Alaska 2021: Spring Migration in Gambell. “The Siberian Express”

Great Knot Photo: Phil Davis
May 26 - June 03, 2021
Tour Length: 9 days Est. Spaces Left: 0

Birding the far north 35 miles from Siberia for Alaska specialties and Asian vagrants. This is also an opportunity to experience life in a Siberian Yupik subsistence village, few of which survive anymore. Up to five more nights can be added at additional cost.

Photo:  Great Knot    Gambell, Alaska  by: Phil Davis


Future Departures:
May 26, 2022
Tour Leaders:
Max # Birders:
16 (+ 3 leaders)
Birds; Marine Mammals; Siberian Yupik culture;
Intense ; some hiking through marsh and rough ground every day but ATV's available
Double Accommodation:
$ 6100
[per person]
Single Supplement:
+ $ 475 (single subject to availability)
$750 [per person]

Important notice: In order to guarantee your place on the Gambell trip, we must receive booking and deposit no later than February 1st, 2021. The Sivuqaq will no longer hold rooms past that time, and the Inn is often completely booked after February 1st. 

St. Lawrence Island lies in the Bering Sea just off the Siberian coast. Gambell is a small, timeless Eskimo village subsisting much as it has for thousands of years. On clear days, Siberia can be seen clearly 35 miles in the distance. Whale, walrus, seal, polar bear and birds account for most of the native diet. High Arctic and Asian vagrants are the draw at Gambell. Most of the Asian species recorded in North America have been seen in Gambell and its environs. We will spend much of our time within a couple of miles of the village. There are huge colonies of Parakeet, Least and Crested Auklets on the cliffs within walking distance. Northwest Point provides a “super-highway” for seabirds passing very close by the island in migration and usually yield Arctic Loon, Yellow-billed Loon , Dovekie, Emperor Goose and Ivory Gull as well as many other seabirds and ducks. The centuries old bone yards often hide vagrant passerines, e.,g, Eurasian Bullfinch, Hawfinch, and Common Cuckoo. The marsh about two miles from town is superb for shorebirds and typically yields several of the Asiatic shorebirds.

Our accommodations will be simple but comfortable in Gambell. Walking on Gambell is very strenuous because of loose gravel. In order to make Gambell more accessible, we provide ATVs for our customers, usually two per ATV. No other groups provide this service routinely. Our primary leader will be David MacKay, and his wife, Jen MacKay, a professional chef in Mexico and cook extraordinaire, will provide our cooking. Other groups are especially envious of Jen’s fine cooking. We will have additional leaders as needed.

Just got back after incredible Gambell trip with your group. What professional people you have! Not only so excellent birders it’s hard to comprehend but how people friendly and helpful they are. I can’t imagine the logistics it takes to organize and execute ATVs, food, daily meals, lodging, etc. out there in nowhere. All this is so well done we birders
could concentrate 100% on the birdwatching. Once in the field every effort was made for all of us to get on the bird whether somewhere in a Boneyard or zooming past us out at sea. And special measures were made for everyone to see major birds, the Emperor goose and all 4 Eiders standing at one spot. Unbelievable how hard that is. I don’t think there are many, if any, better birders than David and Dave, particularly together in the field. Jennifer’s meals are home cooking at its best and I already miss them.” J.S. Florida


I recently participated in the Pribilof/Gambell/Nome segments of your Alaska birding trips. I selected your company based specifically on birding these three areas and the fact that each spent a day or so longer in each area than did other companies. I figured that I was only going to the Bering Sea once, so it had to be as thorough as possible. I am pleased to report that the trip was perfect in all respects. You and your team were fantastic.

            Your experience with this area was evident in how you managed the airlines, hotels and other logistics. We listened to some of your stories of earlier problems and it was clear that you were determined not to let it happen to us. 

            Stephan Lorenz and Dave MacKay were superb guides. They are skilled birders and naturalists, but also incredibly attentive to their clients. Everyone got a chance to see birds. They were able to keep track of who needed what bird. Somehow Stephan knew that I was interested in seeing White-winged Crossbill. When one was spotted at Gambell one evening, he came by and gave me the option to get out of bed and head out there. Dave had already put a key in one of the ATVs and I was off. In my haste, I forgot my camera battery in its charger so Stephan raced back to grab it while I watched the bird. At Nome, we failed to see the Bristle-thighed Curlew on our first try. Dave was willing to haul us out there early one morning for another shot, and we saw a couple. In the meantime, Stephan was taking care of the members of the group who passed on the curlew.

            Dave’s meals on Gambell were excellent. Hearty breakfast, hot soup and sandwich for lunch, great dinners and plenty of salad and veg. I had mentally written off plants in my diet for this trip, but Dave really came through. So did the cafeteria at St. Paul for that matter, with a nice salad bar to supplement their cooked offerings.

