Where the Moose and the Caribou Play

Flying out again over pristine white snow and feeling slightly spoiled by more captivating views,  I secretly wished to capture images other than snow, sky and mountains today.  Although yesterday’s fog prevented visits to our Kuparuk Lower Aufeis Spring (KLAS) sites, an early start this morning allowed KLAS sampling as well as trips to our upper Oks antennas.  We followed bear tracks by helicopter down the length of the lower Kup to the lower aufeis springs and dodged moose droppings as we post-holed through willows to our sampling sites only to find them covered in ice and snow.  Just downstream, however, water flowed freely and I checked off “sample collection” on our ToDo list.  On our way to the upper Oksrukuyik Creek, we spotted a mother moose and her twins tromping across the tundra.  Busted!!  Now we know who pooped in the willows!  On his way back to our upper Oks location, our helicopter pilot sighted two wolves on the prowl after a small caribou herd.  Fortunately for us, the wolves chased the caribou over the ridge to Zev Lake, where Cam and I sat updating and tuning the Oks-1 antenna.  Smiling slightly, I couldn’t help thinking, “Wishes sometime do come true.”  Enjoy today’s photos from the land where the moose and the caribou play!

05_05_2016_KLAS_TowardAufeis

Kuparuk Lower Aufeis Spring (KLAS) meets the Kuparuk Lower Aufeis.

05_05_2016_KLAS4_Heidi

Taking water samples and measurements at KLAS4 in my new highly visible down sweater.  On sale and definitely not my first color choice, but if I get lost on the tundra they’ll have no problem finding me.  ; )

 

05_05_2016_KLAS5_Cam

Cam records the GPS location for our KLAS5 water samples.  No fish seen here.  Interestingly, pH at this site registered a low 4.7, perhaps fish don’t like water this acidic?

05_05_2016_LowerKupShootingMooseFromHelo

As per today’s wish, I have something other than snow to photograph! A momma moose and her twins.   Joke: What do Cam MacKenzie and Sarah Palin have in common?  Answer: They both “shoot” moose from helicopters!

05_05_2016_SagValleyBrooksMountains

Looking over the Oksrukuyik headwaters, past the Sagavanirktok River to the Brooks Mountains beyond.

05_05_2016_OksNeg1_Caribou

After being chased by two wolves, these panting caribou choose taking refuge with us as safe course of action.

05_05_2016_Oks0_SnowyGreenHouse

Like mini green houses, these pockets of thawed snow under ice allow dwarf birch and other tundra plants to gain a jump-start into spring.

05_05_2016_Oks0_KeetonWithHelo

Keeton Molt with his Robinson R44 helicopter at our Oks0 antenna site.  Thanks for the lifts!

 

05_06_2016_OksCreekPoolingWater

Water pooling on Oksrukuyik Creek will eventually flow past Slope Mountain jutting from the hillside in the distance.

05_06_2016_KupPoolingWater

The upper Kuparuk River shows more signs of spring thaw than the lower Kuparuk. How soon ice-out will occur, however, is still anyone’s bet.

05_05_2016_ToolikFieldStationAwesomePhoto

Heading home to Toolik Field Station after a long productive day on the rivers.

05_05_2016_ToolikEveningSun

Evening sun casts shadows over Toolik Field Station.

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