Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska
It’s time to start preparing for winter! 
Arctic ground squirrels (also known as “Parka”) hibernate until April, and, in an extreme version of overwintering, reduce their body temperature to below freezing during this time. These squirrels keep their blood in a liquid state by eliminating impurities in their system before freezing, and therefore allowing their blood to stay “stuck” in a liquid state. Ground squirrels maintain their brain function throughout the winter with occasional periods of wakefulness, and extremely resilient brain cells. ~CC NPS Photo/Penny Knuckles

It’s time to start preparing for winter!

Arctic ground squirrels (also known as “Parka”) hibernate until April, and, in an extreme version of overwintering, reduce their body temperature to below freezing during this time. These squirrels keep their blood in a liquid state by eliminating impurities in their system before freezing, and therefore allowing their blood to stay “stuck” in a liquid state. Ground squirrels maintain their brain function throughout the winter with occasional periods of wakefulness, and extremely resilient brain cells. ~CC

NPS Photo/Penny Knuckles

Baby Polar Bears’ First Sight of the World
Amazing images taken from the Arctic circle as a mother bear emerges from her winter long sleep with two new arrivals. With mother polar bear sledging down the slopes and cute cubs first taste of the Arctic air, this is a video you don’t want to miss.
Taken from BBC Earth’s natural history masterpiece Planet Earth…
(watch here: BBC)

Baby Polar Bears’ First Sight of the World

Amazing images taken from the Arctic circle as a mother bear emerges from her winter long sleep with two new arrivals. With mother polar bear sledging down the slopes and cute cubs first taste of the Arctic air, this is a video you don’t want to miss.

Taken from BBC Earth’s natural history masterpiece Planet Earth…

(watch here: BBC)

TheRed-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)

… is a small wader/shorebird. This phalarope breeds in the Arctic regions of North America and Eurasia. It is migratory, and, unusually for a wader/shorebird, winters at sea on tropical oceans.

The typical avian sex roles are reversed in the three phalarope species. Females are larger and more brightly coloured than males. The females pursue and fight over males, and will defend their mate from other females until the clutch is complete and the male begins incubation. The males perform all incubation and chick-rearing activities, while the females may attempt to find another mate…

(read more: Wikipedia)

images: female - Andreas Trepte; male - Teddy Llovet; female and chick- US Fish & Wildlife Service

In Alaska, Thousands of Walruses Take to Land

by Jeffrey DelViscio

On Sept. 27, a pilot spotted a semicircular mass of moving bodies near Point Lay, Alaska. Pacific walruses, an estimated 35,000 of them, had pulled up tusk to tail on the beach. These animals are social and like to come together in large numbers for protection and proximity. But scientists who study them are worried by gatherings like these because land is not the walrus’s preferred place to rest.

Sea ice is critical for all parts of the walrus life cycle. Adults dive and eat on the icy platforms. Females give birth and raise their pups there. On the ice, walruses can avoid predators and exhaustion; they are close to food and farther from harm.

As of today, according to daily sea ice tracking by the United States Geological Survey, walruses’ ice havens are gone. “There’s no ice in the Chukchi Sea — it’s entirely free,” said Anthony Fischbach, a wildlife biologist at the geological survey’s Alaska walrus research program. “It’s really stunning.”…

(read more: NY Times)

photo: Corey Accardo/NOAA, Rebecca Shea/NOAA, USGS

Brant (Branta bernicla)
The Brant is the closest North American relative to the Canada Goose (excepting the recently-split Cackling Goose, a smaller version of the Canada). They also fly in lines, though theirs are not the tight, organized Vs of Canada Geese, but rather tend to be strung out. 
Brants breed in the high arctic, along the coasts of Alaska, the Canadian territories, and the northern Canadian islands. They have very narrow and specific migration routes between there and their wintering grounds along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the US, and are rarely seen far inland. 
The Atlantic birds breed in the eastern arctic and have pale bellies while Pacific birds are western breeders and have dark bellies. Once these were considered separate species, but are now treated as subspecies. An intermediate form also occurs, with views alternatively that they represent a third subspecies, or they are the result of hybridization between the first two. 
Brants’ winter diet consists primarily of eel grass, though in recent decades they’ve started foraging in agricultural fields just inland of the coast, possibly a learned behavior from other geese.photo by Tom Talbott (tbtalbottjr) on Flickr
(via: Peterson Field Guides)

Brant (Branta bernicla)

The Brant is the closest North American relative to the Canada Goose (excepting the recently-split Cackling Goose, a smaller version of the Canada). They also fly in lines, though theirs are not the tight, organized Vs of Canada Geese, but rather tend to be strung out.

