home

Listen to recordings

Birds > Charadriiformes > Little auk Alle alle

info

Svalbard, or more precisely Spitsbergen, as it was the island of the Svalbard archipelago where we stayed and swam around - it is the northernmost place where one can observe and, of course, photograph birds. Always after my photographic trips I try to start with writing, so that what exists in the most elusive memory I could express straightaway. Working on pictures or soundtracks is just a matter of time needed for processing. This time, for various reasons, an account had to wait but I hope that what is the most important I still remember. The first what surprised me when landing on Spitsbergen was a small number of birds. Either the number of species or the total amount of birds. In such a secluded place with such an abundance of waters I expected quite a different situation. Most species occur in colonies and there can be found in great number. Unfortunately, the colonies are located in quite inaccessible places and it is difficult to get there with the aim of taking pictures. This location is deliberately chosen because of the danger of predators, an arctic fox and a bear. I can imagine hungry animals would decimate the colonies of these birds. We sailed up towards such bird colonies but we could only observe them. We had to keep a safe distance from the shore and the ship was unstable, heeling all the time so we could forget about taking good photos. The Svalbard archipelago is comparable to Croatia in terms of area. Within the territory of about 60 thousand km2 bird colonies occur pointwise, I would say. Some of them are easier to find, some - much harder. And there, as always, a good guide would be useful. During a few days of staying in Spitsbergen one must be lucky indeed to find, without any help, a bird colony which can be approached the photographic distance, even with a boat at its disposal.
Another typical feature of Svalbard is light. At the beginning it seemed to be an interesting curiosity but after a few days, I do not know how to call it properly, a kind of dullness, daze comes. Always when it is cloudless and not raining there is such an intense round-the-clock sunlight. It happened that we finished our shooting at 2 am and photos of skuas were taken against strong light anyway. It was hard to decide when to go to sleep, probably it would be better to take photos in the night time, because during the day it could rain, even all day long, as it once happened to us. It was not obvious at all if it was a day or night and the weather was rapidly changing. That time weather conditions, despite the fact that it was the middle of the arctic summer, were not favorable. A few degrees above zero, once maybe more than 10 degrees, it was not comfort temperature, especially on windy days. But since the place is located 1,000 km from the North Pole, it is difficult to expect other atmospheric conditions.
The birds, especially those on land, also behaved quite strangely. They were not numerous there and we had to look for them. In the vicinity of Longyearbyen the road network is less than 30 kilometers, so not too much, there are not many places to check. But when finally the birds were found they did not fly away, I do not know it was because they were not fearful facing people or they were dulled by the 24-hour light. That was the case with ptarmigans, skuas, auks, and phalaropes, not to mention gulls in the port. Another difference was the landscape. The sea, mountains, rocks, snow and small green-yellow-brown tundra vegetation were what we were surrounded by. Interesting views but a harsh landscape unfriendly in terms of conditions for a man. I am wondering how it is there in winter, where the temperature always falls well below zero and it is darkness through a few  long months. And yet more than a thousand people live in such a specific place. Although Svalbard belongs to Europe (Norway), it is not strange that there is the information on the door of the shop or bank that entrance with a gun is forbidden. It's quite funny that it has to be reminded that one should not enter bank with weapon. But in the place where there are polar bears it is natural that you have to be armed . Another issue that is different comparing to European regulations is the quasi prohibition introduced there. The amount of alcohol one can buy is limited, and for tourists it is easier when they have a plane ticket that enables them purchase of this type of assortment. That’s all by way of introduction to the account of the expedition to Spitsbergen, a place so different from those I have visited so far. Although sometimes it was quite tough, in the good company of Piotr, Krzysztof and Michał I could bear it all with a smile on my face. Comrades - thanks and greetings, but next time we will probably go to a warmer place...

For me the little auk was undoubtedly the most important species on this trip. The vast majority of auks live in Greenland, practically all the rest of them in Iceland and in Svalbard. Fortunately, the colonies of little auks are located in a bit easier accessible places than of murres or guillemots. Auks mostly liked the slopes of the mountains, where numerous, quite large stones occurred. In such rocky landslide, there are many places suitable for nesting, and the stones are too large to be moved by an arctic fox, that often visits colonies of auks. Approaching the colony, at first we observed from a distance where the auks hid among the stones. We had to be careful not to sit “on the colony" - in the literal sense of the word, and not to move stones, because the birds could be imprisoned forever. In short time after our arrival the birds investigated the situation. First of all the auks performed several reconnaissance flights and then one of the bravest sit down and looked at us carefully. A bit later, another small flocks of auks came down. We had been accepted by auks, in a short time after that single birds disappeared somewhere under the stones. The others, often sitting somewhere higher, we could approach for a few meters later. When sitting among the auks, it is hard not to sympathize with these tiny birds (their weight does not exceed 200 grams) living in such harsh conditions. They are completely defenseless and do not show any aggression. In other colonies, such as terns, in an emergency the whole flocks unite their forces to chase the aggressor away. Little auks fly away when a fox or a skua is at the sight and watch from a distance what happens in their colony. After a while they come back to check if they can do anything. Several sessions with the little auks allowed me to take interesting photos for the gallery of this species on my website. Recording of the voices of the little auks would be no problem, if the wind and the sound of the sea did not disturb the pure sound of the squadrons of auks passing.

Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle
Alle alle