With the Whiskered Auklet under our belts, we planned to try for other rarities that might be on the island, such as the previously mentioned Smew and Falcated Duck as well as Spot-billed Duck. A Smew had been shot by a hunter before we arrived, and Neil and Bill were hoping for another to show up. John and I saw two Smew on Attu this year. Spot-billed Duck has appeared on Adak in the past. Also, we were hoping that the new feeder at the administration building, freshly scattered seed at several trees in Adak, and the fresh seed at the feeding trays in Adak Memorial Forest would attract some new birds like Hawfinch or Bullfinch. Consequently we planned to visit all the ponds and feeding locations. First, John suggested that we check the nearby jetty, where we found nearby Crested Auklet as well as two Pigeon Guillemots in winter plumage. See photo of Crested Auklet below.
|Whooper Swan, adult with two cygnets|
On Saturday afternoon, John needed to stop by the house briefly. We found that the manager of the house had visited and tried chemical drain cleaner, but had not unblocked the drain line. On our way back out, I got this photo of a Rock Ptarmigan sitting on a house roof, not exactly a partridge in a pear tree. See photo below.
Partridge on an Adak Roof
We kept checking until dark, thinking that we would find the roosting spot for this accipiter. It was thought that it might roost in the feeder tree or in another tree within the abandoned houses of Adak where we had also spread seed. We checked that tree also, but could not find the bird again. When it was too dark, we headed back to the house to download photos and try to lock down the identification of this accipiter. John's photos are better than mine. He took them in raw mode while I have been using jpeg mode. Consequently, he had more latitude in Adobe Photoshop to bring out the features of the accipiter under back-lighting conditions. John contacted Isaac Helmericks, Scott Schuette and Dave Sonnenborn to help on looking up identification of the different species of Sparrowhawk possible, maybe Levant's, likely Chinese, Japanese and Eurasian. Neil Hayward had a good European Field Guide with him which helped. Below are two of John's photos and a few of mine.
|Accipiter with prey, apparent Rosy-Finch|
Note bulge in secondaries
John Puschock photos
|Accipiter in profile, 5 to 6 "fingers" in primaries|
|Accipiter in profile|
note swollen hips (wider than tail)
Sunday, our last day on Adak, we searched for the Sparrowhawk, visited the many ponds and lakes on Adak looking for rare waterfowl and visited the feeder locations. We checked the jetty again, this time finding two Crested Auklets and some nearby Black Scoters. The drake Black Scoters were beautiful. In Ohio, I do not see drake Black Scoter, very often. They are more common in the winter on the eastern seacoast in the lower 48 but not in Ohio, for me, at least. See photos below.
female with white face, drake with orange knob on bill
|Black Scoter, female and male|
|Rock Ptarmigan, male with dark eye-line|
eating seed at administration building
|Whooper Swans, flying|
Later we found the swans on Haven Lake. The scenery on Adak is amazing. Below is a photo of snow covered Mount Moffett, 3,924 feet elevation, the highest peak on Adak Island.
There are remnants of life on the Navy Base with many deteriorating buildings. See photo below of a building which was apparently part of the recreation center along Andrew Lake.
|Deteriorating Building, part of recreation complex along Andrew Lake|
Buildings are also falling apart in the city of Adak. It appears that when the windows get broken on the windward side, the next strong storms blow out the walls on the leeward side. That is my theory. See photos below.
|Blown out building|
No long lines here!
Close to or shortly after noon, Neil, John and Bill started getting alerts about our scheduled departure flight at 5:15 pm on Sunday. There were mechanical problems with the plane leaving from Anchorage, and our departure was being delayed. These continued throughout the afternoon, raising our suspense levels about whether or not we would get off of Adak. There are two flights to Adak and back to Anchorage on Thursday and Sunday. If our flight was cancelled, we would need to stay until Thursday without toilet facilities and showers. Meanwhile, we continued searching for the Sparrowhawk. At the tree within the city where we had scattered seeds, Neil shouted, "Hey, what's that with the white rump?". He was hoping that it was a Bullfinch, but it was only a Brambling, a very good bird for this time of year in Adak. Both Neil and I had seen Brambling before in British Colombia, and I saw many more on Attu. Not a new bird for the year, but a good one nonetheless.
|Brambling in a spruce tree|
Soon after finding the Brambling, John and Neil shouted "Hawk!" as the Sparrowhawk shot out from behind a nearby building and disappeared behind buildings to the right. John, Neil and Bill got good looks at the brownish barring on the under-parts. I missed this sighting, because I was checking photos on my camera. Bill and I got out to search the area and John and Neil drove around looking for the hawk. However, it was not to be. That was to be our last sighting of the hawk. Soon the alerts stated that the flight was cancelled. John had predicted this, but he had never been stranded on Adak. John drove us to the airport to find out the expected bad news. This time we were lucky. The flight was rescheduled for tomorrow, Monday, morning at about 9:30 am. John, Neil and Bill had connecting flights that needed to be changed. I was planning on a search for Northern Goshawk in Anchorage and then head to Nome to try for McKay's Bunting. I had not made connecting flight reservations. We were very lucky to be there when there were a lot of hunters on the island trying for caribou. There were apparently more hunters trying to get to Adak and quite a few who were ready to leave. We headed back to the house thankful for the rescheduled flight, and then out to find dinner. The Mexican Restaurant was closed on Sunday, which we found out on arrival. We headed to the ASBAG (Alaska Sports Bar and Grill), the only other restaurant in town, for hopefully, our last dinner on Adak, for this visit. After dinner, we returned to the house to relax and prepare for our rescheduled departure.
|Jay, studying Adak History--Really?|
Actually, relaxing. No, sleeping again!
photo by Neil Hayward
We were instructed to drop off our checked bags early next morning and get our boarding passes. Our plans were to pack our bags either Sunday night or very early Monday morning, check for the Sparrowhawk at the two nearby locations and head for the airport. I recall that there was another alert about a delay until about 10:30 am. That alert caused a few heart palpitations! We checked the feeder location and the tree in the abandoned section of the city, but did not find the Sparrowhawk. John scattered most of the remaining seed at these locations, leaving some in a bag for me to take along to Nome in my search for McKay's Bunting.
Finally, we were on the plane and leaving Adak. I felt relief but also some sadness for the end of a really great trip with John again after Attu, with Neil again and Bill. I got to see some great birds, and had a lot of fun and a great time with good people, great birding companions.
|Last view of Adak from plane|
|Neil and Jay plotting|
Neil drawing map of feeder location in Nome
Photo by Bill Sain
We arrived in Anchorage at about 2:30 pm. We said our goodbyes to each other, for this time, at least. It is likely that we will meet again on the birding trails. I quickly rented a car and headed out to Arctic Valley Road to try for Northern Goshawk with the remaining light. More later.
Adak provided Whooper Swan, new for the year, an excellent bird. The Eurasian Sparrowhawk is a new provisional. As stated in the previous post for Adak, the total is now 710 with 3 provisional (Common Redstart, White-cheeked Pintail, and now Eurasian Sparrowhawk).