onsdag 10. oktober 2012

Memories of a short summer

It has now been almost three months since my last blog-post. Hopefully I will be able to post more frequently from now on. I found some photos from my last proper photo-trip this summer which I wanted to show to you out there. The Barnacle Goose (Hvitkinngås) is a leucistic individual which is easily spotted among its normally-coloured friends. And I guess that now there might be someone in Scotland that will see the same bird.

But most of the photos here are taken in the largest Little Auk (Alkekonge) -colony close to town. The sensation of being sat in between hundreds of these really cute birds which are trusting you so much that they barely notice that you move around a few meters away from them. These small alcids are one of my topten favourite birds, and even though their laughing calls can make me go crazy after a while, I still find myself maused by their personalities every time I sit amongst them. Just to make it clear to begin with, I did not walk as close to the birds as it might seem in some of the photos, the birds came closer to me while I was lying there on the painfull rocks!

The white one!


Cuddling in the rocks

søndag 15. juli 2012

July 14th

Finally I found the time to write a few words here again. I am currently going through the pictures that I have taken during the last month or so, and there are a few nice ones there. But for now, I am posting some from yesterday. Three Ivory Gulls (Ismåke) were very helpful photo-wise, and flew by several times in different lighting. I hope that you who have a look at them enjoy this pure-white bird as much as I do!

In december I am going to the Seychelles, and hope to bring back photos of another all-white bird, the Fairy/White Tern.

tirsdag 5. juni 2012

June 5th

A truly beautiful day, wich was supposed to be my day off.... But starting a new job has shown that a day off, is not nescesarily a day off. But I did get the time to do some birding. Quite a few nice birds out there today, and the sun was lighting them all very nicely. But as usual most of the birds were too distant to get good photos of them. But then an Iceland Gull (Grønlandsmåke) suddenly sat just few metres in front of me, and I once again managed to take about a hundred pictures of this beautiful bird! this is not the heaviest one of this species that are staying up here, but I still got to see how similar this one could be to a Glaucous Gull (Polarmåke) in certain angles. But it is still a lovely Iceland Gull! Enjoy!!

torsdag 31. mai 2012

May 27th and 28th

The winter does not seem to want to resign this year, and a cold wind is still making birding a cold experience. But now the migrants have really started to come, and new species are coming up to this still frozen place.

At least two different Iceland Gulls (Grønlandsmåke) are staying in the area, even though the one in these photos made me think of a possinble hybrid with Glaucous Gull (Polarmåke) due to its heavy bill and the fact that when it moves its head while sitting, it sometimes looks more like a Glaucous than an Iceland. But long wing-projection, a large eye and red legs tell me that this is "just" an Iceland Gull.

The numbers of geese in the valley have increased over the last few days, and by now there have to be thousands around. The Pink-footed Geese (Kortnebbgås) were the first to come in numbers, but also the Barnacle Geese (Hvitkinngås) are now here in large numbers.

I was also pleased when I got to see this years first Brent Geese (Ringgås) These geees that are just a bit bigger than a Common Eider (Ærfugl) are really birds with an attitude, and fights between the males are frequent. And all the time they are feeding you can hear theire grunts, unlike any other sound from any goose that I know of.

And finally the Red-throated Diver arrived. I have been waiting for it for some days, and suddenly one was lying in shallow water in the delta.

I will come back with more on the latest arrivals in a later post, and then hopefully with some pictures to show you as well.

lørdag 19. mai 2012

May 19th

Even though the wind now has blown for more than two weeks without stop, there are still some birds that manage to hang on up here. Was out for a short birding-trip today, and we actually managed to see some nice birds and animals.

For me, the biggest probably wa to find one of the adult Iceland Gulls (Grønlandsmåke) again. It was not at its most helpfull when it came to photographing, but we both got OK pics of it. For Chris I think the Arctic Fox (Fjellrev) that we saw might have been the highlight of the trip. Even though it did not come in close, we at least got some nice views of it.

Since Chris is a sea-bird-watcher, he did not miind too much when I suggested to go to Vestpynten to see what would come flying by at sea. Due to the strong wind and the cold we did this in two episodes, where the secoond try was definately the best. We agreed on that there had to have been more than 1000 Fulmars (Havhest) that flew in front, over and behind us. We felt like we were actually in the way of theire fly-way. To have these Fulmars flying at arm-length away was a mighty experience. In between these there were good numbers of Kittiwakes (Krykkje) and a few Glaucous Gulls (Polarmåke).

when we ended the birding we said "Hello" to a King Eider (Praktærfugl) which was trying to court a Common Eider (Ærful) female at Gammelkaia. Maybe it is the same guy as was in the Eider-colony last year?

