Long-tailed Jaeger, Kougarok Road


Alaskan Adventure
15-22 July 2006
Narrated by Henry Detwiler

Suzanne and I took a wonderful week-long trip to the Denali Highway, Nome, and the Kenai Peninsula to see birds and other wildlife.
species -- bird list is at the bottom of the page
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos.   

Days 4-6: Nome & the Seward Peninsula

Arctic Tern, Nome

On Tuesday morning we flew to Nome, leaving behind a sun-dappled Anchorage for low clouds and cold rain.  We caught a cab to the Aurora Inn and Suites, where we checked in and picked up a rental SUV.  Because of the rain, we thought we'd have the best luck down the Council Highway, which skirted Norton Sound and Safety Lagoon.

Right away we started adding new birds for the trip, including Semipalmated & Western Sandpipers, Red-throated Loon, and Hoary Redpoll.  Suzanne's passenger-side (electric) window jammed when rolled down all the way--not good with the blowing rain--so we soon learned to let it only partially down.  At Safety Lagoon we ticked Common Eider and Lapland Longspur, and the first of many Long-tailed Jaegers. At the end of the road we found both Pacific Golden Plovers and a family of Whimbrel.

Common Eider (female)
Council Road, Seward Peninsula

Gold Dredge, Council Road

Also quite evident were remnants of Nome's glory days--abandoned mining equipment from the 1889 and 1900 gold rushes, when over 40,000 thousand miners vied for riches in the creek beds and in the sands of the beaches.  Even today, we watched as a good number of hopeful amateurs dredged and panned in the cold rain, both along the beach and in the bay.

Mining Locomotive, Council Road

Yellow Wagtail, Kougarok Road


The next morning the rain had stopped, but the clouds still hung low over the city.  This time we took the Kougarok Road, which heads out of Nome 83 miles to the east.  Golden-crowned Sparrows put on a nice show, and we saw our first bull moose along a river.  Not too far out of town a bird with white outer tail feathers streaked across the road, and it turned out to be another target, the Yellow Wagtail.  At mile 25, we scanned the cliffs and found a perched Gyr Falcon; later in the day we saw it flying in the company of three Golden Eagles. 

A lengthy search finally turned up a female Bluethroat, and shortly thereafter two Northern Waterthrushes. The final surprise of the day came when Suzanne spotted a small herd of Muskoxen.  We watched the ungainly looking creatures as they sheperded their two calves over the crest of a hill and away from us.
Mew Gull, Nome

Muskoxen, Teller Road

Our last day on the Seward Peninsula was spent driving northeast to the Eskimo village of Teller.  Not far out of town we spotted another herd of Muskoxen, these even closer than the ones on Wednesday.  This herd also had several young, which they tried to keep safely away from our prying eyes.

Muskoxen, Teller Road

Hoary Redpoll, Teller Road

The Teller Road goes over some higher ground, and we soon found ourselves in the middle of the low-hanging clouds.  As on the other roads, the scenery was magnificent, so we were hoping for some better views.  Also like the other two roads, Long-tailed Jaegers patrolled for food; we never spotted the Pomarine or Parasitic Jaegers.  Rough-legged Hawks also eluded us, but we did see Northern Harriers, and in the town of Teller a Merlin streaked by.


Arctic Ground Squirrels were by far the most common mammal, so we enjoyed this Red Fox as it bounded over the road and through the short willows, finally disappearing from view in a creek bed along the roadside.

Red Fox, Teller Road
Seward Peninsula

Slaty-backed Gull, Teller Road
Seward Peninsula

At the Sinuk River we had the good fortune to compare Glaucous, Glaucous-winged, Herring, Mew, and Slaty-backed Gulls, all feeding on the remains of salmon and other delicacies.  It has apparently been a good year for the usually rare Slaty-backed Gulls; we saw three more at the mouth of the Nome River later than evening.

Glaucous, Slaty-backed, &
Glaucous-winged Gulls

At the end of the road, we wandered about the native settlement of Teller, watching the Eskimos preparing their fish, and hanging them up to dry. Our sole Sabine's Gull for the trip flew past, and we added the first of many Pelagic Cormorants.  The sun peeked out a few times on the way back to Nome, and we enjoyed the fine vistas, the many beautiful flowers, and the eerie cloud formations.

