A good snowstorm can be a beautiful thing. Somewhat less so when it happens in mid-June and shuts down your field work.
Three days of snow and icy rain also delayed the nesting shorebirds, but over the past few days our total nest count jumped from 5 to 48—so the season is well underway. We have only seen eleven Semipalmated Sandpiper nests so far, but they seem to be a little behind the other species this year and we expect to find many more nests over the next few days.
Despite the slow start, our geolocator project is going well. We have deployed four tags already and will get the rest out on birds as quickly as possible. We are racing the Arctic Foxes who are also out there diligently searching for shorebird nests.
The Coats Island camp is one of several in the eastern Canadian Arctic managed by Dr. Paul Smith of Environment Canada. Paul has been working in the Arctic for many years and is a highly regarded shorebird biologist. Paul was supposed to be here for a few days to build the cabin addition and help get the project going, but he has been stuck here for an additional four days and counting thanks to bad weather at the alternate landing sites. In the meantime he has continued to improve the camp, cook breakfast almost every day, and find shorebird nests at a ridiculous rate. The 2015 Coats Island crew is hard working—keeping the drama low and the humor high. It’s hard to beat that combination, particularly when you are all living in a small cabin for the entire summer.
I am the sole American in camp and I am slowly learning to blend in with the Canadians. My inappropriate use of the metric system is apparently a dead giveaway. As far as I can tell, one measures distance in meters, height in feet/inches (except on official documents which use cm), snow height in cm (unless you are estimating, then use feet). Construction materials are measured in feet/inches. Longer distances are in kilometers. I’m taking notes.
American : Canadian Dictionary
Outhouse : Biffy
Wheat bread : Brown bread
Fried Dough : Beavertails
Mac and Cheese : Kraft Dinner
Bios of the Coats Camp Crew:
As an undergraduate, Scott studied Animal Biology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta where he developed his already keen interest in ornithology. For his Master’s he studied in New Zealand looking at the diet of penguins. He is now pursuing his Ph.D. at Trent University where he is supervised by Dr. Erica Nol and Dr. Paul Smith. His project is looking at the effects of overabundant goose populations on Arctic nesting shorebird species on Coats and Southampton Island. This is Scott’s second year of fieldwork on Coats Island and he has hit his stride both as a crew leader and with his research goals.
Rianne is from Revelstoke, BC. An accomplished back-country skier, Rianne is also an aspiring birder and is rapidly picking up the nuances of shorebird identification and behavior. After completing her undergraduate degree in environmental studies and geography at the University of Victoria, Rianne worked as a park ranger on Vancouver Island, a biodiversity monitor for the Alberta government, and a volunteer bird bander. In addition to daily nest searching, Rianne is helping capture and tag Semipalmated Sandpipers for the geolocator study. Rianne is not the only Mariash working on shorebirds in the Arctic this summer. Her sister Heather is a mere 120km north on Southampton Island working at the East Bay research camp.
Shawna is going into her senior year at Trent University, majoring in Biology. In high school Shawna had the opportunity to tag and band ducks at a wildlife ecology center near her home in Cornwall Ontario. This fostered her interest in wildlife and conservation, a direction she has carried on at Trent University. Shawna enjoys birding and recently assisted on an Owl banding project. Shawna has just started her Honor’s project looking at the effects of environment on arctic fox predation. This is Shawna’s first time in the far North. She is taking the freezing wind and rain in stride and is really enjoying the experience of living in an Arctic field camp.
Malkolm is taking full advantage of the Arctic summer to capture very impressive images of the wildlife and landscape around us. At 23, Malcolm is already an accomplished wildlife photographer (malkolmboothroyd.com). The rest of the crew also appreciates Malkolm’s cooking skills. Not every field camp cook can manage a high-quality sushi dinner made from scratch! In high school Malkolm’s family went on an epic cross-continental bicycle/birding trip from their home in the Yukon to the Southeast United States. Malkolm took several years between high school and college, and is now a sophomore at the University of Victoria majoring in environmental studies and geography.