Our group enjoyed calm seas on our expedition to Svalbard where we had great encounters with so many prototypical arctic species. Polar Bear, Walrus, Arctic Fox, Ivory Gull, and Dovekie are species one has to go far north to see. And, far north we went. We reached 81º 21.026' N latitude which is 1000 miles north of the Arctic Circle and only 590 miles from the north pole. The spectacular scenery was a great backdrop for also seeing the massive bird cliffs filled with Thick-billed Murres at Alkefjellet, those colorful King Eiders swimming and standing on the ice, both Barnacle and Pink-footed geese, Red-throated Loons on the nest, breeding plumage Purple Sandpipers in flight display, Parasitic and Long-tailed jaegers, those always popular Atlantic Puffins, and numbers of Snow Bunitings singing away. We were also all dived on by Arctic Terns. Most of our landings were made on the island of Spitsbergen, but we also went ashore at Torrellneset on Nordaustlandet and the smaller island of Phippsoya. We sailed a total of 1072 nautical miles (1233 miles). Since so few species occur on Svalbard, I added the appropriate subspecific names for those that I could find information.
The great food, comfortable seas and ship, and friends we made among the quite international group of passengers and staff made for a lovely expedition to the Far North. Thanks for making it a wonderful time for me, too!
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
KING EIDER (Somateria
spectabilis) – We enjoyed
great views of six individuals in Woodfjorden as we drifted
in our zodiacs where we encountered our first Polar Bear.
There were two adult males, three first-year males and a
female with the group.
GLAUCOUS GULL (Larus hyperboreus hyperboreus) – We saw this bird everyday of the trip.
The Glaucous Gull is the main predatory species on Svalbard
and, seemingly, fills the niche of Gyrfalcon, Peregrine and
rosmarus) – Another great
spectacle was seeing this legendary animal hauled out on the
beaches in at least four different spots. We had rather
close encounters from land at Phippsoya and at Torrellneset
where there were 20-30 individuals. All those that were seen
well were males.
Totals for the tour: 23 bird taxa and 11 mammal taxa