6th.June: Ytre Norskøya
Position: 79°51.0’N / 011°32.2’E
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: 0
We woke up to spectacular sunshine and views of mountains and ice as we approached Ytre Norskoya (151. Norsk-). The long hikers set off to reach the summit of the island where they were treated to a spectacular view and enjoyed seeing and photographing the little auks. The people on the medium walks had a lovely encounter with snow buntings, a walrus on the ice, and even a yellow wagtail flying by. The leisurely walkers had great views of a seal resting on a rock next to the shore and took a stroll to a small peninsula on the island.
The snow bunting is a passerine ground-dwelling species which is fairly large and long-winged for a bunting. It measures 15 cm with a wingspan of 32–38 cm and weights 30 to 40 grams. The bill is yellow with a black tip, and is all black in summer for males. The plumage is white in the underparts and the wings and back have black and white on them. The female and male have a different plumage. During the breeding season, the male is white with black wingtips and a black back, while the female has black wingtips and a rufous back. The snow bunting migrates to the high Arctic tundra of North America, Ellesmere Island, Iceland, and Svalbard in order to breed and they are the first migrant species to arrive in these territories. They must gain at least 30% of their body mass before this migration. The males arrive first at the beginning of April, when the temperature could reach as low as −30 degrees Celsius. This early migration could be explained by the fact that this species is highly territorial and the quality of the nesting area is crucial to their reproductive success. Females will arrive four to six weeks later, when the snow starts to melt.