June 1-12 2004 by Roger Wolfe (rogwolfe at cruzio.com)
I have this standing argument with my wife about birding trips. She likens them to a vacation. When I look back on some of the trips; the long, sunny nights on St. Paul Island trudging through the tundra with the sleet in our faces hoping to scare something up. The long boat ride out of Manteo, North Carolina after a nearly sleepless night in the Duke of Dare Hotel because of the obnoxious drunk fishermen out in the parking lot into the wee hours. The Rio Grande Valley for a vacation? Vacations involve cool drinks on ice in a warm climate in a nice resort or hotel. This was a birding trip not a vacation damn it.
A few years back I met Greig Cranna and Mike Sylvia on a birding excursion to St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs. In the ensuing years we've managed to get together once or twice a year to do a birding trip. Last year we met up in North Carolina for pelagics. The year before in Texas. This year we decided to go big and head for St. Lawrence Island and visit Nome on both ends.
June 1 Anchorage and the Seward Highway
I arrive a day before my compadres and secure my rental car for a day. I checked the tide tables in advance and know that it's high tide in Turnagain Arm. There is a slim chance of observing Beluga Whales along the Seward Highway so that is where I head right out of the airport. This is my third visit to the Anchorage area so there aren't many birds for me to chase here given the short time I have. Being an avid seabirder I've also come to relish marine mammal sightings and keep a life list of them. I arrive at Beluga Point on the Seward Highway and see that luck is not on my side. The wind has whipped up the white caps and in these conditions it is almost impossible to spot a small white whale. I do manage to see several Dall Sheep on the steep hillside across the highway. I make another stop further down the road at Bird Point, no belugas here but I do spot the only BALD EAGLES for the trip soaring high above. VIOLET GREEN SWALLOWS streak about.
Rather than drive back to Anchorage I get a room above the bar at the Brown Bear Saloon and Hotel at Indian Creek. Cheap, basic and quiet except when the motorcycles depart. If only my wife could see this place! I dine down the road and the waitress who has worked here for many years tells me she's only seen the belugas a couple of times, oh well.
June 2 Anchorage to Nome
I've got several hours to kill before Mike and Greig arrive so I try to make the most of them. Right next to the Brown Bear is Indian Creek. Under the highway bridge I find an AMERICAN DIPPER right away. A YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER sings its heart out. Heading back in the direction of Anchorage I stop along in one of the pullouts beside Potter's Marsh. Lots of MEW GULLS, ARCTIC TERNS and GREATER SCAUP. Also CANADA GEESE, AMERICAN WIGEON, MALLARD and RED-NECKED PHALAROPE.
Back in Anchorage I make my way to Kincaid Park behind the airport. On the way in there is a BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE on the side of the road as well as a Moose. At Little Campbell Lake there is a pair of RED-NECKED GREBES and a BELTED KINGFISHER but not much else. I delve in on one of the many trails. This park serves as a cross country ski center in the winter and the trails are well marked and signed. In this heavily wooded area I come across SWAINSON'S THRUSH, DARK-EYED JUNCO (slate colored), BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE, RUBY CROWNED KINGLET, WESTERN WOOD PEWEE, ALDER FLYCATCHER, OLIVE SIDED FLYCATCHER, FOX SPARROW (Red), AMERICAN ROBIN and ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER.
I still have a few hours before I need to be at the airport so I head for Westchester Lagoon. The tide is low so there aren't any new trip birds here, I take the Coastal Trail just west of the lagoon. A SAVANNAH SPARROW pops up. From the trail I digiscope a HUDSONIAN GODWIT. Also seen are BONAPARTE'S and GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, LESSER YELLOWLEGS. A lovely pair of SANDHILL CRANES attract the attention of folks in a variety of transportation modes using the trail. Also in this area: WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW and SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER. Afterwards I grab a sushi lunch at Tempura Kitchen on Spenard then head to the airport.
Mike and Greig are already at the gate and Alaska Air delays our flight for three hours. Finally we are airborne and after a brief stop in Kotzebue just above the Arctic Circle we arrive at Nome.We take the $5 per person taxi ride to the Aurora Inn where we rent a four wheel drive double cab truck from Stampede Rentals that Mike and Greig have used before and have dubbed "The Beast" ($92 per day). We drop off our stuff at the Igloo 2 just behind the Polaris Bar. It is about 10pm but the sun is shining bright so off we go to the infamous Safety Lagoon. A stop at the Nome River bridge brings us a BAR-TAILED GODWIT and WESTERN and SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS.
