Friday 27 December 2013

Big Year Norway 2014!

Soon, it's kick off time! The last years I have been so absorbed in my photography, that I almost lost touch of the birder in me. In 2014, this will all change.

I decided to do a BIG YEAR. That means trying to see as many bird species as possible within one year in Norway. It has never been done (officially at least) in Norway before. For one year, I will travel here and there to all the far flung corners of this beautiful country to attempt to see every species - breeding or not - that decide to pay Norway a visit. Within ethical limits, I will also try to document as many of the species as possible with my camera. My goal for the year is 320 species, a number higher than anyone ever before has managed to reach, but to manage that I need more than hard effort. As there are "only" about 242 regular breeding bird species in Norway, I need also to have a bit of luck with the different rarities that might turn up. The area covered in this project is Norway and Svalbard.

Through Big Year Norway 2014, I also try to raise some money - not for myself, but to facilitate birding in a suitable locality somewhere in Norway. This will hopefully include boardwalks, bird hides and whatever the locality needs to make birds available to people and at the same time not disturbing the birds. The idea is to increase the birding interest amongst the public in that area, and through that making more people want to protect our birds. As I have been out in the field, with almost no time in front of computers or within phone reach since early May, I must admit that the planning of Big Year Norway 2014 has suffered a tiny bit. So if you reading this works in a company that might be willing to contribute, or you know someone that does, please don't hesitate to contact me. The money raised will not go to sponsor any of my birding trips - but everything will go into making a nice birding locality for the public. Since I am little behind with the planning, there are still some details left to settle on the exact choice of birding area.

There are already a few collaboration partners in Big Year Norway 2014 - but there are still room for more! Don't hesitate to contact if you want to contribute to this bird saving project!

Updates on Big Year Norway 2014 will happen on a regular basis on this blog and in other media, so be sure to visit often.

This will be an interesting year - full of birds and stories. Kick off time is 1st of January 2014!

This buff-bellied pipit I found in Svalbard in June 2011. It was only the 4th for
 Norway, and the first one to be seen in breeding plumage. Will this species
be included in my Big Year?


Monday 2 September 2013

Searching for years....

I remember the very first time I came to Svalbard. It was 6th June 2001. As many of the other people visiting Svalbard, one of my biggest hope was to see the Ross’s gull. After all Svalbard is part of the Arctic, and the ross’s gull is an Arctic species.

Many years have passed since 2001, and I have visited Svalbard virtually in every one of them. I have searched the flocks of kittiwakes, I have searched south of Svalbard, east of Svalbard, west of Svalbard, north of Svalbard, in the sea ice, outside the sea ice. In summer and winter, in autumn and spring. I have even searched some of the remote eastern shores of Greenland, but I’ve never seen a ross’s gull (apart from the one bird I saw in southern Sweden in 2002). Every year, herds of tourists are visiting Svalbard, many of them birders, and apparantly many of them see the ross’s gull on their brief visit. Why not. After all, they are visiting the Arctic, and ross’s gull is an Arctic species. What I have always found very strange, is that despite more cameras than ever before are coming with these human visitors there has as far as I know not been a single one of these ross’s gulls that have been documented since 2001. You have probably guessed already, since I have bothered to write this blog that this has now changed.

Frankly, I started to think that ross’s gull was one of those species that only exists in bird books. I’ve almost given up my hopes for this species, when I suddenly saw a very peculiar marked bird flying along side our research vessel. The flight was actually not very much different from a kittiwake, but the markings were a give away. A beautiful juvenile ross’s gull! Outside the window I have so many times before looked through in the hope of seeing one. Here it was, alone but not lonely. The gull was soon joined by a kittiwake, and then I could appreciate the size difference between the two. A few minutes went by, and as it left us into the horison westwards I couldn’t help thinking that this was nothing like I imagined the jizz of a ross’s gull. The plumage I just had seen is actually not illustrated in any bird book – not mine at least. So I had to look at my images carefully to double check. Yes indeed – a juvenile ross’s gull.

A couple of blue whales later and a few days had passed – north of Svalbard somewhere I was still smiling from the nice ross’s gull observation when I again looked out the window. Two ross’s gulls! This time, they behaved much more like I’ve always pictured them in my head. Very swift, elegant, and throwing themselves from side to side rapidly changing directions. They reminded me not at all about kittiwakes, but much more of pratincoles hunting for insects. Even though these birds where exactly similar patterned as my first one, they gave a very different appearance and experience. Best of all – I managed to document them all J

It seems to be an exceptional good year for the species in Svalbard this year as two other obersvations have also been reported and documented. One from June and another from August - both concerning single adult bird.


Wednesday 12 June 2013

The show is over

Summer has finally arrived, and as always here up north, it has been a very hectic spring. Especially so for the frogs at the lake in my local forest - one of the biggest dramas that take place in Norwegian nature each year. For only a few days each year, they gather to fight for the future existence of their genes. If you take your time, it is a true spectacle to watch. If you dont mind getting wet, it is very nice to photograph them as well.

