The Russian Arctic - 24th August - 8th September 2011

Published by Greg Roberts (friarbird.roberts AT

Participants: Greg Roberts


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Horned Puffin
Horned Puffin

This two-week journey to the Russian Arctic, run by Heritage Expeditions - - was a memorable experience.


23/8 – Arrived in Anadyr, the gateway to the Russian Arctic, after a long flight from Moscow. Overnight in a private apartment organised by Heritage Expeditions.

24/8 – First day of cruise, boarding The Spirit of Enderby in Anadyr Harbour.

25/8 – After crossing Anadyr Bay we visited the seabird cliffs at Cape Achchen (Kekilan Point) on the mainland of Chukotka Peninsula, by zodiak.

26/8 – A wet landing in the afternoon on the peninsula at Pengkingayy Fjord, with a walk across the tundra.

27/8 – In the morning, a landing at Litke Lagoon in Laventiya Bay. In the afternoon, we landed at the Ekkoolgoonenvooveem River with a long walk across the tundra, ablaze at this time of the year with the colours of blueberries and other berries.

28/8 – A landing in the morning at Cape Dezhnev, the most easterly point of the Asian continent. In the afternoon we visited the nearby Chukchi village of Uelen.

29/8 – After crossing the Arctic Circle and leaving the Bering Sea for the Chukchi Sea - a zodiac ride along the coast of Kolyuchin Island.

30/8 – First of five days around Wrangel Island. In the morning, we landed at Doubtful Village for a walk across the tundra. In the afternoon we visited Ushakovkoya Village at Roger’s Inlet.

31/8 – A morning visit to Herald Island, with a brief landing and a zodiac ride along the coast to look at the seabird colonies of Cape Waring. In the afternoon we went ashore at Dragi Harbour on Wrangel Island.

1/9 – A morning walk (8km) across the tundra at Dream Head, Wrangel Island. An afternoon landing at Komsomol Lake.

2/9 – A morning zodiac ride along the seabird colonies of Ptichy Bazaar Point, followed by a walk along the beach. In the afternoon we walked across the tundra at Mt Thomas.

3/9 – A long, cold zodiac ride in Doubtful Bay on our last day around Wrangel Island.

4/9 – A landing and a long walk through the wetlands and tundra of Kolyuchin Inlet on Belyaka Spit.

5/9 – We visited Diomede Island briefly but after failing to rouse the Russian border officials, we proceded to Yttgram Island for an afternoon landing and walk on the tundra.

6/9 – At sea, crossing Anadyr Bay.

7/9 – Arrived back at Anadyr and transferred to our apartment. In the afternoon, a long walk across the tundra to a coastal inlet.

8/9 – Departed Anadyr for Moscow.

The voyage was run expertly by Heritage Expeditions. We were fortunate to have had generally favourable weather, with a couple of wet days. An unusually warm northern spring and summer this year meant there was very little ice about. The seabird colonies were well-attended, as most young birds had yet to leave their nests. However, most of the migrant birds had left - we failed to see hoped-for species such as Emporer Goose and Spectacled Eider, while others, such as jaegers and Arctic Tern, had left their breeding grounds.

The large number of polar bears, often seen at close quarters, was the highlight of the trip. A total of 106 were seen, mostly on Wrangel Island which, along with Herald Island, has the highest density of polar bears in the world. At one point, we had 16 bears in view from the ship, ranging across a wide valley. Several mothers were cubs were seen, and twice bears were seen at a walrus carcass. We also saw two Brown Bears on the mainland, where bear sign on the tundra was plentiful.

Another highlight was the Snowy Owl on Wrangel Island. This year was a poor breeding season for them because the lemming population was crashing, but I saw about 80 birds on the island.

With Glenn Scherf and the passengers and staff of The Spirit of Enderby. For pictures, see here:


Common names follow The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World.
*denotes lifer.

