Birding’s “Holy Grail” – GAMBELL, ALASKA!!

Serious North American birders absolutely have to witness spring migration in Alaska. Extreme “listers” will venture out to one of the islands with hopes of seeing North American birds which either migrate through or breed in the arctic and also, rare Eurasian migrants which occasionally drop into the island. I chose Gambell, the Siberian Yupik village on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, 35 miles off of the Siberian (yes, Russia) coast. Gambell is a small, timeless Eskimo village where walrus, whale, seal, polar bear, and birds account for most of the native diet. I was not disappointed, as I added a whopping 21 birds to my life list after five adrenaline-pumping 16 hour birding days on Gambell.

Looking over Bering Sea to Siberia, Russia

Looking from “sea-watch” over Bering Sea to Siberia, Russia

Gambell offers huge colonies of Parakeet, Least and Crested Auklets (all lifers for me) on the cliffs and the point or “sea-watch” provides a super-highway for passing seabirds, literally hundreds per minute, flying very close to the island. But Gambell is most famous among birders for “The Boneyard” and the rarities that are discovered in its craters. The boneyards are the native dumps used for centuries to dispose of whale, walrus, and seal carcasses. The natives dig in the boneyards, looking for “old” ivory which is quite valuable. Passing birds drop into “The Boneyard” for both respite from difficult travels and nourishment from the bugs attracted to the decaying animals. Water-proof, knee-length footwear was mandatory!

Birding "The Boneyard"

Birding “The Boneyard”

Rustic Bunting in "The Boneyard"! mega-rarity in North America (Eurasian species)
Rustic Bunting in “The Boneyard”! mega-rarity in North America (Eurasian species)

About George C. Wood

A birder since age ten, but not necessarily an avid "lister", I am closing in on 700 (*800!) species seen in North America.....hoping to capture each sighting with my camera.
This entry was posted in Quest for 700 (*800!). Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Birding’s “Holy Grail” – GAMBELL, ALASKA!!

  1. Marv Weisbord says:

    Go, George…On to 700! We will follow you to the ends of the earth. — Marv and Dorothy

  2. Mike Selverian says:

    cool! You are really hitting it!

    Did you learn how to kiss an eskimo?

  3. Julie Foster says:

    Wow, you finally got there! — Julie

  4. Tom Mason says:

    Wow … 16 hr. birding days … your dedication and stamina is inspiring!

  5. fleur says:

    still think you need to do a south east asia birding trip….any chance you are in pacific North west beginning September? Bringing Charlotte back and would love to see you x fleur

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