Friday, 29 August 2014

One Dunlin Flying.... (reprise)

Nordic Adventures Part 3

The Knots had finally arrived and the pages of our notebooks were starting to fill up with numbers, colours, letters and codes. As we had been concerned with the lack of data collected due to the tardy Knots we really went for it when we had birds to study. We even went “flagging” (looking for colour ringed birds to read the 3 letter code on the flag) at high tide when the birds were roosting. The chances of collecting a decent number of sightings of flagged birds at roost was slim but we wanted as many records as we could muster.


There are a number of regular roost sites that are easily observed so as the tide covered the flats on Lille Porsanger we would make our way to one of the best, the muddy puddles and rocky pools of  Viednes. It is impossible to get lost on the way to Viednes, even for the most directionally challenged. There is only one road in Lille Porsanger and it leads to and terminates at Viednes.

As you would expect for a place so remote there is little for the casual visitor to Viednes. There is a shop with fairly limited opening hours and an even more limited range of goods for sale.


This year I saw a sign for an internet café but never actually found the café itself.

There are a couple of farms and a scattering of wooden dwellings. A causeway sweeps across the bay to a small harbour where fishing boats land catches of cod and hang them out to dry. Before the road was built a boat was the only way in or out of this far flung outpost of civilisation.


For birdwatchers in general and Knot watchers in particular Viednes is a super place. The muddy pools created by the building of the causeway are a magnet for passing migrant birds. On these puddles I have seen Wood Sandpipers, Ringed and Golden Plovers, Temminck’s Stint and an Avocet. The latter causing quite a stir as it is a really rarity this far north.


As the pools deepen and merge into a shallow tidal bay there are a network of rocky banks. These are clearly man made as they are in straight lines and some join and bisect to make square and rectangular pools at high water, although I have no idea what their true purpose is, it is on these rocky shelves that the Knot roost at high tide.


It is here that we have arrived on a sunny morning, having come straight here from our base. A forty minute drive seemed like a long way the first time we did it 3 years ago but we have settled into a Finnmark groove and time and distance mean less and less with each passing day.

The birds were well settled and almost all were sleeping with terracotta coloured heads stowed under speckled wing. A few were preening themselves and one was having a wash. First thing we did was count them, twice to get an accurate figure. All three observers counted and compared results to get a really good estimate of numbers. We then scanned all the legs on show for coloured rings.


In a feeding flock this is actually quite easy, the birds are mobile and many can be checked for rings. At roost though it is a much trickier affair. The birds often roost on one leg and can remain motionless for long periods of time.

We decided to have a go, mindful not to disturb the flock. We were keen for data but not to the detriment of our subject.

From the bankside we slowly made our way to the shore. This was tricky as the snow had drifted up along the incline of the bank and was quite deep in places. You could quite easily sink waist deep in snow. Once on the rocky shore we started to creep closer to the birds along the exposed tops of the rocks, each taking a different path. We would take tow steps then wait for a few minutes scanning the flock to see if they ahd seen us and what their reaction was. If we felt we were starting to make them nervous then we would abort the mission and wait for the tide to drop and observe them whilst feeding.

Our progress was so slow and so stealthy that the birds remained totally calm and unruffled while we got within range to read the 3 letter code embossed on the yellow flagged ring on their left tibea.

I took another step and stopped. I adjusted the tripod and scanned the flock again. There is a flagged bird and a Dutch ringed bird (a combination of an unmarked flag and 4 coloured rings) in the flock but I can’t read the letters on our Norwegian bird or all of the colours on the Dutch bird. Hmmm… I will have to wait.

