2023 Alaska: Vast Beauty – Nome, Denali, Seward
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Challenging
Group Size Medium Group
Alaska birding tours offer one of the world’s most amazing combinations of incredible birds, jaw-dropping mammals, and magnificent scenery, which is bound to leave any nature enthusiast ecstatic! The diversity of habitats offers a constant scenic backdrop as we traverse the arctic tundra, along numerous untouched lakes and rivers, past a range of distant (and some near) glaciers, and of course through parts of the vast boreal forest. Of course, a spectacular mountain view is never too far away, with the mightiest coming from Denali itself, the highest peak in all of North Americas. Do not forget the incredible experience of near 24-hour daylight (we’ll be here over the summer solstice) with the sun almost never completely setting. The list of large-mammal possibilities is an impressive one, as we explore the tundra of Denali National Park to the waters of Resurrection Bay, with Grizzly Bear, Moose, Orca (Killer Whale), Humpback Whale, Sea Otter, Reindeer (Caribou), and Thinhorn Sheep (Dall’s Sheep) all on the list, as well as many other delights. Of course, there is the diverse array of amazing birds that use these bountiful summer Arctic habitats for their nesting and breeding season. Some of the bird highlights include Bald Eagle, Ancient and Kittlitz’s Murrelets, Horned and Tufted Puffins, Harlequin and Long-tailed Ducks, Aleutian Tern, all four amazing eider species (Steller’s, King, Spectacled, and Common), all three jaeger species (Long-tailed, Parasitic, and Pomarine), Bristle-thighed Curlew, Emperor Goose, and many others which can be found on or above the waters and bays. We will also be targeting some other stunners such as Snowy Owl, Arctic Warbler, Gyrfalcon, Bluethroat, American Dipper, and Rock and Willow Ptarmigans in the tundra and alpine areas. There are surely very few places on Earth that could challenge the scenery, birds, and other wildlife found in the splendor of Alaska.
If you feel you haven’t had enough, you can combine this trip with our Utqiagvik (Barrow): Top of the World extension, which immediately follows this Alaska tour.
We will take a maximum of eight participants. On rare occasion we may extend the maximum to ten participants.
Duration: 13 days
Group Size Limit: 5 – 8
Date: 12 – 14 June 2023
Start: Anchorage, AK
End: Anchorage, AK
US$7130 per person sharing assuming 5 – 8 participants
Single supplement: 1605
- Guiding fees
- Flights Anchorage – Nome – Anchorage
- Flights to and from Anchorage
- Personal insurance
- Alcoholic beverages
- Laundry service
- Personal expenses such as gifts
Arrival in Anchorage
You should arrive at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport by 6 p.m., from where you will use the shuttle to the hotel. We will then enjoy our first dinner as a group, during which your Birding Ecotours leader will provide introductions and an orientation about our upcoming Alaska birding tour.
Days 2 - 4
Birding the wonders of Nome
We will take the hotel shuttle to Anchorage airport, from which we will catch our flight to the amazing birding destination that is Nome. Nome represents some of the best birding in all of Alaska. At this time of the year, during the tail end of migration, breeding birds will be setting up territories and the potential of a vagrant species is still high. Many of our target birds will be looking splendid in full breeding attire, including the likes of Black-throated Loon, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Aleutian Tern, Parasitic and Long-tailed Jaegers, Bluethroat, and Red Phalarope. From the central town, there are three main roads that stretch out through the beautiful Arctic tundra and we will spend each of our days exploring these 60-plus-mile (97-plus-kilometer) roads. The evenings will be spent around Nome town with ample time for birding. The birding potential here in Nome is huge with additional species like Pacific Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Eider, Alder Flycatcher, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, and Northern Wheatear, plus a shot at the immense Muskox. Our three-plus days in Nome will allow us to fully explore everything that this amazing birding and wildlife location has to offer.
Back to Anchorage
Our final morning around Nome will be spent looking for any potential species that we may still be missing. From Nome we will take an afternoon flight back to Anchorage and likely spend the rest of the afternoon looking for a few species near the airport and in town such as Northern Raven and Black-billed Magpie. The remainder of the evening will be spent enjoying dinner and getting comfortable in the hotel for a good night’s rest and recovery after a fantastic time in Nome.
