I awoke after a good night sleep, washed in the usual lake with sheets of ice floating near by, however the sun was out for a brief time making it warmer than it has been and so the usual quick scan of the lake produced a pair of Bar Tailed Godwits feeding,part displaying and becoming more vocal each day. The resident Sabines Gulls loafed distantly at the back of the lake.
I am hoping that this pair of Barwits stick around to nest in the survey area as it would be a good species for the survey area and also good to see them nesting.
After breakfast we head out and survey the area of the east peninsular. Today we are trying to find more nests of firstly Dunlin and then Semi P and Western Sandpipers. We split up and worked independantly from each other. I enjoy walking through the Tundra and watching the birds behaviour and when I suspect I am on to a nesting bird I sit down and observe it from a distance, It can be tricky keeping on the bird as they walk through long grass and go in and out of sight, the trick is to just try & stay on the bird in question and try not to look at the other birds calling from above, behind and around me. The first nest I find for myself is a Semi Palmated Sandpiper followed closely after by a Western Sandpiper and then a Dunlin nest. Dunlin are the trickiest species as they really won't give the game away easy and it is almost as if they know they are being watched. They are great birds and it is like they are also enjoying the game cat & mouse.
After a few hours I stop for Lunch and I sit on the edge of the peninsular over looking one of the channels. Whilst I sit there small groups of Pintail & Tundra Swans fly over and a Northern Harrier quartered nearby. I hear the sound of a distant speed boat and as it gets closer I can see that it is 3 locals, they are Inupiat Natives (Eskimos) and they speed past. They are out hunting in the area and later I hear gun shots, presumably they are shooting ducks.
Throughout the day Sandhill Cranes are close by flying either alone or in small groups often feeding close by. Sometimes whilst I am keeping low they walk close by until they see me and then they either walk away with their heads down low or they fly off calling they can be extremely noisy and I later discover that they often feed on Shorebird chicks.
The Dunlin above gave me the run around for over an hour before I located its nest.
We meet up back at camp and I have a quick scan of the disant hillside when I find a group of 7 Muskoxen. They are a big animal with black heavy looking coats. They are to distant to photograph but we can make them out ok in the scope. After Dinner and just on midnight I go out for a walk and I am content just being out alone on the tundra, walking with none of the work equipment just my optics and shotgun. I am learning to carry it every where I go, I could do without it but I have seen a Bear already so I know that they are here and I could bump in to one at any time. I settle myself watching Semi Palmated Sandpipers and Dunlin holding territory. A pair of Grey Plovers fly up to mob the Arctic Skuas when they get to close to their nest.
I watched the above Dunlin holding territory for a while when my attention got drawn to a strange call, "whee o whit" I thought the call was that of Bristle Thighed Curlew, as I recognised it from when I listened to it on the iPod the yesterday with HRG as she thought she heard one. I looked above and around me but I couldn't see it or anything else and so I just thought I was either hearing things or mistaking another call. Some 15 minutes later I was just getting back to the camp office for a last hot drink of the day when I heard it again. As I turned around I looked up and there coming in towards me from above I could see that it was in fact a Bristle Thighed Curlew, giving the "whee o whit" like call again very similar to a human whistle (exactly how described in the guide) the bird flew low over head and flew over camp lake and towards the hillside, I managed to get it in the scope straight away and I watched it bank against the green of the hills . It was very similar to a Hudsonian Whimbrel in size and shape but with a more overall paleness to the upper and underparts, the darker throat ended with an obvious pec band against the paler underparts of the belly with the clinching feature of the squarish pale rump patch clearly visible!! " This was a real cool moment and I was really pleased because as much as I hoped I would see this species I really didn't think I had much of a chance. This being a very tricky species to catch up with unless at a well known staked out site location. Being pleased with this I decided to have a celebratory night cap which consisted of a hot chocolate and a medium sized splash of both Baileys and Jameson. "be rude not to"
Dunlin "presumed Pacifica with Sandhill Cranes heard calling in the backgroundd. Apologies for the grainy footage camera was struggling with the light at 01:00hrs.