Members of RRAS went on a field trip to experience birds, wildlife and beautiful scenery that Alaska has to offer. The trip was organized by Bird Las Vegas, a local tour company spearheaded by local birding experts Justin Streit, Brandon Miller, Ben Zyla and Alex Harper, that specializes in birding adventures. Doug and Nancy Chang, Tom Clay, Jennifer Dudek, Lucy Wu and Jimmy Alexander along with Justin, Brandon and Ben went on this incredible journey. Justin, Brandon and Ben were excellent guides and their preparation and knowledge of birding in Alaska added so much to the experience.
Everybody arrived in Anchorage by June 26. On June 27, our journey began by flying to Nome, a town of 3,800 located on the tip of the Seward Peninsula overlooking the Bering Sea. It is a great place for birding because of its location on the Bering Sea and the variety of habitats such as the tundra, lakes, streams and mountains that you see as you travel inland. Upon arriving in Nome, we hopped in the van and headed along the coast on Nome-Council Road to Safety Sound stopping along the way to see various species such as the Grey Cheeked Thrush, Hoary Redpoll and Lapland Longspur.
The following day we headed inland to Salmon Lake on Nome-Taylor Road. The road followed the Nome River, which allowed for great opportunities to view birds, photograph beautiful landscapes and an see an occasional muskox. The highlight of this day was an up-close observation of a Bristle-thighed Curlew as we headed further north past Salmon Lake.
On the third day we took the Nome-Teller Road for 73 miles to Teller, a native Alaskan fishing village with a population of about 250 people. The people there were so welcoming and very friendly. They were fishing for the long winter ahead. The birding highlights of this day were a Bar-tailed Godwit, Pacific Golden-Plover, Snow Bunting, Northern Wheatear and a White Wagtail.
The following day, we flew back to Anchorage and drove to Seward for the final leg of our trip. Seward is a town of about 3,000 people know for its fishing and tourism, which is situated on Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula. On the way down to Seward, we spotted beluga whales swimming in the Cook Inlet. What a sight to see!
While in Seward we went on an all-day boat excursion through the Kenai Fjords National Park. We saw many glaciers and a wide variety of wildlife, including sea lions, otters and a humpbacked whale! The birding was fantastic. We saw many species, which included Red-Faced Cormorants, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Kittlitz’s and Marbled Murrelets, and of course everyone’s favorites, the Tufted and Horned Puffins. On the way back to Anchorage the highlight was the sighting of a Falcated Duck at Potter’s Marsh.
The trip lasted seven days and we saw a total of 127 species in many different habitats. Alaska is such a vast area and 7 days wasn’t enough time to explore everything that Alaska has to offer. Thanks again to Justin, Brandon and Ben of Bird Las Vegas for putting this together and being great guides. We experienced countless memories that will last a lifetime!