Today will be spent traveling a few hours south to Seward, with plenty of birding stops planned along the way. Our first birding stop will feature a morning of birding in the general Anchorage area at Westchester Lagoon. A number of pairs of Red-necked Grebes nest on this decent-sized waterbody, where we also have the chance at waterfowl and shorebird species such as Hudsonian Godwit, Northern Shoveler, and Greater Scaup. After our shoreside birding stop we will head to a nearby local park for a relaxed stroll that should hopefully produce Boreal Chickadee, Two-barred (White-winged) Crossbill, Golden-crowned Sparrow, and many others. Afterwards, we will continue working our way south toward Seward, with a brief stop in the small town of Whittier. To access this small town, we will drive through America’s longest tunnel, just over 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) long, where we will be treated to views of Prince William Sound. We will scan the waters of the sound for species such as Harlequin Duck, Pigeon Guillemot, Glaucous-winged Gull, and Harbor Seal, while enjoying American Crows (of the Northwestern subspecies) scattered around town. We’ll then make the rest of the drive to Seward, where we will enjoy dinner and settle in for the evening.
Seward pelagic trip and Resurrection Bay
Today is particularly exciting as we spend most of it on the waters of Resurrection Bay, looking for loads of incredible seabirds as well as some amazing marine mammals. The scenery throughout the bay is simply stunning, with large rocky outcrops scattered all around and various glaciers in the surrounding mountains. Resurrection Bay is especially well-known for its many alcid species and we will visit breeding colonies of both Tufted and Horned Puffins as well as Thick-billed and Common Murres. In addition, we are also likely to find Ancient Murrelet, Marbled Murrelet, and even the rare Kittlitz’s Murrelet which all spend time in these waters during the summer. The bay also hosts thousands of Black-legged Kittiwakes which are always a treat to see in their various plumage states. The chance of amazing marine mammals keeps the excitement alive; Steller Sea Lion and Sea Otter are likely to be seen, while we always stand a chance of seeing Dall’s Porpoise, Humpback Whale, and even the incredible Orca (Killer Whale)! After our Seward pelagic trip, we will check out a few areas near to before having dinner and settling in for the evening. This is also a good time to catch up on rest if needed, or do a bit of laundry.
From Seward back to Anchorage
We’ll start the day off birding around the town of Seward, exploring the mudflats around the airport for species such as Mew Gull, Semipalmated Sandpiper, and other shorebirds (waders). We’ll be sure to check out the areas around Lowell Point, which hold a small population of Chestnut-backed Chickadee as well as other targets like Varied Thrush, Pacific Wren, and Steller’s Jay. While in the area, there is also the chance for a Sea Otter close to shore or further alcid species close to nearby rocks. On our drive back to Anchorage we’ll be sure to make several stops along the famous Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary scanning for nesting Arctic Terns, Green-winged Teal, Wilson’s Snipe, and others, and of course some amazingly scenic views. We will end the day with dinner in Anchorage before making our way to Wasilla for the night to ensure a head start for the next day.
Hatcher Pass to Healy
Today we’ll make the long, but scenically beautiful, drive toward Denali via Hatcher Pass. On this drive, we’ll cross through a variety of habitat types and elevations as we make our way through the south-east Talkeetna Mountains. We’ll pass by a number of fast-flowing streams along the roadside, where nesting American Dippers often set up territories. When we do eventually reach large open areas of tundra, roadside stops might produce a flock of Grey-crowned Rosy Finches or a Willow Ptarmigan strutting along. Once we are back on the main road we will make a brief stop at Byer’s Lake in Denali State Park for a short hike, where we might happen upon Northern Goshawk as it bursts through the forest, while a scan of the lake, might reveal nesting Trumpeter Swan and Common Loon. Finally we’ll arrive in the small town of Healy where we will enjoy dinner and check into the hotel for the evening.
Denali National Park
Today promises to be one of the most exciting days of the trip as we travel into the pristine Denali National Park. There is only a single, 90-plus-mile (150-plus-kilometer) road leading into and out of the park, and standard vehicles are not allowed past mile number 15. For our exploration of the park we will be using one of the park’s tour buses, which ensures we can reach our final destination of the day, at mile 66. Denali is best-known for its large mammal sightings, remarkable tundra views, and of course Mount Denali (formerly Mount McKinley) itself. We stand a good chance of seeing charismatic wildlife such as Grizzly Bear, Moose, Reindeer (Caribou), and Thinhorn Sheep (Dall’s Sheep) with the possibility of a rare mammal sighting as well. Views of Mount Denali itself can be hit-or-miss, since it is so tall (20,000-plus feet/7000-plus-meters) it regularly creates its own weather conditions, with clouds often obstructing the view of it. While in the park, there are chances for some great birds like Golden Eagle and Gyrfalcon soaring in the thermals, or a Willow Ptarmigan making its way through the scrub. Overall, this national park is certainly an unforgettable one. After our bus tour, we will explore the nature center and then head for dinner back in Healy.