Red-necked Grebe (1 Anadyr),
*Horned Puffin (common and nesting throughout),
Tufted Puffin (common and nesting, especially in the south),
Pigeon Guillemot (common and nesting in the south),
Black Guillemot (common and nesting in north),
Common Guillemot (common and nesting, especially in the south),
*Thick-billed (Brunnich’s) Guillemot (common and nesting, especially in the north),
*Least Auklet (small numbers but encountered frequently, mainly in the Bering Sea),
*Crested Auklet (common and widespread),
*Parakeet Auklet (regular in small numbers south of Kolyuchin Island),
*Kittlitz’s Murrulet (several after leaving Pengkingayy Fjord),
*Little Auk (1 surprisingly seen at sea after leaving Wrangel Island),
*Yellow-billed (White-billed) Loon (1 Pengkingayy Fjord; 10 Belyaka Spit),
Pacific Diver (uncommon), Red-throated Loon (3 Belyaka Spit),
Pelagic Cormorant (common and nesting),
Sandhill Crane (fairly common throughout),
Glaucous Gull (common), Herring Gull (common – race vegae), Common Gull (2 Anadyr),
Black-legged Kittiwake (common and nesting), Sabine’s Gull (small numbers Chukchi Sea),
Arctic Tern (a few Chukchi Sea),
Arctic Jaeger (uncommon), Pomarine Jaeger (common and widespread),
Long-tailed Jaeger (small numbers throughout),
Merlin (1 Anadyr), Peregrine Falcon (small numbers), Rough-legged Buzzard (small numbers),
Red-necked Stint (a few Anadyr), Dunlin (small numbers), Pectoral Sandpiper (common Belyaka Spit), Long-billed Dowitcher (uncommon Belyaka Spit), Red-necked Phalarope (common at sea), Red (Grey) Phalarope (several Belyaka Spit), Grey Plover ( a few),
Pacific Golden Plover 2 Belyaka Spit), Ringed Plover (a few Anadyr), Ringed Plover (a few Anadyr),
*King Eider (common, with large numbers off Belyaka Spit),
*Stellar’s Eider (small numbers off Belyaka Spit, 3 Yttgram Island),
Common Eider (regularly encountered in small flocks),
(Black) Brent Goose (a flock of 20 Wrangel Island), Snow Goose (6 Belyaka Spit),
*Tundra Bean Goose (1 Anadyr),
Northern Pintail (a few Anadyr), Long-tailed Duck (fairly common),
Harlequin Duck (4 Cape Achchen), Red-breasted Merganser (a few Wrangel Island, Anadyr),
Greater Scaup (uncommon), Eurasian Wigeon (Anadyr), Common Teal (Anadyr),
Tundra (Bewick’s) Swan (2 Belyaka Spit),
Willow Ptarmigan (several Pengkingayy Fjord, Anadyr),
*Rock Ptarmigan (20+ flushed by dogs near Anadyr),
*Snowy Owl (common Wrangel Island, with male birds predominating; 1 Belyaka Spit),
*Naumann’s Thrush (1 at Anadyr in the town’s overgrown cemetery),
Bluethroat (small numbers),
*Siberian Accentor (2 on northern outskirts of Anadyr),
Arctic Warbler (small numbers Anadyr, Laventiya Bay),
Red-throated Pipit (several Anadyr, Laventiya Bay),
*Pechora Pipit (several Anadyr, Laventiya Bay),
*Arctic Redpoll (small numbers Anadyr, Laventiya Bay),
Common Redpoll (uncommon Anadyr),
Lapland Bunting (uncommon but widespread),
*Snow Bunting (common north of Cape Dezhnev),
Northern Raven.

78 species - 18 lifers


*Beluga Whale (common Anadyr Harbour, first seen from incoming aircraft),
*Northern Minke Whale (1 Anadyr Bay),
Killer Whale (several pods in Bering Sea), Humpback Whale (quite common Bering Sea),
*Grey Whale (small numbers Bering Sea),
*Spotted (Largha) Seal (common Anadyr Harbour, small numbers elsewhere),
*Ringed Seal (widely scattered in small numbers),
*Bearded Seal (small numbers off Wrangel Island),
*Walrus (common from Kolyuchin Island northwards – several hundred at haulout on Kolyuchin),
Wolf (1 pale animal seen running along the shore from the ship after leaving Pengkingayy Fjord),
Brown Bear (1 seen well but distantly in tundra at Pengkingayy Fjord; 1 running fast away from the ship in the distance Belyaka Spit),
*Polar Bear (common Wrangel Island; 5 on Kolyuchin Island including a mother and two cubs; 2 on Herald Island),
*Arctic Fox (common Wrangel Island),
*Siberian Brown Lemming (common Wrangel Island),
*Northern Collared (Vinogradov’s) Lemming (small numbers Wrangel Island),
*Northern Pika (common in rocky areas),
*Mountain Hare (a few),
*Arctic Ground-Squirrel (common on mainland),
*Musk-Ox (1 Wrangel Island)

21 species (15 lifers)