Howling Winds Bring Some Owls and Shorebirds Relentlessly on the Move on St. Paul Island

We are still in peak shorebird season here on St. Paul and while some amazing rarities continue and have even multiplied (more on that later) things seems to have slowed to a trickle. So instead of starting with plovers and sandpipers for this week’s update I will talk about some howling winds that brought in some owls. After last week’s west to southwest winds, which didn’t produce too much, a quick shift to some north winds resulted in two species of owls. First a Snowy Owl perched atop rock pinnacles near Lake Hill and I was able to walk across the rough lava flow with a photographer who got some nice shots (mine more distant).

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Snowy Owls are always a joy to see and are uncommon on St. Paul Island, this is the second I have seen this year with the first being a male Photo Stephan Lorenz

A few days later another, much rarer owl appeared in the quarry crab pots. A Boreal Owl decided to take up residence for one afternoon. This is a difficult bird to spot anywhere in North America and this approachable individual offered great photo opportunities for all birders on the island (only two that day).


This Boreal Owl was only one of a few dozen records for St. Paul Island and the first in about 20 years Photo Stephan Lorenz

Geese and other waterfowl have also started to migrate with a pair of Brant showing up (surprisingly the first for the season) and a pair of Emperor Geese with them on the first day.

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Emperor Geese on the wing Photo Stephan Lorenz

Of course shorebirds again were the main focus of the week and after the very rare Marsh Sandpiper from last week, something equally rare showed up, yes, another Marsh Sandpiper. I was happy that the Marsh Sandpiper stayed around for several birders that finally made their way to St. Paul to enjoy and then on Monday, a little more than a week after the first one had shown up, a second Marsh Sandpiper popped up on Rocky Lake. I had walked the lake and watched a Marsh Sandpiper fly across the way when a few minutes later I noticed it in another corner. I was suspicious that there were two, but only the next day managed to see both side by side. They did not associate closely and one chased off the other rather quickly, but a just managed one photo showing both.


Although it takes a bit of searching, there are two Marsh Sandpipers on St. Paul Island Photo Stephan Lorenz

Other regular migrant shorebird from Asia have increased in numbers with Sharp-tailed Sandpipers on every lake and pond, Gray-tailed Tattlers becoming a staple along the mudflats and kelp wrecks, the Common Ringed Plover still graced Salt Lagoon, a Wood Sandpiper passed through, Ruffs are easy to come by, and Red-necked Stints still filter through. From the other side of the Pacific (our end) we received Buff-breasted Sandpipers (with 4 birds one day a new high count), Western and Baird’s Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitchers and Whimbrel.


Western Sandpipers on the move with up to 60 daily on St. Paul Island Photo Stephan Lorenz


Long-billed Dowitchers are numerous during the fall on St. Paul Island Photo Stephan Lorenz


Gray-tailed Tattler in flight revealing the namesake tail color Photo Stephan Lorenz


Sharp-tailed Sandpipers have been easy to find Photo Stephan Lorenz


Ruffs were easy to find this week Photo Stephan Lorenz

Songbirds have also started to migrate, especially trans-Berengian migrants with good numbers of Red-throated Pipits, Northern Wheatears, and during the past few days several Gray-cheeked Thrushes. A single Siberian Rubythroat that was everything but cooperative (their usual modus operandi) was the only Asian passerine of note. From the Alaskan mainland Golden-crowned and White-crowned sparrows dropped in, plus Bank Swallows, redpolls, and American Pipits.

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Gray-cheeked Thrushes have been on the increase for the past couple of days Photo Stephan Lorenz


Northern Wheatears are a regular migrant on St. Paul Island Photo Stephan Lorenz


Hoary Redpoll Photo Stephan Lorenz

For the parting shots this week some of the furry critters of the island, until next week…Stephan


sleeping Arctic Fox Photo Stephan Lorenz



2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Andy Garcia on August 27, 2016 at 8:59 am

    What was that bird in the distance to the right of the SNOW?


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