July 16, 2016
Veronika Samotskaya, ornithologist and 2016 expedition participant, shared some data on the ornithology work as part of the expedition:
We had a chance to take part in the 2016 Interdisciplinary Arctic Expedition as ornithologists. It was a relevant and significant experience for us, as well as a unique chance to visit hard-to-access areas of the Russian Arctic. Our primary objective was to watch bird colonies on Novaya Zemlya, but we were glued to our binoculars and updated our species list with sightings on Dolgy, Matveev, and Vayach islands. We managed to record 33 bird species with the majority – 30 species – spotted on Novaya Zemlya.
Despite the fact that our visit to Cape Sakhanin (Novaya Zemlya) was a brief one, we managed to become familiar with the bird colony population as well as with the tundra birds, such as snowy owl, rough-legged hawk, three species of geese, three species of ducks, two species of swans. We noticed that the tundra birds, particularly the geese, are ultimately careful when it comes to the contact with a human, and opt for avoiding researchers when they barely notice us on the horizon. This, of course, was the major impediment to our research work. It is obvious that the migrating species are aware of the grave consequences when interacting with humans.
We spotted five major bird species within bird colonies: two species of guillemots, two species of seagulls and a tystie. Unfortunately, we were unable to assess the approximate number of birds due to conditions and time limits, still we are sure bird colonies on Cape Sakhanin are in robust condition. During our works we became acquainted with the Sea Track ornithologists who study oceanic birds migration. Right after the data processing we plan to collaborate with these researchers, as they had more time and sufficient equipment to assess the number of birds.
Apart from the birds, we managed to observe marine and land mammals. Unfortunately, we did not see a polar bear, but we observed a huge school – up to 50 species – of beluga whales, atlantic walruses and reindeer. During our work in Tundra we stumbled upon the bones of arctic foxes and lemming holes.