Our Beautiful World

Chukotka

Part 3. Coastal spits I

Animals, birds and flowers on this page:

BIRDS
ANIMALS
FLOWERS
Snow bunting, Plectrophenax nivalis
they have all run to next page
Blooming diapensia, Diapensia lapponica obovata
Red-throated Loon, Gavia stellata   Dwarf hawksbeard, Crepis nana
Arctic Loon, Gavia arctica Oysterleaf, Mertensia maritima
Pacific Loon, Gavia pacifica Arctic sandplant,
Honckenya oblongifolia
Common Loon, Gavia immer   Lapland Dispensia,
Diapensia lapponica
Yellow-billed Loon, Gavia adamsii   Beach Pea, Lathyrus japonicus
Red-necked Phalarope,
Phalaropus lobatus
 
Sabine's gull, Larus sabini  
Arctic tern, Sterna paradisaea  



From a rearranged translation of Vladimir Dinets original pages to norwegian, with supplements.


Klikk på flagg for norsk versjon

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Blooming diapensia, Diapensia lapponica obovata, Belyaka Spit, Chukotka, Russia.

Diapensia lapponica is a plant in the family Diapensiaceae, the only circumpolar species in the genus Diapensia, the others
being mainly in the Himalayas. It is a circumboreal arctic-alpine species which grows on exposed rocky ridges that are kept
free from snow by high winds.

It is a small cushion-forming evergreen perennial shrub, up to 15 cm in height. It has oval blunt leathery toothless leaves,
up to 1 cm long, which are arranged in dense rosettes. It bears solitary white flowers, on stems up to 3 cm tall.


Long, narrow coastal spits (kosa in Russian) are a common feature of Chukotka coasts. Some have formed near river mouths from alluvial sediment, others separate large, shallow bays (locally called guba) from the sea. Flat, windy, cold places, they seem inhospitable to humans, but most of them are local biodiversity hotspots. It's not a coincidence that many active and abandoned native villages are on spits.

Spits along the northern coast are mostly gravel, while the southern ones are sandy

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Small spit near the mouth of Ioanna River, Chukotka.


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A coastal spit in Cross Bay.

plant

Dwarf hawksbeard, Crepis nana, Belyaka Spit

Crepis nana is a species of flowering plant in the daisy family known by the common name dwarf alpine hawksbeard.
It is native to much of northern North America and northern Asia, where it is a plant of the alpine climate and maritime
regions across the Arctic. It grows in scree, on gravelly sandbars and sandy, exposed snowmelt streambanks, and other
disturbed, open habitat. It can be found on the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and the islands of Alaska.


Crepis nana lyratifolia, Canada: Nunavut, Arctic seacoast, Copper-Mine River,
http://www.mun.ca/biology/delta/arcticf/_ca/www/ascrna.htm

This is a dwarf perennial herb producing a low clump of purple-tinged green leaves on a stem just a few centimeters high.
The hairless leaves are oval and sometimes have a few lobes along the edges. The inflorescence has 2 to 4 flower heads
nestled close to the leaves and near the ground where the air is warmest. Each flower head has several yellow ray florets
with a base of phyllaries tipped with hairs.

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Summer night at Russkaya Koshka Spit, Chukotka.

Despite being geologically very young and unstable, and having poor soils, spits can have a lot of beautiful flowers in summer. They look their best at night, when the sun is just above the horizon.


flower
Oysterleaf, Mertensia maritima, Russkaya Koshka Spit.

flower
Arctic sandplant, Honckenya oblongifolia, Belyaka Spit

Oysterleaf, Mertensia maritima, is a Perennial growing to 0.2 by 0.2 m. It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds
ripen from July to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs and are pollinated by Insects?
The plant is self-fertile.
Source: http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Mertensia+maritima

Arctic sandplant, Honckenya oblongifolia, Plants with few stems, slender, succulent. Stems prostrate to decumbent, not
much-branched, 10-30(-50) cm × 1-3 mm, internodes of main stem 8-40(-60) mm. Leaves: main stem leaves widely spaced, Flowers: sepals ovate, 4-6 mm, apex apiculate. Capsules 5-8 × 5-10 mm, chartaceous. Seeds reddish to yellowish brown,
2-4 mm,

Flowering late spring-summer. Sea beaches, sandy flats, and dunes above high tide; B.C.; Alaska, Oreg., Wash.; Asia
(Japan, Korea, Russia).