I have no problem with waiting. I like the standing around looking at the flock. I never get bored. In my mind I thought silly thoughts, made lists of things to do. I looked at the scenery, counted clouds. Think. Wait. I noticed other stuff. Like the fact there are no Common Gulls here today when yesterday there were dozens. The flock of Snow Buntings were still on the same field. A blue car trundled its way along the road to the village, tyres crunching through the loose gravel. A Redwing was starting to si…


Boom! From nowhere a Peregine swooped in. It came from over my right shoulder, nearly silent, I’m sure I detected a sort of hiss from its swept back wings slicing through the air. Far too quick for me to swing the camera to my eye and try and take its picture as it hits the Knot.

The roosting birds exploded from the rocks with a panicked chorus of metallic clucks and started to take evasive action. Too late for one individual, the Peregrine had it, neck easily snapped with a quick twist of the head. The hunter adjusted its prey in yellow talons for a comfortable carry and flew off across the bay towards to low cliffs around the headland from the harbour.

The frightened birds continued to fly at speed around the bay. Once they were feeling safe again the circled the bay, gained height with each lap and called constantly - like a tribute to the lost flock member. Eventually they returned to the roost. They came in and flitted about the rocks reorganising themselves ready to sleep again. While they were doing this I managed to find the ringed birds, read the flag and photographed the Dutch bird. I scribbled to sightings in my notebook and looking around I saw the others doing likewise. Traumatic for the Knots but more sightings for researchers.


We decided that the birds had had enough drama for one morning so we retreated back to the snowy bank to reflect on more adventures with Knots.

Fast forward to the date of this post, I am sitting at the computer as the rain ruins another summer day looking through some pictures from the Norway trip. I reach the photos that you have just seen and I remember watching the drama at Viednes. What you have just read is what I remember. I started to look for the pictures to illustrate this post and when I was working a few up to present here I noticed something in the flock that had escaped me on the day. An individual from a species I have been spending some time with recently on the muddy banks of the Dee.

With the terrified flock was a single Dunlin. Just one.


One Dunlin flying.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Copper Blue....

Copper Blue [CuSO4]

It is autumn 1992, towards the end of September if memory serves and I’m wrestling with a small TV aerial to find just the right position to get a decent buzz free signal for the portable TV that is sat on top of an old chest of drawers at the foot of my bed. Yes, we are in my teenage bedroom but don’t be scared, this preamble goes somewhere…

Showing on the 14inch screen is the Late Show on BBC2 and scheduled to appear are a new US band called Sugar. The singer of this band had been in a group that many of my favourite bands listed as a major influence. I had heard a snippet of a Sugar song on the radio a few days before and I was keen to hear more. Eventually they are introduced and they launch into “Helpless”, 2.47 minutes of fuzzed up yet beautifully melodic guitar twangery with urgent, earnest sometimes desperate, vocals. Straight away I knew that these guys were going to be important for me. I rushed out to buy their debut album as soon as I could (there was no internet to simply download the songs, I had to get a bus, find a shop that sold it and actually purchase a CD).

The album was called Copper Blue and it remains one of my favourite records.


About the same time that I was swooning to Sugar records I was studying chemistry at school… badly. I really liked the subject although I lacked the application and finesse to be a true chemist. My chemistry teacher described me as a “bucket chemist” - best left to mix stuff in a bucket to see what happens rather than run more complicated experiments that required precision and accuracy.

He was spot on, doing an experiment with some plain white crystals to synthesise one mole of water was a bit uninspiring for me. I liked whizzes, bangs and colourful solutions bubbling away in test tubes and reduction flasks.

One experiment did stick in my mind though when one afternoon we made copper(II)sulphate crystals. I don’t remember the nuts and bolts of the procedure, but I have a vivid picture in my mind of the stunning azure blue crystals that I had made. It looked like a pile of little blue gems, precious stones from Pluto, Mars or Neptune - anywhere but Earth. In 2008 the artist Roger Hiorns pumped 75,000 litres of copper (II) sulphate solution into a building and encrusted an entire flat in these magical blue crystals. One day I hope to see it; that sounds like my kind of chemistry.


