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U.S.A. - ALASKA: Pribilofs

9 - 12 June 1997

by Lloyd Spitalnik

On June 9,1997 Sandy and I left for Alaska with high hopes of getting to the Pribilof Islands.  Two years ago we were unable to get in due to weather.  This time we got there without a hitch.  Hooray!!

When we arrived (about 4:00PM) we were immediately put on a bus to tour some of the island and get a first taste of the birds of the Pribilofs.  The first bird we saw was a Red-legged Kittiwake.  Not bad!  As luck would have it, on our bus was a tour group.

After checking in to the King Eider Hotel (no private baths) we went to eat dinner at the only place on the island.  All food is served buffet style and was surprisingly good.  After dinner the bus picked all of us up and took us to the cliffs nearest town.  Here we got our first taste of the nesting birds.  Birds seen were Tufted and Horned Puffins, Black-legged Kittiwake, Red-faced Cormorant, Least, Parakeet and Crested Auklets, and the Pribilof race of both Winter Wren and Grey-crowned Rosy Finch.  Our second stop of the evening was to "Salt Lagoon" which contained 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and several Rock Sandpipers (Pribilof race).  After all of this it was time for sleep.

Day 2- After breakfast, back on the bus to cover more of the island.  We stopped to see the first arriving Fur Seals.  Then, while checking one of the many ponds, one of the leaders heard a Yellow Wagtail flying overhead.  We were able to get on it for a somewhat satisfying view.  This bird turned out to be the Asian form simillima.  Next we went to "Ridge Wall", the main cliffs for all the nesting birds.  We were able to close-up views of the birds mentioned previously plus Northern Fulmar.

That night the group watched the last game of the Bulls-Jazz series.  Yes, The hotel does have one TV.  After the game we went looking for a previously reported Grey-tailed Tattler.  We worked hard for that bird, as we walked back and forth for about two hours until someone finally spotted it.  We had full scope views and were able to compare it to a nearby Wandering Tattler.  We got back to the hotel at 11:30PM and immediately crashed.

Day 3- We went back to the cliffs for more photo-ops of the breeding birds, which you can never get tired of.  We also saw another Grey-tailed Tattler, this time without difficulty.  Isn't that the way it usually goes?  You work hard the first time and then the next it always seems easy.

For those of you that have never made this trip, be aware that based on weather, you should definitely bring good waterproof walking boots and raingear.

You can definitely get to the Pribs on your own (Sandy and I never go on tours) but feel fortunate that we were encountered a friendly tour group, and the gracious group that hired them, as we got to see 2 birds we probably would have missed without their aid.

Next we tried to go to Barrow.  Déjà vu of two years ago.  We couldn't get in due to persistent low-lying fog.  Since this was at the end of our trip we decided to leave Alaska.

Lloyd Spitalnik
NYC Birder

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