Pretour Day 1 - Fly to Anchorage from departure city. Once the group arrives in Anchorage some local birding will be offered to those too excited to sleep. Most, however, may choose to get a good night's sleep in preparation for our flight to the Pribilof Islands tomorrow. NIGHT ANCHORAGE.
Pretour Day 2 -After breakfast some birding in a local hot spot will occupy our time until we fly to the Pribilof Islands on Pen Air. Our flight to St. Paul Island takes us across a spectacular landscape. A clear day offers a bird’s-eye view of Cook Inlet and Iliamna Lake (Alaska’s largest freshwater lake). After crossing the waters of famous Bristol Bay, we will land on St. Paul Island (the largest Pribilof Island in this remote volcanic archipelago). St. Paul is 14 miles long and 8 miles wide, with 45 miles of shoreline, and its climate is foggy and moist. The average temperature in July is near 50 degrees Fahrenheit--great for the wildlife, but a bit cool for people
Our tour package for the Pribilof Islands includes round-trip air transportation from Anchorage, transfers on St. Paul, services of a native guide, ground transportation, sightseeing and shared accommodations. You will stay at the warm, comfortable King Eider Hotel, well known to birders from all over the world, while on St. Paul. Meals are not included, but a convenient meal plan is available from the native corporation on the island. NIGHT ST. PAUL ISLAND
Pretour Day 3 - Imagine standing on the cliffs of a volcanic outcropping in the Bering Sea with a misty fog shrouding the tundra covered landscape. Slowly the curtain of fog lifts, and the muffled background noises become louder. Visible on the black gravel beach below are hundreds of fur seals who have made their annual migration to this tiny island to bear their young. The sounds of their barking and roaring fill the air. The females slip back and forth to the sea, while in the middle of this brown ocean of mammals the mammoth male “Beachmaster” defies anyone to cross this path.
No other area in the world can match the Bering Sea in its diversity of seabirds. The sheer number of birds found nesting on the island’s craggy cliffs will astound the imagination. Every inch of space, from the largest ledge to the smallest crevice, is claimed by a nesting bird. Colorful puffins, Red-legged Kittiwakes and Red-faced Cormorants are abundant. The specialty of the Pribilof Islands is the Red-legged Kittiwake. Breeding only in the Bering Sea, only here is this elegant bird easy to see.
A blanket of wildflowers covers the rolling countryside. The constant wind sends waves crashing against the perimeter of the island, carving its future as it has its past.
The largest Aleut population in the world resides upon this island. Their culture has been influenced by other peoples who have come in search of the islands riches. Russian explorers discovered the Pribilofs in the 1700’s. They were searching for fur seals, but in turn left behind their legacy, the Russian Orthodox Church. It binds the community together and stands as a reminder of the Natives’ turbulent past.
This is St. Paul Island: a fascinating combination of past, present and future. NIGHT ST. PAUL ISLAND
Pretour Day 4 - For those visiting the Pribs, this will be our final morning on St. Paul Island. Depending on flight schedules (which are determined largely by the weather) we may have time to visit the seabird cliffs one last time before we leave. Our return to Anchorage should be in time for us to relax in our hotel before dinner.
The rest of the group will fly to Anchorage from their departure city. Most flights have a layover in Anchorage before continuing on to Nome the next morning. Leaders will be on the ground in Anchorage to assist anyone who wishes. NatureScape Tours can arrange a hotel at cost for anyone interested in staying at a hotel instead of the airport. (You could arrive early in the day on May 23, spend the night in Anchorage and then fly to Nome the morning of May 24). Once the group arrives in Anchorage some local birding will be offered to those too excited to sleep. Most, however, may choose to get a good night's sleep in preparation for our flight to Nome tomorrow. NIGHT ANCHORAGE.
Day 1 - Transfer to our Alaska Airlines plane and fly to Nome, Alaska. If our plane arrives on time we will have plenty of time for birding the remainder of the day. We will get checked into our hotel and leave immediately for birding areas SE of Nome towards Safety Lagoon. As it does not get dark here until very late, we will need to keep an eye on the clock so that we do not stay out too late!
