Tour price (Per person): Price to be announced
This tour is offered in partnership with High Lonesome Birdtours.
This arctic adventure will focus on the shoreline of the Chukchi Sea to witness an unparalleled birding experience. The city of Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow) lies nearly 500 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle and provides relatively easy and comfortable access to one of North America’s most amazing birding spectacles, the fall migration of Ross’s Gulls. These pink-hued arctic enigmas are reliably found during their annual fall migration at this northernmost tip of the United States where the majority of the population moves past. While small numbers linger in the Barrow area during the beginning of October, the right weather conditions can bring hundreds within close proximity of the shore, resulting in an unforgettable sight. During October it is also possible to encounter migrating eiders, loons, and with great luck, Ivory Gull. Before our visit to Utqiaġvik, we will have the opportunity to bird the Anchorage area where we can add many boreal specialties.
Day 1. Arrival in Anchorage and transfer to lodge
Day 2. Birding in the greater Anchorage area
Day 3. Birding in Anchorage in the morning and flight to Barrow
Day 4. Birding Utqiaġvik area
Day 5. Birding Utqiaġvik area
Day 6. Morning birding in Utqiaġvik and flight back to Anchorage
We have a full day to explore the numerous birding opportunities in and around Anchorage. During October, we can search for a variety of resident boreal forest species and migrating waterfowl. Visiting valleys and boreal forest in the nearby Chugach Mountains, we will look for Spruce Grouse, Willow and Rock Ptarmigans (difficult), Northern Goshawk, American Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers, Boreal Chickadee, and Canada Jay. Depending on the season and weather conditions, Bohemian Waxwings and White-winged Crossbills may also be present alongside Common Redpolls. Lakes and wetlands in the Anchorage area hold good numbers of waterfowl, including Common and Barrow’s Goldeneyes, Greater Scaup, various dabbling ducks, Trumpeter and occasionally Tundra Swans. A few sparrows like Fox and American Tree Sparrows also occasionally linger into October. The wilderness begins right on the edge of the city and we could see moose and may even glimpse a bear or lynx with exceptional luck.
During our time in Utqiaġvik, we will divide our days between extensive sea watching and exploration of the tundra surrounding this northernmost city. Utqiaġvik sits right on the edge of the Arctic Ocean with Point Barrow itself jutting out into the confluence of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. During October, great numbers of eider and smaller numbers of loons are migrating in addition to our main target here, the elegant Ross’s Gull. We will spend several hours each day scanning the open ocean from various productive points along the shoreline and can expect to see large numbers of Common and King Eiders with chances for the rare Spectacled and Steller’s Eiders. The open water can also hold Yellow-billed, Pacific, Common, and Red-throated Loons and a few lingering acids, like Thick-billed Murre and Black Guillemot. In addition to Ross’s Gulls, hundreds of Glaucous Gulls are present with smaller numbers of Herring and Iceland while even Ivory Gulls have passed by on rare occasions.
The flat tundra surrounding Utqiaġvik can be easily accessed by a good road system and here we can search for the beautiful Snowy Owl and usually several birds hunt on the snow-covered expanses, offering great photo opportunities. Gyrfalcon is also a rare visitor here. In the town itself, we can check various feeders for Hoary Redpolls and Snow Buntings. In addition to these rare high arctic birds, we can expect a good variety of northern mammals like Arctic Fox, Bearded and Spotted Seals, and with great luck Polar Bear. There will be plenty of opportunities to become immersed in the unique Iñupiat culture.
Each day begins with a late breakfast between 8:00 and 9:00 am. We then head off to our preferred birding site for the remainder of the morning, taking a break for lunch and warming up indoors. For the remainder of the afternoon, we will return to do further seawatching and exploration interspersed by breaks to warm up in the vehicles or indoors. We will have an early dinner at a local restaurant nearby. Overall, we will spend the majority of daylight hours in the field.
This tour has only short drives on maintained roads and some time will be spent birding from vehicles.
Anchorage has several excellent cultural museums, fantastic seafood restaurants, and excursions.