Those crystals and the release of Sugar’s debut album will mean that the words Copper Blue will always be a bit special for me, evocative of my youth, never too far from my mind.

Then the sound of 100 or so Black-tailed Godwits swooping into the pool at Gilroy snaps me from my nostalgic daydream. I have been waiting for them. Patiently I might add, I may not have had the patience for chemistry but birdwatching has given me this skill in abundance.

The sound of the air being ripped apart by so many pairs of wings is surprisingly loud and a little scary. It sounds like a quite apocalypse, a small polite Armageddon. I have heard it on many occasions but it never fails to impress or disconcert.


The tide is flooding the not-so-far away mudflats and the birds have made the short flight from the estuary over Grange Hill to Gilroy where they will see out the inundation of their feeding grounds. Gilroy has been red hot for Blackwits all summer. They were present into May and the first birds arrived back from Iceland in the first week of July.

I have been through the rather unattractive black metal kissing gate and made the short walk along the footpath that would eventually lead you to Hoylake nearly every day to see these shorebirds. Just past the allotments the sign for the nature park would take you off the path to the left, but the real birdwatching treat is on your right in the flooded field that is usually just home to a few horses.

Right now though, the horses have some noisy neighbours and this seems to have puzzled the normally placid occupants of the field.


I wonder what the horses make of the huge flock of Black-tailed Godwits that have turned up from out of the blue and taken up residence on the pool. The birds don’t seem to mind the attention of the horses either. They shuffle out of their way when they mosey over for a cooling drink in the hot August sunshine. As I stand in the hedgerow watching this it occurs to me that a good way of getting close to the flock for photographs would be a pantomime horse costume converted into a mobile hide…

I dismiss this ludicrous idea as some more Blackwits roar in from overhead.

Since the birds started to return to Gilroy in early July the keen Blackwitters on the Dee have been keeping tabs on them. We have got to know their routine and as I write this it occurs to me that I have accidently fallen in synch with them. I work out what I am going to do in a day around when the Blackwits will be arriving in to Gilroy; my attendance at social engagements is dependant on the tide and the resultant whereabouts of the Godwits. At any given moment I reckon I could predict where and what the Blackwits are doing.

This is not a blind obsession, it is more a passion for these beautiful waders, a desire to contribute to the research being done on their migration ecology and the conservation ideas that may result from these studies.

To assist these projects we search the flock for colour ringed individuals and record the colour combinations. We find a few each day, some regulars – old friends – and the odd one we haven’t seen before.


We also look for juvenile birds making their first treacherous journey south. We record numbers and the % that they make in the flock. We spend hours with eyes pressed to the telescope looking for their distinctive speckled plumage.


I enjoy photographing them too. On sunny days I concentrate on capturing their behaviour with my camera. I have spent so much time with them that I know their habits, how they feed, the way they always do a little jump from the water when they are finished washing. The way they preen their feathers. I can predict when a scuffle will break out. I know what spooks them (Sparrowhawk, angry Coot) and what doesn’t (Kestrel, angry Moorhen).


I have seen plenty of other things while shooting the Blackwits. Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers have all come and gone since the flock arrived. A Greenshank hung around for a couple of days. A couple of Snipe joined them briefly. A lone Dunlin once spent a tide roosting with them. So small it was able to stand under the belly of a roosting Godwit. Unusually for a freshwater site we saw 4 Knot with them, one in smart summer plumage.

The plumage of the Blackwits is stunning. Depending on the angle of the sun and the time of day they can look peach, orange, terracotta and/or copper.

And the pool, it appears to compete with the sky for which can be the bluest in a sort of “blue-off”. I stare at the sky for a while, my eyes relaxing after hours at the eyepiece/viewfinder. The blue reminds me of something.... reminds me of a copper (II) sulphate solution. 


Chemistry lessons from long ago drift across my mind. This deep rich blue seems to perfectly compliment the copper colour of the birds. The sun burns off a small fluffy white cloud and the Blackwits plumage shines in the light. They look metallic. Copper Blackwits and Copper (II) Sulphate sky.

