THE Arctic Birding Adventure
Pribilofs Pre-Tour Extension: June 7-10, 2016
Main Tour – Denali, Nome, and the Kenai Peninsula: June 10-22, 2016
Barrow Post-Tour Extension: June 22-25, 2016
It is best to simply say that Alaska is the ultimate in North American birding. From the sheer number and diversity of species encountered, to the seductive Asian rarities that show up on a regular basis, it is hard to beat for sheer enjoyment. Top it off with spectacular scenery, wildflowers, and sought-after mammals and you have an adventure of a lifetime.
In visiting the top birding areas, we’ll experience a wide variety of habitats and ecosystems - spruce/fir forests, rocky headlands and sea cliffs, majestic mountains and open tundra. We’ll be there when the sun-soaked days are chasing away the cold and permafrost of winter – ushering in the multitude of birds that take advantage of the rich environment to breed and raise young: shorebirds displaying over Snowy Owls on the tundra, evading the patrolling jaegers, thousands of seabirds clinging to cliffs overlooking the Bering Sea, ptarmigan hiding among the rock-strewn grasses, warblers hiding in the creekside willows, and more and more!
St. Paul Island (one of the two Pribilof Islands) – This remote island in the Bering Sea (over 700 miles west of Anchorage) is an amazing birding spectacle. The main attraction here is the huge number of nesting seabirds, with at least 8 alcid species possible, such as Tufted Puffin and Least, Parakeet, and Crested Auklets. Other targets include Red-legged Kittiwake, Red-faced Cormorant, Rock Sandpiper, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, McKay’s Bunting if in residence, and any Asian stray that has found its way here - you never know what can turn up. Surrounding the town of St. Paul are marshes, lakes, dunes, tundra, lava flows, and sea cliffs. We’ll spend our time enjoying the nesting colonies, roadside vistas, and short treks to search out hidden gems. The Pribilofs are also famous for the enormous concentration of Northern Fur Seals, with nearly 80% of the world’s population present. Settled by Aleuts in the late 1700s, we’ll have good food and modest but comfortable accommodations during our stay.
Denali National Park and Area – We’ll bird our way from east to west along the 130 mile long Denali Highway in making the most of this regions wildlife and scenery. We’ll spend a whole day exploring the various unique habitats, basking in the beauty of the Alaska Mountains Range, and searching for Barrow’s Goldeneye, Northern Hawk Owl, Arctic Warbler, Smith’s Longspur, and Bohemian Waxwing, all the while coming closer to North America’s highest peak (McKinley – 20,320’). The next day will find us on a park bus; the only access allowed to the interior of the park. Hoping for clear weather and views of the mountain, we’ll bask in the untouched wilderness surrounding us and the possibility of Rock Ptarmigan and Gyrfalcon, as well as Moose, Grizzly Bear, Caribou, Dall Sheep, Gray Wolf, and more.
Nome – Situated on the south coast of the Seward Peninsula, the “Gold Rush” town of Nome provides tourists and birders comfort while reaching another of Alaska’s rewarding regions. The fact that we’re right along Norton Sound and the Bering Sea is an invitation to do some seawatching for Arctic Loon, Black-headed Gull, Slaty-backed Gull, Aleutian Tern, and more. The few roads leading out of town afford easy access to upland tundra and low hills, and more special birds to look for: Willow Ptarmigan, Pacific Golden-Plover, Long-tailed Jaeger, Bluethroat, Northern Wheatear, White and Eastern Yellow Wagtails, and Golden-crowned Sparrow. This is also the only chance at seeing a Bristle-thighed Curlew, a rare breeder near the end of the Kougarok Rd. We’ll also enjoy the large mammals - Musk Ox and Reindeer are possible here.
Kenai Peninsula and Seward – Southeastern Alaska is characterized by the tall spruce and hemlock forests that host a different set of birds, like Chestnut-backed Chickadee and Pine Grosbeak. The all-day boat trip to Kenai Fjords National Park and Resurrection Bay is sure to be a highlight of the trip, exposing us to thousands of ducks, alcids, shearwaters, and kittiwakes, as well as sea mammals and glaciers. Targets here include Short-tailed Shearwater, Pelagic Cormorant, Black Oystercatcher, Black-legged Kittiwake, Thick-billed Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, Parakeet Auklet, Ancient Murrelet, Kittlitz’s Murrelet, Horned Puffin, whales, and sea otters.