Day 2 - All day birding areas around Nome. Morning will find us driving north on the Kougarok Road looking for tundra species. The two specialties of the day will be Bluethroat and Bristle-thighed Curlew, both of which are known to breed near the end of the Kougarok Road. We will search for other species of note in the area including Gyrfalcon, Willow and Rock Ptarmigan, Yellow Wagtail and Arctic Warbler.
Day 3 - Another full day birding in and around Nome. We may return to the Kougarok Road area if we missed one of our target species. More likely is the chance to bird several areas in Nome such as Cape Nome and Safety Lagoon. Waterbirds like Pacific and Arctic Loons, many shorebirds, all three jaegers, Arctic and Aleutian Terns or maybe some rarity would be expected.
Day 4 - A short birding trip in the morning prior to our departure for Gambell. Located on the northwestern tip of St. Lawrence Island, Gambell is an Eskimo village with simple accommodations. Our hosts here are with a native family whose hospitality has been enjoyed during four previous tours. Modern housing with hot/cold running water, more privacy and better kitchen facilities are luxurious compared to our early visits to Gambell.
The weather will be cold (25 - 45 degrees) and often overcast. Each day may have fog, rain, snow and the ever-present wind, or any combination of these. The terrain will make the days of walking a bit long. Loose, rounded gravel on the beaches, snow, slush, puddles, hummocks and craters in the bone yards and behind it all a steep mountainside that may have difficult walking. Our schedule here will allow each individual the chance to do as much, or as little, walking as they would like. We will have radios linking the leaders and our base lodge so if something rare turns up, those taking a breather will have the choice to chase after it if they like.
Our meals, which are included during our stay on Gambell, will be simple, but wholesome, and subject to our birding schedule. If someone has a dietary restriction, please note it on your registration form, we will do our best to accommodate you. NIGHT GAMBELL
Days 5-10 - Our lodging on Gambell may be simple, but any small hardship is more than offset by the spectacular birding to be found here. Gambell offers a unique combination: potential for Asiatic strays, impressive numbers of migrating seabirds and local western Alaska nesting birds. We will search diligently for those nesting species that may be present (Rufous-necked Stint, White Wagtail, Red-throated Pipit and McKay’s Bunting) and keep our eyes open for those Asiatic birds that stray to the island each year. While the list of strays over the past few years is too lengthy to list here in full, this partial list will give you an idea of just how spectacular the birding here is. Green and Terek Sandpipers, Great Knot, Little and Temminck’s Stints, Oriental Pratincole, Dusky Warbler, Dusky Thrush, Siberian Stonechat, Gray and Black-backed Wagtails, Olive-backed and Tree Pipits, Pechora Pipit, Rustic Bunting, Eurasian Bullfinch and Hawfinch have all occurred. NIGHTS GAMBELL
Day 11 - One last morning birding in Gambell prior to our flight back to Nome. Once everyone has settled into their rooms in Nome, our afternoon will be free. Birding trips will be done to some of the closer areas, sightseeing in Nome is an option, but the chance to rest after the exertion of Gambell may be enjoyed as well.
Day 12 - In Nome we will visit several of the same areas we did during our visit of just a few days prior. Kougarok Road if we have missed the Bluethroat, Arctic Warbler or Bristle-thighed Curlew, Safety Lagoon for waterbirds, migrating shorebirds, gulls and terns, maybe one last effort to find some of those rare Asian migrants. We will use this as our stop gap catch-up day. Expending time and energy looking for anything we may have missed thus far. Hopefully, we can just enjoy the day birding in Nome before our return to Anchorage. NIGHT NOME.
Day 13 - One last morning in Nome. We will have enough time to search for any birds we may not yet have seen, look for new migrants in some of the areas closer to town or sleep in and walk around Nome to absorb the character of this historic town. In the afternoon we will return to Anchorage in time for our return flights to the Lower 48.