Sunday 26 September 2010

Rarity Alert!

My interest for nature started with birds. From bashing through the forests in the outskirts of my hometown looking for bird nests as a 8 year old kid, I evolved my interest further and stronger and before long found myself spending all my spare time searching for new birds I had previously only seen in the book. This was about twenty years ago, and as funny as it is – I still find myself doing exactly the same thing today. I just have to admit and acknowledge, that I am a genuin bird nerd!

One of my best times through the year is a couple of weeks in the autumn, where myself and some equally bird nerdy friends meet at my local patch to do some birding. The end of September is THE time in Norway to find migrating birds that are a bit off track from their normal flyways. Birds that should have gone to the Far East, South America or at least in a totaly different direction than Norway, suddenly find themselves exactly here – in Norway. The reasons for the unfortunate circumstances are often a combination of weather and misnavigation. But for most and for all – it’s still a mystery. Bird migration has been studied since the beginning of yesterday's century, but are still one of natures’ biggest secrets.

The thrill and adrenalin kick, that rush through my body when I find a new bird that I have never seen before is enormous. The good feeling is uncomparable to ANYTHING – yes, even ... can’t come close to it.

This is what makes birding at this time of the year so interesting and exciting – you never know what is luring in the next bush – it might be a new adrenalin kick!

The Yellow-browed warbler  (gulbrynsanger), is not a huge rarity, but is what we call an indicator species. When seeing this bird in Norway, breeding in Siberia and supposed to reach the wintering areas in India and South-East Asia, you know that some easterly winds from far away have reached our west coast. Such winds can also bring adrenalin kicks :-) Ona, Sept. 2007

This North American White-crowned sparrow (hvitkronespurv) is the biggest "bomb" that has ever hit my local patch Ona. Only the 11th bird of this species ever to be found in Europe, and a 1st record for Scandinavia. This bird certainly made rush hour for my adrenalin! Ona, Oct. 2009

This Masked shrike (hvitpannevarsler) was together with the white-crowned sparrow certainly one of the most adrenalin rewarding birds that I saw during 2009. Only the 2nd record for Norway. Lista, Nov.2009.

At the same time, and only 300m away from the stunning masked shrike above, this Steppe-grey shrike (steppekrattvarsler) was lingering for a few weeks. This bird was about the 6th record in Norway. Lista Nov. 2009.

The Barred warbler (hauksanger) falls into the same category as the yellow-browed warbler. Contrary to the yellow-browed, this species can be a real skulker - meaning it hides really well in the bushes and can be frustratingly difficult to obtain good views of. When you see this species, you know you are doing a firm job, by checking the gardens properly and it's only time before you find the real skulky "sibes" which makes the adrenalin flow. Ona, Oct. 2008.  

Lista, the south tip of Norway delivers yet another time! This bird is the 3rd record for Norway (and 2nd for myself), and even how much of a "little brown job" this bird looks like - beeing able to photograph it in a stunning evening light was certainly a mindblowing experience! Isabelline wheatear (isabellasteinskvett), Lista, Nov. 2008. 


Saturday 4 September 2010

Svalbard Guiding

The first week of August, I was guiding a group of photographers for a ten-day trip on Svalbard. I like going with a small group size and small boats. This way you get a much more intimate experience with the Arctic landscape, harshness and of course most importantly also the wildlife. Even though we might be a bit more vulnerable to the weather and ice, we almost always find all the things we are looking for. I have now eight years of experience working as a fieldbiologist/guide on Svalbard.

Some of the highlights the last trip were Pomarine- and Long-tailed skuas, total of 4 Sabine’s gull (3 observations), 20 ivory gulls in front of a fantastic blue glacier, Polar bear killing an Arctic fox puppy and all possible seal species on Svalbard including Harbour-, Hooded and Harp seal. We missed out a bit on the cetaceans due to bad whale searching conditions, but we managed to photograph Belugas in front of blue ice and addtionally a large flock of about 70 animals in one of the west coast fjords. A jumping minke whale was quite spectacular to see and photograph as well. The highlight of the trip happened when we had belugas, sabine’s gulls, polar bear and a spectacular calfing blue glacier in the same view at the same time! All this and more together with stunning landscapes, means only one thing – happy clients!

Watching seven polar bears feeding on a whale carcass was a memorable experience for the whole group - including the guide
A polar bear is close to getting crushed under falling ice

Svalbard is one of few places in the world, where you can expect to see the increasingly rare ivory gull.
Glaciers are vital to the extreme biomass productivity in many of the fjords of Svalbard. Thousands of kittiwakes feeding on amphipods is an unforgettable nature spectacle.

Minke whale breaching! On the last trip, we had about 15 sightings of this spectacular whale.

Every trip is different from the last one, so time will show what we find next time.

At the moment I am attending a scientific expedition, and although we have seen a few ivory gulls and pomarine skuas, no big surprises have be seen yet. One of the first days in the drift ice west of Spitsbergen we came across about 40 Fin whales, one Blue whale. No less than five blue whales have been seen so far on the trip. A Polar bear on a seal kill was also seen, but photographing these things from a big ship is far from ideal….

The giant of the sea! The blue whale, the world's largest animal, is a regular sight in certain areas of Svalbard. Note the embarrasing small dorsal fin and blue grey colour compmared to the more or less equally sized fin whale seen in the next image.

A flock of fin whales in the drift ice on Svalbard.

I only do guiding on chartered boats, so if you want to use my services for a Svalbard expedition you will have to book early as both my own schedule and the boat charter is allready starting to fill up for the exciting year ahead.

If you want to see sights like this through your camera lens – then you should go wild with!