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Alaska 2004

Part 2:  Nome

The plane came in shortly after the Red-necked Stint experience and we all headed to Nome where we got our vans (poor Marshall got stuck with the one that smelled like someone had dumped a load of fish in it), checked into our wonderful hotel (the Aurora Inn), had lunch at Fat Freddie's, then headed out the Council Road with two new participants just for the Nome portion: Jeanie from Atlanta and Nancy from San Antonio! They were both about my age and were very good buds and very serious birders! She and Jeanie had met on a previous VENT trip and just hit it off, so now they travel together quite a bit and try to get with Kevin when they can! Jeanie had been to Alaska before, but most everything was new for Nancy, being a fairly new birder, so she had a ball!

Just out of town on a pond we had a pair of nesting Red-throated Loons and several ducks, including Mallards, which are supposed to be quite rare there. A distant breeding-plumaged male Oldsquaw had me fooled into thinking it was a Horned Grebe (Marshall was happy to set me straight☺)! We stopped at an overlook where my life Aleutian Terns were calling and batting around with the Arctics, and later we had a wonderful Long-tailed Jaeger out the van! (We actually had all three along this road...) A brown and white lump turned out to be a Willow Ptarmigan, and at Safety Lagoon we couldn't find the reported Ross' Gull, but we did have Sabine's! (There was also hot debate about the pronunciation of these things; I guess officially it's "SAA-bihnz"...) We stopped at a quarry and had great looks at a Peregrine, and in the tundra area which was littered with driftwood a Short-eared Owl was hunting (I was told that the driftwood gets deposited here from southern waters, brought up with the winter storms). Kevin told how one year they had an invasion of Hawk Owls, and every piece of driftwood it seemed had a Hawk Owl perched on it! I think it was this day, but at one point we walked over the tundra a bit to get good looks at a pair of Black Turnstones in all their glory, and couldn't get over the cute little Semipals hanging in mid-air on quivering wings, singing their little songs! (We stopped there on other days, too, and like I said, sometimes it all blends together...) Further on we had lots of shorebirds, with great looks at displaying Semipals, plus Pectoral, Western, Long-billed Dowitchers, Bar-tailed Godwits, a Pacific Golden Plover, and even a Sanderling on the way back!


There are three long dirt roads out of Nome, all of which dead end, but are great for birds!  At right is a Red-throated Loon


Dorothy points out a nesting Peregrine Falcon to Alice


We're joined (just for the Nome portion) by Nancy and Jeannie as we check the ponds and tundra for goodies...


We head for Safety Lagoon, always good for water birds but often a hot spot for rarities


Fuzzy Sabine's Gulls at right


We stop at another lagoon for the endemic Aleutian Tern



We hike out onto the tundra to get closer looks at birds like the Semipalmated Sandpiper


More lagoon birding kicks up this Pectoral Sandpiper!


Long-billed Dowitcher at right


Left:  Long-tailed Duck (aka Oldsquaw) kinda halfway in and out of breeding plumage.  Right: Short-eared Owl

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