Food shortage at Slettnes

vole regurgitated by by skua
vole regurgitated by skua
very tame Arctic skua
very tame Arctic skua

You wouldn’t think we are at 71°N, with today’s temperature: 22°C, warmer even than in Rome and hardly any wind. This means mosquito bonanza!

Nearly all Arctic Skuas have hatched by now, but we have seen no chicks older than 1 or 2 days and several nests with dead chicks. The feeling that the food situation is bleak this year settles in more and more. Arctic Terns are not breeding either and one skua threw up a vole. The outskirts of the colony are either vacant or birds hang around but have not produced eggs.

The only breeding pair of Great Skuas lost their chicks within a few days, another sign that even they cannot feed their chicks. The logger information shows that the breeding Arctic skuas go out to sea sometimes for more than a full day leaving their partner at the nest.

In the meantime we managed to recapture 19 individuals from last year. It was a struggle against time, since many nests hatched so early. Catching them on a nest with a chick does not seem to work at all. Apparently the chicks need less brooding than e.g. waders and if we take the chick away they won’t return to the nest to sit on the egg left. Also we found out there are at least 50 ways why the catching fails, despite the fact that the snare system works well in principle. Either the battery power is too low, the bird simply escapes, the distance is too far for the remote control, the bird won’t sit down or in the worst case, the coil of the snare is broken.

The loggered birds showed the same variation as last year, wintering in south-America, South Africa, the Caribean, West Africa and one even off the coast of Spain. Of the four couples we recaptured the partners each went their own way, so they probably meet each other only here on the breeding grounds again.

On the Red-necked Phalarope front we also had some successes: 4 recaptured birds. One loggered bird lost its logger and one lost its nest, making catching impossible. Three of them went to the Arabian Sea, one even as far south as Mozambique. Of two of the birds we had tracks from last year. The tracks in the consecutive years were nearly copies!

dead Arctic skua chick
dead Arctic skua chick found in a nest
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