Saturday, November 27, 2010

Alaska May 31: The quest for the Bristle Thighed Curlew

May 31: The quest for the Bristle Thighed Curlew brought us further down the Kougarok Rd and when we arrived Bill was very upset that a car was already there. If he had known, he would have asked the person (Todd) to go for the bird with us. We waited a short while as we could see the single man coming back down. He told us that he had played the tape, but the bird did not respond, but he did see one bird and showed us a photo of it. It was about 8:30 – 9:00 AM by the time we started the ascent up the tussocked hills.. It wasn’t steep, but we had to walk carefully as there were lots of holes that we may end up sticking our feet into between the tussocks and lots of small underground puddles. Once we made it up to where Bill usually gets the bird we waited a bit, but nothing so we moved on and we heard the kee-oh-wee call so we approached and saw a distant bird as it walked just over the hill out of site. Then we heard another call coming from the right so we walked over to that area and waited, had brief glimpses of the bird before once again it disappeared over the hill. We all decided to sit on the ground to wait but after about 15 minutes a few of us headed over to the original place we saw it and heard it call along with hearing calls of a Bluethroat! We ended up watching 2 Curlews fly further away and land on a distant hill. We moved closer and actually ended up getting great views of a male Bluethroat with its blue throat glistening in the sun. The day was actually a lot cooler than the previous days and I wore 4 layers along with a winter jacket and was comfortable! It was time to start heading back down since it was about 1:30 – how the time passed quickly. Just prior to leaving we watched a beautiful very large snowshoe hare run off as it had heard us in the snow. The drive produced views of a few Long Tailed Jaegers kiting or sitting on nests – what a beautiful bird!

Just as were almost to the cars we spotted 2 Whimbrels and since they closely resemble the Curlews, we had to take very close looks. On the drive back we stopped at Salmon Lake briefly and then headed back to Nome. Along the way we witnessed a heartbreaking event where we watched a guy put a young spaniel type dog on the back of his ATV, probably a hunting dog. We were on a dirt road and another car was approaching from the opposite direction. We were in the car with Dave behind the ATV when as the dog heard the car approach decided to jump off and ended up rolling under the back tire of the approaching car even though the car was going only about 10 mph. The car appeared to run over the dogs neck and the dog ran off as we were all in shock. It would be a miracle if that dog survived and being in the middle of nowhere I’m sure there was no vet anywhere near by. Very sad. After our 6 PM return we went to Milanos for pizza for dinner where Paul and I sat at a booth next to Forrest Davis from Hi Lonesone tours who was scouting for his group's trip to Nome. We had a nice chat with Forrest and he gave us some tips on birds he had found.

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