17 September 2015

T minus 1 month

Ashley and I will be boarding a plane and leaving St. Paul Island one month from today.  Will we ever see the island again?  Well, who knows.

However, before that happens, we have one last month to scour for rarities here in the middle of the Bering Sea.  While Gambell is killing it lately (multiple SIAC, OBPI, PEPI, BRSH, etc), we're still in wait mode; we've had quite a nice stretch of westerly winds... now we wait to see what will find its way to the island and get found.

In the meantime, let's start this post with the crab pots.  The stacks of these near town act as a "forest" for lost birds; on a windy and rainy day, birds can find both shelter and a dry area to look for food.  Lately, the pot-skulkers have had a distinctly familiar American taste:
Not that there is anything wrong with DARK-EYED JUNCOS, FOX SPARROWS, GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS, GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSHES, and RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS (1 was found today), we'd just much rather the pots be filled with Siberian Accentors, Asian Brown Flycatchers, and Yellow-browed Warblers!

Although, there was one crab pot bird that surprised me:
Yep, that's a BALD EAGLE perching on the pots, something I had never seen before.  It's a horrible picture, yes, but about par for shooting through the windshield shortly after dawn.

Speaking of horrible photos (a specialty of Cory), would you know this if it flew over?
It's an EASTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL that we had fly over Town Marsh the other day.  Actually, it's getting late for this species (4th latest ever for Pribs).

This next species is a bit easier to recognize... especially when it's not a blurry flight photo.  It's a COMMON REDPOLL from the quarry:
A client and I wandered along the beach at Marunich (North Point) to target tattlers the other day and, shocker, it actually worked.  There were ~5 WANDERING TATTLERS including this juvenile that caused me to look twice:
Shortly thereafter this obvious GRAY-TAILED TATTLER popped into view.  Comparing it with the WATA above, it shows how tricky the ID can be sometimes.
The ID marks are subtle but look for a slightly stronger pale supercilium behind the eye, more flecking on the tertials and coverts, eyebrows that nearly meet over the bill, and a nasal groove that doesn't exceed half the length of the bill.

Also at Marunich, we flushed this snipe out of the pond (which now has water again!):
The pictures are, of course, horrible but still good enough to show a distinctive white panel in the underwings clinching it as COMMON SNIPE.  Here's a slightly better view:
However, remember that COSN are actually more expected here than WISN.  Still, I was happy to catch up with this year bird.

Probably at least 95% of the big gulls we see here are GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS.  However, that leaves 5% of potential goodies.  Maybe 3rd down the list of most expected is the SLATY-BACKED GULL.  We found this classic adult in the lava fields at SW Point:
Besides being obviously dark mantled, notice the broad white tertial skirt, pale eye, dark smudging around the eye, streaked head, and a smaller/stouter bill.  And yes, it really is slaty-backed:
The "string of pearls" so often mentioned for this species are a little ragged on this bird due to it being in molt.  Anyway, this was the 10th day I'd had SBGU this year with 9 of those coming in August and September.

Stay tuned... in the meantime feel free to drop me a line at arcticory@gmail.com.