After a long drive north on the Dalton Highway, Arnoud and René reached Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic coast of Alaska, USA. ‘Deadhorse’, the town at its terminus, may be an old name but the highway’s length – 666 km – seems too much of a coincidence. Prudhoe Bay is the largest oil field in North America, originally containing some 25 billion barrels of oil. Inevitably, the area’s wildlife has seen compromises, and there are also many restrictions for those who wish to enjoy it. An irresistible attraction, several pairs of Spectacled Eider Somateria fischeri breed in pools between the buildings where they are quite accessible. The window of opportunity to see pairs is extremely tight – about two weeks. Arnoud and René caught them at the right time, but they were silent. Courtship takes place at holes in the pack ice, months earlier, and the male only comes ashore to fertilise his partner’s eggs. As soon as that task has been accomplished he’s off. Despite a long vigil near a nest, with a pair coming and going, all that Arnoud could record was wingbeats of the male’s departure. This must have been one of the most frustrating moments in the history of The Sound Approach.

Fortunately, Prudhoe Bay has much more to offer. Species captured by both Arnoud and René included Stilt Sandpiper Calidris himantopus, Pectoral Sandpiper C melanotos and Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus. To accompany Willow Ptarmigan Lagopus lagopus and Semipalmated Sandpiper C pusilla recordings from Prudhoe Bay, we’ll show photographs René made at Seward peninsula. However, the two mammals featured here are both from Prudhoe Bay: a Wolf Canis lupus and in the header, the presumed reason for its presence: Grant’s Caribou Rangifer tarandus granti.

Prudhoe Bay

Spectacled Eider Somateria fischeri, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, USA, 14 June 2004 (René Pop)

Spectacled Eider Somateria fischeri, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, USA, 18:08, 12 June 2004 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Wing sound as male of pair takes off. Background: Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus, Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus and strong wind.

Prudhoe Bay

Stilt Sandpiper Calidris himantopus, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, USA, 12 June 2004 (René Pop)

Stilt Sandpiper Calidris himantopus, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, USA, 13 June 2004 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Song of male: two consecutive recordings combined into one (the first only included one song). Background: Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis and Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus.

Prudhoe Bay

Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, USA, 16 June 2004 (René Pop). Male perched on songpost, with throat sac partially inflated.

Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, USA, 13:27, 15 June 2004 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Display flight and booming of male.

Prudhoe Bay

Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, USA, 15 June 2004 (René Pop).

Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, USA, 01:24, 15 June 2004 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Two kinds of flight calls when approached and flushed.

Prudhoe Bay

Willow Ptarmigan Lagopus lagopus, Nome, Alaska, USA, 1 June 2004 (René Pop)

Willow Ptarmigan Lagopus lagopus, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, USA, 00:24, 15 June 2004 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Two different display calls of male, one of them given when taking off. Background: Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii and Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis.

Prudhoe Bay

Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla, Nome, Alaska, USA, 1 June 2004 (René Pop). Perched on an old whalebone.

Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, USA, 01:08, 15 June 2004 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Warning calls of a female. Background: Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii, Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis and Lapland Longspur Calcarius lapponicus.

Prudhoe Bay

Wolf Canis lupus, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, USA, 16 June 2004 (René Pop)