31 May 2014

Rockin' a nest

First things first, at the end of the last post, I said I’d keep you posted once I identified this flower:
Turns out, it’s a Rock Jasmine.  It seems to be pretty common; at least it’s distinct enough when I do see it.

Anyway, I wasn’t guiding for most of today so I ventured out solo.  First up, a female LONG-TAILED DUCK stretched her wings out on Weather Bureau Lake:
A check of the Polovina Wetlands yielded the ubiquitous RED-NECKED PHALAROPES:
I headed up towards Lake Hill to scope things out.  As with everywhere else on the island, ROCK SANDPIPERS were abundant.  This one fancied being atop a grass clump:
Its neighbor was nearby so I snapped a picture of it as well:
I was mindlessly wandering nearby about when a quick burst of motion at my feet startled me.  It was a ROCK SANDPIPER flopping away on the ground which they do to distract you from their nest.  A quick look around… sure enough, a nest.  Fighting all instincts of my shorebird ecology background to reflexively start measuring the eggs and taking veg measurements around the nest, I instead took a peek inside:
Taking a step back, you can see that the nest is invisible even at close range:
As with all major hills on St. Paul Island, Lake Hill is volcanic in origin.  Some of the large hills here are actually volcanic cones with lakes in the middle.  Likewise, Lake Hill is aptly named:
As usual, I’ll end with a flower pic.  I was happy to spot a different shade of pink well off the road near Lake Hill.  Most of the purple flowers these days are the abundant Nootka Lupine but this paler shade and different “posture” gave it away as a Whorled Lousewort:

30 May 2014

High Cliffs and a "storm"

The high pressure has finally moved out and our first "storm" has rolled in.  It's not as epic of a storm as we might have hoped for but with sustained winds around 30 mph along with rain and snow, I think it probably qualifies as a storm.

Birding in that kind of weather isn't exactly easy or thoroughly enjoyable.  However, yesterday morning still provided a few interesting things.

Only a mile or two down the road was a NORTHERN WHEATEAR that we bumped off the shoulder.  Although not a rarity (they're listed as uncommon in the spring), it was nice to see a new arrival.  I didn't manage a picture of it before it flew the coop but we did walk around in the general area for a few minutes.  You can see a dusting of snow too:
Our next stop was Antone Slough where I flushed a suspicious-looking snipe.  We managed to find it again and confirmed it as our first COMMON SNIPE of the season.  In the below picture, note the distinctive white underwings:
Again, this isn't a rarity here; in fact, COMMON SNIPE is more expected than WILSON'S SNIPE.  Either way, it was a lifer for me and so that continued a productive morning.

Do you know your jaeger silhouettes?  At Southwest Point, this PARASITIC JAEGER came by while we were scoping the kelp beds and offshore flybys:
Not too long after, a different species of jaeger came by, this one a LONG-TAILED:
There were a few KING EIDERS offshore here, as there often are, but these were finally close enough for photos:
Yesterday was my first time up to the High Cliffs on the far western side of the island.  One of the attractions for this more-remote part of the island are the... high cliffs, and even though we were up there in a snow storm, the views were stunning:
If you want to see RED-LEGGED KITTIWAKES actually on nests, this is the place to hike to.  On your way up the 2 miles to the High Cliffs, you'll likely start seeing them perched on various cliffs outcroppings:
At the top, though, you'll get to scope and watch them up close and personal.  Here's a pair on the left with the larger and paler BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE on the right:
Here's another view of a RED-LEGGED at its nest:
Feel free to take pictures of them... just don't fall off the cliffs, it's a long 379 feet down to the rocks and water below:
In the afternoon, we were able to confirm that the ratty BAR-TAILED GODWIT was still present out at Tonki Point:
Hot off the press, I just followed up on a report from GD of SNOW GEESE on one of the nearby lakes.  Sure enough, they were there just a few minutes ago:
As with the last post, I'll close with a random flower picture.  I haven't gotten around to IDing this one yet but I'll let you know when I do:

28 May 2014

Swans and stuff

Our weather still hasn't provided us with the perfect storm for Asian rarities but we're trying to make do with what we have.

