26th July. We arrived in Anchorage at 8.20, after fantastic aerial views of Wrangell-St.Elias NP, with snow capped mountains, volcanoes, ice fields and glaciers. We drove to Bird Creek Campsite, 25 miles along TurnAgain Arm, arriving at 11.00 p.m. - it was of course still light. We saw 3 moose along the way bur did not stop to view them.
27th July. I had a brief fishing trip to the estuary of the Bird Creek. I had one take on an orange rapala, but saw 4 Coho caught and two lost. The fish came to orange flies or salmon eggs trundled through the fast water, and were mostly dragged out unceremoniously on 30lb line. We then went to Beluga Point, overlooking the sediment rich, turbulent waters of Turnagain Arm, where we saw no Belugas, but did find Dall Sheep on the slopes above.We then drove to Seward (150 miles) through beautiful mountainous areas. We spent the rest of the day at Seward, with a walk to Tonsina Creek. Here large numbers of salmon were spawning - 100s of Chum Salmon, with a few Humpbacks, and a few splendid Rainbows which were presumably there to steal eggs. Saw females cutting redds, males fighting and shivering as they pushed females into spawning. The slopes above the river were covered with thickets of salmon berries, a truly delicious wild fruit, which get their name because the coral red and orange drupes resemble salmon roe.
28th July. At 11.00 pm we experienced an earthquake. Apparently 6.2 on the Richter scale this was clearly a significant event, although little damage appeared to have been done. I knew immediately what it was as we felt the ground shake like jelly under us; a most strange sensation.
In the morning we drove round the east side of Resurrection Bay from Seward, finding birds like White-winged Crossbill and Harlequins, as well as Black Bear tracks on the beach. We then returned to Seward for the boat trip to Holgate Glacier, Aialik Bay and the Chiswell Islands. Calm weather most of the time, and a good selection of seabirds and mammals made it a day to remember, even if large cetaceans were not seen.
In the evening I went to a small clear ditch along Nash Road. I hadn't even bothered to look in it until I heard a fish rise. I peered in expecting to see a six inch trout, but it was stuffed with sea run Dolly Varden to 5lb, Humpback and Chum salmon.
The Dolly Vardens took a Mepps size 2 black fury, but a tiny silver spinner was even more effective. In short order I caught 7, between 1-2 lb.
29th July. In the morning I caught one Dolly Varden with the silver spinner. A Delta eel was deadly for getting strikes, but a very poor hooker and finally I caught one of 2lb 8oz on an orange rapala.
We then dove to Homer stopping to view spawning Sockeye Salmon in the outflow of Tern Lake. Certainly an impressive sight with c100 fish clad in vivid red, the males with green heads and massive kypes.
Homer Spit was an amazing structure- the end a hive of commercial activity, although we found peace in watching seabirds and sea otters.
30th July. After a splendid breakfast we left Homer Spit for the whale watching trip. A short distance out we had superb views of Sea Otters, and of breeding seabirds at Gull Island, but most marine life was outside Kachemak Bay.
Many seabirds were seen including huge rafts of shearwaters. Whales located totalled four humpbacks and one Grey Whale. No Orcas then, but still an excellent, memorable trip.
31st July. We left Homer and went to the Kenai NWR. We walked the Keen-eye Trail before lunch. A Brown Bear and two cubs had been seen just by the centre earlier, but we did not strike lucky.
We then went to Kenai. This was a little disappointing with no Belugas at the river mouth, although there were several scoter and loons. Many people were dip netting here, with considerable success.
We camped at Kelly Lake where a good walk along part of the seven lakes trail gave superb views of Common Loon and Beaver.
1st August. In the morning of a beautiful day looked for Trumpeter Swans, but it was so misty I couldn’t seen the lakes, never mind the birds. We then had a long drive to Wrangell-St Elias NP. A detour to Hope for hot chocolate was pleasant.
Highlights on the journey were Northern Hawk Owl and a family of River Otters at our burger stop in Chitina. From here it was 14 miles of dirt road along the Copper River, with its awesome river cliffs.
We camped at the idyllic Silver Lake and in a brief session in the evening I caught Rainbow Trout to 1lb on fly, spinner and a preposterous but deadly synthetic bait produced by Berkely. Looking like a pink marshmallow it is fished popped up and the trout seemed to swallow it everytime. Even these small Rainbows were astonishingly game.
2nd August. After a spot of fishing and birdwatching around the campsite we shouldered our packs and set out on the trek to Dixie Pass.We initially had problems in finding the trail, which led to some horrendous blundering through woods, but we relocated it and the route was quite well marked. No large mammals were seen, which seemed astonishing in view of the quantity of Moose, Bear, Wolf and Dall Sheep sign along the trail.
Mosquitoes were a trial in the forest- above the tree line blackfly became the annoyance.
