• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
Feel the intensity, not your equipment. Maximum image quality. Minimum weight. The new ZEISS SFL, up to 30% less weight than comparable competitors.

Barrow, Alaska - Birds of the Arctic Tundra (1 Viewer)

madpitta

Well-known member
Eiders and the Snowy Owl have fascinated me since I first saw them in pages of the Sibley Guide. Recently I was finally able to do a quest I had been dreaming about - to see all 4 species of eiders, plus the incomparable Snowy Owl in its tundra home, all in one day. There is only one place in the world where this is possible - Barrow, Alaska. It's the northern most tip of the United States and it is one of the northernmost continuously inhabited village within the Arctic Circle. Although it is remote, it is still an easy place to get to, as there is a scheduled flight out of Anchorage. In spite of its interesting designation, it still gets very few visitors, probably because it is super expensive, there is pretty much nothing to do in town and outside of it is endless and featureless tundra (and the Arctic Ocean of course). Besides, the town itself has a dystopian look about it, with metallic junk heaped everywhere - not all that charming. But I am sure birders can truly appreciate the beauty of the place, comprising of the 5 Megas named above, the unforgettable display of Pectoral Sandpipers, amazing Red Phalaropes (what a transformation!), and 3 species of loons, including the mega, Yellow-billed Loon, in their awesome breeding plumages.

My trip report with photos, maps and detailed diary is now online Cloudbirders. Link below. Enjoy!

https://www.cloudbirders.com/be/download?filename=BARUAH_Alaska_06_2022.pdf

Regards,
Madpitta.
 

etudiant

Registered User
Supporter
Eiders and the Snowy Owl have fascinated me since I first saw them in pages of the Sibley Guide. Recently I was finally able to do a quest I had been dreaming about - to see all 4 species of eiders, plus the incomparable Snowy Owl in its tundra home, all in one day. There is only one place in the world where this is possible - Barrow, Alaska. It's the northern most tip of the United States and it is one of the northernmost continuously inhabited village within the Arctic Circle. Although it is remote, it is still an easy place to get to, as there is a scheduled flight out of Anchorage. In spite of its interesting designation, it still gets very few visitors, probably because it is super expensive, there is pretty much nothing to do in town and outside of it is endless and featureless tundra (and the Arctic Ocean of course). Besides, the town itself has a dystopian look about it, with metallic junk heaped everywhere - not all that charming. But I am sure birders can truly appreciate the beauty of the place, comprising of the 5 Megas named above, the unforgettable display of Pectoral Sandpipers, amazing Red Phalaropes (what a transformation!), and 3 species of loons, including the mega, Yellow-billed Loon, in their awesome breeding plumages.

My trip report with photos, maps and detailed diary is now online Cloudbirders. Link below. Enjoy!

https://www.cloudbirders.com/be/download?filename=BARUAH_Alaska_06_2022.pdf

Regards,
Madpitta.
Great report!

Very much agree about the 'dystopian look' of the place, for which I hold the military responsible.
The place was a cold war base which was later largely abandoned, leaving the detritus behind.
There really should be a requirement that like the mining industry, the government has to restore the land it has occupied to something approaching its original state.
 

kb57

Well-known member
Europe
Really entertaining trip report with some excellent photos - hadn't appreciated what a breeding plumage pectoral sandpiper looked like - and the local (East Asian / Alaskan?) subspecies of dunlin has an enormous beak!
 

Owene

Well-known member
Wales
Eiders and the Snowy Owl have fascinated me since I first saw them in pages of the Sibley Guide. Recently I was finally able to do a quest I had been dreaming about - to see all 4 species of eiders, plus the incomparable Snowy Owl in its tundra home, all in one day. There is only one place in the world where this is possible - Barrow, Alaska. It's the northern most tip of the United States and it is one of the northernmost continuously inhabited village within the Arctic Circle. Although it is remote, it is still an easy place to get to, as there is a scheduled flight out of Anchorage. In spite of its interesting designation, it still gets very few visitors, probably because it is super expensive, there is pretty much nothing to do in town and outside of it is endless and featureless tundra (and the Arctic Ocean of course). Besides, the town itself has a dystopian look about it, with metallic junk heaped everywhere - not all that charming. But I am sure birders can truly appreciate the beauty of the place, comprising of the 5 Megas named above, the unforgettable display of Pectoral Sandpipers, amazing Red Phalaropes (what a transformation!), and 3 species of loons, including the mega, Yellow-billed Loon, in their awesome breeding plumages.

My trip report with photos, maps and detailed diary is now online Cloudbirders. Link below. Enjoy!

https://www.cloudbirders.com/be/download?filename=BARUAH_Alaska_06_2022.pdf

Regards,
Madpitta.
Really good write up. Thanks
 

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Great stuff Pritam. Barrow was already on the bucket list, but your excellent report bumps it a few places higher.

