Photo Credit: Vicky Padgett

The Best Birding Locations in Alaska

Alaska is one of the world’s great birding destinations. Perched at the top of the Pacific Rim, the state forms a peninsula that reaches from North America toward Asia, at times drawing birds from both hemispheres. Its northern and western zones overlap arctic habitat used by tens of millions of migratory birds during summer nesting. Its coastal wetlands concentrate immense flocks of ducks, geese and shorebirds. At the same time, the state has healthy populations of interesting year-round residents such as bald eagles and ravens, as well as charismatic seabirds like puffins and murres. Regardless of season or locale, Alaska has the potential to delight anybody attuned to avian life.

Jump to: MAP | Potter Marsh | Resurrection Bay | Tern Lake | Kenai Peninsula | Rookery Falls | Denali National Park | Nome | Unalaska | Guaranteed Viewing at Treatment Centers | Birding Festivals | Birding Seasons | Birding Tips

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Find an Alaska wetland, seashore or water body during spring and summer, and chances are you’ll immediately find interesting and even exotic birds to admire. You can find birds to watch just about everywhere in the state in every season.

Alaska’s Top Ten Bird Hotspots

This online guide was compiled by state biologists. The list describes the specific places that draw avid birding enthusiasts to Alaska from across the world. They span from the remote Aleutian Islands to Southeast Alaska, from the north slope of the Alaska Range to the vast Copper River Delta.

Alaska.org Recommended Spots

Nesting Kittiwakes

Nesting Kittiwakes

Potter Marsh

20 minutes south of downtown Anchorage

Part of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, Potter Marsh and its extensive boardwalks are famous for providing intimate views of waterfowl and nesting birds, including trumpeter swans, Arctic terns and 130 other species. Located in a dramatic setting where the Seward Highway enters Turnagain Arm at the south end of the Anchorage urban area, this 564-acre wetland may be the most accessible wildlife viewing destination in the state. Anchorage has many other excellent birding venues, too, including Westchester Lagoon and the Campbell Creek Estuary, both easy drives from the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Checking into the city’s bird action can anchor a quick adventure for the last or first day of your Alaska trip.

Resurrection Bay, Seward

2.5 hours by car or 4 hours by train south of Anchorage

Extending south from Seward, the rugged cliff faces and nutrient-rich waters of this big fiord create a bona-fide seabird paradise, with most of Alaska’s iconic marine birds putting on a daily show. Take one of the many marine tours from the Seward harbor, and you will see puffins, kittiwakes, murres, bald eagles and a myriad of crying gulls. The plankton bloom of May-June may be the most exciting time to visit, but birds remain in large numbers throughout the summer. Much of the area lies within Kenai Fjords National Park and is also known for remarkable viewing of marine mammals.

An Atlantic puffin carrying freshly caught sand eels

An Atlantic puffin carrying freshly caught sand eels

Tern Lake

About 2 hours south of Anchorage or half hour east of Seward

This large, productive lake at the junction of the Seward and Sterling Highways about 90 miles south of Anchorage hosts nesting pairs of Arctic terns as well as trumpeter swans, mew gulls and other waterfowl. You’ll find sweeping views of the lake and surrounding mountains from a pullout on the highway and a picnic area (with bathrooms.) Watch for spawning salmon, bears, beavers, moose and Dall sheep too! Tern Lake is known as one of the best overall wildlife viewing spots in the region.

Kenai Peninsula Beaches

Kenai to Homer

From the sandy mouth of Kenai River to Deep Creek’s dramatic front to the Homer Spit, the east coast of Cook Inlet—northwest and southwest—opens one dramatic window after another on Alaska’s bird world. For someone taking a road trip down the Sterling Highway, every state park and beach access offers a potential birding highlight. Depending upon the season, you’ll find estuary overlooks with migrating flocks or breaking surf where shorebirds dart up and back. Once salmon start running, bald eagles and gulls converge on river mouths. For a treat, take a boat tour to Gull Island three miles off the Homer Spit, with 20,000 nesting seabirds and marauding bald eagles.

Rookery Falls, Prince William Sound

A 90-minute trip from Anchorage in Whittier

If you seek the intense sensory overload and teeming chaos of a bird colony in all its guano-scented glory, take a day cruise or kayak paddle to Rookery Falls just across Passage Canal from the port of Whittier, located beyond the head of Turnagain Arm via the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. This cliff face may be the most accessible seabird rookery in the state, with more than 8,000 black-legged kittiwakes crowding the crannies amid a dramatic waterfall. Pigeon guillemots, sea gulls and bald eagles also make appearances. A natural wonder only minutes from Whittier Harbor.

Kittiwake in flight

Kittiwake in flight

Denali National Park

4 hours from Anchorage or 2.5 hours from Fairbanks

The 90-mile road across the northern slopes of Alaska’s most-visited national park traverses remarkable summer habitat for migratory species and winter-hardened residents. More than 160 species have been recorded in the park, with most of them nesting and raising young during the brief but intense snow-free season. Visitors can easily scan the panoramic views of tundra and mountain slopes to find nesting and feeding birds, with flocks staging for migratory moves. Take a bus tour on the park road or the national park shuttle, and look for birds at Tattler Creek (mi 37.5), hike the Sable Mountain Trail (mi 37.5), or in the fall months of August and September, look above at the Stoney Hill Overlook (mi 61.9) for migrating sandhill cranes.

Nome

A 90-minute flight from Anchorage

Located on the Bering Sea relatively close to Asia—and surrounded by the tundra of the Seward Peninsula—the community of Nome offers unique birding opportunities for travelers. Between May and October, visitors can rent vehicles and drive into the backcountry on more than 350 miles of gravel roads, gaining economical access to habitats that would have ordinarily been very expensive or impossible to reach. Prime time may be spring, May 15 to June 15, when more than 200 species migrate through or stop for the season. Fall has thousands of birds—swans, cranes and geese—staging for their annual return to the south.

Puffins are nicknamed “sea parrots” – and sometimes “clowns of the sea“!

Puffins are nicknamed “sea parrots” – and sometimes “clowns of the sea“!

Unalaska Island

A 3.5-hour flight from Anchorage

Reaching into the Eastern Hemisphere, the far-flung outposts of the Aleutian Chain have always been a mecca for world-class birding. But many islands have no regular access, making them extremely expensive or impossible to visit. Not true for Unalaska, home to historic Dutch Harbor and America’s busiest fishing port. Most of the time, the island and its community of 4,500 year-round residents enjoy daily airline service from Anchorage, and sometimes be reached by a ferry via the Alaska Marine Highway System. Depending upon the season, you might find migrants from across the Pacific, seabirds and shorebirds of the Bering Sea, and hardy residents.

Guaranteed Viewing

Alaska Zoo

In South Anchorage on O’Malley Road

If you don’t mind viewing birds under human care, dozens of birds—many rescued from the wild after being orphaned or injured—can be seen on display at the Alaska Zoo on O’Malley Road in South Anchorage.

Bird Learning and Treatment Center

In South Anchorage near Potter Marsh

This avian rehabilitation clinic often puts on programs with the chance to see one of their recovered patients up close. The BTLC is located near Potter Marsh on the Old Seward Highway.

