Nome, Alaska: Day 2
Well, actually, Anchorage day 2 and Nome day 1….our 6:00 am flight to Nome was cancelled so we made arrangements for the 11 am flight then birded the mouth of Fish Creek about 10 minutes from the airport, the highlight being a red fox stealing away a duckling (or some other small downy snack). With the tide in Cook Inlet way out the birds were all a quarter mile away and the Godwits we saw at that distance were not counted as the Hudsonians that were supposed to be there.
We arrived at Nome at 1:30 pm, our adrenalin flowing with the possibility of some great birds and we were not disappointed. A brief stop at the visitor center gave us an opportunity to scan the Bering Sea between the large clumps of migrating ice and immediately we spotted five inky BLACK SCOTERS. Before we could turn around to enter the center a small flock of BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES flew over and two elongated silhouettes turned out to be graceful RED-THROATED LOONS.
We stopped at Subway to grab sandwiches for the road then started south along the coastal road towards the village of Council. A kiting LONG-TAILED JAEGER (the first of fifteen) caused us to slam on the brakes (and dump our sandwiches on the floor!). Frosty white flitterings next to the road were a pair of HOARY REDPOLLS playing tag. Other ocean-front birds included: GLAUCOUS and MEW GULLS (hundreds), ARTIC TERN (dozens), GREATER SCAUP, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW and COMMON RAVEN.
The Nome River Bridge was thrilling with immediate close looks at a male/female pair of LONG-TAILED DUCKS, nesting WESTERN SANDPIPERS, and the first of scores of breeding plumaged LAPLAND LONGSPURS. No matter how many of these striking ‘buntings’ appeared we never tired of gazing at them! Also here were NORTHERN PINTAILS and RED-NECKED PHALAROPES.
Rocky Cape Nome held a couple of small groups of RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS and HARLEQUIN DUCKS. South of this promontory the ocean turned to ice and all of the open water was on the opposite side of the road in the expansive Safety Sound. This bird rich estuary gave us many looks at: BRANT, NORTHERN SHOVELR, MALLARD, DUNLIN, SANDHILL CRANES, PACIFIC LOON and TUNDRA SWAN. Some of our target birds here were found including WILLOW PTARMIGAN, COMMON EIDERS, ALEUTIAN TERN, PARASITIC JAEGER and BAR-TAILED GODWIT.
Thanks to the long near-arctic days we birded until 10, had a quick, light meal and hit the sack by midnight!
Tomorrow: Teller Road