Birding Tour USA: Alaska – Vast Beauty, Nome, Denali, Seward


Dates and Costs:

 

12 – 24 June 2023

Price: $7,130 / £6,099 / €7,110 per person sharing, assuming 5-8 participants

Single Supplement: $1,605 / £1,373 / €1,600

 

* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.

 


Recommended Field Guide

(Please also read our blogs about recommended field guides for the seven continents here)


Tour Details

Duration: 13 days
Group Size: 5 – 8
Tour Start: Anchorage
Tour End: Anchorage


Price includes:

Meals
Accommodation
Transport
Guiding fees
Flights Anchorage – Nome – Anchorage

Price excludes:

Flights to and from Anchorage
Personal insurance
Alcoholic beverages
Laundry service
Personal expenses such as gifts
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)

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Alaska: Vast Beauty – Nome, Denali, Seward
June 2023

 

Alaska birding tours offer one of the world’s most amazing combinations of stellar birds, jaw-dropping mammals, and breathtaking scenery, which will leave any nature enthusiast ecstatic! The variety of habitats offer a constant scenic backdrop as we travel through the arctic tundra, along numerous pristine lakes and rivers, past an assortment of distant (and some near) glaciers, and of course through sections of the mighty boreal forest. A stunning mountain view is never too far away, with the mightiest coming from Denali itself, North America’s highest peak. Do not forget the incredible experience of near 24-hour days with the sun almost never truly setting. The list of large-mammal possibilities is an impressive one, ranging from the tundra of Denali National Park to the waters of Resurrection Bay with Grizzly Bear, Moose, Orca (Killer Whale), Humpback Whale, Sea Otter, Reindeer (Caribou), and Thinhorn Sheep (Dall’s Sheep) all on the list, as well as many others.

Then of course there is the wide array of fantastic birds that use these bountiful summer arctic habitats for their nesting and breeding season. Birds include Bald Eagle, Horned and Tufted Puffins, Ancient and Kittlitz’s Murrelets, Long-tailed and Harlequin Ducks, Aleutian Tern, all four amazing Eider species (Steller’s, Spectacled, King, and Common), all three Jaeger species (Parasitic, Long-tailed, and Pomarine), Bristle-thighed Curlew, Emperor Goose, and many others which can be found on or above the waters and bays, not to mention true stunners like Snowy Owl, Arctic Warbler, Gyrfalcon, Bluethroat, American Dipper, and Willow and Rock Ptarmigans in the tundra and alpine areas. There are indeed very few places that could challenge the scenery, birds, and other wildlife found in the majesty of Alaska.

Alaska birding toursWe will visit a large colony of Horned Puffins while in Seward.

 

This trip can be combined with our extension tour Utqiagvik (Barrow): Top of the World, which immediately follows this one.

 

Itinerary (13 days/12 nights)

 

Day 1. Arrival in Anchorage

You arrive at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport by 6 p.m., where you will use the shuttle to the hotel. There will be introductions and an orientation about our upcoming trip during our first dinner together.

Overnight: Anchorage

Alaska birding toursThe striking Willow Ptarmigan is one of the top targets on this trip.

 

Days 2 – 4. Birding the wonders of Nome

Using the hotel shuttle we will arrive at the Anchorage airport and catch our flight to the amazing birding destination that is Nome. Some of the best birding in all of Alaska can be found here during the tail end of migration, with breeding birds setting up territories and the potential of a stray species still high. Species such as Arctic Loon, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Aleutian Tern, Parasitic and Long-tailed Jaegers, Bluethroat, and Red Phalarope are a few of the top targets for our time here. There are three main roads that extend from the central town, and we will spend each of our days exploring these 60-plus-mile (97-plus-kilometer) roads that stretch through the beautiful arctic tundra. The evenings will be spent around the town with time for some birding. There is so much birding potential here in Nome with additional species like Alder Flycatcher, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Pacific Golden Plover, Common Eider, Bar-tailed Godwit, and Northern Wheatear, plus a shot at Muskox. During our three-plus days in Nome we will be able to fully explore everything that this amazing location has to offer.

Overnight: Nome

Alaska birding toursThe large and bulky Pomarine Jaeger

 

Day 5. Back to Anchorage

We’ll spend the morning birding around Nome for the final time, targeting any potential species we might be missing. From there we will take an afternoon flight back to Anchorage and pick up our rental vehicle, when we will likely see a few species near the airport and in town like Black-billed Magpie and Northern Raven. The remainder of the evening will be spent on dinner and getting comfortable in the hotel for a good night’s rest and recovery after a great time in Nome.