Black-legged Kittiwakes resting on ice floe

Black-legged Kittiwakes resting on ice floe

Alaska Sealife Center

2.5 hours by car or 4 hours by train south of Anchorage

This popular public aquarium and research center in Seward features a multistory habitat for diving seabirds, with both above-water and below-the-surface viewing. Watching puffins “fly” underwater to snatch submerged snacks can be astounding.

Attend a Bird-Watching Festival

Alaskans love bird watching festivals. They combine fun events, education and science with great opportunities to watch wild and exotic birds doing their thing. It’s a terrific way to meet locals too! Here’s a 2019 listing for these annual events, generally held about the same time every year.

The big three:

Alaska’s Birding Seasons

Spring Arrival

(May-June.) Epic migratory flocks converge on wetlands and coasts. Upland habitat—forests, mountain slopes, meadows—fill with nesting birds singing for mates and claiming territory. This very active and noisy period is when you will have a chance to view most of the state’s annual visitors and residents.

Summer Peak

(June-August.) Birds are nesting and raising offspring. Migrants have dispersed, so finding nest sites of exotic species (like sandhill cranes) can require patience. The forest and wetland grows more silent as birds raise their young. Lakes and streams will host menageries of growing offspring.

Fall Migration

(August-October.) As foliage turns and frost approaches, migratory birds begin to stage and/or simply leave for parts south. Skeins of geese crisscross the sky. Local residents become active, while their offspring actively feed. Serious birders relish this season for the chance to see unexpected and exotic travelers.

Winter Residents

(October to April.) Between freeze-up in the fall until break-up in the spring, Alaska’s bird population becomes more limited. Many birds shift to coastal areas, while many inland locales seem dominated by ravens, with flocks of chickadees and redpolls flitting among the trees. In some ways, the austere winter landscape makes it easier to watch these tough locals make a living in a harsh world.

General Advice:

  • If you can, use binoculars or spotting scopes. Good glass always enhances birding and may be necessary to see details and study behavior. Still, with extensive wild habitat adjacent to trails, decks and roads, it’s relative easy to view active birds even without visual tools.
  • Connect to birding social groups and websites for real-time reports. It’s a great way to find out about rare bird sightings.
  • You’ll find a trove of field-tested birding tidbits and advice in a series of wildlife viewing guides published in paper and online by Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game. They’re organized by geographic area.
  • Come during the shoulder seasons! Alaska’s vast wetlands and 40,000 miles of coastline draw huge flocks during spring migration and fall dispersals. These long-distance travelers include a remarkable collection of geese, ducks, swans, shorebirds and waterfowl, including species like Arctic terns, the world’s grand champion travelers, known for winging 10,000 miles from their wintering grounds.

For More Information:

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Points of Interest

Anchorage

Here you’ll find one of the most acces­si­ble wildlife view­ing areas in Alas­ka. The marsh is a rest area for migra­to­ry birds includ­ing trum­peter swans, red­necked grebes, gold­en eyes, and pin­tails. Also watch for beavers, moose and bald eagles. You may even spot salmon spawn­ing in the deep­er water.

Difficulty: Easy

If you’re look­ing for a wild oasis that’s just a 15-minute walk from down­town Anchor­age, look no fur­ther than Westch­ester Lagoon (also known as Mar­garet Eagan Sul­li­van Park). One of the city’s most pop­u­lar places, this is where locals come to play, as it has some­thing for every­one. You’ll find access to great trails and wildlife, as well as year-round activ­i­ties and events for the entire family. 

This short wood­en bridge cross­es a pop­u­lar salmon fish­ing creek. Down­riv­er you’ll see deep chan­nels that the creek has carved into the mud flats. In late sum­mer, salmon migrate up to the estu­ary to spawn.

Goose Lake is locat­ed in cen­tral Anchor­age, near the uni­ver­si­ty dis­trict. You’d nev­er know you’re in the heart of Anchor­age as you view Pacif­ic loons nest­ing at the far end of the lake from mid-May to mid-September.

Difficulty: Easy

This is a great pock­et of wilder­ness right in Anchor­age: easy to get to, qui­et and pret­ty idyl­lic. Set in the north­east­ern sec­tion of Kin­caid Park, Lit­tle Camp­bell Lake is packed with lily pads and sur­round­ed by a thick for­est lined with trails. Spend the after­noon hik­ing, swim­ming, fish­ing, or pad­dling around the lake. 

A short dri­ve from 5th Ave, you’ll find this great dis­play of Anchorage’s nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment, which coex­ists along­side the indus­tri­al port and rail areas that sup­ply much of south­cen­tral Alas­ka. There are hard­ly ever any peo­ple here, mak­ing this a great place, close to down­town, to get a moment of solitude.

Portage (Near Anchorage)

Crys­tal-clear Willi­waw Creek and its bank-side trail sys­tem in Portage Val­ley at the head of Tur­na­gain Arm offers excep­tion­al­ly good con­di­tions for watch­ing spawn­ing in action. Coho, sock­eye and chum salmon con­verge on the creek as it winds through the brushy flats begin­ning in mid-August, with some late-arriv­ing fish still present after first frost in the fall.

Difficulty: Easy

Locat­ed at Mile 1.0 of the Portage High­way, this site has a short board­walk trail along sev­er­al ponds. It is a good site for observ­ing water­fowl that nest and rear their young in the ponds and riv­er channels.

Whittier

A stun­ning 200-foot water­fall cas­cades from moun­tain cliffs into the waters of Pas­sage Canal just across from Whit­ti­er. The falls — a stop on most marine tours and a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for kayak­ers — pours right through one of the largest bird rook­eries in Prince William Sound.

Cordova

Con­sid­ered one of Alaska’s top bird­ing events, this annu­al fes­ti­val dur­ing ear­ly May cel­e­brates the arrival of more than 5 mil­lion migra­to­ry birds on the Cop­per Riv­er Delta east of Cordova.

Every year, mil­lions of shore­birds migrate from South Amer­i­ca into Alas­ka where they stop to rest and feed on the Cop­per Riv­er Delta mud flats at Hart­ney Bay. Locat­ed about 5 miles south of Cor­do­va near the end of Whit­shed Road, the mud­flats are host to thou­sands of West­ern Sand­piper dur­ing high tide dur­ing the first sev­er­al days of May each year. Addi­tion­al­ly, the Cop­per Riv­er Delta near Ala­ganik Slough is an excel­lent loca­tion to find…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

Locat­ed at Mile 17 of the Cop­per Riv­er High­way. An acces­si­ble board­walk leads vis­i­tors to stun­ning views of both the expan­sive wet­lands of the Cop­per Riv­er Delta and the sur­round­ing moun­tains. A wide vari­ety of wet­land ani­mals includ­ing trum­peter swans, moose, brown bear, and shore­birds can be seen in the area, espe­cial­ly dur­ing the spring and fall. The first half of this trail is paved with geoblock, so that it does not have a negative…  ...more

Mat-Su Valley

Vis­i­ble out­side the win­dows of the Mat-Su Con­ven­tion and Vis­i­tors Bureau, this state wildlife refuge is the result of the 1964 earth­quake. Lit­er­al­ly overnight, the land dropped by 6 to 20 feet; hay fields and pas­ture­land became salt flats and marsh­land. Once home to cows and grains, the land is now prime habi­tat for moose, birds, and fish. Some 20,000 acres are pro­tect­ed in the refuge, which is a pop­u­lar recre­ation and wildlife-viewing…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

This short, paved trail is an hour’s dri­ve north of Anchor­age in south­ern Wasil­la. It leads out to a bluff on Palmer Hay Flats — a large stretch of wet­lands with all kinds of wildlife. There, a view­ing plat­form over­looks the flats and the Chugach Moun­tains beyond.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

This one-mile trail around Reflec­tions Lake offers easy walk­ing year-round. Come with snow­shoes, skis, or ice skates dur­ing the win­ter months, or iden­ti­fy wild­flow­ers and for­est birds in sum­mer. Most­ly wood­ed, the trail does open up to views of the sur­round­ing moun­tains at one end of the lake, where the large for­est gives way to small­er trees and grass­es. Dawn and dusk here can be stun­ning, with sun­set col­ors play­ing across the water and on…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

Part of the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge, this trail mean­ders through tidal flats and wet­lands. High­lights are great views of the moun­tains sur­round­ing Palmer (Pio­neer Peak, the Chugach and Tal­keet­na ranges) and excel­lent bird watching. 