Source: http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=250060613

flower
Blooming Lapland Dispensia, Belyaka Spit.
flower
Beach pea, Lathyrus maritimus, Russkaya Koshka Spit.

Lapland Dispensia, Diapensia lapponica is a plant in the family Diapensiaceae, the only circumpolar species in the
genus Diapensia, the others being mainly in the Himalayas. It is a circumboreal arctic-alpine species which grows on exposed
rocky ridges that are kept free from snow by high winds.

It is a small cushion-forming evergreen perennial shrub, up to 15 cm in height. It has oval blunt leathery toothless leaves,
up to 1 cm long, which are arranged in dense rosettes. It bears solitary white flowers, on stems up to 3 cm tall.

Plants forming rounded tussocks, 3-8 cm; branches procumbent or decumbent to erect, not adventitiously rooted, proximal portions of stems densely covered by persistent leaf remnants. Leaves 7-15 mm; blade oblong-oblanceolate to narrowly spatulate, 1.3-2.3 mm wide, margins narrowly revolute, with narrow hyaline flange proximally. Pedicels 5-20 mm, elongating
to 40-50 mm. Flowers: sepals 6-7 mm; corolla 7-10 mm, lobes usually white, sometimes cream, light pink, or rose.
Capsules 3-4(-6) mm diam.


Lapland Dispensia, Diapensia lapponica
http://www.digitalnaturalhistory.com/flora_diapensiaceae_index.htm

Flowering May-Jun(-Aug). Bare, rocky alpine summits, gravelly balds, cliff faces, rocky summits, ridges, slopes, fellfields;
(10-)200-1900 m; Greenland; St. Pierre and Miquelon; Man., Nfld. and Labr., N.S., Nunavut, Que.; Maine, N.H., N.Y.,
Vt.; Europe (w Russian arctic and subarctic, Scandinavia, Scotland); Atlantic Islands (Iceland).

In New England and Newfoundland, flowering phenology of Diapensia lapponica is bimodal .
In some populations, one group of plants flowers in May through June, and another group flowers in a nonoverlapping
period from late June through late August. The genetic basis for this has not been determined.
Source: http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=220004003

Beach Pea, Lathyrus japonicus (common names Sea Pea, Circumpolar Pea, Sea Vetchling) is a legume native to
temperate coastal areas of Asia, Europe, North and South America.

It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing trailing stems to 50–80 cm long, typically on sand and gravel storm beaches.
The leaves are waxy glaucous green, 5–10 cm long, pinnate, with 2-5 pairs of leaflets, the terminal leaflet usually replaced
by a twining tendril. The flowers are 14–22 mm broad, with a dark purple standard petal and paler purple wing and keel
petals; they are produced in racemes of 2-7 together.


Beach Pea

The unusually extensive native range is explained by the ability of the seeds to remain viable while floating in sea water for
up to 5 years, enabling the seeds to drift nearly worldwide. Germination occurs when the hard outer seed coat is abraded
by waves on sand and gravel.

The pods can be eaten but like many members of the genus Lathyrus they contain ß-oxalyl-L-a,ß-diaminopropionic acid,
which can cause paralysis called lathyrism. The leaves of the plant are used in Chinese traditional medicine.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lathyrus_japonicus


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Ornithologists' camp, Belyaka Spit.

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Ornithologists' camp, Belyaka Spit.

Coastal spits are popular among ornithologists because of their impressive bird diversity. Many bird species are difficult to find elsewhere.


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Tundra of Belyaka Spit.


Snow bunting, Plectrophenax nivalis


bird
Snow bunting, Plectrophenax nivalis, Belyaka Spit.

One kind of birds that is rare on coastal spits is songbirds. Normally you see only 5-6 species
around.

