Svalbard Arctic tern research


Randall Hyman writes about this video:

Return of the Terns

Scientists at the Dutch research station in Ny-Ålesund on Norway’s Spitsbergen Island study annual migration patterns of Arctic terns.

More about Randall Hyman in Norway: here.

More about Svalbard Arctic tern research: here.

New tracking technology reveals birds’ epic and amazing journeys. Smaller and lighter tracking devices are opening up whole new insights into behaviour, movements and migrations: here.

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Smith’s longspurs, world’s most loving birds?


This video from Alaska says about itself:

5 Sep 2013

© 2013 Jared Hughey
All Rights Reserved

The Smith’s Longspur (Calcarius pictus), one of the least studied songbirds in North America, breeds on the arctic tundra and has become a species of conservation concern. I spent the summer working as a field technician for Heather Craig, a Master’s student at University of Alaska Fairbanks who is studying the breeding ecology of this polygynandrous species in the foothills of the Brooks Range in northern Alaska.

From eNature blog in the USA:

The Smith’s Longspur May Be Nature’s Champion Lover

Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 by eNature

Are you the type that has an insatiable appetite for lusty affairs?

Do you seek the same qualities in a partner?

Then you’ll probably enjoy the story of the Smith’s Longspur. This bird’s 70’s swinging style is enough to make even Hugh Hefner blush.

Small like a sparrow, the Smith’s Longspur spends its summers in Alaska and Canada and its winters in the Midwest and the South, often congregating in open fields.

In terms of range, then, it’s a lot like some other species. What sets the Smith’s Longspur apart is its astonishing libido.

At the peak of the spring mating season, the typical Smith’s Longspur copulates more than 350 times a week. The females solicit these encounters, and the males cooperate roughly half the time. Otherwise the creatures are resting and refueling.

You can always plan eNature’s Mating Game to find what creature you most resemble in love.

John James Audubon named the Smith’s Longspur after his friend Gideon B. Smith.

More about the Smith’s Longspur is here.

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Polar bears’ Valentine’s Day


This video is called Mother Polar Bear and Cubs Emerging from Den – BBC Planet Earth.

From eNature blog:

Three Guys For Every Girl— Why Male Polar Bears Have A Tough Time Getting A Date

Posted on Wednesday, February 05, 2014 by eNature

Valentine’s Day is coming up and love is in the Arctic air.

So what’s the best place for a male Polar Bear to meet a potential mate?

The experts recommend going to a prime seal-hunting spot. But finding such a spot is only the beginning of the challenge.

Nature Doesn’t Make It Easy

One reason a male Polar Bear must work overtime for a date is that females of the species don’t breed every year or even every other year. A female Polar Bear usually breeds only once every three years, which means that males outnumber eligible females three-to-one at the start of breeding season in the spring.

So competition for female attention is fierce, and males must fight one another, sometimes viciously, for the privilege of mating.

The Girls Can Play Hard To Get

Further complicating matters is the fact that female Polar Bears enjoy a good chase and will lead pursuing males across the ice for miles and miles.

In some cases, a chase can cover more than sixty miles—not for the timid or the weak of heart.

And we all thought it was tough to get a date to the Prom!

Without the vibrant color of a cardinal or the sweet song of a sparrow, how does a seabird go about attracting its mate? Here.

St Valentine’s Day is traditionally the time when birds start to choose their mates, with egg-laying for most resident species commencing in March or April. For a handful of birds, including Tawny Owl, Mistle Thrush and Dipper, nesting may already be under way in February, but numbers of these three early breeders are falling rapidly, according to the British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) BirdTrends report, published on-line today: here.

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Spitsbergen flowers photos


Purple Saxifraga, Svalbard, June 2013

A bit late, but better late than never :) Photos from June 2013 in Spitsbergen. They depict Saxifraga oppositifolia, purple saxifrage, flowers. They are the most northerly flowering plant species in the world. The colour of the flowers varies.

White Saxifraga, Svalbard, June 2013

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Reindeer eyes turn from gold to blue in winter


This video is called Facts You Didn’t Know About Reindeer.

From Popular Science:

The Science Behind Reindeer‘s Color-Changing Eyes

It’s not the magic of Christmas that turns their eyes from gold to blue.

By Lindsey Kratochwill

Posted 12.24.2013 at 10:00 am

Winter in the Arctic is grim—day and night blur together for 24 hour stints without sunlight. Reindeer manage to survive these gloomy weeks thanks to a peculiar adaptation. As the days grow darker, reindeer‘s eyes turn from gold to blue.

A study published earlier this year in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal explained the science behind reindeers‘ changing eyes. The color change happens in the tepetum lucid, which is the layer of tissue in the eye that reflects visible light back through the retina. This is the same component of the eye that makes cats’ and dogs’ eyes seem to glow in the dark.

In the summer when days and nights are marked by nearly constant brightness, the eye tissue is tinged gold, which is common for ungulates such as reindeers. But once the darkness of winter hits, reindeer eyes change their hue to blue. The change of color is also associated with a reduction in light reflected, and an increase in captured light. The increased retinal sensitivity comes at a cost, though—the acuity of the reindeers sight is reduced, meaning the sharpness or clearness of what is seen is lower. But, just having the ability to see—no matter how blurry—could help the reindeer spot predators, or lead the way for Santa and his sleigh.

