During the course of our trip we saw a number of birds but not a great variety.  We saw Common Ravens around every settlement.  The range maps show this bird over all but the northernmost tip of Ellesmere Island year around, but we only saw them around human habitation.  Every shore stop yielded several Snow Buntings.  Again maps show the High Arctic as their summer range but these birds seemed pretty con tent there at the end of August.  Admittedly, their interpretation of summer and mine may differ; they winter in Northern Alberta.  I saw an American Pipit on the north end of Baffin Island and others saw Lapland Longspur and Common Redpoll at our last Gyrfalconstop near the south end of that island.  No one on the trip saw a Snowy Owl, which was a disappointment.  On the other hand, the highlight of the trip for birders was three visits by Gyrfalcons.  They would seemingly appear out of nowhere, always in the morning, glide over the ship for a few minutes, then bank and glide off.  They are beautiful birds almost as large as Osprey but with a much shorter wingspan.  What a treat!

Caption: Gyrfalcon, note full crop.  Photo by Terry McIntyre

Northern FulmarNorthern Fulmar are noted for following ships and ours was no exception.  They were present from Resolute all the way to Iqaluit in both light and dark morphs. They did not follow the way sea birds follow fishing trawlers but would hunt on their own often some distance from the ship but some could always be seen. Thayer’s Gulls, Glaucous Gulls and Black-legged Kittiwakes were seen almost every day.  Near ports they would follow the ship but other times they would be sighted sitting on rocks or flying along the faces of cliffs.  One Pomarine and one Parisitic Jaeger were also spotted along cliffs as we passed by.  Terns had already headed south. 

Caption: Northern Fulmar – light morph.  Photo by Justin Peter

Long-tailed ducks were occasionally seen feeding along shorelines.  We also saw both Common and King Eider in waters off Baffin Island.  We saw a few medium sized flocks of Snow and Canada Geese, usually in the same general area, as we travelled down the east coast of Baffin Island and saw the large flock of Brandt at Bylot Island.  Phalarope were spotted a few times early in the trip but species was uncertain.  All migratory water birds, with the exception of the loons at Dundas, were either preparing to migrate or already underway.

Thick-billed MurreThick-billed Murre, Black Guillemot and Little Auks were spotted every day after we left Resolute.  They became more and more common as we neared Baffin Bay and headed south along Baffin Island.  The open water in Baffin Bay and the north Atlantic is their wintering territory.

Caption Left:  Thick-billed Murre returning from a successful fishing trip.

Caption Right: A pair of Little Auks in front of their nest.  Photo by Justin Peter.

All in all it was not a great trip for birding but neither was it a bust.