|This stretch of tundra is especially green because of a nearby bird nesting colony.|
Just a few inches beneath the standing water or water-soaked lichen is hard ice. Unable to soak into the ground, water flows down every slope. At the shoreline are braided streams and rivulets flowing across rocks, gravel, or sand. On the Svalbard islands, much of the terrain slopes very steeply up mountain peaks, ground down by glaciers in various ice ages. From a distance, everything looks like black rock or brownish grass, usually interspersed with snow.
|Kittiwakes on a hillside near their nesting colony.|
|On a steep slope, our guide showed us a dead gull.|
Cliff-side nesting colonies are occupied by sea-going birds -- kittiwakes, dovekies (aka little awks), guillemots. (I will be doing another post on the nesting colonies.) Ducks, geese, and loons swim in the ponds on the tundra or in the sea.
Small wading birds like phalaropes and sandpipers pick at the vegetation.
|Pair of phalaropes beside standing water on the tundra.|
|A snow bunting.|