Today I learnt that a four-whell-drive car is nessecary when birding in the Arctic, since a white-out and snowdrifts tend to get your car stuck in the middle of nowhere. And I again learned that watching seabirds can be great fun, as long as you have the correct company! :)

Here are some pics from todays windy birding:

This is evidence that the Arctic Foxes are stil around :)

Iceland Gull, doesnt it look nice?

"Angry" eye on the Iceland Gull.

Fulmar at seven metres distance

Fulmar at three (!) metres distance!

Fulmar avoiding collision with the photographer.


Glaucous Gull

Glaucous Gull

King Eider showing off!!

King Eider showing off from the other side.

Can you spot the mistake he has done?

onsdag 16. mai 2012

Wind, wind and more wind!

The last two weeks or so have been terrible regarding birdwatching. I have not seen this much snow fall down in Svalbard in such a short time-period in my three years up here. When the snow was done coming down, the wind started to pick up. And it has now been blowing for more than a week non-stop. It has actually been so bad at times that I have been found talking about planting a spruce-plantation just to calm the wind down. And my little Toyota, although it has four-wheel-drive, is no match for compacted snow and huge snowdrifts, so I havent been able to get to my gull-trap to set it for a long time either. But it has to end at some point. Spring does show an appearance at some times, and then it melts like never before, with huge puddles all over.

But enogh of the negative thinking. There are some really lovely birds around now as well, although they are difficult to find when it is an effective -20 outside the car. Snowbuntings (Snøspurv) are increasing in numbers, and the males are now singing all over. The King Eiders (Praktærfugl) and the Common Eiders (Ærfugl) are displaying and are showing proper courting behaviour. The first pair of Long-tailed Ducks (Havelle) are lying in the harbour, and the Pink-footed Geese (Kortnebbgås) have started to return up here.

I managed to spot my first Greater Black-backed Gull (Svartbak) of the year the other day, teh same day as I managed to see th "Viking Gull" again. This time I got nice fight views of it at a distance together with Chris Darby. Nice to have somebody else to share this interesting bird with.

Hopefully I will be able to get som OK shots of the birds and nature in teh days to come, but in the mean time, here are some shots that I have managed to take in the wind.

Long-tailed Duck pair

Resting King Eiders

Common Eider, ssp. borealis, note the yellow bill and the "sails" on the back

mandag 30. april 2012

The gulls are back in numbers!

As some may have seen in my blog, my interest of gulls have increased during my stay in Longyearbyen. At first I thought of gulls as just another difficult group of birds to distinguish species in, but now when I have learned how to separate out many of the different species I have gotten very fond of them!

I started ringing Glaucous Gulls (Polarmåke) last year, and have taken over the responsibility of making sure that the reports of the gulls ringed in the last cr-project in Longyearbyen are ebing reported properly. Due to these two things I am reading cr-ringed gulls and catcjing gulls as much as I can. Due to a lot to do at work and with other projects I have not managed to start catching gulls yet this year, but I have read about 15 different cr-rings this year, where some of them havent been seen since they were ringed in 2007 and 2008. Also I have read four of my own birds from last year. On thursday I fed teh trap-site with 12 kgs of out-of-date chicken wings, amd within a few hours everything was gone. At the time there were only between 30 and 40 gulls there, but at Saturday I fed the gulls with approx 45 kg of fish-remains, and when I came back to see if the gulls wanted to feed o it, a flock of between 100 and 120 Glaucous Gulls were sitting around the feed. They had removed almost everything I had put out for them! This is looking promising for when I get the time to start trapping them to put on some new rings.

onsdag 25. april 2012

I love happy people!

