Sunday, June 23, 2013

May 30, Second Day on Attu

The morning ritual after awakening, was breakfast, always excellent with multiple choices of cold cereal or hot porridge with assorted choices of assorted dried fruit, raisins, dried cranberries and sometimes dried apricot pieces, and nuts, almonds or walnuts, with packaged milk.  Always a choice of coffee or tea with orange or grapefruit pieces or other fruit.  Sometimes there were eggs and ham.  Very healthy!  After breakfast, we packed our lunches, with choices of white and whole wheat bread, sliced turkey, ham or roast beef, and a choice of condiments, mustard or mayonnaise.  There were peanuts in the shell, different types of snack or breakfast bars, apples or oranges, and fruit juice.  We carried our own water bottles.  Next step was to pack up our gear to get ready for the outrigger trip to shore to get our bikes and head out for a day of birding.  I have several photos of the transfer process which I will share on later posts.  See photo of Puk-uk at anchor on Casco Cove at bottom of this post.  We started at the old Lorain Station/Attour Base Camp after picking up our bikes.  All three leaders and the whole group were together for the first day or so.  See first photo of Casco Cove from Attour Base camp looking toward the distant Coast Guard Station, closed since 2004, if memory serves me correctly, and Gilbert Ridge.

Casco Cove, distant Coast Guard Station and Gilbert Ridge from Old Lorain Station/Attour Base 

We started the day along the road along Casco Cove and worked toward and along the runways, which are still intact but getting covered with moss at some points due to disuse.   This was repeat of what we had done in the afternoon yesterday.  I forgot to mention that John Puschock had found a male Tufted Duck in one of the ponds near the end of the north-south runway yesterday.  Not a new bird for me for the year.  I had a female at the bay bridge east of Annapolis, MD earlier in the year, but it was great to see a breeding plumage male!

Jess Findlay found the first great bird, a Siberian Rubythroat at the bridge at Tattler Creek along Casco Cove.  The lingerers in the group including me, got to see it first.  The others with John and Isaac were ahead of us and came back.  Everyone but Jill got to see this one, but we had about 10+ Siberian Rubythroats during our stay on Attu.  Quite amazing, because I had seen my one and only Siberian Rubythroat at Attu in 1989 but not as good a look as this first one or the others seen on this trip.  I tried for a photo but was not quick enough.  It would help to take the lens cap off first, after taking off my back-pack and retrieving my camera from the dry bag!  Not quick enough!  Jess got great ones!  See photos below.  We continued along the runways and found the Snowy Owls, this time both male and female at the end of the east-west runway.  Also, had Hoary Redpolls along the runway.  The wind picked up.  We stopped at Peaceful River and enjoyed a rainbow (photo below), and then we fought our way up the north-south runway to get on the coastal road to the road to Henderson Marsh.  I could barely stand, because the wind was so strong, and most of the group had a similar experience, walking bikes most of the runway north to the end.  Later, Jess told us that he was blown over on his bike by the wind.  I thought that the winds were at least 30-40 mph, but we found out later from Captain Choate that the peak gusts were 60 mph.  Isaac Helmericks took the coastal route to Henderson Marsh and found an unusual Black-bellied Plover.  However, the group gutted it out, up the runway and against the high winds and made our way to Henderson Marsh, stopping at Brambling Bluffs for lunch where Jess had found a Brambling the night before when he separated from the main group.   At the bridge across the Henderson River, approximately six miles from Attour Base, we hiked up the valley to the barrel dump.  Jess, youngest of the leaders, hiked up the ravine and found Snow Buntings and a Gray-crowned Rosy-finch.  I hiked up the ravine part way and got a good enough look to count the Gray-crowned Rosy-finch for the year by a process of elimination--a large dark colored finch in flight, considerably larger and darker overall than Snow Bunting or the very common, Lapland Longspur.  It flew up and around for a while landing on cliffs, behaving like a rosy finch and then headed around an intervening cliff and disappeared.  I will see them better later.  After lunch, we rode our bikes back to the runway.  It was wonderful to coast down the long runway with the wind at our backs.  The wind was too strong to use the outrigger to get back to the Puk-uk at the Casco Cove anchor location.  Captain Choate moved the Puk-uk to the northwest corner of Casco Cove protected from the wind to transport us back to the boat.  We left our bikes for the night at this location along Casco Cove.
Siberian Rubythroat, Jess's photos
I added two more birds, Siberian Rubythroat and Gray-crowned Rosy-finch to raise the year total to 478. 
Puk-uk, Casco Cove at anchor
Rainbow over Peaceful River from bridge over north-south runway
Henderson Marsh on left, road?/path to barrel dump
Group heading back to bikes at bridge from barrel dump


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