We camped on a gravel bar next to a moose skeleton, which we hoped was not an ominous sign.
3rd August. With just our day packs we headed upwards to Dixie Pass. Dwarf Willow and Birch proved murderous to walk through until we broke through to sub-arctic tundra. It was very disappointing for wildlife, and even the scenery was a little disappointing, being more Scottish Highlands than classic Alaska.
4th August. Two hours of uneventful walking took us out from the trail in the morning, and we had a well earned brunch in Tonsina, a dilapidated but charming town whose buildings would double up for and old western.
We then made the long drive to Fairbanks. Highlights were the spectacular scenery in the Alaskan range, and Trumpeter Swans by a marshy lake. In spite of seaching we did not see the Delta Bison Herd.
Found a campsite in an RV park by the river in Fairbanks.
5th August. Caught an Arctic Grayling on dry fly in the Chena River in the morning. Later caught 5 small rainbows in Chena Lake - rather disappointing.
We visited Fairbanks museum - well laid out by geographical area, featuring geology, history, anthropology and natural history.
We booked a very expensive excursion to Barrow- a once in a lifetime opportunity, I suppose.
We spent an excellent few hours at Creamer's Field Bird Sanctuary, with hundreds of Sandhill Cranes viewable at close range. A bizarre sight was dozens of bowmen going for a competence test. Personally I would have refused licences to the competent, and only allowed those who missed wildly to hunt.
We made a visit to the tacky but entertaining Santa Claus house at North Pole.
6th August. In the North Fork of the Chena River I caught 3 Arctic Grayling to 1lb, on wet and dry fly. They fought well in the fast water - all were released. I suspect the Chena River has been trashed and with low recruitment and slow growth there has been little recovery.
7th August. We did a long hike of 15 miles along the Granite Tors trail. We first passed though spruce and broadleaf woodland, then through an extensive burnt area, before talus fields and finally upland bog, totted with granite domes and pinnacles.
Some of these most impressive structures topped 100 ft.
The walk was hard work, but the trail was well marked if difficult in places. Little wildlife was seen, but Spruce Grouse and Three-toed Woodpecker can count as highlights.
In the car park saw a Mourning Cloak butterfly, aka the Camberwell Beauty.
8th August. We flew to Barrow, unfortunately it was cloudy for most of the way until we broke through to a landscape of khaki vegetation dotted with innumerable pools, and a grey sea spattered with ice floes, many of an intense turquoise hue.
Barrow town was a ramshackle collection of assorted huts and buildings, looking rather like Dungeness on a bad day. I stuck with the tour for the morning, despite misgivings- it was hopeless for birding although some mouth watering species were glimpsed. In the afternoon we went to Point Barrow, and I walked back from the Gaswell Road. This was hard work in the rain and after this I was happy to watch the sea from the hotel. A Walrus was the obvious highlight- the other two I saw had been butchered by the eskimoes.
9th August. At midnight I went again to Point Barrow- easy hitching with friendly local people, and my reward for this venture was a hunting Gyrfalcon.
We flew back from Barrow at 10.00am and drove to Danali. We camped in a rather bleak RV park that looked like a parking lot by the main road. We then had the rigmarole of making arrangements for entering the park. A very informative video gave advice on bears and other hazards.
10th August. We just managed to catch the early bus at the entrance to Danali Park and we set off in this lumbering green vehicle along a twisting dirt road, with some impressive drop offs along river valleys. We quickly left boreal forest behind and travelled over sub-arctic tundra with scattered small spruce and a mosaic of dwarf birch, bilberries and bearberries.
Dramatic snow capped mountains provided a backdrop, including the awesome McKinley that briefly appeared from the clouds around midday- absolutely gigantic and an amazing spectacle. At last we caught up with Grizzly Bears - they are obviously easier to spot in this open terrain.
Crossing the tundra in our allocated sector was extremely difficult, wet and unpleasant, and I felt quite nervous at night as it proved impossible to find areas away from berries.
11th August. We're in the mountains, sector 12, Danali Park, and its absolutely pouring outside. Most of our clothes are soaked.
Weather has been fairly foul all day with rain and low cloud enveloping the Eielson Centre. We got to this with a lift with a real larger than life Alaskan character, who had a stack of entertaining stories and insights.
Most of the day was spent trying to dry out at the Eielson Centre, but it wasn't time wasted as we had superb views of Grizzly Bear here- as close as one would want to get!
We finally set off for the park entrance, but given what proved to be a temporary lull in the weather we continued our wilderness experience.
We walked up a stream to the west of Stony Dome to pitch our tent, and to my delight found we shared this valley with Gyrfalcons.
12th August. It rained all night and in the morning, sodden and defeated we caught the first bus back to the park entrance. The journey back was fairly uneventful, but a herd of 33 Dall Sheep was striking against the bare hillside, and some really smart Caribou were seen. In their prime the bulls are most handsome animals.