Birding the Denali Highway
We’ll spend the day cruising the 135 miles/216 kilometers of scenic alpine tundra along the Denali Highway. This mostly dirt road offers some fantastic opportunities to experience some of Alaska’s nesting species in a peaceful solitude, as we make birding stops in a variety of different habitats. Trumpeter Swan, Tundra Swan, and Harlequin Duck are found on the many lakes and ponds along with various nesting shorebirds (waders) such as American Golden Plover, Hudsonian Whimbrel, and Wandering Tattler. We will become weary of Long-tailed-Jaeger nests while we search carefully for nesting Smith’s Longspur. Along the drive we should see and hear recently arrived Arctic Warblers as well as the chance for a ptarmigan or grouse, with numerous species possible. After a great day’s birding, we will arrive in the Paxson area for dinner and a good night’s rest.
Back to Anchorage
We will return to Anchorage today via the Richardson and Glenn Highways. The day will be spent targeting and focusing on any tundra/alpine species we may have missed on previous days. This scenic drive takes us through some beautiful sections of the boreal forest, giving us a chance for a Northern Hawk-Owl perched up high or a Spruce Grouse on the edge of the road. There are a number of campgrounds to wander through that host all the characteristic boreal species, like Boreal Chickadee, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Canada Jay, and Pine Grosbeak. We will eventually make it back to Anchorage for our final dinner of what was surely an amazing trip.
Tour concludes, extension begins
Our main Alaska birding tour concludes this morning with lifts to the Anchorage airport. Some of the participants may fly back home, while others may board the flight to Utqiagvik (Barrow) for our tour extension where we will target breeding shorebirds (waders) and many other delights.
ADAK ISLAND ALASKA
24 Sep – 1 Oct 2009
Top 10 lists are voted upon by the participants at the completion of each tour.
1 – Gyrfalcon
2 – Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
3 – Bald Eagle
4 – Snow Bunting
5 – Peregrine Falcon
6 – Harlequin Duck
7 – Ancient Murrelet
8 – Winter Wren
9 – Eurasian Green-winged Teal
10 – Glaucous Gull
11 – Olive-backed Pipit
Flights Anchorage – Nome – Anchorage
Flights to and from Anchorage
Personal expenses such as gifts
Will we do any birding the first day?
Yes! We have birding planned if time allows and everything is on schedule.
How should I dress for the tour?
Check the weather for the destination as close to your departure date as possible, and dress accordingly for your comfort level. You can also review our What to Bring page for more information.
Besides clothes, what do I need to bring?
There are many items the will be useful to you while on a Bird Treks tour. We have put together our list of recommendations on the What to Bring page.
What language are tours conducted in?
Our tours are all conducted in English, but we do have some experience working with client that don’t speak English well – Some English would be needed for safety reasons. In locations where another language is predominately spoken, a native guide may accompany the tour.
Can you help me book flights?
Yes, we will always try our best to help with anything at all! We’re here to serve you. However, it is usually easier if you book your flight through your own travel agent as we can’t always get the best deals from your particular country. But we will help whenever needed!
It is quite possible for you to save money on your airfare by booking it all at one time, home to Adak and back again. In three consecutive years, I flew from Baltimore to Anchorage to Adak and home again, using frequent flyer miles. Each flight cost 25,000 miles and $25 on American Airlines. Also, Alaska Air sometimes has a sale on their tickets to Adak, another way to save money.
Can you book accommodation for us the night before the tour starts or the night the tour ends?
While Day 1 is usually a travel (arrival) day, and the last day of the tour is usually also a travel day (departure), many people do like to arrive early and/or leave late. We can indeed book extra nights before and after the trip, and we in fact recommend you let us book them, as it avoids confusion and allows us to book the accommodation that is most convenient for the tour.
NOTE: Most often it is the same hotel or lodge that you use on the first night of the tour, but in some instances, it could be an airport hotel or an accommodation establishment where the guide is staying.
Do you provide trip insurance?
No, we do not. We find that it is better for trip participants to purchase their own medical, trip cancellation, and baggage insurance through their own insurance provider in the country they reside in. We expect all tour participants to have comprehensive insurance, and we encourage everyone to send us a copy of their insurance documents.
Are meals included?
For most tours, meals are included in the tour price. This may include a hotel-provided breakfast, or guide-provided box lunches. For dinners, we strive to find interesting and delicious local restaurants – this allows us to give back to the local economy, and find exciting new place to eat.