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3 July, 2002

July 3, 2002

OK, I am beginning to wonder if I didn't go to the South Pole area instead of the North - as the summer progresses, it just keeps getting colder! Today we woke up to temps of 31, gusty winds, snow, sleet - Everything but a sunny day on the North Slope!

Have no fear, I am NOT complaining! This is the arctic and this is what I wanted to experience . She sure is giving me a great first showing, though! Actually, we all hid from the weather for a little while this morning, but couldn't stay inside our tents for long - the tundra was beckoning us forth. I had a lot to get done today, so by 10:30, I had my hipwaders on, heavyweight long underwear under my pants, 3 layers of shirts (all varieties of weights), my heavy raincoat, stocking cap, neck gator and mittens. I was ready to take on this 'winter' day. And I did enjoy it. It's sort of funny, but it is almost like the birds are getting 'cabin fever', too. Even though it was cold and blustery, there was quite a bit of bird activity. Nothing like the beginning of June as most have now left, but the ones that were here were out and putting on a pretty good little show at times.

First, though, what did my work day demand? I needed to go to Stick Lake (about 3.5 miles in a line to the SSE) to do a habitat evaluation on a depredated King Eider nest. I've mentioned this before, but it is one of my favorite lakes. To start the day out even better, I took a little different route to the lake and really enjoyed the fresh viewpoints. I am still amazed how everything looks just a little different when viewed from a slightly different angle or with a different amount of light/cloud types in the sky. Something new everyday!

OK, I digress - After I did the habitat evaluation, I walked about another 30 minutes W toward South Marsh, found a bluff that could block the strong W wind, took a seat on the heath and lichen covered hillside and ate a little lunch. Rested and ready, I packed back up, went to South Marsh and hoped to do the 6 day re-check on 2 King Eider nests, and just check in on our 'friendly neighboring' tern and sabien's gull. Unfortunately, something else beat me there - all nests in the area were depredated! Instead of candling the eggs, I had to settle for habitat evaluations and collections of the down. Quite disappointing as I thought those King Eiders had it made with the tern and gull near to watch over them and protect that area! I'm guessing a hungry fox found the area, but I am not sure. No sign of any predator was found.

From there, I continued west into the strong wind, sleet and snow, and found another King Eider nest that I needed to re-check. This one was still present, but had lost 3 of the 8 original eggs. Hopefully, the hungry culprit had enough and forgets where he got the last meal! While there at Swan Lake, I also found 3 recorded King Eider nests from last year - none had been re-used this year.

Now, the good stuff - what entertainment did the birds provide on such a blustery day???? Two key events I was able to witness. First, I watched a Sabien's gull try to catch a Lapland Longspur! It was so exciting. The gull would hover above the area it last saw the Longspur, then when it saw it again, it would dive down to try to capture it. The Longspur would fly quickly away, turning from side to side as it went, and the gull would be twisting and turning and diving in pursuit. The Longspur would then find another hiding spot and the gull would again hover. Within a short time, the chase would be on again! I watched for about 5 minutes, and to my liking, the gull never did get its prey!

The second wasn't as exciting, but it was cute! Now remember, this is a cold and blustery day - Not just for me, but for little birds, too. As I was walking through this marshy area with raised, mossy hills, I almost stepped on a female Lapland Longspur. She had evidently fallen asleep, as she was siting there, feathers fluffed and head tucked under her wing. I stopped, squated, enjoyed the close look, then I reached out to touch her. This woke her with a start. She jumped a little, ran a little, flew a short distance, then landed and just looked at me. I told her I understood how she felt!

After about 6 hours of Mother Nature's arctic July day, I headed back for camp. Chilled to the bone, I decided to have a little sponge bath, wash my hair, then eat some fried caribou, onions and bell peppers (seasoned with pepper and Soy Sauce) on top of pasta. Not a bad way to end the day!


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