Monday, 21 April 2008

Goodbye Varanger

This photo pictures the Varanger may be best, dark blue water bordered by a white mountain-ridge. The old house in a state of dilapidation, perfectly symbolizes its desolate and remote location.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Skallelv, Norway

Spring at 70 degrees north latitude. Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis/Sneeuwgors) sing and frozen rivers start to break. The light was fragile, almost secret.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Between Vadsø and Ekkerøy, Norway

While driving along the coast of the Varanger fjord it is wise to keep one eye on the open water (and the other eye on the road of course). Dense groups of Steller's Eiders (polysticta stelleri/Stellers Eider) can turn up everywhere. Often they are far out in the sea, but sometimes with a bit of luck, you see them quite close to the shore in a characteristic circular communal fishing formation.
Purple Sandpipers (Calidris maritima/Paarse Strandloper) are common residents in the Varanger fjord. In this picture I especially like the natural habitat, i.e. rocks covered with acorn-shells and green slippery seaweed.
Have you ever laid down on an icy-floor between a group of 500+ Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis/Sneeuwgors)? No? I did! A wonderful experience. The birds were very hungry, and eagerly returned to those few places in the field were the thaw revealed some grass. The white blobs in the background are also Snow Buntings.

Vestre-Jacobselv, Norway

Stockfish up for drying, another characteristic element of the ice-free waters of this fjord. As long as temperatures are below zero, various wooden scaffoldings along the indented shore are loaded with frozen stockfish; a fridge is not necessary here.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Speechless in Vardø, Norway

Vardø is situated at the northeast point of the Varanger peninsula. Here, the sparsely populated land extends out from the continent towards the icy waters of the Barents Sea. Standing besides the master of the ‘birds-in-flight’ shots (Arie) I tried to photograph Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla/Drieteenmeeuw) that were passing by. The temperature was –5ºC, but because of the wind chill it felt below –20ºC. This is my best result, after 1½ hour of hard work. Note that the reflecting snow on the ground lights up the underparts. We were both speechless … not only because of the spectacular scenery, but also simply because we could not move our jaws. On our way back to Vestre-Jacobselv we ended up in a blizzard. Thank God, that we had a rental car with spike tires and a seat heating system.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

From taiga to tundra

Today was a transfer day, a long drive (400km) along the Arctic highway (E75) all the way up to the Vestre-Jacobselv in the center of the Varanger fjord.
I enjoyed the views very much, an endless white taiga landscape, with numerous frozen lakes and rivers that just start to melt, gradually changes for the open tundra. On the picture you see frozen melting water, near Utsjoki, close to the Norwegian border.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Feeding station Kaamanen, Finland

In the second half of April, I went together with Arie Ouwerkerk on an early spring birdwatching and photography trip to the most northern tip of Europe. A big adventure, I entered a completely unknown, empty and white world well above the Arctic Circle. Weather conditions were still wintery, although the daylight lasted already for 20 hours. Our tour started at Ivalo in Finnish Lapland, amidst wonderful taiga forests with lakes that were still frozen and covered with a 1m thick layer of snow.
The first day we visit a feeding station in Kaamanen, an experience that I would never forget. The ‘stars’ were definitely Siberian Tit (Parus Cinctus/Bruinkopmees) and Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator/Haakbek). Other ‘lifers’ of today were Siberian Jay (Perisoreus infaustus/Taiga Gaai) and Arctic Redpoll (Carduelis hornemanni/Witstuitbarmsijs).