with a one-day high count of 50 on 24 Aug.

TREE PIPIT: 1 in near boneyard 21 Sep (PEL video, DWS ph., DC) was the third North American record; 1 there 27 Sep (PEL video) was thought to probably be the same bird.  See separate details.

RED-THROATED PIPIT: a fairly good year for this species, with a total of 29 between 23 Aug- 15 Sep (video).  At least several birds were present daily though 11 Sep, and the one-day high counts were 13 on 25 Aug and 12 on 5 Sep.

AMERICAN PIPIT: total of 17 pacificus-types between 23 Aug- 15 Sep, with several birds present daily for extended periods.

“JAPONICUS” PIPIT: a good year for japonicus pipits, with a total of 7 birds seen 23 Aug- 17 Sep (video), with multiple birds present daily for extended periods and a one-day high count of 4 on 27 Aug.  See separate details.

ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER: 1 celata in far boneyard on 13 Sep (PEL video) and, even more unusual, 1 lutescens in far boneyard on 22 Sep (PEL).  There are about five previous fall records of celata since 1999, and one previous lutescens in 2001.  See separate details.

YELLOW WARBLER: 1 in far boneyard on 19 Sep (PEL video, DWS, DC).  There are about five previous fall records; this bird is the latest.  See separate details.

MAGNOLIA WARBLER: 1 in circular and far boneyards on 21 Sep (PEL, DWS, DC) is the first Gambell record, and about the third for the Bering Sea region.  See separate details.

YELLOW-RUMPED (MYRTLE) WARBLER: 1 in far boneyard on 22 Sep (PEL video, DC) is my third for Gambell; there are several other records as well.

MACGILLIVRAY’S WARBLER: 1 in near boneyard on 26 Sep (PEL video) and 1 in far boneyard on 29 Sep (PEL) were thought to probably involve the same individual.  First Gambell record, and first for the Bering Sea region.  See separate details.

WILSON’S WARBLER: 1 (female) in far boneyard on 31 Aug (PEL, GLA) and 1 (male) in near boneyard on 5 Sep (PEL) are my first for Gambell, but there are several previous fall records (i.e., three in 2000).

CHIPPING SPARROW: 1 in far boneyard 14 Sep (PEL, DWS) and another (juv) there on 30 Sep (PEL video) were, surprisingly, already my fourth and fifth for Gambell in the fall, all since 1998.  See separate details.

SAVANNAH SPARROW: a low total of only 3 birds seen: 1 on 25 Aug, 1 on 5 Sep, and 1 from 22-26 Sep.

"SOOTY" FOX SPARROW: 1 on 1 Sep (PEL video, GLA) and 1 on 29 Sep (PEL video).  This subspecies continues to be recorded more frequently at Gambell than the ìmore expected "Red" Fox Sparrow.  In addition there was a somewhat problematic Fox Sparrow on 25 Sep (PEL video) which seemed somewhat more intermediate in several characters between "Sooty" and "Red" but was present in exactly the same place and behaving the same way as the more typical Sooty seen four days later.  See video.

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW: 1 (imm) on 24 Sep.

GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW: 1 (imm) on 30 Sep (PEL video).

LAPLAND LONGSPUR: numbers from late Aug- early Sep were up to 300/day, with 450 on 28 Aug, then up to 150/day through mid-Sep, and up to 15/day during late Sep; the last birds (2) were seen on 29 Sep.

LITTLE BUNTING: 1 in far boneyard on 10-11 Sep (PEL, BD) and another there from 30 Sep- 2 Oct (when I departed) (PEL video).  There are now some six fall records for Gambell since 1993.  See separate details.

REED BUNTING: 1 in circular boneyard (and briefly nearby) from 28-30 Aug (GLA ph., PEL video).  This establishes the first northern Bering Sea record and the first for fall in Alaska.  See separate details.

SNOW BUNTING: up to 350/day from late Aug- early Sep, then up to 50/day through 19 Sep, but fewer than 5-10/day (and sporadic) after that until a flock of up to 30 birds arrived on 30 Sep- 1 Oct, but only 2 seen 2 Oct.  This is a more major drop-off in numbers late in the season than in previous years.  At around 9PM on 7 Sep, during a beautiful, calm, clear evening, 50 Snow Buntings got up and flew NNW, gaining great height, and headed toward Siberia.  On 1 Oct, most of the flock of 30 got up in the early afternoon and headed out to sea to the west/southwest; not sure if they kept going or not.

