Sunday, 28 July 2013

Northern wader habitat

A road meanders north through the extensive birch woodlands and mires
There are few human settlements or other intrusions to the landscape of the region in northern Norway where we go to study waders and the potential breeding grounds for these birds is vast. The forests and mires form a massive extensive mosaic of birch woodland and sedge-filled mires, with many open stretches of water in the form of tiny to wide lakes and formidable fast-flowing rivers.

A typical mire with open water in the centre surrounded by a floating carpet of mosses and sedges, and the whole encircled by willow/birch scrub and birch forest
Waders such as Wood Tringa glareola and Broad-billed Sandpipers Limicola falcinellus, Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus, Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus and Reeve Philomachus pugnax nest in the mires, while species such as Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus, Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus and Greenshank Tringa nebularia nest in the scrub and woodland.

Numerous other northern breeding birds live in the these habitats, mostly summer migrants which go there to breed, then return south to over-winter. One resident species is the Willow Ptarmigan Lagopus lagopus which nests in the forest understorey. These birds can live there throughout the winter because they feed on the leaf and flower buds of the birch and willow which protrude above the blanket of snow that covers all the ground all winter.

A hen Willow Ptarmigan sits on her nest in juniper scrub

The ptarmigan's eggs are cryptically coloured to conceal them while she leaves the nest, perhaps once a day, to feed.

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