Copper Blue.... [CuSO4]


The sun shines, the birds twitter, my shutter whirrs and I hum... Helpless....

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Smoke That Flutters....

Nordic Adventures Part Two:

What is recounted below all happened while I was waiting for these….


There is a rather hushed and subdued atmosphere hanging over this little fjord that I have come to know and love so well.

Some weather has just drifted over us, I say drifted, perhaps steamrollered is more appropriate.


When the weather hits you in this neck of the woods it really kicks you in the ass. The cloud that now hangs like a low grey ceiling has just deposited a new layer of snow on the hills that flank the fjord. Everything is now black and white or a grey in between these two opposites. The wind has dropped from squally gasps to breathless. All is still on Lille Porsanger.


You might expect the next line to read “there wasn’t a sound” and true, the cloud is muffling things, but the fjord is by no means silent.

Behind me the river that is carrying melt water from the flanking hills gently gurgles away as it flows through a narrow neck. As it reaches the wide, shallow fjord it slows and quietens like an excited theatre crowd hushed as the curtain goes up. To my right there is the metronomic drip, drip, drip of melting ice that I am standing next to on the edge of the marsh that fringes the mudflats.

The soft dove-grey coloured mudflats, dotted with boulders and matted with deep brown patches of bladder wrack are starting to be covered by a slow, silent tide.

The atmosphere in the Porsanger Expedition team mirrors this greyness. We are waiting for Knots to survey and they are late. We have been in country for 5 days and despite much scouring of this fjord and the much larger Porsangerfjord we haven’t found big numbers of our shorebird quarry. Our notebooks are sparsely scribbled in, not much data can be collected if there aren’t any birds. I think doubts that they are going to turn up at all are starting to creep into some of the minds in the team.

I shuffle around on the spot, trying to keep warm. I push pebbles around with my shoes; the squelchy rasp of wet stone on wet stone is quite loud in this muted monochrome. All we can do is wait.


A White-tailed Eagle soars silently over the fjord. On the marsh a lone Redshank calls once then falls silent. I look around. A defiant birch sapling is poking through the just fallen snow.


The grey cloud seems to be lifting slightly. A huge powdery “crump” sound from the northward mountain breaks the quiet. Another avalanche. Spring is coming and that means melting snow which triggers regular big falls of fresh powder.


We wait. We wait. We wait. We wait.

Then…


Fresh from the Waddensea they drop from the thinning clouds. They cut through the greyness and Lille Porsanger turns red.


They bring with them the sun, they must have been riding the coat tails of the weather front that just blasted through and dusted us with snow.

Thousands and thousands pour in, squawking and spiraling to the fjord. Swirling like bonfire smoke, 34,000 wings louder than the avalanches, as loud as a waterfall, as loud as Victoria Falls - the smoke that thunders. It is a truly magical sight. We should never have doubted them. The mental email I was quietly drafting to our sponsors explaining that the birds simply didn’t arrive is quickly deleted. I look around, the team is beaming. Smiles turn to wide mouthed astonishment as 17,000 Red Knot appear before us. The birds are noisy but we are stunned into silence.
Description of this spectacle is beyond me.


We can go to work. Over the next few days we follow the flock, careful not to disturb it, recording its size, location behaviour and collecting sightings of colour ringed individuals. This is important for our research but it is also the most enjoyable pursuit. I get to spend time in close quarters with Calidris canutus. Watching, recording, photographing. Thousands and thousands of them in the Porsanger flock….


…the smoke that flutters.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

One Dunlin Flying.... (After Bertha)

A fantastic couple of days on the Patch. Waders are back in force and I have been there in the thick of it, braving the tail end of the ex-hurricane that has blasted over the Dee. This has made the tides higher and the birdwatching hotter.