Further up the road we come to Safety Lagoon at low tide and the place is alive with birds. Mike finds two RED-NECKED STINTS feeding on the mudflats beside WESTERN and SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS. We also find an out of place BLACK TURNSTONE, our first DUNLIN and a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER. Along the beach we spot a group of feeding ARCTIC TERNS with one ALEUTIAN TERN in their company. From the bridge over the mouth of Safety we pick out a SLATY-BACKED in the flock of GLAUCOUS GULLS. In the passerine department we pick up COMMON REDPOLL, YELLOW WAGTAIL, and a few singing GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH. We also see numerous displaying LAPLAND LONGSPURS which will haunt our days in Alaska from now on. "What was that?" "Lap Longspur." These phrases would be repeated over and over again.
We get back to the Igloo at 1:30am and try to get some sleep despite the all night party next door.
June 3 Nome
Up and at 'em early in the morning. We decide to start the day with a seawatch from the jetty in Nome. As I'm scoping into my field of view flies an alternate plumaged Chlidonias tern. The bird is only 50 yards out and Greig gets on it too and we can clearly make out the gleaming white trailing edge of the wing contrasting with the black leading edge and the pure white tail, rump and undertail coverts of a WHITE-WINGED TERN! This turns out to be only the 2nd mainland Alaska record of this species out of a total of 5 reports. Cool. Mike picks it up in the cove feeding with some Arctics. There are high fives all around.
We also find a small murrelet that after extensive study and debate we conclude is a KITTLITZ'S MURRELET. A bit later we find two more. Greig picks out an ARCTIC LOON. BLACK and WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS fly by as do a few COMMON and THICK-BILLED MURRES, PELAGIC CORMORANTS and both PARASITIC and POMARINE JAEGERS. A Harbor Porpoise is seen. On the way through town we see a lonely CLIFF SWALLOW.
We head up the Council Rd. working Safety Lagoon again but the tide is really up and it is a bit slower than the previous evening. Just outside of Nome we find our first PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER, WHIMBREL and SPOTTED SANDPIPER. In the lagoon we see both TUNDRA and TRUMPETER SWAN along with NORTHERN PINTAIL and the occasional NORTHERN SHOVELER and GREEN-WINGED TEAL The mouth of Safety brings a RUDDY TURNSTONE, RED KNOT and SANDERLING. Along the way we marvel at the aerial displays of SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS.
Beyond Safety the road parallels the Solomon River. We stop here and work the gravel bars and willows. Find singing BLACKPOLL and YELLOW WARBLERS and NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH, our first HOARY REDPOLL and a pair of BANK SWALLOW. We hike uphill from the road into a boulder strewn area and find several nesting LONG-TAILED JAEGER. Along the beach on the way back to Nome we see a Gray Whale paralleling the shore.
After a late lunch and short nap we head back into the field. This time up the Teller Road. At mile 9.5 we find the GYRFALCON nest posted at the visitors center in Nome. Both male and female are present; beautiful white morphs. These are lifers for me and I'm pretty thrilled. Up the road we find our first WILLOW PTARMIGAN. This is the third visit to the Nome area for Mike and Greig and they can't get over the lack of ptarmigans this time around. I think we see a total of 3 for our whole time here which seems bizarre to the guys. We also see our first two Musk Ox and a Red Fox in the middle of the road stalking his prey and unbothered by the approaching truck.
Further up Teller we park at the turn to Cape Wooley and search the rocky hillsides for Wheatear but find only an AMERICAN PIPIT and our first SNOW BUNTINGS. We then hustle back to Nome to return the Beast which is now dripping some kind of fluid.
June 4 Nome to St. Lawrence Island
We are scheduled for the morning flight on Bering Air. (Hageland Air is worth considering, I was told they have the instrumentation to land in zero visibility) We make a brief stop in Savoonga to drop off one passenger and pick up a couple more. The local Yupiks traveling on this flight take the opportunity to scout where the pack ice is. "You're interested in seeing birds, I'm interested in the ice," I'm told. That is where they go to hunt their favorite game-Walrus. We can see the ice that is maybe 30 miles off the island but even more exciting for me is seeing the mountains of Siberia on the other side of the dateline.
