Our trip to stunning Denali National Park and the Denali Highway is as much about large mammals, including some of the great predators, as birds. We expect to see bird species like Trumpeter Swan, Willow Ptarmigan, Gyrfalcon, Long-tailed Jaeger, Northern Hawk Owl and Smith’s Longspur. We will also, however, most certainly see a number of Grizzly Bears as well as Caribou, Dall Sheep, Moose and, if we get lucky, a Wolf.
We will see magnificent Mount McKinley or Denali (The Great One) and spend two nights just outside the Park, taking the park shuttle 60 miles and getting off at some places if we wish to spend more time looking for birds. We’ll also spend a couple of days on the little-traveled Denali Highway, staying in comfortable cabins on a creek in the Tangle Lakes region.
Our small boat trip will take us through Kenai Fjords National Park, one of the most spectacular parks in North America. Highlights will be thousands of alcids, such as Tufted and Horned Puffin, Parakeet and Rhinocerous Auklet as well as breeching Humpback Whales, Orcas, Steller’s Sea Lions and many other sea mammals.
Many people believe the trip along Denali Highway is the most beautiful in all of Alaska. Long-tailed Jaeger, Rock Ptarmigan, Arctic Warbler and many others should be found in the area. A pair of Northern Wheatear is usually found either in the Park or along the highway. Smith’s Longspur breeds in very small numbers along the highway. On our Kenai Peninsula tour, we’ll stay in very comfortable lodging and dine at several of Alaska’s finest restaurants during prime season for salmon and halibut.
We should find a number resident species in the Anchorage area: Pacific Loon, Three-toed Woodpecker, and American Dipper. We will take an all-day trip on a small charter boat, allowing us to customize our journey through Kenai Fjords National Park and the Chiswell Islands. We should see Horned and Tufted Puffins, Red-faced and Pelagic Cormorants, Common and Thick-billed Murres, Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled and Kittlitz’s Murrelets, Parakeet and Rhinocerous Auklets and Black Oystercatcher. Ancient Murrelet, Fork-tailed Storm Petrel, Short-tailed and Sooty Shearwater and Northern Fulmar are possible as well. Land and marine mammals may include Black Bear, Sea Otters, Steller’s Sea Lions, Harbor Seals, Dall Porpoises, and three to four species of whales, including Orcas, Humpbacked and Fin Whales.
Photographic opportunities will abound. We’ll do a hike through Pacific Coastal Rain Forest looking for Chestnut-backed and Boreal Chickadee, Townsend’s Warbler, White-winged Crossbill, Pine Grosbeak and others.
“The Alaska/Denali trip was wonderful, as was Stephan. The birds were wonderful; the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful; the others on the trip were compatible (always a worry!); and we appreciated the nice places to stay and eat. The whole experience has made us think we are going to concentrate on High Lonesome trips in the future — and you have lots of offerings!” M.T., NY, NY
Photo: Denali Highway by Forrest Davis