diapensia, Diapensia lapponica obovata,
Belyaka Spit, Chukotka, Russia.
lapponica is a plant in the family Diapensiaceae,
the only circumpolar species in the genus Diapensia,
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
spit near the mouth of Ioanna River, Chukotka.
A coastal spit in Cross Bay.
Dwarf hawksbeard, Crepis nana, Belyaka Spit
is a species of flowering plant
in the daisy family known by the common name dwarf alpine
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.
nana lyratifolia, Canada: Nunavut, Arctic seacoast,
This is a dwarf perennial herb producing a low clump of
purple-tinged green leaves on a stem just a few centimeters
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
with a base of phyllaries tipped with hairs.
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.
Oysterleaf, Mertensia maritima, Russkaya
Arctic sandplant, Honckenya oblongifolia,
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
The plant is self-fertile.
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
late spring-summer. Sea beaches, sandy flats, and dunes
above high tide; B.C.; Alaska, Oreg., Wash.; Asia
(Japan, Korea, Russia).
Blooming Lapland Dispensia, Belyaka Spit.
Beach pea, Lathyrus maritimus, Russkaya
Dispensia, Diapensia lapponica is a plant in
the family Diapensiaceae, the only circumpolar species
genus Diapensia, the others being mainly in the Himalayas.
It is a circumboreal arctic-alpine species which grows on
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
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,
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.
Dispensia, Diapensia lapponica
Flowering May-Jun(-Aug). Bare, rocky alpine summits,
gravelly balds, cliff faces, rocky summits, ridges, slopes,
(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 .
Beach Pea, Lathyrus japonicus
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.
names Sea Pea, Circumpolar Pea, Sea Vetchling) is a legume
temperate coastal areas of Asia, Europe, North and South
It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing trailing stems
to 5080 cm long, typically on sand and gravel storm
The leaves are waxy glaucous green, 510 cm long, pinnate,
with 2-5 pairs of leaflets, the terminal leaflet usually
by a twining tendril. The flowers are 1422 mm broad,
with a dark purple standard petal and paler purple wing
petals; they are produced in racemes of 2-7 together.
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
which can cause paralysis called lathyrism. The leaves of
the plant are used in Chinese traditional medicine.
Ornithologists' camp, Belyaka Spit.
Ornithologists' camp, Belyaka Spit.
Coastal spits are popular among ornithologists
because of their impressive bird diversity. Many bird species
are difficult to find elsewhere.
of Belyaka Spit.
One kind of birds that is rare on coastal spits is
songbirds. Normally you see only 5-6 species
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
all Russian Arctic, and can be found even in most
remote places. Decades of Soviet occupation have
left deep mark on the environment.
Nest of snow bunting, Belyaka Spit.
Snow bunting hatchling, Belyaka Spit.
Thousands of geese and ducks nest on spits.
Eiders often use man-made structures to shelter their
Nest of yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava), Etelkuyum
Pacific eider, Somateria molissima v-nigrum,
on nest, Belyaka Spit.
Nest of Pacific eider, Belyaka Spit.
Spectacled and king eiders
, Cape Schmidt.
Molting Emperor goose,
Somateria mollissima v-nigrum
Red-throated loon (Gavia stellata), Belyaka Spit.
The calls of Chukotka's four loon species are among
the most beautiful sounds of the tundra.
Yellow-billed loons (G. adamsii), Belyaka Spit
loons, Gavia. pacifica, Belyaka Spit.
Gaviidae Loon family
Gavia stellata, Red-throated
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
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
They eat vertebrate prey headfirst to facilitate swallowing,
and swallow all their prey whole.
Red-throated Loon, Gavia
adult Red-throated Loon in breeding plumage
swimming in Iceland.
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
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 5567 centimetres (2226 in) in length,
throated Loon is the smallest and lightest of the world's
loons. In winter, it is a nondescript bird, greyish
fading to white below. During the breeding season, it
acquires the distinctive reddish throat patch which
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
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 predatorsincluding 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.
Black-throated Loon, Gavia
Loon Gavia arctica on nest
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
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 23.4 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
Pacific Loon, Gavia
Loon, Gavia pacifica
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 5874 cm in length, 110128 cm
in wingspan and weigh 12.5 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.
Great Northern Loon , Gavia
Great Northern Loon in Minocqua, Wisconsin,
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
Adults can range from 61 to 100 cm in length with a
122152 cm wingspan, slightly smaller than the
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.
Yellow-billed Loon, Gavia adamsii
Yellow-billed Loon, a rare visitor to the California
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
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
Loon Gavia adamsii off Hwajin Po, January 5th
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
in breeding plumage, with a purple gloss on its head
The Yellow-billed Loon is an Arctic species, breeding
primarily along the coasts of the Arctic Ocean as far
as 78° N and wintering on sheltered coastal waters
of the northern Pacific Ocean and the northwestern coast
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,
Yellow-billed Loon builds a nest of plant material very
close to the edge of the water. The female lays two
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.
In summer, the spits are full of bird life. Anywhere
you look, you see nests, chicks, parents trying to lead
from their broods, predators patrolling tundra in search
of easy meal
In some places you have to watch your step to avoid stepping
on a nest or chick.
Sabine's gull, Larus sabini / Xena sabini
Russkaya Koshka Spit.,
Nest of Sabine's gull, Russkaya Koshka Spit.
Tern, Sterna Paradisaea
tern chick, Russkaya Koshka Spit.
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.
Arctic tern chick, Russkaya Koshka Spit.
Arctic tern chick, Russkaya Koshka Spit
night at Russkaya Koshka Spit, Chukotka.