Seattle, Wash., June 1, 2009 — In 2008 fledging success of black guillemots was again low. Unlike past years, when chicks died as a result of prospecting horned puffins occupying nest sites and a lack of Arctic cod, in 2008 chicks had to deal with snow storms blocking nest entrances and stranded polar bears flipping over nests as they scavenged the beaches for food.
The 2009 field season promises to be another interesting one as the melt season begins with the Arctic Basin having a large percentage of of thin first-year ice, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Should ice melt progress as it has in recent years the period when parents are feeding chicks (late July to early September) will see the pack ice retreat well away from the island. Black guillemots will then be unable to find Arctic cod, their preferred prey and most accessible under pack ice. Should the ice retreat rapidly and strand polar bears on the beach, the guillemots and puffins breeding on the island (and the researchers studying them) will have to deal with displaced bears wandering the island looking for food.
Although the small carbon-footprint of our field camp complicates communications from Cooper Island, we hope to be able to provide regular text and photo updates to this website during the June-September field season. Please check back to see what is happening with the birds, the ice, the bears and us as the summer progresses.