This big pull­out doesn’t look like much, but each spring bird watch­ers from around the world gath­er here to look for elu­sive species of rap­tors and fal­cons. Migrat­ing north for sum­mer, red tail hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, gyre fal­cons and oth­er birds of prey gath­er in large num­bers here, play­ing on the uplifts along the windy cliffs. In addi­tion to see­ing impres­sive num­bers of hawks and rare species, bird­ers are drawn by the good light, with…  ...more

Denali National Park

Difficulty: Moderate

Pick up the trail right after you cross over Tat­ter Creek. Fol­low Tat­tler Creek upstream for 14 mile to a steep ravine that comes in from the left. Fol­low this ravine up until you reach a ridge that over­looks the Sable Pass restrict­ed area. If you only plan to spend time on the ridge with­out going far­ther afield you may want to stock up on water in the ravine because there are no sources on the ridge­line. From the ridge you can choose to…  ...more

Tat­tler Creek is named for the Wan­der­ing Tat­tler, a large shore­bird that you may be lucky enough to spot. The first Wan­der­ing Tat­tler nest known to sci­ence was found at Denali Nation­al Park. The first nests of the Arc­tic War­bler and Surf­bird were also found here.

The griz­zly bears of Denali can be found feed­ing in almost every cor­ner of Denali Nation­al Park. Ear­ly to mid sum­mer, these bears can be often observed from Tho­ro­fare Pass. What draws these adapt­able and per­sis­tent omni­vores to this high alpine envi­ron­ment? Audio tour by Camp Denali Wilder­ness Lodge.

This is the most pho­tographed view of Denali (Mt. McKin­ley) from the road. You’re up high, at the edge of a moun­tain pass, and there’s alpine tun­dra all around, with the road snaking towards the moun­tain in the fore­ground. And this is the first spot where you can see the whole moun­tain from base to sum­mit. On clear days, Tun­dra Wilder­ness Tours will extend their trip sev­er­al miles just to reach this spot. Stony Hill is also a great place to…  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 32 miles Elevation Gain: 4200 feet

This is an unmarked, unmain­tained trail and can be dif­fi­cult to fol­low, but is a good exam­ple of the real out­doors in Denali Nation­al Park.

Fairbanks & Interior

Season: Year Round Free

Come vis­it and you might see up to 15 dif­fer­ent kinds of mam­mals — from beavers to red fox­es, fly­ing squir­rels, snow­shoe hares, and even moose — and sev­er­al species of birds. Through­out the Sanctuary’s trail sys­tem there are 14 inter­pre­tive signs, so you can learn how the birds, fish, frogs, and mam­mals sur­vive in inte­ri­or Alaska’s tough climate. 

Accessed via the 1.5‑mile long Lost Lake Trail, Moose Lake is an excel­lent place to vis­it with a cam­era or binoc­u­lars. Knock-kneed moose are a fre­quent vis­i­tors to the area and you’re most like­ly to see them if you arrive ear­ly in the morn­ing or about an hour before sunset.

These lakes are sum­mer home to a great vari­ety of water­fowl. Some, like the trum­peter swans pic­tured, stay until the lake is freez­ing up.

When you’re dri­ving Chena Hot Springs Road, keep in mind that it’s best not to rush. This jour­ney defines scenic route” as a one-day road trip primed for spot­ting wildlife, explor­ing a new trail­head, and pulling over to cast a line.

Once a small dairy owned by a cou­ple named Cream­er, this land is now an extra­or­di­nary wildlife refuge. More than 100 species of birds and mam­mals call this wilder­ness home (sand­hill cranes and mal­lards show up all sum­mer), and there are miles of trails that mean­der through a vari­ety of habitats.

Wrangell St. Elias National Park

This riv­er orig­i­nates from the Lak­i­na Glac­i­er and the south­ern flanks of Mt. Black­burn, spilling into the Chiti­na Riv­er sev­er­al miles down­stream. Pulling over to the side of the road just after the bridge at mile­post 44, one can explore upstream for around a half-mile before get­ting boxed out by the for­est and a nar­row­ing of the river.

This is a great site to take a break for some wildlife view­ing or bird watch­ing. There are views of wet­lands, a small lake, and bore­al for­est. Moose are often seen here and cari­bou migrate through this area in the spring and fall. Dur­ing spring and sum­mer, look for nest­ing ducks and trum­peter swans. Vault toilets.

Homer Area

Difficulty: Easy

From the base of the Homer Spit, take this 4‑mile paved trail to the Nick Dudi­ak Fish­ing Lagoon. The trail is in excel­lent con­di­tion and is flat as a pan­cake for most of its length. The first mile of trail is along a broad estu­ary that is great for bird­ing. Once you pass the one-mile mark you’ll be rid­ing past fish­ing boats that are out of the water being worked on as well as a few shops.

Sounds Wild: Ravens Hot­Wher­ev­er there is food, you will find ravens and north­west crows. In fact crows love peo­ple and their food. At the Homer Small Boat Har­bor you can find these birds feed­ing along the shore, in the camp­grounds and perched on the sur­round­ing tele­phone poles and buildings.More Information 

To all the oth­er great rea­sons to vis­it Homer, add plen­ti­ful shore­birds, seabirds, marine mam­mals, and a ring of stun­ning moun­tain peaks sur­round­ing Kachemak Bay. The Islands and Ocean Vis­i­tors Cen­ter puts the icing on this cake.

More than 20,000 birds often nest on the cliff faces of this crag­gy island in Kachemak Bay about three miles south of the Homer Spit. See thou­sands of scream­ing kit­ti­wakes, babies cry­ing from nests, mur­res and puffins and oth­er seabirds div­ing off­shore for fish, lone bald eagles on the hunt for a meal.

Sounds Wild: Under­ground Seabird­sA great spot on the Kenai Penin­su­la to see a large group of seabirds nest­ing is Gull Island out of Homer. This short three-mile boat ride across Kachemak Bay is great for fam­i­lies. You’ll also find red-faced cor­morants, com­mon mur­res, puffins, eagles, mur­relets, sea otters, har­bor seals, sea lions and even whales.More Information   ...more

Sounds Wild: PhalaropesHun­dreds of red-necked phalaropes can be seen from the end of the Homer Spit dur­ing their spring and fall migra­tions. Look for these small birds spin­ning in cir­cles on the water. They do this to con­cen­trate food. These whirling liv­ing tops are a joy to watch. They tend to be in small flocks, which can make spot­ting them easier.More Information   ...more

Difficulty: Easy

Every­one wants to explore a tide­pool, don’t they? This is a must for the kids — even that lit­tle kid in those slight­ly more mature vis­i­tors. Here’s the per­fect spot. Bring a tow­el and let’s have an inter­tidal adventure.

