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> July 15, Kayaking to another island
Leslie_Pierce
post Jul 17 2005, 07:39 AM
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July 15, 2005

Today was very warm. I didnít even need a jacket, just my TREC t-shirt! It was warm enough to wear short-sleeves if it werenít for the bugs. There was very little wind in the morning, and then, the bugs came out. Swarms of midges were flying around us filling the air with the sound of their buzzing. I thought the midges were bad yesterday, but today was worse. And, a few mosquitoes were out, also. They really went after Brian, but I had already put on the bug dope. He finally broke down and used bug spray. The bugs kept the caribou on the move all of the previous night and this morning, and we kept hearing them as they crashed in the water to cross the channel. We could see them running on the horizon to the east and west of us on other islands towards Smith Bay and the ocean breeze.

Since we had finished the transects on our island, we needed to get the kayak down to the water and head over to another island to the northwest of us, one we called the Big Island. (After we got there, we discovered it wasnít as big as it had looked from our campsite but the name stuck.) We decided to wait and do ABR island later. We put the tandem kayak into the nearest large pond and paddled to the end of it; then, we had a short portage to the edge of the channel. Putting it into the river channel made me a little nervous especially since it was only a metal frame covered with canvas-like material, but it proved very seaworthy and we paddled across the channel to the Big Island with no problems.


All ready to put the kayak in the water for the first time
Attached Image

After we secured the kayak up on the cutbank and began walking up to our first transect, we saw tracks of two bears heading out of the water and onto Big Island. More than likely, it was the same bears that had been on our island. Two young brown bear traveling together had been spotted in this area during an aerial survey a few weeks ago. That would have put them on these islands during the time that the snow goose colony was nesting and giving them many opportunities for snow goose egg snacks. Now that nesting is over, parents and goslings have left the nests, so, hopefully, the bears will have left for good as well.

We sampled three transect lines today. On all three of them the same pattern emerged. The south end of this island was heavily grazed with lots of muddy, devegetated tundra. As we moved towards the northern end, the damage from snow geese seemed to decrease and the tundra was covered with Carex subspathacea (a sedge) and Puccinella phryganoides (a grass), which Brian called grazing lawns. Apparently, these lawns provide great foraging habitat for geese but they havenít been over-exploited by the snow geese yet.

Iím taking a soil core sample in a muddy, devegetated area
Attached Image

During our transects, we did see a few interesting things that I hadnít seen before. One was a foxís egg cache, probably from an arctic fox. Foxes steal eggs from bird nests and cache them, or bury them, for a future meal. This cache had already been returned to and you could see a nice oval indentation in the soil, surrounded by vegetation, with scattered egg shells and even a little fox scat.

Here's the fox egg cache that we came across. You can see egg shells surrounding the oval-shaped hole. There are a few inside as well.
Attached Image

We also saw a Common Eider hen with six small chicks swimming on a small pond. It was the first chicks weíve seen so far. The female Eider was very attentive to her brood keeping them close as we approached. When we retreated she relaxed a bit and we watched the chicks diving in the water for invertebrates (insects and small crustaceans) and flapping their tiny wings to dry off. As a glaucous gull flew overhead, she made one little grunting noise and all of the chicks quickly huddled next to her. What a huge responsibility for the females, as the male Eiders leave the females to raise the brood themselves. I know that I didnít get much sleep when my children were babies, but she must not get any for these next few weeks of the summer being on alert for predators.

Once again we got back to the campsite, weary and ready to get out of those hip waders! By the time Brian has all of the soil samples weighed and I have my journal entries and uploading finished, itís time for dinner. Our cooking duties are sort of shared, but Brian does seem to have a flare for camp cooking. After spending three to four months in summer field camps for the last fifteen years, heís very good at coming up with scrumptious, one-pot concoctions (or as he calls it Ė ďbucket-oĒ). Like any good cook, he didnít forget to bring fresh onions! After dinner, we talk about the day and Iím always surprised when I notice itís about midnight or so. Of course, the sun is still above the horizon and will stay that way all night. The clock in my head tells me itís time to turn in and get some rest for more sampling tomorrow!
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