High Lonesome BirdTours St. Paul Trip 2016

HornlundThe High Lonesome BirdTours trip to St. Paul Island this year was successful beyond expectations. Not only did we get great looks at all the seabirds, ranging from auklets, murres, puffins, and kittiwakes, we also managed to time our arrival just right to catch up with a slew of vagrant birds. The list of shorebirds that were found on the island during our stay included dozens of Wood Sandpipers, several Longtoed Stints, Common Greenshank, Common Snipe, and a breeding plumaged Curlew Sandpiper (quite rare in Alaska). A Brambling was also a nice find, but was trumped (I think we all agreed) by a stunning male Siberian Rubythroat which we all managed to see well, even in the scope!

Another welcome rarity was a male Tufted Duck spotted among the common Northern Pintails on Salt Lagoon during our first evening on the island. The seabird cliffs of course never disappoint with Least, Parakeet, and Crested auklets in full swing, plus the Pribilof speciality, Redlegged Kittiwake. We studied the Kittiwake in flight, exploring a nesting ledge and finally got really close on the mudflats for exceptional photo opportunities. On the bays surrounding the island we found a pair of Ancient Murrelets, Pigeon Guillemot, Harlequin Ducks, and a flock of King Eiders that contained a breeding plumaged male. We also took time to enjoy the northern fur seal rookeries where the “beach masters” had already arrived and scoped more distant Steller’s sea lions. On land, the Arctic foxes were common and we even saw the herd of reindeer on two occasions.

All in all, our time on the island passed all too quickly, but we took home a treasure chest of memories (and memory cards).

Trip List:

