25 Jun 2012

Birding the Russian Far East Part 2 - Medny and Bering Islands

At daybreak on the 30th May we were moving off the southern coast of Medny Island, into a strong headwind.  

Two views from the deck

For a while, the birds were flying quite slowly relative to the ship. 

Common Guillemot (Uria aalge)

Red-faced Cormorant (Phalacrocorax urile)

But the strong winds ruled out the possibility of any kind of Zodiac activity on Medny Island and so we turned south, heading for Cape Monati, the southern point of Bering Island. On the way, Laysan Albatrosses followed the boat, with the wind and light direction helping with photo opportunities from the rear deck of the ship.

Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis)

"The Bird Collectors" by Barbara and Richard Mearns details some of the abuse Laysan Albatrosses have suffered at the hands of humans.  In the early 20th century their eggs were harvested on Laysan and other mid-Pacific Islands, the albumen being used for the manufacture of photographic plates.  A horde of introduced rabbits ate all the island vegetation, and turned much of Laysan into a desert.  Remedial measures began in 1923, and the Laysan Albatross just survived,  although by then several other endemics had already been already wiped out. 

There were also plenty of views of Northern Fulmars from the back of the ship.

Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis rodgersi)

Rounding Cape Monati the weather seemed to clear a little, and a few Pigeon Guillemots appeared here and there.

Cape Monati

Pigeon Guillemots (Cepphus columba)

As the sun poked through the clouds a chance was seized to do some Zodiac cruising off the southern coast of Bering Island.

Sitting out on the shoreline were a number of Steller's Sea Lions.

Steller's Sea Lion (Eumatopias jubatus)

There were a few Sea Otters in the surf..

Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris)

And a solitary Spotted Seal

Spotted Seal (Phoca larga)

On the rock stacks, colonies of Brunnich's Guillemot and endemic Red-legged Kittiwakes.

Red-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

It was quite sunny by the time we got these closer views ... 

Pigeon Guillemots (Cepphus columba)

Common Guillemot (Uria aalge)

and these Horned Puffins, our second "Puffin Tick" of the trip !

Horned Puffin (Fratercula corniculata)

The highlights of just two fascinating days at the Commander Islands.  


  1. Fabulous shots again, John. A very tempting trip.

  2. What a great couple of posts there John, if I ever have the chance this looks like a wonderful trip to make.

  3. Well done on acting on the impulse! A truly spectacular and enviable series!

  4. John, I'm really enjoying these latest posts along with all of the amazing photos too!

  5. Those shots of the Red-legged Kittiwake and guillemots on the water are stunning, John! Not to mention the albatross, just majestic!

  6. I'm speechless. The images are just superb and that includes the non-bird ones as well.

  7. Wow! What a feast of magnificent species all superbly photographed. Thank you. I really enjowyed studying them all.

  8. Thanks, everyone, for the kind comments....

    I'm enjoying sifting through the trip pics for the next couple of posts, it's more more fun than birding in Hong Kong in the steamy weather we've been having since we got back !