Overnight: Anchorage

 

Day 6. Kenai Peninsula

Today we will be traveling a few hours south to Seward with plenty of birding stops planned along the way. First is a morning of birding around the Anchorage area at Westchester Lagoon. A few pairs of Red-necked Grebes nest on this good-sized lake, with the possibility of other waterfowl and shorebird species like Hudsonian Godwit, Northern Shoveler, and Greater Scaup. Next we will head to another local park for a relaxing stroll that should produce Boreal Chickadee, Two-barred (White-winged) Crossbill, Golden-crowned Sparrow, and many others. From here we will continue working south toward Seward with a brief stop in the small town of Whittier. In order to access the town we must drive through America’s longest tunnel, just over 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) long, where we will be treated to views of Prince William Sound. We will scan the waters for species like Pigeon Guillemot, Glaucous-winged Gull, Harlequin Duck, and Harbor Seal, while enjoying American (Northwestern) Crows scattered around town. We’ll then make the rest of the drive to Seward, where we will eat dinner and settle into the hotel for the evening.

Overnight: Seward

 

Day 7. Seward Pelagic trip and Resurrection Bay

Today is very exciting as we spend most of it on the waters of Resurrection Bay, looking for loads of amazing seabirds and the potential for incredible marine mammals as well. The scenery of the bay is simply stunning, with large rock outcroppings scattered throughout and various glaciers in the surrounding mountains. We will visit colonies of both Tufted and Horned Puffins as well as Thick-billed and Common Murres. In addition a few other alcids are likely, like Ancient Murrelet, Marbled Murrelet, and even the rare Kittlitz’s Murrelet spends time in these waters during the summer. Thousands of Black-legged Kittiwakes enjoy the bay and are always a treat to see in their various plumage states. The chance at amazing marine mammals keeps the excitement alive, with Steller Sea Lion and Sea Otter as likely species with the chance at Dall’s Porpoise, Humpback Whale, and even the incredible Orca (Killer Whale)! After our time on the boat we will check out a few areas nearby before having dinner in town and settling in for the evening. This is also a good time to catch up on rest if needed or do a bit of laundry.

Overnight: Seward

Alaska birding toursMarine mammals, like Sea Otter, can be seen in Resurrection Bay.

 

Day 8. From Seward back to Anchorage

We start the day birding around the town of Seward, exploring the airport mudflats for species like Mew Gull, Semipalmated Sandpiper, and other shorebirds. We’ll also check out the areas surrounding Lowell Point, which hold a small population of Chestnut-backed Chickadee as well as other species like Varied Thrush, Pacific Wren, and Steller’s Jay. There is also the chance for a Sea Otter being close to shore or some auk species hanging close to nearby rocks. On our way back to Anchorage we’ll make several stops along the famous Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary as we scan for nesting Arctic Terns, Green-winged Teal, Wilson’s Snipe, and others plus some amazing scenic views. We will have dinner in Anchorage before making our way to Wasilla for the night to help give us a head start for the next day.

Overnight: Wasilla

 

Day 9. Hatcher Pass to Healy

Today we’ll make the long, but scenic, drive toward Denali via Hatcher Pass. We’ll pass through a variety of habitats and elevations on this drive through the south-east Talkeetna Mountains. Fast-flowing streams along the roadside are common, with nesting American Dippers taking residence. Eventually we will reach some large open areas of tundra, where we will stop along the road when we spot something like perhaps a flock of Grey-crowned Rosy Finches or a Willow Ptarmigan strutting along. Once we are back on the main road we will stop again briefly at Byer’s Lake in Denali State Park for a brief hike, hoping for the likes of Northern Goshawk to bust through the forest and for a scan of the lake, where Trumpeter Swan and Common Loon should be nesting. Finally we’ll arrive in the small town of Healy for dinner and check into the hotel for the evening.

Overnight: Healy

Alaska birding toursThis tour will feature some stunning Alaskan scenery.

 

Day 10. Denali National Park

On one of the most exciting days of the trip today we will travel into the pristine Denali National Park. There is only a single, 90-plus-mile (150-plus-kilometer) road into and out of the park, and standard vehicles are not allowed past mile number 15. We will instead take one of the park’s tour buses, with our final destination of the day being at mile 66. Denali is best-known for its large-mammal sightings, spectacular tundra views, and of course Mount Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley) itself. The odds are good of seeing incredible wildlife like Grizzly Bear, Moose, Reindeer (Caribou), and Thinhorn Sheep (Dall’s Sheep) with the off chance at a rare mammal sighting as well. Views of Denali can be hit-or-miss, since it is so tall (20,000-plus feet/7000 meters) that it regularly creates its own weather conditions, often obstructing views with clouds and only occasionally peeking out. Then of course there are chances for some great birds like Golden Eagle and Gyrfalcon soaring in the thermals or a Willow Ptarmigan hopping through the scrub. Overall this national park is certainly a memorable one. After our bus returns, we will explore the nature center a bit and then head for dinner.

