Field Trips

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Yakutat Tern Festival 2018 Field Trip Descriptions

Field trips will be led by knowledgeable birders and other local area experts and/or naturalists when possible.  Transportation will include passenger vans, short hikes, and possibly motorized watercraft.  Most trips are adaptable to meet any physical limitations of participants; please contact us early if you have any special needs, questions, or concerns.  A limited number of field guides will be available for use; however, participants are encouraged to bring their own bird books, camera, and binoculars.  The schedule may vary due to weather, but most trips will be conducted rain or shine.  Temperatures in June generally range in the 50s and 60s (°F), and rain is common.  Participants should be prepared for inclement weather; warm clothing, rain gear, and study boots are highly recommended, but don’t forget the sun-screen and sun-glasses!  For longer trips, also bring water and snacks or lunch as needed (some trips may offer bagged lunches for sale).  Unless otherwise specified, all trips will be departing from the parking lot at the festival headquarters at the Yakutat High School.  Please be at the departure location at least 15 minutes prior to the departure time.  Times given are approximate.  Please see the festival schedule for trip dates and departure times.

To maximize the enjoyment and safety of all participants, please observe the following guidelines:

Be courteous to other group members: Stay with the group and pay attention to the trip leader(s). 

Move slowly, avoiding making any sudden movements, and keep any noise to a minimum. 

Do not disturb birds or other wildlife.  Use binoculars and/or spotting scopes to observe birds and other wildlife from a distance. 

Practice Leave No Trace: Pack out any trash and do not disturb the natural habitat. 

Yakutat is Bear Country:   Keep an eye out for bears and bear signs, and follow bear safety recommendations from your trip leader.  Do not wander off alone!


Town/Monti Bay  (photo courtesy of R.E. Johnson)
2012 Monti Bay field trip, photo by R.E. Johnson
2-3 hours
Difficulty Level: Easy
Transportation: Foot and/or passenger vehicle
Description:  This trip will encompass good bird viewing sites in town such as Sandy Beach, Yakutat Harbor, the Lagoon trail, and the lower road system adjacent to Monti Bay.  Sandy beach offers (you guessed it!) sandy beach habitat near the cannery which attracts large numbers of feeding seabirds, primarily gulls.  Monti Bay is a great place to view seabirds, such as a variety of gulls, scoters, and cormorants.  Common loons are abundant year round, and Pacific loons are common migrants.  The Totem Park/Lagoon trail weaves through conifer forest where one may encounter thrushes, kinglets, and even brown creepers.  Waterfowl and shorebirds are common in the lagoon and along the shoreline in spring and fall.  A stop at the harbor may yield murrelets, sea ducks, cormorants, gulls, and eagles.

Ankau River and Ocean Cape (photos courtesy of Mike Denega)
Photo by Mike DenegaPhoto by Mike Denega
: 3 hours
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
Transportation: Passenger vehicle and foot.
This trip will start at the Ankau River, including a hike along the river up to the open waters of Monti Bay. For those not wishing to walk far, a short walk to the beach from the parking area will yield spectacular views and bird viewing opportunities in Monti Bay.  A variety of waterfowl species are viewable in the Ankau River, with Arctic terns nesting and foraging nearby.  Monti bay is a great place for viewing seabirds, such as a variety of gulls, scoters, and cormorants.  Common loons are abundant year round, and Pacific loons are common migrants.  Watch for rarities such as Kittlitz’s murrelet and Yellow-billed loon.  Keep an eye out for the famous Yakutat surfers here, as well as marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, harbor porpoises, and sea otters.  On a clear day, the scenery alone makes this trip worthwhile, offering a spectacular view of Monti Bay and the Mt. St. Elias Range.   

