Calcun Rock from Calidris canutus, the Red Knot.
The fjord seems vast to me, but a glance at the map shows it is tiny compared to the adjoining bodies of water. The tide is out, the mud is much greyer than the stuff I’m used to on the
Dee. It looks
slightly firmer too. I take a few tentative steps from the mossy bank below the
road where we have dumped the car. Firmer than Dee mud certainly, but I fancy
that I will still get a good covering.
I start the sloppy trek out on to the flats to look for the birds.
I’m in Lilliporsanger in the Finnmark region of arctic
, here to collect data for
the Norwegian Knot Project. The flock of Knots, staging here on their way to Greenland and Canada, are way out on the
edge of the tide so I figure that I will waddle across the grey gloop until I
find a suitable place to set up scope. Norway
I love these birds and I’ve followed them from the muddy banks of the Dee to this breathtaking arctic scene.
I come across a likely looking rock and settle in to wait for the birds to come past me on their way to roost over high water.
The flock is assembling at the waters edge ready to start the long march towards a shingle island at the head of the fjord for a sleep.
Not a bad place to be hanging around waiting for Knots! Finnmark is so vast. Big is a poor way to describe it but all other adjectives I can think of don't do it justice either. Here I am just a tiny spec in the landscape, I feel the enormity of the entire globe, in my mind I can see a map and where I am, I revel in the remote-ness of the place.
The flock takes flight, breaks my daydream and I think that my cunning has been foiled, but to my surprise the birds fly fight up to my rock and land almost at my feet. For a while I am rooted to my rock, I daren't move in case I spook them. I just sit with my back to the rock, my cal cun rock. The stone is cold, unforgivingly so but I remain as still as it.
Eventually I think that they are pretty settled and I start to look through the flock for colour rings. I'm in luck...
I then pluck up the courage to point the camera at the birds and reel off a few shots, still wary of scaring the birds. I needn't be. They don't even shoot me a second glance, in fact they simply go to sleep....
The situation I am in is very remeniscent of high tides at Hoylake back in January, the size of the flock, the proximity, the behaviour of the birds and the number of images being written to the memory cards of my camera.
The setting makes this extra special. I stop to take in the whole experience, I feel I have to remember this, to burn these scenes into my brain forever. I am thinking that this is going to be one of the best wildlife experiences I have ever had. Then the flock is rattled and stirs into action, the reason for the nervousness is an otter swimming up the fjord. Confirmation that this is shaping up to be a special day. Some of the birds go back to sleep, some start to feed. Watching them at close quarters is something I will never ever tire of. Each time I do I find out something new, on this occasion I notice that they are washing their food before they eat it.
I am happily shooting away with the camera and collecting colour ring sightings when the peace is shattered, I knew it would be eventually. The flock explodes into the air, the roar is huge, the sight is astounding and I am so close that I can feel the wash and turbulance from the 10,000 wings scything through the air. The birds circle around me then over me, unbelivably close. Magical...
For a short while they blot out the sun and the mountains, all is Knots. I am left dumbfounded.....
... and on the receiving end of a direct hit of Knot poop. I wear it proudly like a badge.
What caused this mass panic? I will reveal all in my next post about these special birds in a special place.
I have total respect for these birds....