snow…

We need snowshoes! The tundra is still almost entirely covered by snow. Most of it is pretty soft, making it really hard to cover significant distances. Today, on our first day up, we did not get beyond the first part of Raurejaure, where at each step, we sunk into the snow until our hips. Although the snow will certainly hamper what we can do in these first days, we were pleasantly surprised by what we encountered on this first exploration…

With this amount of snow, it will be difficult to see where exactly this is even for experienced Ammarnäs-visitors! It is the view on Geppejaure, looking NE towards Gelmetje.
With this amount of snow, it will be difficult to see where exactly this is even for experienced Ammarnäs-visitors! It is the view on Geppejaure, looking NE towards Gelmetje.

First of all, we saw (and captured by hand!) two Field Voles and a Norwegian Lemming! If one can find live rodents this easily, there must be plenty – at least sufficient numbers for the skuas to find. Indeed, we saw two pairs with freshly captured lemmings that were torn apart and the intestines eaten. Its great to see how the male and female work together to rip the lemmings apart; each pulling on one end of the lemming! These observations also indicate that the skuas will breed this year; they only breed when there are sufficient rodents. We didn’t find a nest yet, but saw one individual ‘scraping’ to make a nestcup, and others were alarming and making territorial ‘long-calls’, indicating love is in the air.

This Norwegian Lemming, held in Michiels' iron grip, weighted 35.4g, which is about half the weight of lemmings in the peak year 2011.
This Norwegian Lemming, held in Michiels’ iron grip, weighted 35.4g, which is about half the weight of lemmings in the peak year 2011.

In Geppejaure, two pairs of skuas were where they should be if they are to maintain their imago of high site-fidelity. Of each pair, we could check one individual for rings. They were KM (see a record shot below) and KJ, both at the same spot where they bred in 2011 and 2014 (virtually no skuas bred in 2012-2013). Very nice to see them again! Lets hope they are more cooperative than last year…

KM is present again. This bird wintered in the Benguala Current (close to South Africa) in the past years.
KM is present again. This bird wintered in the Benguala Current (close to South Africa) in the past years.

Meanwhile, many waders and the usual Lesser White-fronted Geese are still in the delta next to the village, waiting for the snow to melt so they can start breeding. Amongst them are several hundred Red-necked Phalaropes; a fantastic sight!

(We had a good trip driving up north; during the last night we saw Hawk Owl, more than ten Moose, Capercaillie, Black Grouse, some Foxes and many Mountain Hares.)

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One thought on “snow…

  1. Sieglinde June 2, 2015 / 10:51 am

    Sounds great with all your sightings. I can tell from Abisko that we’ve also seen a lot of vowls and lemmings as soon as the snow melted. It will be a great year from raptors and owls. Good luck for your trapping season!

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