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> Preparation, Bringing supplies to the Ikpikpuk delta
Leslie_Pierce
post May 26 2005, 12:54 AM
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“Do you want to go on a trip to the Ikpikpuk River Delta? We need to go out there to drop off some supplies for this summer’s study sites.” When Brian Person, my research mentor, and Robert Suydam asked me this question, I replied with a resounding “Yes!” Brian and Robert are wildlife biologists with the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management.

We left Barrow at about 3:30 pm on Saturday, May 21st. It was a nice warm day, about 30 degrees F, and no wind! It was overcast which made it a little difficult to see bumps along the way, but the snow was soft and the snow machine’s suspension helped to cushion our travel. We set out with 3 snow machines and 2 sleds full of equipment and our camping gear.

Here we are just outside of Barrow checking the loads on the sleds.
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We arrived at the Snow Goose site on the Ikpikpuk delta about four hours later. We dropped off a generator (which will be used to power my computer this summer!) at the cache of gear from last summer’s study. Brian’s boxes seemed to be intact so I guess there was nothing in them of interest for passing caribou or other animals. Being covered with snow they are not easy for people to spot either.

Unloading gear into cache pile and close up of cache below.
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(Photo by Brian Person)

On our way we had seen a few caribou (Rangifer tarandus) and now there were many white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons) flying overhead. The Lapland longspurs (Calcarius lapponicus) were flitting about and singing all around us but we had yet to see any snow geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens). With binoculars Robert spotted a pair of tundra swans (Cygnus columbianus) off to the northeast of our site.

The area was covered with tracks from arctic ground squirrels (Spermophilus parryii), evidence of their recent emergence from hibernation. One popped its head out of a hole curious about all of the noise that we were making but it retreated quickly after spotting us. Their tracks are very delicate and look like tiny handprints.

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(Photo by Brian Person)

Brian supplied me with a picture of one of them from last summer. I wonder if this one below will be keeping me company for those few weeks.

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(Photo by Brian Person)

Brian pointed out the islands to the north where we will be doing our vegetation surveys. I couldn’t tell where the tundra ended and the water began because everything was covered with snow. The bits of rolling tundra poking through in spots gave the only clues where I was sure land could be found. It will look very different this summer.

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(Photo by Brian Person)

This is our view from the cache site looking southwest. You can see some of the exclosures that were set up last summer. There are 24 of them that we will be sampling, eight sets of three. And, here is one of the exclosures with me standing next to it so that you can get an idea of the size. They are not large, just enough to keep out the snow geese.

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(Photo by Brian Person)

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Brian adjusting one of the exclosures.

After dropping off our equipment we continued on to a cabin owned by the NSB Dept of Wildlife Management on the northern shore of Teshekpuk Lake, the second largest lake in Alaska. The cabin is about 80 miles southeast of Barrow. On Sunday, we dropped off more supplies and gear at a study site about 24 miles farther southeast of the cabin where a King Eider study has been going on for the past four summers. Near the cabin we saw many more white-fronted geese, two Sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis), a white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), a few willow ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus) and a half dozen tundra swans.

We headed back to Barrow on Monday, May 23rd. The clouds were breaking up a little bit so we had glimpses of blue sky and sunshine. I finally saw some snow geese, a pair of them flying overhead as we left Teshekpuk Lake. Another six hours and we were back home. The trip had been smooth and without any trouble. I look forward to going back in six weeks and to see all that was hidden under the blanket of snow and ice. The snowy wind-swept tundra will be alive with the sounds of snow geese!
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Ute_Kaden
post Jun 2 2005, 03:33 AM
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Hi Leslie and Brian,
I read you journal with great interest and tried to get accustomed to the endless amount of snow shown in the pictures-you know as a training exercise for my Healy cruise in August. Well, it did not work very well. I am sitting here in HOUSTON, TX and the heat index is 110 F and you wrote, “It was a nice warm day, about 30 degrees F, and no wind in Barrow”....
I wish you both good luck with the Chen caerulescens caerulescens (Snow Geese, as a physics teacher I absolutely admire your Biology classification) . By reading more about your project I figured that the Healy Geophysics program and the Snow Geese program have a lot in common. We both would like “to see all that is hidden under the blanket of snow and ice”. Godspeed to both of our projects!

Leslie, I am very tempted to travel the Dalton Highway…One day, I may knock on your door in Barrow.
Ute
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