2015-05-25

150310 Varanger Pasvik to Gardermoen

Varanger, Norway 150305-150311 

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© NF Photos 150310

Last day up north. Early morning as usual but as early as before. We had breakfast prepared for us in the kitchen. Just had to boil water for tea and coffee. Everyone eat what they wanted and prepared to take with them for mid morning snack. Hot coffee or tea ans such. And off we go.

We left at 6.30 for the place where the feeder was located. We had to drive on a narrow forest road but as it was frozen and had been cleaned of snow it was no problem. We found the cottage with the feeder. It was still a bit dark when we arrived but soon the sun raised and we prepared for the birds coming in for breakfast.  Around 7.30 they did.


There was more species then I had expected it to be. And it was fun watching. The light became better as the sun raised.

It was fun, a few new species and a few I know from home. They found their way that far up. 
I was happy to find waxwings among the birds as they has not been visible at home this winter. 




After 2h in one spot I needed to move a bit so I walked around, checking the surrounding. A beautiful sunshine lit up the area. On the other side of the road was a place for keeping the sledge dogs. But no other tourists then us here so they were empty.

Some of the birds pine grosbeak (tallbit),   grey-headed chickadee or Siberian tit (lappmes) and  Arctic redpoll or hoary redpoll (snösiska)



pine grosbeak (tallbit)
Common redpoll (gråsiska)
Arctic Redpoll (snösiska)
Waxwing ( sidensvans)




Siberian tit (lappmes) 

















At lunchtime we headed back to Birk. They also had a smaller feeder outside the restaurant and of course we stayed for a while checking that out. It was some of the species from the morning and also Siberian Jay (lavskrika). A wonderful bird in the crow family. 


Siberian Jay ( lavskrika)
Done with lunch, birding and packing we started out north to slowly go to Kirkenes and the airport. We drove along the road and suddenly spotted three Northern Hawk owl. (hökuggla). That was amazing. 

Northern Hawk Owl (hökuggla)

In Kirkenes we stopped for dinner before going to the airport. I ordered a pizza and it was really a good one. When we arrived at the airport it was empty. The strike on Norweigian is still in full swing. Luckily we don´t fly with them.  Our flight took off as scheduled and we had a night flight down to Gardermoen. Last part of the trip was wonderful. I had window seat and lots of towns lit up the ground as we passed.  After landing at 22.40 we all got our baggage and then parted. I for one stayed on a sofa as usual. Will continue to Oslo  in the morning.


The owl takes off.   And with this I say goodbye to Varanger and all wonderful birds and places. 

On a side note:
The early mornings has been a surprise for me. I had expected dark mornings. As we were much higher up north it should have been darker mornings. I have to check that out,
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2015-05-21

150309 Varanger Båtsfjord to Pasvik NP

Varanger, Norway 150305-150311 

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© NF Photos 150309

150309 Monday
We met again for the last session in the hide. Early morning as usual. Not that much action today. The only change was that it was a little more waves outside the hide. My elbows are sour after laying down on them and the birds seemed restless. But I got one last super cool shot. It feels sad to leave. I will probably never see these birds again and they brought me much joy. 

Båtsfjord Harbor





So close that I could almost touch it        

 
King Eider


Long-tailed Duck. Cleaning it´s long feather
Steller´s Eider



There was also a few Purple Sandpipers (skärsnäppa) in the area.

We was picked up at 9 to pack and get ready for departure at 11.00. The hotel staff  invited us for coffee and waffles before we left. A nice gesture I think. They new our day would be long. 

At 11.00 h we headed south again and the sun disappeared rather quickly. We was driving in a snowstorm with rather bad conditions. It was very windy. At times it was hard to see the road for all snow blowing over. We were glad for the red poles marking it. 
We made a photo stop on the road but the wind was so hard I barely made it out of the car and our tour guide hardy was able to stand upright.  Not fun at all. 




We made another stop when we did see a rain deer family in the snow. The blowing snow looked like mist.

Reindeer

Lunch at Varangerbotn.  I did not have any as I was not hungry. I was still full from the waffles.  And besides food is really expensive here. But it was too windy to take a walk so I still had to be inside. We drove by Kirkenes and headed towards The border and Birk, Our destination. Now we are coming to more forested country. I think it is called Taiga. Was a bit unsure of the way but there was not many to choose from and while driving along a lake, in a darkening land, my  phone beeped, I was welcomed to Russia. But I was still in Norway. I think, or maybe Finland. No, according to the map I was still in Norway. In Øvre Pasvik National Park to be exact. 

We reached Birk at 18.00 h. I did get a cold room on top floor. Soup for dinner and then people got ready for bed. But I think someone was listening for owls and maybe tried to see auroras. After a long day we were all tired and next morning is another early one. 

My door will not close. It has settled, but we are the only guests so I just put my bag in front of it to keep it in place. It is an old building just redecorated to it´s old style.

The road we travelled

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2015-05-17

150308 Varanger Second day in hide

Varanger, Norway 150305-150311 

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© NF Photos 150308

150308 Sunday

Woke up at 4.30 and met the gang at 5.20 to go to the hide. Spent the morning there. We had the breakfast pack with us so everyone was free to eat as they wanted. Or when a break was needed for back ache :) The second woman on the tour only had a small camera so she sat comfortably on a chair at the higher up openings. I, of course, had to check out every free opening there was. It was fun having the birds so close. Especially the male King Eiders, they were curious and several of them came looking into the hide openings, checking us out. :) 

The ducks were eating ice. I guess it was to get sweet water into the system. Not only salty sea water. 




