NOME, ALASKA JUNE 8
Today was a free day, so I got lots of chores done: researched local land ownership and looked into transport to Kelly Bar and Sledge Island for future trips. Birded the periphery of Nome by foot and came upon a group of passerines (American Tree Sparrow, Yellow Warbler and two Orange-Crowned Sparrows) all chattering and flittering around a hole. I made a couple of squealing noises and got my camera ready and out popped a ‘life mammal’ - a Short-Tailed Weasel!
NOME, ALASKA JUNE 9
Fun new group arrived today, all from Oklahoma. Dave and I decided that the best strategy was to get the easy Kougarok Road species out of the way early so at mile 26 we picked up: Artic Warbler, Bluethroat and Gyr Falcon (this time standing on the nest). Golden eagles were present in large numbers as well- about five of them including the one on the nest a mile 17. Hearing a familiar call I was able to locate Varied Thrush – another good bird for this trip.
On the way back to the hotel I made the ‘mistake’ of stopping to show my riders some Red-Necked Phalaropes just on the outskirts of Nome, and what should pop-up but a White Wagtail! The people in my van were thrilled but Dave and the passengers in the other van were not so happy…lesson learned? Never find a rare bird with only half the group!
NOME, ALASKA JUNE 10
For The very last time in 2008 (my fifth time in three weeks) I made the trip to mile 72 of the Kougarok Road to show my clients the Bristle-Thighed Curlew. Despite trying to get there quickly, along the way we had wonderful views of a Northern Goshawk on a nest in the Cottonwoods at about mile 61. At one point she flew off the nest low into another treee and presented us with stunning profile shots showing her darkly striped head. Northern Goshawk is only a ‘maybe’ bird to find in the Nome area and then usually only in the Spruce Forest around Council so this was indeed a treat! Other birds on this quick trip included Rusty Blackbird and Rock Ptarmigan.
The hike up Curlew Hill was very rewarding – the shortest walk to date to find the Curlew perched atop a hummock. Once all the group (and another tour group as well) were assembled I was given the honor of flushing the bird so that all could clearly see the diagnostic upper tail coverts…SUCCESS! A great way to conduct the final search for this elusive species.
On the way home, in addition to seeing most all the typical birds for this route we found another Short-Tailed Weasel, and at mile 40 were treated to close-up looks at a breeding plumaged surfbird. Another Red Phalarope was found by the group at the Nome River mouth.