The most common one is snow bunting, an ubiquitous resident of almost all Arctic habitats, from
mountaintops to cities. It is the only bird to make
use of huge piles of rusty diesel fuel barrels that litter
all Russian Arctic, and can be found even in most
remote places. Decades of Soviet occupation have
left deep mark on the environment.

nest
Nest of snow bunting, Belyaka Spit.
birds
Snow bunting hatchling, Belyaka Spit.


bird
Nest of yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava), Etelkuyum Spit

Thousands of geese and ducks nest on spits. Eiders often use man-made structures to shelter their nests.


bird
Pacific eider, Somateria molissima v-nigrum, on nest, Belyaka Spit.

nest
Nest of Pacific eider, Belyaka Spit.

ducks
Spectacled and king eiders
Somateria fischeri,
Somateria spectabilis

, Cape Schmidt.
goose
Emperor goose,
Anser canagicus,
Uelen.
goose
Molting Emperor goose,
Chen canagica
Belyaka Spit.
duck
Pacific eider,
Somateria mollissima v-nigrum
Cape Dezhnev.



bird
Red-throated loon (Gavia stellata), Belyaka Spit.

The calls of Chukotka's four loon species are among the most beautiful sounds of the tundra.

bird
Yellow-billed loons (G. adamsii), Belyaka Spit


bird

bird
Pacific loons, Gavia. pacifica, Belyaka Spit.

Gaviiformes

Gaviidae Loon family

Gavia stellata, Red-throated Loon
Gavia arctica, Arctic Loon
Gavia pacifica, Pacific Loon
Gavia immer, Great Northern Loon
Gavia adamsii, Yellow-billed Loon


The loons (North America) or divers (UK/Ireland) are a group of aquatic birds found in many parts of North America and northern Eurasia (Europe, Asia and debatably Africa). All living species of loons are members of the genus, Gavia, family.

Loons are excellent swimmers, using their feet to propel themselves above and under water while their wings provide assistance. Because their feet are far back on the body, loons are poorly adapted to moving on land, and usually avoid going onto land, except when nesting.

All loons are decent fliers, though the larger species have some difficulty taking off and thus must swim into the wind to pick up enough velocity to become airborne. Only the Red-throated Diver, Gavia stellata, can take off from land. Once airborne, their considerable stamina allows them to migrate long distances southwards in winter, where they reside in coastal waters.
Loons can live as long as 30 years.

Loons find their prey by sight. They eat mainly fish, supplemented with amphibians, crustaceans and similar mid-sized aquatic fauna. Specifically, they have been noted to feed on crayfish, frogs, snails, salamanders and leeches. They prefer clear lakes because they can more easily see their prey through the water. The loon uses its pointy bill to stab or grasp prey.
They eat vertebrate prey headfirst to facilitate swallowing, and swallow all their prey whole.


Red-throated Loon,
Gavia stellata



An adult Red-throated Loon in breeding plumage swimming in Iceland.
Photo: Ómar Runólfsson, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gavia_stellata_-Iceland_-swimming-8.jpg

The Red-throated Loon or Red-throated Diver, Gavia stellata, is a migratory aquatic bird found in the northern
hemisphere. It breeds primarily in Arctic regions, and winters in northern coastal waters. It is the most widely
distributed member of the loon or diver family. Ranging from 55–67 centimetres (22–26 in) in length, the Red-
throated Loon is the smallest and lightest of the world's loons. In winter, it is a nondescript bird, greyish above
fading to white below. During the breeding season, it acquires the distinctive reddish throat patch which is the
basis for its common name. Fish form the bulk of its diet, though amphibians, invertebrates and plant material
are sometimes eaten as well. A monogamous species, the Red-throated Loon forms long-term pair bonds.
Both members of the pair help to build the nest, incubate the eggs (generally two per clutch) and feed the
hatched young.

