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HomeArctic blog: Jan Mayen, Spitsbergen → An evening in Advent­da­len

An evening in Advent­da­len

An evening in Advent­da­len in June can be a litt­le jour­ney to para­di­se, espe­ci­al­ly for tho­se inte­res­ted in birds. Start at the com­mon eider colo­ny at the dogyard near Lon­gye­ar­by­en (an easy walk in town and loca­ted in the area that is gene­ral­ly con­side­red polar­bear-safe, cer­tain­ly at the time of year when the ducks are bree­ding the­re). Just sit down some­whe­re and spend a litt­le while quiet­ly and you will see what I mean.

The cur­rent impres­si­on on the wide tun­dra are­as near­by and a bit fur­ther into Advent­da­len is a slight­ly dif­fe­rent one. It is just an impres­si­on, total­ly sel­ec­ti­ve in space and time, but the impres­si­on is that the­re are far fewer geese gra­zing now on the tun­dra in lower Advent­da­len than the­re used to be in pre­vious years.

A com­pa­ri­son. The first pic­tu­re is from July 2022 …

Geese in Adventdalen, 2022

Geese in Advent­da­len, 2022.

… and the second pic­tu­re was taken on Mon­day (10 June 2024).

Geese in Adventdalen, 2024

Geese (or not) in Advent­da­len, June 2024.

Was it the bird flu?

The loca­ti­on of both pho­tos is not exact­ly the same (the­re is a few kilo­me­t­res bet­ween them, but both places used to have ple­nty of geese in the past), June is not July and 2024 is obvious­ly not 2022. So, just to make it clear again – it is just an impres­si­on. No data, no sci­ence. But I found the impres­si­on quite strong and it is that the­re are fewer geese around. May­be they alre­a­dy went for other are­as in the spring of 2024? The­re was litt­le snow in May, that might be a dif­fe­rence. Or was it the bird (avi­an) flu? This dise­a­se may have play­ed a role, as it is repor­ted to have kil­led about 1/3 of the Sval­bard popu­la­ti­on of Bar­na­cle geese, amoun­ting to 13,200 birds as Scotland’s Natu­re Agen­cy im wro­te in Okto­ber 2023. A stag­ge­ring num­ber.

Many spe­ci­es of smal­ler birds

But a clo­ser look reve­als a lot of life, espe­ci­al­ly among­st smal­ler birds, as the fol­lo­wing litt­le sel­ec­tion of pho­tos may show.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

First row, left: leu­ci­stic Bar­na­cle geese are regu­lar­ly seen, alt­hough very low in num­bers. Midd­le: dun­lin. Right: Red throa­ted diver
Second row, left to right: Eura­si­an teal, reck-necked phalar­ope, snow bun­ting.

The­re were also some king eiders, but we saw them “only” in flight that time.

Espe­ci­al­ly Eura­si­an teal and reck-necked phalar­ope are among­st spe­ci­es that are not seen every day and ever­y­whe­re in Spits­ber­gen. Lower Advent­da­len has an impres­si­ve ran­ge of spe­ci­es, well worth a visit for bird lovers, and natu­re lovers in gene­ral.



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last modification: 2024-06-14 · copyright: Rolf Stange