Barrow – This is as far north as you can go! Situated at a point on the coast of the Arctic Ocean, it is more than 300 miles above the Arctic Circle, and has a large native population and culture. The sun doesn’t set here for 67 straight days. The landscape of depressions, lakes and tundra outside the small town is alive with birding opportunities. Two of the main targets here are the endangered Spectacles and Steller’s Eiders – some of the rarest birds of the Far North. We’ll search for nesting Snowy Owls and take a trip out to the point itself, in hopes of glimpsing a Polar Bear. Other highlights here might include many shorebirds, Yellow-billed Loon, Sabine’s Gull, Pomarine Jaeger, and Hoary Redpoll. We’ll spend most of our time birding the roadside, with the occasional jaunt across the wet tundra .
Anchorage - Our base between exciting jaunts, Alaska’s largest city has birding opportunities of its own. Nestled alongside the Chugach Mts. and Cook Inlet, there are specialties in the parks and lakes close at hand. We’ll take the time to look for Barrow’s Goldeneye, Arctic Tern, Surfbird, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Varied Thrush, Townsend’s Warbler, and White-winged Crossbill. Lake Spenard, right near our hotel, offers an immediate introduction the Alaska birding, and often nesting Red-necked Grebes.
Other Alaska Specialties and Possibilities:
Day One – June 7: Arrive any time in Anchorage and take a shuttle to our nearby accommodations. We will be meeting at 7:00 p.m. in the lobby on the 7th to make sure all are ready for the start of the tour. Overnight Anchorage.
Day Two – June 8: Departure for St. Paul Island in the morning. We’ll be ready to bird immediately upon arrival and enjoy this hotbed of breeding seabirds. We’ll cover much of the island over the next couple days, searching for its avian treasures. The island cliffs hold thousands of auklets, puffins, fulmars, and kittiwakes, providing great photo opportunities. Red-faced Cormorant and Red-legged Kittiwake are just two of the specialties we’ll hope to see. Overnight St. Paul.
Day Three – June 9: Entire day spent birding around St. Paul Island. The rolling hills, lupine-filled grass, and rocky quarries are a pleasant setting to look for Asian strays, with incredible rarities showing up on a regular basis. Last year’s tour turned up Oriental Cuckoo, Common Cuckoo, and Eyebrowed Thrush. We’ll visit more seaside cliffs in trying to get our fill of the incredible alcids. Overnight St. Paul.
Day Four – June 10: Most of day spent birding the island, filling in missed species or turning up other rarities. Afternoon flights back to Anchorage and the conclusion of the Pribilofs Pre-Tour. Overnight Anchorage.
Day Four – June 10: Arrive in Anchorage and meet at our accommodations at 9:00 p.m., along with those from the Pribilofs Pre-Tour. Overnight Anchorage.
Day Five – June 11: Bird our way north through Paxson to the east end of the Denali Highway, about 250 miles north of Anchorage. As we near our destination, roadside lakes and areas of spruce provide an opportunity for Trumpeter Swan, White-winged Crossbill, and Northern Hawk-Owl. Gray-cheeked Thrushes often seem to be singing all around this area. Overnight Denali Highway.
Day Six – June 12: The Denali Highway is a well-graded dirt road that passes 130 miles through near-wilderness and the beauty and birds you hope to see in Alaska. We’ll hear our first Artic Warblers trilling from the treetops and search for a mix of warblers, sparrows, and the elusive Smith’s Longspur. The sight of a Lesser Yellowlegs or Mew Gull perched in trees is sure to be memorable. We’ll look for Spruce Grouse on the roadside, Barrow’s Goldeneye in the ponds, and American Three-toed Woodpecker on the conifers. Late afternoon will find us on the west end with our arrival in Cantwell. Overnight near Denali National Park.
Day Seven – June 13: Spend the day in famous Denali National Park. Park regulations forbid most automobile traffic, so we’ll ride the shuttle buses on an eight hour trip to/from the Eilson Visitor Center. Although the scenery and large mammals often take center stage, with the likes of Grizzly Bear, Caribou, Moose, and Dall Sheep, we’ll keep our eyes open for a Willow Ptarmigan, Long-tailed Jaeger, Golden Eagle, or Gyrfalcon. Overnight near Denali National Park.
Day Eight – June 14: Bird our way back to Anchorage. A stop at Arctic Valley outside Anchorage could produce Bohemian Waxwing, Northern Harrier, and some high altitude species around the ski area. Overnight Anchorage.
