19 June, 2002
After a day of rest (sort of), I was anxious to get back to "birding." It surprised me how I anticipated going this morning, after just one day of observations missed. I think I'm really getting into this field work! The real reason I believe I was anxious to get back out there is that I'm afraid I'm going to miss something. Things change so rapidly here, if I don't watch closely, I may not get a second chance.
I know I've mentioned this before, but today as I was walking toward my destination of King Eider K2 to insert a hobo temp, I started thinking back to last March - my first visit to the Arctic. It was really difficult to comprehend that this area could be the same place. A place that was white, frozen and lifeless is now a place of life moving at a rate I've never seen before. While I was thinking about how fast things are changing and the winter frozen period, a revelation hit me: If something is going to live up here, it better not waste any time taking advantage of the rich resources when they are here.
Rich resources such as sunlight, thawed topsoil, and flowing water. These will be available for a little more than two months. So, if you are a plant, you must germinate, flower, photosynthesize, be pollinated, and make a seed before the land locks up its resources for another nine months. Insects must time their evolution from an aquatic form to terrestrial form, or from a cocoon to a flying butterfly instinctively to utilize the flowers when they are available. Everything, at such a rapid rate, seems to work just perfectly together.
Other changes: I mentioned the caribou moving quickly through to reach the coastal area before the mosquitoes become a plague (speaking of which - they are becoming‚ a plague! I have a few swollen bite reactions to prove it today!!!) Not only are the caribou moving quickly, but in the two short weeks that I have been here, their color has changed to a very pretty tan, as they leavie behind clumps of their winter's white hair tangled in the willow branches. Arctic foxes are doing the same, as they change from a conspicuous white to a darker black/brown color. Even the birds are changing. The willow ptarmigan are changing from a bright white body to a splotched brown and white. As I walk around, there are feathers to be seen in every direction, left behind by molting birds. When we first arrived, birds were actively flying around and calling out requesting mates. Now, they are quietly sitting on nests, incubating their eggs. Shortly, the males that are not monogamous (! mate with just one) will be leaving the area as the hens stay behind to raise the young. This means that the beautifully colored face of the male king eider will soon be absent from most ponds and lakes.
Every thing seems to be racing, and I am finding myself caught up in the race. See if you can keep up for the next 6-7 weeks!
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