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ALASKA FALL GOLDMINE: Ross's Gulls in Barrow & Rarities on St Paul

Although first-winter Ross's Gulls typically do not acquire the pinkish tones to the extent that the adults do, their boldy contrasting pattern is just as gorgeous. (Photo by guide Eric Hynes)
A cool-weather fall adventure to the far north. We'll start with a treasure hunt for Asian migrants (and American ones too!) on St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea before spending several days at Barrow above 71 degrees North latitude, the US's northernmost point, looking for the legendary Ross's Gull, loons, eiders, and possibly even Polar Bear and Ivory Gull.

Few birds in North America elicited more excitement when they were discovered than the diminutive, elegant Ross's Gull of the High Arctic. To see one in the Lower 48, you need to be lucky; you just can't predict when one will show up. Not so in Barrow, Alaska, in early October! Barrow is unusual in many ways, and one of the more fascinating attributes of this remote site on the Arctic Ocean shore is its unique geographic position for witnessing the annual fall migration of Ross's Gulls. It's a migration phenomenon that was first witnessed here in the late 1800s and documented in the 1970s and 1980s. Every fall, beginning in late September, the majority of the world's Ross's Gulls migrate past this remote outpost from the Chukchi Sea in Arctic Russia to the Beaufort Sea in Arctic Alaska.

These Ross's Gulls often pass by and linger to feed in the coastal habitats in small numbers on a daily basis at this season, and local weather conditions sometimes force thousands of these beautiful, pink-plumaged birds close to shore. Small numbers of these gulls would be memorable enough, but the chance to see large numbers (we saw 1200+ on one of our tours!) compels us to offer this short trip to Alaska's far north for those who want the chance to witness one of birding's most intriguing and little-known spectacles.

During this fall season, Barrow also offers the chance for other prizes, including Spectacled, King, and Common eiders, Yellow-billed Loon, Snowy Owl, and perhaps even an Ivory Gull or a Polar Bear.

In 2017, for the first time, we are combining our proven Barrow trip with a journey to St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs to search for the Asian migrants that stop off on this lonely Bering Sea outpost. Early October has recently proven to be one of the peak times for Asian migrants to appear here. Although the avian prizes vary annually, some of the exciting birds that have appeared regularly in early October in recent years have included Tufted Duck, Common Snipe, Jack Snipe, Gray-tailed Tattler, Gyrfalcon, Brambling, Eurasian Skylark, Eyebrowed Thrush, Siberian Accentor, Olive-backed Pipit, McKay's Bunting, and Little Bunting. We'll check multiple migrant hotspots each day and will walk through dense patches of island vegetation to look for skulking passerines and wetland birds. Results vary each year and are strongly weather dependent, but we stand an excellent chance of finding some Old World and Arctic goodies during our visit to this special island. The seabird show of the summer months is not at full force during early October, but we should find Short-tailed Shearwaters, Red-faced Cormorants, Red-legged Kittiwakes, and a scattering of alcids along the islands rocky shores.

Bring your jacket, hat, and adventurous spirit, and join us for this special Alaskan adventure!

Enjoy a slideshow of images from guides and participants on our 2013 tour.

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2017 Departures
Sep 30 - Oct 9 ($6350)

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Guides for our tours
Tom Johnson

What to Expect
Good accommodations, easy terrain, cold climate.

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