Overnight: Healy

 

Day 11. Birding the Denali Highway

We’ll spend the day cruising along the 135 miles/216 kilometers of scenic alpine tundra on the Denali Highway. This mostly dirt road offers some amazing opportunities to experience some of Alaska’s nesting species in a peaceful solitude. We will make stops in a variety of habitat zones. Trumpeter Swan, Tundra Swan, and Harlequin Duck are found on the multitude of lakes and ponds along with various nesting shorebirds such as American Golden Plover, Whimbrel, and Wandering Tattler. We will become weary of Long-tailed-Jaeger nests while we search carefully for nesting Smith’s Longspur. Throughout the drive we should see and hear recently arrived Arctic Warblers as well as the chance for a ptarmigan or grouse crossing, with numerous species possible. Eventually we will arrive in the Paxson area for the evening and dinner.

Overnight: Paxson

 

Day 12. Back to Anchorage

We will return to Anchorage today via the Richardson and Glenn Highways. Today we will target and focus on any tundra/alpine species we may have missed on previous days. The drive takes us through some beautiful sections of the boreal forest, giving us a chance for a Northern Hawk-Owl perched up high or a Spruce Grouse on the edge of the road. There are a few campgrounds to wander through that host all the typical boreal species, like Boreal Chickadee, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Canada Jay, and Pine Grosbeak. We will finally make it back to Anchorage for our final dinner of what was surely an amazing trip.

Overnight: Anchorage

Alaska birding tourThe cute Canada Jay is one of our many boreal targets.

 

Day 13. Tour concludes, extension begins

The main Alaska tour concludes this morning with transport to the Anchorage airport. Some of the participants may fly back home, while others may board the flight to Utqiagvik for the tour extension.

 

 

Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.

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USA – Alaska: Vast Beauty –Nome, Denali, Seward Birding Trip Report

13 – 25 JUNE 2022

 By Jacob Roalef

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Overview

This 13-day set departure tour of Alaska commenced in Anchorage, Alaska, on the 13th of June 2022 and concluded back in Anchorage on the 25th of June 2022. The tour traveled throughout this massive state, including the Kenai Peninsula, the Denali region, and the old gold rush town of Nome. Numerous fantastic birding locations were visited including Resurrection Bay, Kincaid Park, the Seward Mudflats, West Chester Lagoon, Potter Marsh, Denali National Park, the Denali Highway and Nome.

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It was a treat to see this Arctic Tern, one of the world’s greatest migrating species.

 

This tour connected with some fantastic species including some true Alaskan specials and many allowed us ample views to really study and appreciate each species. Visiting so many diverse habitats yielded a high-quality list for our 13 days in this Arctic state. Avian highlights included Horned and Tufted Puffins, Red-faced Cormorant, Emperor Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Goshawk, Golden Eagle, Willow Ptarmigan, Arctic and Aleutian Terns, Long-tailed Jaeger, Arctic Warbler, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Bohemian Waxwing, Boreal Chickadee, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Gyrfalcon and many more.

A total of 140 bird species were seen with zero being heard only species, so the total recorded was 140. In addition to the birds, there were some amazing mammal highlights including Canada Lynx, Moose, Humpback Whale, Sea Otter, Collared Pika, Steller Sea Lion and Mountain Goat. Full bird and mammal checklists can be found at the end of the report.

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This Canada Lynx was certainly the highlight mammal of the trip!

Detailed Report

Day 1, 13th June 2022. Arrival and Anchorage birding

Today marked our first day of what was sure to be an amazing adventure in the wilderness that is Alaska. Everyone on the tour had arrived early so we spent the morning meeting up and then headed to some local Anchorage parks for a bit of birding. First up was Conner’s Bog and although a small area, some nice birds were seen here including Alder Flycatcher, Orange-crowned Warbler and Black-billed Magpie, giving us our first taste of Alaskan birding. Down by the water of the bog we watched a pair of Red-necked Grebes building a nest and a Pacific Loon diving and foraging in the deeper waters. On our way out, we got our first look at a huge Moose. After lunch we visited another great Anchorage location, Kincaid Park. We went for a pleasant hike in perfect weather. Birding was good, with species like Swainson’s Thrush, White-crowned Sparrow and Bald Eagle. There was a telephone pole along the trail with an American Three-toed Woodpecker nest, so we hung out there and watched mom and dad bring food to the begging young. As we were coming up to the end of the trail we got into a little mixed flock with Boreal Chickadees and Dark-eyed Juncos. This was a fantastic start to our birding journey.

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We enjoyed this gorgeous, singing, Orange-crowned Warbler.

