Long-tailed Skua

One of the first landings is often a landing on Blomstrandhalvøya, which translates into “flower beach peninsula”. A very apt name, but also very wrong. There are indeed many flowers on the beach (in the right time of year), but it is named after mr. Blomstrand. a Swedish scientist.The peninsula part of the name is also wrong as the place is an island nowadays. It used to be connected to the mainland by a glacier, but when the glacier retreated it became an island.

One of the reasons to start the expedition here is the presence of Long-tailed Skuas. These skuas normally feed on lemmings, but as there are no Lemming on Spitsbergen, there are hardly any Long-tailed Skuas. The only place where they can always be seen is this small island in Kongsfjord. They sometimes attempt to breed, but as far as I know they have never been successful. To me this strange “population” of maybe 2-3 pairs can’t be of much scientific interest as their behavior is not representative for the species, but, with the research village Ny Ålesund just around the corner, they have been ringed anyhow. When one looks closely, one can see that its even been equipped with a tracker so they can see where these individuals go in winter. Having a scientific background I do see the use of ringing birds, but in this case I really wonder for what they have been ringed. I would have spared the bird the stress of capture and recapture (to get the data from the tracker) and given the photographers the opportunity to take good pictures of unringed birds…

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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