Posted: Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Working on the North Slope is not my favorite place to be; however my window in my room on the Doyon 141 camp has been one of my favorite spots on my time off work. I have watched wildlife either directly below my window or out across the tundra on many occasions. One time I saw arctic fox tracks on the snow but never saw the arctic fox during that two-week hitch. Several weeks later I finally spotted him directly below my window heading across the tundra away from our camp. I spotted him several other times wandering around our location and under the pipeline. Once these fox started changing colors from winter white to summer brown they became much easier to spot. They seem to have no regard for the activity on J pad in Kuparak at all as they wander under the pipeline and through out the location with little regard for the vehicle traffic or the many people who work here.

I have also spotted several hundred caribou here from my window and several hundred more from the location or surrounding area. One morning I was greeted by three caribou standing right below my window less then a stone’s throw away or should I say a stone drop. The one thing I notice about the caribou I that I have spotted this summer is that almost all of them are being tormented by bugs. Constantly moving and flinching, they are very aware and sensitive to the bother of some bugs. Caribou are very interesting creatures in the way they live and behave. They sometimes are loners choosing to live pretty much by themselves or small groups of less then 5 but yet at other times you will see herds of several hundreds all moving together. Here on J pad we sometimes have resident caribou living right with us. Any place shaded they like to crawl under and hopefully escape the bugs and the heat. On one occasion I spotted two bulls sleeping under the pipeline as I returned from lunch. As I walked toward the rig I was startled by something moving to my right from under the over hang of the pipe shed. Less then ten feet from me a nice caribou bull jumped up and trotted to the other side of the pipe shed. I say nice because he had the opportunity to use his nice horns as a weapon on me and chose not to. I did almost jump completely out of my skin as I never saw him till he moved.

The oil field in my opinion has no impact on these animals at all, in fact in many places it helped them by providing shade. The other creatures I have watched from my window and surrounding area are waterfowl of all kinds especially geese. The North Slope is full of geese that come here to nest, as the area is full of tundra and little ponds or lakes with plenty of grass for food and plenty of water. I did not see many geese from my window during the winter or the time when most were setting on eggs but once the eggs started to hatch they started showing up. I counted 41 out my window one morning. Talking on the phone while watching them one morning caused them to scurry towards the water as they surprised me as to how good they could hear. The lakes help provide them with safety from predators like the arctic fox and other creatures like an occasional bear or other predator. The geese do a pretty good job of fighting away the fox from their young and nest by attacking the fox together. They appeared to have had a great hatch this year, as there are plenty of young geese waddling through the grass outside the window each morning. These geese do not fly while the young are there with them so they travel entirely by foot, on some days you won’t see a bird as they have wandered out of sight but the very next day they might be back again. Cheap entertainment for a guy who enjoys the outdoors a whole lot better than watching TV. I see anywhere from 2 to 4 young goslings with the parents and so far have not spotted any geese with no little ones tagging along behind them. The geese grow really fast and it is a good thing that they do as the summers are really short and soon this area will once again be covered with ice and snow. Until then I will spend a lot of time enjoying the wildlife out of the window in room 4. See you next week!

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