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See this triplist in printable PDF format with media only on page 1.
A trio of Dovekies, just a few of the thousands present, perched quite near at the nesting colony in Magdelenafjord. Photo by participant Ed Harper.
Our expedition to the High Arctic was fantastic in so many respects. The abundance of birdlife, Polar Bears, whales, walrus and constant great scenery made for an unforgettable trip. The weather could not have been better from a comfort standpoint as it was sunny on most days with little wind making it downright balmy. We had some clouds the last couple of days which is actually better for bird activity. This year there was a lot of ice along the north coast of Spitsbergen. We were told that Svalbard was generally ice free two weeks earlier but northeast winds had brought a lot of ice down which made progress slow and it prevented a couple of landings that we probably would have made. The ice, however, was good for the bears as it extended their ability to hunt for seals from the ice.
A few of the many highlights included visiting the walrus colony on our first full day on the ship, where we got closer to walrus than most people do as a pair of King Eiders swam off the spit of land, a great experience with our Polar Bear that finally arose from its slumber when a Minke Whale surfaced nearby, our brief encounter with an Ivory Gull, the quintessential arctic bird, getting right into a Dovekie colony in lovely Magdelenafjorden, having two Blue Whales swimming off the bow for several minutes, and finding a Rock Ptarmigan on the last day. We also found a couple of local rarities, a Black-headed Gull in Longyearbyen and an Iceland Gull amongst the ice floes. We made it as far north as 80º 10' N latitude, only 660 miles from the north pole.
Thanks to all of you for all the great spotting along the way and the good humor and company. Also, thanks to all of the expedition staff, hotel and dining room folks and the crew for making the trip so enjoyable. I look forward to seeing you again which will likely be a site where the sun sets.
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
Perhaps the most iconic bird of the High Arctic, this Ivory Gull made a brief appearance when we were approaching one of our Polar Bears. Photo by participant Ed Harper.
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
PINK-FOOTED GOOSE (Anser brachyrhynchus)
BARNACLE GOOSE (Branta leucopsis)
KING EIDER (Somateria spectabilis)
COMMON EIDER (NORTHERN) (Somateria mollissima borealis)
LONG-TAILED DUCK (Clangula hyemalis)
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
ROCK PTARMIGAN (Lagopus muta hyperborea)
RED-THROATED LOON (Gavia stellata)
Procellariidae (Shearwaters and Petrels)
NORTHERN FULMAR (GLACIALIS) (Fulmarus glacialis glacialis)
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
COMMON RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius hiaticula hiaticula)
We watched this Polar Bear snoozing for about 1 1/2 hours, then it finally got up and came over for a look at us on the ship. Photo by participant Ed Harper.
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)
PURPLE SANDPIPER (Calidris maritima)
Stercorariidae (Skuas and Jaegers)
GREAT SKUA (Stercorarius skua)
POMARINE JAEGER (Stercorarius pomarinus)
PARASITIC JAEGER (Stercorarius parasiticus)
LONG-TAILED JAEGER (Stercorarius longicaudus)
Alcidae (Auks, Murres, and Puffins)
DOVEKIE (Alle alle)
THICK-BILLED MURRE (Uria lomvia)
BLACK GUILLEMOT (MANDTII) (Cepphus grylle mandtii)
ATLANTIC PUFFIN (Fratercula arctica)
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla)
IVORY GULL (Pagophila eburnea)
BLACK-HEADED GULL (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
One of our zodiacs returns to shore in beautiful Magdelenafjord. Photo by guide John Coons.
ICELAND GULL (Larus glaucoides)
GLAUCOUS GULL (Larus hyperboreus)
ARCTIC TERN (Sterna paradisaea)
Calcariidae (Longspurs and Snow Buntings)
SNOW BUNTING (Plectrophenax nivalis)
COMMON MINKE WHALE (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)
FIN WHALE (Balaenoptera physalus)
BLUE WHALE (Balaenoptera musculus)
ARCTIC FOX (Alopex lagopus)
While viewing a pile of about 75 Walruses on a beach haulout site, we were thrilled to have a few curious individuals swim pretty close to us. Photo by participant Ed Harper.
POLAR BEAR (Ursus maritimus)
WALRUS (Odobenus rosmarus)
HARBOR SEAL (Phoca vitulina)
RINGED SEAL (Phoca hispida)
HARP SEAL (Phoca groenlandica)
BEARDED SEAL (Erignathus barbatus)
CARIBOU ("REINDEER") (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus)
Totals for the tour: 26 bird taxa and 11 mammal taxa