This summer, I went with my family on a cruise to Svalbard. I was really excited about this, having wanted to go to Svalbard since reading ‘Northern Lights’ by Philip Pullman. I was particularly excited about the wildlife we would see. We didn’t see any polar bears, but there was a lot more to see than that!
Arctic terns can be found nesting in the UK and other places, but there was something a bit more magical about them nesting in Svalbard, about as far north as you can really go. The terns don’t actually build nests, but lay their eggs on the ground in clumps of long grass, as in the photo. In Ny Alesund, where this photo was taken, the grass often grows next to paths and this results in close contact between people and the birds. Arctic terns are protective birds and would swoop down and dive at your head if you came near! The first time this happened to me, I did not even notice that I was near the nest.
There were more Arctic Terns in Longyearbyen, which is where the photo below was taken. In this photo you can see it ready to swoop down – it hovers, makes a loud clicking noise and then swoops for you head! But it knows its limits and you have to simply wave your hand over you head and it will stop mid-dive. The locals clearly get this all the time, as they didn’t even bother looking up as they waved off their attackers.