Alaska 2023: Pribilofs, Gambell & Nome

The Bering Sea & Western Alaska

May 21 – June 07, 2023

Tour Length: 18 days
Est. Spaces Left: Available

Join us for this comprehensive, discounted tour to three of North America’s most productive birding destinations: St. Paul Island, Gambell on St. Lawrence Island, and Nome. Nowhere else can so many breeding birds and potential Eurasian vagrants and rarities be seen. St. Paul Island hosts a huge colony of seabirds including Red-legged Kittiwakes, Red-faced Cormorants, and several species of alcids. Gambell’s frequent spring migrants and nesting species include Emperor Goose, Spectacled and Steller’s Eiders, Arctic and Yellow-billed Loons, Ivory Gull, Common Ringed Plover, White Wagtail and are alone worth the trip not to mention the possibility of seeing vagrants that are blown in from the eastern Pacific migratory route. Nome provides the only access to specialties such as Bristle-thighed Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Bluethroat, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, and a plethora of nesting waterfowl and shorebirds, making the subarctic tundra of Nome one of the most diverse birding sites in all of Alaska.

Tour Leaders

Stephan Lorenz
Dave Krueper

Focus

Birds, Photography, Mammals

Price

Double Accommodation: $11,200/person
Single Supplement: + $1,250
Deposit: $1,750/person

Max Group Size

14 (+ 2 leaders)

Pace

Easy to moderate, optional intense walking, much birding from roads

Future Departures

May 2024

Tour Descriptions

St. Paul Island in the Pribilof Island group of the Bering Sea is a seabird nesting paradise. Red-faced and Pelagic Cormorants, Red-legged and Black-legged Kittiwakes, Northern Fulmars, Parakeet, Crested, and Least Auklets, Horned and Tufted Puffins all nest along the cliffs where they can be approached closely and photographed. The far-flung, isolated island also hosts Eurasian vagrants every spring with many exciting possibilities.

St. Lawrence Island lies in the Bering Sea just off the Siberian coast. Gambell is a small, timeless Yupik village subsisting much as it has for thousands of years. On clear days, Siberia can be seen clearly 45 miles in the distance. High Arctic and Eurasian vagrants are the draw at Gambell. Most of the Eurasian 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 and Yellow-billed Loons, 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, Eyebrowed Thrush, Red-flanked Bluetail, Eurasian Bullfinch, Hawfinch, Brambling, Pallas’s Bunting, and  Common Chiffchaff have all been seen on our tours in recent years. The marsh about two miles from town is superb for shorebirds and typically yields several Eurasian shorebirds.

Nome lies on the Seward Peninsula, jutting into the Bering Sea. It’s a frontier town in a world where few such curiosities remain. Accessible only by boat or plane, bordered on the west and south by the Bering Sea, and the north and east by miles of trackless wilderness, Nome is a fascinating and challenging destination. During June, the midnight sun is at its brightest, the tundra is in full bloom, and the birds and mammals are breeding.

Our tours will cover the prime birding areas along the seacoast, the tundra, and the only boreal forest on the Seward Peninsula. Most of the birds are in their resplendent breeding plumages—rarely ever seen in the “lower 48”. We’ll make an extra effort to locate some of the Eurasian species that regularly occur at Nome. The road system of Nome provides the best access to the Alaskan bush without an airplane, and we will drive it extensively.

Locations

Gallery

More Details

Trip Highlights

Top Birds

Gambell: Emperor Goose; Least, Parakeet, Crested Auklets; Dovekie; Yellow-billed, Arctic, Pacific Loons; Steller’s, 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 Stints; depending upon year and weather patterns Great Knot, Common Snipe, Common Cuckoo, Eurasian Skylark, Dusky Warbler, Taiga Flycatcher, Siberian Rubythroat, Dusky and Eyebrowed Thrushes, Siberian Stonechat, Olive-backed Pipit, Rustic Bunting, Brambling, Common Rosefinch, Eurasian Bullfinch, and Hawfinch can occur.

St. Paul Island: King & Steller’s Eider (uncommon); Red-faced & Pelagic Cormorants; Red-legged Kittiwake & Sabine’s Gull (uncommon); Tufted & Horned Puffins; Least, Crested, Parakeet Auklets; Ancient Murrelet; Short-eared & Snowy Owls; Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch; Snow & McKay’s Buntings (rare); Eurasian rarities possible: Tundra Bean-Goose, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Great Knot, Black-tailed Godwit, Siberian Rubythroat, Eyebrowed Thrush, and Brambling. Other rarities, e.g., Little Stint, Far Eastern Curlew, Dusky Thrush, Olive-backed Pipit, Hawfinch have all been recorded, mostly in May & early June.

Nome: Bluethroat; Bristle-thighed Curlew; Eastern Yellow Wagtail; Northern Wheatear; Arctic, Pacific, Red-throated & Yellow-billed Loons; Eurasian Wigeon; Bar-tailed Godwit; Rock & Willow Ptarmigan; American & Pacific Golden-Plover; Black-bellied Plover; Surfbird; Red-necked Stint; Sabine’s Gull; Aleutian Tern; Gyrfalcon; Merlin;  Peregrine Falcon; many others including possible Eurasian vagrants.

Top Mammals

Gray Whale; Orca; Beluga Whale (rare); Walrus; Northern Fur Seal; Harbor Seal; Steller’s Sea Lion; Arctic Fox; Brown (Grizzly) Bear; Wolverine; Lynx; Muskox; Reindeer

Other Attractions

Native culture; spectacular scenery; view of Siberia

Planning for the Trip

Meeting Location

Coast Inn at Lake Hood, Anchorage, Alaska

Accommodations

Very comfortable hotels & lodges.

Included

From Anchorage: 8 nights lodging, all meals from first night dinner through final day’s lunch, pelagic boat trip, transport, guides, taxes, tips.

Excluded

Alcohol, personal calls, laundry, other personal expenses.

Habitats Covered

Boreal & taiga forest; tundra; mountain ranges; lakes & shorelines; Pacific Rainforest; islands

Expected Climate

Mild to colder on the water.

Suggested Clothing and Gear

Credit cards / cashBinocularsScope and tripod (optional)Sunglasses and sunscreenExtra eyeglasses or contact lensesWater bottleSmall umbrellaSmall day pack / fanny packSmall flashlightMosquito/insect repellant (DEET 25% or greater)Itch relief creamLip screen/balmPrescription drugs – carry in original packaging to avoid customs problemsOTC medicines (antibiotics, cold/sinus, cough drops, eye drops, analgesic (Motrin, aspirin), anti-diarrheal)ToiletriesSmall alarm clockCleaning fluids/cloths/drying clothsField guidesNote pads/pens (we provide trip checklists)Hiking Boots/ShoesMedium-weight jacketMedium-weight long pantsMedium-weight long-sleeved shirtsWarm hat with visorRain hatWaterproof winter jacket (Gore-tex or equivalent)Warm, waterproof gloves (and backup pair)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/sleepingWool socks (various weights) and liners.GORE-TEX socks/liners for water protection and warmthSturdy, waterproof boots; NEOS are lightweight waterproof overboots

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: The Photographic Guide Dennis Paulson (2005); Princeton University Press
  • Birds of Europe with North Africa & the Middle East Lars Jonsson (1992); Princeton University Press
  • A Field Guide to the Birds of Japan (1982); Wild Bird Society of Japan