Our Beautiful World


Del 6: Lowland tundra, continued

Animals, birds and flowers on this page:

Little bunting, Emberiza pusilla
Arctic ground squirrel,
Spermophilus parryi
Northern bilberry,
Vaccinium uliginosum
Arctic redpoll, Carduelis hornemanni
Alaska hare, Lepus othus
Cloudberry, Rubus chamaemorus
Gray-tailed tattler, Tringa brevipes
Fireweed, Epilobium angustifolium
Wandering tattler, Tringa incana
Vega gull, Larus vegae
Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis

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

Klikk på flagg for norsk versjon


Little bunting, Emberiza pusilla, Coal Mines, Chukotka, Russia.

The Little Bunting, Emberiza pusilla, is a passerine bird. It belongs to the bunting and American sparrow family Emberizidae, a group separated by most modern authors from the true finches Fringillidae.

This is a small bunting at 12–13.5 centimetres in length. It has a heavily streaked brown back and white underparts
with fine dark streaking. With its chestnut face and white malar stripe, it resembles a small female Reed Bunting,
but has black crown stripes, a white eye-ring, and a fine dark border to the rear of its chestnut cheeks. Sexes are
similar. The call is a distinctive zik, and the song is a rolling siroo-sir-sir-siroo.

Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla
Photo: Charles Lam,

The Little Bunting breeds across the taiga of the far northeast of Europe and northern Asia. It is migratory, wintering
in the subtropics in northern India, southern China and the northern parts of southeast Asia. The birds remain in their winter quarters for quite long; specimens were taken in Yunnan in late March. It is a rare vagrant to western Europe. This species is adaptable; in the mountains of Bhutan for example, where small numbers winter, it is typically found in agricultural habitat, mostly between 1,000 and 2,000 metres asl.

It breeds in open coniferous woodland, often with some birch or willow. 4–6 eggs are laid in a tree nest.
Its natural food consists of insects when feeding young, and otherwise seeds.
A common and widely-ranging species, it is not considered threatened on the IUCN Red List.

Southern tundras have much more shrubs than typical tundras: in some places you have to make your way
through alder, birch and willow forests up to 3 m tall. Just ten years ago they were very local north from
Anadyr River, but now they cover extensive areas in river valleys and foothills all over Chukotka,
except for the Arctic Coast.


Northern bilberry, Vaccinium uliginosum, Volchya Valley.

Cloudberry, Rubus chamaemorus, Volchya Valley.

Northern Bilberry, Vaccinium uliginosum, (Bog Bilberry) is a flowering plant in the genus Vaccinium
Vaccinium uliginosum is native to cool temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, at low altitudes in the Arctic, and at high altitudes south to the Pyrenees, the Alps, and the Caucasus in Europe, the mountains of Mongolia, northern China and central Japan in Asia, and the Sierra Nevada in California and the Rocky Mountains in Utah in North America.

It grows on wet acidic soils on heathland, moorland, tundra, and in the understory of coniferous forests, from sea level in the Arctic, up to 3,400 metres (11,200 ft) altitude in the south of the range.

Vaccinium uliginosum is a small deciduous shrub growing to cm 10–75 centimetres (0.33–2.46 ft) tall, rarely 1 metre (3.3 ft) tall, with brown stems (unlike the green stems of the closely related Bilberry). The leaves are oval, 4–30 millimetres (0.16–1.2 in) long and 2–15 millimetres (0.079–0.59 in) wide, blue-green with pale net-like veins, with a smooth margin and rounded apex.

The flowers are pendulous, urn-shaped, pale pink, 4-6 mm long, produced in mid spring. The fruit is a dark blue-black berry 5–8 millimetres (0.20–0.31 in) diameter, with a white flesh, edible and sweet when ripe in late summer.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaccinium_uliginosum

Cloudberry, Rubus chamaemorus (Greek chamai "on the ground", moros "mulberry") is a rhizomatous herb native to alpine and arctic tundra and boreal forest, producing amber-colored edible fruit similar to the raspberry or blackberry. English common names include cloudberry, bakeapple (in Atlantic Canada), Knotberry and Knoutberry (in England), Averin and Evron (in Scotland).

Unlike most Rubus species, the cloudberry is dioecious, and fruit production by a female plant requires pollination
from a male plant.

The cloudberry grows to 10–25 cm high. The leaves alternate between having 5 and 7 soft, handlike lobes on straight, branchless stalks. After pollination, the white (sometimes reddish-tipped) flowers form raspberry-sized berries. Encapsulating between 5 and 25 drupelets, each fruit is initially pale red, ripening into an amber color in early autumn.

The cloudberry can withstand cold temperatures down to well below -40°C, but is sensitive to salt and to dry conditions. It grows in bogs, marshes and wet meadows and requires sunny exposures in acidic ground (between 3.5 and 5 pH).

Cloudberry leaves are food for caterpillars of several Lepidoptera species. The moth Coleophora thulea has no other known foodplants.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubus_chamaemorus

These shrublands are difficult to cross and full of bugs in summer, but they are a much better place
than typical tundras for surviving the winter. A lot of wildlife uses them as shelter

Ioanna River Valley.

Ioanna River Valley.


Ioanna River Valley

Rivers of Chukotka flow over permafrost so they erode their banks rather than bottoms.
Most of them consist of countless channels, and can be difficult to cross

River delta, Cross Bay, Chukotka.

River valley, Cross Bay, Chukotka.

Rivers of Chukotka flow over permafrost so they erode their banks rather than bottoms.
Most of them consist of countless channels, and can be difficult to cross



Naleds, Iskaten Range.


