Fall is here, but are the birds? or East is East on St. Paul Island!

We are well into the fall season on St. Paul Island with the first two weeks of September finished. Unfortunately the winds continued from the east with a few days including gale force winds, except for a day or two of light wind originating from the west, promptly resulting in one or two Asian species. Not surprisingly we have been finding several species of sparrows and warblers from the Alaska mainland with numbers likely increasing a I am typing this. There has been one highlight for me, another vagrant shorebird, but more on that later…

The island is slowly transitioning as fall progresses with most wild flowers faded, the grasses turning brown, and the temperatures dropping. I went for a long hike along the north coast towards Tasmania pond where I found the Emperor Goose again and during the return trip spotted a murrelet fly offshore. The bird settled and although distant I managed a few poor photos showing it to be a Marbled Murrelet, all murrelet species a pretty uncommon on St. Paul Island.


Very distant Marbled Murrelet, a fairly rare species on St. Paul Island Photo Stephan Lorenz


Emperor Goose and Brant St. Paul Island Photo Stephan Lorenz

A good diversity of shorebirds continues with several migrants from the Alaskan mainland and a few regular Asian migrants, including Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Gray-tailed Tattler. The Marsh Sandpiper, who has been a favorite with all visiting birders, remained on Rocky Lake and nearby Saucer Pond until September 5th. The Ruff, Common Snipe, and Wood Sandpipers were also enjoyed by a large birding group, but all left by the end of the first week.


Juvenile Sharp-tailed Sandpiper preening along Antone Slough Photo Stephan Lorenz


Marsh Sandpiper was still easily seen during the first week of September Photo Stephan Lorenz


This Ruff stuck around for at least two weeks all the way into September Photo Stephan Lorenz

Alright, let’s get to the shorebird highlight. During the evening of the 9th I was walking along the edge of Antone Slough when a smallish shorebird flushed very close to me. On first glance the color pattern, size, and shape with strikingly different from anything that had been around and a moment later I said to myself, cool Jack Snipe. I almost forgot to lift my binoculars, but got on it before it dropped into tall vegetation near the far end of the slough. I managed to catch a glimpse of the distinctive face pattern, the strong stripes down the back, and noticed a whitish belly and short bill. No matter how much we tried, Claudia and I were not able to flush it again. We looked for it the following day without success, but on the 11th I found it again in Pumphouse Lake and so far it has remained until the 14th. This shorebird vagrant is extremely rare away from St. Paul Island, but in recent fall seasons it has been regular on the island.


Jack Snipe flying above Pumphouse Lake Photo Stephan Lorenz

The strong east winds brought the predictable warblers and sparrows with Orange-crowned, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Wilson’s and even a Townsend’s all arriving on the island. (So far we have not had to worry about any tough Phylloscopus warblers, unfortunately.)


Yellow-rumped Warbler Photo Stephan Lorenz


Townsend’s Warbler, a fairly uncommon migrant on St. Paul Island Photo Stephan Lorenz


Yellow Warbler Photo Stephan Lorenz


Orange-crowned Warbler Photo Stephan Lorenz

Sparrows have been present for several weeks now with Golden-crowned and Savanna being the most common, followed by White-crowned and Fox sparrows, with a few Dark-eyed Juncos. On the 12th I heard a very familiar call note and spotted a single Chipping Sparrow among a group of Lapland Longspurs, the sparrow is a regular but rare migrant on St. Paul Island.


Golden-crowned Sparrows have been present in good numbers Photo Stephan Lorenz


White-crowned “Gambel’s” Sparrow Photo Stephan Lorenz


“Sooty” Fox Sparrow Photo Stephan Lorenz


Chipping Sparrows are pretty rare on St. Paul Island Photo Stephan Lorenz

Other odds and ends have included loons on the move (mainly Pacific) and the Boreal Owl still hanging out in the quarry crab pots.


Boreal Owl on St. Paul Island Photo Stephan Lorenz

Another rare sight was a beautiful moon (we don’t see the night sky much due to prevalent clouds) and I leave you with this for until next time… Stephan


Moon on St. Paul Island Photo Stephan Lorenz


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