aba events

Rarity-hunting in Alaska's Pribilofs

geeseTWhen: September 28-October 5, 2014
St. Paul Island, Alaska
How Much: $4395* (single supp. $470)
Registration: REGISTER NOW
Event Type: Rigorous birding tour, searching for rarities
Limit: 12 people
: Nate Swick & local guides
If you would like more information on this event, contact us at events@aba.org, or  click here or call (800) 850-2473. Read this Birding Magazine article about the unique archipelago (click here). And see Greg Neise’s summary blogpost on the adventure in 2013.

It’s jackpot birding! In the tradition of Attu, the greatest vagrant birding spot in the ABA Area, we offer this hunt for rarities at the remote Alaskan outpost of St. Paul Island. Featured prominently in the Discovery Channel’s TV show “Deadliest Catch”, the Pribilof Islands are smack in the middle of the Bering Sea, and represent the only land around for about 50,000 square kilometers. Though rugged and rocky and amid a severe climate, the archipelago is a haven for birds. The signature species is the Red-legged Kittiwake which is essentially seen no where else in North America.  Other seabirds abound as well including a variety of seaducks, and a number of alcids (auks) are possible such as Horned and Tufted puffins, several auklets, and Ancient Murrelet.

A flock of Red-legged Kittiwakes along with one Black-legged, lift off at St. Paul Island. (Photo by Scott Schuette)

A mixed flock of Red-legged and Black-legged kittiwakes lift off at St. Paul Island. (Photo by Scott Schuette)


This Pine Bunting (Photo by Doug Gochfeld) was taken fall of 2012 at St. Paul Island. It represented the third record for the ABA Area, and the first away from Attu.

The Pribilofs have hosted over two dozen first-ever ABA Area records, and with some real luck we could add to that total (fingers crossed!). ‘Til recently, St. Paul Island was known primarily as a spring/summer destination for birders, but increasing coverage in the fall has yielded amazing, stunning vagrants. It is these rare birds that will be the focus of this intense birding tour. Of course nothing is guaranteed in birding, and rarities are so-named for good reason, but this particular window of time has proven excellent for vagrant-hunters in the little amount of time that it has been investigated. If you are up for an adventure to an unforgettable destination, join your fellow ABA members for some hardcore birding at one of the most choice vagrant spots in all of the ABA Area.

Price includes:
– Flights to St. Paul Island, and back to Anchorage
– All food, lodging, ground transportation, and guide services** while on St. Paul Island

*pay by check and price is $4295 (single supplement remains $470)
**An ABA representative/guide will accompany the group provided a minimum of four registrants is reached. With 3 or fewer, registrants may proceed with their trip to St. Paul, but under the guidance and care of local guides employed by TDX Corporation’s St. Paul Island Tour.

Excluded from the registration fee are:
– travel to Anchorage and points home, and associated costs
– accommodation in Anchorage***
– tips to shuttle drivers, maids, etc.
– travel/trip cancellation insurance (recommended)
– drinks with alcohol (limited availability on St. Paul Island)

***For a group rate on lodging in Anchorage prior/post-tour, please inquire with the ABA office or at events@aba.org.

Cancellation policy: Full refund, less $150.00 per person administration fee, until August 15th, 2014. No refunds after August 15th, 2014.

Participants will meet in Anchorage at the Ted Stevens International Airport (ANC), at Pen Air check-in area, prior to the flight to St. Paul Island. We recommend participants arrive at least one day before the flight to St. Paul departs on Sept. 28th.

If you haven’t yet seen it, check out Greg Neise’s summary of the 2013 ABA ventures. Please note that this is not your average casual birding tour, but a concerted search for rarities involving a moderate (or more) amount of hiking. Participants should be prepared for quite a bit of walking through dense vegetation. Searching for vagrant landbirds is a real hit or miss endeavor, and when present the birds often take cover in “putchkie” (wild celery). This maritime tundra habitat offers birds good shelter from the elements, but it can be quite tiring to navigate. None of this is meant to discourage, but only to prepare participants for a rigorous adventure. One never knows where the birds will show up, and it may be that a hike is the only way to access an area holding a certain rarity. The island and our guides can accommodate birders at varying degrees of mobility, but participants should be prepared to walk several hours per day. In spite of the remote location, the food and lodging are really quite nice. So just because the birding is hardcore, does not mean we will be roughing it. Each day holds ample opportunity to rest up and warm up at at the King Eider Hotel, if one desires.

To get a sense of the species possible on St. Paul in the autumn (specifically Sept/Oct) check out this eBird list of sightings. Also note the list at the bottom of the page of rarities seen over the ’11-’12 fall seasons.


St Paul Island rarities reported to NARBA Sep/Oct of 2011 & 2012, with ABA occurrence code#.

Emperor Goose 2
Mottled Petrel 2
White-tailed Eagle 4
Lesser Sand-Plover 3
Common Ringed Plover 2
Red-necked Stint 3
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper 3
Jack Snipe 4
Common Snipe 3
Willow Warbler 5
Taiga Flycatcher 4
Dark-sided Flycatcher 4
Rufous-tailed Robin 5
Bluethroat 2
Eyebrowed Thrush 3
Siberian Accentor 4
Pine Bunting 5
Rustic Bunting 3
Brambling 3
Eurasian Bullfinch 4
Hawfinch 4

The material for the summary above is from NARBA‘s archives.

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