Nome, Alaska Day 4 (May 28)
The Kougarok Road is the last to open after winter and no one could tell us if we could get all the way to mile 72…the starting point for the hike to see the much sought after Bristle-Thighed Curlew. Tim tried to talk me out of it with stories of Brown Bear attacks but when I asked a Nome policeman if I could borrow a gun for the day he just laughed so what could I do?...a lifer is well worth risking bear attack right?
Of course it was all just a mind game that Tim was playing to try to keep me from getting one up on him. There were no bears and the vegetation was only a foot tall so you could have seen one coming from miles away. The good news is that although this quest is said to sometimes require a 5-6 hour hike I found them on the ridge after a half hour walk, snapped some pix and was back to the car within 1 hour! Because they look so much like Whimbrels, learning the “chew-itta, chew-itta” call is a great tool for telling one from the other, as is the buffy (I’d call it almost yellow) tail of BRTCUR.
Some other highlights of this very scenic and desolate (one other car in 9 hours) road that follows the Nome River were: Northern Waterthrush – calling assertively at the Grand Central Bridge and the Pilgrim River, Varied Thrush, Orange-Crowned and Wilson’s Warblers above Salmon lake. Peregrine Falcon, nesting on a shear cliff face. Bluethroat – displaying it’s amazing colors passionately, Merlin and a pair of Rusty Blackbirds at mile 67. Scanning the many cliffs along the road we were able to pick out two eagles nests (miles 17 and 27) with sitting adults as well as two flying Goldens for a total of four.