I had no idea how excited Pectoral Sandpipers got - that display sounds amazing and your shot makes it look like the Sage grouse of the wader world,

Cheers
Mike
 

madpitta

Well-known member
Really entertaining trip report with some excellent photos - hadn't appreciated what a breeding plumage pectoral sandpiper looked like - and the local (East Asian / Alaskan?) subspecies of dunlin has an enormous beak!
Thanks kb57. Yeah the Dunlins up there winter in E Asia. Bill is visibly longer and seemed very colorful too. How/Why populations from different parts of Alaska ended up wintering in different ranges is an interesting natural history question.
 

madpitta

Well-known member
Great stuff Pritam. Barrow was already on the bucket list, but your excellent report bumps it a few places higher.

I had no idea how excited Pectoral Sandpipers got - that display sounds amazing and your shot makes it look like the Sage grouse of the wader world,

Cheers
Mike
Highly recommended. Just the abundance of breeding birds can keep any birder happy. That puffed up look of Pectoral Sandpipers is bizarre no doubt.
 

Trinovid

mountain and glacier watcher
United States
Both Rock and Willow Ptarmigan are present but rarely seen by birders. Not sure why. There is quite a bit of hunting in Barrow - not sure if that has something to do with it.
Pretty hard to see a lot of the time due to their seasonal color change, unless they fly (or walk) across a contrasting background. Still like to see them when I can.
 

Dutchbirder64

Well-known member
When reading your report I have great memories to our trip back in June 1993. Having three species of Eider in one pingo lake. Spectacled, Two King Eider pairs and Stellers on 50 meters distance. And indeed Snowy Owl and Jaegers on nests. Red Phalaropes and Pectoral Sandpipers. No Yellow-Billed Loon though. Great place.
 

madpitta

Well-known member
When reading your report I have great memories to our trip back in June 1993. Having three species of Eider in one pingo lake. Spectacled, Two King Eider pairs and Stellers on 50 meters distance. And indeed Snowy Owl and Jaegers on nests. Red Phalaropes and Pectoral Sandpipers. No Yellow-Billed Loon though. Great place.

Imho the only summer mega that is missable is Yellow-billed Loon. Ross's Gull call be seen (and missed) later in the year but few would want to go there later than summer or early fall.

Sabine's Gull in breeding season is another missable attraction in summer but most birders catch up with it elsewhere anyway.
 

Swissboy

Sempach, Switzerland
Supporter
Switzerland
Eiders and the Snowy Owl have fascinated me since I first saw them in pages of the Sibley Guide. Recently I was finally able to do a quest I had been dreaming about - to see all 4 species of eiders, plus the incomparable Snowy Owl in its tundra home, all in one day. There is only one place in the world where this is possible - Barrow, Alaska. It's the northern most tip of the United States and it is one of the northernmost continuously inhabited village within the Arctic Circle. Although it is remote, it is still an easy place to get to, as there is a scheduled flight out of Anchorage. In spite of its interesting designation, it still gets very few visitors, probably because it is super expensive, there is pretty much nothing to do in town and outside of it is endless and featureless tundra (and the Arctic Ocean of course). Besides, the town itself has a dystopian look about it, with metallic junk heaped everywhere - not all that charming. But I am sure birders can truly appreciate the beauty of the place, comprising of the 5 Megas named above, the unforgettable display of Pectoral Sandpipers, amazing Red Phalaropes (what a transformation!), and 3 species of loons, including the mega, Yellow-billed Loon, in their awesome breeding plumages.

My trip report with photos, maps and detailed diary is now online Cloudbirders. Link below. Enjoy!

https://www.cloudbirders.com/be/download?filename=BARUAH_Alaska_06_2022.pdf

Regards,
Madpitta.
Thanks for your great trip report with the many fine photos! We were there ten years earlier, in mid June 2012. Missed the Yellow-billed Loons, and the Spectacled Eiders were much farther away. Otherwise pretty much the same experiences, but we made a special effort for Polar Bears. The local guide brought us to the place where the leftovers of the whales are deposited. That place (some metal open containers) is used as a free for all Polar Bears, at the same time keeping them away from the village. Unfortunately, we only heard the bear take off as we arrived, though.

But then, we encountered a Polar Bear right from the Barrow village as it was walking north along the shore. We were in the car, so just fine to watch it, and also saw it approach the village. At that point, some locals scared it away. Anyway, Barrow is great. But one needs some luck with the weather.
 

madpitta

Well-known member
Thanks for your great trip report with the many fine photos! We were there ten years earlier, in mid June 2012. Missed the Yellow-billed Loons, and the Spectacled Eiders were much farther away. Otherwise pretty much the same experiences, but we made a special effort for Polar Bears. The local guide brought us to the place where the leftovers of the whales are deposited. That place (some metal open containers) is used as a free for all Polar Bears, at the same time keeping them away from the village. Unfortunately, we only heard the bear take off as we arrived, though.

But then, we encountered a Polar Bear right from the Barrow village as it was walking north along the shore. We were in the car, so just fine to watch it, and also saw it approach the village. At that point, some locals scared it away. Anyway, Barrow is great. But one needs some luck with the weather.

Finding Polar Bears in Barrow at this time of the year has become much harder because of climate change and some changes to the rules of dumping whale leftovers. I did not make much of an attempt because I had seen them several times before, but still I would have loved to see one. One did come onshore at Nunavuk and I saw its pugmarks.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top