Gilroy has been exceptional too, Blackwits in abundance, colour ring sightings continue to mount up and together with some like minded pals much data on arrival and numbers of juvenile birds has collected.

The pool is frantic with the king of shorebirds.


With so many birds crowding the pool it has been tricky to count them and find ringed birds but time spent with these birds is time well spent.


From the shelter of Gilroy to the shore at Hoylake. Autumn passage is in full swing, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Sanderling are zooming through. The flock in flight over the sands is a welcome sight after their absence for the breeding season.


They seem to have had a good season, there are many, many juveniles in the flock. They are restless, yesterday a Peregrine reduced the flock by one and these birds don't seem to have forgotten that. Eventually they settle...


Once on the shore colour rings are searched for...


...and found. Ringed in Spain, this Dunlin will surly be headed back there for the winter, just a fleeting visit to the muddy banks of the Dee.

The birds are on edge, even pigeons seem to startle them. As they fly up in alarm I try to isolate one for a flight shot.


I get a countdown of Dunlin. 3 in flight.


2 in flight.

Then finally a straggler lagging behind the flock.


One Dunlin flying.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Flying Down to Mono Valley....

Seek shade. That is what I will almost certainly do if the temperature hits and exceeds 25°C. I am not a natural sunbather. Read some of the posts about my travels to the far north and you will see that freezing temperatures hold no fear for me. Stinking hot sunshine on the other hand - scary. Sweating, sunburn and sunstroke are not my cup of tea.

However on this occasion I had to get out into the sunshine, there was no shade where I was headed. I slapped on a hat after slopping on some pore-clogging factor 30 and feeling uncomfortably greasy I stepped out into the sun.

I hadn’t gone south, not out of the country, I was still on the Patch, Thurstaston Shore to be precise - one of my usual haunts. Thousands of waders have returned to the muddy banks of the Dee and I was keen to hook up with them again since the majority of them left at the end of April.


I sloped down the cliffs with camera bag and tripod mounted telescope weighing me down, the effort making me sweat off some of the sun cream and leaving me feeling slightly more uncomfortable. Sand flicked off my shoe and stuck to the cream protecting my legs. Beads of sweat and residue of sun cream coagulated on the binocular strap around my neck. Yuk.

The tide was starting to flood and after a cursory glance at the shore from the cliff top on Saturday I figured I would be treated to a good show of Redshank if I came back on a rising tide on my day off.

As predicted the Redshank are here in abundance but I wasn’t expecting the 2,000 Dunlin that greeted me as I hit the shore. Instantly I forgot all my petty complaints about summer birding and I was plunged back into the world of wading birds on my beloved Patch.


I live and work on the Patch and over the years I have got to know it inside out. I have even started to name bits of it with peculiar nicknames after memorable or funny events. Lots of patch watchers do this and all kinds of nicknames arise with meaning only to the patcher. I love this.

So today I’m walking up towards Heswall parallel with part of the Patch I call Mono Valley.

Mono Valley is not a valley. It is a channel a few feet deep that the tide has carved in to the mudflats and it runs from Tinkers Dell at Thurstaston to Heswall Fields on the fringes of the marsh. Birds feed in and around it, a really small tidal bore can be seen long before the main front of the tide reaches the flats. It fills up rapidly and the birds spill out from roost sites on the channel/valley wall. At low water birds line the valley walls, presumably feeling safer in the valley rather than on the exposed mudflats.

Mono Valley has no audio properties either mono or stereo. A long time ago I saw some birds flying along the channel. At this point I was just calling it the valley but seeing the birds flying down it I recalled an album from early 90’s Liverpool indie bad The Popinjays called Flying Down To Mono Valley and ever since that day….

The Dunlin and Redshank are being pushed around by the tide and some start to fly down Mono Valley towards their roost sites in the marsh.