- EG -

Saturday 4 May 2013

Swarovski EL 10x42 Swarovision

Since February, has been sponsored by Swarovski Optik. High quality has always been a trade mark of WildNature, and one of the most important piece of my gear when out doing photography or guiding other photographers is my pair of binoculars. I use binoculars virtually every day, so trust me when I say that I have tried quite a few over the years. I have now had the time to test one of the top models of Swarovski's binoculars for some months. I have been in very different climates and habitats, from the hot and humid rain forest of Soth East Asia, to blizzards and minus 15 degrees celsius in winterly northern Norway.

I am not going to bore you with technicals details, as this you can read on Swarovski's own website.
But, as a keen birder and wildlife photographer, quality in my optical "instruments" are a great part of my success or not success when out in nature. Especially many photographers tend to forget taking a pair of binoculars when going out in the field, but for me, it is just as important as the camera itself. To photograph an animal or bird, you need to find it first. Knowledge about the species is of course important so you know what general area to search in, but after that, to spot the bird in the forest, in the kelp or in the thick grass or on a mountain ridge far away can sometimes be demanding. With a good pair of binoculars, your chances will improve a lot. How much, you will understand the day you change your "medium" binoculars with a pair of one the top models out on the market.

EL 10x42 Swarovision is one of the very finest top model binoculars out on the market from Swarovski. First impression is a light, compact and easy to hold pair of binos. It is resting very well in my hands, fitting to my grip - something which makes it easy to hold still, even for longer period for instance when studying an eagle soaring over my head. The light weight and easy grip also helps a lot when using them from a boat platform, where waves make some rocking and shaking impossible to avoid.

Sharpness. This pair of binos is razor sharp. I have never tried any binos before with such sharpness. It is pin sharp all the way out to the edges of the field of view. Together with the neutral colours, this makes it a joy to look through. Contrast and sharpness are very important parts in how comfortable a pair of binos is to look through. In the EL 10x42 Swarovision, the contrast is very good. Looking for birds in late evenings in kelp and seaweed or getting minor details in colours inside a dark rain forest makes you understand how good the contrast really is. The easyness of seeing small details crucial for identification of look alike partidges in the rain forest or to actually discover the brown wader against the brown kelp washed up on the beach convinces me about the quality of these binos. Another important part, especially when birding in forest or thick bush, is that the EL 10x42 Swarovision is able to focus as close as 1.5 meters!

I dont want to make my review too long, but just want to mention one last thing which often is very important  when out in the field. With these pair of binoculars, you can look at birds with light almost directly against you and still get details of the birds. No flares or reflections. This is however a trait that often decreseases in quality with wear and tear of the coating on the lenses, so it will be interesting to see if it is still as good after some more time out in the field.

In short, the contrast, sharpness and colour reflections make it a joy to use these binoculars. You get a real high definitions view, where details of plumage, colours of fur or just shapes against other shapes stands out very nicely. The high quality of this pair of binoculars will, undoubtly, help me discover birds and other wildlife that I otherwise would have missed. The only negative thing I have to say about this binoculars is that the price (about EUR2000) might be a bit too steep for enthusiasts. But for those that use binoculars often, or professionally like myself, I am in no doubt that putting a little bit extra money into good quality optics will be well worth it. For photographers, these binoculars will without doubt lead you to photography oppurtunities that you otherwise will miss.

This review might seem a bit biased, where no negative things are shown. The fact is, that the EL 10x42 Swarovision is the very best pair of binoculars I have ever tried, and so far I havent found one single negative  thing to say about it. If I do in the future, I will certainly tell you about it.


Sunday 31 March 2013

The Pack

February and March has been again quite busy with a photo assigment in Northern Norway, a trip to the great rain forests in Thailand and a lot of office work that need to be finnished before an other hectic but exciting field season kicks off. It is very nice to again spend a lot of time outdoor doing photography, as this winter has been very slow and way too much time spendt inside pushing those unexciting computer buttons.

I love silhouettes, and I love dogs! I have had a dog in my life most of the time, but the last years I have had no time because of all the time I spend out at sea. It is certainly something I miss having around, and I do miss the great company while out doing photography and on my many trips here and there. I was therefore super excited when my friend Emilie said yes to me for using her sled dog pack of ten Alaskan huskeys as models for an upcomming article I am working on. As always, I thought it would be easy as I was going to work with tame animals for a change. But of course I was wrong once again.  Photography is never easy, and certainly not when you work with animals. Working with tame animals, only means you are raising the bar for whats a keeper and even more images than usual end up in the trash bin. 

I anyway enjoyed my time out with the dogs very much, and even though this was in fact my first dog sled trip - it will certainly not be my last. Thanks Emilie - Great dogs and great fun! 

