Helicopter Mi-8 on Komsomolets Island. Image: Maria Gavrilo
The fieldwork in the Russian Arctic this summer was concentrated largely on at-sea surveys of ivory gulls. Observations were conducted from the Russian R/v Akademik Fedorov which sailed from the Barents Sea throughout the entire North-East Passage to the Wrangel Island and back via the Arctic Basin. We spent over 330 hours on the pilot bridge recording seabirds and mammals. Ivory gulls were sighted only in the ice-filled waters of the Laptev Sea and Arctic Basin. Ivory gulls were most common in a large polynya east of Severnaya Zemlya in the Laptev Sea. Here we observed flocks up to 20 – 30 ivory gulls, sometimes mixed with other gulls. Ivory gulls forage actively and picked up zooplankton from the open water. Ivory gulls were also seen in mixed foraging flocks along the glacier fronts of the northern shores of Severnaya Zemlya. It is interesting to note that this is the area where some of the ivory gulls tagged with satellite transmitters in 2007 and 2008 migrate from colonies in Franz Josef Land, Svalbard and Greenland after the breeding season had been completed. We conclude that this area is an important staging area for the ivory gulls in autumn.
We also were able to visit several potential breeding sites, although it was quite late in the season. Good numbers of ivory gulls successfully bred on Domashny Island, in the core colony of the species. Tissue samples for genetic analysis were collected here, which would allow us draw light on the population relationships in a circumpolar context. We documented three new breeding sites in the Kara Sea including one on the glacier cup within the territory of an abandoned polar station. Thus, past season can be considered also successful in the Russian part of the ivory gull range.