  1. Canada Goose ( Branta canadensis ) a few in the Anchorage area
  2. Gadwall ( Anas strepera ) Westchester Lagoon Anchorage
  3. American Wigeon ( Anas americana ) Westchester Lagoon
  4. Mallard ( Anas platyrhynchos ) Anchorage area
  5. Bluewinged Teal ( Anas discors ) a single drake at Westchester Lagoon was pretty rare for the area
  6. Northern Shoveler ( Anas clypeata ) Westchester Lagoon
  7. Northern Pintail ( Anas acuta ) Anchorage area and common on St. Paul Island
  8. Greenwinged Teal ( Anas crecca ) we saw the American subspecies in Anchorage and several “Common” Teal A. c. crecca on St. Paul plus the odd intergrade or two
  9. Tufted Duck ( Aythya fuligula ) great scope views of a male on Salt Lagoon St. Paul Island was a good addition
  10. Greater Scaup ( Aythya marila ) Westchester Lagoon Anchorage area
  11. Lesser Scaup ( Aythya affinis ) Westchester Lagoon Anchorage
  12. King Eider ( Somateria spectabilis ) several scoped on St. Paul Island with one breeding plumaged male standing out from the crowd
  13. Harlequin Duck ( Histrionicus histrionicus ) common on St. Paul Island
  14. Longtailed Duck ( Clangula hyemalis ) common on St. Paul Island
  15. Bufflehead ( Bucephala albeola ) two seen on St. Paul Island
  16. Rednecked Grebe ( Podiceps grisegena ) Anchorage area
  17. Northern Fulmar ( Fulmarus glacialis ) seen well on nesting ledges and in flight on St. Paul Island
  18. Redfaced Cormorant ( Phalacrocorax urile ) great views of nesting birds on St. Paul Island where it is the common cormorant
  19. Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus) a few on St. Paul Island
  20. Bald Eagle ( Haliaeetus leucocephalus ) one seen daily on St. Paul Island where it is uncommon
  21. Pacific GoldenPlover ( Pluvialis fulva ) several seen on St. Paul Island, mostly in flight
  22. Lesser SandPlover ( Charadrius mongolus ) a great vagrant species to catch up with during the first evening on St. Paul Island where a breeding plumaged female showed well on Salt Lagoon
  23. Semipalmated Plover ( Charadrius semipalmatus ) regularly seen on St. Paul Island
  24. Common Sandpiper ( Actitis hypoleucos ) we found two birds on the northern tip of St. Paul Island and eventually had great scope views
  25. Wandering Tattler ( Tringa incana ) a skittish bird seen in flight on Big Lake St. Paul Island
  26. Greater Yellowlegs ( Tringa melanoleuca ) Anchorage area
  27. Common Greenshank ( Tringa nebularia ) one bird showed everyday on St. Paul Island preferring the close shore of Salt Lagoon and offering fantastic photo opportunities, another vagrant species to add to our list
  28. Lesser Yellowlegs ( Tringa flavipes ) Anchorage area
  29. Wood Sandpiper ( Tringa glareola ) we saw up to ten birds per day on St. Paul where this shorebird from Eurasia was almost common this year much to our delight
  30. Hudsonian Godwit ( Limosa haemastica ) two or three birds at a distance along the coastal trail in Anchorage
  31. Bartailed Godwit ( Limosa lapponica ) a reliable individual on Salt Lagoon St. Paul Island provided great study opportunities
  32. Ruddy Turnstone ( Arenaria interpres ) a single bird on St. Paul Island
  33. Curlew Sandpiper ( Calidris ferruginea ) after the bird had been “missing” we returned one more time and found it in the spot where it had been observed, a gorgeous rarity going into breeding plumage
  34. Longtoed Stint ( Calidris subminuta ) several this year on St. Paul Island, seen every day with great scope studies and photo opportunities
  35. Dunlin ( Calidris alpina ) two birds flew past us as we were looking for the Common Snipe on St. Paul
  36. Rock Sandpiper ( Calidris ptilocnemis ) the most common shorebird on St. Paul Island
  37. Least Sandpiper ( Calidris minutilla ) surprisingly there is a small breeding population of this minute shorebird on St. Paul Island, we had great direct comparisons to its Old World counterpart the Longtoed Stint
  38. Common Snipe ( Gallinago gallinago ) flushed at Tim’s Pond, great views of the white underwings and trailing edges
  39. Rednecked Phalarope ( Phalaropus lobatus ) common on St. Paul
  40. Red Phalarope ( Phalaropus fulicarius ) one bird was seen very close at Webster Lake St. Paul
  41. Longtailed Jaeger ( Stercorarius longicaudus ) hovering above the dunes on St. Paul
  42. Common Murre ( Uria aalge ) common on cliffs
  43. Thickbilled Murre ( Uria lomvia ) abundant on cliffs
  44. Pigeon Guillemot ( Cepphus columba ) seen at sea around St. Paul
  45. Ancient Murrelet ( Synthliboramphus antiquus ) distant but good views of two birds in Gorbach Bay St. Paul
  46. Parakeet Auklet ( Aethia psittacula ) abundant, we enjoyed their screeching and antics on the cliffs
  47. Least Auklet ( Aethia pusilla ) abundant, we got especially close for photos at the Antone Breakwall
  48. Crested Auklet ( Aethia cristatella ) several were already on the cliffs at Reef and we enjoyed scope studies of this distinct alcid
  49. Horned Puffin ( Fratercula corniculata ) common especially on Ridge Wall where many pairs had staked out their burrows
  50. Tufted Puffin ( Fratercula cirrhata ) very close views of this common species at Reef where their tufts were blowing in the breeze
  51. Blacklegged Kittiwake ( Rissa tridactyla ) abundant
  52. Redlegged Kittiwake ( Rissa brevirostris ) this Bering Sea endemic is very common on St. Paul and we observed one inspecting a potential nesting ledge and saw many roosting on the mudflats at Salt Lagoon
  53. Bonaparte’s Gull ( Chroicocephalus philadelphia ) seen from the coastal trail in Anchorage
  54. Mew Gull ( Larus canus ) abundant in the Anchorage area
  55. Herring Gull ( Larus argentatus ) seen in the Anchorage area
  56. Slatybacked Gull ( Larus schistisagus ) up to two adult birds seen very well on Salt Lagoon St. Paul, not always a guaranteed species
  57. Glaucouswinged Gull ( Larus glaucescens ) the common large gull on St. Paul Island
  58. Glaucous Gull ( Larus hyperboreus ) a single seen on Salt Lagoon St. Paul Island
  59. Arctic Tern ( Sterna paradisaea ) common in the Anchorage area
  60. Rock Pigeon ( Columba livia ) in flight in Anchorage
  61. Blackbilled Magpie ( Pica hudsonia ) Anchorage
  62. Pacific Wren ( Troglodytes pacificus ) very common this year on St. Paul Island, this large Pribilof form can be uncommon in some years and it was great to see so many, the mild winter was definitely beneficial for them
  63. American Dipper ( Cinclus mexicanus ) Wow! It eventually sat right in front of us blinking with its distinct white eyelid, great views in the Anchorage area and a great start to the trip
  64. Siberian Rubythroat ( Calliope calliope ) the songbird vagrant of the trip, a male at Hutchinson’s Hill St. Paul Island was eventually seen well by all with great photos and scope views
  65. Northern Wheatear ( Oenanthe oenanthe ) after some waiting the bird plopped down right in front of us at Hutchinson’s Hill, a fine male and a great bonus to the bird above
  66. European Starling ( Sturnus vulgaris ) Anchorage
  67. American Pipit ( Anthus rubescens ) seen briefly on St. Paul Island
  68. Lapland Longspur ( Calcarius lapponicus ) abundant on St. Paul Island where their territories seem to consist of two square feet
  69. Snow Bunting ( Plectrophenax nivalis ) very common on St. Paul
  70. Brambling ( Fringilla montifringilla ) a male was seen well in the Marunich area on St. Paul Island, another vagrant bird from Asia
  71. Graycrowned RosyFinch ( Leucosticte tephrocotis ) the large Pribilof form is common on St. Paul Island and can easily be mistaken for an American Robin in terms of size

Mammal List:

Northern Fur Seal hundreds of breeding males had already arrived

Steller Sea Lion a dozen on aptly named sea lion rock

Arctic Fox the blue phase is common on St. Paul


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