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13 June, 2002

Day 7 complete - can you believe it??? One full week as a field biologist at Camp Olak of the Arctic tundra! So much has happened in just one week, I canāt imagine how exciting the next 7 could be!

This morning started as our coldest day, yet - low hanging clouds, some moisture being spitā around in the 20 mph northeasterly wind, making 34 degrees feel much colder. None of us were too excited about getting out there and walking or sitting to observe birds this morning, so oatmeal was eaten a little more slowly than usual. As we were thinking about heading out, a few caribou walked into our camp area. Just previously, Robert had mentioned possibly trying to get one today before he headed back to Barrow, so it was quite surprising when we saw this younger one with no calf standing right there. Robert was able to get him, so we spent the next hour our so cleaning and quartering it (actually, I was more of the token photographer through most of it). Once cut apart, we carried the main pieces up to our drying rack to hang and wrapped the guts in the hide and carried it past our "bathing lake." We then had a small feast - we fried up some of the backstrap and heart, and ! also boiled some of the backstrap, heart and tongue. How delicious! It has a slightly sweeter taste than a beef steak and, since it was so fresh, was extra tender and moist. After eating our fill, we then decided we could head out in search of birds.

Although the wind continued to blow, it did warm up a little. So, with mittens, a stocking cap, long underwear, 3 layers of shirts/sweatshirts, hipwaders and a full stomach I trudged out 20 km of tundra terrain. It was rewarding, though. Today I was able to locate many places without the help of a map or GPS. I am amazed at how much more comfortable I am feeling in this area already. I am getting used to the position of the sun in relation to time and am starting to notice specific features as familiar. With less time spent checking the map, and with a growing comfort of belonging, I am also more free to see more of what I am passing. For example, today I found 2 ptarmigan nests with 3 eggs each and 2 semi-palmated sandpiper nests, each with 4 eggs. I also noticed that more numbers and variety of wildflowers are beginning to appear - I even found an alpine forget-me-not! It is a tiny, delicate, purple flower that grows about 1/8 inch above the ground.

As for our main goal of King Eiders and Tundra Swans, success was also achieved. I found and measured another nest today, and two others also found nests I will go to tomorrow. With today's Tundra Swan nest measured, we now have 9 nests plotted and recorded. Shortly, we'll return to those remove hobo temps from some and to observe any possible problems. There were many more spottings of King Eiders, but still no more of their nests found. Both Robert and I found some possible bowls, or beginning nests, but nothing advanced to the point of really being called a nest.

I should keep a tally of how many miles I walk by the end of the summer, but the way my legs and feet are feeling tonight, I think they will let me know of the punishment I am bestowing upon them! My body is tired tonight, but that hasn't been the biggest discomfort of the day. I will leave you with this picture . . . Imagine yourself wearing long underwear, and after lying down for a lunch break on the tundra, some foliose lichen (which is fairly dry scratchy stuff) gets between your longjohns and your skin. Before recognizing its presence, you get all your shirts tucked in, put on your backpack and strap up your hipwaders. As you begin walking, the scratching and discomfort begins. So, you shake your leg a little to no avail. You pull at your pants to get it to fall - no good. You start reaching inside your pants, trying to get it to fall - still stuck. Out of frustration, you unhook your backpack and waders, drop your pants and really start shaking and scratching! ! Ahhhhhhh, the relief!

I'll leave you with that thought - tune in tomorrow for new adventures of discomfort on the tundra!

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