We civilised ourselves at the RV park where I must admit the thought of not being dragged from ones tent by a grizzly is rather attractive.
We went to a talk and brief demo of the sled dogs. The dogs were a surprising hodge-podge of style, build and colour, but one could see the strenght and stamina in all of them.
13th August. In spite of a forecast of cloudy with rain, and a zero chance of seeing Denali the weather proved the pundits wrong, and an initially overcast day gave way to brilliant sunshine, with the mountain a crystal clear domination on the horizon for the entire day. With startlingly clear air the extensive snow fields looked close enough to touch at 50 miles.
The drive up gave superb views of Grizzly Bears before we did a ridge walk from Polychrome Pass. It was almost too warm in the sunshine, with Golden Eagles and Gyrfalcons some of the highlights on this walk.
14th August. We drove from Denali to Anchorage, stopping on the way to see the Iditerod HQ. We pitched our tent at Bird Creek, where we started our Alaskan holiday, and after supper I went to the creek armed with a no3 orange vibrax. The tide was high, but just beginning to ebb, and although it was incredibly crowded no fish had been taken for two hours or so.
I had only been fishing for five minutes when I had a solid take mid river and the line cut upstream as a salmon made its first run. There were 3 leaps and 5 sizzling runs of 30 yards or so in a spectacular fight before I drew a beaten fish to a rather inadequate net, securing it first time - a splendid male fish of 9lb.
I then caught a pink salmon on 4lb on an orange fly fished through fast water. Two other takes on spinner were unfortunately missed.
15th August. It was back to bird creek in the moring, arriving at the same state of tide as yesterday evening. Having lost my orange vibrax I span with a blue fox pixie and a mepps black fury with no success before I opted for the despicable alternative of salmon roe. After several trots down through the by now fast shallow water, the line slid away and I was fast to an angry head shaking male coho salmon. I had to bring considerable pressure to bear to shift the fish in the fast water, and everytime I brought it close to the bank it would shoot across the stream again, but eventually it tired and I squeezed into the net a beautiful, slightly coloured salmon of 10lb, a fine end to my limited Alaskan fishing adventures.
Birds seen here were two Harlequin Duck, and A Peregrine dive bombing gulls and ravens.
Before our flight we went to Anchorage Museum and ate some truly excellent Laotian food.
16th August. In our brief sojourn in New York we went to Central Park, the Empire State Building, and Madison Square Gardens. Saw a few nice birds in Central Park, not to mention some Monarch Butterflies. Very warm and humid compared with Alaska.
Birds in Alaska/New York 26th July - 16th August 2001.
1. Spruce Grouse. A subtly marked but really attractive grouse of the boreal forest, one was seen along the Granite Tors trail in the Chena River SRA on 7/8. Not at all shy it allowed prolonged observation at photographic range.
2. Willow Ptarmigan. Seen in Denali NP. A female with c10 well grown chicks were seen along the roadside on 10/8 and c15 were found roosting by our tent in sector 14 on 11/8, rather a shock as they burst into flight in a flurry of white wings as I emerged in the morning.
3. Trumpeter Swan. A pair of these scarce birds were found by a swampy forest lake south of Delta Junction along the Richardson Highway.
4. Canada Goose. Fourteen were seen at Potter's Marsh on 1/8, while c130 were seen at Creamer's Fields at Fairbanks on 5/8. These were the small dark minima form.
5. American Wigeon. Small numbers (up to 10) seen in various locations ; Tern Lake, Homer, Potter's Marsh.
6. Mallard. Quite common and widespread.
7. Northern Shoveler. Two were seen at Potter's Marsh on 1/8 and 15 on Westchester Lagoon on 15/8.
8. Northern Pintail. Ten seen at Creamer's Fields on 5/8, and larger numbers at Barrow, with c300 seen.
9. Green-winged Teal. Five seen at Chena Lake on 5/8.
10. Canvasback. 12 seen at Potter's Marsh on 15/8
11. Greater Scaup. A female with 5 ducklings seen at Tern Lake on 29/7.
12. Lesser Scaup. 12 seen in Turnagain Arm on 27/8, some 10 seen at Homer, and c30 at Potter's Marsh.
13. Common Eider. Large numbers of Eiders were seen out at sea at Barrow. Because they were distant and in eclipse it was not possible to specifically identify most birds. Some were c certainly of this species.
14. King Eider. Probably the most common eider species at Barrow.
15. Harlequin Duck. This sought after species was first seen at Seward on 29/8, where 8 female types and a reasonably smart male were diving off a jetty. A single was seen along a rocky shore on the boat trip from Homer, and finally two were seen on the Bird Creek on 15/8.
