Saturday, December 3, 2011

And Then There Were Birds

Today we were supposed to be in open water, but a nasty storm sporting up to 70knot winds and blowing snow made us retreat back into the ice.

After finally rolling out of bed and out of my room (10am- why wake up early if the sun doesn't come up until noon, right?) a coast guard girl told me of some "small dark bird" that landed on the boat. With the wicked weather, I thought for sure it would be something crazy, and to some extent it was. She led me to the bird and, even though it was still dark, it was quite obviously a Kittlitz's Murrelet! This bird was obviously out of place, but other than its interesting choice of resting place, looked healthy and alert. They wanted to catch the bird and put it in a box, but I opted to let it sit on deck and see what happened. A few hours later, after resting and regaining composure, the Murrelet flew straight into the wind and off the boat.

With the lack of birds lately, this would have been enough to keep me happy for a while, but the excitement didn't stop here. Once I made my way to the bridge I saw, battling gusty winds, were Ivory Gulls making flight look easy. I've never seen a bird fly straight into a 50knot headwind. After the snow stopped, I started surveying in less than optimal conditions. More Ivory Gulls along with Ross's, Herring (Vega), Glaucous, Glaucous-winged and Black-legged Kittiwakes made for a 6 gull sp. day. I was unaware that Ross's Gulls winter in the Bering Sea, but it seems at least a number of them do. I saw at least 25 today, and that was just in a small stretch of sea.

Other birds included Thick-billed and Common Murres and Black Guillemots.

Since it was too windy to even go outside to photograph the Murrelet on board, I'll leave you with this god-aweful picture of Eiders.
Can you tell what kind of Eiders they are? I'll give you a hint, it rhymes with Bombin' Fighters


  1. Yo, Nat. Geo shows IVGU as wintering where you're at. Sibley, on the other hand and as usual, fails with the range maps.

  2. The Sibley range maps fail hard for the seas of AK in general.