Day 2, 14th June 2022. Resurrection Bay pelagic

An early start was needed as we headed off to Seward on the Kenai Peninsula. We grabbed some coffee and breakfast along the way because we needed to be at the docks to meet our captain at 9am. Possible rain had been forecast, so we were prepared and also very excited to see what the waters of Resurrection Bay had to offer. Before the boat departed, we birded the harbor area and saw a few of the more common species here like Black-legged Kittiwake, Arctic Tern, Glaucous-winged Gull and, of course, the mighty Bald Eagle. After some safety instructions, we set sail in the relatively calm waters in the bay. We cruised around the eastern shores of the bay, picking up several nice species including Harlequin Duck, Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorants and Marbled Murrelet. We made our way to Emerald Cove, which had cliffs that were absolutely loaded with breeding birds. Black-legged Kittiwake, Horned and Tufted Puffins, Red-faced Cormorant, Pigeon Guillemot and Common Murre were some of the highlights here. The sheer number of birds was an impressive sight. After a few loops around the cove we headed out across the open water, with the wind picking up a bit. Unfortunately, there were huge swells outside the bay, making it unsafe for our boat to leave the area. We therefore spent more time looking for wildlife in the bay instead. We crossed the bay safely and noted some great mammal sightings, including Dall’s Porpoise, Humpback Whale, Sea Otter and even some Mountain Goats seen from the boat. Birding on the west side of the bay was also excellent and produced new species such as White-winged and Surf Scoters, Common Goldeneye, Black Oystercatcher, Belted Kingfisher and Common Merganser. We returned to the harbor, tired but satisfied and then headed for dinner and some much-needed rest.

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This Pigeon Guillemot was showing off its full breeding plumage.

Day 3, 15th June 2022. Kenai Peninsula birding

We headed off to the Seward mudflats at low tide. The scenic mountains and gorgeous bay were strikingly beautiful. Right away we were onto a few species like Savannah Sparrow and American Crow. We counted at least ten Bald Eagles during our hour or so here, with a good mix of all ages. Closer to the water we picked up Arctic Tern, Northern Pintail, Greater Yellowlegs, Short-billed Gull and Least Sandpiper. Returning to our van, we birded along the tree line and saw Sooty Fox Sparrow, Hermit Thrush and Lincoln’s Sparrow. Then we headed off to some nearby bird feeders. Not much was happening there, but we managed American Yellow Warbler, Hairy Woodpecker and Tree Swallow.

After a delicious local lunch next to the water, the afternoon was spent exploring the temperate rainforest habitat that creeps up into the Kenai Peninsula. This was our only opportunity to bird in this type of habitat, so we searched for targets usually found in this ecosystem. It wasn’t long before we heard the echoing call of a Varied Thrush amongst the trees and then got good views. We continued walking up and came across a gorgeous, singing, Townsend’s Warbler and a very curious Chestnut-backed Chickadee. A quick lap around Two Lakes Park produced a pair of American Dippers that were probably breeding nearby. We then returned to the mudflats for high tide. This time there was more waterfowl action, with Greater White-fronted Goose, Gadwall, American Wigeon and Northern Shoveler.

Day 4, 16th June 2022. Seward and back to Anchorage

After our breakfast and coffee, we made another quick loop around Two Lakes Park and the temperate rainforest. We saw Townsend’s Warbler, Chestnut-backed Chickadee and Bald Eagle. We then began our journey north, heading towards the town of Palmer. Our first stop along the drive was at a rest area known as Tern Lake. Here we enjoyed many great species including Trumpeter Swan, Lesser and Greater Scaups, Common Loon and, of course, many Arctic Terns flying around. Continuing our journey, we stopped several times along the huge Potter Marsh. This marsh habitat with impressive mountains in the background was a fantastic place to bird and we saw many species such as Sandhill Crane and Red-necked Phalarope and even a Moose in the distance. We walked a small boardwalk trail leading onto the marsh. A hilarious Lesser Yellowlegs was calling loudly and proudly from its favorite stump, making itself known to all who walked by. We also enjoyed some baby Short-billed Dowitchers, with parents lingering in the area to keep watch.

We moved on to Westchester Lagoon, a park located in the heart of Anchorage and popular with locals as well as birds. The star highlight had to be a breeding plumage Hudsonian Godwit and there were also many Red-necked Grebes, Short-billed Gulls and Ring-necked Ducks. A peaceful hike along the Eagle River yielded American Robin. After a bit of a scramble uphill, we soaked in the views of a Northern Goshawk on its nest. Fortunately, we were far enough away not to cause any disturbances or attacks. We left the park, ate a tasty Mexican dinner and went to our hotel for the evening.

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It was a real treat to see this singing Townsend’s Warbler in the sun.

Day 5, 17th June 2022. From Palmer to Healy

This was another full day of driving as we worked our way further north towards Healy and Denali National Park, with several nice stops planned along the way. The morning was overcast with pleasant temperatures, in contrast to the unpleasant mosquitoes at our first stop, the Palmer Hay Flats. In the parking area, we were enthralled with Blackpoll, Orange-crowned and Myrtle Warblers, White-crowned Sparrow, Two-barred Crossbill and Dark-eyed Junco. As we ventured along the boardwalk trail we observed great species including Western Wood-Pewee, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Wilson’s Snipe, Rusty Blackbird and Northern Flicker. This was certainly a fantastic morning of birding.