16. Long-tailed Duck. Very common on meltwater lagoons at Barrow, with fewer on the sea, with c300 seen. Naturally this is the first time I have seen this species in breeding plumage.
17. Surf Scoter. Most common at Homer, including a raft of 300+ in Kachemak Bay. Another 20 were seen around the mouth of the Kenai River on 31/7, and a single male gave close views on Silver Lake on 1/8.
18. White-winged Scoter. Sizable flocks of 80 were seen out at sea on the boat trips from Seward and Homer. Several 100 were seen in Kachemak Bay north east of Homer, and c20 at the mouth of the Kenai River.
19. Barrow's Goldeneye. Up to five birds were seen on small lakes along the Chena Hotsprings Road on 6 & 7/8, and two in Danali NP. In close views the short and deep bill, the steep forehead, and fuller nape were all noted.
20. Bufflehead. Five examples of this tiny, neat duck were seen along the Chena Hotsprings Road on 4/8.
21. Common Merganser. Two family parties were seen at Seward with 10 birds on the sea on 28/7, and 10 on a river on 29/7.
22. Hairy Woodpecker. Good views of one in scattered Black Spruce at Kelly Lake.
23. Three-toed Woodpecker. As we trekked through burnt White Spruce in the Chena River Recreation Area I heard a faint tapping, and quickly tracked down a tame and obliging Three-toed Woodpecker, as it rumaged under shattered bark.
24. Northern Flicker. One of the Yellow shafted race was seen at Silver Lake on 2/8.
25. Belted Kingfisher. One was seen at Bird Creek on 27/7, and another at Seldovia Harbour on 30/7.
26. Chimney Swift. One over Central Park on 16/8.
27. Great Horned Owl. One flew in front of me to land in a dead tree by the airfield at Seward on 28/7. This was at dusk, but another was seen in daylight at Fairbanks Airport on 8/8. A really impressive bird in flight, with a huge wingspan.
28. Snowy Owl. Some four, all males were seen at Barrow. One was near the airfield, the others along the Gasfield Road. Stunningly beautiful in flight, one was seen to catch a lemming, which is dismembered rather than swallowing whole. I was fortunate enough to photograph the moment of the strike, although the bird is distant.
29. Northern Hawk Owl. High on the list of sought after species one was found perched on a telegraph pole in Black Spruce forest, some 20 miles west of Glennallen, and obliging enough to allow some photos to be taken.
30. Mourning Dove. A few were seen in Central Park on 16/8.
31. Sandhill Crane. Fifteen were seen distantly at Homer on 29/7, but we had excellent close views of 137 at Creamer's Fields in Fairbanks. Most were brownish sub-adults that summer here. Much sporadic dancing was seen.
32. Wilson's Snipe. Singles seen at Chena Lake on 5/8, and along the Granite Tors trail in Chena River RP on 7/8.
33. Greater Yellowlegs. Two seen at the Kenai River mouth on 30/7, and 3 at Homer on 31/7.
34. Lesser Yellowlegs. Some 50 were seen along the shoreline at Seward on 28/7, with a single at Silver Lake on 1/8, and 5 at Cushman Road Ponds in Fairbanks.
35. Solitary Sandpiper. One seen by an upland pool at Polychrome Pass on 13/8.
36. Spotted Sandpiper. Quite widespread in small numbers along rivers and lakeshores with up to 4 seen daily in several location.
37. Ruddy Turnstone. Four seen at Barrow on 8/8.
38. Short-billed Dowitcher. Some 50, apparently all of this species were seen at the Kenai River mouth 0n 31/7.
39. Sanderling. Some 10 seen at Barrow on 8/8.
40. Semi-palmated Sandpiper. Some 55 were seen along meltwater pools at Barrow.
41. Western Sandpiper. Some 20 seen along meltwater pools at Barrow.
42. Least Sandpiper. Quite numerous along the shore at Seward, with c100 present. Small numbers seen at Silver and Chena Lakes. This tiny wader was quite confiding, and allwed approach within photographic range.
43. Dunlin. Some 30 seen at Barrow.
44. Stilt Sandpiper. Three juveniles were seen feeding on meltwater pools at Barrow. Neat scaly pattern above, clear supercilium and heavy drooping bill marked out this species.
45. Red-necked Phalarope. This engaging species was seen out at sea from Seward and Homer, 10 and 2 birds respectively.
46. Grey Phalarope. Very numerous along the edges of pools and lagoons at Barrow, feeding on the windward edge. As expected they were engagingly tame and could be watched down to just a few feet.
47. Black Oystercatcher. Quite difficult to find, but one in its funereal garb was seen during the boat trip from Homer.
48. American Golden Plover. Just one seen, while I watched the Trumpeter Swans along the Richardson Highway.
49. Semipalmated Plover. Some ten were seen on short tundra in and around the town of Barrow.
50. Pomarine Skua. Some 12 skuas, probably all of this species were seen harassing Kittiwakes on the boat trip from Homer on 30/7, and c10 were seen around Barrow, some giving superb views as they drifted low over the tundra.
