Svalbard, Spitzsbergen - 10th - 19th June 2014

Published by Brian Clasper (brianclasper AT

Participants: Brian & Christine Clasper, David & Pauline Heslop


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Long tailed Skua
Long tailed Skua
Brunnich`s Guillemot
Brunnich`s Guillemot
Arctic Skua
Arctic Skua
Purple Sandpiper
Purple Sandpiper
Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope
Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting

Svalbard, Spitzsbergen had appealed to me since I was a child and after seeing an amazing deal of £2700 per person all inclusive except drinks at the Birdfair 2013 I persuaded my wife to join me on an adventure of a life time. We booked with Arctic Bound who negotiated the good price and the ship was run by Gexplorer. The crew and guides were perfect. All were good friends by the end. There were 104 passengers and 74 crew. All I can say is the food was unbelievable as well as the service. Safety was paramount and their care can`t be faulted. It seems a large number of people but it wasn`t. Getting people in & out of zodiacs was very efficient. Our room was very big, a pleasant surprise. Polar bears were the prime target; we only saw one but that was not for want of trying as the problem was the drifting pack ice from the north as well as unseasonal snow showers. They had lookouts 24/7. All the other vessels in the area struggled. You cannot guarantee anything with nature. When we save up enough money we will be back with them.

Oslo (Norway) 10/06/2014 20:00 to10/06/2014 22:30

25c eventually clouding over with light rain.

Took off from Heathrow 1535 landed at 1800. Unfortunately we were told that our luggage would be at the airport to pick up but they tried to pass it onto Longyearbyen. Eventually we were united with our luggage and took the shuttle bus to our hotel `Thon Budget` amongst a group of 5 hotels 7 miles away. The S22 bus runs from bay 36 outside the front of the airport and costs 70 NK per person running every 15 mins. The hotel was basic but clean with a good breakfast costing 595Kr per room. We walked to the sister hotel which is the conference centre. The beer was 89NKr per pint(!); there is a McDonalds nearby. Nice 10 min walk hearing Rosefinch & roding Woodcock.

Longyearbyen (Norway) 11/06/2014 14:30 to 22:30

2c mostly blue sky. Clouded over a bit early evening.

Landed at 1400 having taken off at 1035. The bus was 60NKr to the Spitsbergen guest hostel which is situated outside the main town area about 30 min walk from the centre ie the Radison blue hotel. We walked and wandered down to the very small town(2000 inhabitants) then headed up toward the dog sleigh area near to the breeding Common Eider area. On the way by the beach we found the head of decapitated reindeer left over from a Polar bear kill. We found the local bird ringer who was processing a Purple Sandpiper. A really nice guy who explained all the local birding to us. Amazing to think he had a bird in his hand that could end up at home. Today was the major arrival of Arctic Terns pouring in as the day went on. A pair of Arctic Skuas looking round in disbelief at the invasion of their territory. Kittiwakes were in good numbers as well as Glaucous Gulls. The cliffs up the valleys supported Barnacle Geese and Little Auk colonies. The only passerines were singing Snow Buntings every 50 metres - a show stopper. Midday meal was a light reasonably priced snack in the Thai restaurant and a really good fish dish at the Radisson blu bar in the evening for 990 NKr the beer 550NKr. Spitsbergen is duty free.

Longyearbyen (Norway) 12/06/2014 08:00 to 12/06/2014 15:00

50% blue sky 2c.

After a leisurely good buffet breakfast at the Spitzsbergen guesthouse listening to Snow Buntings singing we managed a distant Rock Ptarmigan & 2 Brunnich's Guillemots flying up the valley with the many Little Auks from the bedroom window. We dropped off our luggage at the Blu Raddison and set off down to the shoreline after a look in the
Svalbard museum which was very interesting. We walked west toward our berthed vessel the MS Expedition. We managed an Arctic Skua attacking terns as well as a tame Tystie fishing in front of us with Long-tailed Ducks in the bay. Back to town via the Kirk, photographing Snow Buntings and Purple Sandpiper. A meal at the Thai restaurant in the shopping arcade and
relaxed at the hotel for a coffee before the bus arriving at 1530 to take us to the boat.

