Utqiaġvik (formerly known as Barrow) is the northernmost city in the United States. The sizable town sits right along the shores of the Arctic Ocean well north of the Arctic Circle at 71 degrees latitude. The infrastructure and fairly extensive road system offer some of the best access to High Arctic tundra and the coastline here forms a migration corridor for thousands of waterfowl, loons, shorebirds, gulls, alcids, jaegers, and even whales with the environs around Point Barrow and Elson Lagoon being particularly productive. During the summer months, the tundra here experiences twenty-four hours of daylight and migrating and breeding bird species arrive en masse. The vast tundra, extensive wetlands, and coastline around Utqiaġvik are one of the best places in Alaska to see and photograph eiders with King, Steller’s and the rare Spectacled all readily seen in ponds and lakes while Common Eiders frequent coastal areas. The water-logged tundra harbors hundreds of waterfowl that range from Tundra Swans, Brant, and Greater White-fronted Geese to Long-tailed Ducks, Greater Scaup, and more. In addition, Utqiaġvik is a reliable location for Yellow-billed and Pacific Loons, up to three species of jaeger, hundreds of Glaucous Gulls, and occasionally Gyrfalcon. Lemmings and thousands of waterfowl attract Snowy Owls which nest on the tundra each year in varying numbers. The shorebird spectacle here is impressive with Red and Red-necked Phalaropes, American Golden-Plovers, Pectoral Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitchers, Dunlin, and Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers nesting in large numbers. Shorebird species breeding in smaller numbers include Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpipers and in some years it is possible to observe displaying Buff-breasted Sandpiper, a memorable spectacle. Rarer but regular visitors include Ruff, Red-necked and Little Stints, and Curlew Sandpiper. The tundra is also home to a few passerines and the cheerful songs of Snow Buntings can be heard throughout while Lapland Longspurs, Savanna Sparrows, and Common and Hoary Redpolls are frequent. Utqiaġvik regularly turns up surprises and during spring the rare Ross’s and Ivory Gulls are possible. In addition to the abundance of birds, several mammals can be seen including Bearded, Ringed and Spotted Seals, Arctic Foxes, Short-tailed Weasel, and good chances for Polar Bear.
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)
Spectacled; Steller’s; King; Common Eider; Greater White-fronted Goose; Pomarine & Parasitic Jaeger; Pacific, Red-throated, Yellow-billed Loon; Red & Red-necked Phalarope; Snowy Owl; American Golden Plover; Baird’s, Pectoral, Buff-breasted Sandpiper; Lapland Longspur; Snow Bunting. Possible Ross’s & Ivory Gull some year, also Curlew Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint.
Polar Bear, Arctic Fox, Caribou, Bearded & Spotted Seal
High Arctic tundra; Arctic ice pack
moderately cold, sometimes below freezing.
12 with 2 HL Tour Leaders
generally easy with some moderate walks
Arctic Ocean & ice pack; native village. Excellent photographic opportunities.During your free time in Anchorage, don’t miss going to Wave Bookstores on Northern Lights or downtown on 5th Avenue. They have a great selection of Alaska fiction and non-fiction! In addition, there are some excellent restaurants downtown, including Orso, Glacier Brew House, Simon & Seafort’s, and Marx Brothers.
Stephan Lorenz was great. He knew every bird and plant and was helpful to me in getting the photos that I wanted.
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.
Stephen Lorenz and Dave Krueper were terrific guides. Complemented each other beautifully. Thanks so much for an incredible experience.
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.
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.
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