Tuesday, 8 June 2010

See you again Finland!

Despite miles and miles of marshland and conifer forest it is not easy to capture the atmosphere of the damp Finnish taiga. This is my best attempt; photo is taken near Kaamanen. The pine tree on the foreground is probably deformed in the far past by a heavy snowload. In the future I will certainly try to improve this, see you again Finland!

Monday, 7 June 2010


Hornøya island, a sanctuary with impressive seabird colonies near Vardø. They bring you there by boat. The sea was rough, it was a shaky ride :-(. You can stay several hours on the island, till the last boat comes to pick you up. Meanwile there is lot to see, hear, and smell. I made many photographs; I still have to sort out and process 10Gb of raw material. It is almost impossible to be original with auk photos, here are 2 head studies of Razorbill (Alca torda/Alk) and Puffin (Fratercula arctica/Papegaaiduiker), as well as a landing pose.
I also added a confiding Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus/Velduil) that we spotted on our way from Vestre Jakobselv to Vardø.

Sunday, 6 June 2010


A memorable day on the bare tundra of Kongsfjordfjellet. With a strong breeze, snow showers, and temperatures just above 0°C it felt like being back in winter. Nevertheless spring was in full swing here. Some impressions: Ruffs (Philomachus pugnax/Kemphaan) and Temminck’s Stints (Calidris temminckii/Temmincks Strandloper) were displaying, Lapland Buntings (Calcarius lapponicus/IJsgors) and Arctic Redpolls (Carduelis hornemanni/Witstuitbarmsijs) were singing in willow bushes that just started to flower, Long-tailed Skuas (Stercorarius longicaudus/Kleinste Jager) were hunting above the snow fields, Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis/IJseend) were present in pairs on small pools of melting water and Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus/Grauwe Franjepoot) in summer plumage were searching for food on icy ridges.


Guess, what is this? Let me give you a hint: Note the perfect five-fold symmetry! Yes of course (remember your biology lessons?), it is the inner skeleton of a Sea Urchin (Echinoidea/Zeeëgel), left by the gulls at the Nesseby coast in the Varangerfjord. The name “urchin” is an old name for the round spiny hedgehogs that Sea Urchins resemble. It has the shape of a perfect hemisphere with a radius of approximately 5cm. The diffuse light conditions of this morning were perfect for abstract macro work.
Despite overexposure in the field, I had to add an additional ⅔ stop in Adobe Lightroom.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Wolf island & crazy clouds

It feels good to be back in the Varanger. It is windy and raining cats and dogs in this Norwegian coastal area. Today we went to the little town of Vardø (the old norse form of the name was Vargøy; the first element is vargr which means “wolf” and the last element is øy which means “island”) on the eastern tip of the fjord, where I photographed this Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla/Drieteenmeuw) in a grey-toned setting, in front of the island Reinøya. Two Glaucous Gulls (Larus hyperboreus/Grote Burgemeester) and a Brünnich’s Guillemot (Uria lomvia/Kortbekzeekoet) passed by, but they were too fast for my camera. From there we drove all the way up to Hammingberg, through an extremely rough, hostile and almost surrealistic landscape.
In the late afternoon the rain finally stopped, but the wind freshened into a gale. And at the same time bizarre lens-shaped clouds (altocumulus lenticularis) appeared. Despite the strong wind they held a more or less fixed position in the sky. I postponed diner to record this phenomenon with the stockfish scaffoldings of Vestre Jakobselv as a décor.

Thursday, 3 June 2010


Today a long drive further north, from Kuusamo to Inari (450km). Near Kemijärvi we crossed the Arctic Circle, Napapiiri in Finnish. We ended up in youth hostel Vasatokka. I spent the evening at the garden of the YH looking over the magic Mutusjärvi lake and enjoying the Goldeneyes (Bucephala glancula/Brilduiker) in the mist. The Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus/Koekoek) was a lucky ‘catch’.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010


From 1 to 9 June I joined as partipant and bus driver the Birding Breaks tour to Finnish Lapland and the Varanger fjord.
We started in the lake district near Kuusamo, Finland. To hear ‘our’ winter birds like Redwing (Turdus iliacus/Koperwiek) and Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris/Kramsvogel) sing and defend their nest against obtrusive Hooded Crows (Corvus cornix/Bonte Kraai) is an amazing experience. It somehow closes the circle. Despite intensive efforts we didn’t see any owls. But we did see several singing Red-flanked Bluetails (Tarsiger cyanurus/Blauwstaart) at the well-known hills of Valtavaara. Other personal highlights were Velvet Scoters (Melanitta fusca/Grote Zeeëend) and Little Gulls (Larus minutus/Dwergmeeuw) in full summer plumage.
Another colorful surprise was the beautiful Calypso Orchid (Calypso bulbosa/Bosnimf). They are only to be found in undisturbed northern forests, such as those in Oulanka National Park, close to the Russian border. It is the only species classified in the genus Calypso, which takes its name from the Greek signifying concealment, as they tend to favor sheltered areas on conifer forest floors.
With respect to photography I had to make compromises, but all in all this was more than compensated by traveling with a diverse group of experts. On my own I probably overlooked these tiny shadow-lovers.