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 16 of 91

15 March 2014 | Birder's Guide to Travel that really impressed me—and the fact that they didn't seem to regard humans as predators. This trust allowed me to get ex- tremely close to most of the 50 or so regu- lar species here, and it made photography almost easy for a change. Scopes are not necessary, but good binoculars and a GPS unit are basic necessities, along with water- proof footwear. I have a love affair with Cambridge Bay— its wildlife, its people, and its solitude— and have returned for 13 summers since my frst visit 25 years ago. As well, I have had the pleasure of introducing many peo- ple to the splendor and beauty of the area by conducting private photo workshops here. If the birds were not enough, imagine the thrill of seeing Arctic fox, Arctic hare, and lemmings—and stopping your vehicle while muskoxen cross the roadway ahead of you. Other mammals (caribou, ermine, seals, Arctic wolf) may be seen as well but are not encountered regularly. Unlike in most Arctic communities, polar bears are not a hazard in Cambridge Bay. Wildlife offcers and hunters here tell me that they are seldom, if ever, encountered. There are reports of Grizzly Bears, but they are quite rare, too, so should not be considered problematic. Still, you should always ask for up-to-date information from the locals, just to be sure. Imagine, too, the intense color of the tundra as millions of dwarf wildfowers of stark whites, vivid yellows, deep purples, and soft pinks compete with each other for space amid a tapestry of ponds and hillsides dotted with waterfowl and shore- birds, and all during the same general window of time required by the birds. It is spectacular, to say the least. By combining my own feld notes with the limited literature about birds of the area, I have compiled a checklist of 106 species for the general area, of which 50 species are known to breed. You can ex- pect to see no fewer than 43 species during any one visit of about fve days. By mid- to late June, most of the breeding birds are on territory, although some strag- glers are still arriving. By then, too, most of the snow and ice has melted; only small drifts remain in sheltered locations, and ice remains only on the larger lakes. Within days of their arrival, birds disperse across the tundra to actively engage in nesting duties. The now-familiar songs of Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings are heard around the clock. As well, the vocaliza- tions of Stilt and Semipalmated sandpipers are always within earshot, and the frequent "booming" calls of male Pectoral Sandpipers are almost eerie. The early breeders, such as Rough-legged Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, and Common Raven, are well under way by the time I usually arrive in late June, but most other species are just getting started. In the village itself, species such as Common Raven, Lapland Longspur, Snow Bunting, and redpolls are common "yard" birds; a drive along the bay road here will produce Iceland and Thayer's gulls as well as Red-throated Loon and eiders. Just west of the hamlet, near the airport, a well-marked road will take you to the DEW station. Driving past the station, you enter a very productive area for Tundra Swan, jaegers, loons, phalaropes, Ameri- can Golden-Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper, and other shorebirds, as well as Arctic hare and Arctic fox. Back on the main road, past the airport, you can drive to West Arm. It is here in dry tundra where you have your best chances for Horned Lark, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Long-tailed Jae- ger, and Rock Ptarmigan. On the east side of the hamlet, you will fnd the town dump, a great place for Glaucous, Sabine's, and Thayer's gulls, as Long-tailed Jaeger Glaucous Gull Arctic fox Dwarf willow The hamlet of Cambridge Bay. 4-Nunavut.indd 15 3/4/14 12:51 PM

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