The Red-throated Loon has a large global population and a significant global range, though some populations are declining. Oil spills, habitat degradation, pollution and fishing nets are among the major threats this species faces. Natural predators—including various gull species, and both Red foxes and Arctic Foxes, will take eggs and young. The species is protected by a number of international treaties.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-throated_Loon



Black-throated Loon,
Gavia arctica



Arctic Loon Gavia arctica on nest
http://digitalrepository.fws.gov/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/natdiglib&CISOPTR=744&CISOBOX=1&REC=4

The Black-throated Loon, Gavia arctica, is a migratory aquatic bird found in the northern hemisphere.
The species is known as an Arctic Loon in North America and the Black-throated Diver in Eurasia, its current
name is a compromise proposed by the International Ornithological Committee.

It breeds in Eurasia and occasionally in western Alaska. It winters at sea, as well as on large lakes over a much wider range.

Breeding adults are 58 to 77 cm in length with a 100 to 130 cm wingspan, shaped like a smaller, sleeker version
of the Great Northern Diver. Body mass is reportedly from 2–3.4 kg. They have a grey head, black throat,
white underparts and chequered black-and-white mantle. Non-breeding plumage is drabber with the chin and
foreneck white. Its bill is grey or whitish and dagger-shaped. In all plumages a white flank patch distinguishes
this species from all other divers including the otherwise almost identical Pacific Diver.

This species, like all divers, is a specialist fish-eater, catching its prey underwater. It flies with neck outstretched.
It feeds on fish, insects, crustaceans and amphibians.

The calls include a yodelling high-pitched wail and harsh growls, similar but lower pitched than Pacific Loon.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black-throated_Loon


Pacific Loon,
Gavia pacifica



Pacific Loon, Gavia pacifica
Photo: Tim Bowman, USFWS


The Pacific Loon or Pacific Diver, Gavia pacifica, is a medium-sized member of the loon, or diver, family.
It breeds on deep lakes in the tundra region of Alaska and northern Canada as far east as Baffin Island, and in Russia east of the Lena River.

Unlike other loons/divers, this bird may migrate in flocks. It winters at sea, mainly on the Pacific coast, or on large lakes over a much wider range, including China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, USA and Mexico.
It has occurred as a vagrant to Greenland, Hong Kong, Great Britain, Spain, and Finland.

Breeding adults are like a smaller sleeker version of Great Northern Diver/Common Loon.
They measure 58–74 cm in length, 110–128 cm in wingspan and weigh 1–2.5 kg. They have a grey head, black throat, white underparts and chequered black-and-white mantle. Non-breeding plumage is drabber with the chin and foreneck white. Its bill is grey or whitish and dagger-shaped. In all plumages, lack of a white flank patch distinguishes this species from the otherwise very similar Black-throated Diver/Arctic Loon.

This species, like all divers/loons, is a specialist fish-eater, catching its prey underwater.
It flies with neck outstretched.
The call is a yodelling high-pitched wailing, as well as harsh growls and barks.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Loon


Great Northern Loon ,
Gavia immer




A Great Northern Loon in Minocqua, Wisconsin, USA.
Photo: John Picken, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gavia_immer_-Minocqua,_Wisconsin,_USA_-swimming-8.jpg

The Great Northern Loon, Gavia immer, is a large member of the loon, or diver, family of birds.
The species is known as the Common Loon in North America and the Great Northern Diver in Eurasia;
its current name is a compromise proposed by the International Ornithological Committee.

Adults can range from 61 to 100 cm in length with a 122–152 cm wingspan, slightly smaller than the similar
Yellow-billed Loon (or "White-billed Diver"). The weight can vary from 1.6 to 8 kg. On average a
Great Northern Loon is about 81 cm long, has a wingspan of 136 cm , and weighs about 4.1 kg .

Breeding adults have a black head, white underparts, and a checkered black-and-white mantle. Non-breeding plumage is brownish, with the chin and foreneck white. The bill is black-blue and held horizontally.
The bill colour and angle distinguish this species from the similar Yellow-billed Loon.

The Great Northern Loon breeds in Canada, parts of the northern United States, Greenland, and Alaska.
There is a smaller population (ca. 3,000 pairs) in Iceland. On isolated occasions they have bred in the far north
of Scotland. The female lays 1 to 3 eggs on a hollowed-out mound of dirt and vegetation very close to water.
Both parents build the nest, sit on the egg or eggs, and feed the young.

