08 June 2014

First best day

June 2 started out when a WOOD SANDPIPER was called in from Town Marsh.  Of all the Asian shorebirds, this species is perhaps the most expected spring bird here.  Either way, we all converged on the marsh and soon had it in our scopes.  Because I assumed I’d be seeing more of these, I didn’t worry about the quality of the picture:
As we were getting ready to leave, we noticed that there were actually two WOOD SANDPIPERS there and that one was displaying overhead.  Pretty cool stuff.

Later in the day, another call came in; there were two BRAMBLING up in Zap Ravine.  Like the sandpiper, these are fairly "expected" vagrants but either way, I wandered over that way and managed to find the pair.  Here’s the male:
And yet, another good bird was found, this time on Pumphouse Lake.  This one was turned out to be a bird that most of us North American birders don’t need, a SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER.  Here, however, they’re rare in the spring and accidental any other time of year.  Here’s a picture of the bird on the right (LEAST SANDPIPER on the left):
Things got even more exciting when a call came in about a COMMON CUCKOO at Polovina Hill.  We eventually all convened and slowly approached the lower cut.  Almost right away, we spotted it flying around in the cut, perching on the sides, etc.  We all hopped out and got some distant pictures that show the very pale and fine breast banding, white undertail coverts, etc:
Later that day, another guide found what everyone thought was a second COMMON CUCKOO up in the northeast part of the island.  It wasn't so straightforward though (I'll get to that in a later blog post).

It was late in the day now and as I was heading back home,  I decided to stop by the Salt Lagoon to look for a dowitcher that was reported.  As I was slowly scanning, this crazy thing walked into my view:
This is a male RUFF, a common Eurasian shorebird species.  This is another fairly-expected vagrant to Alaska but it was my first time finding a male that looked quite like this.

However, only a couple of minutes later, it got up and flew towards town.  Because others wanted to see the bird, I headed to Town Marsh to see if maybe it landed there.  I didn’t see the bird but I did relocate the WOOD SANDPIPERS.  I was scoping one of those while on the phone mentioning to Scott that the RUFF wasn’t there.  Then my sentence trailed of… a tall, lanky, bright peep had wandered right in front of the Wood Sand in my field of view.  Woah!  I had a hunch.  Scott came over, we walked the marsh, and before long we flushed the bird and got a good look at it.  My hunch was correct, it was a LONG-TOED STINT.  Note how the feet stick out beyond the length of the tail:
I eventually saw it on the ground too although quite briefly.  Note the long and lanky yellow legs, the brighter orange shades on the upperparts, etc.
All in all, an awesome day of birding!