Our next stop was for lunch at Montana Lake. We went down to the lake where a lone Bonaparte’s Gull was making its rounds and a Common Redpoll was foraging in the grasses. We made quick stops at Byers Lake and along the park highway. Notable species included Northern Waterthrush, Barrow’s Goldeneye and Red Fox Sparrow. We also had our first views of Mount Denali, although somewhat obscured by the clouds. When we arrived in Healy we ate dinner and then went to bed after a long day of birding and driving.

Day 6, 18th June 2022. Denali National Park

We enjoyed breakfast and birding around Otto Lake, where typical suspects like Lesser Scaup and Short-billed Gull were seen.We prepared lunches to take with us and then headed to Denali National Park. We watched a brief demonstration of the impressive sled-dog rescue team that works for Denali National Park. Then we went to the bus station to catch our bus that would take us into the tundra of Denali for the next four hours or so.

Unfortunately, the park road suffered some extreme damage around mile marker 44, so we couldn’t go as far into the park as we would normally like to. It wasn’t long before we spotted our first impressive mammal of the trip, a Caribou resting in snow on a distant ledge. The scenery was incredible, with an occasional Golden Eagle or Northern Harrier cutting across the tundra. Mammals were a bit sparse, with some Dall’s Sheep making an appearance every once in a while. Even a slower day in Denali was spectacular, with pristine and preserved wilderness unmatched in the United States. On our return journey, we finally spotted another bird, Willow Ptarmigan! This female was quietly foraging along the side of the road giving us all a nice view. We visited the impressive nature center and did a small amount of shopping at the local shops before heading off to dinner and back to the hotel.

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This female Willow Ptarmigan had impressive camouflage against the tundra.

Day 7, 19th June 2022. Denali Highway

With some delicious breakfast and coffee in our stomachs, we began our journey along the 125-mile Denali Highway. When we stopped, we enjoyed some nice birds including Green-winged Teal, Dark-eyed Junco and Myrtle Warbler. We continued our drive through the impressive scenery before eventually arriving at some small lakes where we picked up White-winged Scoter and Horned Grebe. A little further on we pulled over to scan a riverbed and we rolled right up next to a Semipalmated Plover and her nest. She gave us her whole broken-wing performance as we watched and we then moved away to scan from a different vantage point. Our scanning produced Lesser Yellowlegs, Ring-necked Duck and Lesser Scaup before a few Bohemian Waxwings dropped in from seemingly nowhere. We drove further and pulled over at a spectacular overlook, where we enjoyed our lunches.

While we were eating, we spotted a Grey-cheeked Thrush singing atop a pine tree. Just as we were finishing up, the skies began to darken, and rain followed shortly after. Just after this, we heard our first Arctic Warbler. The remainder of the day was mostly spent scanning through the many bodies of water along the road. We observed Long-tailed Duck, Common and Red-breasted Merganser, Lesser Scaup, Trumpeter Swan, Ring-necked Duck, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall and more during our scans. We made it to the lodge along the Maclaren River where we had dinner and enjoyed the many nesting American Cliff Swallows outside of our mini cabins.

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This Semipalmated Plover decided to nest on the side of the gravel highway.

Day 8, 20th June 2022. Finishing the Denali Highway and back to Anchorage

At the lodge we enjoyed American Cliff Swallow, as well as a Tundra Swan out on the water and a Lesser Yellowlegs working the shoreline.  We then packed our bags and hit the road. The plan for the day was to get back to Anchorage at a reasonable hour, with some birding along the way to break up the drive. We still had about 42 miles to go on the Denali Highway, so we soaked up the scenery and birds of this amazing road. A small pond right next to the road held a stunning breeding plumage Red-throated Loon, a first for our trip. While we were enjoying killer views of this bird, we noticed an athlete running up the road in the middle of nowhere. How strange! It turned out that today was a big race called the Denali-125, where folks would run the entire 125 miles of the Denali Highway. This led to some interesting discussion in our van.

The remainder of the morning was spent hiking into the tundra wilderness. This type of terrain can be difficult to handle, but everyone managed without any issues. We picked up Bufflehead, Red-necked Grebe and an adorable Least Sandpiper that hunkered down into the tundra floor. After a few hours of driving, we stopped to eat lunch and stretch our legs. The return journey was full of amazing scenery, a little rain and too much time wasted waiting for construction vehicles. We made one final stop, to enjoy a glacier, before making our way back to Anchorage for dinner and to get some rest before our trip to Nome.

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This Red-throated Loon was striking in breeding plumage.

