I left Ottawa June 7th at 6:30am for my flight to Anchorage (via a milk run of Edmonton, Vancouver) with Air Canada, arriving at 4:30pm in Anchorage.
Irented my car and went off in search of the Falcated Duck at Potter’s Marsh, thinking of how easy a tick for my list this would be. Boy, was I wrong. Over the next 7 hours many people, including myself, had 2 very brief looks and a 5 second look through our scopes at 9:30pm. The duck just never came out in the open, allowing any of us a chance of a photo that day. Many other good birds to see made up for it.
Aleutian Cackling Goose
Red-necked Grebe Family
I also met up with a Edie (one of our Adak Pelagic group member), who moments before I arrived took this lovely photo of the duck in the first pond at about 40 feet. Back of camera copy.
Back to the hotel I went, for a much needed sleep and I was back at Potter’s Marsh the next morning, the duck again managed to evade may eyes and after 5 hours, I had to leave in order to make my flight to Adak.
Fast forward to that afternoon, after a 3 hour flight, with great scenery from the windows.
We landed in Adak at 5:15pm and were met by our tour operator John Puschock, who runs Zugunruhe (german compund word meaning “anxious behavior in migratory animals, especially bird”) Birding Tours. He offers many fine tours at:
As we were arriving at the airport, I had a few moments to chat with friends Chris Feeney who was birding Adak for a week and Herb Fechter, Barb Dewitt and John Weigel, who is doing a big year for the ABA, and they had just returned from the Attu.
We met up with our tour guides Neil Hayward and Christian Hagenlocher, tour memebers Edie, John, Jason, Miles, John and Bill.
We headed out with two vehicles and birded Adak for 3 hours before boarding the boat for our trip out.
Juvenile Bald Eagle
The Adak National Forest
A nice surprise was seeing Common Snipe a life bird for me, also Lapland Longspurs and Gray-crowned Rosy-finch (griseonucha sub-species).
Female Lapland Longspur
Male Lapland Longspur
We were ferried out to the boat, the Pu-kuk (photo from website) a lovely 72-foot boat built by the Captain Bill.
Met by Captain Billy Choate, Mr. Happy.
The crew, Max and Zandra.
We stowed our gear, had a wonderful supper and then the task of trying on our survival suits.
The suit fittings were fun and we had a few laughs but I am sure everyone aboard hoped we’d never have to use them.
The boat left the harbour, early the next morning and headed out for3 days of birding on the water, with the soothing sounds of the diesal engine, I got a few more minutes of sleep but was soon on deck, scanning the sea for birds. The birds did not disappoint over the course of the trip we had:
Laysan Albatross – 260+
Black-footed Albatross – 50+
Whiskered Auklet – 1,000’s
Northern Fulmar – 25,000+
Short-tailed Shearwater – 1,000’s
Crested Auklet – 100’s
Ancient Murrelet – 1,000’s
Parakeet Auklet – 100’s
Cassin’s Auklet – 100’s
Glaucous-winged Gulls – 1,000’s
Long-tailed Jaegers – 3
Thick-billed Murre’s – many
Both Horned and Tufted Puffins -100’s
Killer Whales- 50+
The food was awesome and aplenty, the crew were fantastic and they did everything to make our stay aboard, as pleasant as possible.
Lots of great scenery during this pelagic.
Both Neil and Christian were great spotters and we all tried to find a Short-tailed Albatross, which was called out on the horizon and the boat turned in that direction for quite a while but the bird never showed again. Enough for me to say I think I saw the bird they called but not enough to count it for my life list.
The Pu-kuk was extremely stable due to it’s advanced electronic-hydraulic stabilization system which enables the boat to ride more comfortably in rough weather but if you are prone to motion sickness, take your medication, your trip will be much more enjoyable. I thought I’d be tough and not take anything and my stomach got a bit touchy one day but that was my fault. There were two heads equipped with showers aboard and sleeping quarters for all.
We arrived back at Adak the morning of the 12th and Neil and Christian took us out for a mini tour of the island, picking up a lovely family of Gyrfalcon and local birds.
Many Sea Otter’s
The wild flowers were starting to grow..
Western Dwarf Dogwood
Some form of Daisy
The sun did poke its head out a few times over the course of the trip which really helped with the photography. I recommend nothing less than a 400mm lens and a fast shooting camera body. My D850 (full frame) and 500mm worked well and had it been sunnier, I’d probably have used my 1.4 teleconverter.
I like to thank John Puschock of Zugunrehe Tours for making it possible to get out in these waters, and I will get back out to Adak some day to bird the island.
I managed to see two birds that I needed to photograph for my Golden Guide Project, The Laysan Albatross and Whiskered Auklet.
Only 12 more birds to go.
Ciao for now.