Alaska 2023: Barrow, The High Arctic

The High Arctic

June 16 – 18, 2023

Tour Length: 3 days
Est. Spaces Left: Available

This farthest northern town in the United States is situated along the Arctic Ocean. It’s the best place to find Spectacled and Steller’s Eiders, Yellow-billed Loon, nesting Snowy Owl, and a spectacular array of nesting shorebirds in the US. There are also chances for Ross’s and Ivory Gulls (both very rare) and Polar Bear during June.

Tour Leaders

Dave Krueper
Kip Miller

Focus

Birds, Mammals, Photography

Price

Double Accommodation: $3100/person
Single Supplement: + $250
Deposit: $500

Max Group Size

12 (+2 HLBT leaders)

Pace

Easy ; 1 – 2 miles walking per day; most birding by vehicle

Future Departures

June 2024

Tour Descriptions

Utqiaġvik (formerly known as Barrow) is the northernmost city in the United States. The sizable town sits right along the shores of the Arctic Ocean well north of the Arctic Circle at 71 degrees latitude. The infrastructure and fairly extensive road system offer some of the best access to High Arctic tundra and the coastline here forms a migration corridor for thousands of waterfowl, loons, shorebirds, gulls, alcids, jaegers, and even whales with the environs around Point Barrow and Elson Lagoon being particularly productive. During the summer months, the tundra here experiences twenty-four hours of daylight and migrating and breeding bird species arrive en masse. The vast tundra, extensive wetlands, and coastline around Utqiaġvik are one of the best places in Alaska to see and photograph eiders with King, Steller’s and the rare Spectacled all readily seen in ponds and lakes while Common Eiders frequent coastal areas. The water-logged tundra harbors hundreds of waterfowl that range from Tundra Swans, Brant, and Greater White-fronted Geese to Long-tailed Ducks, Greater Scaup, and more. In addition, Utqiaġvik is a reliable location for Yellow-billed and Pacific Loons, up to three species of jaeger, hundreds of Glaucous Gulls, and occasionally Gyrfalcon. Lemmings and thousands of waterfowl attract Snowy Owls which nest on the tundra each year in varying numbers. The shorebird spectacle here is impressive with Red and Red-necked Phalaropes, American Golden-Plovers, Pectoral Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitchers, Dunlin, and Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers nesting in large numbers. Shorebird species breeding in smaller numbers include Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpipers and in some years it is possible to observe displaying Buff-breasted Sandpiper, a memorable spectacle. Rarer but regular visitors include Ruff, Red-necked and Little Stints, and Curlew Sandpiper. The tundra is also home to a few passerines and the cheerful songs of Snow Buntings can be heard throughout while Lapland Longspurs, Savanna Sparrows, and Common and Hoary Redpolls are frequent. Utqiaġvik regularly turns up surprises and during spring the rare Ross’s and Ivory Gulls are possible. In addition to the abundance of birds, several mammals can be seen including Bearded, Ringed and Spotted Seals, Arctic Foxes, Short-tailed Weasel, and good chances for Polar Bear.

Download Itinerary »

Locations

Gallery

More Details

Trip Highlights

Top Birds

Spectacled, Steller’s, King & Common Eiders; Greater White-fronted Goose; Sabine’s Gull; Pomarine & Parasitic Jaegers; Pacific, Red-throated & Yellow-billed Loons; Red & Red-necked Phalaropes; Snowy & Short-eared Owls; American Golden Plover; Baird’s, White-rumped, Pectoral & Buff-breasted Sandpipers; Lapland Longspur; Snow Bunting. Possible Ross’s & Ivory Gull some years, also Curlew Sandpiper, Red-necked & Little Stints.

Top Mammals

Polar Bear; Arctic Fox; Bearded & Spotted Seals

Other Attractions

Arctic Ocean & ice pack; native village; Iñupiat Heritage Center. Excellent photographic opportunities.

Extensions

No Tour Extensions Listed

Planning for the Trip

Meeting Location

Anchorage Airport at the departure gate.

Accommodations

Comfortable hotel.

Included

From Anchorage, 2 nights lodging, all meals from 1st night dinner through last day’s dinner, transport, guides, taxes, tips.

Excluded

Alcohol, personal calls, laundry, other personal expenses.

Habitats Covered

High Arctic tundra; Arctic ice pack; wetlands

Expected Climate

Moderately cold, sometimes below freezing, can be windy and foggy.

Suggested Clothing and 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
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

Recommended Reading

  • Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 6th Edition Jon Dunn, et al. (2011), National Geographic Society
  • Shorebirds of North America, Europe, & Asia: A Guide to Field Identification Don Taylor; illustrated by Stephen Message (2006), Princeton University Press
  • Shorebirds of North America: The Photographic Guide Dennis Paulson (2005), Princeton University Press
  • The Sibley Guide to Birds David A. Sibley (2000), Knopf
  • Seabirds of the World Peter Harrison (1997), Princeton University Press
  • A Field Guide to the Birds of Japan (1982), Wild Bird Society of Japan
  • A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia Bharat Bhushan, et al. (1993), Wild Bird Society of Japan
  • Birds of Russia & Adjacent Territories V. E. Flint, et al. (1984), Princeton University Press
  • A Field Guide to the Birds of China John MacKinnon & Karen Phillipps (2000)Oxford University Press
  • Birds of Europe Killian Mullarney, et al. (1999), Princeton University Press
  • Birds of Europe with North Africa & the Middle East Lars Jonsson (1992), Princeton University Press
  • The Handbook of Bird Identification for Europe & the Western Palearctic Mark Beaman and Steve Madge (1998), Princeton University Press
  • A Field Guide to the Rare Birds of Britain & Europe Ian Lewington, et al. (1991), Domino Books, Ltd.
  • New Generation to the Guide Birds of Britain & Europe Christopher Perrins (1987), University of Texas Press