Alaska Birding, Sightseeing & Gold – Part 3

This is my last installment of my Alaska trip. It has been fun writing this blog series on my trip. I had forgotten all the wonderful birds and sights I had seen while there.

On one of the days, I hitched a ride with one of the owners to go into town. I knew of a couple of ponds that looked promising for bird sightings. When I arrived I was not disappointed! My first sighting was of a Wilson’s Phalarope. I love these little birds.

Wilson’s Phalarope

I soon saw a Glaucous Gull – a lifer for me!

Glaucous Gull

Then to my delight I saw a pair of Red-Throated Loons (another lifer!). I got to watch them do a mating dance together. So much fun!

Red-Throated Loon

Also at the pond were several pairs of Artic Terns (lifer!). They loved hanging out on an old piece of mining equipment. They were so tame I was able to get very close to them for photos.

Arctic Tern

While birding at the ponds, another birder drove up and stopped to talk to me. It was obvious he was a birder by all the high dollar camera equipment in his car!

He was specifically looking for the Slaty-Backed Gull. The Nome area is known for this rarely sighted bird. I told him I hadn’t seen one but I had only been there for a short time. He glanced around, seemed disappointed in what was there to see and drove off down the highway.

To my delight and his loss, not long after that two Slaty-Backed Gulls flew overhead. They were there then gone. I barely got a photo but I did. Lifer!

Slaty-Backed Gull

After that excitement I decided to cross the highway to walk along the beach and see what might be about. I saw a Common Raven eating some kind of shorebird. He posed briefly for a nice portrait photo.

Common Raven

Then a Ruddy Turnstone came walking by me. I followed him for some time taking lots of photos. The thing I’ve noticed about the birds in this area is their lack of fear of people. It’s a wonderful thing for a birder!

Ruddy Turnstone

Also on the beach was a Glaucous-Winged Gull.

Glaucous-Winged Gull

Back at camp I was excited to see it was King Crab for dinner. Yum!!! They get them live in town and butcher them in camp. I kinda of felt sorry for the crab…well, no I didn’t.

Here’s me holding up my dinner. You can see some of the gold mining equipment behind me. I have to say, the entire time at the gold camp I looked like crap. Ah well! I was too busy having fun outside to take time to do my hair or makeup.

While checking out the crab another lifer showed up for scraps. A Mew Gull.

Mew Gull

While the husbands were busy searching for gold, one of the camp helpers took the wives out sightseeing. I’m so glad they offered that because otherwise I would not have seen some of the beautiful sights within the area.

The first place we visited was called “The Trains to Nowhere”. These trains were brought in to haul gold from the hills back in the late 1800s. When the gold played out, they brought the trains down to shore to take them away. But for some reason they decided not to ship the trains back to their originating destination. So for the last 100+ years they have sat on the shore of the Bering Sea rusting away. I thought they were very picturesque!

Trains to Nowhere

While driving there we passed by a large patch of Fireweed. These flowers are so pretty. They are also tasty. The locals make Fireweed jelly and it’s delicious.

Fireweed

I also had some opportunities to photograph the coastline again.

Bering Sea

While driving down there, the girls knew I was looking for any birds. They were helpful in seeing some of the sea birds hanging out in the bays. I got another lifer here – a Common Eider. The birds were quite a distance away, but I managed to get a good enough photo to identify them.

Common Eider

Another trip we took was to Teller, Alaska. It’s about a 75-mile drive there on a lonely dirt road. It took us almost 3 hours to get there. It is a tiny little town on the Bering Sea inhabited by about 100 Eskimos. We went there to see if they had any of their art for sale. We were told you could get some nice handmade items for a fair price. It was to be the only shopping I did on the entire trip.

The drive was very picturesque. We went from sunny, to rainy, to snow to sun again. Crazy weather. I got a nice full rainbow after one of the spells of rain.

Rainbow of the Tisuk River valley

We also crossed several large rivers. So much water! I’m not used to that living in New Mexico.

Sinuk River

We arrived in Teller and it was a miserable day. But it was worth the trip to meet the locals and buy beautiful handmade items directly from the artist. The people there were very friendly.

Bering Sea at Teller
While waiting for the local artists we walked the coastline
Thomas Weyanna carved this little bird out of Walrus Tusk
Donald Weyanna holding a carved Whale Rib inlaid with Caribou Antler. And I look like crap again. It had rained and snowed on me and the wind was blowing 40+ mph. Ugh!