51. Arctic Skua. Some seven were seen around Barrow, mostly out to sea, in pursuit of seabirds. One was seen chasing a Long-tailed Skua.
52. Long-tailed Skua. Four examples of this most elegant bird were seen at Barrow. I was able to closely appproach and photograph a second-summer?, while 3 adults were watched hovering over the tindra.
53. Glaucous-winged Gull. Common along the coastline of southern Alaska, particularly nnear Homer and Seward, with c150 seen daily in these locations. Not seen inland or at Barrow.
54. Ring-billed Gull. One adult over the lake in Central Park on 16/8.
55. Common Gull. Seen regularly in small numbers along the southern Alaskan coast.
56. Herring Gull. Reasonably common along the southern coast of Alaska, with up to 50 seen around Bird Creek.
57. Glaucous Gull. About 250 seen in and around Barrrow.
58. Bonaparte's Gull. A single was seen aat Seward on 28/7, while small flocks totalling 65 birds flew along the shore in the evening at Homer on 30/7.
59. Sabine's Gull. Small numbers of juveniles were seen along the shore at Barrow, but very large numbers, totalling thousands were passing west out to sea, and the vast majority of these gorgeous birds were adults.
60. Arctic Tern. Small numbers, perhaps 10 birds were seen at Seward, at Kelly Lake and in boggy areas inland, but much larger numbers were passing west with Sabine's Gulls at Barrow. Probably well over 1,000 were seen.
61. Black-legged Kittiwake. Hundreds or thousands were seen at Seward, Homer, and at Barrow. Birds were nesting at Gull Island, with seemingly a high success rate, except by favourite perches of Bald Eagles.
62. Common Murre. Some 200 were seen on the boat trip from Seward, and c3,000 on the trip from Homer. Large numbers were nesting on Gull Island. I inspected every possible Murre, but no Brunnich's were seen.
63. Black Guillemot. Two seen offshore from Barrow.
64. Pigeon Guillemot. Quite common along steep boulder strewn coastlines around Seward and Homer, with 40-50 birds being seen on both the boat trips.
65. Marbled Murrelet. This inshore alcid was quite easy see at Seward, with some 10 on view along the harbour wall, and c50 seen on the boat trip on the 28/7. C20 were identified on the boat trip from Homer, although not all were close enough to note the longer bill and more capped appearance of this species.
66. Kittlitz's Murrelet. Some 20 were identified on the boat trip from Homer, although a large number of unidentified Murrelets were seen.
67. Ancient Murrelet. Who could resist a bird with such a bizarre name? Two were seen on the trip from Seward, and 20 from Homer. It seemed to allow a closer approach than the other two Murrelets.
68. Parakeet Auklet. Some 40 were seen on the cruise from Seward, most in Aialik Bay, most speeding past in flocks, like Little Auks.
69. Rhinoceros Auklet. Some 30 were seen on the cruise from Seward, again mostly in Aialik Bay. Many Auklets were too distant to identify.
70. Horned Puffin. Some 300 were seen on the cruise from Seward, mostly around the Chiswell Islands, where it was nesting. |Less common from Homer, but c50 were still seen from here.
71. Tufted Puffin. To my mind the most spectacular of the Pacific Alcids we encountered, 500-1,000 were seen on the boat journeys from Seward and Homer, with close range views possible at both locations.
72. Bald Eagle. As expected this impressive bird was seen in good numbers along the coastline of Southern Alaska, with 1-7 birds seen daily. Birds were seen snatching fish from the surface in classic sea-eagle style, as well as harassing gulls.
73. Northern Harrier. Ringtails were seen along the Chena River on 6/8, and three in Danali N.P. on 10/8.
74. Golden Eagle. This species was seen in mountainous areas, with good populations of Arctic Ground Squirrels. Singles were seen in Wrangell-St Elias NP, at Isabel pass along the Richardson Highway, and five birds in Danali NP. One was seen in display here, flying in a series of switchbacks, stalling at the top of each rise, the first time I have seen this spectacular display.
75. American Kestrel. Some 6 were seen over grasslands near Chena Lake, while perhaps surprisingly singles were also seen over the sub-arctic tundra in Danali NP.
76. Merlin. Three birds at Homer gave great displays of flying, while another two singles were seen perched by roadsides.
