Tuesday, 17 June 2014

June 16th
Awoke to the sound of snow hitting the tent. It was a cold night but, the bests night's sleep since leaving home. Ian and I set up the antenna to try to call Resolute base on the radio, we could hear them but they couldn't hear us. After breakfast we returned to the river we visited yesterday. The lone goose was still there, but despite an extensive search, we could not locate a nest. We flew for the first time this afternoon, out to Brant Island, across Eureka Sound (nr the Schei Peninsula on Axel Heiberg). We could almost certainly walk there, probably even quad there, at the moment as the sea is frozen solid.A quick flight over the island produced several Brent geese, some glaucous gulls and a couple of Sabine's gulls. But there is still an awful lot of snow and ice cover. We flew across the isthmus that links the Schei and Axel to a second breeding island, but it was completely snow covered and we saw no birds. After about another half an hour of flying the surrounding coast we had seen about 100 birds, but these were mostly in sall groups with very few looking like they were on breeding sites. We headed back to Brant island and John (the pilot) set us down on the western tip. The island is entirely flat, just a meter or two about sea level (we actually struggled to find it from the helicopter) and looks a bit like the flattened spoil from a gravel pit. After a couple of minutes of searching Tom [see pic] spotted the first nest, a female lying perfectly still with her neck stretched low across the ground [see pic] and her partner worrying nearby.

Two eggs suggested she had only just started laying. These birds will produce one egg every day or so and will end up with a clutch of four or five.. The female on the second nest we found just a few moments later was ringed!!!

White Red UN is a bird that we caught just north of Reykjavik during the Eyafjallajokul eruption in 2010 and she frequents the Crumlin area of Dublin during the winter months. We found only one more nest, with an additional couple of pairs looking like they were close to laying. Clutches of two, two and one point to this being a very late season, which is good because it means we have not missed anything, but bad as the birds that do manage to lay now may not have enough time to rear their families before the harsh weather returns in late August/early September. On the journey back we saw several small groups of ringed seals hauled out on the ice.

So a mixed day... great to find nests, but we had hoped for more. The sun was warm out there today and so we are hoping that the melt will progress quickly over the coming days and more birds will start to breed. We are considering several options, particularly if we cannot find any more nests, and we may have to fly further afield if we are to be able to make some sense of what causes such marked variation in breeding success in this population.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds a bit of a tricky one - with all that snow cover!