Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Snowed in

My german company sets a hard pace, thick calves running up the steep spring streams in the lower birch forests. Even here there is snow. Higher and higher we go and it becomes more obvious that nature has done a reboot. A two day storm has blanketed the mountains in snow and in silence. Such a transition when three days earlier I had baked in the heat, cursed the sunburn that blistered lips. Then, the green had just hit the dwarf shrubs and the air was full of maddly displaying shorebirds, the birds who, as their name suggests, normally populate the shores of oceans and wetlands far to south. In the summer, they make spectacular migrations to the north to nest in the giant continental wetland that is tundra, and its similar sister ecosystems in alpine valleys. We had already found about 10 nests.

Another 500m onwards and we're on an icefield. A few passerines, and a lonely golden plover makes distress calls in the distance. A futile effort, as its nest is surely lost: 30cm deep in snow, in the cold, parents must make a choice between their current nest and survival to future breeding efforts. Everyone else has abandoned. Perhaps this one has lost its mate, and waits at the only obvious rendezvous point.

I don't want to think how many more days of optimal weather we must wait for until all this snow is gone. Then how many more days until the birds can re-lay eggs? It will be a late season this year. I just have under 4 weeks left, researching nesting patterns of the Dunlin. All previous efforts to waste. Re-searching indeed. And so it goes.