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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14 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2014 Nunavut's Cambridge Bay Most of the major habitats can be sampled from within walking distance of one of the two main (gravel) roads that meander along the coast for about 30 miles, east and west of the hamlet, mainly along eskers (glacier-created ridges). A third road heads into the interior of the island. Renting an ATV or truck is a must for feld trips beyond the hamlet, and costs start around $185/day. All Arctic communities have very high food and ac- commodation costs, so you must be pre- pared to pay two to three times what you would expect in "the south". The hamlet has two well-stocked food stores, a bank, a medical clinic, and most other ameni- ties (except a liquor store) necessary for a comfortable visit, including a comfortable lodge, rental units, and outftters. My frst experience with Cambridge Bay and "real" Arctic birds was over three weeks in 1990. That year, I had timed things just right. Nesting was just getting started when I arrived, and by the time I left, some species had newly hatched young. In the central and high Arctic, there is only a small window of opportu- nity for the birds (and the birders) because of temperature and weather conditions. The last week of June and the frst two weeks of July seem to be the peak period for most species that breed here. Enjoying 24 hours of daylight during the summer is not hard to take, either. The long hours of daylight require a few days to get used to at the start of the trip (and a few days to unwind after you get home), but they give you many options, as you can avoid birding in adverse weather. At this time of year, you can expect the best in the way of temperatures: usually 35–50°F (3–10°C). Anything warmer than that, and mosqui- toes can be a problem. You should expect almost anything from a heat wave to freez- ing rain and snow furries with strong, cold winds. You can experience all four seasons up here in an hour! You will need plenty of warm clothes, and you should dress in lay- ers so that you can adapt to the changing winds that, although light, almost never let up. From the south, they bring warmer air up from the North American prairies; any other direction brings in cold air off the pack ice. The lure of the Arctic is not so much a quest for lifers as it is to experience a vast number of seldom-seen species engaged in frantic aerial and vocal displays. And see- ing birds that we in the '"south" usually encounter as drab migrants, here in their full breeding plumage, is such a treat. On my frst trip, I was able to add a few new species to my life list, such as Yellow-billed Loon, Rock Ptarmigan, Sabine's Gull, and Long-tailed and Pomarine jaegers, but it was the density and diversity of birds Willow Ptarmigan Map © Kei Sochi 4-Nunavut.indd 14 3/4/14 12:50 PM

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