Alaska Highlights: Jun 13—25, 2018

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Departs: Anchorage
Tour Limit: 14
Operations Manager: Erik Lindqvist
Download Itinerary: PDF (119.8 KB)

Route Map


Tour Leaders


Barry Zimmer

Barry Zimmer has been birding since the age of eight. His main areas of expertise lie in Nor...

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We spent an entire day inside Denali National Park enjoying birds, mammals, and scenery, such as this shot near Polychrome Pass.

Denali National Park, near Polychrome Pass.— Photo: Barry Zimmer

Fabulous scenery, excellent mammal viewing, and birds found nowhere else on the continent. The Last Frontier is a must for every North American birder and naturalist.

Immense expanses consisting of range upon range of snowy mountains, glaciers beyond count, islands teeming with seabirds, coastal fjords edged with fog-drenched forest, vast boreal taiga, and untold miles of rolling tundra—Alaska’s magnificence is beyond compare.

This tour offers a complete cross section of birds. It focuses upon three very different areas: the rugged hills, tundra, and seacoast around the old gold-rush boomtown of Nome; breathtaking Kenai Fjords National Park and the adjacent Kenai Peninsula; and the sprawling wilderness in the shadow of majestic Denali (Mount McKinley), North America’s highest peak.

In Nome, the birdlife has a strong Siberian element with vociferous Bar-tailed Godwits protesting from the hummocks, Aleutian Terns foraging along the edges of Safety Lagoon, Eastern Yellow Wagtails hovering above the tundra, Arctic Warblers singing from the willows, and spectacular Bluethroats skylarking against snow-covered backdrops. Willow and Rock ptarmigan forage along the roadsides. Long-tailed Jaegers patrol the coastal tundra while Gyrfalcons range through the hills above town. Even the nearly mythical Bristle-thighed Curlew is a possibility in this remote region. Shorebirds in full breeding attire cover the tundra, and the possibility of a Siberian rarity is ever-present.

On the way back to the van, we bumped into another cooperative Willow Ptarmigan.

Willow Ptarmigan — Photo: Barry Zimmer

The Kenai Peninsula yields a different avifauna with the ethereal notes of the Varied Thrush penetrating the spruce forests, Bald Eagles adorning gravel bars, and American Three-toed Woodpeckers working the edges of recent burns. Our pelagic trip to Kenai Fjords National Park should produce Horned and Tufted puffins by the hundreds; Common and Thick-billed murres; Rhinoceros Auklet; Red-faced Cormorant (declining); Kittlitz’s, Marbled, and Ancient murrelets; whales; and unsurpassed scenery.

Finally, we will visit Denali National Park where, amid hundreds of square miles of boreal forest and alpine tundra, we have a good chance to see some of the glamour symbols of the far north—Grizzly Bear, Caribou, Moose, Dall’s Sheep, and perhaps even Gray Wolf. Northern Hawk Owl, Northern Shrike, Boreal Chickadee, Bohemian Waxwing, and White-winged Crossbill are among the many avian possibilities.

With many birds found nowhere else in North America, incredible mammal viewing, and scenery that simply cannot be topped, Alaska is a must destination.

For those with additional time, our Barrow Extension offers a chance to see all four eiders and Snowy Owl.

Good accommodations; easy to moderate terrain; one optional hike involving difficult terrain; boat trip and in-state travel by van and airplane; cold to mild weather.