Teller Road, close to village of Teller

Back in the Nome area, we did some shopping and checked out Cape Nome and the Nome river mouth one final time.  After a fine meal at Milano's, the Italian/Japanese restaurant, we caught the 9:30pm flight back to Anchorage


Continue on to Page 3 : KENAI PENINSULA

Alaska, 15-22 July 2006

a=Anchorage area
d=Denali Highway
k=Kenai Peninsula

# Species Notes
1 Red-throated Loon n
2 Pacific Loon d,n
3 Common Loon a,d,k,n
4 Red-necked Grebe a,d,k,n
5 Double-crested Cormorant k
6 Pelagic Cormorant k,n
7 Canada Goose a
8 Cackling Goose a
9 Brant n
10 Trumpeter Swan k,d
11 Tundra Swan n
12 American Wigeon a,d
13 Mallard a
14 Northern Shoveler a
15 Northern Pintail a
16 Green-winged Teal n
17 Greater Scaup a,d,n
18 Lesser Scaup d
19 Common Eider n
20 Harlequin Duck n
21 Surf Scoter d,n
22 White-winged Scoter d
23 Long-tailed Duck d
24 Bufflehead d
25 Common Goldeneye a,d
26 Common Merganser d
27 Red-breasted Merganser d,n
28 Osprey d
29 Bald Eagle a,k
30 Northern Harrier a,d,n
31 Northern Goshawk a
32 Golden Eagle n
33 Merlin d.n
34 Gyr Falcon n
35 Willow Ptarmigan d
36 Pacific Golden Plover n
37 Semipalmated Plover d,n
38 Greater Yellowlegs d
39 Lesser Yellowlegs d
40 Solitary Sandpiper d
41 Spotted Sandpiper d
42 Whimbrel n
43 Hudsonian Godwit a
44 Semipalmated Sandpiper n
45 Western Sandpiper a,n
46 Short-billed Dowitcher a
47 Wilson's Snipe d,n
48 Red-necked Phalarope d,n
49 Slaty-backed Gull n
50 Long-tailed Jaeger d.n
51 Bonaparte's Gull a,d,k
52 Mew Gull a,d,k,n
53 Herring Gull n

a=Anchorage area
d=Denali Highway
k=Kenai Peninsula

# Species Notes
54 Glaucous-Winged Gull n
55 Glaucous Gull n
56 Sabine's Gull n
57 Black-legged Kittiwake k
58 Aleutian Tern n
59 Arctic Tern a,d,k,n
60 Common Murre n,k
61 Black Guillemot k
62 Marbled Murrelet k
63 Horned Puffin k
64 Tufted Puffin k
65 Rock Pigeon a
66 Hairy Woodpecker a
67 Northern Flicker a
68 Alder Flycatcher a,d
69 Say's Phoebe d
70 Northern Shrike d
71 Gray Jay d
72 Stellar's Jay k
73 Northwestern Crow k
74 Common Raven a,d,k,n
75 Tree Swallow a,d,n
76 Violet-green Swallow d
77 Bank Swallow d
78 Cliff Swallow d,n
79 Black-capped Chickadee a,d,n
80 Red-breasted Nuthatch a,d,k
81 American Dipper d
82 Golden-crowned Kinglet a,d,k
83 Ruby-crowned Kinglet a,d,k
84 Bluethroat n
85 Arctic Warbler d,n
86 Gray-cheeked Thrush d,n
87 Hermit Thrush k
88 American Robin a,d,k,n
89 Varied Thrush k
90 Yellow Wagtail n
91 American Pipit d.n
92 Blackpoll Warbler a,d
93 N. Waterthrush n
94 Yellow Warbler d,n
95 Yellow-rumped Warbler a,d,k,n
96 Wilson's Warbler d,n
97 American Tree Sparrow d,n
98 Savannah Sparrow d,n
99 Fox Sparrow d,n
100 Lincoln's Sparrow a,d,n
101 White-crowned Sparrow a,d,k,n
102 Golden-crowned Sparrow n
103 Dark-eyed Junco a,d,k,n
104 Lapland Longspur n
105 White-winged Crossbill d,k
106 Hoary Redpoll n
107 Common Redpoll d,n
108 Pine Siskin a,d

Photos Henry Detwiler