fredag 15. mai 2009

Boat trip and town wildlife

Sitting in the lab last week counting Calanus (zooplankton) a guy came in and asked for someone to help him with some fieldwork. He was going out on a tourist boat, so a six hour trip in Isfjorden and a free dinner was included! I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time, and the three others sitting with me either were busy that day or not as interested. We left at 7pm the next evening, spent about half an hour in the water outside the airport taking water samples before the boat continued into Isfjorden towards Billefjorden, and we could just relax and enjoy the rest of the trip. The fulmars were all the time sailing past us on the wind, sometimes only a few meters away. We went to the ice edge in Billefjorden, where we saw several polar bear tracks (mother and cub) going towards a seal breathing hole, and we also saw a seal very far away, but unfortunately the polar bear did not show up this time either. On our way back to town we enjoyed the midnight sun and the surrounding snow clad mountains.

One thing I'll really miss from Svalbard is all the wildlife. Here I actually go to town to take pictures of reindeer, geese (pink-footed/kortnebb- and barnacle/hvitkinn- geese) and snow buntings. They usually graze at the same places, so it's easy to find them, and they are fairly trusting.
Going out the barack door yesterday I scared a fox a few meters away. Someone must be feeding them (it's not allowed since they carry a parasite which can transfer to humans), because it soon turned around again and ran towards me. I sat on the steps, and it came as close as one meter from me! Even when I moved it did not get scared, only if I moved towards it. These pictures were absolutely worth coming ten minutes late to class!

Here I've recorded two short videos with my old compact camera, one showing parts of Nybyen, the other the mountain behind my barack, Gruvefjellet, where the little auks are breeding. If you listen closely, especially on the second video, you can maybe hear them.

tirsdag 5. mai 2009

Bjørndalen cabin, reindeer and little auks (many pictures!)

The birds are really starting to come back to Svalbard, and even in the mountains right above Nybyen hundreds of little auks are flying around the steep cliffs, and can be heard down to the valley bottom.

The reindeer are both easier to spot now and move around more. They have their favorite places, so if you know where to look it is almost possible to see them at any time if you just walk around town a bit. Especially below the church and by the airport they can often be seen. Walking by the road from Bjørndalen to Longyearbyen this Sunday we saw four reindeer almost being hit by the bus taking the tourists from the airport!

I spent the weekend in the student cabin in Bjørndalen with three other students. We took some short walks down to the water to watch and take pictures of birds (fulmars/havhest, glaucous gulls/polarmåke, black guillemots/teist and kittiwakes/krykkje), foxes and polar bear tracks! A polar bear was actually observed walking over the ice by the airport towards Bjørndalen on Friday night, and must have walked a few hundred meters from the cabin around midnight. So close! It was very fun to see the tracks, but we all really wish we had seen the bear as well. If we had only gone out at the right time and looked down towards the water...

A very trustful black guillemot swam close to land and often dove down in the water.