Slettnes: successfull field season despite low breeding numbers

DSC01292The season is coming to an end. At least for us staying in the area. There are still skuas with chicks, although not many. In total we recaptured 19 loggered Arctic Skuas and retreived their migration information over the last year. We gave all these birds new loggers and caught an additional 7 birds that also got loggers. Quite unexpectedly we got yet another logger back. The other day we met a British couple that were staying in the area already for a week. They were making a film on the nesting and hatching of a red-throated diver nest. They found one of our loggers with a bit of the blue ring attached. They picked it up but later put it down on a tussock, because they thought we put it there intentionally for some kind of measurements.

our heroes: the UK couple with “the precious”

Then they ran into Barbara Ganter and Hans-Ulrich Rosner, our fellow researchers working on Dunlin in the area, who told them that we would be extremely interested in getting the logger back!When we met the couple they had just spent 2 hours searching for ‘the precious’, but could not find it back. Together we searched for another hour systematically and checked every tussock in an area the size of a quarter football field. Just at the point when we were about to give up, one of them found it back!! The couple was so relieved! And they were the heroes of our day of course! That brings our total to 20! Last year we ringed 53 birds. It is clear that a large part of those either did not return, did not breed, or whose eggs hatched before we had a chance to catch them. One of the things we will dive into in the analyses if the El Nino may have had any effect on the early breeding season for some pairs or the lack of breeding for other pairs.

Left: Four-year-old Arctic Skua with still some barred feathers. Right: The most exciting time of the day: reading out retrieved loggers!
Left: Four-year-old Arctic Skua with still some barred feathers. Right: The most exciting time of the day: reading out retrieved loggers!

We are also seeing back the first birds that were ringed as chicks in 2014. That was a very good breeding year resulting in some 100 chicks ringed of which a large proportion also colour ringed. They do not breed yet, but hang around and sometimes seem to team up with a breeding pair.

In contrast to other areas in Europe we had extremely good and warm weather. Yesterday it was even 27 degrees! The caretaker of the lighthouse told us that no one in the nearby village Gamvik could remember that such temperatures were ever recorded before! Even swimming in the Barents Sea is not an achievement anymore.

Lighthouse in Mediterranean weather!
Announcement of talk by Hans.

On last Sunday Hans gave a presentation at the lighthouse for locals of Gamvik and tourists. It was well visited and it was striking to notice that people do not seem to be aware that they are in a very special place, home to the largest colony of Arctic Skuas! We are leaving Slettnes now and will return next year to meet up with our world travellers once more.


couple of dark phase skuas both with loggers
Pair of dark phase Arctic Skuas, both with loggers.

2 thoughts on “Slettnes: successfull field season despite low breeding numbers

  1. Åke Lindström July 4, 2016 / 4:43 pm

    Thanks Ingrid, for another exciting and very readable report. Be certain I read them all, word by word… as a poor, but still, comfort for not being on the tundra myself. And congratulations to what seems as great scientific achievements. /Åke

  2. Ingrid Tulp July 4, 2016 / 9:18 pm

    Thanks Åke! Nice to hear that it is appreciated!

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