77. Gyrfalcon. The first sighting of this most hoped for species was at Point Barrow. At 1.00 am a rather dark bird came past in low hunting flight, scattering ducks and waders in its path. Totally awe inspiring and impressive with a deceptively slow wing action, that still covered the tundra at a terrific pace. On 11/8 we were camped below Stony Dome in Danali NP, when I heard the raucous call of a large falcon from the gorge above us. I emerged from the tent to see a Gyrfalcon stooping repeatedly at a perched Golden Eagle, finally dislodging it and putting it to flight. In terms of wildlife spectacle this was as good as it gets! The Gyrfalcon returned, giving good scope views before the rain closed in. Finally two pale grey birds were calling and flying from a ridge above Polychrome Pass, presumably two of the juveniles that were reared here, in what looked like a Ravens nest.
78. Peregrine Falcon. The sight of one stooping at Gulls over the beach at Bird Creek made a fine ending to my mornings fishing on 15/8.
79. Red-necked Grebe. Quite common on well vegetated lakes in the south of the state, with some 40 seen on Beluga Lake in Homer, and 20 at Chena Lake and Westchester Lagoon in Anchorage. Smaller numbers seen at several other locations.
80. Double-crested Cormorant. Some 50 were seen on the cruise from Seward on 28/7, while a single was seen on the lake in Central Park on 16/8.
81. Red-faced Cormorant. Ten birds were seen on their nesting sites on Gull Island off Homer. At this stage in the breeding cycle the vivid red facial skin had dulled to an orange, but they were still distinct from the more numerous Pelagics.
82. Pelagic Cormorant. Much the most common cormorant along the south Alaskan coast, with 200 seen from Seward and c100 from Homer.
83. Great Egret. One seen by the lake in Central Park on 16/8.
84. Black-crowned Night-Heron. Three skulked round the margins of the lake in Central Park on 16/8.
85. Red-throated Loon. Some six individuals were seen offshore form the Kenai River mouth on 31/7.
86. Pacific Loon. The pale velvety grey head and neck of this elegant species was striking even at long range. Four were seen on a lake near Glennallen on 1/8, and four again on Silver Lake on 2/8. Fairly common at Barrow, with c15 seen on the Arctic Ocean.
87. Common Loon. This beautiful bird with its wild calls is so much the spirit on forest lakes in Alaska, and it was seen daily in such areas, with up to 10 at Kelly and Peterson Lakes. Sometimes remarkably tame, it was possible to take a series of close range photos.
88. White-billed Diver. Very much in the hoped for category two examples were seen around Barrow on 8/8. One was on the sea, the other on a lagoon, with both summer plumaged adults holding their bills at a distinctive upward angle.
89. Northern Fulmar. Some 12 were seen on the boat trip from Homer, all but one were dark phase.
90. Sooty Shearwater. It was difficult to separate this species from Short-tailed. Examination of my photos would suggest most birds were Short-tailed. Some 15 Shearwaters were seen offshore from Seward, but thousands in spectacular rafts were seen out from Homer on 30/7.
91. Short-tailed Shearwater. Huge numbers seen from Homer on 30/7.
92. Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel. Some 50 were seen from Seward on 28/7 and c75 from Homer on 30/7. Small numbers were seen from Homer Spit. Similar to Leach's, but with totally distinctive ashy plumage.
93. Olive-sided Flycatcher. Two were seen on dead trees along Nash Road in Seward on 28/7.
94. Alder Flycatcher. Probably overlooked, but small numbers were seen in several locations in mixed woodland.
95. Northern Shrike. One seen by Egumen Lake in the Kenai NWR.
96. Steller's Jay. Small parties of this inky blue crested bird were seen around Seward, with 8 on 27/7 and 5 on 28/7.
97. Grey Jay. One of the characteristic birds of the taiga, and seen daily from 31/7, with 1-20 birds seen at several locations. Often quite inquisitive.
98. Black-billed Magpie. Common in the south of the state, but only odd birds seen as far north as Danali NP.
99. Common Raven. Common and widely distributed with up to 20 seen in locations such as Seward, Homer and Fairbanks.
100. North-western Crow. Quite common around Seward and Homer, with up to 10 seen daily at both locations.
101. American Crow. A few birds seen in Central Park on 16/8.
102. Bohemian Waxwing. Flocksof 10-20 birds were seen briefly near Silver Lake and along the Richardson Highway.
103. Varied Thrush. This striking species was not easy to find, but two were seen along the Keen-eye trail at Soldotna.
104. Swainson's Thrush. Small parties of 4-5 birds were associated with soap berry thickets, and these birds were seen along the Keen-eye Trail, and along the Dixie Pass Trail in Wrangell-St.Elias NP.
105. Hermit Thrush. Reasonably distinctive if one could see its rufous tail, five were seen at the Bird Creek Campsite on 27/7, with singles at Seward, and five along the Dixie Pass trail.
106. American Robin. Small flocks, presumably family parties were seen at Seward, Kelly Lake, and at Creamer's Fields in Fairbanks. It was also common in Central Park.
