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Pomarine Skua in heavy weather, Shtokman

The Shtokman Field - Barent's Sea
Geotechnical investigations, September - October 2010




The job was an Geotechnical sampling campaign around the Shtokman gas field in the Russian sector of the Barent's Sea. A profusion of seabirds was the main highlight but there were a surprising number of passerines to be seen too - some of which were quite remarkable occurrences.

The Shtokman Field is a long way north in the Barent's Sea, somewhat west of Novaya Zemlya

Shtokman location map
Location of planned Shtokman field

For more about birding in the Barent's Sea click on this linkbarents.php.


Survey and Geotechnical vessel Geobay alongside in Kirkenes
Survey and drill vessel Geobay alongside at Kirkenes, Finnmark, Norway





The commonest birds were Fulmars (many of which were of the northern "blue" phase) and Black-legged Kittiwakes. Glaucous Gulls and Brunniche's Guillemots were also daily but in rather smaller numbers. Pomarine Skuas were numerous during late September and in smaller numbers until mid October. Surprisingly only a small number of Little Auk were seen - on one occasion feeding under the vessel during the hours of darkness (as Brunniche's also did sometimes).

Arctic Redpoll
Arctic Redpoll offshore on the Shtokman field, Barent's Sea

Click on the picture for more Arctic Redpoll images




As with many other places overcast weather at night often produced a fall of passerines on deck. Snow Buntings were seen most days - often being chased by Kittiwakes - and on one occasion two Pomarine Skuas had a go at one. The next most numerous passerine was, as expected, Lapland Bunting. Mealy Redpoll, another unsurprising species were also seen in small numbers. Highlight of the trip from my point of view was a cracking Arctic Redpoll which spent a hour or two on deck one morning. Much more unexpected were species such as Blackcap, Robin, Barred Warbler, Song Thrush and Turtle dove.




Blackcap
This male Blackcap was one of a few that turned up in the middle of the Barent's Sea
Click on the picture for more Blackcap images




Lapland Longspur
Lapland Bunting resting onboard, October 2010
Picture taken using a Fuji superzoom camera rather than my usual DSLR and telephoto lens
Click on picture for more Lapland Longspur images


Brunniche's Guillemot
Brunniche's Guillemots such as this one were seen almost every day, usually in small flocks that were presumably family parties, Barent's Sea, October  2010
Click on picture for more images





This trip gave not just some fantastic birds but some insights into behaviour and migration patterns. One such thing was Pomarine Skuas attacking everything from Snow Buntings to Glaucous Gulls.


Pomarine Skua attacking Glaucous Gull
Pomarine Skua attacking an adult Glaucous Gull, October 2010



Pomarine Skua attacking Black-legged Kittiwake
Pomarine Skua attacking Black-legged Kittiwake, September 2010

Fulmars fighting over and eating jellyfish
Northern Fulmars (one blue phase bird) fighting over and eating jellyfish, October 2010

Very many, but far from all, of the Northern Fulmars seen were "blue" phase birds - probably the commonest bird seen during this trip. These birds often congregated on the sea around the vessel during the hours of darkness.

Blue Fulmar
Blue Fulmar, October 2010
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Blue Fulmar
Blue Fulmar, October 2010



 
 






Finnmark coastline
The last view of the coast of Finnmark before the long transit to the Shtokman Field, September 2010

Survey vessel Akademik mstislav keldysh
Survey vessel Akademik mstislav keldysh - just about the only other vessel we saw in the area


The following "landscapes" were also taken using a 400mm telephot lens - no time to change lenses with flocks of Yelkouan Shearwaters passing!
View on our way out of Kirkenes towards the worksite CPT rig being deployed at night
Finnmark looks pretty impressicve! October 2010 CPT rig being deployed at night, October 2010
Fulmars can be seen resting on the sea in the background







Song Thrush
Song Thrush offshore on the Shtokman Field, Barent's Sea, October 2010
The curious pose of this bird is because it was keeping an eagle eye on Kittiwakes it was attempting to avoid.

Nordlys at Kirkenes Hurtigruten terminal
This is where most of the tourists arrive and depart Kirkenes - the Hurtigruten terminal

Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting such as this one were the commonest passerine and were seen most days








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