PHOTO GALLERY: Birds-ice-view

April 28, 2013

From high above, springtime in Svalbard appears as a solid sheet of snow and ice– hardly an inviting place to build your nest and breed.  But when 24-hour sunlight returns to the Arctic, birds don’t wait.  During my last two days in Longyearbyen, the odd silence of daylight at midnight has suddenly transitioned into a continuous cacophony of thousands of trilling, complaining, rejoicing seabirds, teeming high above on narrow cliff ledges.

As quickly as daylight has returned, lengthening by 40 minutes each day until the sun no longer set, the birds have returned to reclaim their timeless birthright.  Despite appearances, climate change has dramatically reduced the annual coverage of sea ice, diminishing specific zooplankton that certain birds, such as the little auk, depend upon for successful breeding.  Could this glorious annual rite of spring be at risk?


Aerial view over Pretender mountain at junction of Kronebreen and Infantfonna glaciers in April near Ny-Ålesund in Svalbard, Norway. © Randall Hyman

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