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Headstarting is a collaborative effort between WWT, BirdsRussia and the RSPB, and occurs as part of the International Arctic Expedition mounted each year by BirdsRussia under the leadership of Dr. Evgeny Syroechkovskiy.

How much for the tomatoes? – 21 May 2011

21 May 2011
I headed out across the Tundra during the morning with Nige and Jochen, a close Willow Grouse walked ahead of us. A Short-eared Owl and Arctic Skua were dominating the area, Long-billed Dowitchers, c200 in total were flying over calling and displaying. Otherwise it was a similar set of birds in the marsh. 10 Pectoral Sandpiper also went over.

In the afternoon I headed out with Simon, we have weeks of fieldwork to get into when we arrive and will need to cover 15-20km in a day so we are walking across Tundra rather than the road to get fit , strengthening the ankle and knee muscles all to avoid injury. At the moment we are clocking up some mileage.

Simon and I crossed the snow drifts to reach the marsh, where we passed by a colony of Glaucous Gulls, that had built nests but not laid eggs yet. A pair of Tundra (Bewick’s ) Swans with very dark bills were also in the marsh with lots of American and European duck. We forded the river using our tripods as we had waders on and looked for three Pectoral Sandpipers that we saw from the hillside. No sign so I talked him into pressing on to some pools we looked at two days ago. A party of 8 Sandhill Cranes were jumping up and down displaying just over the ridge, great to watch.

At the pools we found 2 pairs of Greater Scaup, 7 Long-tailed Duck and a pair of Whooper Swans. There was also a lot of frenzied activity from the 100 or so Long-billed Dowitchers that were present. They were flying around at great speed in pairs to groups of 40 calling and diving low and high, when they dropped onto the bog we stalked them and got right in close, we were surrounded by them, males were bumping into female, disputes were breaking out but they were all feeding at the same time. Amazing to watch all this behaviour.

Long-tailed duck, photo by James Lees

We walked back to the river seeing two Lapland Buntings on the way and on reaching the edge spotted a plover, we dropped in closer to get a better view and split up to find it, I spotted it again and what we suspected it to be from the bank soon turned out to be a Semi-palmated Plover, 2nd record for the Anadyr area. This North American species occurs in Alaska and in the extreme NE part of Chukotka. We had another Lapland Bunting on the way back.

Semi-palmated plover, Anadyr, MJMcGill

Today, the shop at the hotel had fresh tomatoes in stock, the most expensive I have ever seen but essential when you have been on the add water to the package food. It does not get really dark so we are sleeping lightly, no curtains in our room, blinds that do not reach the sill.

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