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  • Photograph of Crested Auklet

    A Crested Auklet on St Paul in the Pribilof Islands of Alaska by Simon Colenutt.

    ALASKA

    Photograph of Spectacled Eider

    Photograph of Steller's Eider

    Photograph of King Eider

    Spectacled, Steller's and King Eiders. These three beautiful ducks, as well as a fourth, Common Eider, occur together at Barrow, Alaska. All three beautiful images taken by Simon Colenutt.

    Best Wildlife in Alaska

    Mammals
    Humpback (mostly Jul-Aug) and Killer Whales, Grizzly (Brown), Kodiak (Brown) and Black Bears, Musk Ox (reintroduced), Moose, Northern Fur Seal, Steller's Sealion, Caribou (Reindeer), Dall's Sheep, Arctic Fox, Sea Otter, North American Porcupine, Dall's Porpoise, Muskrat and Hoary Marmot. Also a chance of Polar Bear (Barrow only), Beluga (mostly Jul-Aug), Wolf and American Beaver.

    Birds
    Bald Eagle, Snowy Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Tufted and Horned Puffins, Crested and Parakeet Auklets, Spectacled, Steller's and King Eiders, Gyr Falcon, Red-legged Kittiwake, Aleutian Tern, nesting shorebirds such as Bristle-thighed Curlew, Rock Sandpiper, and Grey and Red-necked Phalaropes, Varied Thrush and Bohemian Waxwing, as well as Snow Goose, Barrow's Goldeneye, Harlequin Duck, Common Eider, Sandhill Crane, American Black Oystercatcher, American Golden Plover, Wandering Tattler, Hudsonian Godwit, Long-billed Dowitcher, Surfbird, Black Turnstone, Baird's, Pectoral, Semipalmated, Western and White-rumped Sandpipers, Long-tailed and Pomarine Skuas (Jaegers), Brunnich's and Pigeon Guillemots, Marbled, Kittlitz's and Ancient Murrelets, Least and Rhinoceros Auklets, Rufous Hummingbird, Steller's Jay, 'Eastern' Yellow Wagtail (tschutschensis), (Red-spotted) Bluethroat, Northern Wheatear, Grey-cheeked Thrush, Arctic, Wilson's and Yellow Warblers, Smith's Longspur, Grey-crowned Rosy Finch and Arctic Redpoll. Also a chance of Emperor Goose, Pacific and White-billed Divers, Golden Eagle, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Sabine's Gull, McKay's Bunting, Two-barred Crossbill, Pine Grosbeak and Asian birds very rare in North America (mostly late May-early June and from late August to early October, mainly on the Pribilof Islands and Attu Island in the Aleutians).

    Other Natural Wonders of Alaska

    Mount McKinley The highest mountain on the North American continent at 6195 m (20,320 ft). Situated in Denali National Park, the base-to-peak rise of about 5500 m (18,000 ft) is one of the largest of any mountain situated entirely above sea level.

    Glaciers There are over 5000 glaciers in Alaska, the most famous of which include those which reach the sea in Kenai Fjords NP and the 16 in the 30 km (19 mile) section of the Chugach Mountains of Southeastern Alaska known as College Fjord.

    Best Sites for Wildlife in Alaska

    Best Times for Wildlife in Alaska

    June is the best time for birds; Red-legged Kittiwakes are not normally back on their nesting cliffs until then. Humpback and Killer Whales are usually present from May to October with peak numbers in July-August, and Grizzly Bears usually fish at this time, mainly in July and the first half of August but also during the first half of September. After late June to mid-July mosquitoes and other insects make life hell but their numbers usually fall steeply after mid-August, which is the best time to look for Grizzly Bears foraging for berries in Denali NP.

    Recommended Books etc. for Alaska

    The Arctic Guide: Wildlife of the Far North by S Chester. PUP, 2016.

    Mammals of Alaska edited by P Rennick. Alaska Geographic Society, 1996.

    Mammals of North America by R W Kays and D E Wilson. PUP, 2009 (Second Edition).

    Mammals of North America by F A Reid. Peterson North American Field Guides, 2006 (Fourth Edition).

    Peterson Field Guide to Finding Mammals in North America by V Dinets. Houghton Mifflin, 2015.

    Field Guide to the Birds of North America edited by J Dunn and J Alderfer. NGS, 2011 (Sixth Edition).

    Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America by K Kaufman. Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

    The North American Bird Guide by D Sibley. Helm, 2014 (Second Edition).

    Guide to the Birds of Alaska by R H Armstrong. Alaska Northwest Books, 2008. (Fifth Edition).

    A Birder's Guide to Alaska by G C West. ABA, 2008 (Second Edition).


    Apps etc.


    National Geographic Birds: Field Guide to North America.

    The Sibley eGuide to the Birds of North America.

    Peterson Birds of North America.

    Audubon Birds - A Field Guide to North American Birds.

    iBird Ultimate Guide to Birds.

    Trip Reports for Alaska

    Many trip reports, some for Alaska, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Alaska. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Alaska' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in Alaska

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation in Alaska

    Some Organized Tours to Alaska

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Alaska include the following.