Barrow: birding adventures

Each day in Barrow, we’d wake up early and head to the outskirts of town to spot birds, with all of our scopes and cameras and binoculars and bird identification books (and warm outerwear!) on hand. There wasn’t enough room in the truck’s cab for all seven of us, so we’d take turns bundling up and riding in the bed of the truck, which–although brutally cold and windy–wasn’t as bad as it seemed, because we enjoyed unblocked views of the open tundra. I’m sure I would have never seen or correctly identified all these birds without Dave’s and Jill’s expertise and guidance (not to mention Dave’s uncanny ability to spot birds where there appeared to be nothing!); they and the Glums were wonderful traveling companions! It was especially fun when Dave and Jill would score a bird on their life lists, which sparked joyous celebrations and high-fiving all around. We saw an amazing array of birds, including the greater white-fronted goose, brant, tundra swan, green-winged teal, northern pintail, long-tailed duck, willow ptarmigan, Pacific loon, semipalmated plover, several types of sandpipers (semipalmated, Baird’s and pectoral), my beloved silly phalaropes (red-necked and red), glaucous gulls, arctic terns, parasitic jaegers, short-eared owl, snowy owls, black-capped chickadee, Townsend’s warbler, savannah sparrow, lapland longspur, hoary redpoll, snow buntings, yellow-billed loons (on Dave and Jill’s life list) and three kinds of eiders: king, spectacled and the endangered Steller’s eider. Hanging out with biologists is a blast; when we weren’t scanning the flat gray skies for birds, we might be on our knees on the ground, looking through the other end of binoculars for a microscope effect to see tiny tundra plants, or dropping our jaws in awe as Dave would, say, catch a tiny lemming with his bare hands and hold him up for all of us to get a closer look.

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