Birds of Barrow, Alaska

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It is officially called Ukpiagvik—"the place where we hunt snowy owls." “Barrow,” Alaska, and its environs have been the ancestral home of a group of the indigenous Iñupiat people for more than 15,000 years. Ukpiagvik —320 miles north of the Arctic Circle—was/is an important nexus for the Inuit bowhead whale hunt and is still a productive area for the seals, caribou and edible wild plants that supplement the traditional whale catch. In lean years, the Iñupiat hunted the snowy owl for meat or collected the eggs. Today, many Iñupiat still practice traditional subsistence hunting—but, with federal and state protection, snowy owls are no longer on the menu. However, for wildlife photographers, the Barrow area truly provides a choice array of spectacular arctic birds to "shoot."

Sabine's gullIn a big "lemming year," snowy owls can be plentiful. Also among Ukpiagvik’s great allure for nature photographers is the chance to create images of three stunning species of eiders—Steller's, king and spectacled. The males sport their most vivid plumage in the early spring, using it to attract mates before abandoning the females at the start of egg-laying. Then, once incubation starts, the drakes are almost nowhere to be seen near Barrow! In June, at the time of our visit, shorebirds in breeding plumage are everywhere and in full courtship display. Common and easy to photograph species include dunlin, semipalmated and pectoral sandpipers, plus long-billed dowitchers and American golden-plovers. Breeding buff-breasted sandpipers are also a shooting possibility. Across the tundra, the cacophony of enigmatic calls, gyrating dances and the peculiar courtship flights of these sandpipers are a delight to witness and a joy to photograph. Loons, ducks and phalaropes frequent many of the tundra ponds, and dazzling red and red-necked phalaropes, long-tailed ducks and Pacific loons provide regular photo opportunities. Breeding-plumaged snow buntings and Lapland longspurs are common and photogenic tundra denizens. There is a chance to see a yellow-billed loon and photograph migrating Sabine's gulls. Pomarine jaegers cruise the tundra in hope of snatching a lemming or any fledgling of inattentive parents!

The tundra around Ukpiagvik is a remarkably rich environment, with nesting birds seemingly every few hundred yards. It offers a wealth of opportunities for close-range photography—yet, to get the most from this trip, a 500mm lens (or larger) is a prerequisite piece of equipment. Light is usually good for photography from 5 AM to 10 AM and from 5 PM to 11 PM. During midday the light can be harsh and we reserve that time for meals and sleep. During the "night" (midnight to 4 AM) when the light is low, wildlife becomes quieter and harder to locate, giving us time for another short rest.

Combine with Nome
This trip can be combined with our Birds and Musk Oxen of Nome, Alaska photo tour
Jun 1–7, 2019.

Lightweight chest waders, camouflage outerwear, camo long lens protectors and a camo bag blind are necessities on this photo shoot. Due to fickle springtime weather in the arctic, a variety of heavy and lightweight clothing layers are needed to stay comfortable throughout the shoot.

Though the land in this area is relatively flat and some birds will be close to the road, walking to distant ponds to shoot eiders, loons and other waterbirds over the soft tundra can be strenuous.

Join us on the edge of the Arctic Ocean in the northernmost city in the US. Here, the 24 hours of the midnight sun begin to warm this desolate, yet stunningly beautiful, high arctic landscape as lingering ice and snow melts away. The underlying tundra bursts forth with low-growing carpets of plants and with insects that attract the throngs of photogenic migrating birds coming north to breed. Now, flashing wings and songs of courtship travel on the wind and herald the short breeding season.


Tour Itinerary

This is an active trip! People considering joining this trip should be able to walk off-trail a half mile or more in each direction—while carrying camera gear and a bag blind, and while wearing bulky "winter" clothing and chest waders. Assess your level of fitness before enrolling.

