We landed in Nome and wasted no time in getting out and birding. Just near the town we found a swarm of terns including ALEUTIAN TERNS. This is a species that I've not had the pleasure of seeing more than a few times and so I eagerly focused on them for a bit:
Less fear-inspiring was this OLD WORLD SWALLOWTAIL:
Turns out, it's called a BANDED ALPINE.
One of my favorite birds, a WHIMBREL was nesting on a hilltop we visited:
The scenery near Nome was much nicer than I had expected. There was still some snow around on the slopes which really helped give the hills some context. Here's the view of Salmon Lake:
One of the classic species there, and one we saw well, is the VARIED THRUSH:
Another colorful species there is the TOWNSEND'S WARBLER which we saw many of:
As we banked for our final descent into Utqiagvik, we could see the amazing sea ice below us in a million different chunks:
All the ice and snow meant that what open water we could find near town was loaded with birds. It didn't take long before we came face-to-face with one of our main targets, the incredible SPECTACLED EIDER, one of the most northern ducks in the world:
It's hard to emphasize how big of a deal this was. This is a species I had only seen a couple of times before and, being a gull of the high arctic, it's one of the most-wanted species in all of the US. We thoroughly enjoyed watching this pair (they were acting like a breeding couple, actually). What a beautiful and unique gull, with the black ring around the head:
With that, we flew back to Anchorage and our tour was complete. It was an awesome trip filled with lots of travel, lots of birds, and lots of scenery. We ended with about 175 species during the 2-3 weeks there which seems pretty good. I get to run this trip again in 2019 so we'll see how things play out then!
That's all for now. Stay tuned for some highlights from Newfoundland....