Expedition to the Arctic: Aerial Surveys – July 2, 2003
After 5 hours of sleep, our third day of flying began in the late afternoon with a short flight south of Igloolik to cover an area of potential red knot habitat. During this 1-hour flight, Dave picked up signals from the transmitters of 4 red knots. All of these signals came from areas that were clearly designated as “potential red knot nesting habitat” in the models. Like the red knot that was located on Prince Charles Island, these knots were in areas that had never been surveyed by the Endangered and Nongame Species Program. This added to the significance of these findings.
After surveying this area, we then circled back to Hall Beach for a quick refueling. We departed Hall Beach at 6:45 PM and flew almost directly to Repulse Bay for additional fuel, scanning for birds only as we approached Southampton Island. Paul found his first brant of the day on the northern tip of Southampton Island. Our low altitude approach into Repulse Bay was spectacular. The rocky coastline was impressive enough on its own, but what made the flight really great were the seals, eiders and gulls we saw among the ice flows and the hundreds of caribou that we saw along the shore. On approach, we also saw several whales in the waters outside Repulse Bay.
After refueling, we surveyed the western coast and southern peninsula of Southampton Island, as well as the Bell Peninsula (located on the eastern side of the island). It was along Southampton Island’s west coast that Dave picked 4 more red knots. Paul had his success on the Bell Peninsula, picking up an additional 3 brant on the north side of the peninsula. After quick refueling in Coral Harbor, one more red knot was found on South Hampton Island as we made our way back to Iqaluit. We landed in Iqaluit at 7:00 AM, happy with the success of our flights that day. On our third day of flying, we had located a 9 red knot and 4 brant, a successful day for both projects. The pilots had other flight commitments for the next day, so we were finally able to catch up on some needed sleep. Our next flight was scheduled for Friday afternoon.