Monday, 12 August 2013

If it is a Tern it is an Arctic Tern

Zoe Panchen
Long Tailed Jaeger silhouetted against the frozen Lake Hazen
The male Rock Ptarmigan keeps his white plumage all year
but the female changes to brown plumage for the summer
Before leaving for Ellesmere Island, I was flicking through my bird book to get an idea of what birds I might see at Lake Hazen. I was surprised at how few there were. In fact there are only about 20 birds whose range extends to northern Ellesmere Island. It does, however, make it a lot easier to identify the birds seen, especially some of the more challenging groups like gulls, terns and waders. If it is a tern it is an Arctic Tern, if it is a gull it is most likely a Glaucus Gull and the only three waders are easy to distinguish between. The birds here have little fear of humans and will approach quite closely for their photo op!

The Red Throated Loon looks like it flies upside-down!
Common Ringed Plover approaching her nest with 4 huge eggs
All the birds are ground nesters, they have to be as there is no vegetation higher than a few inches! When out walking I kept my eyes peeled for birds flying up from nests and birds eggs lying in shallow depressions in the ground.
This Redknot did her broken wing impression
for about 1km to lead me away from her nest
I found two Red Throated Loon nests on islands in a lagoon and a lake close to Camp Hazen that I regularly walked by on my way to or from my observation sites. The female sat motionless with neck stretched out for weeks and then finally in the last week of July both nest produced 2 little chicks. The snow geese who nested just by camp were not so lucky as a pair of wolves wondered through camp and ate the eggs.

Red Throated Loon with newly hatched chicks
I saw 15 bird species while at Lake Hazen. I even saw a Canada Goose and some Ravens hear at Camp Hazen that are way north of their usual range. The two birds I would have really liked to see but didn’t were the Gyrfalcon and the Snowy Owl.

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