On the way back we stopped at the bridge crossing the Sinuk River to see if there were any bears feeding on the running salmon. No bears but I got another lifer! A Green Sandpiper!

Green Sandpiper

The whole time I was there in Nome, everyone but me had seen the Rock Ptarmigans in the area. I was so upset that I hadn’t seen any. This would be a lifer bird for me.

Can you believe on the trip home from Teller, which was my last day in Nome, I finally saw a Rock Ptarmigan! Yay!

Rock Ptarmigan

All the while I was birding and sightseeing, Tim was busy hunting for gold. When I got back to camp, he had me follow him to a hole he had been digging. It was 4 feet deep! Sadly no gold in this whole.

Tim by his monster hole. And look how good he looks. It’s maddening! Men can look good even in the worst conditions.

While my husband was looking good digging for gold, this was me. LOL! Do I look tired or what!?!

Bundled up against the cold rain and wind!

But he did find gold on the trip. Here’s a pic of him with his nuggets. He found the most gold that week at camp. He was pretty happy.

Here’s a picture we took on the plane. Admiring his gold!

Sadly we had to head home. As we were flying out of Nome I got a beautiful sunset from the plane.

Alaska Sunset above the clouds

As we flew into Albuquerque, we were greeted by the summer monsoon rains as we headed for the hot summer days in New Mexico.

Monsoons over New Mexico

I hope you enjoyed my adventures in Alaska. It was a fun trip for us!

One of my favorite photos of the trip. My handsome husband looking for sea glass along the shore of the Bering Sea at midnight




Alaska Birding, Sightseeing and Gold – Part 2

The next day we flew to Nome to stay at a gold camp in the hills above the town. The terrain here is way different than Anchorage. No majestic mountains or old forests. Just rolling hills and tundra along the Bering Sea. That’s not to say it isn’t beautiful, quite the opposite.

The scenery in Nome was beautiful! I especially loved the Fireweed!

We arrived with several other visitors to the gold camp. Getting everything in the van (including ourselves) was a real challenge.

Tim trying hard to get the last suitcase in the van

We arrived mid-day so we had lots of time to settle in and then get out and explore. This far north in the summertime, it only gets dark a few hours a night. So at 8 o’clock it seemed like noon.

That’s the gold camp AKAU (Alaska Gold) at the top of the hill

We each had a our own ATV to explore. We quickly headed out – Tim to find gold and me to find birds! It didn’t take long for me to find some lifers. It looks flat and uninhabited but there were birds everywhere!

First bird sighting – Golden-Crowned Sparrow

While I birded I saw my husband Tim busily searching for gold with his metal detector.

Tim detecting for gold

I would call out “I got another lifer!”

Hoary Redpoll

He was still searching for gold…

Still searching….

“Wow! Another lifer!” I exclaimed

Common Redpoll

Tim was still searching….

Digging another target that wouldn’t be gold…

“There are so many birds! I got another lifer!” I cheered

Fox Sparrow

Hmmmm….Tim finally got a gold nugget! I was so happy for him!

Hard work getting gold – this hole had a little nugget!

We were having a great time! The day was warm and sunny. Soon we started getting tired and headed back for dinner and some sleep. The sun didn’t set until 2:30 am and was up again by 6 am.

Sunset at 2:30 am

The next day was another beautiful sunny day. Tim went off with some other guys to hunt for gold along a river. I stayed at camp and happily birded. I’m not very adventurous riding an ATV, and it sounded like a challenging drive for the guys.

This day turned out to be one of my best birding days of the trip. I birded for hours and saw so many species of birds. Some new ones and some old friends.

Olive-Backed Pipit
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Not the best photo but the only photo I got of a lifer – Northern Shrike
Least Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Another lifer! Arctic Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler

One of my favorite sightings was of a Northern Waterthrush. He was very curious and a great singer! I have seen this bird once before and only had a terrible photo. This time I got so many good photos! And he got so close to me I had to back up to get any photos.

Northern Waterthrush

Another exciting sighting for me was the Bohemian Waxwings. There was a whole flock of them feeding at a small pond. They didn’t seem to mind me at all. It was so much fun watching them dart out to get a bug and then land again to look for another. Such a stunning bird!

Another lifer! Bohemian Waxwing

While at the pond with the waxwings, I noticed a Semipalmated Plover. And to my delight it had two babies that looked like they had only recently hatched.

