|Whiskered Auklet, Jess's photo|
Albatross is not as common in the Aleutians as Laysan Albatross. See photos. Two albatrosses down and one more (a lifer) to go! We started seeing Least Auklets, which are smaller than the Whiskered Auklets with very rapid wing beats, but show more white below, have white eyes, white on the throat and sometimes some white on the back, but not always. Least Auklets are the most abundant auklet that we saw on this trip. There were flocks on the water in front of the boat and popping up at the back
|Laysan Albatross, 2 photos|
of the boat. I was in the back of the boat with Olaf Danielson and his son Tykko (hope spelling is correct). Olaf is doing a Big Year naked. In order to count a bird he has to be naked when he identifies it. I was one of the people on the tour who did not know about this before I joined the tour group and was a little surprised. I may have said “It’s a little cold up here to do that, isn’t it?” As Olaf, Tykko and I were watching the albatrosses, I saw a different bird fly into the wake from the right. It had white under-parts, black on the crown and back of the neck, a pinkish bill, white panels on dark gray to black inner part of the upper wing surface, a white rump and upper tail, with the rest of the tail black and with a white mottled and gray back. I said get on this bird-- it looks unusual, and then identified it tentatively as a Short-tailed Albatross. However, at that time, I was not sure about the plumage of immature Laysan Albatross. Olaf thought the
bill was orange, but I thought pink. When things slowed down, I went down below in the eating and living area to check a field guide. Immature Laysan Albatross is similar to the adults. It was not an immature Laysan Albatross. It certainly appeared to be a sub-adult Short-tailed Albatross. With the uncertainty and some differences in opinion between Olaf and me about the bill color, I was reluctant to claim that it was a Short-tailed Albatross at that point, because it was a new Life Bird for me. A Mottled Petrel was called out by John Puschock flying down the port side of the boat. Thor and I got to see it ever so briefly, but could see the narrow wings and rapid flight style of a gad-fly petrel. A better view was desired (BVD). Fork-tailed Petrels and Short-tailed Shearwaters were being called mostly from the front of the boat. I found a Short-tailed Shearwater coming up the wake to
|Black-footed Albatross, both photos above|
Later in the afternoon, we stopped at Sirius Point on Kiska to see the masses of alcids flying to and from the cliffs where they nest. The flocks were very large. It was a great opportunity to study the identification of these small alcids. Least Auklet is only about 6.25 inches long while Crested Auklet is about 10 inches long and more bulky. Crested Auklets are all dark gray with orange colored bill. Crested Auklets smell like tangerines during breeding season, which we smelled. Both Least and Crested Auklets were very vocal. See photos.
|Crested Auklet flocks with a few Least Auklets, Sirius Point|
|Least Auklet, calling during take-off|
In the evening as we were gathering waiting for dinner, Olaf went through his photos and found that he had photographed the Short-tailed Albatross that I had tentatively identified. See photos, which Olaf shared with me. This verification occurred after I had identified the immature Short-tailed Albatross in the
afternoon as my number 800 for the ABA area. I identified the sub-adult earlier but was not 100% sure of the identification. Perhaps it is a matter of semantics. If I count the sub-adult bird as my Life Bird then the Mottled Petrel is number 800. Not too shabby to have either a Short-tailed Albatross or a Mottled Petrel as number 800 for the ABA area and to have that choice! Also, what a great day of birding this was with two different Short-tailed Albatrosses on the same day!
Northern Fulmar, Laysan Albatross, Black-footed Albatross, Crested Auklet, Mottled Petrel, Short-tailed Albatross, Fork-tailed Petrel, Short-tailed Shearwater, Least Auklet, Thick-billed Murre, and Red-legged Kittiwake make the total 471 for the year. My ABA Life List is now 800 with the addition of Whiskered Auklet, Mottled Petrel and Short-tailed Albatross. I corrected an error made in hast on the list when I arrived in Anchorage on June 9. The Short-tailed Albatross was seen on 05/27/13 not the next day, 05/25/13.
|Crested Auklet, both photos|
|Short-tailed Albatross, Olaf's photos|