Sunday, May 24, 2009

Break-up Underway & More Birds

Break-up continues as the river rises enough to cause minor flooding on the lower sections of the island, including our runway. With the early flooding, none of the geese that are around have started nest building, so we won’t have any nests being washed away this spring.

Since the last post, more birds have arrived early with Sabine’s Gulls, Brant, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope feeding locally. Also a Sandhill Crane, and two Whimbrel were seen flying by, headed in a easterly direction.

More Lapland Longspurs have arrived and the females are becoming more numerous. The males have dispersed out around the island and have started their territorial flights, singing as they glide down to earth. I have seen them coming from as far away as 1.5 miles to feed from the feeders I have out. Several are banded from past seasons, but I haven’t started the banding for this season yet.

At last count, we had 12 nest boxes being used by Snow Buntings this year. I watched the female to the nest box by the kitchen SNBU_feathers1_3738window trying to carry several ptarmigan feathers at the same time. The wind was giving her a bad time as it kept blowing the largest one out of her bill as she went to pick up some of the smaller ones. Persistence paid off and she finally headed up to the nest box with all her selected feathers. SNBU_feathers_3739 Now that she is adding feather lining to the nest bowl she is getting close to start laying.

After two days of strong east winds and freezing fog, a switch to a southwest wind has brought warmer temperatures and the birds have been spending more time out on the tundra. I haven’t seen a large movement of Brant yet, but as the day continues (24th), more and more pairs are seen out in the nesting areas. Already there are some pairs fussing over the better nesting mounds and small islands.

A big dark Snowy Owl had the ground squirrels on alert this morning. The owl was using their mound as a look out and they weren’t too happy about it.



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Arctic Smoke Signals by James W. Helmericks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.