Overheard at breakfast this morning from the guy in front of me at the cash register:
“I forgot my cash! I do have this gold nugget though.” (Worth about 5k)
The waitress looks at me, rolls her eyes, and says “Only in Nome.”
For birders, Nome has always been a special place to see a diverse group of birds on their breeding grounds. For non-birders, it is more commonly known for great fishing and for being the last stop on the Iditarod race. With the show “Bering Sea Gold” filmed here, the town is enjoying even more notoriety.
Nome is still like the Wild West. People come here to try their luck while an Indigenous population still relies on subsistence living–fishing, hunting and gathering.
Everything is outrageously expensive because it has to be shipped in. The entire Downtown area looks like it could use some scrubbing and a coat of paint. After a few days, I felt the same about myself. The layer of dust on me and all my possessions was a constant.
Nome only has 3 roads, all gravel, all dusty. No cell service on any of them. No gas stations in sight. When you do find gas, it’s a whopping $5/gallon.
All the gravel roads are in good shape though, and all have mile markers. This is an important detail for birders. It helped us find the location of our targeted birds along Kougarok Road on Friday.
We had 3 targets along this road. Bristle-thighed Curlew, Bluethroat and Northern Wheatear. We hiked into the spongy tundra, a surface I became quite accustomed to on Attu, to search for the Curlew. Apart from a few American Golden Plovers, we weren’t seeing anything and we were getting attacked by mosquito clouds. I had covered up every possible surface of my body except for my eyes and fingertips. I got bit in both places.
We headed back to the car and when we’d almost given up, 2 birds started vocalizing and flying around us! I cannot describe this experience. I shot off a few videos and I hope they turn out.
We would eventually see all of our targets. We not only saw a Bluethroat, we saw 2 family groups! We also saw an occupied Rough-legged Hawk nest in the cliffs. There were newly-fledged birds everywhere we looked.
It was a rewarding day after the hard-won nature of our Pied Wheatear chase. Our trio lucked out again but it was time to say goodbye to Peter. We’d had a nice run.
Saturday morning, Lynn and I decided to drive to Teller and try our luck finding White Wagtails. Teller is a small, Inupiaq subsistence village.
The birds can be found right in the residential area. We tried to be as respectful as possible since we had located the birds on the rooftops and powerlines.
Lynn and I returned to Nome on fumes and prepared to depart. We had come to Nome to chase one special bird. Instead, we methodically ticked off my entire wish list.
I leave Alaska with 11 new species: Pied Wheatear, Northern Wheatear, Bluethroat, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Aleutian Tern, Arctic Warbler, Arctic Loon, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Bar-tailed Godwit and Pacific Golden Plover.
My new ABA total is 694. Solid gold!
I’ve shown you the birds, now enjoy the rest.