Day 9, 21st June 2022. Flight to Nome

We managed to catch up on some sleep and have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel before taking the shuttle to the Anchorage airport for our flight. The views from the plane were incredible as we got above the cloud line and had amazing views of Mount Denali. After landing in Nome, we sorted out our vehicle and lodging before heading out for some birding along the Nome-Council Road. The weather wasn’t cooperating however, with spits of rain and wind making visibility poor and birding tough. We didn’t let that stop us though, as we quickly found some great species like Cackling Goose, Lapland Longspur, Arctic Redpoll, Western and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Long-tailed and Parasitic Jaegers and Hudsonian Whimbrel. We worked our way further along the road, stopping frequently to scan the waters on both sides of us. We saw many new species for the trip including Common Eider, Tundra Swan and Black Scoter. After turning and heading further into the tundra habitat, birding slowed because of the weather issues. We did manage to pick up an Eastern Yellow Wagtail near some houses. It was raining a little harder by the time we made it to a bridge and turnaround section. We made a quick check under the bridge to pick up Say’s Phoebe and then boom! A huge Gyrfalcon came busting out of there and turned out to be on a nest with recently hatched young. What a shock that was and a fantastic sighting. We quickly backed away and scoped the parent bird on the far hill, but the conditions didn’t allow for much of view. We then headed back to dry off, warm up and fill our stomachs with some much-deserved dinner.

Day 10, 22nd June 2022. Teller Road and Cape Nome

The next two days were spent exploring the wonders of Nome and the birds on offer. Unfortunately, the weather was less than ideal, with misting rain and highs around 45° F (7° C). On our first day, we began our adventure down the Teller Highway, heading west out of Nome. Long-tailed Jaegers were seen throughout, either perched on nesting locations or hunting over the tundra. Through the rain and mist we managed to spot an American Golden Plover which blended in with the background amazingly well. As we progressed slowly down the road conditions worsened and the road became a muddy mess. The group decided it was best to turn back to avoid getting stuck. On our way back, we noted White-crowned Sparrow, Arctic Warbler and Arctic Redpoll.

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It is truly special seeing species like Lapland Longspur in their full breeding beauty.

 

 

After lunch we headed back to Cape Nome and the Nome River mouth. This time we ventured out onto the sandspit, where we linked up with a single Aleutian Tern mixed in with the many Arctic Terns hunting the area. There was an impressive breeding plumage Long-tailed Duck along with Glaucous Gull and Red-throated Loon. At the cape, we scanned the waters and picked through the sea ducks despite the bouncing waves. After a while we picked out both King and Spectacled Eiders amongst the Common Eiders, Black and White-winged Scoters and Harlequin Ducks. Red-throated and Pacific Loons were seen flying by every so often. It was then time for dinner. Late in the evening we ventured out in search of mammals down the Kougarok Road. It never got dark in Nome and it was a strange feeling to be out searching for wildlife at nearly 11pm. Our efforts yielded a single Moose and a herd of Muskoxen as well as some Common Mergansers along the river.

Day 11, 23rd June 2022. Kougarok Road and the tundra

This day was spent along the impressive Kougarok Road. More Long-tailed Jaegers, something one could never tire of, started our day off. Bird activity was fairly quiet due to the weather conditions, until a Northern Wheatear surprisingly flew by in front of the vehicle. Unfortunately, it only offered a few of us a brief glimpse. The real excitement came when Dave and Paul both shouted, “Stop!” They had just spotted a Canada Lynx hunting along the nearby riverbed! We all got out and watched quietly as this gorgeous cat crossed the river slowly and then worked its way through the brush. That was a truly incredible sighting. We then hiked up a mountain in the tundra, which was quite an adventure. A few Hudsonian Whimbrels were spotted flying around. Near the top we came across a herd of Muskoxen, so we changed our course a bit. Further on, we stumbled upon a nesting American Golden Plover which lured us away with its broken wing performance, before heading back to its nest and eggs.

After conquering the mountain and tundra, we worked our way back down the Kougarok Road, taking in the amazing scenery along the way. Our birding efforts were set back by a very cold, whipping wind which made getting out nearly impossible. Instead, we simply took time to enjoy being out in this remote wilderness. We checked out the local Nome dump where a few species were standing around, including Vega and Glaucous Gulls, Northern Raven and Northern Shrike. We checked the Nome River mouth again and turned some of the usual suspects, like Cackling Goose, Western and Semipalmated Sandpipers and Bank Swallow. We then went to eat, get dry and warm up.

Day 12, 24th June 2022. Morning in Nome and back to Anchorage

On our final day in Nome we still had the morning available to venture out for some birding. We checked out the Nome-Council Road and came across some of the same species we had seen along this road before, like Long-tailed Jaeger, Lapland Longspur and Short-eared Owl. At Cape Nome the usual large flocks of White-winged and Black Scoters and Harlequin Ducks were hanging out. After some scanning we spotted a Thick-billed Murre taking a quick rest on the rocky shore of the spit. Venturing further along, we scoped the waters inside the more protected Safety Sound. We picked through the large flocks of ducks, with major highlights being Spectacled Eider and Eurasian Wigeon. As we were finishing birding, we passed another group of birders who alerted us to a fantastic sighting further up the road. We packed into the car and buzzed there as quickly as possible. Thankfully it didn’t take long for us to relocate the two Emperor Geese that had dropped in! This was a fantastic species to close out our time in Nome.

