My last post was entitled “Arctic Bound” and was about shorebirds migrating thru Iowa on the way to their nesting grounds. In June, I had the opportunity to visit the Arctic. I headed to Utqiagvik, Alaska; formerly known as Barrow, AK. It is the northern-most town in the USA. The opening image is of me in chest waders standing in the Arctic Ocean; no polar plunge for me.
Barrow has been on my bucket-list of places to visit since my early boyhood years. I was not disappointed. And, I loved the 24 hours of daylight every day.
Since Barrow cannot be reached by driving, I arrived on a 737 jet. These jets also supply the town with most of their needs. Therefore, a little town of less than 5,000 people has a runway to accommodate a 737.
Driving the few short roads that lead out of town, a person could get the impression that the tundra is just a vast wasteland. At least that is how it might appear from the road. But a walk across the tundra reveals a large number of birds that depend on it to raise their young. Birds abound. Without this vital habitat, multiple bird species would perish.
Shorebirds do indeed nest on the tundra. With careful searching, eggs can be found hidden under a clump of grass. Even though the vegetation is very short, I never did see a shorebird setting on a nest. Only when they moved off the nest was I able to detect them.
I saw two of the three shorebird species I wrote about in my last post; the Long-billed Dowitcher and the Pectoral Sandpiper. The Ruddy Turnstone, however, eluded me.
The Pectoral Sandpiper surprised me from the standpoint of its general appearance. The male appears to be much larger on the breeding grounds.
The Long-billed Dowitchers tend to stay closer to water when nesting. They prefer low wet meadows, laying their eggs on a small tussock or hummock.
Two other shorebird species that I see during migration are the Dunlin and the American Golden Plover. I have seen considerably more of the former than the latter. Both have bold color patterns when in their breeding plumage.
The overall species vulnerability due to climate change for all of the above shorebirds is listed as “HIGH”. Their nesting habitat will sharply decline. The impacts are being observed earlier in the Arctic and there are more immediate and severe consequences.
12 thoughts on “Visiting the Arctic – Shorebirds”
Wonderful image Mr. Stan–As is your custom.
Thank you Don. It was a great trip. It was a lot of long hours and hard work, but well worth it. My first day was 27 hours long. Most nights, I did not get to bed until about 5:00 – 6:00 a.m. I slept for about 1 1/2 hours and then went back out to the field until about noon, slept until about 5:30 p.m., and then headed back out to the field for the night. It was well worth the effort.
Love that you went to Alaska. That is our favorite state. 24 hours of daylight is awesome!
Linda, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Utqiagvik, AK. No doubt my love of Alaska was passed down from Grandpa Will and from my parents. I understand why it is your favorite state. It is beautiful. I am already planning another trip to Alaska next year.
Looking forward to a visit! Always love the photographs you have to share. The background information you provide is so inspiring.
Thanks Susan. I appreciate your comments. Let’s talk soon.
Some great photos and neat birds!
Glad you had a safe, enjoyable trip!
Thanks Joel. I had a wonderful trip. I look forward to talking to Jess and you about your trip to Alaska. I am glad the whole family is back safe and sound.
Great representation of the area and the shore birds Stan. Your work documenting these birds is so important. The migration of these birds and others are great bio-indicators to climate change and the different environmental challenges we currently face. Thank you so much for your work.
Thank you Hank. It was great to meet you on the plane to Utqiagvik. Let me know if there is any way I can collaborate with your tribal colleges and climate change efforts.
Fantastic pictures, Stan! So glad you were able to make the trip!
Thank you Tricia. It was one great trip for a bird photographer like me.
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