When my friend Herb told me he was going to Nome for Mckay’s Bunting and Kodiak for Emperor Goose, I was in from the start.
After booking my flights and waiting for the day to arrive for the trip, I kept hoping for good weather, Nome would be cold but sunny and Kodiak would be complete rain and overcast skies.
The flight up from Ottawa, Toronto, Seattle, Anchorage and then Nome was over two days so I could really be relaxed on arrival.
Herb and I met up in Anchorage and immediately boarded our flight to Nome arriving at 5:30pm.
We booked into the Aurora Hotel, picked up our rental car by 6pm and headed to the bird feeder at Round The Clock Road, 10 minutes from downtown.
We were sitting there at 6:15 and I looked around and saw a McKay’s Bunting on a wire, talk about luck.
The bird was badly backlit so we snapped a few photos of it on the wire for a record image and waited for it to come to the feeders. The owner of the house came out to talk to us and we gave him a bag of birdseed and thanked him for his feeder (without which the birds would be tough to see). After 1/2 hour the bird finally came down to the seed on the ground giving us great looks and reasonable photos in the shadows.
We decided while driving back that it might be an idea to get out to Kodiak as soon as possible instead of waiting in Nome for 2 more days, we called Air Alaska and they could get us out the next day for a fee. We opted to leave, there just wasn’t anything else in Nome at that time of year.
We tried again next day and had a brief look at another McKay’s and 14 Snow Buntings but little else. At 11:00 am we headed to the airport for the next leg of our adventure. Leaving Nome and its -20C temperatures behind.
After a 75 minute flight to Anchorage, we boarded our 55 minute flight to Kodiak. When we arrived, I expected cold and snow to greet us but only snow was in the mountains and and it was raining hard.
We both realized that the photography would be tough, with rain and overcast skies but same as in Nome within a few hours of landing, I had my second life bird, the Emperor Goose. These birds were waiting for the north to open up so they could move on. Over the next few days we saw at least 2,000 birds and that would be a low estimate.
I had the birds I wanted but Herb still needed a Steller’s Eider and the next day we found a few birds at the end of Trident Way, near the seaplane base. Note the heavy rain.
We tried a know location for Boreal Owl that night but the rain and wind would dampen our spirits and we headed to the hotel for food and rest.
Next morning, we were at it again and through the showers we managed to see just about every bird that was possible, including a number of Steller’s Sea Lions. We found a great place to scope and photograph from on Near Island at 57.783849 -152.406546.
Over the next few days we had great views of Surfbird, Black Turnstone, Rock Sandpiper, Black Oystercatcher, Harlequin Duck, Mew Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake and numerous other species.
BLACK TURNSTONE AND SURFBIRD
ROCK SANDPIPER AND SURFBIRD
100’s OF SEA OTTERS
A maxima sub-species of the Song Sparrow found in the area, until I got a good look at one, I was thinking they were Fox sparrow’s.
STELLER SEA LIONS
Not sure who scared who but it was funny to watch from a distance, these Steller’s Sea Lions were hoping to have a snooze on the beach and didn’t see Herb until they were almost on top of him.
During our stay we probably saw 500 Bald Eagles and I’d have to say that was a low extimate. They were everywhere and obviously hungry.
Here’s lookin at you kid!
A few other locals
That evening local resident Rich Macintosh, took us to a spot he knew of that had a calling Boreal Owl, Herb’s dreaded nemesis bird and after a bit we managed to coax one out of the woods. Thanks so much Rich was a great night of owling. Herb was in heaven.
Next morning we had a few hours to kill before we left and decided to try again for a Northern Hawk Owl that had been in the area (we bombed 3 times on this bird). Today was our lucky day.
NORTHERN HAWK OWL
One last photo as I boarded my plane to head for home with many fond memories of Alaska.
Til the next time, Ciao for now.