MS Expedtion (Norway) 12/06/2014 16:00 to 12/06/2014 22:00

Sea state 4, set off spectacular sights(Glaciers coming down to sea and snow capped mountains) continued west then last thing headed North. The sea became too rough for watching but still managed to see Puffins while having evening meal.

MS Expedtion (Norway) 13/06/2014 05:45 to 13/06/2014 07:00

Cloudy SW wind light. Sea state 2. Full high cloud cover occ snow showers.

Fulmars, Little Auk, Arctic Tern, Single Razorbill and Brunnich's Guillemots very common.

Magdalene Fjord (Norway) 13/06/2014 14:30 to 13/06/2014 17:00

Fog clearing 2c low cloud occ blue sky patches but snow showers sea state 2.

Went into Magadalene Fjord and immediately had 4 close Walruses in the sea 100m off ship then kept disappearing, occasionally breaching. What attracted your attention to these mammals were their spouting! The plan was to go on land via the Zodiacs but the snow was too deep hiding unknown hazards. At 1500 though 10 zodiacs with 10 people per boat left the ship in pairs to get close to a large group of Walruses on the shore. Flying around us were Brunnich's Guillemot, 1000`s of Little Auks, Eider and some really lost looking Arctic Terns. In total there were 70 Walrus some Chillaxing on the snow some squabbling in the sea and 2 making out. We could have stayed all day but we went to the small bay head and got close to the 150m high glacier manouvering around pieces of blue carved ice. We managed another session with the walruses then boarded the ship. The boat then entered the Smeererburg fjord, the skies brightened, we slowly crept up this passage of water very scenic and at 1830 a distant Polar bear (only one of the trip) was spyed off the port side some distance 2km but we had a scope and had good views while we watched it for 25mins.

MS Expedtion (Norway) 14/06/2014 09:45 to 14/06/2014 23:30

Most of day northerly bringing sea pack ice with 100% cloud and snow blizzards then at 2200 50% blue sky with amazing landscaper shots.

We spent all day from coming out of Smeerengburg fjord negotiating drifting pack ice heading toward Fugloeya then north to 79 deg 49 min N then east amongst pack ice and islands of Klovingen and evening back west out at sea as struggled to get safe place to bertn. We saw skuas am then during the day with a small group of walruses with a few bearded seals. The best light and photography was at 2300!

From Mid west of Albert 1st island N to 79 49 and back (Norway) 15/06/2014 09:00 to 15/06/2014 19:30

0c to 2c high cloud cool N sea state to 6 then back to 2 in lovely evening.

Had day negotiating around pack ice that had been blown by wind from Polar ice cap. Spectacular scenery seeing an adult Ross`s Gull am fly past the boat. Relatively quiet pm then during the briefing 3 x Fin whales put an amazing displaying around the ship within 200m attracting 100`s of Kittiwakes and Fulmars - a great way to end a quiet day.

Ny London (Norway) 16/06/2014 09:00 to 16/06/2014 12:00

Lovely morning Blue sky no wind then started to have high cloud.

Off in the Zodiacs to Old Marble station & walked around mining artefact`s negotiating snow drifts sometimes waist deep, having armed sentries on our periphery. On entering by boat we saw at least 16 Belugas rolling together high in the water. At the landing a Long-tailed Skua landed right was next to us on the beach. A pair nest at this location as well as Purple sandpiper, Snow Bunting, Red- throated Diver & Long-tailed Duck.

Lilleheok fjord (Norway) 16/06/2014 15:00 to 16/06/2014 18:00

occ showers.

