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 On thursday I fed teh trap-site with 12 kgs of out-of-date chicken wings, amd within a few hours everything was gone.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.

Cute and fluffy, but the "wrong" kind!

Last sunday I recieved an e-mail from Roland Seitre, a french nature photographer, naturalist and vet. He was coming up to Svalbard the same day, and he asked me if I could help him to find interesting wildlife. In particular he wanted to see the Arctic Fox, since that was one of the favourite animals of his daughter, who had joined him for this trip.

I met up with them when I was done at work, and we headed out to look for the wlidlife that is here at the time. Conditions are very slow here at the moment, but I was hoping to find something of interest at least. Roland had managed to get some pictures of the Svalbard Ptarmigan before we met up, but now he wanted to find something else. We drove around and did not find much else than Svalbard Reindeer. so even though the foxes did not show this day, at least we both got to fill our lenses with some rather cute fur-balls. The Svalbard Reindeer has to be my favourite deer (hjortedyr). The short legs, the broad and short head and the general fat appearence just make them wonderful. When you add in a generally dozile behaviour, you have a winner to me! I am posting a few of the photos I took underneath, and I hope that you will see what I mean about this wonderful animal!

Family happiness

søndag 8. april 2012

Sun, snow and the superb Arctic!

As a little treat for her birthday, I took one of my colleagues for a little snowmobile-trip today. She is up here to work for a month, and had never been on a glacier before, so my task was simple: give her a true Arctic winter experience! The sun was shining from teh purest blue sky, and it was reflected from teh tall, snow-covered mountains surrounding us. Even up here, next door to the North Pole, the sun has now started to give of its warmth through its rays, and I actually became quite warm driving on the snowmobile today. We were out for almost three hours, and she was extatic about the scenery all the time. That is a really good responce when you try to show youre "backyard" from its best side. I did not take too many pictures due to the fact that I did not find the inspiration to photgraph the things I have photographed so many times before. But hoprfully I will find some nice frames to put on my memorycards.

From the glacier, overlooking Fardalen

Janne enjoying the snow-covered landscape

The view from my flat tonight

Sunsets will soon be gone, but this is what it looked like tonight!

mandag 2. april 2012

Probable "Viking" Gull yesterday and another cr-gull today!

After having looked over the pictures of the mystery gull from yesterday, I have come to the conclusion that this is probably a "Viking" Gull, a hybrid between Herring Gull (Gråmåke) and Glaucous Gull (Polarmåke). It has been difficult to find photos of adult Viking Gulls, and of the ones that I could find none looked too much like mine. I think it is probably a second or third generation hybrid, where the original hybrid has bred with a Herring Gull, and possibly an offspring from this has bred again with another Herring Gull. The bird appeared to me as a typical Herring Gull to begin with, but when I got to see the wingtips better, there was several things that didnt fit the blueprint. The pattern both above kind of resembles that of Thayer's Gull (Eskimomåke), but pale oinkish legs and the body-shape excludes this species which should be more similar to Iceland Gull (Grønlandsmåke). Closeups of the head also show a typical Herring Gull head. Due to this, and the limited amount of black above and below the wing, along with a brownish color on the pattern on teh underwing leads me in the direction of Glaucous-genes. Although this one looks nothing like any of the individuals of this hybrid that I have seen before, or can find online, I feel pretty sure that this is how it has to have arrived into this world. I ahve also gotten this backed up by other birders. Ill paste one of the pictures into this blog as well just to illustrate my points.

Probable Viking Gull, note limited black markings on upper side of wing, and brownish tone to the faint markings on the underwing. Head, body and bill just like Herring Gull.

Today I got to see the third cr-ringed Glaucous Gull of the season. Earlier I have seen one of the ones I ringed last year, nad one that was ringed in another project here in 2007, where I am now in gharge. The one I saw today was one of mine from last year. Black with white JX021 was ringed august 22nd last year at the tip, and was seen two more times last year just where I saw it today. It was already paired up with another gull, so hopefully it will produce small balls of fluff in not too long.

Since I cant get enough of looking at these huge gulls, I keep photographing them whenever I am around them. To see such big birds playing in the air just a few metres away makes me smile, even though I cant really explain why. I wish everybody could experience more than ten white-winged gulls lfying around their head at one time to experience it. Well, enough about that, here are some of todays pictures:

Coming in to land.........

Am I able to walk on the surface?


Well, at least I can float on the surface!

Very feminine Glaucous Gull, it kind of resembled an Iceland Gull in the distance, but its probably just a female Glaucous.

søndag 1. april 2012

1st of April, but no fooling!

It is so nice that the gulls are back in numbers again, even though the numbers are small still. Today I had 13 Glaucous Gulls (Polarmåke) feeding on bread in front of me, in addition to a subadult Iceland Gull (Grønlandsmåke) and a strange-looking Herring Gull (Gråmåke). I am not sure of the true nature of the species of this "Herring Gull". It felt like a HG when it was flying, but the markings both above and below the wings were very small. The markings on top of the wings consisted of very little black, with large white mirrors, and some long black tongues where I expected to see pure black. The markings on the underwing were very faint, almost pale brown and not covering a large part of the normal area. This led mythoughts into a possible hybrid glaucous x herring. I have seen a few such hybrids before, but none of them have shown a pattern similar to this. While trying to figure out the nature of this bird I came across a few pictures that fitted pretty well, but I still have my doubts about it. These pictures were of Thayer's Gull (Eskimomåke). I feel that this gull may be too large for a Thayers, but I am not the one to come with proper suggestions on this gull. If there is one thing I have learned about gulls, and Herring Gulls in particular, it has to be that gulls vary so much that you can seldom be too certain if youre not an expert. And I am clearly not one! I have allready asked a couple of people about comments regarding this gull, but feel free to comment if you have a good idea of what it is that I have seen.

Pictures of the subadult Iceland Gull:

Pictures of the difficult "Herring Gull":

Pictures of the lovely but brutal Glaucous Gulls: