Monday, June 25, 2012

Busy Season

The lack of updates are a direct result of the extremely busy time of year. I left AK for a couple days to attend a cousin's wedding. This is the busiest time of year for our camp, with birds starting to hatch, most of them deep into incubation and almost all birds on nest. Lapland Longspurs started to hatch before I left, and shorebirds will be right around the corner. We will band as many adults and juveniles as possible during the hatch. Being gone for 5 days really set us back on the number of birds banded, so I'll be busy trying to catch up.

Pectoral Sandpiper males, like the one pictured above, are still busy hooting at females and protecting territories. They will leave soon as the females being to incubate.

Male Spectacled Eiders also only hang around until the females are on nest. This male is the only one I've been able to get a decent picture of in my 3 field seasons on the North Slope.

Red Phalarope females will be gone soon as well, as most males are sitting on nests. The females will sneak off, leaving the males to incubate and raise the young.

I'll update when I can, but it could be a while. I imagine loads and loads of work upon my return to camp, which should be at the end of the day unless my plane keeps getting delayed.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The nest-finding-frenzy has begun. In just the last few days, I've tracked down over 40 nests of arctic breeding birds including Greater White-Fronted Goose, Brant, Red Phalarope, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Willow and Rock Ptarmigan, among others.

And where there are nests, there are predators. All season the Red Foxes were extremely skittish. Yesterday, they walked right up to me. Why the sudden change of heart? It offered a good photography session, though.

Today (6/10) we had our first glimpse of the sun in many days. The overcast, windy, cloudy days really kill the photography aspect of being in the field, so I focused on re-sighting birds we banded last year and finding early nesting birds. Long-tailed Ducks have been around for a while and are obviously paired up. This male was curiously guarding his female.

I was thrilled when this stunning Ruff found me just north of camp. Like the one last year, this one flew at me, landed a little ways out, pecked around for a minute or two, and took off. No one else saw it, and I'll be surprised if it is seen again.

Even if you aren't a birder, or even a big fan of birds in general, it is hard not to enjoy the male King Eider.

Weather has been very windy the last week, with gusts over 40mph. It makes field work challenging, especially when temperatures still aren't breaking 40 degrees, except maybe today.

For the next 3-4 weeks, we will be very busy finding nests, monitoring their success or demise, banding adults, collecting invertebrate samples, surveying for predators, all while attempting to sleep once in a while. This is more like it!

Monday, June 4, 2012

More Visitors

It has been an exciting week. A couple new camp birds, new co-workers, and a few nests.

What is up with all the southern overshoots? On May 31st I found a Yellow Warbler looking quite out of place.

On June first, another overshoot! This American Robin was the second Thrush to make it our way this season.

The shorebirds have really come back and are making their presence known. Bar-tailed Godwits can be heard "singing" through all hours of the day (and night if you can call it that). Semipalmated Sandpipers are paired up or are actively fighting for mates. Red-necked Phalaropes have been observed getting it on in broad daylight. Still, no shorebird nests, but it has to be any day now.

I did manage to find 2 Lapland Longspur nests today, each with one egg. Brad found a Long-tailed Jaeger nest in the same location as last year. Geese are nesting, and I saw an unlucky nest get predated by the ever present Red Fox. It's a tough life on the tundra...

Arctic Terns came back and are setting up territories. I watched this pair at our pond right outside the Weather Port. I can never seem to get the right exposure on these gray and white birds. Maybe one day I'll get a good photo.

I've been stalking the Stilt Sandpipers, but they still elude the perfect picture.

The busy season is quickly approaching. I'm looking forward to finding the shorebird nests!