Thursday, 15 June 2017

Kugluktuk, Nunavut

Am fortunate to have been invited on a three-week expedition with the Canadian Wildlife Service to survey and photograph life across the central arctic. Despite the ice-covered lakes, frozen sea, and persistent snow, the burst of life here is impressive with thousands of migrant birds, an abundance of blossoming flowers, and predators and insects ready to take advantage of the short but intense arctic summer.

The land of the midnight sun. Kids in Kugluktuk emerge from their homes around suppertime to clamber the cliffs, play baseball, and ride their bikes through the night - only to go back to bed around 8am just as we are lifting off to explore the land.



Our first sign of the caribou herds were the numerous skulls and antlers that littered the tundra. In this hostile environment it takes years for bones to be scavenged or decompose, creating a mystical landscape.


Basil Bay: Frozen solid in June. Hundreds of Ringed Seals were spread across the bay around Kugluktuk - an important source of food for the two bear species here (grizzly and polar).

Rock Ptarmigan
The official bird of Nunavut and there couldn't be a more appropriate choice. One of few bird species that remains here year round. These birds are extremely well adapted to life in the arctic although they do tend to stick out during the few short months without snow.

And I thought ptarmigan were well adapted to life in the arctic! Despite their brutish appearance these Muscox are actually quite curious animals - here they cautiously approached to check us out.

Mountain Aven
One of the glories of the arctic tundra is the abundance of flowers. How come the stalks of a flower don't twist as the flower follows the sun during the 24 hours of daylight? I'll let you ponder :)


We came across this momma fox and her cubs during one of our inland surveys. She let out several mournful yelps to warn her pups to remain well hidden. We had brief glimpses of her tiny babies who were still being breastfed.



Smith's Longspur
Sometimes you can't be picky with such a short breeding season. Both males and females have multiple mating partners - a strategy called polygynandry, the rarest of all breeding strategies. This results in females having the highest rates of copulation of any bird.... sex bombs!


Lemming: It's an average year for them around Kugluktuk. Areas further East are apparently having a boom year. Hopefully we will meet these hordes as we travel East as they will surely attract owls, wolves, and other predators.


Wooly Lousewort: It's not just the locals who are still wearing thick fur coats in June. The Wooly Lousewort, also known as the bumble-bee flower, is a main source of nectar for the two species of arctic bee. Check out that undercoat!

As an adaptation to the short growing season, nearly all arctic plants grow their flower buds in the preceding summer/autumn and are ready to go as soon as the snow melts the next spring. No time is wasted!

Golden-plover: Surprisingly, our most common shorebird so far has been American Golden-plover. A reflection that our surveys have been across higher and dryer land.

Golden-plover nest
Shorebirds in general lay four eggs per nest - just the right number ;)

Some of these shorebirds migrate from as far away as Tierra del Fuego to breed right here in Arctic Canada. They are very much loyal to their nests and will risk their lives to keep us from finding them. 


Arctic Ground-squirrel

Balleen found on a random beach


King Eider

Friday, 2 June 2017

Birdathon 2017 - Species List

Between 17:10 on Monday May 29th, 2017 and 17:10 on Tuesday, Catherine Barrett and I observed a total of 90 species of bird on the Avalon peninsula.


This is our third consecutive year doing this birdathon. In previous years we have recorded 92 & 95 species, following a similar route.


So far we have raised $1500 for Bird Studies Canada and Nature NL - with some pledges yet to be collected.

Thank you to our many supporters for this years birdathon!


Species list in taxonomic order with first location observed in the right-side column.
Bolded species are notable.


Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)NL--Highway btw PCS and Chance Cove PP
American Wigeon (Anas americana)St. John's--Quidi Vidi Lake
American Black Duck (Anas rubripes)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)St. John's--Virginia Lake
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)St. John's--Quidi Vidi Lake
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)St. John's--Lundrigan's Marsh
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)NL--Bay Bulls--Long Pond
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)St. John's--Mundy Pond
Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)St. John's--Mundy Pond
Common Eider (Somateria mollissima)NL--St. Shott's
White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca)NL--Portugal Cove South
Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)NL--Portugal Cove South
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)NL--Bear Cove
Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)NL--Hwy 10--Grassy Ponds
Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata)NL--Portugal Cove South
Common Loon (Gavia immer)NL--Renews--beach & bay
Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)NL--St. Michael's
Northern GannetNL--Cape Race
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)NL--St. Michael's
American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)St. John's--Mundy Pond
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)NL--Highway btw PCS and Chance Cove PP
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatusSt. John's--Lundrigan's Marsh
Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)NL--Biscay Bay
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)St. John's--Lundrigan's Marsh
Sora (Porzana carolina)St. John's--Lundrigan's Marsh
Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)NL--Long Beach
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) NL--Cape Broyle
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) NL--Cape Broyle
Willet (Tringa semipalmata) NL--Renews--beach & bay
Common Murre (Uria aalge) NL--Cape Race
Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle) NL--Cape Race
Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica)NL--Cape Race
Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)NL--St. Michael's
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)Goulds--Third Pond ("Horsetrack pond")
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) Goulds--Bidgood Park
Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides)NL--Witless Bay
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)St. John's--Quidi Vidi Lake
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)St. John's--Quidi Vidi Lake
Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)St. John's--Quidi Vidi Lake
Arctic TernNL--Renews--beach & bay
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)Goulds--Third Pond ("Horsetrack pond")
Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)Goulds--Powers Rd.--forest
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)NL--Merrymeeting Pond
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Merlin (Falco columbarius)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)NL--Bear Cove
Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius)NL--La Manche PP
Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)NL--La Manche PP
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)NL--La Manche PP
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Common Raven (Corvus corax)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia)St. John's--Quidi Vidi Lake
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Boreal Chickadee (Poecile hudsonicus)St. John's--Long Pond & Fluvarium
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)St. John's--Long Pond & Fluvarium
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)St. John's--Long Pond & Fluvarium
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)NL--La Manche PP
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)NL--Portugal Cove South
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)Goulds--Bidgood Park
American Pipit (Anthus rubescens)NL--Cape Race
Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)NL--Bay Bulls--Long Pond
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens)NL--La Manche PP
Wilson's Warbler (Cardellina pusilla)NL--Hwy 10--Grassy Ponds
Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)Goulds--Bidgood Park
White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)Goulds--Third Pond ("Horsetrack pond")
Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus)Goulds--Third Pond ("Horsetrack pond")
Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus)St. John's--Long Pond & Fluvarium
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)Goulds--Bidgood Park
Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus) NL--Cape Broyle
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)NL--Renews (townsite)

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Twillicks - 2017 Birdathon

Catherine Barrett and I will be doing our third annual birdathon at the end of May!
This is an all-out 24 hour effort to see as many species as possible on the Avalon peninsula.
The event promotes awareness of our natural world and helps raise money to conserve birds and habitat across our country!

Please help us reach our fundraising goal of $1787. You can click on our team page here and then click on our names to see our personal fundraising pages and make a donation :)

In 2015 we tallied a record-breaking 92 species and then in 2016 topped it with 95 species!

Can we reach 100 this year...

Donations can be made as a flat fee (e.g. $20), or you can donate per species!


A tax receipt will be generated automatically via email. If you prefer you can give your donation to Catherine or myself directly (cash or cheque) and we will forward it to Bird Studies Canada.

A portion of the funds we raise will be returned to this province to Nature NL.

Thank you for your support!

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"Twillicks" is a local name used by Newfoundlanders for Greater Yellowlegs - a species guaranteed to be seen during our 24-hour extravaganza!


Last years highlight came in under the wire with less than 5 minutes remaining in the 24-hour period: 
Euro Golden-Plover