            Less under your control, but I will credit you nonethess, were a group that got along well, great weather and a whole bunch of birds. Especially on St. Paul, we thought we had won the lottery. 

            Thank you for a wonderful experience.

WP Corvallis, OR



  • Meeting Location

    Coast International Hotel, Anchorage, Alaska


    Basic, but comfortable hotel, with shared baths.


    From Anchorage, 8 nights, all meals from first night dinner through final day’s dinner, use of ATV's, land use fee, transport, guides, taxes, tips.


    alcohol, personal calls, laundry, other personal expenses.

  • Top Birds

    Emperor Goose; Least, Parakeet, Crested Auklets; Dovekie; Yellow-billed, Arctic, Pacific Loons; Steller’s, Yellow-Spectacled, King, Common Eiders; Ivory, Slaty-backed Gulls; Common Ringed Plover; Common Greenshank; Wood Sandpiper; Gray-tailed Tattler; Red-necked Stint; Red Phalarope; White Wagtail; Brambling all are common or annual; many less common Asian vagrants, e.g., Green, Terek, Common Sandpipers; Long-toed & Temminck’s Stint; depending upon year and weather patterns. Common Greenshank, Green and Terek Sandpipers, Great Knot, Little, Temminck’s, and Long-toed Stints, Common Snipe, Common Cuckoo, Sky Lark, Dusky Warbler, Taiga Flycatcher, Siberian Rubythroat, Dusky and Eyebrowed Thrushes, Stonechat, Olive-backed Pipit, Rustic Bunting, Brambling, Common Rosefinch, Eurasian Bullfinch, and Hawfinch.


    Top Mammals

    Walrus, Harbor Seal, Arctic Fox, Gray Whale, Orca

    Habitats Covered

    High Arctic tundra; sea coast.

    Expected Climate

    Cold, sometimes wet; temps 20 to 40 degrees fahrenheit with lower wind chills at times.

  • Other Attractions

    Native culture; scenery (you can see Russia!)

    Suggested Clothing & Gear
    • Credit cards / cash
    • Binoculars
    • Scope and tripod (optional)
    • Sunglasses and sunscreen
    • Extra eyeglasses or contact lenses
    • Water bottle
    • Small umbrella
    • Small day pack / fanny pack
    • Small flashlight
    • Mosquito/insect repellant (DEET 25% or greater)
    • Itch relief cream
    • Lip screen/balm
    • Anti-diarrhea medicine e.g., Imodium
    • Prescription drugs - carry in original packaging to avoid customs problems
    • OTC medicines (antibiotics, cold/sinus, cough drops, eye drops, analgesic (Motrin, aspirin), anti-diarrheal)
    • Toiletries
    • Hair Dryer
    • Small alarm clock
    • Cleaning fluids/cloths/drying cloths
    • Small tool kit for optics or glasses
    • Field guides
    • Note pads/pens (we provide trip checklists)
    • Hiking Boots/Shoes
    • Warm hat with visor
    • Rain hat
    • Waterproof winter jacket (Gore-tex or equivalent)
    • Warm winter jacket
    • Balaclava or full facial ski mask
    • Warm, waterproof gloves (and backup pair)
    • Glove liners
    • Long sleeve shirts (various weights)
    • T-shirts or undershirts (capilene or polypropylene)
    • Pants (fleece or wool; jeans NOT recommended)
    • Long Underwear (capilene or polypropylene)
    • PJs or shorts for lounging/sleeping
    • Wool socks (various weights) and liners.
    • GORE-TEX socks/liners for water protection and warmth
    • Sturdy, waterproof boots; NEOS are lightweight waterproof overboots
    • Moleskin for blisters
    • Foot powder for drying
    • FRS radio plus extra batteries
    • Plastic bags for water protection
    • Emergency cash ($5 bills) for taxi rides
    • Handkerchiefs or tissues
    • Checkbook for souvenirs
    Recommended Reading
    • National Geographic Field Guide to The Birds of North America (7th Edition)

      Jon Dunn, et. al. 2017
      National Geographic Society
    • Shorebirds of North America, Europe, & Asia: A Guide to Field Identification

      Don Taylor; illustrated by Stephen Message (2006)
      Princeton University Press
    • Birds of Europe

      Killian Mullarney, et al. (1999)
      Princeton University Press
    • The Shorebird Guide (North America)

      Miichael O'Brien, et. al. 2006
      Houghton & Mifflin Books
    • Shorebirds of North America: The Photographic Guide

      Dennis Paulson (2005)
      Princeton University Press



  • Willow Warbler Fall Gambell Andreas Trepte
  • Eurasian Bullfinch Gambell, Alaska by Phil Davis
  • Green Sandpiper Gambell, Alaska by Dave MacKay
  • Common Ringed Plover Gambell, Alaska Dave Krueper
  • Spectacled and King Eiders Gambell, Alaska by Dave Krueper
  • Gambell iicefloes by F. Davis

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