Glen had a couple of quality finds yesterday including 3 "BEWICK'S" TUNDRA SWANS.  In fact, these are the first bewickii to be seen here in 7 years.  This subspecies is the Eurasian subspecies so yes, I guess we HAVE had some Asian strays.  Anyway, here's a phone-digiscoped picture of one of them:
Another nice bird yesterday was a BAR-TAILED GODWIT he found near Tonki Point:
We'll likely see more of these guys but it was still fun to see something different.  Turns out, BTGO was also my 700th ABA photo bird.

We had a bit of excitement a couple of days ago when a few of us saw what appeared to be a MERLIN zip by us at Weather Bureau Lake.  However, no one got photos and given how rare they are here, we ended up just calling it a "small falcon sp".  However, a day or two later, Glen relocated it and this time got photos.  This represents the first spring record for the Pribilofs and about the 5th record overall.

The habitat at Town Marsh is slowly becoming better for shorebirds; it hosted up to 5 PECTORAL SANDPIPERS lately.  Here's one of them:
I've enjoyed spending the last couple of weeks around RED-LEGGED KITTIWAKES.  From above, you can separate them from BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES by the uniform darkness on the mantle and flight feathers (the gray on the wings of BLKIs isn't exactly uniform).  Regardless, here's a distant RLKI from above:
The large gulls represented here so far have been GLAUCOUS-WINGED and GLAUCOUS GULLS.  It's refreshing to be around much "cleaner" GWGUs than what I'm used to in CA.  Here's a GLAUCOUS-WINGED:
So far, Glaucous-winged outnumber Glaucous probably 15:1.  However, this nice adult GLAUCOUS was perched at East Landing this morning:
I'm sure I'll post a few pictures of flowers once in a while, especially as the spring progresses.  This is a CHUKCHI PRIMROSE:
That's all for now.  Hopefully the change of winds we're having will blow in something good.  Until then...

26 May 2014

Little words, big on photos

Although these last couple of posts haven't been filled with much verbosity, consider them to just be a photo dump of random shots from the last couple of days.  And hey, if you have questions about anything, shoot me an email or something.

First up, the most-uncommon alcid that breeds on the island is the CRESTED AUKLET:
 RED-LEGGED KITTIWAKES are greatly outnumbered on St. Paul by their black-legged relatives.  Here's one preening at a potential nest site:
NORTHERN FULMARS are fairly common breeders on the island.  Light-morphs are the most expected but I see dark-morph birds frequently at SW Point.  Here are two light-morph birds:
RED-NECKED PHALAROPES are abundant these days; you'll see them on most ponds and lakes.  Here's a bright female:
ANCIENT MURRELETS are pretty uncommon here but the harbor seems to be the place to find them so far:
A pretty rare bird for us, this is the American (Whistling) race of TUNDRA SWAN that has been present here for at least the last 11 days:
Saddest picture ever?  Yes, I think so.  I promise I wasn't beating this poor creature, I just startled it.  It's an ARCTIC FOX, btw:
We have a herd of REINDEER on the island as well, in case you were wondering.  Nice rack...
Ahh, the enormous Ptilocnemis race of ROCK SANDPIPER also happens to be the nominate subspecies.  Also, they seemingly spend 80% of their day bathing for some reason.  I've never seen anything like it.
On St. Paul, the Eurasian race of GREEN-WINGED TEAL is actually the more abundant one.  Here's a double-shot for all the crecca addicts:
I honestly don't recall exactly where on the island this was but the RED-LEGGED KITTIWAKE action was still pleasant to behold:
Oh yeah, this BARROW'S GOLDENEYE mixed with Common Goldeneyes was about the 8th record for the Pribilofs:
Another cool subspecies flew into the Salt Lagoon late one night; this is the variegatus race of WHIMBREL.  I expect it's wings are drooped because it spent multiple days in flight to reach here (exhausted shorbs do this sometimes):

That's all for now... stay tuned for more pictures.

25 May 2014


I breathed a sigh of relief when this happened:
This was our first real rarity, a TUNDRA BEAN-GOOSE that was found at 9 or 10 PM one night.  Hopefully it breaks the ice and brings with it more asian birds!

These big boys have been frequenting beaches these days, male NORTHERN FUR SEALS:
I'm slowly getting used to the alcids around on the island including these PARAKEET AUKLETS:
 And hey, who could turn down a nice LONG-TAILED JAEGER?
 We stirred up this SNOWY OWL up at the northeast side of the island:
Typical view of a bluff and bluff viewers: