There were so many firsts on this trip, that I’m having trouble putting my jaw back in place. I came to Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point in the U.S., with the hopes of seeing a Ross’s Gull. This is the only reliable place you can see this bird, in its arctic playground. For about 3 weeks in October, birders come here for that chance.
There were 2 Ross’s Gulls that went astray in the lower 48 this year. I was going to chase the one in California but a Peregrine Falcon got to it before me. I pinned my hopes on this 3 day jaunt to this faraway outpost.
My trip started out with a sunrise flight over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on my way to Prudhoe Bay, my layover spot. This pristine wilderness was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen from the air. It was a good start.
John Puschock, with Zugunruhe Birding Tours, had taken me to Attu, in the Aleutian chain, earlier in the year. He told me to plan on 3 days in Barrow to make sure I could have a chance to see Ross’s Gull. Thirty minutes after picking me up at the airport, we had at least 20 birds. Before my departure, we would have about 350! This does not happen every year. I was incredibly happy.
Yesterday, we woke up to falling snow. We headed to seawatch and by then, the snow was horizontal with a fierce wind. There was only one possible bird that I could still find and it was a major longshot. A Spectacled Eider.
Eiders are migrating right now and the sky was blackened with long strings of Common Eiders. The Spectacled Eiders mostly gone by now. We sifted through these flocks of thousands of birds looking for a needle in a haystack in the blistering wind.
It was my last chance. Around noon, part of our group found a flock of King Eiders on the water. A single female Spectacled Eider was with them!
I came to Barrow with high hopes of adding one bird. I leave with a bonus. At this point in the game, every bird becomes a thousand times harder to find.
Alaska, John Puschock and Zugunruhe Birding Tours, deliver again in many ways.