We slowly made our way up the steep sided Fjord in the ship. Getting great views of auks and 2 Minke whales. At the end of the Fjord we dropped anchor and headed off quickly in Zodiacs to the calving glacier at the head very getting close to Brunnich's and seeing at least 15 King Eider amongst Common Eider. There were many Bearded seals. An excellent rip through the pack ice on the sea with calving ice breaking off spectacularly around us. To think we were in unnavigated waters as the glacier had receded 1 mile since last year. You can not deny global warming.

Mollersfjorden(14th July Glacier) (Norway) 17/06/2014 09:00 to 17/06/2014 10:45

low cloud 4c Haa sea state 1.

Zodiacs were used to take us to the Seabird colonies. A few hundred Brunnich`s and Puffins in the snow as well as breeding Barnacle geese and Glaucous Gulls & Kittiwakes. Really close to a Puffin on the sea 2m! To think these auks were starting to mate while back in the UK the same species had fledglings at the nest sites.

Kongtsfjorden up to glacier past settlementt (Norway) 17/06/2014 11:00 to17/06/2014 13:00

Low cloud sea state 0 occ snow showers.

Sailed into this Fjord seeing 20 Harp seals porpoising closely followed by a a Minke whale performing well by the shore coming up quite often. However in front of Dutch vessel across our bows a Fin whale. After at least another Minke, a Humpback made an close appearance. Characteristically start arch & fluking. All 3 cetaceans in 30 mins. We continued up the fjord ,there was a lot of small icebergs. Guillemots were sitting on them looking like penguins. Then we had a BBQ on back deck as the snow fell!

Ny Alesund (Norway) 17/06/2014 15:00 to 17/06/2014 18:00

2c constant snowing.

Berthed at the jetty of this research station and walked into the settlement of some 20 buildings. Breeding Arctic Tern, Purple Sandpiper, an aggressive Arctic Skua as well as a pair of Ringed plover. The roads were clear of snow though it was 2m deep off road. This is normally a good place for Phalarope but the lakes were covered, and the Dog kennels are good for Ivory Gull; no luck for us.

St. Johnsfjorden (Norway) 18/06/2014 09:45 to 18/06/2014 12:00

3c east fresh sea state 2 overcast occ. snow showers.

Had Zodiac trip to see this glacier and we saw a group of King Eider with Ringed & Bearded seal. The glacier calved twice.

Poolepynten (Norway) 18/06/2014 13:00 to 18/06/2014 16:00

Cloudy 6c e light.

Zodiac ride onto the beach to see the Walruses and spinning Grey phalaropes a well managed site excellent experience getting within 50m from the Walruses. One massive male on & off the beach. While leaving the site Belugas were seen distantly on the shoreline.

Longyearbyen ( Norway) 190614

80 % cloud 3c.

The ship had berthed late pm. We had our bags packed & they were taken off 0545 then we had breakfast. Unfortunately we had to then re-moor mid bay due to a 3000 sleeper cruise ship arriving. We landed and said our farewells to the crew at 0800 by Zodiac and were picked up and dropped off at the Raddison Blu. We were to leave here early pm. We walked to the Dog Kennels again to see 4 Grey Phalaropes displaying then dropped off at the Ringing station to learn the 3 previous days there had been an Ivory Gull there no luck for us. After taking images of terns & buntings & Purple Sandpiper. Lunch was at the Thai restaurant positioned amongst the shops then it was off to the Hotel to get picked up and then Home by air taking 9 hrs to get to Heathrow via Tromso & Oslo. On taking off from the Aircraft looking down onto the bay at least 20 Beluga! Nice send off.

