Whiskered Auklets feed on plankton in tide rips in gregarious flocks. Photo Aaron Lang.
Alaska is loaded with special birds and near the top of this list is the Whiskered Auklet. This diminutive, bizarrely adorned alcid is endemic to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska and the Kurils and Commanders in Russia. While not particularly uncommon within this range, it is a species that almost never strays from home and it provides a distinct challenge to birders wishing to find it.
Within the Whiskered Auket’s remote territory, Dutch Harbor’s infrastructure provides the perfect base of operations for an auklet adventure. We’ll travel to this busy fishing port and take a small boat out to search for the auklets. This all day boat trip travels to the Baby Islands where Whiskered Auklets can be found feeding in the tide rips. Other birds possible on this outing include Horned and Tufted Puffin, Marbled, Kittlitz’s and Ancient Murrelet, Short-tailed Shearwater, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, and Laysan Albatross. Short-tailed Albatross and Mottled Petrel (both quite rare) are outside possibilities as well.
The weather is often rough in this part of Alaska so we’ll spend three nights in Dutch Harbor to increase our opportunities to get out on the boat. Our time on shore will include looking for Rock Ptarmigan, Gyrfalcon, Aleutian Gray-crowned Rosy Finch and migrant shorebirds and passerines, both of which should be on the move at this latitude in mid August.