Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Words From Lake Hazen

Zoe Panchen – 24th June
We finally arrived at Lake Hazen on Friday the thirteenth but only just! After 3 days of waiting in Resolute I was anxious to arrive and get my research started but as we approached the camp, the co-pilot turned to us and asked if it was fog or dust ahead and I had visions of us having to turn around and go back. We circled four times before landing on the bumpy gravel runway.
When we landed I was amazed at the difference in snow cover from last year. There is no snow and the ground is bone dry, this time last year there was mud and snow everywhere. The first few days were also much warmer than anything I experienced last year. The temperature sensors we have put out are showing that the temperature the plants are experiencing at ground level here are reaching 20°C on sunny days but only 10°C at weather station height. We have had several dust storms and as we walk through the sedge meadows we kick up clouds of dust, again something I never saw last year.
Varsity Mountain, Lake Hazen mid-June 2014

Varsity Mountain, Lake Hazen mid-June 2013

The plants are at least a week or two ahead of where they were last year. It is mid-June and already the purple saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) is past its peak and the mountain avens (Dryas integrifolia), arctic lousewort (Pedicularis arctica) and Pallas’ wallflower (Erysimum pallasii) amongst others are in flower. There is 1000m of elevation gain between our camp on the shores of Lake Hazen and the summit of McGill Mountain behind the camp. So at Lake Hazen I will be monitoring species at several different altitudes to see how they differ in the timing of their flowering and fruiting.

Arctic Lousewort (Pedicularis arctica) in flower 2 weeks earlier at Lake Hazen in 2014 than 2013
I only saw an arctic fox from a distance at Lake Hazen last year so I was excited to see an arctic fox up close this year. He eyed me from a distance for a while, hopped up to a high spot circled around like a dog does before laying down and then laid down. I approached him slowly and he seemed quite relaxed and enjoyed being photographed.
Arctic fox looking relaxed at Lake Hazen, June 2014
Arctic fox molting to summer coat at Lake Hazen, June 2014

The bird diversity at these northern latitudes is quite limited; only about 20 species can be seen here. I have already seen all the birds I saw here last year. So I was thrilled to see a species I have never seen before and has not been recorded at Lake Hazen. A pair of red phalaropes landed close to us in a small lake as we walked back to camp. Their plumage is quite stunning but they are really small birds.
Male red phalarope in breeding plumage - not recorded at Lake Hazen before
There is no internet or cell phone coverage at Lake Hazen or for 100s of miles around so this blog post arrives to you via a 4hr twin otter flight to Resolute and then emailed to Emma in Iqaluit for her to post! Robert at Parks Canada kindly acted as messenger when he flew out of Quttinirpaaq National Park.

1 comment:

  1. Great photos - sounds like you are having good time & lots wild life sightings.
    Hope you can complete research before departure date this year.