At Homer’s main traf­fic light, at Lake Street and the Ster­ling High­way, be sure to stop on the south side of the road and look up — way up. You’ll like­ly get a glimpse of a big, messy eagle’s nest at the top of a dead spruce there, where in late sum­mer you might even see fluffy, rum­pled baby eagles peep­ing over the top. Look one tree over, too, to see if you can spot one of the par­ents stand­ing guard.If you don’t see the nest on the day you’re…  ...more

Above Homer, up East Hill and right on Sky­line Dri­ve a mile and a half (a beau­ti­ful dri­ve along the bluffs over­look­ing Homer), watch for the Wynn Nature Cen­ter, man­aged by the Cen­ter for Alaskan Coastal Stud­ies. You can stroll in the wilder­ness among the beau­ti­ful flo­ra and watch for wildlife or take a tour guid­ed by a well-informed naturalist.

As you dri­ve out East End Road about 4 miles you will see open fields, and like­ly the sand­hill cranes that fre­quent them.

Wit­ness giant trac­tors tow­ing the Kenai Penin­su­la’s fleet out to water’s edge and launch­ing them into the tide on their quest for fish. You can camp here, scout for wildlife, fish for steel­head, and enjoy some of the best puf­fin view­ing on the Kenai.

Sterling Highway, Kenai & Soldotna Area

Many visible locations on the drive to Homer

Sounds Wild: Loon­sAs you approach Sum­mit Lakes, look for com­mon loons. Most of the time they are found at the south­ern end of the lakes near the shore but can be any­where, so stop at the lodge and road pull­outs to look at the lake sur­face. Moose can some­times be seen in the marsh areas at the end of the lakes.More Information 

Sounds Wild: Birds Smell­Tern Lake has lots to offer but few peo­ple use the old Ster­ling high­way to access the bore­al for­est near this lake. Dri­ve into the recre­ation­al area and as you turn left toward the restrooms you will see an old road to your right. You can walk for miles down this road and enjoy the smell of the woods and the sound of the birds.More Information   ...more

Locat­ed at the inter­sec­tion of the Seward and Ster­ling high­ways at Mile­post 37. This area hosts a myr­i­ad of ani­mals, birds, fish, and unique plants. Com­mon loons, bald eagles, and arc­tic terns share the area with a vari­ety of song­birds and shore­birds like the north­ern water thrush, gold­en-crowned spar­row, and the greater yel­lowlegs. Beavers, riv­er otters, muskrats, and salmon ply the cold, clear waters of Tern Lake. Moose, Dall sheep, and…  ...more

You’ll either enjoy a peace­ful walk through a seclud­ed and beau­ti­ful estu­ary ripe with birdlife — or have a ring­side seat at the annu­al salmon dip­net­ting extrav­a­gan­za, fea­tur­ing hordes of crazed locals armed with 10-foot poles. The beach road emerges from the for­est at a riv­er-mouth lined by dunes, tidal­ly influ­enced beach, an estu­ary and broad salt marsh.

Def­i­nite­ly keep your eyes open here, there’s vol­ca­noes, bel­u­ga whales, har­bor seals, and tons of birdlife to be seen — depend­ing on the sea­son and weath­er, of course. Extra cred­it if you spot an owl!

Sounds Wild: Porky Babies­Porcu­pines are not often seen along the main paved roads of the Kenai Penin­su­la. You have to get off on the grav­el side roads that pass through their habi­tat. Tus­tu­me­na Lake road trav­els through the Kenai Wildlife Refuge and ends at the Kasilof Riv­er camp­ground. This road is great for view­ing var­i­ous birds includ­ing spruce grouse, thrush­es and chick­adees. Moose are found along this road and if you are real­ly lucky, a…  ...more

Stretch your legs here and check out one of the favorite rest stops for thou­sands of Kenai Riv­er salmon on their jour­ney home. We’ll also seek out giant trum­peter swans, red-necked grebes, and of course, fish­ers of anoth­er species — humans. Here at the con­flu­ence, the two rivers reveal their source waters in a very clear visu­al demonstration.

Not Steinbeck’s clas­sic nov­el, but a fan­tas­tic adven­ture, com­muning with a 30,000-member her­ring gull colony. It’s a one-of-a-kind expe­ri­ence you won’t want to miss.

Let’s go cari­bou-spot­ting on the wide open spaces at the mouth of the world-famous riv­er sys­tem. This spot is one of your best bets for view­ing these beau­ti­ful, state­ly beasts.

Walk out to the board­walks along the Kenai Riv­er, learn about river­ine habi­tat and the salmon life­cy­cle, and wit­ness the time­less dance of hunter and hunt­ed, of fish and fish­er. One year-round res­i­dent here will impress you with their win­ter sur­vival skills.

Sounds Wild: Alaska’s Drag­on­sWat­son Lake is a shal­low lake that is full of veg­e­ta­tion – just the right spot for drag­on­flies and oth­er crit­ters. Stand­ing at the boat launch and camp­ing area, look out across the lake for these large fly­ing insects. Red-necked grebes, rusty black­birds and loons are also found on the lake. Most lakes on the Kenai Penin­su­la can be a good spot for dragonflies.More Information   ...more

Sounds Wild: Moth­er Bat­sThis recre­ation­al site has a series of loop trails that pass two small lakes. Park in the park­ing lot and take the path to your left as you face the build­ings; this will lead you to the trail­head. The trail is great for view­ing wood­land birds and loons on the lake. As evening approach­es, look for bats fly­ing over the lake feed­ing on insects. Bats are hard to see because they are very secre­tive and do not become active…  ...more

Sounds Wild: Spar­rows­Sa­van­nah spar­rows love to sing and hide in the grass. How­ev­er, some­times they will perch on a fence, small trees or brush piles in this estu­ar­ine area. Walk along the beach toward the Kasilof Riv­er and look at the large flats to your right. In addi­tion to spar­rows you will see arc­tic terns, numer­ous her­ring, mew gulls and migrat­ing shore­birds in the spring and fall.More Information   ...more

Seward & Kenai Fjords National Park

Most spots visible from a day cruise into Kenai Fjords National Park

Just south of Seward you could spot hump­back whales, sea lions, bird life and old growth for­est habi­tat. There’s a great sand beach at the end that will reward your explo­ration, so let’s go!

As the boat pulls away from the nest­ing areas of the horned puffins it will turn left and again stay right next to the cliff face. You’ll notice some pelag­ic and pos­si­bly red-faced cor­morants nest­ing high on the cliff just after the boat turns to the left for the final stretch of Cape Resurrection.