Fledgling Arctic redpoll, Carduelis hornemanni,
Volchya Valley.


Fledgling Arctic redpoll, Carduelis hornemanni,
Volchya Valley.

Birch bolete (Leccinum scabrum), Volchya Valley.

Mosquitoes, Sbornaya River

Tattlers are rare inhabitants of river valleys. Gray-tailed tattler inhabits wet, broad valleys and deltas,
while wandering tattler, Tringa incana, prefers fast foothill rivers with riparian forests, and nests on trees

A riparian forest is a forested area of land adjacent to a body of water such as a river,
stream, pond, lake, marshland, estuary, canal, sink or reservoir.

Kopylie River is a 90-km long high-gradient stream, which is flowing through the valleys of the Central-Kamchatka Ridge, the spine of the peninsula. Kopylie is
one of the sources of the Icha River, flowing to the west, into the Sea of Okhotsk.
Source: http://flyfishingrussia.blogspot.com/2011/10/kopylie-river-kamchatka.html


Gray-tailed tattler, Tringa brevipes,
Cross Bay.


Gray-tailed tattler, Cross Bay

The Grey-tailed Tattler, Tringa brevipes (formerly Heteroscelus brevipes), is a small shorebird.
The Grey-tailed Tattler is closely related to its North American counterpart, the Wandering Tattler, Tringa incana, and is difficult to distinguish from that species. Both tattlers are unique among the species of Tringa for having unpatterned, greyish wings and back, and a scaly breast pattern extending more or less onto the belly in breeding plumage, in which both also have a rather prominent supercilium.

These birds resemble Common Redshanks in shape and size. The upper parts, underwings, face and neck are grey, and the belly is white. They have short yellowish legs and a bill with a pale base and dark tip. There is a
weak supercilium.

They are very similar to their American counterpart, and differentiation depends on details like the length of the nasal groove and scaling on the tarsus. The best distinction is the call; Gray-tailed has a disyllabic whistle, and Wandering a rippling trill.

Tringa brevipes, Taitung, China
Its breeding habitat is stony riverbeds in northeast Siberia. It nests on the ground, but these birds will perch
in trees. They also sometimes use old nests of other birds.

Grey-tailed Tattlers are strongly migratory and winter on muddy and sandy coasts from southeast Asia to
Australia. They are very rare vagrants to western North America and western Europe. These are not particularly
gregarious birds and are seldom seen in large flocks except at roosts.

These birds forage on the ground or water, picking up food by sight. They eat insects, crustaceans and other invertebrates
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey-tailed_Tattler

As vegetation zones shift to the north, many southern species increase their ranges.
Chukotka is being rapidly colonized by lynxes, forest lemmings, dusky thrushes,
magpies, swallows and numerous southern insects and plants.
So far, northern species don't seem to be in trouble, but things might change very rapidly.


Wandering tattler, Tringa incana, Ioanna River.

The Wandering Tattler, Tringa incana (formerly Heteroscelus incanus), is a medium-sized wading bird.
It is similar in appearance to the closely related Gray-tailed Tattler, Tringa. brevipes. (See above)
The tattlers are unique among the species of Tringa for having unpatterned, greyish wings and backs, and
a scaly breast pattern extending more or less onto the belly in breeding plumage, in which both also have
a rather prominent supercilium.

These birds have stocky bodies with gray upperparts, underwings, face and neck and a white belly.
They have short dark yellow legs and a dark gray bill. Adults in breeding plumage are heavily barred underneath.

In summer, they are found in Alaska and northwestern Canada. They nest in rocky areas along mountain streams.
At other times, they are found on rocky islands in the southwest Pacific and on rocky Pacific coasts from
California to South America and as far as Australia.

Wandering Tattler, Tringa incana
Attribution: Aviceda at en.wikipedia

They feed on aquatic invertebrates such as crustaceans and marine worms. During breeding season, they also
eat insects. While wading, they forage actively, making jerky bobbing movements.

The female lays 4 olive-colored eggs in a shallow depression. Both parents incubate and help feed the young,
who are soon able to forage for themselves.
The call is a rapid trill of accelerating, descending notes of decreasing volume.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wandering_Tattler

Nests of dusky thrush
Turdus naumanni eunomus
Dionisia Mt.
Nest of snowy owl,
Bubo scandiaca,
Cape Schmidt.


Vega gulls, Larus vegae, Coal Mines.

Warming climate makes it easier for wildlife to cross the Bering Strait.
Asian bird species are now colonizing Alaska, and American ones are establishing in Siberia

Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis, Cross Bay.

Sandhill Crane, Cross Bay.

Mammals of lowland tundra are usually difficult to see, but Arctic ground squirrels are very tame and often live in towns

Arctic ground squirrels, Spermophilus parryi,
Dionisia Mt.

Arctic ground squirrel living in a metal pipe,
Dionisia Mt.

Arctic ground squirrel tracks,
Belyaka Spit..

Arctic ground squirrel, l, Cross Bay.

Arctic ground squirrel, , Belyaka Spit.
Arctic ground squirrel, , Anadyr Airport.

Read about the Arctic Groundsquirrel here.

Hares of Chukotka have been recently found to belong to an Alaskan species,
not to mountain hare, Lepus timidus, of Eurasia.

Alaska hare, Lepus othus, Sbornaya River.

Alaska hare, Sbornaya River.


Fireweed, Epilobium angustifolium, Volchya River Delta, Chukotka

Part 7. Mountains

Back to part 5

All pictures, unless otherwise stated, Copyright © Vladimir Dinets


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