The surprising origins of Santa Claus: here.

Northern and southern light videos


This is a northern light video from the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

This video, Comet and the Northern Lights, is from Tromsø in Norway.

This video is from Oregon in the USA.

This video is from Michigan in the USA.

This video is called Aurora Australis TimelapseTasmania, Australia – May Day 2013.

This video is from Alberta in Canada.

This video says about itself:

12 Nov 2013

Flying on a Virgin Atlantic flight from London to New York when the aurora forecast was high, I balanced my camera on a rucksack and left it snapping away out the window … what an amazing spectacle was to be seen! You can see some of the still pictures that formed this time-lapse here.

Swedish young Arctic foxes research


This video is called Arctic Fox Raids Polar Bear Kill.

From National Geographic:

In the winters of 2012 and 2013, National Geographic grantee Anders Angerbjörn and his Ph.D. student, Rasmus Erlandsson, studied an extremely threatened species, the Scandinavian arctic fox. The current population numbers fewer than 150 individuals in mainland Europe so many of the young foxes are having difficulty finding a non-related partner. Other threats to the species include competition from the red fox for the scarce small rodents they both depend upon for food. Angerbjörn and Erlandsson monitored the arctic fox population in Västerbotten and Norrbotten, Sweden, to identify the best territories for further conservation actions. This included tagging the baby foxes, which proved to be a challenge.

“When catching arctic foxes it is easy to believe that the smaller ones are the easiest to handle. In some aspects it is true. Their teeth are smaller and the jaws less powerful. Combined with a naïve lack of aggressive attitude it seems to make up for an easy piece of work to ear-tag a 700-gram cub. Well, sometimes it is, but just as human children have a hard time keeping still, the really small cubs do too.

“We handle the foxes in a bag while tagging, and the trick is to keep the animal still between your thighs while kneeling. And here comes the tricky part. How do you keep a small, wild fox still? You cannot apply too much force—it is barely a kilo of an endangered carnivore you are dealing with. You really do not want to hurt it. Just as with small children the best tool is patience, but at the same time you want the handling to be as short as possible.

“One particular cub had a technique I had never experienced before as it insistently tried to turn [onto] its back, for no obvious reason. I had to reach the ears, so I quickly turned the cub upright. The cub stayed still for a few seconds, and then began to roll onto its back again. The same maneuver, once again! And again! Finally, I got the tags in place, and after making measurements and taking some samples, I finally released the little fellow and it disappeared like lightning into the den.”

—Ph.D. student Rasmus Erlandsson, team member with Anders Angerbjörn, Global Exploration fund grantee

Greenland ‘Grand Canyon’ discovery under ice


This video from the USA is called Greenland Rocks, for Geologists.

From Reuters:

Giant Canyon Found Entombed under Greenland Ice

A vast and previously unmapped gorge 800 meters (half a mile) deep has been found under ice in Greenland, comparable in size to parts of the Grand Canyon in the United States, scientists said.

By Environment Correspondent Alister Doyle

OSLO – A vast and previously unmapped gorge 800 meters (half a mile) deep has been found under ice in Greenland, comparable in size to parts of the Grand Canyon in the United States, scientists said.

Other studies have also revealed a rift valley entombed in Antarctica‘s ice in 2012 that scientists said may be speeding the flow of ice towards the sea, and a jagged “ghost range” of mountains buried in Antarctica in 2009 similar to the Alps.

“It’s remarkable to find something like this when many people believe the surface of the Earth is so well mapped,” lead author Jonathan Bamber, of the University of Bristol in England, said of the canyon described in Friday’s edition of the journal Science.

“On land, Google Street View has photographed just about every building in every major city,” he told Reuters of the study, using ice-penetrating radar and carried out with colleagues in Canada and Italy.

The canyon is 750 km (470 miles) long in central and north Greenland and comparable in scale to parts of the Grand Canyon that is twice as deep – 1.6 km – at its deepest, they wrote. The Greenland canyon is buried under about 2 km of ice.

About as long as the Rhone river in France and Switzerland, the ravine was probably cut by an ancient river that eroded rocks as it flowed north before temperatures cooled and ice blanketed Greenland 3.5 million years ago, they wrote.

The gorge probably still plays a role in draining some meltwater from beneath the ice sheet.

ICE FLOWS

The scientists used airborne data collected mainly by NASA and by scientists in Britain and Germany to piece together maps of the canyon. At some frequencies, ice is transparent to radio waves that bounce off the bedrock.

Bamber said the gorge would help scientists refine models of how Greenland’s ice sheet slowly flows downhill but was unlikely to affect understanding of how global warming is melting ice.

“I don’t think it’s particularly influential” in determining the rate of ice flow, echoed David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey. He said the canyon was so deep under the ice that it was unlikely to be affected by any warming trend for many decades.

Vaughan led a four-year international study called ice2sea, which said in May that world sea levels could rise by between 16.5 and 69 cm (6-27 inches) with moderate global warming by 2100, partly because of a thaw of Greenland and Antarctica.

He told Reuters a few blanks remain on the map, including two areas of east Antarctica that scientists jokingly dub the “Poles of Ignorance”.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Alistair Lyon)