Day Nine – June 15: Morning flight to the unique town of Nome. We’ll head east along the Bering Sea to the Nome River Mouth and Safety Sound. These bird-rich areas hold many sought-after species. Aleutian terns are one of the rarest – a species that is only found in a couple areas of Alaska. Sorting through Pacific and Red-throated Loons in search of an Arctic Loon is just part of the fun. A variety of waterfowl and shorebirds will also keep us busy. Overnight Nome.
Day Ten – June 16: We’ll spend the day exploring the tundra of Kougarok Rd. This road cuts inland to the north on its way to Taylor. Separating the Pacific Golden-Plover from the American Golden-Plover will be part of the fun, along with a number of other breeding shorebirds. Bluethroat would be the highlight of any tour, and we’ll make a special effort to find this restricted breeder. If conditions allow, we’ll check the only area in North America for Bristle-thighed Curlew, “hiding” among the similar Whimbrel. Overnight Nome.
Day Eleven – June 17: We’ll have another full day to enjoy this wonderful part of Alaska. The road to Teller is another opportunity to peruse the rocky cliffs for Gyrfalcon and the tundra for jaegers. This area is known for producing Rock Ptarmigan and Northern Wheatear, while a Rough-legged Hawk may drift by. Overnight Anchorage.
Day Twelve – June 18: Morning birding the areas around Nome, noting Glaucous Gulls and Parasitic Jaegers along the shore and Eastern Yellow Wagtails nearby, with the possibility of Muskox in the background. Afternoon return flights to Anchorage. Overnight Anchorage.
Day Thirteen – June 19: Westchester Lagoon in Anchorage will be a nice start to the day – a real gem so close to this urban center. Our drive to Seward on the Kenai Peninsula will take us by Potter Marsh and its attendant marsh species, like nesting Mew Gull and Arctic Tern, and maybe a Lesser Yellowlegs walking the rail. Surrounded by mountains and huge Sitka spruce, we’ll look for some species that only make it this far north into Alaska, such as Rufous Hummingbird and Chestnut-backed Chickadee. Overnight Seward.
Day Fourteen – June 20: All day boat trip covering Resurrection Bay, Chiswell Islands, and Northwestern Fjord. Our path takes us through incredible scenery and remarkable glaciers, as well as seabird colonies and sea lions lounging on rocky shores. Rhinoceros Auklet and both murres are to be expected. A real target will be the rare Kittlitz’s Murrelet, trying its hardest to look like the more common Marbled Murrelets. Puffins by the thousands (Horned and Tufted) sometimes pass overhead on their food gathering forays, and seals and sea otters are often nearby. Larger sea mammals are also likely to be around, such as Humpback Whales and Orcas. Overnight Seward.
Day Fifteen - June 21: Several stops around Seward often hold Harlequin Duck and Pine Grosbeak. The “Sooty” Fox Sparrows around here are a contrast to the “Red” Fox Sparrows we will see in inland Alaska, and being considered as a species split. We’ll bird our way back to Anchorage along the Kenai Peninsula, and several stops in suitable habitat may turn up Boreal Chickadee, American Three-toed Woodpecker, or White-winged Crossbill, among more common Orange-crowed Warblers and Varied Thrushes. Overnight Anchorage.
Day Sixteen - June 22: Conclusion of the Main Tour this morning and departure flights from Anchorage on your schedule for those not continuing to Barrow.
Barrow Post-Tour Extension
Day Sixteen – June 22: Early morning flights to Barrow will take us to the land of 24 hour daylight. We’ll waste no time in immersing ourselves in displaying shorebirds and waterfowl. For many, the stars of Barrow are the rare eiders – Spectacled and Steller’s – and we’ll search the ever-changing ponds and puddles from melting permafrost for these beautiful ducks. Common and King Eider should also be around, and an “eider sweep” is possible from one location!
Day Seventeen – June 23: There are few roads outside of Barrow, and we’ll use them to access the tundra that is alive with nesting birds. Pectoral and Semipalmated Sandpipers will be just a couple of the shorebird species acting out noisy and distracting displays – even in the grasses around the hotel. Red and Red-necked Phalaropes are a captivating flash of color – so different from the non-breeding plumages so more often encountered. Pomarine Jaegers are often patrolling for lemmings (if the population hasn’t crashed), while Greater White-fronted Geese waddle through the grasses. Snowy Owls may also be on territory, and it’s a real treat to see them on their natural breeding grounds. We’ll search for other rarities, like Ruff, and the chance of an Asian vagrant. Hoary Redpoll can even be found right around the buildings in town. There’s also a chance of seeing a Polar Bear, and a trip to Barrow Point itself – the northernmost point of the United States. Overnight Barrow.
