Cruising the Bering Sea

To: <>
Subject: Cruising the Bering Sea
From: "Dion Hobcroft" <>
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2003 21:34:36 +1000
Hi there birders,

For a pelagic with a difference I departed Kushiro in Hokkaido, Japan on the
World Discoverer on May 29. We cruised through the Kuril Islands visiting or
cruising pastYuzhno Kurilsk, Chernye Bratya, Chirpoy, Broutona, Ketoy,
Yankicha, Matuya, Onekotan and Atlasova.

A major highlight were 8000 plus Whiskered Auklets near Yankicha. Other
great birds included Spectacled Guillemot, Crested Auklet, Red-faced
Cormorant, Asian Rosy Finch, a vagrant Mandarin Duck, Falcated Teal, Grey
Bunting, Narcissus Flycatcher and Long-toed Stint.

Moving up the Kamchatka coast we encountered several Steller's Sea Eagles,
Brown Bears and Killer Whales, the volcanic (4000m plus) frozen coastline
scenery was spectacular. Rarer birds included Pechora Pipit, Long-billed
Murrelet and Rufous-tailed Robin (heard only), nesting Red and Red-necked
Phalaropes, display flighting Black-tailed Godwits and Wood Sandpipers. A
day at Petropavlosk revealed Rustic Bunting, Eurasian Bullfinch, Oriental
Cuckoo, Lanceolated Grasshopper Warbler and nesting Taiga Flycatchers.

Off the Commander Islands Mottled Petrels were encountered regularly and
Laysan Albatross numbers picked up. We crossed several large streams of
Short-tailed Shearwaters, although we had encountered them regularly in
smaller numbers further south. Passerines included Hawfinch, Brambling,
Yellow Wagtail, Taiga Flycatcher and Redpoll that came to the ship.

Heading to Attu in  US waters the first Short-tailed Albatross, a stunning
adult made a flypast. Later in the day it was followed by two more subadults
and our only Black-footed Albatross. A family group of Baird's Beaked Whales
and a small number of Kittlitz's Murrelets were other major highlights. The
next day Fin Whales put in consistent appearances and the numbers of
Fork-tailed Storm-petrels was truly impressive.

St. Paul in the Pribilofs put on a superb drake King Eider, nesting Rock
Sandpipers plus the incredible array of cliff nesting alcids and Red-legged
Kittiwakes. Hall Island provided a huge surprise in the form of a vagrant
Emperor Goose plus the localised endemic McKay's Bunting- a snowflake of a

I particularly enjoyed the Yupik community at Gambell on St. Lawrence
Island. Visiting one of the locals houses to sort out a mystery shorebird
(driving on a quad bike thru shingle past Bowhead Whale and Walrus carcasses
on a clear sunny day with the coastline of Siberia clearly visible further
offshore was a surreal experience). At his house he showed me digital
photographs downloaded on his computer clearly revealing the mystery bird to
be a first winter Red Phalarope may have been even more surreal.

Upon returning to the point a first summer male Spectacled Eider was an
incredible bonus while a Grey Whale vaporised the group at very close range.
Departing to Nome on June 14 we enjoyed a knockout summer plumaged Sabine's
Gull, a small group of Muskox and several Aleutian Terns.

Sadly it was time to head home, 214 species of bird were encountered on the
voyage of the Ring of Fire.


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