May - June 1998
by Tom Bishop
I saw a gorgeous view of Mt Rainier, Hood, St. Helens, and Adams, flying in from Los Angeles to Seattle. There I met my friend Brian who flew in from Calgary, and we went on to Anchorage and Nome. From a distance we saw Mt. Logan, the highest mountain is Canada and only 450 feet less than Mt. McKinley. More impressive was Mt. St.Elias; the pilot said it was the highest mountain from top to bottom in the world. Best of all was McKinley, a gigantic white mass, which we saw from the right side on the way to Nome. There was a stop at Kotzebue, an Inuit village sticking out into the Arctic Ocean. We didnt see any eiders from the runway, just widgeons, but we were above the Arctic Circle! On to Nome.
We had rented a 4 wheel drive Explorer, which was good, as the roads are paved in town only. There were many washouts but luckily Brian loves these driving challenges. (In fact, the last day, Teller Road was closed at 20 miles out, and Kougarak Rd at 50 miles.)
Safety Lagoon, 5/29 and 6/1: lifers were
We stayed at the Nugget Inn which was pretty good.
Just down the street from the Nugget Inn (about 5 buildings east) is the Nome Convention and Visitors Bureau. A good place to visit. They have a blackboard of the latest rare bird sightings there.
No direct flights, so back to Anchorage, and then next day to Pribilofs. A nice flight, with relatively good weather. There were 2 small (25 people each) buses which took us around St. Paul, giving us a tour. The town has a population of several hundred. The locals are very friendly. I saw the following lifers in the first 2 days (we stayed 4 days, in case of bad weather, which came on days 3 and 4):
Take all my numbers of birds with a grain of salt. Also, almost all these birds in the Pribilofs were seen very close, close enough for great photos with a 400 mm lens. I saw a wild Arctic Fox while
searching for the McKays. It was silver-blue with a large white tail and almost came close enough to touch. There are other tamer brownish Arctic Foxes in town which act like cats.
The Pribilofs are cold, but not terribly so. I brought a down vest which I never used. Expect rain, although we had one wonderful sunny day.
The TDX (Aleut Corporation) run things, and very well. Call them at (907) 278-2312 or better yet, Reeve Airline at (800) 544-2248.
Only lifer was:
Arctic Warbler (1) Brian and I counted this as a real coup as they don't come in force until after mid-June. They have a loud constant one note call.
We met my wife Carol and her Mom here and took the bus tour, seeing Dall Sheep, Grizzlies, and Moose. Also 30 miles of the Denali Highway, seeing Gray Jays (quite dark), Blackpoll Warblers, Gray-cheeked Thrushes, White-winged Crossbills, Trumpeter Swans, Red-necked Grebe, and Barrows Goldeneye.
MY TOTAL COST (no tour, Brian and I share rooms if possible, car)
Pribilofs (4 nights including airfare) $1140
Round Trip Los Angeles to Nome 790
Hotels, Food, Car Rentals, Gas 1300
Total for 14 nights $3230