Alaska, June 8 - 17, 2018

I’ve been leading trips to Alaska for more than 20 years now, and there’s never much time between the completion of one trip and planning for the next.  In June of 2018 I’m excited to be leading an Alaska trip for Wildside Nature Tours, a company I have long admired for offering high quality, small group trips that feature “off the beaten track,” unique experiences.  I’m especially delighted about this trip because my co-leader will be Tom Reed, an extraordinary young naturalist from Cape May.

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Our trip begins in Anchorage and heads south to the port of Seward, where a full day boat trip through Kenai Fjords National Park is a highlight.  The scenery is spectacular from start to finish (see left as an example), and the wildlife viewing opportunities are exceptional, with many sea birds such as the Horned Puffin (below left), Common Murres, Tufted Puffins, Kittlitz’s Murrelets, and many others.  The trip is also great for marine mammals, often spotting Sea Otters, Orcas (below right), Steller’s Sea Lions, Harbor Seals, and Humpback Whales.

From Seward we return to Anchorage and then north to Lake Lucille, with stops at several fine natural areas along the way.  An excellent variety of birds may be seen along this route.  Among the likely finds are (below, left to right) Arctic Tern, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and Red-necked Grebe.  As with the entire trip, we’ll enjoy excellent accommodations with great scenery.  The view at right is from our hotel at Lake Lucille.

From Lake Lucille we head east along the lightly traveled Glenn Highway, where habitats include boreal forest and countless lakes and wetlands, all with a backdrop of the snowy Chugach Mountains (see photo at left).  Our overnight stop, Sheep Mountain Lodge, features cozy, comfortable cabins with spectacular views.  This is a peak area for Northern Hawk-Owl, and while populations of this distinctive raptor are very cyclical, in all but the lowest years of their cycles these birds can usually be found in this area.  There are plenty of other birds here, both songbirds and waterfowl that breed on the many lakes.  It’s an especially good area for Pacific Loon (below).  If we are extremely lucky, we might also find a Great Gray Owl (left).

We then head to the Richardson Highway and go north, based for two nights in Paxson, at the eastern end of the Denali Highway.  This road sees very little traffic, so we can just walk along the road as we search for birds and other wildlife (right).  Most of the habitat is tundra and low willow brush, with a backdrop of the spectacular snowy peaks of the eastern Alaska Range of mountains.  This remote area is great for birds and other wildlife; with luck we will see American Golden-Plover (below), Arctic Warbler (bottom left), Willow Ptarmigan (bottom right), and many others.

The journey ends up in Fairbanks, with time to explore some of the excellent birding spots near this pleasant, small city.  Tentative cost for this tour is $5450.  For more information and registration instructions see the Wildside Nature Tours page for this trip, http://wildsidenaturetours.com/tours/alaska-birding-the-fjords-tundra-mountains/.