Tuesday and Wednesday, May 29th and 30th
Jason and I took off from Philadelphia Airport at around 5:30 in the late afternoon of May 29th, changed planes in Salt Lake City, Utah, and got into Anchorage, Alaska at around midnight. There, we met Dick Colyer and waited through the early morning hours for our 6:00 AM flight to Nome with a quick stopover in Kotzebue. We arrived at the Nome Airport at around 9:00 AM on the 30th.
Since we had several hours before our Hageland Airlines flight over to Gambell on St. Lawrence Island, we birded the area around the airport and the nearby town jetty. We were able to find Red-throated Loon, Harlequin and Long-tailed Ducks, Black Scoter, Pacific Golden-Plover, Red-necked Phalarope, Long-tailed Jaeger, Mew and Glaucous Gulls, Black-legged Kittiwake, Arctic Tern, Common Murre, a distant, yet identifiable, 'life' Kittlitz's Murrelet, Orange-crowned Warbler, Fox, Savannah, and White-crowned Sparrows, Common Redpoll, and frustrating glimpses of Yellow Wagtails in flight.
Back at the airport, we boarded the twin-engine plane and took the 45-minute flight over to Gambell. Luckily, the fog moved out right before we got there or we wouldn't have been able to land. About 26 hours after leaving Philadelphia, we were finally on the island. Devich met us at the "airport", as did several four-wheeled ATV's with attached carts to carry our baggage, and led us to the house that we'd be staying at the first three nights until some rooms became available in "the lodge". It was a house with four bedrooms owned by an Eskimo named Wade. It was very nice inside and we had full use of it. Since cell phones are useless on the island, family radios are the birders' only means of communication. The town has one main store and another smaller one that's open when the main one is closed. There are no restaurants or shops. Since the town is located on a bed of loose, rolling gravel, walking involves sinking in ball-bearing-like pebbles, shortening what would be a full stride down to half or three-quarters its length. Mostly because of this, ATV's are the main type of transportation. Here, they have a purposeful use instead of the 'recreational' (or "wreck-all-creation") use that we find around here. Cars and trucks are nonexistent.
After quickly settling in, we headed out to "The Point", or "The Seawatch" as it's also called. On the way there, we ran into a group of birders who were looking at a Red-throated Pipit. After getting great looks at it, we continued over to the seawatch. It was the end of May and there was still a fair amount of ice in the Bering Sea.
The weather was cold by our Mid-Atlantic standards for late May and early June, roughly ranging between 30 and 45 degrees most of the time we were on the island. From here, I got good looks at my 'life' Crested Auklets and Horned Puffins.
Other species observed here included Northern Fulmar, Pelagic Cormorant, Common Eider, Long-tailed and Harlequin Ducks, Pomarine and Parasitic Jaegers, Glaucous and 'Vega' Gulls, Black-legged Kittiwake, and Common and Thick-billed Murres. The number of birds passing here has to be seen to be believed. It was not unusual to see 500 to 1000 birds a MINUTE passing by the point.
Later that evening, a call on the radio alerted us that a Gray-tailed Tattler had been found at the south end of Troutman Lake, so we hiked down there and found it fairly easily, which made the last half of the five-mile round trip seem a little shorter than it was.
Because most of us were 'burned out' by this time from very little sleep in over 30 hours, we decided to make something to eat and turn in for the short night. It was hard to stop birding since there was still plenty of daylight left. We were up near the Arctic Circle, so sunrise was about 5:30 AM and sunset was about 1:30 AM! It was weird to see the sun shining through the window after midnight.