A trip to the biome tundra, or the Arctic, is also a vacation from the everyday things that most travelers consider entertainment. TV, Internet, video games, shopping malls, theme parks and thousands of other first-world creature comforts are nonexistent in this remote part of the world. This is a place where recreation means exploring the Great Outdoors.
Some birds migrate back to the tundra by late winter and lay their eggs as soon as the snow starts melting. Among the first to arrive in late February are the gyrfalcons, the world's largest falcon. And then, from March until June, flocks of more than 100 species of birds come to lay their eggs. At Point Barrow in the Alaskan Arctic tundra, close to 1 million birds were documented in less than four weeks. Other types of birds you will see in the tundra during the spring are waterfowl such as ducks, geese, swans, gulls and cranes, as well as birds of prey such as eagles and falcons.
Watch a spectacular light show in the sky known as the aurora borealis, or the northern lights, in the northern region, and aurora australis in the southern region. You will see beautiful patterns of swirling, shimmering waves of mostly green and blue lights with some reds, oranges and yellows. The lights are caused by electrical storms that occur on the surface of the sun. During the storms, the sun shoots streams of tiny energy particles called electrons, which concentrate near the polar regions. When these electrons collide with other particles in the earth's atmosphere, a tiny flash of light is let off. The polar lights are the result of billions of these collisions.
The Alpine tundra is found at the tops of mountains and exists on mountainous regions all over the world. Although many of these areas are not easily accessible, certain areas have paved roads and trails making them easily accessible. One popular trail is Pikes Peak in Colorado, which has a road that goes straight to the mountain peak at 14,110 feet. A fragile ecosystem exists in the Alpine tundra that you should be conscious of when visiting. Many low-lying plant species, some that are unique to the Alpine, thrive in this region, as do many animals. Mountain goats, sheep, elk, moose, foxes, hare and songbirds come to the Alpine during summer months and migrate when winter comes.
There is a lot to see and explore in the tundra biome, especially during the spring and summer seasons. The growing season is short, lasting only about eight weeks when the temperatures reach above freezing, usually during July to August. Dwarf willow, poppy, lupin, pasque flower, bearberry, caribou moss and tufted saxifrage are some of the plant life you will see. Wildlife also abounds in the tundra, especially during the warmer months. Tundra wolves, Arctic foxes, hare, caribou and lynx are some of the animals you can find in the tundra during the summer months. Year-round visitors include the ground squirrel, grizzly and polar bears and lemmings.
- "Biomes of the World: Tundra"; Elizabeth Kaplan; 1996
- "On the Tundra"; Jen Green; 2002