Species Lists

Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata)
12/06/2014 14:30 Longyearbyen 2
16/06/2014 09:00 Ny London 3
18/06/2014 13:00 Poolepynten 2

Northern Fulmar [sp] (Fulmarus glacialis)

Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus)
12/06/2014 08:00 Longyearbyen 1
16/06/2014 09:00 Ny London 2
17/06/2014 09:00 Mollersfjorden(14th July Glacier) 4
18/06/2014 13:00 poolepynten 2

Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis)
12/06/2014 08:00 Longyearbyen Common
12/06/2014 14:30 Longyearbyen Very Common
16/06/2014 09:00 Ny London 6
17/06/2014 09:00 Mollersfjorden(14th July Glacier) 30
17/06/2014 11:00 Kongtsfjorden up to glacier past settlementt 2

Brent Goose [sp] (Branta bernicla)
12/06/2014 & 19/06/2014 14:30 Longyearbyen 3
17/06/2014 11:00 Kongtsfjorden up to glacier past settlementt 1

Greater Scaup [sp] (Aythya marila)
12/06/2014 14:30 Longyearbyen 1

Common Eider [sp] (Somateria mollissima)
Very common

King Eider (Somateria spectabilis)
16/06/2014 15:00 lilleheok fjord 15
18/06/2014 09:45 St. Johnsfjorden 14

Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)
12/06/2014 08:00 Longyearbyen 4
12/06/2014 14:30 Longyearbyen 1
16/06/2014 09:00 Ny London 4
17/06/2014 09:00 Mollersfjorden(14th July Glacier) 2
17/06/2014 11:00 Kongtsfjorden up to glacier past settlementt 2
17/06/2014 15:00 Ny Alesund 6

Rock Ptarmigan [sp] (Lagopus muta)
12/06/2014 & 19/06/2014 4x 08:00 Longyearbyen 1

Ringed Plover [sp] (Charadrius hiaticula)
12/06/2014 08:00 Longyearbyen 1
12/06/2014 14:30 Longyearbyen 2

Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola)
10/06/2014 20:00 Oslo 2

Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
17/06/2014 11:00 Kongtsfjorden up to glacier past settlementt 1

Red Knot [sp] (Calidris canutus)
17/06/2014 15:00 Ny Alesund

Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima)
12/06/2014 08:00 Longyearbyen 30
12/06/2014 14:30 Longyearbyen 40 Even found a nest outside the front of Radison Blu hotel
16/06/2014 09:00 Ny London 4
17/06/2014 15:00 Ny Alesund 6
18/06/2014 13:00 poolepynten 4

Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
12/06/2014 14:30 Longyearbyen 3
18/06/2014 13:00 poolepynten 2

Grey Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius)
18/06/2014 13:00 poolepynten 4
19/06/2014 4x Longyearbyen near Dog Kennels

Great Skua (Stercorarius skua)
14/06/2014 09:45 MS Expedtion 1
15/06/2014 09:00 From MId west of Albert 1st island N to 79 49 and back
16/06/2014 09:00 Ny London 2
16/06/2014 15:00 lilleheok fjord 2
17/06/2014 11:00 Kongtsfjorden up to glacier past settlementt 1
18/06/2014 09:45 St. Johnsfjorden 1

Pomarine Skua (Stercorarius pomarinus)
14/06/2014 09:45 MS Expedtion 1
15/06/2014 09:00 From MId west of Albert 1st island N to 79 49 and back 1
17/06/2014 11:00 Kongtsfjorden up to glacier past settlementt

Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus)
12/06/2014 08:00 Longyearbyen 2
12/06/2014 14:30 Longyearbyen 2
15/06/2014 09:00 From MId west of Albert 1st island N to 79 49 and back 1 16/06/2014 15:00 lilleheok fjord 4
17/06/2014 11:00 Kongtsfjorden up to glacier past settlementt 4
17/06/2014 15:00 Ny Alesund 1
18/06/2014 09:45 St. Johnsfjorden 2

Long-tailed Skua [sp] (Stercorarius longicaudus)
16/06/2014 09:00 Ny London 2

Glaucous Gull [sp] (Larus hyperboreus)
Very common especially near land

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)
10/06/2014 20:00 Oslo Common

