Nome & the Seward Peninsula, ALASKA

A birder cannot visit Gambell on St. Lawrence Island without visiting NOME, too! Better known as the end point of the annual legendary Idatarod “musher” race from Anchorage, it is also a fantastic birding destination. Accessible only by boat and airplane, Nome is bordered on the West and South by the Bering Sea, and the North and East by miles of trackless wilderness. Unfortunately for me, winter still held Nome and its surrounding waterways in its icy grip. That translated into very few opportunities to search for Aleutian Terns, Spectacled Eiders, or other water-favoring specialties I wanted to add to my life-list. However, a limited itinerary meant we had extra time to concentrate on the infamous 85 mile long Kougarok Road, which takes you into the high tundra and mountains of the Seward Peninsula.

Koukarag Road, Nome, Alaska

Kougarok Road, Nome, Alaska

Kougarok Road is enchanting! It took us about one minute to sight lifer #666, a roadside Willow Ptarmigan in a transitional plumage.

Male molting into from winter white to summer brown coat (Koukarag Road, Nome, Alaska)

male Willow Ptarmigan molting from winter white to summer brown coat.

By the end of the day I had added the rare Bristle-thighed Curlew and Rock Ptarmigan to my life-list……currently standing at 668. If I maintained a mammal life-list, I would have added another rarity: Musk Oxen. My second and final day in Nome was spent attempting to photograph the GORGEOUS but very elusive Bluethroat. It is a small thrush that breeds in northwestern Alaska and Eurasia, and for me, is a signature bird for the high Arctic. I desperately wanted a photo good enough to print, frame and hang in our already over-represented aviary of a living room. After hours of trudging through marshy willow scrub bogs and playing I-phone recordings of a pretend competing male’s territorial song, I tricked one male for about 10 seconds. What do you think…an 8×10???

Specialty of the far north (Koukarag Road, Nome, Alaska)

BLUETHROAT: specialty of the high Arctic

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.

11 Responses to Nome & the Seward Peninsula, ALASKA

  1. Anne Wood says:

    Were you near enough the musk oxen to see them well? Blue throat thrush?

  2. Joseph Cox says:

    How many did you add to your life list?

    Sent from my iPad

    On Jun 9, 2013, at 8:03 PM, birdtalesblog wrote:

    WordPress.com George C. Wood posted: “A birder cannot visit Gambell on St. Lawrence Island without visiting NOME, too! Better known as the end point of the annual legendary Idatarod “musher” race from Anchorage, it is also a fantastic birding destination. Accessible only by boat and airplane,”

  3. Thomas S. McIlwain says:

    Great Stuff George! Thanks for sharing.

    ________________________________

  4. nina weisbord says:

    no more 8×10’s!!!!! xo

  5. fleur says:

    want you to know that I have arranged a small birding gathering for this Wednesday morning- novices, obviously, but very excited and will be bragging big-time about your life list. You are welcome to join if you would like to….xx

  6. Wendy says:

    Love the Bluethroat and your never-ending adventure!

  7. dorothy weisbord says:

    Yes….great blog

  8. Arlin Green says:

    Seems like it’s time to set a new goal — 1000?

  9. milesxx says:

    Great Job George!! Love to read all your escapades! Miles xoxo

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