[Tweeters] Barrow Report

Dan Reiff, PhD dan.owl.reiff at gmail.com
Mon Jul 23 18:23:01 PDT 2018


> Filmed birds and fortunately, no Polar bears at Barrow last month. Google “Polar bear attacks in Barrow” watch the guy being chased around his truck !!!! That got my attention and I was vigilant. The locals cautioned us and told us scary stories about Polar bear interactions with people, including kids at a school bus stop in the Winter darkness, -45 F being targeted by a Polar bear. Fortunately, saved by a local, passing by in his truck. He saw the bear stalking the kids. The report was that he rushed to put the children in his truck as the bear slammed into the passenger side door.

> Examples of Advice given: leave you vehicle door open for fast, unexpected close encounters. And, if you hold your thumb up in-front of you and the Polar bear appears larger than your thumb, you are at risk-it is too close for your safety. They can cover a lot of ground quickly.

> The place was still frozen when I got there. Temps were 25-33 degrees F during my trip. I was very concerned that the birds would not be there because of the ice- the thaw was late this year. Fortunately, they were there, active and waiting.

> Highlights included Short-eared owls, two species of Jaeger (Pomarine and Parasitic), large numbers of Snow bunting and Red phalarope. Two alternate plumage Red-necked Stint.

> I will never look at Dunlin in the same way. The male territorial displays were alien-planet worthy. Twelve on my 1-10 neat scale.

> The King, Spectacled and Steller’s Eiders- my first-were great.

> Biggest surprises:

> Displaying Buff-breasted Sandpipers-really neat. I found them many times. Much video. This species has a very interesting and complex set of behaviors- see the Cornell descriptions. To add to our excitement, we heard much rapid gunfire and then bullets flew over our heads at one point, leading us to do our own ground hugging and mouse crawl-like behaviors from the location.

> It did briefly occur to me that the police may have been trying to scare a polar bear away from the outskirts of town- which at times they do- inadvertently in our direction. Fortunately not.

> Snowy owls- one nest and watched a different male hunt for lemming and a pair doing a number of activities including female nest activity. Thanks to friends Ken and Brian for search activity and companionship.

> As an owl fan, currently doing a “Big (and Small) Owl Year”—I found this delightful.

> Glaucous gulls were everywhere.

> Really special-Sabine gulls with some mating ritual activities.

> Two Ross’s gulls appeared the last day I was there-(thanks Bob and Friends). Spent much time filming them. They are not usually seen at that time of year. First year female and adult male. Some pairing behaviors. Really beautiful gulls- never thought I would see one, ever.

> There were many lemming around. The locals said they were scarce last year.

Also, I recently read that Pomarine Jaeger will breed in an area if there are large numbers of lemming that year. Seems similar to Periodic nesting of Snowy owls.
The Pomarines were around, but we did not see them nesting, although it may have been early for them.

> I hope this will be our Snowy irruption year-looks promising.

Dan Reiff


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