Brants breed in the high arctic, along the coasts of Alaska, the Canadian territories, and the northern Canadian islands. They have very narrow and specific migration routes between there and their wintering grounds along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the US, and are rarely seen far inland.

The Atlantic birds breed in the eastern arctic and have pale bellies while Pacific birds are western breeders and have dark bellies. Once these were considered separate species, but are now treated as subspecies. An intermediate form also occurs, with views alternatively that they represent a third subspecies, or they are the result of hybridization between the first two.

Brants’ winter diet consists primarily of eel grass, though in recent decades they’ve started foraging in agricultural fields just inland of the coast, possibly a learned behavior from other geese.

photo by Tom Talbott (tbtalbottjr) on Flickr

(via: Peterson Field Guides)

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -  Alaska
Antler Survey:  What can biologists learn from shed antlers? 
Well, pregnant caribou maintain their antlers until they give birth. This means they drop their antlers in the same area where they drop their calves. Therefore, biologists can determine where on Arctic Refuge caribou historically calved and when – all by collecting and dating antlers.  
(via: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Antler Survey:  What can biologists learn from shed antlers?

Well, pregnant caribou maintain their antlers until they give birth. This means they drop their antlers in the same area where they drop their calves. Therefore, biologists can determine where on Arctic Refuge caribou historically calved and when – all by collecting and dating antlers. 

(via: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Brant (Branta bernicla)
Brant are small, dark geese with large wings that give them their characteristic strong flight. They often nest in loose colonies in arctic North America and Russia using coastal tundra, islands, deltas, lakes, and sandy areas among puddles and shallows and vegetated uplands. 
To avoid predation, they build nests on small offshore islands, in small ponds or on gravel spits. Brant winter along the Pacific coast from Alaska to Baja California and mainland Mexico, and along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to North Carolina, primarily along lagoons and estuaries and on shallow bays.
Credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
(via: USFWS_Migratory Birds)

Brant (Branta bernicla)

Brant are small, dark geese with large wings that give them their characteristic strong flight. They often nest in loose colonies in arctic North America and Russia using coastal tundra, islands, deltas, lakes, and sandy areas among puddles and shallows and vegetated uplands.

To avoid predation, they build nests on small offshore islands, in small ponds or on gravel spits. Brant winter along the Pacific coast from Alaska to Baja California and mainland Mexico, and along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to North Carolina, primarily along lagoons and estuaries and on shallow bays.

Credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

(via: USFWS_Migratory Birds)

Four Decades of Sea Ice From Space:  A Decline

by Maria-José Viñas,
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

By the end of last century, scientists had painstakingly developed and tested the remote sensing techniques that allowed them to monitor sea ice from space.

In the 1980s, the scientific community started becoming more interested in watching for signs of climate change in various Earth systems — but through that decade, sea ice showed very little in the way of clear-cut trends. The drastic changes of the past 15 years weren’t even imagined back then.

“It was like watching paint dry,” said Jay Zwally, a senior scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., one of a handful of scientists who began in the early 1970s intensively working with satellite imagery to study sea ice.

Still, the new data allowed researchers to start analyzing the long-term behavior of the Arctic Ocean’s icy cap…

(read more and see video: Climate.NASA.gov)

images: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus)

Bull trout are members of the salmon family, in a group known as the char. Char are distributed farther north than any other group of freshwater fish exc

They can grow to more than 20 pounds in lake environments. Char are distinguished from trout and salmon by the absence of teeth in the roof of the mouth, presence of light colored spots on a dark background, absence of spots on the dorsal fin, small scales and differences in the structure of their skeleton.

To learn more about bull trout, visit: USFWS - Bull Trout