As I spend my days writing, and sorting through thousands of photos, hours of video, and listening to the birders I interviewed in 2016, I can't help but feel nostalgic for the places that have become an essential part to my story.  Attu, the last island of Alaska's Aleutian Island chain is one of those places. 

Birding Guide John Puschock has led trips to Attu 5 times, and return again in 2017. 

Birding Guide John Puschock has led trips to Attu 5 times, and return again in 2017. 

I chose to visit Attu not only because I was doing a big year, rather it was on my life list of places to visit. I've read about this birding Mecca since a child, and seen it portrayed in the film "The Big Year". Since then, I dreamed of one day making my own pilgrimage to the beaches and snow-covered hills, ripe with Asian vagrants and specialty birds. In the 80's and 90's Attu was much more accessible, with an active Coast Guard base keeping the runway open for air traffic, and Attours Inc. leading annual Spring and sporratic Fall birding trips. After 2000, the base was shut down and access to Attu became restricted until 2010 when John Puschock from Zugunruhe Birding Tours began leading trips to Attu. This place is linked to lots of birding history, and in future decades, access might be completely restricted- so I figured last year that we might be at the end of an era of birding Attu. Participants arrive now by boat from Adak (a splendid birding locale on its own) The 2-day boat trip is a awesome pelagic trip, with the possibility of seeing Storm-petrels, alcids, Black and Red-legged kittiwakes, and multiple species of albatross (including a remote possibility of seeing the Short-tailed Albatross, which has a global population of about 2500 individuals) The M/V Pukuk, a 72-foot electronically stabilized boat boasts a stellar captain and crew, with fine meals and beverages and makes the experience much better than sleeping on the island as in days gone by.

A view from above as birders walk through the grasses, flushing Asian vagrants from underfoot. 

A view from above as birders walk through the grasses, flushing Asian vagrants from underfoot. 

Rarities we found in 2016 included Eyebrowed Thrush (above) Brambling, Rustic Bunting, and Eurasian Hobby

Rarities we found in 2016 included Eyebrowed Thrush (above) Brambling, Rustic Bunting, and Eurasian Hobby

I saw maybe a dozen Rustic Buntings last spring on Attu! 

I saw maybe a dozen Rustic Buntings last spring on Attu! 

Here's the thing: These trips fill up quickly, and each year this trip is offered could be the last. The logistics of planning and executing a trip like this is incredibly complex, and can't be taken for granted. I'm so grateful this trip is being offered (twice!) this year, affording more people the experience to visit Attu, learn the history of WWII and see the wildlife of the Aleutians. 

Christian, John Weigel, and Laura Keene, on Attu in 2016. You never know who you'll meet! 

Christian, John Weigel, and Laura Keene, on Attu in 2016. You never know who you'll meet! 

Some of my best birding friends I've made on this trip. A journey to Attu draws diverse people that share a love for the same things- travel, adventure, and birds. I'd encourage you to contact John and go on this trip- don't let the opportunity pass you by. I didn't, and it's one of the best decisions I made all year. 

Want to read more? Here's my blog posts and photo essays from Attu. Of course, more will be published in the coming months.

The trip to Attu: (Click link to open in new page) 

http://www.thebirdingproject.com/blog/2016/6/1/north-by-northwest

Our Arrival:

http://www.thebirdingproject.com/blog/2016/5/30/stepping-foot-on-attu

Attu in Black and White:

http://www.thebirdingproject.com/blog/2016/6/6/attu-in-black-and-white

 

Go to Attu

This is your chance! It's worth it, I promise. 

There's currently 2, possibly 3 open spaces   May 21-June 4 tour- $8490 per person.

Questions? Contact John Puschock directly at info@zbirdtours.com 

Feel free to email Christian about his experience at thebirdingproject@gmail.com