May 26th the winds kicked up and the drizzle began. We once again started the day with a great bird, a Tundra Bean-goose near Alexai Point. At least that’s what I thought it was through my windy tears. Afterwards, we scanned the rocky beach, the Loon ponds and many marshes. It didn’t take long to realize that Attu has very special birds but that none of them would come easy.
We continued our day with a hike along Gilbert Ridge where the cliffs …hugged us on one side and the volcanic rocks lay below. This picturesque hike dotted with waterfalls yielded 4 Eyebrowed Thrushes and a Gray Wagtail. Although we had several looks at these birds, they were skittish and would immediately take flight higher up the ridge and disappear. I’m already a handicapped photographer and this was way out of my league!
We would cover 12 miles on foot, one of my boots soaking wet inside the whole time. Neil Hayward leading the pack with his determined stride.
Gilbert Ridge would become my favorite place.
Birding on Attu is an endurance contest. You have to cover so much ground at a relatively fast pace. Many times you’re in one area and news comes across the Walkie-talkies that a great bird has been found miles away and you start running.
Mike was often at our disposal to pick us up in the skiff and take us to another part of the island. This would come in handy many times.
Darkness at this time of year comes after 11 p.m., but most days we were back on the boat by 6, tired and wet. The aromas drifting from the kitchen bringing us back to life. Our boots lined up in the engine room, where they might dry overnight.
After dinner, we’d go over the checklist and some retired to their rooms. I found a partner-in-crime in Brandon Reo and after dinner, we made cocktails and told stories. This was Brandon’s second year in a row visiting Attu.
May 27th the weather was beautiful. We set off for Henderson Marsh and the layers of clothing started coming off. By midday, the sun was warm and I actually laid down on the spongy tundra carpet. Unfortunately, good weather on Attu usually means no birds. Aside from the usual suspects, we didn’t see anything new.
We did run into Brad Bentner with USFWS, who shared his intel with us and who would be a fantastic source for us during our stay.
After a day of sunshine, the tundra floor started to come alive with wildflowers. The Lupines, in tight buds when we arrived, suddenly started to open. In a few weeks, it would be beautiful but we wouldn’t be here to see it. The horticulturist in me was very disappointed.
We got back to the boat where the “good” news was that the winds would be strong and favorable the next day.