To North American birders, the Pribilof Islands are famous for being home to an endemic passerine, as well as being a magnet for rarities of Eurasian origin. In June 2004, Arnoud and René visited Saint Paul, the northernmost of the two main islands, some 450 km from the American continent and 830 from Eurasia. Sounds of the endemic McKay’s Bunting Plectrophenax hyperboreus are barely known to science. True to form, they refused to sing although Arnoud and René did manage some photographs. On Saint Paul, Snow Buntings P nivalis are more numerous, and they also prove to be more musical. A colourful species, Grey-crowned Rosy Finch Leucosticte tephrocotis, left us in more doubt about its musicality. Are those songs or calls in Arnoud’s recordings? Their delivery does suggest that we treat them as songs. Saint Paul is home to some important colonies of seabirds. These include Parakeet Auklet Aethia psittacula and Least Auklet A pusilla, both of which breed on cliffs around a headland at the southern extreme of the island. Pacific Wrens Troglodytes pacificus live close to the seabird colonies, as Eurasian Wrens T troglodytes do in north-western Europe. During Arnoud and René’s visit, an Arctic Fox Alopex lagopus or two appeared, exploring the cliffs in search of their more vulnerable inhabitants. One of them first urinated on Arnoud’s large telelens cap before walking away with it and pushing it so deep inside a hole that it became irretrievable. As it happens, our only recording of this species dates from just one week later, in Siberia.

Pribilofs, Alaska

McKay’s Bunting Plectrophenax hyperboreus, Saint Paul, Pribilof Islands, Alaska, USA, 8 June 2004 (René Pop)

 

Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis, Saint Paul, Pribilof Islands, Alaska, USA, 07:51, 7 June 2004 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Song of a male. Background: Northern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis, Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, Pacific Wren Troglodytes pacificus and Grey-crowned Rosy Finch Leucosticte tephrocotis.

Pribilofs, Alaska

Grey-crowned Rosy Finch Leucosticte tephrocotis, Saint Paul, Pribilof Islands, Alaska, USA, 8 June 2004 (René Pop)

Grey-crowned Rosy Finch Leucosticte tephrocotis, Saint Paul, Pribilof Islands, Alaska, USA, 22:52, 7 June 2004 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Singing or calling from the roof of a school.

Pribilofs, Alaska

Parakeet Auklet Aethia psittacula, Saint Paul, Pribilof Islands, Alaska, USA, 8 June 2004 (René Pop)

Parakeet Auklet Aethia psittacula, Saint Paul, Pribilof Islands, Alaska, USA, 09:22, 7 June 2004 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Song display from breeding cliff. Background: waves breaking on the rocks.

Pribilofs, Alaska

Least Auklet Aethia pusilla, Saint Paul, Pribilof Islands, Alaska, USA, 8 June 2004 (René Pop)

Least Auklet Aethia pusilla, Saint Paul, Pribilof Islands, Alaska, USA, 13:56, 7 June 2004 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Calls of a flock on their breeding cliff. Background: waves breaking on the rocks.

Pacific Wren Troglodytes pacificus, Saint Paul, Pribilof Islands, Alaska, USA, 08:02, 7 June 2004 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Song of a male, with calls of a second individual, possibly its mate.

Pribilofs, Alaska

Arctic Fox Alopex lagopus, Saint Paul, Pribilof Islands, Alaska, USA, 8 June 2004 (René Pop)

Arctic Fox Alopex lagopus, Lena delta, Yakutia, Russia, 14 June 2004 (Magnus Robb). A recording made a week later than the photograph, in Siberia. Background: Dunlin Calidris alpina and Lapland Longspur Calcarius lapponicus.