by Guest Blogger
August 23, 2005
I am a lucky woman. Somehow this year I have managed to work first in
Antarctica on a vessel doing marine science and now in the Arctic. The
first thing I noticed as we got into Arctic waters was just how
different the birds are here. I am used to albatrosses and petrels, and
the occasional porpoising penguin, but here almost everything is
different. Instead of penguins there are different species of auk. These
birds have ridiculously small wings that beat in a blur. Around Iceland
we would see puffins trailing fleshy red feet as they flew.
Once we got to Greenland we saw thousands of Small Auks around
Scorsbysund – these little birds would perch on the sea ice, diving as
the ship approached. On calm days we could see their flight under the
water. Guillemots, another type of auk, are also seen along the east
coast…for the birdos we were mainly seeing Brunnich’s guillemot, but I
also saw a couple of Black Guillemots.
Day to day we would be visited by Northern Fulmars, which look slightly
seagullish but glide catching the updrafts from waves like a small
albatross. Black-legged kittiwakes, the most common gull in Greenland,
have also kept us company. Occasionally we have seen a beautiful pure
white gull, the Ivory gull. There is also the slightly darker and
stockier Glaucous gull.
Close to land, even in the densest fog, we have been escorted by
long-tailed skuas which feed largely on lemmings.
But, I suppose for sheer endurance my favorite has to be the Arctic
turn. This little bird looks fragile with streaming tail feathers.
Amazingly it migrates from the Arctic, where it breeds, all the way to
Antarctica, leaving here in August or September and returning in May or
[Photo – A Northern Fulmar]