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