Båtsfjord. A small Arctic town, lost somewhere in the north at the end of a fjord (hence the name, maybe?). Isolated from its neighbours by a rugged landscape made of abrupt cliffs and rolling hills, the main activity there seems to be fishing. This industry has attracted workers from 40 different nationalities; many Lithuanians came directly there with their cars, as the registration plates could certify.
We checked in at BIRK Husky, a place well known to the birding community for its feeders, which offer great opportunities to meet the local fauna, and particularly the taiga specialities.
Right after waking up, on my way to the toilets, I saw two Siberian tits (Poecile cinctus) at the feeders. A bit later, I spotted three or four squirrels in the vicinity, some chasing each other in the trees while other peacefully enjoyed sunflower seeds from the feeders. That was before birds woke up: usually, they are active at dawn, but that day it seemed that activity peaked a bit later, and the morning was slow to start.
So there we were, flying north above a sea of clouds. I had awakened at 3.30 to catch an early flight to Oslo. There, I had met my friend Marci, and we had embarked on Norwegian flight DY310 to Kirkenes. The seat layout was a bit cramped up there, but my friend enjoyed the free wi-fi. Actually, I really saw no difference between this low-cost airline company and another non-low-cost one (except for the wi-fi). A good thing for travellers.
The trip was absolutely uneventful, until we arrived to the main airport of Finnmark. Under the clouds, we saw snow and sea pass by before our eyes, and just when we thought we would land directly with no fuss, the pilot pushed the throttle, and up again we went, for “a bit of sightseeing”, as he put it. Visibility was too low, so we tried from the other side, and managed to touch the ground (we assumed the crew used autopilot for the second attempt). However, the runway was kinda icy, and I felt the plane move from left to right after touchdown. The pilot had to add an extra bit of reverse thrust to take the plane to a halt. It was quite brutal, I had never experienced that, but it was effective: soon we were walking on the tarmac, trying not to slip on the ice while reaching the terminal. Needless to say, it was quite chilly. It was even snowing.
Hello world! I’m in Norway for a week, with my friend Marci, chasing arctic birds along the Russian border or on the Barents Sea. This is kind of a luxury trip, as we have internet in the evenings to share our adventures in real time 😀
Hanko, a small and isolated town, is located at the southernmost point of mainland Finland. When we told our colleagues that we would go there in winter, Miguel and I saw bemused expressions on their faces: “Hanko, now?”, “There nothing to do in Hanko in winter”… Not something to scare us, of course. I’m quite amused when I do something people wouldn’t even consider, even more so when I enjoy it!
Miguel had downloaded an app for geocaching, so immediately after leaving the train, we began our quest, and found a capsule in a tree, where we wrote our names. Alas, after finding a second one next to the water tower, our other targets remained invisible. Now, though, we can say we have done geocaching.
When people think about the Finnish winter, their first thought usually is: “snow”. And then, when they get to know the country a little bit more, especially the south of it, they think: “grey”. Yes, snow but not enough to cover everything, and then it melts quickly, creating this depressing pools of slush stirred by the passage of cars and buses. Not to mention the clouds.
I totally understand this feeling: I love snow, I love to see it fall and hide the roads, and attenuate all the sounds. I love the sight of a city wrapped in a blanket of peace, and I always get distressed when temperatures rise again. When snow stops falling, I hate to see those endless, boring grey skies, and I start dreaming about sunny days. Or more snow. Usually I dream about a return of the snow.
When I went to Kontiolahti to view the Biathlon World Championship, I saw a wonderful sunset over the frozen lake, and it was a revelation: there is beauty out there, waiting for me!
Two weeks ago, I made a picture that I felt was great, and which is undoubtedly my greatest accomplishment from a purely technical point of view. It was this portrait of a Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus).
On the day after, I was due to visit Suomenlinna with a birdwatching tour organized by Tringa, the local bird protection society. However, I already knew that conditions would be very different, with temperatures rising and the sun disappearing behind a veil of snow. So, after Miguel left me (click here to read the first part of the story), I embarked south. I didn’t really expect to arrive in the midst of a fairytale.
Mr. Winter this year is lunatic and, to be honest, rather frustrating: one day it snows (a lot), and you start believing in the possibility to go skiing, finally… except that the day after, the temperature rises above 0°C, and everything melts. Everything? No, some parks and sidewalks resist eternally against the pervading warmth, but trees are bare again, and streets are slushy brown. It’s not fun.
Maybe the title of this article has reminded you of the Disney film of the same name. Maybe the theme song is now stuck in your head (I know people who hate that). I have never seen the movie, but I’m pretty sure the following interpretation is among the best you can find…
OK, now that I have delivered my joke, let’s move on. Snow has become a rarity in Copenhagen, and tempereatures rarely drop below zero during the day. However, nights are still fresh, and when you travel early in the morning, you see frozen water everywhere. That’s unfortunately a bit cold for birds, we will have to wait before we see the first migrants, but I joined a DOF tour to Hellebæk nonetheless. Weather forecasts were not really optimistic, and it was snowing when I woke up, but the sun wanted to be a witness of this day, so it chased the clouds away when I arrived to the north of Sjælland. Still, it wasn’t very strong, so every blade of grass was encased in frost, and so were the few ponds scattered in the fields.