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> July 12 - 2005, We arrive at the Ikpikpuk delta!
Leslie_Pierce
post Jul 14 2005, 03:28 PM
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July 12, 2005

We made it to the Ikpikpuk River delta! The flight from Barrow took less than an hour. We had the helicopter filled with 5 large dry bags full of gear, one large cooler, 4 large plastic tubs, and 2 back packs. We flew pretty low to the ground, so I was craning my neck the entire flight looking at the tundra below. Looking at the many patterns of the tundra polygons, some raised and some filled with water, is like looking at a jigsaw puzzle. Interspersed between the polygons are many ponds and small lakes, some still with ice floating on top. Why does one lake still have ice on it, and another lake right next to it is completely melted? Any ideas?

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You can see the patterns of polygons and ponds. The ponds are almost polygon-shaped as well!

We saw tundra swans, eiders, long-tailed ducks, white-fronted geese, gulls, and snow geese along the way. The snow geese eggs have hatched within the past few weeks and the broods (including parents and young) have left their nest and are walking around the tundra in search of good forage grasses and sedges.

When we got to our campsite we found the cache of gear had been visited by a bear. The generator was fine, but the gas can was punctured and mostly drained. An inflatable kayak was shredded but the foldable kayak was untouched. After we set up our tents, we spent the next hour or so putting the foldable kayak together.

When we had come out to the site in May we saw lots of tracks of arctic ground squirrels. We heard no noisy chirping of curious ground squirrels. Instead, we found that many of the ground squirrel holes had been dug up. The bear either made a meal of or scared away our campmates. I was looking forward to watching their activity and having their company. We did see several snow goose nests right around the campsite but they are empty now as the eggs have hatched and the young with their parents leave within about 24 hours.

Attached Image
This is a snow goose nest bowl with egg remnats remaining.

Before dinner we took a long walk. Brian showed me some of the exclosure pairs that he had set up last summer. An exclosure pair is two plots right next to each other in the same habitat. They are both one meter square with the control marked out with small stakes and the experimental plot fenced with chicken wire about 2 feet high and taller stakes. Brian had set up pairs in various habitat types, including mud or grubbed, intermediate devegetated, and vegetated. There are eight replicates of those three habitat types, so 24 pairs of plots altogether to be sampled. We’ll talk more about those later.

After looking at plots and talking about the various stages of devegetation, we walked out towards some tundra swans and snow geese. We followed tracks of two bears (moving away from our camp!), many caribou, an arctic fox and a ground squirrel. There were lots of geese tracks telling us that this area is being used by many geese. There was other evidence of snow goose use, grubbing areas with pulled up vegetation and holes where their beaks and been poking for roots.

Attached Image
Note the bear tracks, goose tracks, caribou tracks and my tracks!

After we got back to camp we saw that over 100 caribou had crossed the slough to the southwest of us and were following the trails that we had just walked on. We watched them for a while through the binoculars. There were lots of small calves in the group that were probably only a few weeks old.

Tomorrow we will begin setting out vegetative transect lines. More about that later!
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Robert_Oddo
post Jul 16 2005, 07:47 AM
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Leslie,
Looks beautiful there. Good luck on your fieldwork!!!
Bob
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