Here Be Dragons: Birding on the Edge of North America
Birding the edges of North America produces many species hard to find elsewhere on the continent. South Texas and Florida are prime examples of the sub-tropical edge. Western Alaska is unique in that it is northerly, almost Arctic, adjacent to the biologically productive Bering Sea, close to Asia, and relatively accessible. About 50 species of marine birds occur here, many of them endemic to the area, often in spectacular numbers. Additionally, steady winds blow Asian species off- course, resulting in an exciting bird lottery. For these reasons, birders find a mix of species unmatched elsewhere.
Bill Proebsting will describe a tour that he took with High Lonesome Birding May 21 through June 10, 2016. The tour originated in Anchorage, then visited St. Paul Island, next the area of Gambell on St. Lawrence Island and finally the environs of Nome in western Alaska.
Weather during the tour was cold and windy, but mild according to experienced Alaska hands. Despite the remoteness and the potential for problems, logistics for the trip were superb. High Lonesome has years of experience in Alaska and worked very hard to ensure that the tour came off without a hitch.
Despite climate change and massive ecosystem shifts in the area, the marine birds provided quite a spectacle. Puffins, auklets, loons, eiders, and many others were present in large numbers, a show well-worth experiencing.
The group was fortunate to encounter a good year for Asian vagrants, particularly for shorebirds such as Terek and Curlew Sandpipers, but others as well. White-tailed Eagle, Siberian Rubythroat and Eyebrowed Thrush were also present. Although the 2016 trip was among the best in years, reports from 2017 were better in some respects.
Bill lives in Corvallis and retired from OSU’s Department of Horticulture. Besides spending time birding in Oregon, serving as field trip coordinator for Audubon Society of Corvallis and gardening for birds, Bill and his wife, Lena enjoy traveling to see birds and their habitat. They have particularly enjoyed birding in Latin America, and are presently planning a trip to Columbia.
Join us each month from September to May for Birder’s Night. The program begins promptly at 6:30 PM. A sharing of bird sightings and discussion, for those who wish to participate, will follow the formal program. A Conservation Learning Education and Resource (CLEAR) Grant from the Marion Soil and Water Conservation District in part supports Birder’s Night. Additional audience donations are welcome to help pay for a new Epson Pro Projector, which will provide higher quality video for this year’s programs.
NOTE: BIRDER’S NIGHT WILL BE HELD AT LOUCK’S AUDITORIUM AT THE SALEM PUBLIC LIBRARY FOR THE NOVEMBER 14, 2017 PROGRAM ONLY. Birder’s Night will return to The Carrier Room at the First United Methodist Church for the December 12th program.