Birds return to Barrow in droves

Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2001

BARROW (AP) -- Migrating birds have returned to Barrow in a big way now that the weather is heating up.

In a recent 24-hour ''birdathon, 39 species were counted.

The survey was organized by scientists Frank Willingham of Ilisagvik College in Barrow and Robert Suydam of the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management.

Suydam said six people participated in the count launched June 2. The team observed a variety of birds, including Steller's eiders, yellow-billed loons, glaucous gulls, American golden-plovers and red-necked phalaropes.

''We did really well this year,'' Suydam said. ''Last year we wound up with 13 species, but we did it a little earlier in late May. This year we did it in early June.''

Willingham said 186 different bird species have been observed in the immediate Barrow area over the years, but that includes some that come only sporadically. He said the snowy owls and eiders are especially popular with bird watchers, and that a number of bird-watching groups are scheduled to come to Barrow this summer.

Willingham described Barrow as ''one of the top 100 birding spots in America,'' and said it includes all four species of eider ducks, as well as the snowy owl.

''The birds' arrival this year happened very suddenly, it seems to me,'' Willingham said. ''Everybody knows we've been having lots of cold weather right up until about two weeks ago, and then all of a sudden it turned warm and the birds just suddenly appeared.''

Suydam said that all of the bird species that regularly come to Barrow have now arrived.

''There is enough tundra exposed for the birds nesting,'' he said. ''So every species that really should be here is here.''



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