107. Northern Wheatear. About 10 were seen in dry stony areas near Polychrome Pass in Danali NP.
108. Grey Catbird. Four seen in Central Park on 16/8.
109. Northern Mockingbird. One seen in Central Park on 16/8.
110. Red-breasted Nuthatch. Drawing attention to itself by its nasal trumpet like call this was a surprisingly tiny and very active bird. Two were seen around the campsite at Silver lake on 2/8.
111. Black-capped Chickadee. Fairly common in mixed woodland throughout the south of the state.
112. Boreal Chickadee. This large confiding tit was seen at Kelly Lake, Wrangell-St.Elias NP, and around Fairbanks, with up to 4 seen daily in these locations.
113. Violet-green Swallow. Some 20 were seen around Seward on 29/7.
114. Cliff Swallow. Small numbers - 5-10 birds seen daily around Seward, while it was nesting under the Eielson Centre in Danali NP, perhaps 3 pairs.
115. Sand Martin. Several seen at Seaside Farm, Homer, while most surprisingly one was seen at Barrow.
116. Ruby-crowned Kinglet. One seen at Seward, and 3 around Silver Lake on 1/8.
117. Golden-crowned Kinglet. One seen on the walk to Tonsina Creek from Seward on 27/8.
118. Arctic Warbler. Having previously seen this neat bird in mangroves in Thailand, it was quite a contrast to find it on its breeding grounds near Polychrome pass on 13/8. Some 3 birds were seen in dwarf willow along streams.
119. American Pipit. Four were seen in upland areas in Wrangell-St.Elias NP, with birds seen carrying food. 3-10 were seen daily in Danali NP, typically along streams.
120. Pine Siskin. Quite common in boreal forest, but usually picked out by call, which was similar to Eurasian Siskin. Up to 20 were seen at Silver Lake, where views of feeding birds were obtained.
121. Hoary Redpoll. An adult and a juvenile were feeding on the ground with Lapland Buntings in Barrow on 8/8. The juvenile was dull, but the adult was quite a frosted snowball.
122. Common Redpoll. Commonly heard flying over the forest in most locations visited.
123. Pine Grosbeak. Very distinctive once seen this long tailed, bulky finch was found around Silver Lake. Some five were seen, including a cracking male.
124. White-winged Crossbill. A flock of ten flew into a spruce along Nash Road, Seward on 28/7, but annoyingly departed before I could scope them.
125. Lapland Bunting. This species was very common on the tundra around Barrow with c100 seen. Often very tame as they fed on the ground.
126. Snow Bunting. Common in and around Barrow Town, with c100 seen in the time we spent there, including some nearly immaculate males.
127. Song Sparrow. Two examples of the large, dark and long billed Alaskan form were seen in scrub at Girdwood on 27/7.
128. Lincoln's Sparrow. Fairly common in alder and willow thickets along rivers.
129. American Tree Sparrow. Quite how this species earned its name I'm not sure, as its preferred habitat seemed to be dwarf willow scrub in Wrangell-St.Elias and Danali NP.
130. White-crowned Sparrow. Two were seen around Silver Lake on 2/8, and samlll numbers were noted around the Eielson Centre in Danali NP.
131. Golden-crowned Sparrow. Six were seen around the buildings at Seaside farm.
132. Dark-eyed Junco. First seen along the shores of Kelly Lake, this bird, with its flashing white outer tail feathers was one of the characteristic birds of scrubby boreal forest, with up to 20 seen daily.
133. Orange-crowned Warbler. One seen at Seward on 29/7.
134. Yellow-rumped Warbler. One seen at Kelly Lake on 31/7 and 4 in a roadside stop along the Parkes Highway.
135. Townsend Warbler. Three were seen at the campsite in Chena River RA. It was not easy to observe these small active birds, that kept to the tops of the tallest spruces.
136. Blackpoll Warbler. Two were seen in cottonwoods near Exit Glacier on 29/7, and 2 in spruce in the Chena River RA. Curiously this was an American passerine I had only previously seen in Britain.
137. American Redstart. Three examples of this beautiful bird were seen in Central Park on 16/8.
138. Northern Waterthrush. One was seen bobbing along the edge of a stream below Stony Dome in Danali NP on 11/8.
139. Wilson's Warbler. One seen at Seward, with small numbers seen daily in scrub in Danali NP.
140. Rusty Blackbird. One seen at Seward, and five at Creamer's Fields, Fairbanks.
Mammals in Alaska 26th July-15th August 2001.
1. Moose. On our first evening in Alaka we drove past a bull and two cows at Potter's Marsh near Anchorage, but did not see one again until 4/8 as we drove to Fairbanks. One was seen at Creamer's Fields, and two along the Chena Hotsprings Road. One of these was feeding on water plants, keeping its head submerged for c25 seconds at a time. It was easier to see in the relatively open terrain of Denali NP, where up to five were seen daily, including some magnificent bulls, although I missed the opportunity to photograph one of these splendid animals.