Here is the local favorite area of our Horned and Tuft­ed puffins. You can tell the two species apart if you remem­ber that Tough Guys Wear Black.” The tuft­ed puffin’s body is entire­ly black with dis­tinc­tive long yel­low tufts” of feath­ers on either side of their head. Horned puffins have a white bel­ly and black back. These puffins come to land only to lay their eggs and raise their young. Puffins spend most of their lives about 400 miles away…  ...more

Some of the lit­tle caves on the tip of the cape con­tain nest­ing Com­mon mur­res. You may also be see­ing many of these mur­res on the water. They have black heads, black backs and white bel­lies. They are Alcids, like the puffins, so they are div­ing birds that use their wings for propul­sion under water. Of all the alcids, com­mon mur­res can dive the deep­est, plung­ing to record depths of at least 600 feet​.In addi­tion to the cave nesters on the Cape,…  ...more

Up ahead the noise and odor of the Black legged Kit­ti­wakes will soon become appar­ent. These birds take advan­tage of the slight depres­sions in the rocks to build their nests. Their nest is sim­ply some grass and mud glued to the rock wall with their own guano. These birds nest in dense aggre­ga­tions as a means of pro­tec­tion against birds of prey.If a Bald eagle or Pere­grine fal­con flies into the area every bird will leave the rocks in one…  ...more

Just up ahead on the right is a small rock that sticks above the water and almost always has a mixed group of cor­morants stand­ing atop it dry­ing out their feath­ers. This long necked black bird dives in the water and uses its feet to swim but unlike the puffins and oth­er alcids has no oil in its feath­ers to aid in dry­ing off. So they stand out on rocks to get dry.Just up ahead on the left you will see a rock with many gulls on top of it and…  ...more

Juneau

Aside from rivers where salmon are spawn­ing, this is one of the best spots to watch bald eagles. They perch in trees and on rocks here, hunt­ing for washed-up salmon and oth­er food. It’s also a great place for a pic­nic, or to go beachcombing.

Difficulty: Easy

Adja­cent to the Air­port and acces­si­ble off Rat­cliffe Road, this trail runs through the wet­lands between the main­land and Dou­glas Island. It’s a great walk for fam­i­lies, bird­watch­ers, and exercisers.

Difficulty: Easy

This flat trail — a must for bird­ers — takes you past the Juneau Inter­na­tion­al Air­port run­way and into the famed Menden­hall Wet­lands. You’ll start by fol­low­ing the Menden­hall Riv­er until you get past the run­way. Then the trail veers left, but a small­er foot­path fol­lows the embank­ment above the Menden­hall out to where it emp­ties into Lynn Canal. Fol­low the main trail for about anoth­er 1.5 miles, past a small cov­ered shel­ter and the largest tree…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

Just before Echo Cove is Brid­get Point State Park, where you’ll find this well-main­tained trail. It mean­ders through muskeg, mature for­est, and grass­land until it reach­es a beaver dam and views of the Lynn Canal. Bears often vis­it the mead­ow, but leave it to fish the stream.

Sitka Area

Difficulty: Easy

Over­look­ing the East­ern Chan­nel, this park is designed for whale watch­ing, with 3 cov­ered view­ing shel­ters, pub­lic-use binoc­u­lars, and 11 inter­pre­tive signs. Learn about whales’ feed­ing habits, migra­tions, and biol­o­gy while walk­ing the boardwalk.

Difficulty: Easy

This is a great, easy walk that can be linked to the For­est and Muskeg Trail and Mos­qui­to Cove Trail. The board­walk trail trav­els through a rich tide­lands ecosys­tem, where you’ll find good bird watch­ing for shore and seabirds. You may even spot bears, who show up here to feed on young grass­es in ear­ly sum­mer and return in mid-July to the end of Sep­tem­ber for the pink and sil­ver salmon runs. The U.S. For­est Ser­vice man­ages the area, and the…  ...more

A clump of vol­canic rock in the mid­dle of the ocean, this 60-acre island is home to nest­ing puffins, mur­res, cor­morants, and pere­grine fal­cons from May to Sep­tem­ber. Thou­sands of birds show up, mak­ing it a loud, rau­cous place. They come because of the island’s loca­tion in the mid­dle of food-rich ocean cur­rents and its lack of predators.You’ll have to get here by boat; as you drift along, look for tuft­ed puffins build­ing nests in the grassy…  ...more

This pro­tect­ed bay rough­ly 15 miles south of Sit­ka is a great des­ti­na­tion by boat or float­plane to see birds and bears. Thou­sands of salmon run up numer­ous water­sheds to a lake just inland from the coast and the bears con­gre­gate here from July to Sep­tem­ber. The area is heav­i­ly forest­ed and numer­ous water­falls add an ethe­re­al feel to the trip.

Glacier Bay National Park

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 2 miles Elevation Gain: 100 feet

This trail pass­es along an inter­tidal lagoon and through a for­est of spruce and hem­lock before end­ing at the Bartlett estu­ary. You may see coy­otes, moose, bear, and riv­er otter along the beach. Ducks, geese and oth­er water birds con­cen­trate in the inter­tidal area dur­ing migra­tions and molt­ing. Salmon run up the riv­er lat­er in the sum­mer that draws in hun­gry har­bor seals. To reach the trail­head, park at the Glac­i­er Bay Lodge/​Visitor Cen­ter and…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

The Beach Trail departs from Glac­i­er Bay Lodge in Gus­tavus and fol­lows the shore for one mile, tra­vers­ing beach mead­ows and for­est habi­tats, home to por­cu­pines, bears and moose.

Only min­utes from Whit­ti­er har­bor, you’ll vis­it a very loud kit­ti­wake rook­ery, the sec­ond largest in Prince William Sound. Watch eagles soar and thou­sands of black-legged kit­ti­wakes whip and wheel in the air above their nests on the cliffs. The birds are able to pick out the dis­tinc­tive cry of their own young amidst the thou­sands of bird calls.

Hump­back whales, sea otters and har­bor seals are scat­tered through­out the Beard­slees, with whales and otters most like­ly to be seen on the west­ern side of the islands — near­est to open water. Watch the shore for black bears and moose. Black oys­ter­catch­ers – black shore­birds with bright red-orange bills – nest on the islands. Look for har­le­quin ducks, pigeon guille­mots, pelag­ic cor­morants, arc­tic terns, mar­bled mur­relets and large flocks of  ...more

Kodiak

Look for salmon and bald eagles here.

Difficulty: Easy

The trail par­al­lels Island Lake Creek, which tum­bles steeply through the woods over falls and boul­ders. This is a good place to see dip­pers, as well as for­est birds such as win­ter wrens, var­ied thrush, chick­adees, nuthatch­es and creepers.

Difficulty: Easy

This is a very scenic and easy hike with great bird­ing and flower view­ing. Dur­ing April and ear­ly May this is a prime loca­tion to view migrat­ing gray whales. Check out all of the rocky out­crops, beach­es and off­shore waters for birds. Look for bank swal­lows nest­ing in the sea cliffs and har­bor seals loung­ing on the rocks.

A pop­u­lar place for view­ing win­ter­ing Emper­or Geese.

Difficulty: Easy

Dur­ing sum­mer the mead­ows are full of wild­flow­ers and the views of Chini­ak Bay are spec­tac­u­lar. The south cape is a good place to look for Horned and Tuft­ed Puffins, Bal­ck-legged Kit­ti­wakes, Pelag­ic and Dou­ble-crest­ed Cor­morants, Black Oys­ter­catch­ers and var­i­ous ducks includ­ing Har­le­quins, scot­ers and Long-tailed Ducks.

Difficulty: Easy

Whether you’re look­ing for a camp­site or fish­ing hole, glass­ing for birds, watch­ing for bears, or beach­comb­ing, this recre­ation site is a great spot to expe­ri­ence the won­ders of Kodi­ak Island with­out trav­el­ing too far.

