21 June, 2002
The wind has died down, the ground is green and brown with speckles of white, yellow and purple with flowers No Snow! All of us were anxious to get back out looking for the birds and re-enter the race of the summertime. Come spend the day with me:
First, wake up around 6:45, toes cold, head buried in the sleeping bag. Take a peek out and see that there is no more snow and just clouds in the sky. Bury your head back in the sleeping bag to avoid the light and cool air, and just wake up slowly. Finally, around 7:15, you sneak your arms out of the bag, put on a couple layers of shirts, reach socks down into the bag to put onto cold feet, get psyched up, then get out of sleeping bag to put on long underwear, pants, stocking cap and mittens. Now let's go get some breakfast - perculate some coffee, fry a couple of pancakes to be coated with peanut butter or jelly (we don't have syrup), then start packing a little lunch for the day. How about some pilot bread (giant, unsalted crackers) - 2 with PB, one left plain, a couple chunks of cheddar cheese, granola bar, apple, and a little bit of Hershey's candy bar. Get field data book, binoculars, leatherman, bear spray, measuring equipment, camera, GPS, raincoat, fleece jacket! and water bottle - now it is time to arrange things perfectly. First, put on hip waders - wrap strap and buckle around your calves for now as you won't be walking through deep water for awhile. Next, strap camera bag around waste. After that is in place, put backpack on. Place leatherman in front, right thigh pocket and field notebook and pencil in front, left thigh pocket of pants. Tighten bottom straps of backpack around waste then buckle small chest strap. Around the chest strap, loop your binoculars so they are easily reached but not pulling down from your neck all day. And you‚re off! Oh, don't forget to put about 5 pieces of hard candy in right, hip pocket for walking treats!!
Today, let's head West and Northwest about 3.5 miles if you could fly straight like the raven, but just a little further as you wade around, through and back and forth through marshes and lakes! After taking yesterday off for bad weather and for the sake of the nesting birds, I am anxious to find some nests. We hope to end with 40+ King Eider nests, and right now we are at 10. We have about 2 more solid weeks to find them before some begin to hatch, so we are really needing to get something done today. As I am just a little goal-oriented, and somewhat competitive, I am really fired up to go find some. I have credit for finding 3 of the 10 so far, but would like to prove my worth a little more than that!
So, first we head out toward a tundra swan nest to retrieve the hobo temp I had placed 12 days ago. We're hoping there could be a king eider in the area, as they tend to like the same nesting environment. What luck! - only an hour into the day and I stumble upon (not literally, actually I flush) a female king eider from a nest . . . King Eider #4! We measure the 4 eggs, place a hobo temp in its nest, cover it back up, then take about 20 more steps west to check out our tundra swan. The eggs are still there and feel warm, the hen is in the water talking to us, but she has thrown the hobo temp out of the nest (after chewing on the wire which detects the temperature!). We retrieve the now useless piece of equipment and hurriedly leave the area as a parasitic jaeger begins soaring above (they are good eider egg eaters!).
OK, keep moving west and north. We slosh through what is known as Twin Lake marsh. Yumiko and I are determined today to find at least 3 K.E. nests. We zig-zag back and forth through the marsh, begin to feel the familiar discomfort in feet and legs, but turn up no new nests. Yumiko, unfortunately, leaves the area wetter than she began as she stepped in a pond that filled her waders! (she is only about 5' 2", so it doesn't take much of a pond to pour over the top!) We continue on to East Twin Lake and grab a snack a few meters away from an arctic fox that lay dead for unknown reasons. We then slosh around the North side and then west side of the lake - still no more nests. As we reach the south side of the lake, we find many islands dotting the area, so we begin to wade out and search the islands. If you were watching us, you would wonder if we had any idea of the direction we wanted to go . . . for example, I'd start going to an island on my left, but the water would ! get too deep, so then I'd turn right, hop up and around that island, no wade through more water as I find an island in front of me; walk left on it a short distance, wade through more water to an island behind me. You get the idea. It was like a puzzle, trying to figure out where the water was shallow enough to allow you to move on to the next place. For about an hour, all we found were 3 more white fronted goose nests. We took a snack break (and so did some mosquitoes), then mustered up the energy to search a few more islands.
You will not believe this . . . on a 40m long island (that took me about 15 minutes to reach through thigh-deep water and sedge grasses) I find so many nests I begin to get mad! I am there an hour - flushing a hen, measuring her eggs, taking 10 more steps and measuring another nest. My total is now up to 12 king eider nests found, and 22 total with our group!!!!!! My back was tired from leaning over making measurements, my hands stunk so bad from picking up eider eggs onto which the hen defecates before she leaves (supposedly keeps the foxes away - it is almost bad enough to keep me away, talk about a stink!!!), and my nerves were fried trying to figure out where to turn so I wouldn't find anymore! I'm tired! Actually, I was getting worried about the hens I had already flushed and their eggs, as they wouldn't return to incubate as long as I was still out their scaring things up.
Finally, around 4:30, Yumiko and I decide we better head back. It's about 7km (5 miles) straight to camp (again, we never get to walk straight), so at about 7:15 pm we drag into camp exhausted! Thankfully, Rebecca and Qaiyann have caribou steak burritos cooking and ready, as I am starved!
Now, with stomach filled and feet rested, we are hanging out in anticipation of the "midnight sun." I'm not sure I can make it until 2:00 am to see it (plus it is cloudy right now), but I will try. Until tomorrow - Happy Summer Solstice from the land of the midnight sun!
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