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2000 Arctic Search for the Red Knot
July 10, 2000

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The weather is good, mosquitoes are few and tundra wildflowers, such as this hairy lousewort, are scattered all around us.

It also seems to be a good year for lemmings.

We made significant progress toward our understanding of red knot habitat use and behavior. Our radio telemetry team including Kathy, Graciela, Mandy, Sherry, Nancy and Barbara (above) have made some interesting discoveries.

The group separated into pairs, each following two different birds . Through the day they found that most of the birds were converging on a single large wetland (similar to the above wetland where Brad is standing) where they were seen feeding. In the same day the same birds could be seen defending their territories around their nesting areas. The area of their defended territory appears to be about .5 km from the nest while the common foraging area varies from 3 to 5 km. While observing the instrumented birds Graciela and Mandy have be able to collect data on behavior. They observed for 1 minute periods, continuously recording every behavior. At the same time they were keeping track of the birds habitat use and location over a continuous 30-minute period. These data will help us after we return. With Rick's satellite imagery we can link locations with the habitat and develop a clearer image of the knot's ecological needs.

Our greatest achievement in the last few days came from Bruno. The transmittered bird on nest two incubated the eggs for 18 hours and we knew it was about to change. Bruno set up a blind, waited until 4:00 am and finally observed and filmed the nest switch. The second birds flew into the nest area and walked 30 feet up to the nest, the other bird got out and flew away. Filming this behavior of one of the most secretive birds in the world was a great achievement. While Bruno caught this on film, a team including Liz, Johnny, Barbara and Nancy maintained a 48-hour surveillance on four nests, trying to determine the average period of incubation. They found birds incubated for varying periods ranging from 8 to 22 hours.

The rest of the team continued the search for nests. We went to a ridge about 5 km north of the base camp and found little sign. Yesterday we trekked to a ridge on the south side about 10 km and found another nest, number 11. We also saw many other birds and we suspect it to be a good additional study area. We also found an arctic tern nest (above, in flight), and several pairs of sanderlings. It was Johnny's birthday yesterday. He had been wanting to take back caribou meat to his mother but has been unable to find any. But on his birthday a bull caribou walked to within 500 m of the camp. He killed the caribou, dressed it and stored it for the trip back to Coral Harbor.
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