Has anyone noticed a lack of bird ID e-mail from our one and only Charlie? That’s because he has temporarily departed the COASST office to conduct arctic research in the beautiful Alaska region. After the COASST training in Unalaska, he departed on the Healy, an icebreaking research boat, and headed on a journey across the Chukchi Sea. In the short time that he has been in transit, he has seen some pretty spectacular wildlife sightings. In a recent e-mail to our COASST office, he described some of these experiences.
“It’s been quite a trip so far… I’m currently surrounded by thousands of walruses (we have seen over 7000 in the last 3 days) and so many miles of sea ice. On Saturday we saw four polar bears,” Charlie recalls. Bird sightings include a few Black-Legged Kittiwakes, Pomarine Jaegers, and Glaucous gulls that follow their ship around as it cuts through ice.
Before they reached the ice in the Chukchi Sea, there were a lot of birds and Gray Whales to be seen. “We saw nearly 300 whales in one day. In binoculars it looking like the International Fountain at Seattle Center, except it went all along the horizon. Red Phalaropes were associated with the whales there, big flocks of them descending on the footprint like sand fleas every time an animal would blow.”
He continues by adding, “The true bird show, though, was before we got to the Chukchi. We arrived at the Bering Strait and the Diomede Islands at the ideal time to experience an other-worldly, bizarre, incredible, unbelievable show of Crested and Least auklets returning to their nesting slopes as the sun set. I have no way of describing what I saw there. My photos just look like my lens was completely covered in pepper, no matter where I pointed it in the sky or on the water for 360 degrees. I wouldn’t have believed anything like it to be possible.”
While Charlie is missed around the office, we cannot deny that he experiencing some pretty remarkable events. We cannot wait for him to return with even more stories!