North America’s Greatest Birding Adventure
Your Favorite Bird?
What’s your favorite bird? It’s a common question, and when asked, many birders struggle to name just one bird. There are so many great birds; how can you choose only one? For me, however, the answer is easy. My favorite bird is the Gray-headed Chickadee. There. I said it. And I can say it without feeling the slightest need to qualify my answer or come up other contenders. It’s not that the chickadee is a particularly striking bird, or one with a beautiful song. There are certainly more attractive birds out there. Most of these other birds, however, are far easier to find. No other bird in North America is shrouded in such mystery, nor requires such an effort in a remote wilderness. And most importantly, I have never had more fun looking for any other bird than on the days and weeks I’ve spent in the wilderness with chickadees.
The diminutive Gray-headed Chickadee embodies the spirit of adventure and the unknown. It is without question the most difficult to find breeding species on the continent, spending its entire life in the remote forests and scrub of the Brooks Range, Alaska’s northermost mountains. Our rafting adventure into chickadee country explores the Gray-headed Chickadee’s favorite haunts, and contains a number of nesting areas that we’ve discovered over the last 20 years. With the exception of 2016, we’ve found chickadees along the river every summer since 1997. We think that’s a pretty good track record. In 2017, our intrepid group again found the bird and enjoyed excellent views of a foraging chickadee at very close range. However, we were unable to locate an active nest, something that we’ve done every other year that we’ve been successful.
What’s New for 2018?
We’re again returning to chickadee country next summer, and we can’t wait! As in past years, we’ll go during nesting season and hope to find an active nest. We find it difficult to get enough of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, so for our next trip we’ve decided to spend ten days on the river instead of eight. We’ll cover the same number of river miles, but have two more layover days in which to slow down, explore, hike, bird, and enjoy the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. There is a lot to see up there besides chickadees!
A wolf crosses the river near camp. Photo Aaron Lang.
Do I Need to be a Serious Birder?
This raft trip is one of our most popular trips, and we take only eight people onto this river each summer. While birding is a focus, the trip is for anyone with an adventurous spirit and an interest in the Arctic. As our trip description states, “The quintessential trip for an adventure seeking naturalist, this trip is a true wilderness experience in a remote, wild, and rugged corner of Alaska.”
Tell Me More
Our next trip is June 12-21, 2018. The details of this trip and links to photos of past trips can be found here.
I feel incredibly fortunate to say that for the last 16 years I’ve been able to dedicate a part of each summer searching for and helping others find my favorite bird. If you’re interested in joining me on next summer’s adventure or if you have any questions at all please email or call.
Morning in camp before setting out on the river. Not a bad place for breakfast! Photo Aaron Lang.