Nest census 1 July 2004 in Kongsfjorden, Spitsbergen

A personal photo report from Maarten Loonen
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In Ny-Ålesund, Spitsbergen, we are studying an arctic ecosystem with the Barnacle Goose as central target species. This study started in 1990 and is still continuing. Each summer, Maarten Loonen is spending some time with students in the field, collecting data. He made the following report.

Counting eider duck and barnacle goose nests on Eskjaret
Eider ducks nesting

Counting eider duck and barnacle goose nests in Kongsfjorden

Each year before hatch, we count the number of nesting birds together with Geir Wing Gabrielsen of the Norwegian Polar Institue. An enormous density of nesting eider ducks and in between some barnacle geese. We carefully move in between the nests to count the number of nests and to determine clutch sizes. From left to right, you see Jurjen Annen, Ingrid Gabrielsen and Geir Wing Gabrielsen.

In 2004, there has been a lot of ice in the fjord. The large islands have been vsited by polar foxes and polar bears and many nests have been predated. Nesting density is almost a quarter of the usual density. There are a few island, which have not been connected to the mainland by ice. On these islands, the nesting birds have an extreme high density.

Barnacle goose nest defense On Mietheholmen, hatching has started. The male is defening the nest, while the female sits on the new young. You can clearly see the plastic ring, the male is wearing. The male is called green SFL. These rings can be read with a telescope from a distance of 300 meter. We are constantly reading rings and following the fate of the goose family. A newly hatched gosling
Egg dumping We found several nests with many eggs. Here, Geir Wing Gabrielsen is counting 16 eggs in one nest. The incidence of egg dumping is probably related to the large number of nests which have been predated during the laying phase. The laying females had to find an alternative nest to put their eggs. This was true for both the eider ducks and the barnacle geese.

After we have counted four islands, we return to Ny-Ålesund by boat. Survival suits are an essential safety measure in these cold waters.

Boating home
Eider duck and barnacle goose nests on Mietheholmen

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