A lot of birds in the final week of the Transsiz expedition

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A lot of birds in the final week of the Transsiz expedition

Gepubliceerd op
30 juni 2015

The Arctic is very rich in birdlife. A regular species is the Northern fulmar (photo 1) gliding closely above surface of the water. Flocks of Brünnichs Guillemots (photo 2) are regularly passing by. Several species of gulls cana be seen.

The Ivory gull with its completely white plumage always is a welcome guest, but could not be photographed.

Photo 1: A Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) gliding close above water and ice (© Giulia Castellani).
Photo 1: A Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) gliding close above water and ice (© Giulia Castellani).
Photo 2: Small flocks of Brünnichs Guillemots (Uria lomvia) commute between de breeding colonies on the cliffs of Spitsbergen and their foraging areas between the sea ice (© Giulia Castellani).
Photo 2: Small flocks of Brünnichs Guillemots (Uria lomvia) commute between de breeding colonies on the cliffs of Spitsbergen and their foraging areas between the sea ice (© Giulia Castellani).

However, Giulia managed to take pictures of a Kittiwake cleverly seizing a fish from between the icefloes (photos 3 and 4). A small gull like that has to take care that its prey is not stolen by the big Glaucous Gulls (photo 5) around.

Photo 3: A Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) searched for food between the icefloes (© Giulia Castellani).
Photo 3: A Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) searched for food between the icefloes (© Giulia Castellani).
Photo 4: The Kittiwake managed to capture a small fish (© Giulia Castellani).
Photo 4: The Kittiwake managed to capture a small fish (© Giulia Castellani).
Photo 5: An immature Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus) searches for something to eat (© Hauke Flores).
Photo 5: An immature Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus) searches for something to eat (© Hauke Flores).

During the past week also some parasitic gulls (skua’s) were observed: they are the real experts in stealing prey from other bird species: Arctic Skua (photo 6) and Pomarine Skuas were seen around the ship. These large streamlined birds have different coloured feathers and a long tail which gives them an elegant appearance.

Photo 6: A light colourphase of the Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus) watching for other birds to steal their prey (© Giulia Castellani).
Photo 6: A light colourphase of the Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus) watching for other birds to steal their prey (© Giulia Castellani).

The North pole is also of course the home of the Polar Bear (Photo 7). The researchers have seen this beautiful animal a couple of times from the ship. One might expect that the Polar bear can hardly be seen in between all the ice. However, its fur is slightly yellowish which makes it stand out against the white. According to Polarsterns crew members we have not seen many Polar Bears compared to other Arctic expeditions. There are however a lot of Polar bear tracks visible in the snow.  Seeing these tracks up close is a good reminder of how large these animals actually are.

Photo 7: Polar Bears are sometimes not as inconspicuous as expected: the yellowish fur contrasts with the bright white ice and snow (© Hauke Flores).
Photo 7: Polar Bears are sometimes not as inconspicuous as expected: the yellowish fur contrasts with the bright white ice and snow (© Hauke Flores).

The last week of the Arctic Transsiz expedition has started. The last work is being done after which the researchers can start packing. Summer has now really started. This is clearly visible in the sea ice. At the surface of the floes, melt ponds are appearing. They have a bright blue colour because of the ice underneath. The melt ponds reflect the melt of surface snow.  In the Antarctic you will not find them because in general it is colder there. With the sunshine of the last few days, this view is fantastic last impression of our journey through the ice.

Photo 8: Melt ponds on the sea ice can have a stunning blue colour (© Hauke Flores).
Photo 8: Melt ponds on the sea ice can have a stunning blue colour (© Hauke Flores).

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