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We enjoyed a wonderful time in the far, far north aboard the Ortelius, while seeing great birds, bears, walrus and fantastic scenery. We started out in Longyearbyen, where we got our birding underway with close views of Red Phalarope, Purple Sandpiper, and Common Ringed Plover, a locally rare Iceland Gull, King and Common eiders and lots of Barnacle Geese, while the songs of Snow Buntings chimed in. We boarded our ship in the harbor and (after the necessary orientation) we were underway, with Northern Fulmars and Thick-billed Murres in constant attendance. Our first landing found us at a historic marble quarry, where Long-tailed Jaegers flew about and an Arctic Fox scampered right past us, while Red-throated Loons swam on a nearby pond. We had great views of Ivory Gull that afternoon, near the farthest northern town in the world, Ny Ålesund. This ghostlike bird showed well for us here, and we saw a few more as our voyage continued. After being tantalized by two Polar Bears on shore, we headed north to the pack ice, where we had a couple of incredible encounters with the "Ice Bear", as two individuals walked quite close to our ship. It was here that we reached our furthest northern point, at just over 81º 36' north latitude, only 570 miles from the North Pole. Heading south to the fjords and inlets of the Svalbard Archipelago, we cruised in zodiacs to glaciers, polar deserts, beaches, and tundra strewn with flowers, where we found huge colonies of Black-legged Kittiwakes and Thick-billed Murres with marauding Glaucous Gulls. At Kapp Lee, we visited a Walrus haul out site and got close to more than 30 of these huge pinnipeds, all with tusks. Many small and medium flocks of Dovekie were seen from the ship, but our landing at a colony was thwarted by dense fog near the end of the trip. Not being able to escape the fog near the west coast, we headed into a fjord and went ashore at the small Russian coal mining town of Barentsburg, a first-time visit for almost all of the staff and crew. This interesting site was a step back in time, as the 50's and 60's era buildings seemed out of a movie. Some of us found a distant Dovekie colony on the slopes of a mountain at the edge of town and had a nice experience with another Arctic Fox. We were back in the fjord near Longyearbyen for our final night before flying out the next morning. We had an afternoon at our hotel near the Oslo airport for some birding, where we had almost forgotten what trees looked like. The list of those birds is at the end of this report.
We shared wonderful meals with quite an international group of passengers, and we were well looked after by the expedition staff, the housekeepers, the folks in the dining room, and captain and crew on the bridge. All of them helped to create a great experience.
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
Here are the species we recorded on our afternoon walk in the vicinity of our hotel near the Oslo airport.
Eurasian Blue Tit
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Totals for the tour: 27 bird taxa and 10 mammal taxa