The worldwide Augustana College experience

Finding Falcons

My first week in Thule really has been an amazing one. I feel like everything I’ve done here has been a completely new experience for me, and I love it. While learning about birds and the area I’m also learning skills that could help me at home. Who knew I would have to come all the way out to Greenland to learn how to change a flat tire or drive stick!

Before the group’s arrival Bridger and I were hiking around the area looking for some of the known falcons nearby, so earlier in the week we took a trip up Dundas. The trail that people have made just goes straight up the side of it, so the hike was a bit of a pain in the butt at times! We made it to the top sweaty and out of breath, but it was worth it. The view on Dundas was incredible. It was a clear day so we could see for miles. We ended up walking around the whole top and after stumbling upon the rocky golf course up there we were able to find another pair of peregrines. We couldn’t see the nest from the edge, but we knew the general region we would have to come back to to find it. We also knew there have been gyrfalcons nesting on the other side of Dundas, but unfortunately we weren’t able to find any. Before we headed back down we sat and watched a seal swimming around in the bay. It was at that moment when it really started to hit me how fortunate I am to be able to spend six weeks in such an incredible place. There really are very few people that get the chance to come up here and its such a special part of the world. Although it’s not the summer weather I prefer, I would give up any summer to be able to come out here. I know there is still so much left for me to see, but I’m amazed by what I’ve already come across.

Thursday morning more of the group made it to Thule, and we started working shortly after their arrival. Over the past few days we have been laying out traps with bird feed around base. We’ve caught a few snow buntings and a longspur, but we are hoping to recatch some of the longspurs that have geolocaters on them. Hopefully we can catch some of them over the next few weeks. Along with the small birds we trapped around base we finally got out and caught one of the peregrine falcons that we had previously found! There was a lot more waiting involved than I expected, but the important thing was that we got her and were able to take some samples. I got down the cliff in time to watch the guys work on her, then I got the chance to hold and release her. It was awesome just to see the peregrine up close, but to get to hold her was even cooler! They are beautiful animals, but also a bit intimidating with their large talons and sharp beaks. She had already cut up two of the guys, so I was a little nervous grabbing her, but I was able to hold and release her with no problems!

Since we finally had the team together we decide to make the hike up Dundas to get the peregrines we had found there. We had no problems getting up there and we were even able to find the nest right away. Everything went really smoothly until it was time to catch the falcon. The traps were all set up, but she would not go anywhere near them, so we ended up sitting and waiting for hours. We called it a day around midnight and decided we would come back tomorrow and try again. The next day we got up Dundas around three and my muscles could definitely tell I had done the hike the day before. Luckily it ended up being a much more successful day than the one before. We got set up pretty easily and caught the peregrine in a good amount of time. I then got some good news that the guys had spotted a gyrfalcon nest! When we found the nest had chicks in it, I made the hike down and around Dundas, to watch the guys process them. They are so fluffy and cute I was so excited to get to hold one of them! The chicks are delicate though, so I had to make sure I was holding them carefully so I wouldn’t break anything. As tiring as the day was, it was very successful and really quite amazing. These next few weeks are going to be a lot of hard work, but every second will be well worth it!

Me holding a gyrfalcon chick

Me holding a gyrfalcon chick

About to release a female peregrine falcon

About to release a female peregrine falcon

Leave a Reply