We left Anchorage on June 8th, we had planned to spend a night in Nome then fly on to Gambell on the 9th. We’d tried to rent a car for the afternoon but there were none available. So we hired a local driver and van, off we went on a 4 hour drive on the Council Road. It was raining, foggy and cold…just lovely weather for birding and photography, not.
It sure got warmer fast, a 1/4 mile outside of town, we saw a herd of Muskox, a first for me in the wild. Further on we had both Gray-cheeked Thrush and Aleutian Terns, both life birds. Arctic Terns, Glaucous-winged and Glaucous Gulls were everwhere. Brant of the nigricans subspecies and Lesser Canada Geese were fairly common but getting close to them was tough, they were very spooky. I imagine, when your on the menu for most of the people, it pays to be .
After a 4 hour drive we returned to the hotel and went to Subways across the street from the Aurora Inn for supper.
Next morning off we went by cab to the ERA terminal for our flight to Gambell. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the chances of us flying were slim to none. Visibility was at less than 200 meters, with a very low ceiling. We waited and after a few hours were told the pilot had decided to try for Gambell. Three birders piled into the plane, big smiles on their faces in anticipation of the adventure to come.
We flew out into the Bering Sea for the 180 mile flight. As we approached from the east we could see the planes GPS screen and knew we were close but fog blanketed everything. The pilot announced we had 30 minutes of extra fuel and would circle the airport, hoping for a break. Thirty minutes usually is long but it seemed like moments before he announced we were heading to Savoonga and then back to Nome.
We unloaded our gear and took another cab back to the hotel, no cars were available (it pays to book a car well in advance ), so we weren’t able to get out at all the rest of the day.
Next morning we were back at the ERA terminal and things weren’t looking much better but there was a glimmer of hope…the skies were clear on St. Lawrence Island. Back on the plane we went and flew out to the island. On the way we could see the Siberian Coast. We circled and after a few minutes the pilot said we were going to attempt a landing.
Now I’ve been on many large and small planes in my life but I’ll tell you, we were almost on the ground before I saw the runway….after a few minutes we taxied to the end of the runway….Here we were in Gambell
Let the Birding begin.