Frobisher Bay, 2012, eider colony surveys

After surveying islands for eider nests in the Cape Dorset region Jon and I headed to Iqaluit and Frobisher Bay to do the same protocol there. We teamed up with Siu-Ling, Jason, Nancy and Loasieto target islands that had been surveyed previously in 2002 to try to look for changes in eiders using the Frobisher Bay area. By using the same standard techniques in multiple regions we can examine eider population trends and changes over time, and between areas.

We once again loaded up the boats with all of our gear and headed out.This must be done at high tide when the water in the bay is actually up near the piers in Iqaluit. Most people don’t realize this but Frobisher Bay has one of the highest tides in the world, about 35 feet, so you must pay strict attention to the tides both when loading boats and surveying to make sure you don’t get stuck anywhere.

Once again we got dropped off on islands in a small freighter canoe.

We then walk the islands looking for active nests, those being used this year, and old inactive nest cups. Our presence makes the females flush off their nests, but they are soon to return as we move through the colonies quickly.

Although we do flush the females as we walk the colonies, many female eiders do not seem all that bothered by us and often we get within just a few feet of them before they take off. The females are often so camouflaged and stay so still that when they do take off it often makes us jump a little when they take off right beside us. Can you find the female on her nest in this pic that Jon took below?

Even when the females have taken off the active nests are relatively easy to find, such as this one below. Can you see the two nests in the picture? One nest has six eggs and the other has three.

But, it is not always this easy to spot the old inactive nest cups. Sometimes if the nest has been made in vegetation it is easy to see, like this one. Can you see the circular patch in the greenery? This is an old nest cup of an eider.

But, then there are those nest cups that have been made in the gravel. Can you spot the nest cup in middle of the rocks? It is a perfectly round depression in the gravel.

Can you find the nest cup in this picture?  It is again a perfectly round depression, this time made in a bit of dirt and grass between the rocks.

So counting nests can sometimes be easy, and often it can be quite challenging. You must have a good eye, and be able to walk across the tundra with care as sometimes you can’t see nests until you right on top of them. But by doing these surveys we can track eider populations, study nest predation and collect feather, feces and pond samples along the way which contribute to numerous other studies.

Comments are closed.