I have the scope up and the camera out so I get a few shots as the birds take off…


And land again…


I studied them through the scope to see if there are any more unusual small waders mixed in. I found a Sanderling in summer plumage (rare on Thurstaston Shore) and a few Ringed Plovers. A particularly large and peachy coloured bird could have been a Curlew Sandpiper but I couldn’t be 100%, it is a little early for them. I will have to come back.

Wandering on I reached the elbow. This is a bend in Mono Valley close to my final destination and is a good spot for Greenshank (there are none today) and pretty soon Teal will be back loafing on the mudbanks here.

Lots of the Dunlin are moulting, they still had some smart golden plumage on their wings but their striking summer black belly patches are fading to a belly smudge.


I counted the Dunlin (2,000) and the Redshank (4,500) while Whimbrel called from the marsh. I found a single Knot in fading summer plumage. 20 Blackwits spring from Mono and fly towards Connah’s Quay. The hot sun was beating down but I don’t recall feeling it, so transfixed weas I by the birds.

I started to look in detail at the Dunnies, trying to spot the differences between subspecies. Should I be seeing schinzii and alpina at this time? I racked my fried little brains to remember which one has the longest bill and other distinguishing features.

After a while I decided not to get bogged down in taxonomy, plus the birds were a bit too far for frame filling shots so I decided just enjoy the birds.

Six photogenic Little Egrets drifted along Mono and alighted on the edge of the tide to feed. 


More Dunlin flew in.


I get to Heswall Fields and sit on Scotch.

(Scotch is a bench. It is not Scottish. A handy birding snack is a Scotch Egg. Easily portable, tasty and calorific they are usually found in my birding bag. One day I was out with my wife and we ended up walking along Mono Valley. We stopped for a bite to eat on a bench overlooking the marsh for a snack. Lois bit into her Scotch Egg to find that it didn’t contain the boiled egg. It was not a Scotch Egg, it was a Scotch-minus-the-egg. A Scotch. Ever since that day that bench….)

The birds start to populate the creeks and gullies in the marsh, too many valleys to name. They disappear from view as the mudflats disappear under the tide. The birding action subsides and sitting in the sun on Scotch I start to feel the heat again.


I drain my water bottle and seek shade.

Friday, 27 June 2014

The Bumpy Road to Borselv...

Nordic Adventures Part One:

Along the bumpy road to Borselv I found my niche. I say found, I suspect that I always really knew what and where it was, but over the pot-holed broken tarmac and grey gravel it was confirmed.


I like cold, wide open spaces and I like these spaces to have lots migratory shorebirds in them.
Therefore, just like the Patch in winter, I love Porsangerfjord in the Finnmark region of northern Norway. It ticks all the boxes:

Cold. Spring is late this year and since I arrived I have been caught in more blizzards than I care to remember.

Space. Yes, plenty of that. The nearest supermarket to our base is a good 4 hour round trip and our study sites are dotted along the sprawling shores of Porsanger and Lille Porsanger. By the end of our expedition I have driven the equivalent mileage of a trip from Liverpool to Copenhagen and back.

Migratory Shorebirds. We’ve just counted 20,000 Knot all in startling summer plumage. Awesome.

There is plenty of other wildlife here too; it’s just the vastness, the sheer massive scale of this country that makes Porsanger seem empty. This, I think, is what has me hooked. I like “finding” things here because they are not always immediately obvious as an observer you have to be patient and persistant. Wildlife watching here takes time.

I have been lucky enough to spend 10 days in an African jungle and as great as it was, the place and the profusion of life was just too much to take in properly. On every leaf of every branch there was something. A bird, a bug and occasionally a snake. Each one special in their own way, but there was simply not enough time to identify and appreciate them all (and it was way too hot!).

Here I can look on a dozen acidic, shallow boggy pools and see nothing, then on the next I will find something. Here this something is A thing not ANOTHER thing.

I find a thing on the thirteenth pool. A Common Crane.


Once you get your eye in all sorts of things appear. As I stare across the tundra I start to appreciate the subdued colour palette of the arctic landscape. Some might consider it dull as it is made up of greys, dusky greens, beige and maroon that in places deepens to a dense purple. There is nothing gaudy here, nothing that is too showy. These drab colours seem to absorb all the available light, and there is plenty of that, the sun never sets while we are on expedition and we birdwatch long into the “night”. I set my alarm to remind me to take a picture of the midnight sun…


In amongst these subtle colours I find another thing. A male Bar-tailed Godwit is defending his territory.


This brings home to me another reason why I love it here so much. An awful lot of this wildlife is familiar to me. I see Barwits on the Patch in the winter, never in huge numbers but always there. Here I can see them in their summer plumage. So the wildlife here is the similar, but subtly different. The Barwit’s brown winter speckles have deepened to ruddy red and he looks super smart. There is plenty of stuff here that I would never see on the Patch but, in general, sizes and shapes are equivalent giving me time to appreciate things fully once they have been identified.

Now I'm thinking along another track. Am I a lazy naturalist? I like the slow pace of the fjords and my beloved Dee estuary back home. Here days, well daylight, lasts for months and back home everything follows a tidal rhythm. Wildlife is spectacular but it is not as diverse as in other places, so it’s easy to learn what’s about. Am I too idle to learn all the bugs and birds of Africa? Probably.

I am thinking. This place, with the peace, solitude and its vastness does that to me. Space to think big existential thoughts (not that I am any great philosopher with much to say about the world, I just think of tiny, insignificant me in it!). Then again, sometimes in the quiet it is pleasant to think no thoughts at all.
As I sit by the edge of the fjord, thinking big thoughts then no thoughts, the calm, gentle oscillation of the waves lulls me into a comfortable indolence while I wait for the tide to drop. In a couple of hours I can resume collecting data for the Knot Project that has brought me here, but in the meantime... my mind just... drifts.

On a distant hillside I find a thing. Through the telescope I see a bloody stain on the pure white snow. An old reindeer has come to grief over the long winter and its carcass has become visible as the snow slowly melts. A White-tailed Eagle is pulling at a leg while 5 Ravens wait their turn on the carrion. The eagle takes what it needs then retires to digest its meal while the Ravens squabble over the remains. This environment is often described as harsh or unforgiving and this seems at odds to the way I feel about it. It is just impassive, it can’t forgive because it isn’t sentient, it is mountains and tundra not judge and jury. This place just IS.


Another “thing” walks past. A Red Fox pads through the snow away to my right. It’s coat looking thickly luxuriant and warm. Here they are a bit of a problem. They are expanding their range into that of the Arctic Fox and they are taking the eggs of some rare geese that nest close to here. For all of these problems they are no less beautiful so I reel of a few frames as she (I think it is a vixen) trots by.


A shower is coming my way and soon a gentle drizzle starts to fall. The air starts to feel colder too and soon this light rain turns white in an attempt at a snow shower. This low calorie snow doesn’t last long so I just snuggle lower into my parka and wait for the sun to return.

I find another thing. A small flock of Snow Buntings (a rare treat on the Patch but a garden bird here) come twittering down to the strandline on the beach I am perched above. The males are in a quite eye-catching summer plumage. They start to forage along the washed up seaweed. This strandline is Himalayan in comparison to the ones we get on the Dee but it fits perfectly with the hugeness of Porsanger. I have taken plenty of pictures of these birds back home but here they are in different plumage and on a different stage. Snow covers the tundra that slopes to this beach and one male hops on to it. It get to photograph a Snow Bunting on some snow.


So in this cold, cold place I feel right at home, warm and fuzzy in my 6 layers of insulation. The bumpy road to Borselv is like the muddy banks of the Dee, a home away from home.
The tide drops enough for data collection to resume so quiet contemplation and wildlife photography must cease, it is back to work. There will be more to share on this subject soon…