Spectacled eiderDay 1 (Jun 9)
Participants fly from Anchorage to Barrow/Ukpiagvik, Alaska. Alaska Airlines (Barrow/ Ukpiagvik’s only airline) flights typically arrive in the early evening. Check into our airport hotel. Depending on the flight schedule, we meet in the hotel lobby for a brief orientation. Participants should prepare their camera gear, waders and clothing for tomorrow's early morning photo shoot. (Dinner is on your own tonight. We advise purchasing food in the Anchorage airport to eat on the flight to Barrow.)
Days 2–7
Photography at a location with 24 hours of daylight requires some personal adjustment in sleeping schedules! Our typical shooting schedule—influenced by weather conditions and distance needed to drive to a shooting location—has us in the field between 5 AM and 11 AM. We return to town for an early lunch, break for a midday nap, and then eat an early dinner. We are again out in the field between 5 PM and 11 PM.
Pacific loonBecause of the early shooting schedule, we are not in Ukpiagvik during typical breakfast hours. Breakfast items and snacks are not included in the trip fee, but can be purchased in town during the tour and carried into the field. (LD)
Day 8 (Jun 16)
Depending on weather and flight schedules, we may head out into the field this morning, returning to our hotel before check-out time. Flights to Anchorage are scheduled for late morning and early evening. Participants who need to connect with flights to the "lower 48" states should book the morning flight to Anchorage.
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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

Birds of Barrow, Alaska

Jun 09, 2019 - Jun 16, 2019

A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place for you on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.


All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposit only, we accept Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Final payment of the trip fee is due 120 days priors to departure and must be paid by check or bank transfer. Trip deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable.

We must receive written notice of your cancellation, at which time cancellation fees in the following amounts apply:

If Written Cancellation is Received:
90 days or prior:
89 to 61 days prior:
60 or fewer days:
Cancellation Fee:
100% of deposit
50% of trip fee
100% of trip fee

No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason whatsoever. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

Protect your travel investment and purchase a trip insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. A trip insurance brochure will be sent with your enrollment confirmation.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. “Meatless” meals are normally available at most locations. Due to the remote nature of many photo locations, and the growing diversity of today’s dietary trends, participants requiring special food items are encouraged to bring their own.

Tour members are asked to refrain from smoking with or near the group.

Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, applicable health advisories and reading list. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or e-mail address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or e-mail messages to

Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific costs that are included in your trip fee. Generally these costs include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides abroad, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Single accommodations are available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodations or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises, if you request a roommate and one is not available.

Cost increases may occur unexpectedly due to rising costs of airfares, ground transport, fuel surcharges, accommodations and currency fluctuations, among others. Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. may be compelled to amend prices, and we reserve the right to do so without prior notice. An increase in trip prices shall not be sufficient grounds for any refund of funds paid for the trip other than as determined by the terms of our cancellation policy.

Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations, but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea are included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two persons traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger in regard to travel including, but not limited to, sightseeing, meals, lodging, transportation, and all other services whether by railroad, motorcar, motor coach, boat, ship or aircraft and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned either by reason of defect in any vehicle or for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the trip.

They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay or changes in air or other services, sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine or other causes. All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in air schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 3) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 4) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

Trip prices are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect at the time of publication and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein.

A Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section must be signed by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the enrolling trip participant(s) agree(s) to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the enrolling participant(s) agree(s) to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington. Certain ship owners require the use of pre-printed ticket forms that limit the ship owner's and operator's liability. When such tickets are used, the passenger is bound by the terms of these tickets with respect to the passenger's legal relationship to the owners and operators of the ship, their agents (Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc.), and the ship's crew.

Birds of Barrow, Alaska: Moderate Activity Level

Trip Details
Jun 09 - Jun 16, 2019
Fee: $5,495 from Barrow/Ukpiagvik, Alaska*
Deposit: $500
Limit: 6 participants
Activity Level: Moderate

* The fee does not include breakfasts due to trip logistics. Participants will be responsible for their own breakfast food and personal snacks to be purchased at the local grocery store.
  • Photograph a spectacular array of migrating shorebirds in colorful breeding plumage
  • Photogenic courtship displays fill the long daylight hours of the short High Arctic breeding season
  • Three stunning species of eider—king, Steller's and spectacled—are possible
  • Very small group size
Tour Leaders
Eric Rock

Eric Rock