22.07.2015

Hyttevika - a background story

I guess you know the saying: a picture is worth a thousand words. Thats very true, but sometimes it´s really interesting, to get a picture together with some explaining words. It might complete the understanding of a situation, it might be informative, surprising or simply interesting. That´s why I, from now on, will try to publish a picture with a longer text from time to time. So - let´s start!

Hyttevika, Svalbard, 12. of July 2015

Hyttevika is a small bay at the northern entrance of Hornsund, the southernmost fjord of Spitsbergen. It's a picturesque coast with some beautiful rock formations, steep mountains, an old trapper's hut (that named the place) - and, during summer, thousands of birds. Here you'll find a colony of little auks / dovekies, which is easily accessible. And that, in itself, is a rare thing.
Litte auks are small: 20 cm in size, with a wingspan of 35 cm, they are the smallest members of the family of auks, to which the puffins and guillemots / murres belong, too. They are the most abundant of the sea birds, yet one does not see them so very often, as they choose steep screes for their breeding sites. These places are often very hard to access, which makes a visit to a little auk colony a very special treat, even for me that has seen quite a lot here on Svalbard by now.

Little auks breed in between boulders, their nests are inaccessibla to us humans: but for us, it's enough to just sit down at colony's edge. If you just stay there, calm and quiet, the birds will settle down right next to you, arriving from the sea with a crop full of food (copepods). Or, they might just fly right over your head, calling loudly in a funny, hysterical laughing kind of way. They are very social birds that form huge colonies. Whenever they get disturbed, for instance by a low-flying glaucous gull, a falling rock or an arctic fox, they lift up into the air like a swarm of bees, often hundreds of birds together, that hectically circle the colony. Their combined calls are like music to my ears and compares to nothing I have heared before. As small and busy these birds are: they really captured my heart and belong to my favorite animals here on Svalbard. Together with the amazing landscape of Hyttevika, that just emerges from the fog on a sunny summer evening, they make Hyttevika to one of my favorite spots on Spitsbergen, too!

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