Wednesday, 9 September 2015

A summer in the Russian Arctic, part 1

Glaucous Gull
I have just returned from a very long 10 week job in the Russian arctic. Now don't let your imagination run wild, this was no cruise around Svalbard with arctic wildlife coming at you from all angles, it was a very long ten weeks and I didn't see land or beautiful icy landscapes the entire time. I did however see some great wildlife. It wasn't constant, in fact many days, even weeks went by where I saw next to nothing, however there were a number of days when I saw some pretty awesome stuff.

Back at the beginning of July I left Norway and headed out across the Barents Sea. We had mirror calm seas which made marine mammal sightings easy. I saw a few porpoises, some distant fin whales, a great view of a humpback and a small pod of white-beaked dolphins. I also saw one basking shark.

Harbour Porpoise
Bird sightings didn't provide anything unexpected however as we made our way north, Razorbills and Guillemots soon became Brunnich's Guillemots, a new bird for me. The first adult Pomarine and Long-tailed Skuas drifted past the vessel.

Always frustratingly distant or in bad light, Brunnichs Guillemot
Nearing the survey area I was quite happy to see an increase in the number of birds, particularly Poms, which were following the vessel and sat around in gangs on the sea.

However upon arriving at the survey area itself (where I would spend the next 2 months), it seemed it was going to be far less productive than the journey to the site. Sightings of birds and other marine wildlife dropped right off, however, in the next 9 weeks there fortunately were some great days for enjoying wildlife. Other than a few nice photos and a very limited number of species there's not much else to tell. So come back soon for part two, Seals, Belugas and better photos.

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