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ALASKA: Birding the Fjords, Tundra and Mountains

Red-necked Grebe with young © Mark Garland

 Alaska is a land of great scenic beauty and rich wildlife communities. Many tours travel through southeastern Alaska by boat or fly to some of the state’s remote corners, but there is remarkable beauty and solitude along the somewhat limited Alaska road system. Our new tour combines a visit to the rich coastal environment of Kenai Fjords National Park with lightly visited (but highly scenic) areas along the Glenn and Richardson Highways.

From scenic bays replete with Red-necked Grebes, Mew Gulls, and Arctic Terns, plus a variety of waterfowl and shorebirds, to the surrounding mountainsides where Mountain Goats and Dall Sheep can be spotted, the fjords are full of birds and wildlife!

A full day boat trip may offer Orcas and Humpback Whales, while Steller’s Sea Lions and Sea Otters are virtually guaranteed, and a great variety of seabirds are likely. Tufted Puffin, Horned Puffin, Common Murre, Thick-billed Murre, Marbled Murrelet, Kittlitz’s Murrelet, Pigeon Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklet, Pelagic Cormorant, and Black-legged Kittiwake are all probable.

A plethora of birds and a bounty of wildlife, amazing scenery and fantastic leadership will create a tour to remember for a lifetime!
 

Arctic Tern warning a photographer.

  • Tour Cost
  • Number of Days (Length of Tour)

    10 days / 9 nights

     

    2018 Cost

    $5450.00 per person, based upon double occupancy from Anchorage, AK.

     

    NOTE: Tour ends in Fairbanks, AK

     

    Single Supplement

    If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to get a roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $1200.00 will be assessed.

     

    What is Included / Not Included in the Cost

    Included in the cost are all accommodations, transportation, entrance fees and permits, from Anchorage, AK.

    Participants will be responsible for purchasing their own meals and making their flight arrangements.

     

    Deposit

    $1000.00, check, paypal or credit card, along with your completed Wildside Nature Tours Registration Form.

     

    Final Payment

    The balance due or full payment, by check, is due 120 days prior to the departure date.

  • Itinerary
  • DAY 1: Fly into Anchorage

    Our trip begins with the arrival of flights into Anchorage, Alaska’ largest city... 

     

    DAY 2: Anchorage to Seward

    This morning we begin at the Westchester Lagoon, where Red-necked Grebes, Mew Gulls, and Arctic Terns nest, and where a variety of waterfowl and shorebirds are often seen. Late in the morning we’ll drive south to Seward, stopping at Tern Lake to scan the surrounding mountainsides for Mountain Goats and Dall Sheep... and birds of course!

     

    DAY 3: Kenai Fjords National Park 

    A full day boat trip through the magnificent Kenai Fjords National Park will offer good chances to see orcas and humpback whales, while Steller’s sea lions and sea otters are virtually guaranteed. Birds may include Tufted Puffin, Horned Puffin, Common Murre, Thick-billed Murre, Marbled Murrelet, Kittlitz’s Murrelet, Pigeon Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklet, and Black-legged Kittiwake.

     

    DAY 4: Seward to Wasilla

    Seward is near the northwestern edge of the temperate rain forest habitat that stretches along the coast south to California. We’ll walk among big Sitka spruce trees and look for some of the birds that make this habitat their home, including Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Townsend’s Warbler, Steller’s Jay, and Varied Thrush. We then drive north to the town of Wasilla, pausing at Potter Marsh to walk the boardwalk here, where Alder Flycatchers and Lincoln’s Sparrows sing from the edge of wetlands, where Arctic Terns and several species of waterfowl nest.

     

    DAY 5: Hatcher Pass and Sheep MTN Lodge

    After early morning birding at Lake Lucille, where Common Loons, Bonaparte’s Gulls, and Red-necked Grebes are often conspicuous, we drive up to Hatcher Pass for our first visit to alpine tundra habitat. There may still be snow here, but wildflowers will be blooming where the snow has melted. Shrubby habitat here is home to Golden-crowned Sparrow, Orange-crowned Warbler and other migrant songbirds. If we are very lucky we may see Willow Ptarmigan wandering through the tundra vegetation. Forests at lower elevations are also worth checking for songbirds, and we’ll keep an eye skyward for raptors.

     

    DAY 6: Sheep Mountain and surroundings

    Sheep Mountain Lodge is located just below treeline. The forest is open, the trees small, ideal habitat for the elusive Northern Hawk-Owl. Many lakes and ponds host Pacific Loon, Trumpeter Swan, Red-necked Phalarope, and many species of waterfowl nest. Hermit Thrush, Boreal Chickadee, Blackpoll Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, and the nomadic Bohemian Waxwing are among the possible finds.

     

    DAY 7: Drive to Paxson, Denali Highway Cabins

    Our morning drive takes us across Eureka Summit, where  willow shrubs traditionally host Arctic Warblers. These birds migrate each spring from Asia to Alaska, crossing the Bering Sea, returning to Asia in the fall. Our journey next takes us through extensive boreal forests; with luck we’ll see moose and a variety of boreal birds.

     

    DAY 8: Denali Highway 

    The “Denali Highway” is hardly a highway – most of this road is unpaved. Denali National Park is far to the west, but the eastern section of the road that we’ll explore provides access to alpine habitat and spectacular mountain scenery. The tundra is home to nesting Whimbrel, Lapland Longspur, American Golden-Plover, and a secretive, small group of Smith’s Longspurs. We may also find Long-tailed Jaeger, Arctic Warbler, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Rock Ptarmigan, Wilson’s Warbler, and others. Cross your fingers for Gyrfalcon—this big arctic falcon is tough to find, but it is known to occur in this region. If the weather is sunny we might also find a good variety of arctic butterflies. Moose, grizzly bear, hoary marmot, pika, beaver and other mammals also make this region their home, too.

     

    DAY 9: Paxson to Fairbanks

    Today we head north, enjoying more amazing mountain scenery and watching for raptors along the way. We’re in the land of Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, Golden Eagles, Northern Goshawks, Merlins, and Sharp-shinned Hawks, along with Gyrfalcons. When we arrive in Fairbanks we can visit a few fields and wetlands near this small city, hoping to find Horned Grebe, Sandhill Crane, Rusty Blackbird, and a variety of waterfowl.

     

    DAY 10: Departures from Fairbanks

    Departures from Fairbanks through the morning.

  • Accommodations
  • HOTELS

    Standard to high-end US hotels will be used during this tour. We choose good quality hotels closest to the birding locations.