Spotted Sandpiper and mid June birds in Unalaska
- Unalaska Island. June 8 through June 20, 2013, I spent at Kalekta Bay, roughly seven miles northeast (as the raven flies) from the town of Unalaska. Some surprisingly good birds showed up out there!
On June 9th a single Spotted Sandpiper was seen on the shore and in the cobbled mouth of the river. Slightly smaller than a Rock Sandpiper, it had an unusual stiff-winged, fluttery flight, and teetered almost constantly when it landed. Short legs, yellow bill, white underparts covered with brown spots, and it gave a two note call. 'Common and widespread' elsewhere, I don't think it usually ranges west of Kodiak. With the photographs, this turned out to be a first documented record of Spotted Sandpiper for the Aleutians. I wish my photos were better but it was a nervous bird and hard to get close to.
On June 11th a single Sandhill Crane spent hours circling the camp. That day the fog and clouds hung very low and the bird looked as though it wanted to come down and land. Each time it began a descent though, a couple of bald eagles would fly out and circle below, and the crane would rise again. I heard the throaty call all day long.
On June 18th a single White-winged Crossbill and a single Pine Siskin showed up in the spruce trees near the cabin. The crossbill stayed for a couple of days and was quite unafraid, calling out chit chit from the branches. Interesting to watch that scissory bill going after the spruce tips and cones. While Pine Siskins are frequent, I believe this was only the second record of White-winged Crossbill here in the Aleutians.
I also want to note the lovely, humorous antics of a parent Song Sparrow teaching its four youngsters to 'beachcomb'. I wonder (a bit proudly) if only genuine Aleutian Song Sparrows scratch and feed right at the sea's edge. They looked like sandpipers out there.
Aleutian Birding and Natural History
P.O. Box 11
Unalaska, Alaska 99685