Attu. A legendary place that needs little introduction to birders. Closer to Russia than mainland Alaska and located in the Eastern Hemisphere, it’s been the site of many first North American records. The island had been seldom visited by birders since the last Attour trip in 2000, but in 2010 we conducted the first spring birding tour in 10 years. We’ve been there almost annually since then.
We will travel to the island onboard the M/V Pukuk, a 72-foot boat custom built for Alaska charter cruises, giving us ample opportunity for pelagic birding. We should see almost all of Alaska’s alcid species including Whiskered Auklet, and Short-tailed Albatross and Red-legged Kittiwake have been seen on every previous tour. Mottled Petrel is possible, having been seen on about half of the tours.
The big draw of Attu is all the Asian vagrants that end up on the island. Over the course of our tours, we’ve seen 40 Asian vagrant species plus another nine Asian subspecies. We’ve seen Smew, Far Eastern Curlew, Long-toed Stint, Pin-tailed Snipe, Terek Sandpiper, Siberian Rubythroat, Eyebrowed Thrush, Gray Wagtail, Hawfinch, and other species on multiple trips. Some of the real rarities on our tours have been Solitary Snipe (first accepted North American record), Gray Bunting (fourth North American record), and White-throated Needletail (fifth North American record). Add to that more than ten Alaskan and Bering Sea specialties, and the chances of adding some hard-to-get birds to your life list is high.
Birding on Attu isn’t just for experts with extensive experience in Alaska, and this trip has the added bonus of pelagic birding that can get you all of the Alaskan seabird specialties that you can find at other popular Alaskan birding spots plus Whiskered Auklet, Short-tailed Albatross, and with luck, Mottled Petrel.
The following is a partial overview of the tour. Please e-mail for more information. This itinerary may be altered due to weather and other circumstances:
Day 1 (May 19): Arrive Adak after transporting participants from the airport to the boat. Begin sailing to Attu once everyone is aboard (estimated 8-10 PM).
Day 2-3/4 (May 20-21/22): In transit to Attu/pelagic birding. The travel time from Adak to Attu depends on weather and sea conditions. On average, it takes about 60-70 hours; under ideal conditions, it’s about 56 hours. There are several hotspots for Short-tailed Albatrosses along the way. We’ll also pass near Buldir, the most species-diverse seabird breeding site in the Northern Hemisphere. Along with many alcids, this is where we’re likely to encounter Red-legged Kittiwakes and Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels. We could also see Leach’s Storm-Petrels, which we usually see around dawn and dusk. Sperm whales are often seen, particularly west of Kiska.
Day 4/5-12 (May 22/23-30): Birding on Attu during the day and overnight on the boat. Breakfast and supper will be on board the boat and box lunches on the island. We will use a skiff to travel between the boat and land. At the end of Day 14, we depart Attu.
Day 13-14 (May 31-June 1): In transit to Adak/pelagic birding.
Day 15 (June 2): In the morning, we’ll pass through Little Tanaga Strait, a site where Whiskered Auklets are often seen in the thousands. Arrive at Adak early afternoon.
TOUR FEE: $8540 per person. This is a preliminary price and may change.
The tour fee includes roundtrip travel between Adak and Attu, all meals from supper on the first day to lunch on the tour’s final day, and guide services. It does not include transportation to and from Adak before and after the tour, phone calls, alcoholic beverages, or any items of a personal nature.
LEADERS: John Puschock, owner of Zugunruhe Birding Tours will be your leader. John has led seven tours to Attu plus numerous tours to Adak in the central Aleutians.
Neil Hayward, a leader on the last two Attu tours, is coming back for his third year. Neil broke the long-standing ABA Big Year record in 2013 and wrote “Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year” chronicling the experience. Neil is a board member and the Field Trip Coordinator for the Brookline Bird Club.
GROUP SIZE: Limited to 9 participants.
PHYSICAL CONSIDERATIONS/WEATHER: Attu is infamous for its weather, and birding on the island is physically demanding. Participants must be prepared to hike and bike up to 15 miles per day over rough terrain in rain, high winds, and cold temperatures. We recommend reading the book “Attu: Birding on the Edge” for an idea of what to expect. As we will be traveling by boat, participants should be prepared to encounter rough seas, and they will need to climb a 10- to 15-foot ladder to board and disembark the M/V Puk-Uk in Adak and a short series of steps to go between the M/V Puk-Uk and the inflatable boat used to land on Attu.
REGISTRATION, PAYMENT, and CANCELLATION POLICY: Full payment is required at the time of registration. Full payment includes the tour fee plus the estimated fuel surcharge. The actual fuel surcharge will be calculated after the boat returns to Homer, at which time an additional payment may be required or a refund will be issued. Signed registration and release forms are also required at the time of registration. Please e-mail to obtain forms.
No refunds will be made unless another participant is available to take your place and submits payment or if we cancel the tour due to under subscription. If you cancel, priority for the open space will be given to those on the wait list, if there is one. Even if there is a wait list, keep in mind that we may not be able to find a replacement for you, particularly if your cancellation occurs close to the departure date.
We regret having to institute these payment and cancellation policies, but they are required due to the need to provide a commitment to both the boat owner and other tour participants far in advance of the departure date.
TRIP and MEDICAL INSURANCE: Particularly due to the restrictive cancellation policy, we STRONGLY recommend that you purchase trip insurance to protect yourself in case you need to cancel, luggage is lost, stolen, or damaged, a medical emergency occurs, or other unforeseen circumstances occur. Note that many insurance policies require that you purchase it at the time you make the initial deposit for the tour and terms and coverage differ among policies. When purchasing trip insurance, please read and understand what is and is not covered by your policy.
We also STRONGLY recommend that you check that your medical insurance covers medical evacuations, and if it does not, please consider purchasing medical evacuation insurance. Medical care will be extremely limited to non-existent during this tour. A medical emergency will require an evacuation flight, which costs tens of thousands of dollars.
Again, this is a partial overview of the tour. Please e-mail for more information and to obtain registration forms.