King Eider and Steller´s Eider







Long-tailed Duck ( alfågel)






Two images from inside the hide. As you can see it was not an easy task to get used to shot the birds outside.
 Especially if they came too close as the King Eider males used to do. It´s me to the left.

At ten the morning shift was over and we had some free time before lunch at 11.  After that we met at 12 for another boat ride. Gorgeous weather and great number of birds. 


Black-legged Kittiwake (tretåig mås) to the left

After the boat ride I and Andreas decided to take a walk down to the water to try to find the Purple Sandpiper ( Skärsnäppa). It was not far but we still managed to take the wrong road down to the beach. We did find it and we also saw a pair of Black Guillemot (Tobisgrissla) and two seals. Some ugly ones IMO. 

 Slept an h in the afternoon and took a shower. I could borrow a cable from A and then uploaded my images to the laptop. Feels good to have a backup. Dinner at 18.00 and then we met to look at some images and maybe share some technique in image manipulation.


But then the woman in charge this evening came and told us there were an aurora in the sky. We closed the meeting and went out hunting aurora. Sadly we did not see much, It was a weak aurora and also clouds moving over. But we did see it!  Back at 21.00 and went online, packed most of my things as we are leaving tomorrow and wrote the diary. To bed at 22.45 and then up at 4.45 for the last visit to the hide. 

A PR video from the hide:


King Eider male having fun

Lots of light everywhere in these shots
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2015-05-14

150307 Varanger First day in hide

Varanger, Norway 150305-150311 

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© NF Photos 150307, Båtsfjord, Varanger, Norway



I woke up in good time and met the others at 5.00 h.
We had been given some therm overalls so we should not freeze in the hide. It was rather tricky to get it on the first time. And it made you feel like a truck.  Båtsfjord at 5.40 



Well, we got to the hide at 5.30 and started to unpack and getting ready for the birds. We had scared them off when we arrived but the birds soon came back to the location. It seemed as it was a fishing factory that dropped of wastes and the birds came for it. Free breakfast I suppose. That´s great, the birds helped clean the area and was helped surviving the winter at the same time. And also helped the locals to get some much needed income. Three birds in one stone J not bad.

That´s me in the middle of the boat on the way to the hide. 




Birds, gulls,eiders and other ducks, getting ready for breakfast. 



It was a bit tricky getting used to shoot from floor level. But finally I got the hang of it. There was four very nice species that we came for. And they were there, and a few others too. We had mostly sunshine in the morning. Beautiful light on the birds.


King Eider Male and female images. The very reason for my trip. 






 At 9 we were picked up to go by boat and catch flying birds. Now it started to get a bit windy. At 11 we were back to the hotel for lunch and then back to the boat for another trip, But now it was cloudy and really windy. We got sprayed with water and we even got some snow. The wind increased and after an hour we had to go back to shore. Rather wet then.



Looking through my images I realize that it was good having three days in the hide and the boat. It certainly took a while to learn how to get the shots you wanted. The last images is much better then the first ones. 




Back at the hotel I took a cup of coffee and then slept for 2h. Dinner at 18.00, rather long as we had no evening activity planned. And a few other people joined us at the table. Back to the room at 20.00 and fixing things like images and charging batteries. 





Tomorrow morning we will meet at 05.20 to go back to the hide. Right now it seem to be raining instead of snowing. Probably very slippery outside. We did have some problems with icy path between  the parking and the entrance to the hotel. 


Sky Watch Friday

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2015-05-04

150306 Varanger, Norway. Gardermoen to Båtsfjord

Varanger, Norway 150305-150311 
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© NF Photos 150306
For maps see blogpost Varanger


I did sleep on a couch but woke up because of cold drafts from a corridor so I had to move. But I got some sleep anyway. In the morning, after checking in, I met with my travel guide and fellow travellers. Lots of planes was cancelled due to the Norwegian pilots strike. see image of scedule reflected in airport,  but we was airborne according to schedule. It took two hours to get to Kirkenes. But in a way the trip was a disappointment. I had expected to see the mountain range but we travelled over Sweden and low country. I did not see mountains until we
got very close to Kirkenes. 


Image to the left, Varanger from above a few min before landing. 

After we picked up the rented cars we took off to Båtsfjord.








To start with it was a beautiful road,  now and then close to rivers and the arctic sea.




The sun came out occasionally and we made a stop at a frozen river with some water still flowing down a small fall.  First stop was at Skoltefossen.






When arriving at Varangerbotn we took a lunch break. And then continued inland due north west. We made a few photo stops and once we did see moose. A cow and half grown calf. 







31 km from Båtsfjord the road was closed due to snowy condition. There was a road barrier over the road. No passing permitted until they cleared the road of snow.  It was very windy and slippery and traffic had to wait to go in a caravan behind a truck with a snow blower the rest of the way. So we had to wait 1.5h before we could continue and then it was already dark. There was some piles of snow outside the house with the waiting room. The light from the room lit it up and I took some shots. People wondering why I shot them. But what I saw was not piles of  snow, I saw this: Watching


When the truck arrived it did not take long before we reached Båtsfjord. We arrived at the hotel around 18.00h. Got our rooms and took a quick shower before dinner was served at 19.00h.


After dinner we had an info meeting and was given our warm overalls to use in the hide. Well, that was kind of fun. You really feel clumsy in that suit. But it turned out to be great.  Then we were all very tired and forgot we was about to check for aurora.



I got to bed rather early as we were to meet again at 05.00h to go to the first session in hide. 
Winter in Varanger

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