Arctic Spring!

SESA Baby SSThis day old chick is already able to run around in the grass and will be independent of its parents within a couple of weeks.  Photo: Shiloh Schulte

It’s finally spring in the Arctic, and baby birds are hatching! The shorebird and eider crews combined have discovered more than 300 nests this year, and so we have been very busy because the nests that are close to hatch need to be checked every day (instead of every 3-8 days during incubation)!

In the sequence below, you can see how difficult it is to find nests on the tundra—in this case a newly hatching Semipalmated Sandpiper nest.

SESA 1 MMStanding just 1 meter away this hatching Semipalmated Sandpiper nest is virtually invisible. It is the dark crescent shape in the center of the screen. Photo: Metta McGarvey

SESA 2 MMWith the camera about 18” above the nest it is still barely visible. Photo: Metta McGarvey

SESA 3 MMWith the camera on the macro setting you can now discern 3 chicks facing right; the fourth unhatched egg is underneath the chicks. Photo: Metta McGarvey

Our earliest nests to hatch are Lapland Longspur with an incubation of just 12 days, then shorebirds with an average incubation of 22 days. Waterfowl including most ducks and geese average 24 days as do loon, and longest are Tundra Swan with a 32-day incubation.

PALO SSPacific Loons nest on most of the larger ponds and lakes in the study area. This loon was taking a break from fishing to preen and bask in the late evening sun. Photo: Shiloh Schulte

TUSW SSThis Tundra Swan holds a commanding view from her nest perched high on a pingo. Photo: Shiloh Schulte

GWFG Nest SSFor such a large and noisy bird, this nesting Greater White-fronted Goose has an amazing ability to vanish into the grass to avoid potential nest predators. Photo: Shiloh Schulte

We are also delighted to report that we finished deploying all of the GPS trackers several days ago! We attached harnessed with trackers to 15 Semipalmated Sandpiper and 9 Dunlin. Retrieving these trackers from these birds will be the primary goal of our work at this camp in 2018.

DUNL 1 MMShiloh Schulte positions the GPS tracker while Alan Kneidel holds the Dunlin. Photo: Metta McGarvey

DUNL 2 MMShiloh navigates the challenge of getting the harness loops around the legs of the Dunlin and properly positioned so it does not interfere with the bird’s movement while walking and in flight. Photo: Metta McGarvey

DUNL 3 MMA successfully attached harness! Photo: Metta McGarvey

We’ve had a great deal of cold, windy, and foggy weather this field season with only two nice days at the start and about four nice days recently – though it is wintry again with temps in the 30s and 40s as we write this in late June.

Brooding Sky SSMost of our days thus far have been cold, windy, and foggy or overcast. Photo: Shiloh Schulte

Rainbow SSSouthwest winds bring occasional warm days including rain that ended with this lovely rainbow over golden tundra grasses. Twice we’ve heard thunder here, north of the Brooks Range—another sign of a warming climate. Photo: Shiloh Schulte

A few additional people have come and gone from camp, including a pilot fox monitoring project this year that we will update you on when we have time for a longer post. In the meantime, here are a few more lovely photos from this very special time in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

AGPL Nest SSAmerican Golden-plovers are scarce in the area. This bird nests close to camp and is used to our comings and goings. Photo: Shiloh Schulte

PESA Chicks Far SSTucked safely into the tall grass this nest of baby Pectoral Sandpipers is virtually invisible until you are right on top of it. Photo: Shiloh Schulte

PESA Chicks Close SSNewly hatched shorebird chicks like these baby Pectoral Sandpipers only remain in the nest for 24 hours or less before venturing off through the grass in search of insects. Photo: Shiloh Schulte

RNPH ALLiving on the ocean except when breeding, this male Red-necked Phalarope takes a break from incubating to catch a newly hatched mosquito. Photo: Alex Lamoreaux

This project is a partnership between Manomet Inc., the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the U.S. Geological Survey, and BP Alaska Inc.  Major funding was provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and by donors to Manomet.

One thought on “Arctic Spring!

  1. Congratulations on getting all trackers deployed! What a busy week or so that must have been!! The photos are stellar, too! Much gratitude!!

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