A spec­tac­u­lar set­ting for anglers, beach­combers, hik­ers, and explor­ers. There is devel­oped camp­ing for both tent and RV campers, a boat launch, two mod­ern pit toi­lets, and numer­ous pic­nic sites. The beach makes for excel­lent walk­ing, beach­comb­ing, wildlife view­ing and birding. 

Difficulty: Easy

One of the eas­i­est beach­es to access from town, this park has a nice over­look and excel­lent water­front with pic­nic sites. In late July through Sep­tem­ber, you can fish from the beach for sil­ver and pink salmon. Bird­ing is good year round, but it’s espe­cial­ly great dur­ing the winter.

Difficulty: Moderate

A six-mile round-trip hike that climbs to just over 2,000 feet, this climb will get you great views of Women’s Bay and the rolling moun­tains of the island. Look for ptarmi­gan up here…this is a hike the Audubon Soci­ety does annually.

Difficulty: Moderate

This trail can be hard to fol­low as it mean­ders through wet areas, thick veg­e­taion and up salmonber­ry slopes before it reach­es the rich sub­alpine mead­ows and even­tu­al­ly leads into a bowl-shaped glacial cirque at the base of the moun­tain. There is plen­ty of great bird habi­tat along the trail so watch for pip­its and ptarmi­gan up high and song­bird and snipe in the low­er elevations.

Difficulty: Easy

This is the high­est moun­tain close to town. If you tack­le this hike, you’re in for a climb, but a large por­tion of the trail is in the alpine, with beau­ti­ful flow­ers and tun­dra. You’ll be climb­ing 2,400 feet in ele­va­tion in just two miles. Watch for upland birds includ­ing Wil­low and Rock Ptarmi­gan, and Amer­i­can Pipits.

Nome

Three roads departing Nome provide ideal habitat for migrating birds

Glac­i­er Creek Road runs approx­i­mate­ly 30 miles up the east side of the Snake Riv­er. It becomes a rough four-wheel-dri­ve road after it pass­es the Rock Creek Mine site three miles in and is not main­tained in win­ter. If you look north up the val­ley from Teller Road, you will see the pyra­mid-shaped peak of Mount Osborn, the tallest peak on the Seward Penin­su­la. Look for birds nest­ing in the small lakes on either side of the road.

The Snake Riv­er has a rel­a­tive­ly short drainage that flows out of the south side of the Kiglu­aik Moun­tains. Prime moose, bird­ing, and salmon view­ing habitat. 

The bridge cross­ing gives a good view of birdlife, spawn­ing salmon, and moose. Red-breast­ed mer­ganser and har­le­quin duck like the swift-flow­ing water.

Dri­ving north, the rocky out­crop on your right may host a nest­ing or perch­ing site for rough-legged hawk, gyr­fal­con, and com­mon raven. Look to your left into the creek bot­tom to see an active beaver lodge with sev­er­al dams and ponds.

House Rock and Cab­in Rock are local names for the obvi­ous rock for­ma­tion on the right. Look for Arc­tic ground squir­rel on the dry, upper slopes and for Musk ox on the wind­blown sum­mits. This is also a great bird­ing area.

The steep road grade on either side of Crip­ple Riv­er gives a good overview of the thin thread-like riv­er that runs through the val­ley. Gold min­ing activ­i­ties occurred in the upper trib­u­taries, as evi­denced by the road and hor­i­zon­tal ditch lines. Look for har­le­quin ducks pad­dling swift riv­er cur­rents in late August or Sep­tem­ber, and Pink Salmon swim­ming upstream to spawn.

The Sinuk Riv­er is the largest riv­er cross­ing on the Teller Road, and the mag­ni­tude of the val­ley, riv­er chan­nels, crag­gy moun­tains, and rolling tun­dra — all in one panoram­ic vista — is an impres­sive sight. The bridge is a reli­able spot to see salmon on their return upriv­er. Birdlife tends to be those species attract­ed to flow­ing water and grav­el bars, islands, and thick veg­e­ta­tion clus­tered in some sec­tions of the river. 

This 100-foot-wide road is a pub­lic right-of-way that tra­vers­es lands pri­vate­ly owned by the King Island Native Cor­po­ra­tion. It runs eight miles to tra­di­tion­al sum­mer fish­ing camps at Wool­ley Lagoon. Please stay with­in 50 feet of either side of the road. Do not pho­to­graph or trav­el close to lagoon or camps. A pull-off to the right offers views of Moon Moun­tains, a win­ter­ing spot for muskox. Also watch for red fox and black-bel­lied plovers.  ...more

As you approach the Tisuk Riv­er, scan down­stream and across the riv­er for a large nest of sticks on an orange lichen-cov­ered rock out­crop. Built by gold­en eagles, it may be used by gyr­fal­con when not occu­pied by eagles.

The road par­al­lels a some­what nar­row creek val­ley, mak­ing it easy to see water and shore­birds asso­ci­at­ed with flow­ing water as well as the wide vari­ety of song­birds, such as thrush­es, war­blers, and spar­rows that hang out in dense shrubs clus­tered at creek’s edge. Arc­tic grayling, and some­times pink salmon, are found here.

The Blue­stone Riv­er is unlike oth­er riv­er cross­ings along the Teller Road because it flows north­ward to Imu­ruk Basin rather than south to Nor­ton Sound. The riv­er is deeply incised as it cuts through steep moun­tains, cre­at­ing steep, rocky slopes and cliffs. Rough-legged hawk, gold­en eagle, gyr­fal­con, and com­mon raven may nest on near­by rock cliffs

At Teller the road returns to sea-lev­el where the envi­ron­ment is dom­i­nat­ed by marine waters. Look for spot­ted seals on calm days, their heads pop­ping up inquis­i­tive­ly at the tip of the spit. Pelag­ic cor­morant, pigeon guille­mot, horned puf­fin, com­mon eider, and black scot­ers are seen here.

Spring pro­vides some of the best oppor­tu­ni­ties to see semi-domes­tic rein­deer along this sec­tion of road. In sum­mer the dri­ve pro­vides good bird watch­ing for water­fowl, gulls, terns, and tun­dra species.

The land­fill draws many scav­engers. Com­mon raven is abun­dant year round. Glau­cous, glau­cous-winged, her­ring, mew, and — occa­sion­al­ly in sum­mer — slaty-backed gulls show up as well. Red fox is also a fre­quent vis­i­tor to the facility.

A grav­el pit pond may con­tain local nest­ing water­fowl, mew gull, Bonaparte’s gull, and semi­palmat­ed plover. The edges with the tallest wil­lows are a good place to find black­poll war­bler. A large beaver lodge on the banks has helped to fer­til­ize this once ster­ile grav­el pit, which now sup­ports juve­nile coho salmon, Dol­ly Var­den, and Arc­tic grayling.

The Nome Riv­er is a good place to see salmon. Pink and chum salmon spawn in August, coho are usu­al­ly present in August and Sep­tem­ber. Sock­eye salmon, Arc­tic grayling, and Dol­ly Var­den may be present. Look for Arc­tic terns fish­ing, har­le­quin duck and red-breast­ed mer­ganser rid­ing swift water, spot­ted sand­piper or wan­der­ing tat­tler at water­line, and north­ern shrike in the wil­lowed riv­er edges.