We headed back to the hotel to gather our things, return the car, check out and head to the airport. After our short flight to Anchorage, we left our things at the hotel and went out for our final dinner together. Participants were asked to name their top five sightings of the trip. One mammal was allowed for this tour because Alaska hosts so many amazing mammals. The winners for the group, in no particular order, were Gyrfalcon, Bohemian Waxwing, Northern Goshawk, Horned Puffin and Canada Lynx.

Day 13, 25th June 2022. Departure

There was no birding on our final day as everyone was departing very early. We used the hotel’s shuttle service to take us back to the Anchorage airport, concluding our amazing tour of Alaska.

alaska-trip-report-2022

Despite singing frequently, it was tricky to get a visual of Arctic Warble

 

 

Bird List – Following IOC (12.1)

Birds ‘heard only’ are marked with (H) after the common name, all other species were seen. Species seen only on the pre-trip day of this trip are marked with (+) after the common name.

The following notation after species names is used to show conservation status following BirdLife International: CE = Critically Endangered, EN = Endangered, VU = Vulnerable, NT = Near Threatened.

 

Common Name Scientific Name
Ducks, Geese, Swans (Anatidae)
Brant Goose Branta bernicla
Canada Goose Branta Canadensis
Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii
Emperor Goose Ansercanagicus
Greater White-fronted Goose Anseralbifrons
Trumpeter Swan Cygnus buccinators
Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus
Northern Shoveler Spatula clypeata
Gadwall Mareca strepera
Eurasian Wigeon Marecapenelope
American Wigeon Mareca Americana
Blue-winged Teal Anas discors
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Northern Pintail Anas acuta
Green-winged Teal Anas carolinensis
Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris
Greater Scaup Aythya marila
Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis
Spectacled Eider Somateria fischeri
King Eider Somateria spectabilis
Common Eider Somateria mollissima
Harlequin Duck Histrionicushistrionicus
Surf Scoter Melanittaperspicillata
White-winged Scoter Melanittadeglandi
Black Scoter Melanitta Americana
Long-tailed Duck – VU Clangula hyemalis
Bufflehead Bucephala albeola
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula
Barrow’s Goldeneye Bucephala islandica
Common Merganser Mergus merganser
Red-breasted Merganser Mergusserrator
Pheasants & Allies (Phasianidae)
Willow Ptarmigan Lagopus lagopus
Grebes (Podicipedidae)
Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena
Horned Grebe – VU Podiceps auritus
Pigeons, Doves (Columbidae)
Rock Pigeon (Introduced) Columba livia
Cranes (Gruidae)
Sandhill Crane Antigone Canadensis
Oystercatchers (Haematopodidae)
Black Oystercatcher Haematopusbachmani
Plovers (Charadriidae)
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
American Golden Plover Pluvialisdominica
Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus
Sandpipers, Snipes (Scolopacidae)
Hudsonian Whimbrel Numenius hudsonicus
Hudsonian Godwit Limosahaemastica
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla
Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla
Western Sandpiper Calidris mauri
Short-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus griseus
Wilson’s Snipe Gallinagodelicata
Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropuslobatus
Spotted Sandpiper Actitismacularius
Lesser Yellowlegs Tringaflavipes
Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca
Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)
Black-legged Kittiwake – VU Rissa tridactyla
Bonaparte’s Gull Chroicocephalusphiladelphia
Short-billed (Mew) Gull Larus brachyrhynchus
Glaucous-winged Gull Larus glaucescens
Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus
American Herring Gull Larus smithsonianus
Vega Gull Larus vegae
Aleutian Tern – VU Onychoprionaleuticus
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea
Skuas (Stercorariidae)
Parasitic Jaeger Stercorariusparasiticus
Long-tailed Jaeger Stercorariuslongicaudus
Auks (Alcidae)
Thick-billed Murre Uria lomvia
Common Murre Uria aalge
Pigeon Guillemot Cepphuscolumba
Marbled Murrelet – EN Brachyramphusmarmoratus
Horned Puffin Fraterculacorniculata
Tufted Puffin Fraterculacirrhata
Loons (Gaviidae)
Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata
Pacific Loon Gaviapacifica
Common Loon Gaviaimmer
Cormorants and Shags (Phalacrocoracidae)
Red-faced Cormorant Urile urile
Pelagic Cormorant Urile pelagicus
Double-crested Cormorant Nannopterumauritum
Kites, Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Northern Harrier Circus hudsonius
Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
Rough-legged Buzzard (Hawk) Buteo lagopus
Owls (Strigidae)
Short-eared Owl Asioflammeus
Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)
Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon
Woodpeckers (Picidae)
American Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides dorsalis
Downy Woodpecker Dryobatespubescens
Hairy Woodpecker Leuconotopicusvillosus
Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus
Caracaras, Falcons (Falconidae)
Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
Tyrant Flycatchers (Tyrannidae)
Say’s Phoebe Sayornissaya
Olive-sided Flycatcher Contopus cooperi
Western Wood Pewee Contopus sordidulus
Alder Flycatcher Empidonax alnorum
Shrikes (Laniidae)
Northern Shrike Lanius borealis
Crows, Jays, and Magpies (Corvidae)
Canada Jay Perisoreus canadensis
Black-billed Magpie Pica hudsonia
American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos
Northern Raven Corvus corax
Waxwings (Bombycillidae)
Bohemian Waxwing Bombycillagarrulus
Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice (Paridae)
Chestnut-backed Chickadee Poecilerufescens
Boreal Chickadee Poecilehudsonicus
Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
Swallows (Hirundinidae)
Sand Martin (Bank Swallow) Riparia riparia
Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor
Violet-green Swallow Tachycinetathalassina
American Cliff Swallow Petrochelidonpyrrhonota
Leaf Warblers & Allies (Phylloscopidae)
Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis
Kinglets (Regulidae)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Corthylio calendula
Nuthatches (Sittidae)
Red-breasted Nuthatch Sitta canadensis
Dippers (Cinclidae)
American Dipper Cinclus mexicanus
Starlings (Sturnidae)
European Starling (Introduced) Sturnus vulgaris
Thrushes and Allies (Turdidae)
Varied Thrush Ixoreusnaevius
Swainson’s Thrush Catharusustulatus
Hermit Thrush Catharusguttatus
Grey-cheeked Thrush Catharusminimus
American Robin Turdus migratorius
Chats, Old World Flycatchers (Muscicapidae)
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Wagtails and Pipits (Motacillidae)
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacillatschutschensis
Buff-bellied (American) Pipit Anthusrubescens
Finches, Euphonias, and Allies (Fringillidae)
Common Redpoll Acanthis flammea
Arctic Redpoll Acanthis hornemanni
Two-barred Crossbill Loxialeucoptera
Pine Siskin Spinus pinus
Longspurs and Snow Buntings (Calcariidae)
Lapland Longspur Calcariuslapponicus
New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)
Sooty Fox Sparrow Passerellaunalaschcensis
Red Fox Sparrow Passerellailiaca
American Tree Sparrow Spizelloides arborea
Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis
White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichialeucophrys
Golden-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia atricapilla
Savannah Sparrow Passerculussandwichensis
Song Sparrow Melospizamelodia
Lincoln’s Sparrow Melospizalincolnii
Oropendolas, Orioles, Blackbirds (Icteridae)
Rusty Blackbird – VU Euphaguscarolinus
 
