25 June 2014


When I woke up the other day, I didn’t imagine that at some point I’d be rushing around the house, fearing a potential tsunami… but I suppose no one really does.

It was my day off and I was browsing around online when I happened to check on the weather and noticed a big red banner in the corner.  “Tsunami Warning”?  Hmmm… I raised my eyes from my screen and sure enough, our local siren was indeed sounding.  I looked back down at the screen, it was 1:15 PM… it wasn’t noon (and the siren sounds every day at noon). 

It turns out there was an earthquake measuring 8.0 down near Amchitka Island in the Aleutian Islands and all signs pointed towards a potential tsunami.  Experts were forecasting it to arrive at St. Paul Island shortly after 3 PM.  I glanced outside; everyone was zooming by in trucks, ATVs, etc, you could tell something was going on, this wasn’t normal.  Once in a while a fire truck with its flashing lights would rumble by.  It was obvious that the locals were taking it seriously and just about then, we figured we should too.  We made some phone calls, gathered some important personal belongings, and jumped in the truck.  We would drive up to Tolstoi Point which was chosen because a) it overlooks the harbor/town and b) it is a cliff face at least 100 feet high.  What better vantage point to watch an incoming wave?  We settled in and waited.

A glance across the harbor to a different hill above town, you’ll see trucks and people milling about:
As we waited, 3 PM came and went… no wave.  Reports starting coming in that tsunami waves were indeed hitting other islands in the Aleutians but that they were all less than 6 inches high.  WHAT?!  Pretty scary stuff, huh?  We all started filing back into town.  After the fact, we learned that St. Paul Island was in fact on the receiving end of a tsunami… but that it was only a slight surge 5 inches high.  Of course, it came and went and nary a person even noticed it.  Good times…

Back to birds, which I might add were just doing what they always do, worrying about food, mating, and raising chicks.  I should add that we recently had a stretch of nice weather which, sadly, our rarities also found favorable; they’ve all departed.  No more Oriental or Common cuckoos, no more Common Rosefinch, etc.  It’s been a good run though.

The SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS on Pumphouse Lake are going bonkers these days; there must be at least 8-10 of them out there including this one:
There are plenty of signs on the cliffs these days pointing towards new eggs being laid, new chicks hatching, etc.  Here’s a THICK-BILLED MURRE standing guard over its egg:
The NORTHERN FULMARS are getting cozy with a little allopreening:
Speaking of NORTHERN FULMARS though, it was a blast yesterday getting some in-flight shots of these as they wafted by at eye level at Ridge Wall:
The roaming hoard of the 7 killer swans continue to wreck havoc island-wide.  Crushing the souls of all who glance at them, they continue to look pretty and graceful.  Here’s a comparison picture showing the American (“Whistling”) race on the left and the Eurasian (“Bewick’s”) race on the right.  Note the dramatic difference in the amount of yellow on the bill:
A couple of clients and I were lucky to stumble on a great bird last night at Marunich (north side of the island).  Was it an Asian stray?  Was it a lifer for everyone?  Well, no, neither.  It’s actually a species I’ve seen tens of thousands of… but it’s all about context.  SURF SCOTERS are very rare here and the below photographed one represents the first photo-documented record ever for the Pribilof Islands:
I’ll close with a flower picture, my first Arctic Starflower I’ve seen on the island:
That's all for now.  I’ll hopefully post again in a day or two with another update from St. Paul Island.