Upon landing we are met by the locals who run the inn or deli as it is referred to on Honda Quad ATVs. Our stuff gets transferred, we pay the $50 access fee and then are told the deli is overbooked an we will be taken to stay with a local family. Upon arrival we find that there are three different tour groups present. Initially we are put off with this arrangement but soon realize what an incredible opportunity we have before us.
At first we feel as if we are imposing on our hosts, usurping the kids from their bedrooms. But on our first night with them we are made to feel very welcome. One tour group will be departing the following day and we have the option of moving in to the deli. Our hosts tell we are welcome to stay for the week and offer to let us sample some of the local food with them. On the first evening we hear some of their stories and tell them some of ours. After some negotiation we decide that we will stay with them. I must say that this added a whole new, unanticipated dimension to our trip. The birds were one thing but staying with this Yupik Eskimo family really was the highlight for me.
We ask about renting a quad but are put off by the $75 per day and decide to walk instead. We get the skinny on what's being seen and head out on our first day in Gambell. Near the new school we find the BLACK-BACKED WAGTAIL that has been observed copulating with a White Wagtail which goes unseen. We then walk the road on the east side of Troutman Lake which is frozen over. Following the directions we are given by one of the Wings tour group members we manage to find a COMMON RINGED PLOVER that is reportedly nesting near the culvert at the south end of the lake. We have the opportunity to hear its call and compare it with a SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, very nice. There is then a long walk back to the village alongside the runway, those quads are looking more appealing all the time.
We get a report over the FRS radio that the GRAY-TAILED TATTLER we were seeking at the south end is now in the pond next to where the planes unload. Nice bird, excellent looks. We then slog through the gravel that is very tough going to the Point for some seawatching. The weather is quite comfortable in the sun. Out on the Point we run into birding writer Pete Dunne and settle in with him to do some scoping. LEAST, CRESTED and PARAKEET AUKLETS stream by along with TUFTED and HORNED PUFFIN, COMMON and THICK-BILLED MURRE. Greig finds a small alcid just offshore-another KITTLITZ'S MURRELET gets some tour group members out to the Point. The radio crackles with the report of a small shorebird with yellow legs being seen in another of the airport puddles. We start over there and en route hear Jon Dunn's voice saying LONG-TOED STINT over the radio. Our pace quickens and soon we have it in our scopes. Man, this is serious fun!
We stop by the deli and tell the main man Hansen that we've changed our minds about renting the Honda quads. After getting aquainted with our Yupik hosts we finally hit the sack around 1 am. Mike and Greig are going to hit the Point to seawatch around 4:30, I tell them to have fun, I'll be sleeping in to 6:30 on my not a vacation.
June 5 Gambell
By the time I get out to the Point Mike and Greig are ready to head back to the house to eat and get warm. The weather has taken a turn and it is seriously cold now, around 30 degrees F. The guys are happy 'cause they've seen 2 STELLER'S EIDER that morning. While they're having breakfast and coffee I head over the the wetland beside Troutman lake behind the school. I'm watching a COMMON RAVEN stir up the seabird rookery when the Wings group approaches. I've heard that there are a few of my target birds nesting on the cliffs, when I ask Jon Dunn he graciously offers to show me the spot. 3 DOVEKIES make my morning.
The night before we had been talking birds at the house and were told about some birds that were being seen that were unusual to the locals. They called them diamondbacks. We showed them illustrations in the field guides and it was apparent they were talking about some kind of shorebird but was it a dowitcher or a greenshank? In order to visit this area we had to secure an additional access permit and a guide. Another 50 bucks for the permit but our host offered to take us up there for free.
Beyond the south end of Troutman Lake we journeyed up the hill to another complex of lakes with a boulder field to the east. Our first find is a ROCK SANDPIPER of the tshuktschorum race. We spilt up to bird the area and keep in touch via the radios. Mike calls in with a pair of RED-NECKED STINTS. Greig and I find the diamondbacks which turn out to be LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS. Mike follows up with a PECTORAL SANDPIPER. As we meet up on the quads again the call comes in on the radio, so we hurry back to the airport to see the COMMON SNIPE in the airport puddle. While observing this bird the WHITE WAGTAIL puts in an appearance. Sweet!
We then work through the boneyards, large middens of walrus and whale skeletons. There always seems to be at least one local digging there in hopes of finding some old walrus ivory or Eskimo artifact which can bring a handsome reward. All we find here are a couple of BARN SWALLOWS one of the eurasian and another of the north american race. Back on the seawatch we add GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE and YELLOW-BILLED LOON to our trip list. We see a PEREGRINE FALCON snatch up a LEAST AUKLET and struggle to fly away with it. Both the Wings and High Lonesome groups have now departed and only Bob Dittrich's Alaskan Wilderness Adventures group remains along with us and another group of three who are all referred to over the radio as the independents.
While we're out on the Point one of the local Yupiks pulls up on his Honda and sits down on the gravel with us for a visit. This happens a number of times during our stay. This particular gentleman is 83 and very sharp. He recounts for us what happened here on St. Lawrence during World War II and tells us what part the island boys played in the battle for the Aleutians. Very interesting stuff. I really enjoyed hearing the tales of the Yupiks. Many tour groups are probably isolated from this experience in staying at the lodge. Our host has told us that we are the friendliest group they've had stay with them. He said that some guests have hardly even conversed with them. If you're planning a visit I strongly encourage you to engage in conversation with the islanders. Many of them have been to the lower forty-eight and many of the men have served in the military or guard and via television are up on current events. These folks are proud to be Americans. They have some really interesting things to say. They live to hunt and subsistence is their way of life. Most have modern conveniences and such, no internet yet but there is satellite TV.
Many of the Yupik Eskimo on St. Lawrence are fine craftsman who carve walrus ivory. You can find their wares at the village co op and often they'll bring carvings by the deli for sale. This is the best and most affordable place in Alaska to buy these ivory carvings. I purchased a very fine mask make of fossilized whale bone that went for twice the price in Nome.
For dinner this evening our hostess prepares for us thinly sliced, raw Bowhead Whale and dried Bearded Seal.
June 6 Gambell
We are into a routine now. Seawatch from the Point first thing until we get so cold after a couple of hours that we need to go back to the house for a warm drink and breakfast then back to the Point. We're wearing every article of cold weather clothing that we've brought but after a couple of hours we end up dancing and chanting to try and keep warm. Yes, we look like lunatics. This is due to a combination of factors; the wind off the ocean and the conduction from the beach pebbles, not to mention the 30 degree temp in the morning. The seawatching is amazing in the sheer number of birds that go by. Most numerous are the CRESTED and LEAST AUKLETS followed by TUFTED and HORNED PUFFIN, PARAKEET AUKLET, PELAGIC CORMORANTS, HARLEQUIN DUCKS, RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS, PACIFIC and the occasional ARCTIC and YELLOW-BILLED LOONS. NORTHERN FULMARS are the only tubenose we see. Also small numbers of both KING and COMMON EIDERS and LONG-TAILED DUCK. As for gulls we see lots of GLAUCOUS, a few SLATY-BACKED, GLAUCOUS-WINGED and vegaeHERRING GULLS. A single RED-NECKED GREBE and several peeps that go unidentified. As far as cetaceans Killer, Humpback, Gray and Minke Whales were seen while on seawatch. Some very close to shore.
Our second round at the Point pays off. Just to the north of us I spot a small bird flying over the shoreline. Initially I think it's a peep but no, when I get the bins on it I see it is a swallow. But no Barn this bird has a completely white rump, COMMON HOUSE MARTIN! We get some decent looks before we lose it over town. We alert everyone on the FRS radios. It is refound awhile later by Pete Dunne and most folks get some great looks at it perched on a house.
We put in the effort, drive the quads down to the south end, walk the boneyards and boatyard, check the airport puddles over and over, seawatch again. A flyby COMMON GOLDENEYE at the Point and a BAIRD'S SANDPIPER are the only other new trip birds on the day. The last of the tour groups departs. Now its just us independents.
June 7 Gambell
We put in a days work birding the usual locations but a trio of STELLER'S EIDER in the afternoon on the seawatch are the only new addition, at least for me. We bird late into the evening but turn up nothing new. The forecast for a shift in the wind direction from the north to the southwest leaves up hopeful for some new vagrants.