This species winters on sea coasts or on large lakes over a much wider range in Europe and the British Isles
as well as in North America.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Northern_Loon


Yellow-billed Loon, Gavia adamsii



Juvenile Yellow-billed Loon, a rare visitor to the California coast
Photo: Len Blumin, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gavia_adamsii.jpg

The Yellow-billed Loon, Gavia adamsii, also known as the White-billed Diver, is the largest member of the
loon or diver family. Breeding adults have a black head, white underparts and chequered black-and-white mantle. Non-breeding plumage is drabber with the chin and foreneck white. The main distinguishing feature from Great Northern Loon is the longer straw-yellow bill which, because the culmen is straight, appears slightly uptilted.

It breeds in the Arctic and winters mainly at sea along the coasts of the northern Pacific Ocean and northwestern Norway; it also sometimes overwinters on large inland lakes. It occasionally strays well south of its normal
wintering range, and has been recorded as a vagrant in more than 22 countries. This species, like all divers, is a specialist fish-eater, catching its prey underwater.
Its call is an eerie wailing, lower pitched than Great Northern Diver.



Yellow-billed Loon Gavia adamsii off Hwajin Po, January 5th 2009,
Photo © Thomas Langenberg, http://www.birdskorea.org/

With a length of 76 to 97 cm, a wingspan of 135 to 160 cm, and a weight ranging from 4 to 6.4 kg, so
the Yellow-billed Loon is the largest member of the loon (diver) family. The adult is primarily black and white
in breeding plumage, with a purple gloss on its head and neck.

The Yellow-billed Loon is an Arctic species, breeding primarily along the coasts of the Arctic Ocean as far north
as 78° N and wintering on sheltered coastal waters of the northern Pacific Ocean and the northwestern coast of
Norway. It has been recorded as a breeding bird in Russia, Canada and the United States. Though it winters primarily to the north of 50° N, its winter range extends south to 35° N off the coast of Japan, and it has been recorded as a vagrant in more than 20 countries, including some as far south as Mexico and Spain.

Though it prefers freshwater pools or lakes in the tundra, the Yellow-billed Loon will also breed along rivers,
estuaries or the coast in low-lying areas of the Arctic; in general, it avoids forested areas. Breeding typically
starts in early June, though it is dependent on the timing of the spring thaw. Like all members of its family, the
Yellow-billed Loon builds a nest of plant material very close to the edge of the water. The female lays two eggs.

The Yellow-billed Loon is a specialist fish eater, though it also takes crustaceans, molluscs and annelids.
It dives in pursuit of prey, which is caught underwater.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow-billed_Loon

In summer, the spits are full of bird life. Anywhere you look, you see nests, chicks, parents trying to lead you away
from their broods, predators patrolling tundra in search of easy meal



birds
Chicks of Red-necked Phalarope, Phalaropus lobatus,

.bird
Red-necked phalarope, Belyaka Spit.



bird
Sabine's gull, Larus sabini / Xena sabini
Russkaya Koshka Spit.,
bird
Nest of Sabine's gull, Russkaya Koshka Spit.

In some places you have to watch your step to avoid stepping on a nest or chick.

Arctic Tern, Sterna Paradisaea


nest
Nest of Arctic tern, Sterna paradisaea,
Sbornaya River spit.

bird
Arctic tern chick, Russkaya Koshka Spit.


bird

bird
Arctic tern chick, Russkaya Koshka Spit.


bird
Arctic tern chick, Russkaya Koshka Spit.

bird
Arctic tern chick, Russkaya Koshka Spit

Read and see more of the Arctic Tern here.

In winter almost all birds leave. Arctic tern fly all the way to Antarctica. Many others winter in SE Asia.
But for now, let us leave them all, and see what we can see in part 4.

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Summer night at Russkaya Koshka Spit, Chukotka.

Part 4. (continued)

Back to Part 2

All pictures, unless otherwise stated, Copyright © Vladimir Dinets



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