On the last American frontier, in the far reaches of the Aleutian Islands in the state of Alaska, there is an island of some note in the bird watching world. Attu Island is a rugged, mountainous island that the International Date Line had to be twisted around to fit it in its so far separate from the rest of the world. Few humans call this island home and it bears the unwholesome distinct of being the only piece of American soil conquered by the Axis war machine during World War Two, prompting an intense struggle between American and Japanese forces for control of what was then a strategic island.
Now Attu Island is a quiet place, the remains of the last conflict being little more than ruins and empty holes in the ground. These days, access to the island simply isn’t possible for civilians now that there are no longer any residents living there. Though it is less than advisable for neophyte travelers to the Last Frontier to visit Attu Island at the height of winter, during the warmer seasons, people used to come here with some regularity to take in the natural scenery and briefly escape the claustrophobic crush of modern urbanized living, whether they visited from densely packed New York City or a less crowded but still extremely civilized area.
Perhaps the most notable element of Attu Island beyond its haunted history is the fact there is a wide range of bird species, vagrant from the Asian continent, that come to Attu Island during the summer season. These species are found nowhere else in North America at any time of the year and the sheer presence of so many exotic birds so close to the North American continent where competitive birding is so popular means that once in a while, a truly dedicated bird watcher will find a way to get access to the island and its environs, though other travelers have also found reasons to stay on the island for a short while.
Though conditions on the island are difficult and oftentimes unpleasant for humans, birds seem drawn to the place like a magnet. Despite the fact that it costs thousands of dollars to access this all but inaccessible point on the map, many truly dedicated bird watchers have come here over the years. Among other species capable of being found on Attu Island during the summer season is the Siberian Rubythroat, classified biologically as an Old World flycatcher, often called chats.
Another bird species that comes to Attu and nowhere else in North America is the Far Easter Curlew, the largest of all sandpipers and a rare, poorly understood species that none the less has an impressive and noticeable bill, perfect for plucking food out of the marshes and swamps the species favors. There is also the Mongolian sand plover, also known as the lesser sand plover. This species is a small, yellowish bird that is typically found in the Himalayas and northeast Siberia but comes to Alaska on a regular basis.