This high point in the road gives you an excel­lent view across the val­ley. Three ditch lines from ear­li­er min­ing activ­i­ties are appar­ent on the far side of the val­ley, espe­cial­ly where they cross the exposed rock face of Cape Horn. The ditch­es orig­i­nate near Hud­son Creek about 12 miles upstream. Today these deep, wide gash­es on the hill­side offer cov­er and eas­i­er move­ment for wildlife — espe­cial­ly moose and griz­zly bears.

There are two turn-offs to see rap­tors as you are head­ing down Kougarok rd. The first is a rap­tor nest, and the sec­ond give you a chance to see hawks

Sock­eye salmon migrate up Pil­grim Riv­er to Salmon Lake between late July and mid-August, and some con­tin­ue up the Grand Cen­tral Riv­er as far as the bridge. Griz­zlies are fair­ly com­mon in late sum­mer when spawned-out salmon and ripe berries are abun­dant. Bird­ers watch for har­le­quin duck, red-breast­ed mer­ganser, Amer­i­can dip­per, Bluethroat, yel­low war­bler, Wilson’s war­bler, and Arc­tic warbler.

Gold­en Gate Pass divides the gold-laden creeks and rivers to the south from Pil­grim and Kuz­itrin Rivers. This pass is a migra­tion cor­ri­dor into the Pil­grim Riv­er drainage for the West­ern Arc­tic cari­bou herd in years when they win­ter on the cen­tral Seward Penin­su­la. Amer­i­can gold­en-plover, north­ern wheatear, Amer­i­can pip­it, and Lap­land longspur are com­mon in the tun­dra areas.

The Pil­grim Riv­er cross­ing brings you close to groves of cot­ton­wood that are abun­dant in this sec­tion of the val­ley. Look for spawn­ing salmon, moose, and a vari­ety of birds.

The north­ern­most lake is called Swan Lake but sev­er­al lakes in this area may hold a wide vari­ety of birds. Tun­dra swan with cygnets, Cana­da goose, sand­hill crane, north­ern shov­el­er, black scot­er, long-tailed duck, greater and less­er scaup, and can­vas­back fre­quent the ponds. Red-necked grebe build float­ing nest plat­forms. The perime­ter of mead­ow habi­tat with threads of water drainages are good places to find Pacif­ic gold­en-plover. Look for signs  ...more

Sev­er­al small lakes and ponds sprin­kle the land­scape on either side of the road. Look for a small hillock just beyond the first lake. This lone pin­go ris­es above the sur­round­ing flat tun­dra mead­ow and serves as a con­ve­nient look­out for hunters such as fox­es, wolves, hawks, owls, and jaegers. The soil on the tops of pin­gos is fer­til­ized by preda­tor feces and prey remains and gen­er­al­ly sup­ports lush and diverse vegetation. 

Though built to accom­mo­date the road from Bunker Hill to Tay­lor in the ear­ly 1900s, the bridge is as far as you can go by high­way vehi­cle. From here a rough, unmarked, and some­times impass­able ATV trail leads to Tay­lor where fam­i­ly-owned mines still oper­ate. Look for cana­da goose and white- front­ed goose. Bluethroat can be found on shrub­by riv­er banks. Arc­tic grayling are the most like­ly fish to be seen from the bridge.

The bridge marks a mix­ing zone where fresh riv­er water meets tidal salt water and turns brack­ish. This cre­ates a blend of water types and habi­tats and attracts many dif­fer­ent birds to areas of open water or the mud-bar edges of islands. Look for geese, cranes, shore­birds, and gulls in good num­bers, even unusu­al species like Arc­tic loon, red knot, black-tailed god­wit, red-necked stint, ivory gull, and white wag­tail. Also spot spawn­ing salmon.   ...more

Safe­ty Lagoon slow­ly nar­rows and mix­es with wet­lands, ponds, and the Bonan­za Riv­er estu­ary. Thou­sands of tun­dra swan move through this area on their spring migra­tion. Breed­ing swans move on to upland ponds to nest and raise their young, while non-breed­ing birds may remain all sum­mer. In the fall, parts of the lagoon and Solomon Riv­er wet­lands turn white with huge groups of swans prepar­ing for fall migration.

In the fall, peo­ple fish for tom­cod from the bridge. Deep div­ing ducks feed in the chan­nel depths of the Bonan­za Riv­er. Sand­hill crane feed on berries, plant shoots, roots, insects, and even small rodents. Red-throat­ed loon and, less com­mon­ly, Pacif­ic loon float the waters.

Lee’s Dredge, the last dredge to work the Solomon Riv­er, was oper­at­ed by the Lee fam­i­ly until the 1960s. It now pro­vides nest­ing plat­forms for rap­tors and ravens. You may see green-winged teal and phalaropes feed­ing in the dredge pond and song­birds in the sur­round­ing willows.

An old road bed lead­ing to a Solomon Riv­er over­look is a good spot to look for salmon, Dol­ly Var­den, and Arc­tic grayling in late July and August. Say’s phoebe will launch from its nest to catch insects. North­ern shrike, har­le­quin duck, spot­ted sand­piper, and wan­der­ing tat­tler are also seen. In some years, the cliff is occu­pied by com­mon raven, rough-legged hawk, or oth­er rap­tors so be care­ful your pres­ence does not dis­turb nest­ing birds. 

Approach­ing the East Fork of Solomon Riv­er, a wide pull-off on the left is an excel­lent place to park and scan the slopes and riv­er val­ley for wildlife. North­ern wheatear and Amer­i­can pip­it fre­quent the rocky slopes near­by. Cliff swal­low often build nests on the bridge sup­ports, and ravens and rap­tors occa­sion­al­ly nest in the area. This view of the riv­er makes it easy to find red-breast­ed mer­ganser, har­le­quin duck, tat­tlers, and gulls.

The rocky out­crop across the Solomon Riv­er usu­al­ly hosts an active gold­en eagle nest. Look for a huge tow­er of sticks and splash­es of white­wash and orange lichen in the vicin­i­ty of the nest and sur­round­ing perch­ing sites. Built by eagles and added onto in suc­ces­sive years, the nest i s dis­tinc­tive for its large size, con­struc­tion, and shape. When not occu­pied by eagles, the large nest may be used by gyrfalcons.

Descend­ing into ter­rain increas­ing­ly dom­i­nat­ed by trees and wil­lows, you are more like­ly to see a moose than a muskox. In late sum­mer griz­zlies feed on spawn­ing chum salmon below the Fox Riv­er bridge. Salmon car­cass­es also attract red fox, gulls, and com­mon ravens. Both aban­doned and active beaver lodges and dams are found along the Fox Riv­er drainage. Dol­ly Var­den, Arc­tic grayling, and chum and pink salmon can be seen from the bridge.  ...more

Look for loons, mer­gansers, gulls, terns, and kit­ti­wakes where the Snake Riv­er flows into the Nome har­bor area, either close to the beach or in the salt and fresh water mix­ing zone. When ice cov­ers the har­bor dur­ing the spring thaw, the plume of riv­er melt attracts a mix­ture of arriv­ing species seek­ing open water near the coast. Many birds stay in the area through­out the sum­mer, mak­ing this an impor­tant local hot spot for birdlife.

