Red, or grey?

One of the highlights for birdwatchers on a trip around Spitsbergen is always finding a group of Red Phalaropes. Or is it Grey Phalarope?  That’s something American and British birders don’t seem to agree on. Well, in this case I do favour the American name (but it’s still favour…). The difference in names comes from the difference in summer and winter plumage. The summer plumage is red, as in these pictures, the winter plumage grey. And while these birds breed in the northern parts of the United States, they are only seen in winter in the UK, hence the difference in names. But as I see them most of the time on the breeding grounds in Spitsbergen, I’m in favour of Red Phalarope.

Red Phalarope

These pictures were taken on a small island in Liefdefjord, Spitsbergen where there are always large numbers breeding and feeding. In this case we were lucky. In a few small ponds right next to the landing site a group of 5 animals was feeding. When they flew off, we decided to walk on, but soon they returned, so did we. It was very easy to get a low point of view as the pond was just above the beach. When one of the males decided to forage at only a few meters from where all photographers were sitting, the mood in my group got a lot better. Unfortunately the weather conditions weren’t cooperating too well (it was raining regularly), but somehow this adds to the mood. And it gives at least something grey to these 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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