2. Dall Sheep. Very conspicuous against the grey rocks this species was first seen above Beluga Point on 27/7 - 2 animals, with three here on 14/8. A herd of 33 was seen in Danali NP, moving with ease over the rocky terrain.
3. Sea Otter. This wonderful animal was first seen at Seward, where we watched one eating sea urchins. Three were seen on the cruise from Seward, and another two from Homer Spit, but we were thoroughly spoiled on the boat trip from Homer, with c60 seen, with many at very close range. We saw tool using, mothers carrying babies, and noted the raw pink nosess of the female of a mating pair- the male apparently grabs the nose of the female.
4. American Red Squirrel. This attractive mammal was common in boreal forest, often drawing attention to itself with its bird like vocalisations.
5. Snowshoe Hare. Two were seen in Bird Creek Campsite on 27/7, but the only other one was seen crossing the road along the Parkes Highway.
6. Rocky Mountain Goat. Two examples of this curious mammal were seen on the cruise from Seward, as they clung to seemingly precipitous cliffs above Resurrection Bay. Like the Dall Sheep relatively easy to spot because of their startingly white colour.
7. Dall's Porpoise. Two pods totalling perhaps ten animals were seen on the cruise from Seward- unfortunately not well, although the distinctive burst of spray was seen clearly.
8. Steller's Sealion. A most impressive marine mammal, the cows an elegant honey colour, the bulls truly massive pugilists, some 40 were seen at the Chiswell Islands on the cruise from Seward, and ten were seen form Homer.
9. Common Seal. Two were seen by a boulder beach on the cruise from Seward- quite a contrast to the Steller's Sealions.
10. Grey Whale. Although most have migrated to the Arctic Ocean one was summering between the Barrens Islands and Homer, and we had close enough views to see the baracle encrusted head, and noted its pale grey colour, the flukes not coming clear of the water as it made shallow dives.
11. Humpback Whale. Two adults and a calf were found in the same area as the grey whale, and gave superb views for the half hour we spent in their company. They were obviously actively feeding, circling round in the same small area, and making repeated short dives. A fourth Humpback was seen very close inshore, feeding on capelin in water so shallow it was unable to dive in the normal way.
12. Red-backed Vole. One entertained at Seaside Farm, Homer, and a few others were seen scurrying across paths.
13. Beaver. A walk along Kelly Lake in the Kenai NWR on 31/7 revealed two lodges, runs into the lake, felled trees, and a scattering of stripped aspen branches in the lake, but perhaps the clearest sign that Beavers were present here was the sound of gentle snoring from the lodge. Towards evening the Beavers became active, and we had superb views of 5-6 feeding near the lodge, holding their food with their paws, or swimming to and fro. They would strike the water with their tail making an astonishingly loud crash. The following morning we saw six beavers, while another two were seen on lakes along the Chena River.
14. Northern River Otter. A family of four were seen cavorting along the margin of a lake at Chitina.
15. Arctic Ground Squirrel. Quite common above the tree line in Wrangell-St.Elias NP and in Danali NP. Often seen upright outside its burrows, giving piercing alarm calls. Several dug out burrows indicate how this animal is preyed upon by Grizzly Bears.
16. Woodchuck. One seen along a roadside near Fairbanks, with another at Creamer's Fields.
17. Hoary Marmot. First seen in a talus field along the Granite Tors trail in the Chena River RA. Up to five were seen daily in Danali NP.
18. Walrus. One of these huge red brown seals was seen swimming amongst the ice flows from the hotel in Barrow.
19. Lemming. One seen had a short life expectancy as it had just been seized by a Snowy Owl.
20. Ringed Seal. Perhaps four were seen with the telescope from the hotel in Barrow.
21. Caribou. Seen daily in Danali NP, in small groups of 4-5 individuals spread over the sub-arctic tundra. Up to 27 seen daily. Some were still moulting and scruffy, but some of the bulls in their prime were a spectacular sight.
22. Grizzly Bear. This awesome animal was only seen in Danali NP, where they were relatively easy to see in the open sub-arctic tundra. Sightings were as folllows;10/8 One large male eating bilberries. Small sow and yearling eating soapberries. One sub-adult. Sow and two cubs at the Eielson Centre. These wandered across the road giving spectacularly close views, then settled down to a spell of intensive bilberrry eating. A very dark individual near Wonder Lake.11/8 At the Eielson Centre we were able to watch the mother and two cubs seen yesterday. They moved on quite smartly as a large male Grizzly moved through - only the previous week one of the cubs had nearly been killed by a male bear. 13/8 A mother and yearling crossed the road in front of us, and a little further on a large male gave superb views as it browsed on heliotrope flowers.