Even though this post is without any pictures, I felt it had to come out onto my blog! I have a confession to make: I love happy people! And when I can make them happy by showing them "my" wilderness, I am even more happy. Yesterday I spent the first part of the day showing the magnificent nature, birds and animals around Longyearbyen to Lena Killingmo. She got in touch with me through a mutual friend, and asked if I could show her around when she was up here. When we started out it was grey and not the best weather. But by the time we had been out for about an hour, we had seen more than 30 King Eiders (Praktærfugl) and the weather started to look better. Being stood under one of the Little Auk-colonies (Alkekonge) I told her that "this is probably the best area to find Arctic Fox" (Fjellrev). She kept looking in her binoculars, and not more than a minute after I had told her this she found a fox up in the slope. A beautifull, all-white fox with the exception of the black nose and eyes. We had good views of it for only a few minutes before it disappeared, but still she was very happy with having seen it in the wild! A trip up to the Mine 7-mountain gave her a top-side-view of the surroundings of town, and for the first time one of the persons that I have showed around actually stood out in the wind for a longer period than me. she was just a big happy swedish smile when she came back into the car. Driving towards town we came across a little flock of Svalbard Ptarmigans, and again she was thrilled to see the wildlife that is not scared of people. During the four hours we spent together outside, I dont think that the good words ever stopped! :)

In the afternoon I took my boss from my regular job out on a snowmobile-trip. She had never driven a snowmobile before, and was very keen on making this little trip. I took her to the glacier at first, where she got to try to drive for a little bit. Then we drove to Cales Bay, and explored some cultural heritage. Plus-degrees, sun from a clear sky, melting snow on the ground and good company made it feel like a postcard-Easter in the mountains from back home. Driving back towards town I had to drive over the more icy parts from Coles Bay, and just before she took over the throttle again we stopped and enjoyed the company of a small flock of ptarmigans feeding just a few meters away from my snowmobile. She then took over the control of the vehicle and drove almost the entire way back home. And when I dropped her off at her place she was determined that this was something we had to do again in not too long!

So I have to say that tuesday april 24th has to be one of the best, and happiest days of mine, for 2012 this far. I have managed to make to women happy just by showing them the wonderful nature which surrounds us here at 78 degrees North. This is what keeps me alert to its beauty, and tells me that this is not "common" nature! And it also tells me that I am completely right in not being jealous of people further south who can spend their days in 25 degrees in shorts!

fredag 13. april 2012

White birds feeding on nothing?

On Monday the 9th I was again out guiding Roland Saitre, the french nature photographer, around in "my" wilderness. I had gotten news that the Ivory Gull (Ismåke) had been seen in the dogyard again, but the gull avoided us the entire afternoon. What I decided to do then was to give him a full tour of the road-network around Longyearbyen to see what interesting wildlife we could find. He had photographed the Svalbard Ptarmigans (Svalbardrype) two days before, but I knew of some good spots to find them with better backgrounds. This led to us finding about eight birds feeding on a ridge, but as Roland asked; "What are they feeding on?" It looked like if they were feeding on bare ground. Like the reindeers it looks like if they are eating gravel and dirt, but these birds are amazing at finding the little food that is around. Roland got to experience to sit inbetween several Ptarmigans that were happily feeding without bothering to be scared of him being sat just a few metres away. Even I got to take some pictures that I became happy with. The males have now started to blow up the red "eyebrows", and are looking very nice in the combination of pure white, black and red.

When we had spent some time with the Ptarmigans we drove off trying to find the foxes again. Even after several tries in the very best area, they still did not want to come out of hiding. The only thing that I could find that showed that foxes were around were a few tracks. The hunt for foxes after teh outbreak fo rabies last autumn has clearly changed the way the foxes consider people. Roland did a few more pictures of some Reindeers, before we went for some landscape photography. As he said, he is not a landscape-photographer, but when it is as slow as now then he had to think in new ways. And I haveto say that I think he did some pretty good shots. I also took them up onto the Mine 7 mountain. Since I dont understand French, I did not get the full gist of what was being said, but by the look on his daughters face, it was clear that she really liked what she got to see. Quite a few shots of the scenery was taken, and the view was enjoyed by all of us. We then did a few more tries for the foxes, but still they did not want to show, and Roland got to do some more landscape and artistic photography. We found another Svalbard Ptarmigan that was more than willing to show of in teh fading light which turned the bird more orange than white. When I drove them back to where they stay I found two Whalrusses (Hvalross) in playing in the fiord. But not even these two big seals could come close to the experience of seeing an Arctic Fox. But they said it had been a nice trip none-the-less.

Just to tell that the foxes still occur around Longyearbyen, Roland actually found two or three foxes in the same area that we had been searching through, but a couple of days after I had taken them there. And he has got photographic evidence! :)

Here I am posting a few pictures of some of the Ptarmigans I got to photograph during this day.