Sunday, July 10, 2011

Arctic Renewal

We have drifted from spring into summer and a rapid  renewal has been taking place.  The tundra is now covered with many different flowers and the ground is getting a nice green tinge to it.  With the warm days, the butterflies have  been busy  flitting from flower to flower getting nectar.

Most of the birds have hatched so there are many young about, either in our yard or around the edge of the lake by the house.  Several broods of both Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs are now around the feeder out the kitchen window.  With the 24 hour daylight, they go through lots of seed, especially when we have a cold foggy day and the parents have a hard time finding bugs to feed the hungry little ones. 


 WhiteAvens_9282 On the left a young Snow Bunting  (  Plectrophenax nivalis) with its short tail and a few tuffs of down on the head.

  On the right is a group of white avens (Dryas integrifolia ).




With access to the nest boxes we put up on the various buildings, the Snow Buntings are the first to hatch, followed closely by the larger geese.  Since the Snow Geese only need 22 days to hatch, they are the first to start hatching, followed closely by  Brant and White-fronted Geese.   The last part of June sees a flurry of hatching activity as the shorebirds, ptarmigan, longspurs,  and some of the early duck species hatch.  The hatch continues into the first part of July with eiders, scaup, Long-tailed Duck, swans, loons, and late shorebirds finishing up.







Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) brood left, and a Black Brant brood (Branta bernicla) moving through the yard.



  Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) hatching out.

Even as the hatch is taking place, there are signs that this is a place of a short growing season.  The geese that didn’t nest or failed early on have moved out of the area, headed off to one or more of the summer moulting  areas.  This frees up the limited food  in the brood rearing areas for the young that need lots of good forage to be ready to migrate south in less than two months.




Willow Ptarmigan  ( Lagopus lagopus)  family feeding in the grass around the house.

The shorebirds are also starting to flock up and non-breeding and extra adults will be starting their migration  south in the nest few days. Usually one parent stays with the chicks till they are flegged and then they are pretty much on their own.  The Semipalmated Sandpiper is our most common shorebird that nests on our island and we usually have at least 10 nests near by our house.  By late July the yard is full of Juvenile Semi’s of various sizes, and all the adults have already left on their southbound journey.  Summer activities must progress quickly in the Arctic.  Time is of the essence.


I will end this entry today with a photo of a young Caribou taken next to our house last week.

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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.