Gambell is a remote Yupik village on the northwestern tip of St. Lawrence Island, lying roughly 40 miles southeast of the Russian mainland which is visible on the horizon on a clear day. The small and welcoming community here still practices a traditional lifestyle that is rare in other parts of the country. It remains one of the most far-flung and fascinating birding locations in all of Alaska, offering the chance to observe millions of nesting seabirds, migrating waterfowl and loons, plus an excellent chance to find several Eurasian migrants and vagrants that are very rare in other regions of the ABA area and North America. The seawatch here is incredibly productive, especially during the spring when millions of birds are rushing north from the Bering Sea and points further south to reach their Arctic breeding grounds. Four species of eiders pass by in considerable numbers, including the rare Steller’s and Spectacled, small numbers of Emperor Geese are possible, four species of scoters and five species of loons, including good numbers of Arctic and Yellow-billed – often flying right past the point. All three jaegers move through while Black-legged Kittiwakes are abundant and Sabine’s Gulls frequent, even Red-legged Kittiwake, Ross’s and Ivory Gulls are possible but are extremely rare. The number of alcids here is truly astounding and counting in the millions. The evening flights include Common and Thick-billed Murres, Black and Pigeon Guillemots, Parakeet, Least and Crested Auklets, and Horned and Tufted Puffins. Northern Fulmars and Pelagic Cormorants are common from the seawatch. The alcid species can also be observed closely on the talus slopes they use for nesting near the village and during most years at least one or two Dovekies are present, a very rare nesting species in Alaska. Other regular spring visitors to Gambell include Brant, Tundra Swan, Harlequin Duck, Pacific Golden-Plover, Rock Sandpiper, Red and Red-necked Phalaropes, Rough-legged Hawk, Short-eared Owl, Lapland Longspur, Snow Bunting, and the range-restricted McKay’s Bunting. Several species with largely Eurasian distribution occur regularly as passage migrants on Gambell during the spring with a handful remaining to nest, including Common Ringed Plover, Red-necked Stint, Slaty-backed Gull, Arctic Warbler, Bluethroat, Northern Wheatear, Eastern Yellow and White Wagtails, and Red-throated Pipit. Eurasian vagrants and rarities we have observed during spring tours over the past five years include Tundra Bean-Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Lesser Sand-Plover, Pin-tailed Snipe, Terek, Common, Wood and Green Sandpipers, Gray-tailed Tattler, Common Greenshank, White-tailed Eagle, Common Chiffchaff, Eyebrowed Thrush, Red-flanked Bluetail, Siberian Stonechat, Brambling, Hawfinch, Eurasian Bullfinch, and Pallas’s Bunting (many others are possible). Of course, the number and diversity of Eurasian species and rarities are highly weather and wind-dependent, as such it is unpredictable, making each day on Gambell very exciting. The seawatch can also prove exciting for mammals with Gray Whales often observed closely and depending on the amount of sea ice, Walrus, Bearded and Ribbon Seals are possible, while Arctic Foxes occasionally wander about the tundra close to the village.

Our accommodations will be simple but comfortable in Gambell (basic rooms and shared bathrooms). Walking on Gambell is very strenuous because of the loose gravel. In order to make Gambell more accessible, we provide ATVs for our customers, usually two per ATV. Our primary leader will be Stephan Lorenz. We will have additional leaders as needed.

This tour is operated by High Lonesome BirdTours in partnership with Rockjumper Birding Tours.

These are large group tours (up to 16 guests with multiple leaders), and will have guests from both Highlonesome and Rockjumper.

For any queries not related to a tour booking, please fee free to contact High Lonesome BirdTours directly Stephan Lorenz (Tour Director)

Tour Facts Top Birds
Common or annual species - Emperor Goose, Least, Parakeet & Crested Auklets, Little Auk, Yellow-billed, Black-throated & Pacific Loons, Steller’s, Spectacled, King & Common Eiders, Ivory & Slaty-backed Gulls, Common Ringed Plover, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Gray-tailed Tattler, Red-necked Stint, Red Phalarope, White Wagtail, Brambling. Less common Asian vagrants - Green, Terek, Common Sandpipers, Long-toed & Temminck’s Stints, Common Greenshank, Great Knot, Little, Temminck’s & Long-toed Stints, Common Snipe, Common Cuckoo, Sky Lark, Dusky Warbler, Taiga Flycatcher, Siberian Rubythroat, Dusky & Eyebrowed Thrushes, Olive-backed Pipit, Rustic Bunting, Brambling, Common Rosefinch, Eurasian Bullfinch and Hawfinch.
Top Mammals
Walrus, Harbour Seal, Arctic Fox, Grey & Killer Whales
Habitats Covered
boreal & taiga forest; tundra; mountain ranges; lakes & shorelines; Pacific Rainforest; islands
Expected Climate
mild to colder on the water.
Max Group Size
16 with 3 HL Tour Leaders
Tour Pace & Walking
intense; some hiking through marsh and rough ground every day but ATV’s available
very comfortable hotels & lodges.
Ease of Birding
Other Attractions
Local culture; scenery (you can see Russia on a clear day!)
Photographic Opportunities
Tour Route Map Client Testimonials

Stephan Lorenz is an exceptional guide, being both a wizard at finding and identifying birds and also dealing with people. He has a kind and funny manner that puts everyone at ease. I am glad that Rockjumper has hired him and look forward to being on some of his trips in the future.

The weather adversely affected the Gambell visit such that hoped for vagrants were minimal during our stay. The Siberian Express mostly failed to stop there. That was beyond anyone’s control and, thanks to the efforts of the guides, the birding experience was still very good. Stephan Lorenz did an exceptional job. Between Covid and the weather his job seemed unusually difficult but he handled things extremely well. I would definitely go on another tour with Mr. Lorenz as guide.

Stephan as lead guide was one of the best guides I have ever had the privilege of working with. Wonderful at finding birds, making sure participants saw them, managing the challenging logistics, and a truly excellent group leader. Dave was an excellent partner guide. I will definitely seek them out to travel with again. Thanks to both of them.

Stephan Lorenz was great. He knew every bird and plant and was helpful to me in getting the photos that I wanted.

This was a great trip – way better than could even be expected. Yes, we saw Ross’s Gulls streaking across the distant horizon, but we also saw a polar bear mom and two cubs and our time in Barrow coincided with the Inupiat whale harvest. While the death of whales is always a bit sad, the opportunity to see subsistence hunters is rare these days. Stephan Lorenz has proved to be one of my favorite guides – his combination of ‘bionic eyes’ (Claudia’s report), great hearing, real understanding of bird behavior and incredible patience means he is my go-to guide for difficult species that I’ve missed on other tours (or not tried to see before because it seemed too difficult). With Stephan, I have ‘ticked’ Bachman’s Sparrow, Swainson’s Warbler, Buff-collared Nightjar, Short-tailed Albatross, Whiskered Auklet, Spectacled Eider, Emperor Goose, Bar-tailed Godwit (in Alaska), among many other much-sought after species. But Stephan and Claudia also keep every trip enjoyable. Claudia is a great birder in her own right and can set up a scope on the target bird as fast as Stephan. It is great to have two scopes set up immediately. What could be very discouraging to an older birder with poor eyesight and poor hearing like me turns out to be a delightful trip. Imagine spending hours and hours in a freezing wind staring out to an empty sea and still calling it fun. I am looking forward to traveling with Stephan and Claudia again as soon as possible.

Dates, Leaders and Pricing
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