Semipalmated Plover
Semipalmated Plover juvenile

At another little pond nearby I saw a phalarope. It took me awhile to identify it as it was clearly a juvenile. But I finally realized it was a Red-Necked Phalarope – another lifer!

Red-Necked Phalarope

I loved exploring the little ponds. So unique and so much bird life.

I especially loved the little flowers that looked like something from Whoville 🙂

Whoville flowers 🙂

Something large caught my eye flying overhead. I quickly headed over to where I thought I saw it land. As I approached I heard a hawk giving warning calls to me. To my delight I saw it was another lifer for me. A Rough-Legged Hawk – and it had 2 babies!!!

I never did get very good photos of the adults. But I got some great photos of the babies. I was lucky to see them because within the next day or so they had fledged and left the nest never to be seen again.

Rough-Legged Hawk juveniles

While exploring the area I came across a big male Muskox. I had heard not to get too close as they can be very dangerous. Thankfully I had my 800mm lens and could get a decent photo without it knowing I was doing so.

Muskox

I definitely had a wonderful day exploring. So many bird sightings and beautiful scenery.

I drove to the top of one of the hills on my cute red ATV. Epic 360 degree views!

One day Tim and I drove our ATVs into Nome. I’d never been to the Bering Sea before and was dying to take some photos. It’s not a very picturesque beach like so many out there. But I still found it beautiful.

Bering Sea
The sand in the foreground is very unique – it’s crushed garnets! You can believe I brought home a little bottle of it!

One of my favorite photos of the trip I took just outside of Nome. It is a preserved gold mining dredge. Such wonderful lighting at midnight 🙂

Nome Dredge

I hope you enjoyed all of my photos of the great birds and scenery I saw. Stay tuned for Part 3. Lots more to come!



Alaska Birding, Sightseeing & Gold – Part 1

At the end of July 2018 my husband and I took a long anticipated trip to Alaska.  I took sooooo many photos.  It has taken me this long to edit my photos and post in my blog.

Village of Nome in the distance on the Bering Sea

Our trip was to stay at a gold camp in Nome, Alaska.  While Tim prospected for gold, I was going to do photography and birding.  Yay!

We flew first to Anchorage and stayed a couple nights.  We wanted to have one full day to drive the Seward Highway and play tourist.  As it must always be in Alaska, it was cloudy and rainy.  But we still went out to explore.

One of the many stunning views on the Seward Highway

I got my first new bird while parking for breakfast.  It was sitting on a light post.  A Glaucous-Winged Gull.  These gulls are quite large, much larger than the Ring-Billed Gulls at home.

Glaucous-Winged Gull

As we left Anchorage, our first stop was at Potter’s Marsh.  It’s a fabulous birding spot with lots of boardwalks through a shallow marsh. A very scenic place to bird.

Beautiful views from the boardwalks at Potter’s Marsh
Kelly doing what she loves most – photographing birds!

While there, my husband Tim spotted a moose deep in the grasses.  How exciting!  It’s only the 2nd time I’ve seen a wild moose.  Not a great photo, but still a great find!

Moose

I saw quite a few birds here.  Most familiar to me back home but still a joy to see. But I also got some new birds – which is even more enjoyable!

Red-Necked Grebe
Northwestern Crow

Sadly, I saw a pair of Trumpeter Swans as we started down the Seward Highway.  This was a new bird for me, but I couldn’t get a photograph.  That highway is busy and narrow with very few places to stop.  So I was unable to get a photo.  🙁

We did stop at a few of the pullouts to take some scenic photos.  So Beautiful!

One of the scenic stops along the Seward Highway – it was very windy!
A pretty little waterfall on the side of the raod

We stopped at one place to hike a beautiful trail along a river.  Though it was cold and rainy, it will still so beautiful to get out and explore.

Tim and Kelly at a beautiful lake below a huge glacier
I love hiking on boardwalks

We stopped at a gold mine to see if we could pan a little gold. It was a beautiful place and I did find a few flakes. 🙂

Kelly panning for gold
Tim talking to the owner while enjoying the stunning views

We had dinner in Anchorage. While searching for a place to eat, we came across a popular fishing hole right in town. The salmon were running and the people were catching them one after another.

Salmon fisherman in Anchorage

Sadly, we only had the one day to explore the Anchorage area. We left the next day for Nome. My next post will be about all the fabulous new species of birds I saw while staying in Nome.