Dinner is Walrus Liver fried in butter over mashed potatoes. Tasty!
June 8 Gambell
I'm feeling a bit loopy from a largely sleepless night. The lack of darkness makes it difficult to sleep. I'm sleeping on an inflatable single bed on the floor with only a child's comforter, no sheets or pillow. I wear a sleep mask and earplugs which help a little. The Yupik kids are outside playing until 4 am. It's hard to keep track of time. This is definetly not a vacation.
Our morning seawatch turns up a BLACK GUILLEMOT and a few SURF SCOTERS. Three EMPEROR GEESE fly over the village. What I'd give to find a passerine that isn't a Lapland Longspur or Snow Bunting in the boneyards or boatyard that we've walked through more than a dozen times and finally we do but it's only an AMERICAN PIPIT. Along the hillside on the west side of Troutman Lake Mike turns up a NORTHERN WHEATEAR to add to our trip list.
As we settle in for the evening we see that the wind direction has shifted to the southwest and we are hopeful for great things in the morning. By the way I am so glad that I brought a pair of shorts with me. The Yupiks like to keep their houses warm, too warm for me in fact and I heard it was the same at the deli/lodge. In the evenings I dress like the California boy that I am. Our hosts realize this and turn the temp down but never quite enough.
June 9 Gambell
Back on seawatch Greig and I get upgraded looks at a flock of 8 more STELLER'S EIDERS in close to shore, and before too long we hit the jackpot again with a flock of 22 SPECTACLED EIDERS. With the wind shift we are determined to turn something up but as of our afternoon break we've found nothing new. After lunch I opt for a nap while Greig and Mike bird on. Just as I'm drifting off the radio comes on. Other independents have found the tattler. I come close to turning the radio off so I can doze but fortunately I do not.
Mike Sylvia's voice comes over the radio, "Roger do you read? We're on the hillside and have something you should check out."
I'm out the door and on the quad which doesn't want to start. I finally figure out how to switch to the the reserve tank and off I go. They've come up on a couple of pipits. The first is definitely a male RED-THROATED PIPIT. This is a great relief as we'd been told back in Nome that these birds were all over but we'd had no luck so far. A good look at a second bird reveals the very noticeable primary extension of a PECHORA PIPIT! We then see that there is a third bird that appears to be carrying nest material and we find the nest itself. It is the female Red-throated. High fives all around!
A dense fog rolls in from the south and visibility is greatly impaired. We this stay home this evening to watch a video. Our last night's dinner is a fried walrus and dried bearded seal over rice.
June 10 Gambell to Nome
The fog doesn't deter us from our last seawatch. It rolls out briefly before reasserting itself again. We're scheduled to depart today and the fog is worrisome. Mike and I take the quads down to the south end of the lake one more time but find nothing new but an Arctic Fox. We cannot bear to walk the boneyards or boatyard again, we've done it too many times. Upon our return to the village we learn our noon flight on Bering has been canceled but we can go on the 10:30 flight but there is room for only two.The next flight is at 3 pm. The fog lifts and I pack my bags hurriedly. I am so ready to get off this island. I'll check in at the Aurora Inn and get our rental truck and pick the boys up when they arrive in the afternoon.
Nome feels like the big city after a week in Gambell. I grab lunch at the Subway which seems to be the best deal going in terms of value($9 for a large sandwich), have a well deserved beer after a week without and a nap to boot. When the boys get in we take a break from the intensive birding and have pizza, tempura and teriyaki beef at Milanos. Decent food but not cheap at $22 for a large pizza. The new Aurora Inn feels luxurious even though I draw the rollaway for the first night.
June 11 Nome/Kougarok Rd.
Taking a break is much needed but I make a tactical error in not going over George West's advice in the newest edition of A Birder's Guide to Alaska. To quote, "Try to arrive by 8am, before 9am at the latest." We arrive at mile 72 on the Kougarok at 9:15 (the alarm clock went unnoticed)and it takes some time and effort to walk to top of the ridge where the Bristle-thighed Curlews have been reported. The walk is every bit as difficult as I've heard, the analogy of walking on the tussocks to walking on bowling balls on bedsprings is quite accurate. With the early thaw this spring the mosquitos are on us like flies on ... well you know. The bug dope isn't doing me much good in the overnight bag back at the inn.
