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Bird update

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

June.

– Cath

[Photo – A Northern Fulmar]

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