New World Warblers (Parulidae)
Northern Waterthrush Parkesianoveboracensis
Orange-crowned Warbler Leiothlypiscelata
American Yellow Warbler Setophaga aestiva
Blackpoll Warbler Setophaga striata
Myrtle Warbler Setophaga coronata
Townsend’s Warbler Setophaga townsendi
Wilson’s Warbler Cardellinapusilla
Total Seen 140
Total Heard 0
Total Recorded 140

Mammal List

Common Name Scientific Name
Rabbits and Hares (Leporidae)
Snowshoe Hare Lepus americanus
 
Beavers (Castoridae)
American Beaver Castor canadensis
Porcupines and Allies (Erethizontidae)
North American Porcupine Erethizondorsatum
   
Pikas (Ochotonidae)
Collared Pika Ochotona collaris
Squirrels and Allies (Sciuridae)
North American Red Squirrel Tamiasciurushudsonicus
Arctic Ground Squirrel Urocitellusparryii
Cats (Felidae)
Canada Lynx Lynx canadensis
Eared Seals (Otariidae)
Steller Sea Lion Eumetopias jubatus
Earless Seals (Phocidae)
Harbour Seal Phocavitulina
Weasels, Badgers and Allies (Mustelidae)
Sea Otter – EN Enhydra lutris
True Deer (Cervidae)
Moose Alces alces
Caribou – VU Rangifer tarandus
Cloven-hoofed Mammals (Bovidae)
Mountain Goat Oreamnos americanus
Dall’s Sheep Ovis dalli
Muskox Ovibosmoschatus
Rorquals (Balaenopteridae)
Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae
Cloven-hoofed Mammals (Bovidae)
Harbour Porpoise Phocoenaphocoena
Dall’s Porpoise Phocoenoides dalli
Total seen 18

 

 

DOWNLOAD TRIP REPORT

Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included. This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.

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