Yes, they really are pink! Photo by Aaron Lang.
The elusive and enigmatic Ross’s Gull is a challenging bird for many birders to track down. Because it spends its entire life in the arctic, there are few accessible places where it can reliably be found by birders. Barrow in the fall is one such place, perhaps the best place. In late September and early October each year the bulk of the world population of Ross’s Gulls passes along the coast of northern Alaska on its migration. Jutting northward into the Arctic Ocean at a latitude of 71º 23’ north, Point Barrow is the northernmost point of land in Alaska and is perfectly situated to catch the migration. We’ll of course be satisfied with seeing one Ross’s Gull, but during some years, as on our 2011 tour, the numbers are staggering, with birders tallying daily counts in the hundreds, even thousands! If we hit the migration just right Ross’s Gulls can often be seen from anywhere along the beach, but we’ve also scheduled an off-road vehicle trip out to Point Barrow to maximize our chances of witnessing the migration and for upping the odds of seeing polar bears and arctic fox.
Overall bird diversity is low during this season and most species present are seen along the waterfront. For this trip, however, we focus on quality, not quantity. Our time spent scanning the ocean and shores for Ross’s Gulls may also reward us with King, Common, or Spectacled Eider, Yellow-billed Loon, Short-tailed Shearwater, Red Phalarope, Black Guillemot, Snowy Owl, or with luck an Ivory Gull. Typically Ivory Gulls are found in Barrow later in the fall than Ross’s, but if there are any carcasses on the beach from recent hunting expeditions our chances of seeing this arctic scavenger will be greatly improved.
As all of our birding will be from on or near the roads, the pace of this trip is laid back and the level of difficulty is easy. However, expect the weather in Barrow at this time of year to be cold. Temperatures in early October typically range from the low 20s to mid 30s Fahrenheit, with record low temperatures just below zero and highs in the low 40s Fahrenheit. The winds can be brisk, so dressing in multiple layers of warm clothing, with a wind-stopping outer layer is crucial.
The price includes: three nights lodging in Barrow, breakfasts and ground transportation in Barrow; permits; an off-road tour to Point Barrow; WBA guide. Airfare to Barrow is not included. You are responsible for your lunches and dinners in Barrow. The trip begins and ends at the Barrow Airport. Participants arrive throughout the day on October 9th (arrival day) and will be picked up at the airport in Barrow by the tour leader. There are several flights daily from Anchorage. The tour ends on October 12th with an evening flight back to Anchorage. Please contact us before booking your flights to/from Barrow. Price is based on double occupancy. Single supplement is $255 ($85/ night).