This Baikal Teal, the first for St. Lawrence Island, was a highlight on our 2013 fall Gambell tour. Photo Aaron Lang.

Known as one of the premier North American birding hotspots during the fall season, birders travel to Gambell hoping that favorable winds will blow wayward Asiatics onto their life lists. Fall migration is more protracted than spring migration and overall bird numbers are lower, but several species which are difficult on our spring tours, including Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Gray-tailed Tattler, and Red-throated Pipit, are regular migrants in the fall. Arctic Warbler, Bluthroat, and White and Eastern Yellow Wagtails are also regular and with persistence at the seawatch we have good chances of seeing all of the eiders, Arctic Loon, Emperor Goose, local breeding alcids, and Slaty-backed Gull. The most exciting draw to birding Gambell in the fall, however, is the potential for some Asian vagrants, including a long list of Old World passerines.

Highlights from our previous fall tours include: Baikal Teal, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Sand-Plover, Common Sandpiper, Brown Shrike, Middendorff’s Grasshopper-Warbler, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler, Dusky Warbler, Stonechat, Siberian Accentor, Pechora Pipit, Little Bunting, Pallas’s Bunting, Rustic Bunting, Yellow-browed Bunting, Common Rosefinch and Brambling.

Our Approach to Birding Gambell:

In Gambell, we rent two adjacent houses during our stay, one of which is occupied by our generous host. Some of the rooms are set up with beds, others with comfortable cots. The larger house has a common area including a kitchen and adjoining living room where we rest, eat, read and study birds while our guides prepare healthy and delicious home-cooked meals. Gambell residents voted many years ago to make alcohol illegal in town. No visitor is exempt, and we absolutely comply with this law.

In 2010 Gambell built a road system vastly improving the walking conditions around the village and for the first time made it possible to use bicycles on the island. Wilderness Birding Adventures is pleased to be the only group to offer a fleet of bicycles to improve your access to the birding areas. Each bike is outfitted with a rear cargo rack with a set of panniers and a handlebar basket for carrying gear. The cargo rack is equipped to make carrying tripods possible. Scopes, cameras, extra layers, and lunches are able to fit in a pannier. We also use our custom-designed birding “bus” that we tow behind an ATV. The bus has the ability to carry six birders and four bicycles comfortably and safely. We have found the combination of the bus and bicycles to be the best way to get us to the the birding habitats quickly and safely.

Birding at Gambell is a unique experience, from the incredible birds, to the location (you can see Siberia on a clear day), to the Siberian Yup’ik people who have made their living from the Bering Sea for thousands of years on this spot. It is truly unlike any other birding experience in North America.

The trip price includes: all flights from Anchorage to Gambell and back; lodging in Gambell in shared accommodations at a rented home; all meals in Gambell; bicycles with racks and helmets; WBA guides; permits. The trip begins and ends at the Anchorage airport; you are responsible for your Anchorage lodging, meals and other Anchorage arrangements. Single occupancy is not available on our Gambell trips.

While not a flashy bird, this Chiffchaff was the rarity of the tour! There are only 5 or 6 North American records, all since 2012. Photo James Levison.
While not a flashy bird, this Chiffchaff was the rarity highlight of our 2015 fall tour to Gambell! It is only the 5th record for North America, all since 2012. Photo by participant James Levison.