News from East Greenland
Kurt Burnham— 26 October 2004 — in Arctic Program - Greenland Share
For some years we have been trying to better understand the ecology of the Gyrfalcon in Greenland, to include its seasonal movements and wintering areas. We have accomplished studies in West Greenland just above the Arctic Circle, in the High Arctic of North Greenland, and in East Greenland. With the end of October we are now completing our 2004 field season by capturing and marking migrating Gyrfalcons in the Scoresbysund area in East Greenland (70.5°N), an area where hundreds of Gyrfalcons were shot for museum collections in the first half of the 20th Century.
The Scoresbysund area has numerous high mountain peaks and reportedly the largest fjord system in the world, covering an area of about 38,000 square kilometers. The summer is short and the period when the sun does not rise above the horizon lasts from 23 November to 17 January. The first snows typically occur in September and the drifts disappear near sea level in July. There is a large open water area (polynya) near the mouth of the Kangersuttuaq Fjord that remains open year-round while the rest of the ocean freezes. The polynya provides a wintering area for ring seals and walrus, a focal point for spring migration of polar bears, and a summer home for narwhals and additional seal species. There are large numbers of seabirds that breed in the area in the spring and summer.
We operated the falcon capture station from 19 September through 24 October 2004. During that time we captured 39 different Gyrfalcons, one Snowy Owl, and a number of ravens. From each Gyrfalcon we collected a few drops of blood for genetic analysis and comparison to Gyrfalcons elsewhere in Greenland and the world, took body measurements for the same purpose, attached Danish metal number bands/rings, and attached satellite-received transmitters to ten falcons. This was the first such effort ever attempted in East Greenland. For your interest we have included several images from the work. Participating in the capture and banding were Jim Willmarth, Bill Heinrich, Cal Sandfort, Bill Burnham, and Kurt Burnham.
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