Alaska: The North Slope

snowy_owlALASKA:
THE NORTH SLOPE

Barrow, Alaska

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OVERVIEW:


Throughout this trip to Alaska, we will enjoy several days in Barrow, the hub of the North Slope, to explore the coastal tundra and its inhabitants. We will traverse the Northern Slope habitats that span across Alaska, therefore targeting a large variety of species, including mammals and birds that inhabit these remote and scenic places.

Alaska has retained some of the largest naturally-occurring ecosystems in the world. Despite tourism, development, and the oil, mining and timber industries, Alaska has remained largely undisturbed. We’ll visit Barrow, AK where we’ll observe 24 hours of sunlight in the high Arctic Circle. In Barrow, one of our main objectives will be to observe Snowy Owls on their summer grounds. The are very good chances that the owls will be breeding, and if so, we’ll get to see males defending their territories and bringing food back to the nest where he feeds the female and chicks. During the summer in Barrow, the tundra is alive: everything from the shorebirds dotting the shallow ponds to the eiders in their full breeding plumage cruising along the shore reminds you the breeding season is at its peak. We’ll look for Gray Whales and seals along the shore, and Polar Bears and Arctic Foxes are also possible.

ITINERARY:


iStock_000016505013MediumDay 1: Arrival in Barrow, Alaska.

Today, you will plan to arrive in Barrow and we’ll head to Pepe’s for a get-acquainted dinner. The night will be spent at Top of the World Hotel.

Day 2: Snowy Owls

Today’s mission will include observation of Snowy Owls on their breeding grounds. If the lemming populations are stable and sufficient, the Snowy Owls will be at the peak of their breeding cycle. We’ll negotiate the tundra in order to observe territorial, hunting and chick-rearing behaviors. Plan to wear sturdy, waterproof boots. Lapland Longspurs in their breeding plumage will be easily seen on the tundra landscape. Part of the afternoon will be spent in Barrow looking for vagrants that have overshot their breeding areas. We will spend the night at the Top of the World hotel to re-cap the day’s events and plan for dinner.

Day 3: Coastal Emphasis

After an early breakfast, we will peruse along the roadsides to search the polygonal tundra and coastal areas. Species that await us include: King, Spectacled, and Steller’s Eiders, Pomarine Jaeger, Red Phalarope, Yellow-billed Loon, Baird’s and Buff-breasted Sandpipers, and the courtship flight of the Pectoral Sandpiper. It is possible to see Polar Bears in this area as well. We will enjoy dinner together at 6:30pm.

Day 4: A Third Day to Rediscover and Revisit

After breakfast, we will use this third day to scout for species not already seen, spend time visiting the Snowy Owl nesting grounds again, and perhaps catch glimpses of Black Guillemots and other pelagic dwellers, or colonies of ringed seals. We will enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant today.

Day 5: Departure from Barrow

Tour participants can arrange their flight reservations for any time today.

We will be traveling in a suburban or a van, depending on group size.

 

EXPECTED WEATHER & EQUIPMENT:


The summer weather in Fairbanks and in the forested interior of Alaska usually ranges from 32 to 70 degrees F. In Barrow, we are likely to see 25 to 50 degree weather, so warm clothes are a must. It is advisable to bring several layers of clothing for the range of conditions we could experience, i.e. waterproof jacket, pants, and boots, in case of rain; sun hat and lightweight cotton or polypropylene shirts and light pants are advised.  Many people prefer the zip-type long/short pants for cool mornings and warm afternoons for sun protection. Sunscreen, sunglasses, binoculars, a scope, and bug spray are also important.  Bring a camera if you wish.

Equipment:
You should pack a pair of binoculars that are in good repair, along with a belt pack or daypack (good for carrying books, sunscreen, extra film, etc.).  As a precaution, it is a good idea to pack your binoculars, a change of clothing, toiletry items, medications, your passport, and travel documents in your airline carry-on bag.  Your trip leaders will have a spotting scope, but if you have one and wish to bring it, please feel free to do so.  Other items you should bring include an alarm clock, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent.

Recommended Reading:

  • Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 5th edition, National Geographic Society.
  • National Audubon Society The Sibley Guide to Birds, 2000, David A. Sibley; Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Guide to the Birds of Alaska, Fourth Edition, 1995, Robert H. Armstrong; Alaska Northwest Books.
  • Shorebirds of the Pacific Northwest, 1993, Dennis Paulson, University of Washington Press.
  • Mammals of Alaska, 1996, Alaska Geographic Society.
  • Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, 1996, Verna E. Pratt.

 

TOUR REGISTRATION & COSTS:


Tour size will be limited to eight participants.

Costs: The fee for the tour is $2100 per person for double occupancy.  This includes all meals from dinner on Day 1 to dinner on Day 4, lodging as stated in the itinerary, ground transportation during the tour, usual and customary gratuities, and guide services provided by the tour leader/s.  The price stated above does not include airfare, airport departure taxes, alcoholic beverages, special gratuities, phone calls, laundry, or items of a personal nature.  Rates are based upon group tariffs; if the tour does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may have to be charged. As noted in our itineraries, tipping (restaurants, porters, drivers, local guides) is included on our tours.  However, if you feel your leader/s has given you exceptional service, it is entirely appropriate to tip.

Single: The single supplement for this tour is $400. You will be charged a single supplement if you desire single accommodations or if you prefer to share but have no roommate and we cannot provide one for you.

Registration: closes 45 days prior to tour departure. To register for this tour, please complete our Tour Registration Form and read/sign our Agreements Form and return both with a deposit of $300 per person to the address on the form.  The fill payment of the tour fee is due 45 days prior to tour departure.