Birder's Guide

MAR 2014

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 13 of 91

" The lure of the Arctic is not so much a quest for lifers as it is to experience a 12 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2014 EdiTor's NoTE: Nunavut is absolutely enormous, spanning more than 808,000 square miles. To put that number into perspective, Greenland is about 708,000 square miles, and mighty Alaska is "only" 586,000 square miles. Nunavut is about the size of western Europe. But whereas western Europe has a population of nearly 400 million, Nunavut's population isn't even one-hundredth of one percent of that number! Fewer than 36,000 people live in Nunavut. Most of its people are inuit; the territory's offcial languages are English, French, inuktitut, and inuinnaqtun. Jim richards literally wrote the book—the checklist, in fact—on Nunavut. And as he tells us in this article, Nunavut presents remarkable opportunities for the intrepid birder. Nunavut is waaaay up there, making it the least- appreciated "East-meets-West" region in the Americas. The territory is remarkably close to both iceland and siberia. Accordingly, the territorial list contains such improbable combos as short-tailed and Great shearwaters, Fieldfare and Varied Thrush, Northern Lapwing and Eastern Yellow Wagtail, and Corn Crake and Gray-crowned rosy-Finch. All three puffns are on the territorial list. so is Fork-tailed Flycatcher. A Black-browed Albatross recently wandered to Nunavut, and a fock of ruddy shelducks famously once put down there. With the melting of polar ice and increased coverage from birders, the Nunavut list can be expected to explode in the years to come. You can learn more about the status and distribution of Nunavut's dynamic avifauna by studying Tony White and Jim richards' Birds of Nunavut: A Checklist and by regularly consulting the Northern Canada and Greenland report in North American Birds. Far From Home but Close to Perfect: Birding Nunavut's Cambridge Bay R The iconic inunnguaq is used to mark special places in Nunavut, and it appears on the territory's fag. have traveled to "exotic" places like Kenya, Tanzania, The Bahamas, Costa Rica, mainland Ecuador, and the Galá- pagos, as well as to some of the well-known birding locations within the U.S., in Texas, Florida, Utah, California, Virginia, Alaska, and Arizona. But it was not until 1983 that I got my first taste of Arctic "edge" birding, when I visited Churchill, Manitoba, for three weeks in June and July. It had such a pro- found impact on me that I returned every summer for the next six years. After my trip to Churchill, I read about numerous locations in the real Canadian Arc- tic, like Ellesmere, Baffin, Devon, Melville, Bathurst, and Banks islands. I decided that one location in particular, Cambridge Bay on southeastern Victoria Island (now in the terri- tory of Nunavut), seemed to host the greatest number of true Arctic species in one general area. About 200 miles north of the Arctic Cir- cle, it seemed like the place to go. Hey, if it was good enough for the likes of George M. Sutton, David Parmelee, and Dennis Paulson to do re- search there, then it was good enough for me! Fortunately, most of the major islands and communities in the Canadian Arctic are ser- viced daily by airplanes, and the airports can handle fairly large planes. Cambridge Bay, at 69°11'N, 105°04'W, is no exception. Howev- er, one of the main differences with this loca- tion, compared to many other Arctic commu- nities, is the presence of a fairly extensive road network, due in part to the area being tra- versed by the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line. (A Cold War remnant, the DEW Line was a network of radar stations meant to pick up incoming Soviet aircraft and missiles.) The hamlet of Cambridge Bay has a population of about 1,300, mostly indigenous Inuit people. I 4-Nunavut.indd 12 3/4/14 12:50 PM

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