01 August 2014

1/2 down, 1/2 to go

It’s August and that means that my season on St. Paul Island is now half over.  I’ve been here for about 78 days and have about 76 days left.  It’s hard to say if the time has gone by quickly or slowly… but it’s definitely gone.  Looking ahead, simply put, I hope the fall is jammed with stunning rarities.

For the time being, though, it’s been dreadfully slow birding and actually very warm.  The temperature reached the mid-60s yesterday which was flirting with the all-time record high of 68 degrees.  That means a couple of things; first, you can actually walk around in a t-shirt if you feel so inclined (although I seem to basically live in my fleece regardless) and secondly, these seals look HOT:
You can see how one female is pointing up to cool down but the other is bent backwards.  While I’m not sure what the function of bending that far back is (or did she just fall asleep?), it’s a pretty common thing to see when the temperatures creep upward.

Perched actually on the seal blind we were on, this GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCH didn’t seem to notice the heat (or me) that much:
I’ve spent a few hours guiding at Reef Point lately which is typical due to the very close nesting seabirds there.  I glanced down though to see this guy sitting below me on the rocks.  It’s a not-quite-adult SLATY-BACKED GULL, the 4th largest gull species in the world:
Us birders continue to check wetlands on a daily basis in hopes of finding different and/or rare shorebirds.  Although we haven’t had many rarities lately, it’s been fun tracking the progress of the nesting birds (and the drying up wetlands).  Problem is, when a young RED-NECKED PHALAROPE spots you nearby, this is the view you typically have of it:
Speaking of phalaropes though, there’s been a fairly large flock of RED PHALAROPES off the north coast of the island lately.  Yesterday from Marunich I saw swarms, probably about 8000.

The highlight at Marunich though was a banded RUDDY TURNSTONE.  Although I’m still trying to track down who did the banding, it’s possible that this is the first banded RUDDY TURNSTONE ever seen on this island.  Although I didn’t manage to get photos, it had a blue flag (with “89” or “B9” written in white) above a white flag on its lower left leg.  The lower right leg only had a metal band.  I’ll keep you posted if I learn anything more about it.

Perhaps the second-most interesting thing about that visit to Marunich, and what I’ll leave you with, was the stunning view of the Bering Sea on that calm morning: