aba events

Ross's Gull Expedition to Barrow, Alaska

ROGU7548_250x103When: October 7-11, 2014
Where: Barrow, Alaska
How Much: TBA
Event Type: Tour in partnership with ZUGUNRUHE BIRDING TOURS, a search for the Ross’s Gull and other arctic specialties.
Limit: 14 people
: John Puschock
Registration: If you would like to be notified when more info on this tour is available, contact us at events@aba.org, or call (800) 850-2473 or click here .

On March 2nd, 1975, it was announced that a Ross’s Gull was present at the Newburyport Harbor in Massachusetts, and birding was changed forever. A first record for the Lower 48, birders came from all over to share the amazement brought by this unique phantom of the Arctic.


A rather pink Ross’s Gull at Point Barrow. (Photo by John Puschock)

It was a lifer for Roger Tory Peterson and even the then-Secretary of the State James Slessinger is rumored to have made the chase to see this bird of legend. It was historic in many ways. That event, in an age when communication was far less fluid, made clear to birders that there was a real birding community. This is one reason the species holds a special place in the hearts of ABA birders. While Ross’s Gulls have since appeared a number of times in the Lower 48, seeing them in their arctic haunts has become more difficult for birders in recent years, or so we thought…

Six years ago John Puschock of Zugunruhe Birding Tours organized the first-ever birding tour focused on trying to see this species at Barrow. Ross’s Gulls were known among a few scientists to migrate past Barrow, Alaska each fall in some numbers, but few had born witness to the phenomenon or could speak to it. John’s trip was an incredible success, and he’s been back every year since. Some days he and his groups have seen hundreds of Ross’s Gulls (see video), and one day they estimated seeing over 1o,000! Imagine… While not every trip has enjoyed quite those numbers, the species is typically seen in good numbers. The ABA/Zugunruhe 2013 Barrow offering yielded a day of 1000+ Ross’s Gulls, and some extremely lucky sightings of polar bear!

A flock (!) of Ross’s Gulls migrates past Point Barrow, the United States’ northernmost point, well north of the Arctic Circle. About 70 individuals can be counted in this image. (Photo by John Puschock)

On this tour to the northernmost point in the U.S (71° North, inside the arctic circle), combine the setting with the mystical Ross’s Gull and add the possibility of seeing Ivory Gull and polar bear, and there is a real chance at a uniquely thrilling arctic experience. Other birds often present include Spectacled, King and “Pacific” Common eiders, Yellow-billed Loon, and also Thayer’s and Slaty-backed gulls and Snowy Owl (see video).

A Polar Bear visits Point Barrow attracted by the smell of a Bowhead Whale carcass. Photo by George Armistead

A Polar Bear visits Point Barrow attracted by the smell of a Bowhead Whale carcass. (Photo by George Armistead)

A female Spectacled Eider at Barrow. (Photo by George Armistead)

Price inclusions: Lodging for the nights of Oct. 4th-7th, all food from breakfast on the 5th to breakfast on the 8th, and transportation in and around Barrow.Price exclusions: The tour begins and ends in Barrow, so flight costs are not included in the registration fee. For tips on arranging flights to/from Barrow contact John Puschock (info@zbirdtours.com). As is typical, alcohol is not included, and participants should note that it is not available for sale in Barrow.

Note: This tour may coincide with the native hunt for bowhead whales, and  if so participants may witness butchering activities.


John Puschock

John Puschock

John Puschock manages #ABArare for the ABA, and is a frequent participant in rare bird forums around the web and has knack for gathering details necessary to relocate birds. He has been a birder since 1984 and now leads tours for Bird Treks, as well as for his own company Zugunruhe Birding Tours. He has led tours to locations across North America, from Newfoundland to New Mexico and from Costa Rica to Alaska. He specializes in leading tours to Adak in the Aleutian Islands.

Bird List
Species often seen at Barrow in October include:

King Eider
Common Eider
Long-tailed Duck
Harlequin Duck
Rock Ptarmigan
Red-throated Loon
Pacific Loon
Yellow-billed Loon
Black-legged Kittwake
Ivory Gull
Sabine’s Gull
Ross’s Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer’s Gull
Slaty-backed Gull
Glaucous Gull
Parasitic Jaeger
Snowy Owl
Common Raven
American Pipit

Mammals could include:
Beared Seal
Ringed Seal
Spotted Seal
Bowhead Whale
Gray Whale
Arctic Fox
Polar Bear