Attu! 22 May – 8 June

John Puschock’s Zughenruhe Birding Tours 2019 Attu trip is the highlight to any birder’s year, if not lifetime. Along with John and Neil Hayward as organisers and guides, and the mighty Puk-uk and her crew of three, we steamed along the Aleutians from Adak to Attu – a 72-hour pelagic birding mission, spent two weeks on Attu, then back to Adak – without a hitch. Our pelagic results were excellent – we saw ten Short-tailed Albatrosses of various age groups, and nearly all of the Alcids, Gulls and   tube-noses we’d hoped for. Following is not much of a blog post – but an abbreviated pictorial recounting of the trip. I really do regret not being able (yet) to write proper blog posts, but truly cannot muster the time required. I do intend to back-track and beef up the captioned photos with text, but until I get up the three or four overdue posts – stretching back many weeks, photo essays are going to be the only option.

Attu – way out at the end of the Aleutians – and the world. The WWII Battle of Attu was one of the bloodiest in the Pacific campaign, and later became a Naval base, then a Coast Guard station. Nowadays the island is only rarely visited – principally by historians and birders. Its legendary status among ABA birders is owed to its proximity to the migratory pathways of many Asian bird species.


The mighty Puk Uk.


Captain Bill Choate shuttling birders and birding gear onto the Puk Uk.


Puk Uk chef and general roust-about Sandra making plans with John and Neil.


Immature Short-tailed Albatross.


Mature Short-tailed Albatross – a principal target for Aleutian birders.


Pigeon Guillimot thinking about diving from harm’s way.


Northern Fulmar. We saw many hundreds each day at sea.


Least Auklets – tiny, and seriously cute.


Tufted Puffin aka Puffed Muffin.


A few Crested Auklets


More Crested Auklets


Roosting Thick-billed Murres


Massacre Bay. Many Attu landmarks and geographical features, such as Murder Point, are associated with the occupation of the Island (a symbolic first step onto US soil) by the Japanese, and the fight to the death for repossession.


Transporting the troops each morning to the island of birding dreams.


‘Lower Base Camp’ – where the many hundreds of birders stayed during the glory days of Attu birding, when the airstrip was still open.


John Puschock – AKA Johnny No Snakes, along with co-larrikin side-kick Neil Hayward leading the team on foot, and by bicycle.


Guide and birding superstar Neil Hayward (right), and tallest, and undoubtedly most knowledgable birder on the team – Jordan Roderick. No question, of any diverse subject can stump the man. And a great and enthusiastic birder to boot.


Christian Hagenlocher – adventurer, team explorer and wildly talented guy in so many areas.


Seemingly recreating the Battle of Attu, Pity the Great Knot being shot at.


An intense focus on birds made the ever-changing climate bearable.


Hiking up Hendersen’s Marsh.


Ruben Still keeping lookout.


The abandoned Coast Guard Station.


Great Scott! Its a Great Knot! A true rarity for the ABA area.


Lesser Sand Plover


Two of the dozen or so Gray-tailed Tattlers we found. It was a great trip for Shorebirds – contrasted by very modest passerine finds.


Glaucous-winged Gulls were nesting during our visit, and always keen to see us off.

Common Greenshank.


The Aleutian race of Cackling Goose were in big trouble prior to removal of previously introduced Arctic Foxes on Attu. Now they are in huge numbers, with nests seemingly everywhere.


Red-necked Stints

My only ‘lifer’ Passerine for the trip – Siberian Rubythroat. This one was affectionately renamed Siberian Rubenthroat since Ruben Stott found the birds in circumstances that made it unlikely to otherwise be found.


Taiga Bean-goose dwarfing Cackling Goose.


Bird of the trip – Steller’s Sea Eagle.


Neil Hayward, successful author, hot shot scientist, business whiz-kid ,and big year birding record setter. Spending time with Neil is always a highlight for me, and I value his friendship as much as I gawk at his many abilities.


Tennessee birder Ruben Stoll. We share a common background of big year birding; both Ruben and his brother Victor conducted ABA big years in 2018, and ended just short of the record. During our Attu adventure I was so impressed with Ruben’s abilities and character – I wish I was one of his brothers! I know of few birders as capable of finding birds, or as knowledgable and enthusiastic about birds.

With Barbara and Kathy. It was a great trip, and everybody got to see some amazing birds.


The John and Neil show. The cost of the trip is worth it, if only to watch these two interact. If there were awards for funniest birding guides, they’d be making speeches well into the morning. It was an incredibly well-run tour – a reflection of the serious and insightful side of their nature.


Our team joined the dozens of teams who came before, recording our best birds for the trip, and our ABA libelist totals at the end of the trip.