As Svalbard is essentially an area of wilderness (and there’s not many of those left on Earth!), it is a very important home to some seriously hardy wildlife. Already, we have seen a very cute and fluffy Arctic fox, and as the summer breeding birds start to nest, I’m sure we will be seeing more (probably pinching eggs and chicks…). And that leads onto the birds. Svalbard is predominantly home to colonies of migratory nesting seabirds, coming to the far North to benefit from the long days of sunlight for finding food to feed their young. Barnacle geese are good example, and we have already seen a few pairs around the town. Interestingly, some of these geese probably spend their winters in the British Isles, in places such as the Solway Firth in Scotland, so they will have done a very similar journey as us to get here. There are also a large number of breeding pairs of eider ducks out in the fjord. The males are large, striking black and white birds, whilst the females are a more inconspicuous dappled brown. Flitting round Ny Alesund, and filling the air with some very welcome bird song are pairs of snow buntings. Again the males are attractively adorned with black and white feathers, acting as great camouflage against the Arctic landscape.
More birds will be arriving in the next few weeks, and we await their arrival with anticipation. Today we were told that the Arctic terns will arrive on 1st June, as they always do. Arctic terns are amazing little birds that see the most daylight of any animal on Earth. They migrate between the Antarctic and Arctic, chasing the sun as they go. They are ground nesting birds, so as a result of this are very aggressive but diligent parents, attacking anything that comes within a threatening distance of their vulnerable nests. Apparently, 90 terns nested around Ny Alesund last summer, so hopefully we will be able to post some pictures and let you know how our tern colony is getting on.