Ten Days on the Tundra (4)

I am the luckiest girl in the world, of this I am certain.  On days like these I cannot imagine my life any different, nor would I ever want it to be…

Rescuing a Short-Eared owl chick from the roadside.

At 8:30am I hopped into a truck and headed north on the Dalton with 2 other workers to join them for the day.  We spent the day hiking across the tundra and working alongside the Kuparuk  River.  This is one of the many rivers that begins in the Brooks Mountain Range and empties into the Arctic Ocean.  Our task was to remove sticky traps used to capture insects that live above and alongside the river and replace them with fresh new traps.  Lacey is the graduate student who is studying the aquatic invertebrates that live along the river and she is hoping to correlate these to the birds that live along the river, or use the river as a food source in the fall (which is now, the end of July).  We spent much of our day changing out traps with the beautiful backdrop of the mountains behind us.

Hiking out to the sample site.

After this work was done, we traveled further north up to Oksrukuyik  Creek where we wandered across tundra to the riparian area.  Here we attempted to do a bird census (count) but didn’t hear or see a single bird in the tall willows.  After giving up on that, we walked up the creek turning over rocks looking for mayfly larvae.  We were unsuccessful at that as well but were not concerned as we had seen several mayflies on the sticky traps earlier in the day.  Lacey was very interested in this because the mayflies apparently should not be hatching this early and they most definitely are.


Traveling between sites, we happened upon a number of wildlife sightings.  There are no herds of caribou here yet but we did encounter caribou hunters who have come to set up camp and scout the area since the season starts soon.  I keep forgetting that it is early fall here, as it is confusing when I see Golden Plover chicks in downy plumage and unable to fly.  One only has to look around at the vegetation to tell that it is changing color right now.  The blueberries and salmon berries are ripe for picking, their leaves already turning shades of yellow and red.  The summer flowers have all gone to seed but the fireweed persists, adding brilliant pink to the still green landscape.

Fireweed grows on disturbed areas near the Alaskan pipeline providing a burst of color.
Working diligently to replace sticky traps.

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