25 June, 2002
Let's talk change . . . two days ago - snow; today, nothing except blue skies, sunlight and high temperatures of 72! It was windy, but for that we were thankful, as the mosquitoes decided it had been long enough with no blood. In any calm spot, mosquitoes were thick - a calm spot was even the side of your body that was out of the wind - so while walking with your back to the wind, the front side of you could have 10-20 mosquitoes crawling around. I wonder . . . was snow all that bad???
Anyway, I had a great start to the day with a phone conversation from great people of Ogallala, NE. It was nice to hear there voices, sense a little science interest, and share some of the incredible learning I've been doing. After the phone call, though, it was back to work. Today was a little different, as instead of just hunting for birds, we packed a tent, sleeping bag, and other gear up to a spot about 3.5 miles North of camp. This will serve as a temporary site so that a person could go further into that area and not worry about coming clear back to Olak in the same day. Yumiko, for the next 3 nights, will be working out of that site. That leaves only Rebecca and myself at the main camp!
I can't remember if I wrote that Qaiyaan went back to Barrow for the second Nelakatuk celebration of the summer. A Nelakatuk is a blanket-toss celebration for a successful whale hunt last spring - quite an important and exciting native celebration. I was offered the chance to go in, take care of some email/business stuff, and join in the celebration, but I opted to stay. They could not guarantee when the next flight back to here would be and I couldn't bear the thought of being away more than two days. I believe I made the right decision as she has been gone 3 days already, and will probably not be back until Thursday or Friday. The Nelakatuk would have been great to see, and I hear the food is incredible (definitely different, anyway), but this tundra bird work is too exciting to miss! And, as I've said, things change so fast that I was afraid of missing out on too much, even in just 4-5 days.
So, back to change. Let's start with Lapland Longspurs . . . Some of the new hatchlings have been seen already hopping around. Then, today as I was sitting by my tent, this little was comes flopping by through the air, does a bit of a crash landing, then tries again - I can't believe they are already flying and just a a little more than a week ago we were finding nests with eggs! Then, there are the caribou. As I've mentioned a couple times, they are moving rapidly North (ahead of the bugs), so the number I see every day is decreasing. The more amazing thing I'm seeing, though, is the rate of antler growth. The bulls are the most incredible - how they are able to gather that much calcium to grow the antlers that fast, in both length and girth, is beyond belief. And more - we saw an arctic fox today that was almost 2/3 blackish in color, rather than white - they have molted that quickly! Some animals even learn quickly! We have a neighboring glaucus gull that has fou! nd our caribou and snacks on it quite frequently. The neighboring arctic squirrels have found our trash and our freezer, and have had more than a few meals of frozen burritos and banquet chicken (which is OK as I don't really care for either). We even had a red fox that must have learned of our kindness and generosity, as he was up poking around, too. At this rate, we may run out of food before our next delivery!
I'm not sure what the plan is for tomorrow. Wherever I head, wish me luck in finding more King Eider nests!
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