Two of the main quests among many in Barrow are the special eiders, Steller's and the Spectacled Eiders pictured here. Both of these eider species seem to be declining in numbers; this is particularly alarming for the "Spec," which is a species endemic to the Bering Sea. For many years the wintering range of this eider was entirely unknown. The mystery was solved when radio transmitters were fitted to several birds and winter signals came from the middle of the Bering Sea. However, much of the Bering is frozen in winter, so how did the ducks make a living there? It turns out that these ducks winter in areas that remain ice free, called polynias, surrounded by areas that are frozen. It appears that the presence of the large masses of eiders is instrumental in keeping the ice from forming.
[photo © guide Chris Benesh]