Harlequin Lake (photos courtesy of Mike Denega)
2011 Yakutat Tern Festival Harlequin Lake field trip, by Mike Denega2011 Yakutat Tern Festival Harlequin Lake field trip, by Mike Denega
4 hours
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
Transportation: Van, foot
Description: This trip will travel out Forest Highway 10 to the Dangerous River Bridge and Harlequin Lake Trail.  A short (3/4 mile) hike from here ends at the southern shore of Harlequin Lake.  The scenery alone makes this trip a must-see!  Harlequin Lake is the headwaters of the Dangerous River.  Massive icebergs, calved from Yakutat Glacier, can be seen floating from shore.  Yakutat Glacier is visible across the lake. Mew Gulls sometimes make their nests on the ice.  Possible bird observations include Cliff Swallows nesting under the bridge, Arctic Terns diving for fish, molting Canada Geese, and Red–necked Phalaropes.  Extensive willow thickets along the lake shore in this relatively inland area are good places to look for interior-dwelling species like Gray-cheeked Thrush.  Gulls may be observed near the shore as well passerine species like Varied Thrush and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  Those not wishing to hike have the option to stop at the Dangerous River Bridge, which also offers views of the outlet of the lake and icebergs (occasionally floating down the river!).  Time permitting, this field trip will also stop at various habitats along the way back to town. 

Tern Viewing
An Aleutian Tern hovers over Black Sand Spit
:  3-4 hours
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
Transportation:  Passenger vehicle and foot, possibly watercraft
Description:  This trip will encompass one or more sites offering views of Arctic and Aleutian Terns.  The largest accessible breeding colony is generally at Black Sand Spit, but other areas such as the mouth of the Lost River and meadows along the Lower Landing Road and Forest Highway 10 offer viewing opportunities as well.  Actual sites visited will depend on weather, nesting phenology, current occupancy status of sites, access considerations, and interest level. 


Morning Songbird Walk (photos courtesy of R.E. Johnson)
2012 early morning songbird walk along the coastal forest, photo by R. E. Johnson
taking in some shorebird sightings during a 2012 morning field trip, photo by R. E. JohnsonTime
:  2 hours
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
Transportation:  Passenger vehicle and foot (short walks roads and/or trails)
Description:  These early morning birding trips will include short walks on roads and/or trails to  focus on songbirds by sight and sound.  Birding areas will be close to town, and may vary throughout the festival to allow for a variety of birding opportunities.  Common song-birds include Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Varied and Hermit Thrushes, Wilson’s and Orange-crowned Warbler, and Fox and Lincoln’s Sparrow.


Kayaking in the Ankau River
4-5 hours
Difficulty Level:
Transportation: Van, kayak
Description:  Weather permitting, this trip will depart via kayaks from the mouth of the Situk River.    The area is a magnet for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds.  Watch for Yellowlegs, Semi-palmated Plovers, and Whimbrels. Black Sand Spit, site of an Arctic and Aleutian Tern nesting colony, will be viewable, and Aleutian and Arctic Terns can be observed foraging in the estuary.  Late migrating shorebirds such as Dunlin and Western Sandpiper may be viewed along the tidal flats. Space is limited due to limited availability of kayaks: advance registration recommended (please see registration form on this website).  This trip is contingent on interest and advance registration, and is also weather dependent.  This trip is recommended for participants with basic kayaking skills/experience.  ADDITIONAL FEE OF $50.00 APPLIES

Charter boat based Monti and Yakutat Bays:
Yakutat Bay with Mt. St. Elias in the background, photo by Mike Denega
4 hours
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Transportation: Saltwater Charter Boat
Description:  This trip will depart via Yakutat based Charter Boat from the Yakutat Boat Harbor, and explore the inshore waters of Monti Bay and Yakutat Bay.  Species will be similar to those listed under the Ankau River and Ocean Cape trip.  Each charter boat will accommodate 5 passengers plus captain and trip leader/guide. Advance registration and down payment is required (by May 1st, please see registration form on this website).  This trip is contingent on interest and advance registration, and is also weather dependent.  ADDITIONAL FEE OF $150.00 APPLIES

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