MCKAY’S BUNTING: 1 present near far and circular boneyards on 30 Aug (PEL video, GLA) was early, and then a record 7 (with at least two other McKay’s or McKay’s X Snow hybrids) arrived with the migrant Snow Bunting flock in Old Town on 30 Sep- 1 Oct (PEL video); at least two of the birds were adult males.

REDPOLLS: redpolls were present continuously during the period, from fewer than 5/day in late Aug to up to 15/day in early Sep to up to 40/day after that.  The majority were Commons early on (max one-day count of 20 on 8 Sep), with Hoaries dominating after 15 Sep (max one-day counts were 30 on 19 Sep and 25 on 30 Sep).  There were also unidentified redpolls (especially juveniles and some intermediate-looking birds) totaling up to 10/day.


For wind speed and temperature, if the numbers decline, so did the wind/temp that day.

23 Aug: W – SW 5-10, pt cloudy, 45-49 F
24 Aug: S 10-17, moderate overcast, 43-48 F
25 Aug: SW – SSW 12-18, overcast, 46-50 F
26 Aug: S 10-15, overcast, 46-48 F
27 Aug: SW 14-17, AM overcast, PM pt cloudy, 46 F
28 Aug: W 0-7, sunny, 43-52 F
29 Aug: SW 25, high overcast, 42-50 F
30 Aug: SSW – WSW 12-0, mostly overcast, occasional fog/drizzle, 46-50 F
31 Aug: N 19-3, AM overcast, PM pt cloudy, 43-51 F
1 Sep: S 10-18, AM pt cloudy, PM overcast, 44-48 F
2 Sep: S 18-22, overcast, 48-51 F
3 Sep: E 18-30, AM rain, PM sprinkles, 47-48 F
4 Sep: ESE – S 20-14, AM showers, PM overcast, 48-52 F
5 Sep: E 14 – N 5 – W 15, overcast, scattered showers, 47-52 F
6 Sep: WSW – N – NNW 15-10, AM rain, PM overcast, 48-46 F
7 Sep: N 24-30 – NNW 14-20 – W 2-5, fair, 43-49 F
8 Sep: SW 15-18 – WNW 20-10, dawn moderate rain, PM pt cloudy, 45-48 F
9 Sep: W – SW 12-17, bright sunshine, 45-48 F
10 Sep: SW – NW 12-18, AM overcast, mid-day rain, PM pt cloudy, 44-48 F
11 Sep: NNE 11-21, fair, 39-41 F
12 Sep: N 24-36, pt cloudy, 38-41 F
13 Sep: N – NNW 16-6, pt cloudy – fair, 36-43 F
14 Sep: var 0-5 – S 5-15, AM pt cloudy, PM scattered showers, 42-45 F
15 Sep: ESE – NE 10-16, overnight rain, AM overcast, PM pt cloudy, 42-44 F
16 Sep: NE – N 15-5, pt cloudy – fair, 42-46 F
17 Sep: N 10-25, AM pt cloudy, PM cloudy, showers, 42-39 F
18 Sep: N 20-28 – NNW 15-10, pt cloudy, 37-41 F
19 Sep: NW 6 – var clockwise 0-5 – S 5-8, clear, 39-45 F
20 Sep: SW 13-16, overcast, 43-46 F
21 Sep: SW 10-0 – calm, AM overcast, light showers, PM pt cloudy, 44-48 F
22 Sep: NE 6-18, AM overcast, PM pt cloudy, 40-42 F
23 Sep: NE – NNE 14-20, pt to mostly cloudy, 39-44 F
24 Sep: ESE – SSE 4-10, Am overcast, patchy fog, PM pt cloudy, 44-46 F
25 Sep: ENE – NE –ENE 14-22, overcast, 44-46 F
26 Sep: NE 16-32, AM rain, PM sprinkles, 45 F
27 Sep: N – NNW 14-22, overcast, light showers, 43-45 F
28 Sep: S – W – WSW 0-12, mostly to pt cloudy, 40-44 F
29 Sep: var 0-8 – WNW 14-18, pt cloudy, 39-44 F
30 Sep: W 7-12, pt cloudy, 39-43 F
1 Oct: W 6-14, pt cloudy, 39-41 F
2 Oct: W – WSW 8-12, pt cloudy, 39-42 F

Birding Top 500 Counter