Saturday 1 February 2014

Searching high and low

I have just returned from my trip up north in hope to see the enigmatic Snowy owl (snøugle). We were searching high and low, day and night. Covering tens of miles with car and snow mobile. I guess we haver searched along 80% of the tracks allowed to drive with snow mobile up in the mountains around the remote village of Båtsfjord, and all open roads that goes through snowy owl habitat. But the white bird was nowhere to be seen. I am not really surprised, as this is not the first time in my life I try to see this bird. I knew it would be extremely difficult, but then again - you never win big if you don't take risks. It seems, that the snowy owl and me, is never going to happen. But what can I do - except continue searching.

Even though the snowy owl eluded me once again, I owe the owner of Arctic Tourist, Ørjan Hansen, a big thank you for a very memorable trip even so. This was a hard core winter trip, with temperatures of minus 20 degrees celsius most days and many hours out in the mountains. Without Ørjans experience and expertise, this trip would have been much more dangerous. Camping in a cabin high up in the mountains, only with a few reindeer as the only neighbours made you realise the remoteness of the palce. Since the snow is white, and the snowy owl is white, we actually found the most effective way to search was during the dark hours of the day using a strong torch. Even though we were dressed in so many layers of clothes that it was difficult to move, we found several foxes, wolverine (jerv) tracks and lots of Ptarmigans (fjellrype) and a few Willow grouse (lirype) in the lower grounds. Both new species for the Big Year list.

One of several Ptarmigans (fjellrype) found during our nocturnal search. This female is not
 easy to distinguish from the very similar willow grouse, but very small bill is the key,
as well as the shape of the forehead and bill. 

I must admit, it was quite an exotic experience to drive in pitch dark, in the harsh
mountains, only with the light of my torch and the snow mobile to guide our
way along the white fields. And of course, the sky was filled with dancing
Aurora borealis to keep us warm in the freezing cold. Very spectacular indeed!
You might think that one of the reasons we didnt find the snowy owl was because,
we held the torch straight up in the air.....I can assure you that this pose was for the
picture only, and that the light usually was hold in a more horisontal position.

This is a picture I took in the same area last year. Just to give you an idea
of how the roads and nature of this hostile mountains can be like. Yes - the
shadows you see in the white are cars, presumably driving on a road....

Even though we didn't manage to find the snowy owl, I am not surprised if this will be one of the trips I will most strongly remember by the end of the year. First time driving snow mobile, and spectacular nature and light and mountains. Norway is a fine place to live indeed!

And then the long flight back home....only interupted by the news of a
 Black-throated thrush (svartstrupetrost) in western Norway, in the town
Bergen. When one adventure ends - another begins.

I have already booked my tickets to try for the Black-throated thrush in Bergen. Two long trips so far in the Big Year, and both have ended with a dip. Will this third try for this huge rarity change my luck? Keep follow this blog to see what happens and if I succeed or not.

New species: 2
Total: 105



  1. Takk for det Henny. Forsøker å ta bilder som ikke bare er arts- eller dokumentasjonsbilder av fuglene jeg ser på turene mine. Men noe av poenget er også å få frem stemningen, som jeg har på de forskjellige turene.