Although it is difficult to imagine temperatures in the mid minus twenties as springlike, Friday saw the arrival of the Spring Equinox. The world tilted so the equator was on the same plane as our orbit around the sun, and all the world enjoyed the same photoperiod (briefly). Now as the pole begins to point towards the sun, those of us lucky enough to live in the High Arctic will soon enjoy longer and longer days and in about a months time it will no longer get truly dark at night. More than this, the sun feels warmer, and despite the temperature of the air it feels balmy on a calm day.
Friday was such a day, and I was determined to take advantage of it, to celebrate spring, and to go seek out some birds of the Equinox. I grabbed the camera, brewed up a thermos of coffee, and made arrangements for a snowmobile, both of ours being down for the count. I picked up Leah's brother's machine and received last minute instructions ("add a little oil to the tank", "you'll find it is a lot tippier than your skidoos", that sort of thing)
Around Uluksan Point there were several Igluit on the ice. It seems as though there was iglu building lessons here, some of the structures were rather crude. Crude but better than I could do, and I again resolved to learn that skill, this spring if possible. Somehow the first day of spring seems a better day to make resolutions. It is even more of a day for new beginnings than New Years.
I continued out to the Gyrfalcon Aerie. It is early and normally I wouldn't be looking for them to have returned so soon, but this year there were two sightings of Gyrfalcons here in January and I now believe that at least some winter in the High Arctic. The machine off I scanned the cliffs, but there was no Gyrfalcon here, the white wash at the nest and the favourite perches the only sign that they were here at all. Several times I was fooled by snow on the rock, masquerading as the bird, but it was not to be.
There was a lot of snow clinging to the face of the cliff, in fact I was reminded of the paintings of a woman whose name escapes me right now. Looking at the cliff I half expected Native Ponies, Warriers and wolves to resolve out of the scene, and that (for what ever reason) reminded me to look about me, there was, after all, a Polar Bear in the area just last week. But no bear resolved itself out of the frozen sea behind me. The only thing lurking out there was a large iceberg in Admiralty Inlet, perhaps some 15 or 20 kilometres away.
The silence out here is penetrating. It is one of the phenomenom up here that amazes me the most, and one of the reasons I love being out on the land alone. It was broken however, by a Raven calling from high up the cliff face. I searched for it, for it could be the only bird I'd see on the trip. There, near the top, perched on a jutting rock, was one of my favourite birds, my constant avian companions, singing for no one. No one apparently but me.
As I walked to the cliff face there, lying in the snow, was a tangible sign of death, and the renewal of life, that seemed appropriate this day. I don't know if the bone lying here was scavenged, or the remnants of some prey, but it nourished some other animal, and life is reborn.
Along the cliff face there was evidence of just who may have left the bone there, for an Arctic Fox had been walking along the edge, hunting perhaps. More likely just taking a route along the warm cliff face, out of any wind as he moved from one point to another.
My best opportunity to find the Gyrfalcon had come up empty, so it was time for me to move along also, to see if I could find another white bird, farther up past the cliffs.