Skirt the har­bor and walk toward the west side of the port area along Sep­pala Avenue, and you’ll cross the cul­vert where Dry Creek flows into the har­bor. Upstream is a wide area of low­land veg­e­ta­tion. This area is sub­ject to salt water intru­sion dur­ing wind dri­ven high tides, affect­ing the wet­land habi­tat as it reach­es the side slopes of tun­dra and wil­low shrubs. Pud­dle ducks for­age and nest here. Look for shore­birds and oth­er species.

The west flank of Dry Creek leads to the Nome Ceme­tery on a small round­ed hill. The nar­row ceme­tery roads cross tun­dra and wil­low shrub habi­tats that dom­i­nate the area due to the slight rise in ele­va­tion. While being respect­ful of the grave mark­ers, search for north­ern shrike, bohemi­an waxwing, or black-capped chick­adee and enjoy the com­mon tun­dra bird species as well. Don’t be sur­prised if an east­ern yel­low wag­tail fly­ing over­head escorts you  ...more

Bor­der­ing the ceme­tery hill to the north, at the inter­sec­tion of Cen­ter Creek Road and the west exten­sion of the Nome ByPass Road, a large man-made pond from plac­er min­ing oper­a­tions that is slow­ly becom­ing veg­e­tat­ed is a good place to find a few species of nest­ing water­birds. Red-necked grebe, glau­cous gull, greater scaup, north­ern shov­el­er, and green-winged teal may be found near the cen­ter and edges of the pond. 

Return­ing south of the road to the air­port (Sep­pala Avenue) and west of the Nome port, the beach front area offers a good view of the marine waters of Nor­ton Sound and the barge dock­ing area built of quar­ried rock from Cape Nome. Depend­ing on the sea­son, the open ocean view will be punc­tu­at­ed with pass­ing flocks of eiders, brant, scot­ers, mur­res, auk­lets, cor­morants, and oth­er seabirds.

Anvil Rock perch­es above Nome, an ear­ly land­mark for gold min­ers and an easy hike for those who want to take in spec­tac­u­lar views of Nome, the Bering Sea, and the Kiglu­aik Moun­tains. Its resem­blance to a blacksmith’s anvil gen­er­at­ed names for many near­by land­scape fea­tures, includ­ing Anvil Moun­tain and Anvil Creek. The hike also promis­es a good chance to see musk oxen, birds, and maybe even rein­deer or red fox.  ...more

Unalaska

Unalaska’s Front Beach, on the shores of Ili­uliuk Bay, is both invit­ing and pic­turesque. Look­ing toward the bay, watch for boats com­ing into har­bor, eagles fight­ing over salmon, or mist engulf­ing the sur­round­ing hills and moun­tain tops. Back toward Unalas­ka, you’ll find more emer­ald green moun­tain views and his­toric sites.

Difficulty: Moderate

A dri­ve or walk up Mt. Bal­ly­hoo is inter­est­ing for both bird­ers and those inter­est­ed in World War II his­to­ry. It’s such as good view that you might even catch sight of whales in the dis­tance. The view from the 1,634-foot moun­tain gives you an idea of how birds might see the area (that is, if you can imag­ine the view with a lot more col­or and super-sharp clarity)

Difficulty: Moderate

If your trav­el group includes a WWII enthu­si­ast, a wildlife devo­tee, a bird­er, and a kid who enjoys rolling around on the tun­dra, Bunker Hill is the per­fect spot. Plus, it has the best pho­to ops, with a 360-degree view of the entire area: Cap­tains Bay, Amak­nak Island, Unalas­ka Bay and Ili­uliuk Harbor.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile Elevation Gain: 700 feet

The mild stroll around Straw­ber­ry Hill offers great views, wildlife and some his­toric fla­vor. Old mil­i­tary roads cov­er the area, pro­vid­ing easy walk­ing. Adven­tur­ers can bush­whack or scram­ble short dis­tances for bet­ter views of the sur­round­ing area or get up close to WWII-era trench­es and the remains of old bunkers.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

Jut­ting half a mile into the cen­ter of Unalas­ka Bay, the Dutch Har­bor Spit offers a short, sea-lev­el hike for all ages, with beach access, wildlife view­ing and bird­ing. The trail fol­lows an old roadbed, which makes for an ide­al hik­ing sur­face. You’ll want to stop fre­quent­ly with a ready cam­era for close-up views of marine mam­mals on either side of the spit.

Some birds that wind up in Unalas­ka are acci­den­tals” that have been blown off course by storms. If they are used to liv­ing in forests, there’s only one place to head: Sit­ka Spruce Park, known to local bird­ers as a migrant trap” for unusu­al birds.

Tens of thou­sands of pots are stacked and stored in yards in between crab­bing sea­sons. The tow­er­ing stacks are a source of shel­ter, espe­cial­ly for birds that don’t nor­mal­ly live in Unalas­ka. Crab pot yards are on pri­vate prop­er­ty, but you may be able to view from the road or get per­mis­sion to walk around.

The 2,300-foot Pyra­mid Peak is sur­round­ed by Pyra­mid Val­ley, Cap­tains Bay and miles of pop­u­lar hik­ing trails, includ­ing a cir­cuit around the peak. This loca­tion is for the bird­er who wants to get out of the city and indus­tri­al areas of town to lis­ten for bird­song while sit­ting among the wild­flow­ers or berries of the Aleut­ian tundra.

The S‑curves” of Air­port Beach Road are well-known by locals as a great place to watch for water birds and for whales. Pull off between the Dutch Har­bor Post Office and Gilman Way, and start adding to your life-list!

A wide vari­ety of birds and marine wildlife can be seen in Unalas­ka Bay. Tour by char­ter boat, or join a guid­ed sea kayak­ing tour, where your guide can help you spot sea otters, Steller sea lions, and humpbacks.

Locals love the dri­ve along Sum­mer Bay Road, a 7‑mile stretch north of town on the west­ern shore of Unalas­ka Island. This area, with coves and rolling green hills, is not only pic­turesque, but serves as an eas­i­ly acces­si­ble place to watch for a good mix of birds — from seabirds and water­fowl to nest­ing eagles and breed­ing song­birds. (Except for win­ter, when the road might be closed due to snow or avalanche risk).

Also known as Sec­ond Priest Rock, Lit­tle Priest Rock is a large, point­ed rock eas­i­ly spot­ted near the entrance to Sum­mer Bay. Birds perch on the top and on short­er rocks near­by (many just above the sur­face of the water). Lit­tle Priest Rock attracts many seabirds and shore­birds, includ­ing bald eagles, puffins, Emper­or Geese, grebes and loons.

The bald eagle pop­u­la­tion on Unalas­ka has fluc­tu­at­ed over the years, and has some­times been as high as 700. Here, these birds of prey are as plen­ti­ful as pigeons are in oth­er cities, giv­ing vis­i­tors a rare oppor­tu­ni­ty to observe our nation­al sym­bol up close.

Some of the most valu­able seabird habi­tat in the east­ern Aleu­tians is locat­ed about 16 miles from Unalas­ka, east between Aku­tan and Unal­ga islands. The group of five vol­canic islands are small, but are impor­tant nest­ing grounds for some species that are rarely seen elsewhere.

Chelan Banks is an area where the Bering Sea and Unalas­ka Bay meet. Fish are plen­ti­ful in this upwelling — a real buf­fet for the birds! You could see thou­sands of shear­wa­ters, alba­tross, the rare short-tailed alba­tross and the very rare mot­tled petrel.