Introducing the pack of happy dogs!

It was great to see how the dogs and the musher are working together as a team,

Taking a rest, and steam raise up in the cold winter air. 

Like a pack of wolves, the shadows move through the forest.

Pack leader.

Some of these images are not perfect technically, as they mostly are shot on 1600 and 3200 iso -  something which I think actually is above the limit for what the canon 7d can take. But to be honest - I think the harshness created partly because of technical limitations in some instances can improve the atmosphere in the images. 


Saturday 2 February 2013

New Picture Library

It is no secret that my website - - has suffered a little bit from my aversion against sitting inside pushing computer buttons and disastrous computer skills. As it wasn't updated for two years, it started to influence my business and I have now finally found the force to do something about it.

I have now a fully searchable web site, or my very own picture agency if you like. A place where my custumers can download highres images directly, and without the need to communicate with me should they not want to. As I am often out and about taking pictures or helping others taking the pictures, it is a great comfort to know that my custumers can get their needs fullfilled without my personal assist.

Pictures will be added regularly, and if you want - please visit to have a look at some of the 4000 images currently out for sale, or read about my bird guide services.



Thursday 3 January 2013

Knowledge is to know when you don't know

The last day of 2012 came with a surpise. A young walrus had turned up in the small town of Kristiansund, not far from where I grew up. Despite my ten years of experience in the Arctic, where I have amongst other things worked with guiding film crews and photographers to awesome walrus experiences, I found much joy in knowing that one was seen not far from where I was born. Well out of its normal range. I changed my plans for new years eve celebration, so that I would be ready early next morning for the 2.5hrs drive to Kristiansund to hopefully get to see this animal myself.

Despite that pictures on the internet, as well as friends’ description of the behaviour did not give any signs of weakness or sickness in this animal, I was unfortunately not very surprised when I got the message only a few hours later that local wildlife authorities had decided to kill the walrus. It had been shot dead, and then towed out to sea to get rid of the carcass. The decision was based on a number of reasons that all led to the conclusion of a very sick and injured animal according to the wildlife authority and the Food Safety Authority. Despite their suspision of sickness, they did not bother to take any blood or tissue samples of the animal before they let the walrus sink to the bottom of the ocean.

Some of the criteria used in their assessment were that this animal had red eyes, broken one of its tusks, reddish/pinkish skin, it did let people get fairly close to it, a small wound in one of the flippers and the fact that it had turned up about 1500km south of its normal distribution. All clear signs of sickness and incapability to recover according to the authoroties in charge. Of course, there were not given any concerns amongst either the local wildlife authority nor the Food Safety authority to the fact that they had absolutely no experience with the natural behaviour of walrus. This was ignored completely, and it was so important to kill this animal so quickly that they did not even take their time for a google search. Something which had taken shorter time than loading the rifle. If they hadn’t been in such a hurry to kill the poor animal, their google search would have shown them thousands of pictures of healthy walruses looking exactly the same as the one laying on the jetty in front of them. It was considered a waste of time to call anyone with walrus experience. For those of you that dont know much about the walrus, I can assure you that the whole list of ”signs of weakness” mentioned above is acutally characteristica of the walrus as a species and very typical for healthy walruses. In other words, completely normal.

Red eyes is a common trait of walrus - this one is photographed in Svalbard.

The walrus is a protected species in Norway, and on the Red list (list over threatened and endangered species) which ideally should have made the respective authorities take extra care in such a case and make sure they were doing the right thing. Even so, I think it is only in Norway this way of wildlife managing can happen. Unfortunately, they showed the same ignorance and arrogance of other expertise that they show on a regular basis when it comes to assessing wild animal health issues in many other cases. Compared to the job they are set to do, it is almost unbelievable the lack of knowledge they posess as well as the complete lack of will to cooperate with other expertise such as behaviour biolgists in some cases. It is an arrogance towards wildlife and other people that is unparallel.

It has been a repeating event, and so many animals have been killed without reason in this country. This incident is now getting a whole lot of media coverage thanks to dedicated people working independent of each others, and reacting of this way to govern our nature. We have also gone to the police, so that they are forced to looked at it in a more formal way.

I have mentioned it before in this blog. Norwegians are seeing themselves as a people of nature. The truth is very different and the sad fact is that we have removed ourselves so far away from nature that we have entered a sort of paranoid state, where all animals that are behaving a little bit away from the normal are considered dangerous or sick. At the same time, Norway is almost a century behind the rest of the world when it comes to nature conservation and wildlife mangement, where our goverment still thinks that the only way to manage nature is through shooting and killing. It is really sad, but I do hope that the media attention this walrus have gotten can give way to a change in how our wildlife authorities are handling these sort of cases in the future. Their arrogance have to stop.

Pink skin and reddish mouth - also completely normal in walrus as shown
 in this Svalbard native.