Day Eighteen – June 24: Another full day of birding around Barrow, searching for any missed targets or unexpected treats, with late afternoon flights back to Anchorage. Overnight Anchorage.
Day Nineteen – June 25: Participant flights home on their schedule.
All prices per person, based on double occupancy.
General Tour Information
This tour will be limited to 6 participants, with one guide and one field assistant/driver. This intimate setting and personal attention are just some of the advantages of touring with Lakeshore Nature Tours. Brett M. Ewald will be the guide on this tour, with Sheryl Ewald acting as the field assistant.
The weather in Alaska in June can be quite variable and unpredictable. We can expect daily highs in the 30°s in Barrow, the 30°s – 50°s at Nome and St. Paul (where it is often windy with fog or drizzle), and the 60°s or even higher on the mainland. The most obvious change will be the amount of daylight – with the sun hardly setting, and not at all in Barrow.
Clothing considerations will be an important part of this tour, with highly variable conditions possible and expected. It is important that warm and waterproof clothing and footwear are part of your gear. More details /suggestions will be included in the tour informational packet after registration.
All meals and water are included on the tour and include any gratuities, from breakfast on Day Two to Dinner on Day 18. The cost of any alcoholic beverages or extra refreshments are the responsibility of the tour participant(s).
Medical facilities/suppliers will not often be readily available, so those taking medications on a regular basis should make sure they have an adequate supply for the entire trip. Please consult your doctor as necessary. Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or any situation where the tour is gathered.
Insects, most notably mosquitoes, can be a nuisance as June wears on, some years more than others - appropriate repellent and suitable clothing are the best solutions.
Although dangerous, large mammals, such as bear and moose, will hopefully be seen during the course of our Alaska tours. With common sense and awareness, they pose little threat to birders and we will alert you to their possible presence when appropriate.
Most of the birding on this trip will be under easy conditions, with viewing from the roadsides or near the van. Some short hikes over uneven tundra or trails are probable. One possible long hike over uneven terrain may take place in Nome in our search for Bristle-thighed Curlew. We will have some long drives in reaching major destinations, but broken up by birding stops.
15-passenger van will be our mode of transportation for all of the ground elements of the tour, with room for each participant to have a window view. One exception will be in Denali National Park, where vehicle access is not allowed to the general public. In this case, we will be riding the National Park shuttle buses, which have their own driver/guide and other riders. Commercial airlines will be used for in-tour flights, and included in the cost of the tour.
All accommodations will be in hotels or lodges.
Terms and Conditions
This tour includes all accommodations, meals, ground and boat transportation, air transportation to/from Barrow, St. Paul, and Nome, and guide service fees. It does not include the participant’s own airfare to/from Anchorage, fees for checked luggage on the various flights within the tour (has been free in the past), airport taxes, alcoholic beverages, special gratuities, laundry, or phone calls. If gasoline prices have risen unexpectedly and significantly at the time of the tour, a gas surcharge may be added to the tour cost. Lakeshore Nature Tours reserves the right to make changes to the accommodations or itinerary where necessary. The right is reserved to cancel the tour prior to departure, in which case participants will receive a full refund of registration fees.
In the event of an unexpected delay or cancellation of an in-tour flight, due to unforeseen circumstances (such as bad weather) that results in a change of our itinerary, any added fees in securing accommodations or transportation will be the responsibility of the tour participants.
Please fill out completely and sign the Extended Tours Registration Form and mail to Lakeshore Nature Tours, along with a $2000 per person deposit (due to immediate upfront costs in securing flights/accommodations). Another $3000 payment is required January 31, 2016. Any balance due is required March 31, 2016. Make your check or money order payable to Lakeshore Nature Tours. Cancellations before January 15, 2016 will receive a full refund of deposit, minus a $75 service fee. Cancellations between January 31, 2016 and March 31, 2016 will receive a $1000 refund. Cancellations between March 31, 2016 and May 15, 2016 will receive a $2500 refund. Any cancellation after May 15, 2016 will forfeit the entire tour costs. It is highly recommended that tour participants secure trip insurance at the time of tour registration.
An informational packet, with finalized tour itinerary and details will be sent upon guarantee of tour departure, based on adequate participation. Tour participants should not secure their flights to/from Anchorage until directed from Lakeshore Nature Tours. A full refund of tour payments will be executed from Lakeshore Nature Tours for any cancellation resulting from inadequate participation.
Get ready to experience all the exciting birdlife that Alaska has to offer. We can’t wait to see you there!
For more information, call, email or write:
12398 Platten Road
Lyndonville, NY 14098
Lyndonville, NY 14098