Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

No. 215: Seabirds and Marine Mammals in Southeast Greenland II

Boertmann, D. & Rosing-Asvid, A. 2017. Seabirds and Marine Mammals in Southeast Greenland II, Results from a survey between Scoresby Sound and Tasiilaq in July and August 2016. Aarhus University, DCE – Danish Centre for Environment and Energy, 40 pp. Scientific Report from DCE – Danish Centre for Environment and Energy No. 215 http://dce2.au.dk/pub/SR215.pdf


This report presents the results of a ship-based survey of breeding seabirds and marine mammals in Southeast Greenland in the area between Scoresby Sound and Tasiilaq undertaken in late July 2016. This was the second and final part of a survey planned to cover the entire outer coast of Southeast Greenland and was funded by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (‘DANCEA’) and The Environment Agency for Mineral Resources Activities in Greenland. The results of the first part of the survey were presented in a previous report (Boertmann & Rosing Asvid 2014).

In total, 116 breeding colonies of seabirds were visited, and 92 of these were new to the Greenland Seabird Colony Register. Just as found along the coasts surveyed during the first leg of the survey in 2014, the seabird fauna was generally poor; the most frequent species recorded being black guillemot and glaucous gull. However, the area between Cape Brewster and the Manby Peninsula was rich in both number and diversity. The reason for this is that this area is influenced by the polynya in the mouth of Scoresby Sound. Another relatively bird rich area was from the mouth of Kangelussuaq and the archipelagos south to Patulajaviit, where there are several colonies of common eiders and Arctic terns.

In the Cape Brewster area, a small kittiwake colony was found nearby the two well-known colonies, but on the entire coast between the Manby Peninsula and Tasiilaq only one new colony was found. Breeding lesser black-backed gulls were found at several sites, the largest colony with 35 pairs. In contrast and unexpectedly, breeding great black-backed gulls were few in numbers.

Non-breeding and moulting grey-lag geese (n = 5) were recorded at two sites near the Manby Peninsula. Together with the observation of another moulting grey-lag goose in 2014, this may indicate that grey-lag geese regularly perform moult migration from Iceland to Greenland.

Great skuas (n = 4) were observed in the area north of the Manby Peninsula; the species was also observed during aerial surveys in 2008 and 2009 in the same area, and there is thus reason to believe that it breeds here.

Among the marine mammals, coastal seals (harbour and grey) were focus species (cf. the report from the 2014 part of the survey). Sightings of harbour seal along the coasts surveyed 2016 have occasionally been reported, but in our survey neither harbour nor grey seals were observed.

Polar bears were recorded in high numbers along the Blosseville Coast (n = 50), all on land or in fjords with glacier ice and among them several females with cubs (n = 10). Despite the complete lack of sea ice, all looked healthy and fit.

A concentration of hooded seal was observed in an area with dense glacier ice off the coast south of Kangerlussuaq. This area was the only longer stretch outside the fjords where the ice conditions prevented sailing close to land. It was therefore passed 5-10 km from the coast where high abundances of harp seals of all ages were found.

It can be concluded that apart from the Cape Brewster area (influenced by the polynya in Scoresby Sound), the fauna of breeding seabirds is generally poor, exhibiting few species, low numbers and dispersed colonies. However, the density of colonies of black guillemot on the Blosseville Coast is very high.