Ross's Gull (Rhodostethia rosea)
15/06/2014 09:00 From Mid west of Albert 1st island N to 79 49 and back 1 flew past pack ice on boats starboard side

Black-legged Kittiwake [sp] (Rissa tridactyla)
Abundant with breeding on cliffs

Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea)
Common arrived on 110614 3 birds then started appearing everywhere even on ice flows

Little Auk [sp] (Alle alle)
Abundant nesting on cliffs at Longyearbyen as well as tring on cliffs in all Fjords on exposed rock.Snow covering was delaying breeding

Common Guillemot [sp] (Uria aalge)
13/06/2014 05:45 MS Expedtion 2

Brunnich's Guillemot [sp] (Uria lomvia)

Razorbill [sp] (Alca torda)
13/06/2014 05:45 MS Expedtion 1

Black Guillemot [sp] (Cepphus grylle)
Common some days in hundreds

Atlantic Puffin [sp] (Fratercula arctica)
12/06/2014 16:00 MS Expedtion 3
13/06/2014 05:45 MS Expedtion 3
13/06/2014 14:30 Magdalene Fjord 3
14/06/2014 09:45 MS Expedtion 4
15/06/2014 09:00 From MId west of Albert 1st island N to 79 49 and back 12 17/06/2014 09:00 Mollersfjorden(14th July Glacier) 30
17/06/2014 11:00 Kongtsfjorden up to glacier past settlementt 10

Mistle Thrush [sp] (Turdus viscivorus)
10/06/2014 20:00 Oslo 3

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)
10/06/2014 20:00 Oslo 1

Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
10/06/2014 20:00 Oslo 2

Willow Warbler [sp] (Phylloscopus trochilus)
10/06/2014 20:00 Oslo

Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
10/06/2014 20:00 Oslo 1

Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
10/06/2014 20:00 Oslo Common

Eurasian Jackdaw [sp] (Corvus monedula)
10/06/2014 20:00 Oslo Very Common

Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
10/06/2014 20:00 Oslo Common

Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
10/06/2014 20:00 Oslo 3

Common Rosefinch [sp] (Carpodacus erythrinus)
10/06/2014 20:00 Oslo 2

Snow Bunting [sp] (Plectrophenax nivalis)
12 & 19/06/2014 08:00 Longyearbyen Very Common
16/06/2014 09:00 Ny London 6
17/06/2014 15:00 Ny Alesund 10

Mammals summary

Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) 13/06/2014 18:30 Smeerenburg fjord 1 distant views from ship walking 500m from shore 2km away.

Walrus [sp] (Odobenus rosmarus) 13/06/2014 15:00 Magdalene Ford 70
14/06/2014 MS Expedition 5
18/06/2014 Poolepynten 50

Bearded Seal (Erignathus barbatus) 14/06/2014 MS Expedition 6
16/06/2014 Lillehoek fjord 4
17/06/2014 Kongsforden 1
18/06/2014 Poolepynten 1
18/06/2014 St Johnsfjorden 3

Harp Seal (Pagophilus groenlandicus) 16/06/2014 Lillehoek fjord 8
17/06/2014 Kongsforden 12

Ringed Seal (Pusa hispida) 18/06/2014 St Johnsfjorden 3

Reindeer [sp] (Rangifer tarandus) 11/06/2014 Longyearbyen 7
17/06/2014 Kongsforden 12

Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) 16/06/2014 Lillehoek fjord 2
17/06/2014 Kongsforden 2 showed well

Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) 15/06/2014 west of mid albert 1st island 3 feeding close to ship for 30 mins
17/06/2014 Kongsforden 1 rolled quite often good views at 800m\

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) 17/06/2014 Kongsforden 1

Beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) 16/06/2014 Ny London 16 feeding in tight pod 800m away large white bodies seen from zodiac at 0930
18/06/2014 Poolepynten 4
18/06/2014 Longyearbyen bay 20 from the aircraft