We do see a displaying BAR-TAILED GODWIT, a lone WHIMBREL, a few AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER and our first and only ROCK PTARMIGAN but no Bristle-thighs. Back at the truck we nurse our mosquito bites and head on further up the road. Birding aside I have to say this is one if not the most spectacular stretches of road I've ever traveled. It is unimproved, there isn't anything out here save for the occasional hunting cabin. Mike and Greig are marveling at the lack of snow. Remember this spot they keep saying the snow was this tall, we had to lock the hubs, the river was raging here. This year things are apparently pretty tame. At the end of the Kougarok we exit the truck and begin what looks like a long hike to the ridge where we hope to find a Bristle-thigh. The willows around us look like good brown bear habitat and the guide warns not to pish here for that very reason. It's an odd feeling to be birding in a location where you're not at the top of the food chain.
But the real predator here are the mosquitos. Typically the first couple weeks of June are mosquito free but not this year. Before we go too far from the truck I tell Mike and Greig (who both have seen Bristle-thighs before) that I have no problem taking a dip on this bird. We make a quick U turn back to the truck being pursued relentlessly by the bloodsucking mosquitos said to be the state bird of Alaska. Back at mile 72 we have a ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK on the wing overhead. Along the way we also see a small herd of Musk Ox and a single Moose.
On our return we shift our focus to passerines. It takes some doing but eventually we hear the trill of the ARCTIC WARBLER and get a visual on it with the scopes.
We also find GOLDEN and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS as well as AMERICAN TREE SPARROWS. WILSON'S, YELLOW and BLACKPOLL WARBLERS and NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH. But try as we may we can't turn up a Bluethroat. The bugs win, tommorrow is another day.
In the evening we head back to Safety Lagoon. There had been a Spectacled Eider reported and having long lingering looks at this enigmatic birds appeals to us. I fall asleep in the backseat of the truck on the way out and have a difficult time rousing myself. Mike turns up a EURASIAN WIGEON which I take a look at then go back to sleep. If you want to know what else was seen ask Mike or Greig, I haven't a clue but I do know they did not see the eider.
June 11 Nome
Back to the Kougarok with bug dope in hand or on exposed skin I should say. Bluethroat will be our quarry today and we start around mile 25 where they have been reported. Mike and Greig see a male do a single display but the bird fails to do an encore. I hear a falcon cry and get a fleeting glimpse at a brown morph GYRFALCON fly by the mountain. We spot a huge nest on a butte and see it is occupied by a GOLDEN EAGLE. More looks at ARCTIC WARBLER.
Up the road we stop now and again to search the shrubs and finally near Salmon Lake we turn up a pair of BLUETHROAT. The male calls attention to himself with his display flight and we get some gripping looks at him up close, we are lucky to see the female too. Perhaps the most striking passerine that I've ever seen in North America. Lots of displaying YELLOW WAGTAIL in this area as well.
At milepost 53.6 we take the turn off to Pilgrim Hot Springs. This road is not maintained but only a bit more beat up than the Kougarok. We are welcomed by the friendly caretaker Louie Green and his wife. The area around the springs is like an oasis on the tundra with its dense grove of balsam poplars. TREE and CLIFF SWALLOW are nesting here and we also see ALDER FLYCATCHER, LESSERYELLOWLEGS and our only RUSTY BLACKBIRD of the trip. WILSON'S SNIPE are displaying all over the place. We wrap it up and head back to Nome.
Notes: We had an easy time traveling independently on St. Lawrence. I had shipped food ahead general delivery to Gambell and could have used the kitchen at the deli but it might have been difficult to prepare a meal with the tour groups present, some of who brought their own cook. I did prepare a thai food dinner for our hosts one night in their kitchen and had our lunches and hot drinks we prepared ourselve. The food at the deli is decent, fish and chips go for $11 but they keep inconstent hours and should not be depended upon without a backup.
I have not named our hosts as I do not wish for them to be overwhelmed by birders. There are several families that sometimes open their homes to birders for a fee. We paid $125 per person per day for room and board(dinner and dessert) along with the Honda Quad rental. I don't know how you can go about making arrangements to stay with a local family for as I wrote we just lucked into it. But if you contact the the Sivuqaq Lodge and ask about staying with a local family they can probably assist. The villagers really look out for one another, who we rented our ATVs from was determined by need.