WILDLIFE BY THE SEA OF SOUTHERN NORWAY, January-2023.
A small selection images of the most common wildlife to see by the coast now in mid winter time.
Another rather common duck by the coast are the Long-tailed Duck. Unfortunately this species are in decline. This circumpolar species is also high arctic to sub arctic breeder and are circumpolar distributed.
A GLIMPSE INTO THE LIFE OF THE GREY SEALS, NORWAY -DECEMBER 2022.
The most exciting period of the life to the Grey Seals are in late autumn/early winter. This is when the cows at Kjørholmane in Norway give birth to the pups, – and thereafter followed by mating. We therefore made a trip out to these islands to observe and document parts of their interesting life in this time period. The photograps in this blog post show clearly it is winter with warm light and long shadows as it is only a week away from being the darkest days of the year. Most of the snow had recently blown away from the islands, but the water puddles are ice covered. The temperature is -8°C on the mainland and -3°C out here.
Heading out with a strong and stable rapid boat at first light of the day we approached the small islands out against the rough North Sea after a while. In spring and summer time the islands is teeming by thousands of seabirds out here (for this, please see the 2nd latest blogpost ”Spring in southern Norway 2022”). Now, near all of them are gone, only a couple of Cormorants and a Little Auk (Dovekie) kept around. The only wintering creatures now are the seals, consisting of mainly Grey Seals. Here we find the biggest Grey Seal colony south of Trøndelag. It is only around 25 years ago the locals on the nearby inhabited island discovered that the seals here gave birth to pure white pups, called “Kvitunger” (White babies) in Norwegian. It is normally seal species that give birth on the sea ice who are white for camouflage. The Grey Seal population in the Baltic Sea still give birth on the sea ice, while the other western populations (UK, Iceland, Scandinavian and Kola Peninsula) does normally not. The eastern populations (New Foundland and Labrador) partly give birth on sea ice, mainly in Labrador.
When the puppies are around 3 weeks old the white fur is starting to moulte and change to greyish color. At this time the mothers will go for shorter time in the water in search of food to herself. When the nursing period is over and the puppies have moulted completely, they goes to sea, for so to lose approximately ten kilograms of its weight due to a lack of experience in catching fish.
When the mothers are away in the sea the white puppies are alone on land. They grow very fast, they are between 13-17 kg new born and increase their weight by around 2kg a day due to the extremely fat-rich milk (up to 60% fat). The puppies can shout loudly on their mothers when they are out in the sea for a short while as they are very eager to get the mother back again When she is on her way back on land the puppy often moving against her mother. Their reunion gesture is sniffing each other face to face.
The breeding and mating time is very close in time after each other. Not long after the cows had given birth the males are ready for mating. The females are not necessarily ready when they have new-born puppies. The male to the left seek contact with the female.
Overview over part of the breeding area at Nord-Kjør. The island of Håstein in the background. The female has a fight with the male (left) because she is not ready for mating yet as she have a small pure white puppy.
AUTUMN REPORT FROM THE MOUNTAINS OF SOUTHERN NORWAY, September / October -2022.
Returning back after 2 interesting weeks in the Rondane and Dovre mountain ranges I share some of the images from the trip in this blog post.
Powerful Reindeer Bulls. As described in earlier blogposts the Reindeer in Dovre and Rondane mountain ranges are among the very few Reindeer populations in Eurasia that have their original DNA intact without any interference from domestic Reindeer. It is also to be mentioned once again that these populations have their origin from Beringia, and not from southern Europe as most other populations found further south in the Norwegian mountains today.
Incoming Reindeer at full speed. More new images of Reindeer can be seen in the “Reindeer” gallery.
Tofte, the biggest and perhaps oldest farm in Dovre is referred to as a royal estate under the Viking King Harald Hårfagre who united Norway under one kingdom in the year 872 (the battle at Hafrsfjord) was a crown estate in the Middle Ages. PAY
Reindeer Hunting Blind from late Iron Age in Rondane mountain range. The crescent shape is 3m at the widest, and the blind front wall is measured to be 70cm at the highest. Here we can imagine ourselves that the Reindeer hunter sat waiting with his Longbow. On this small plateau there are around 20 of these blinds. A remarkable place. More new images of archaeological sites can be seen in the “Archaeological Sites” gallery.
The Arctic Fox is resting in the chilly wind, covering the nose with its tail. More images of Arctic Fox can be seen in the “Arctic Fox” gallery. PAY
Wolverine tracks and kill. Wolverines normally eat the softest part of the animal first.
The Dovrefjell mountain range is one of the very few places in Norway that still holds near a complete eco system.
SUMMER IN THE MOUNTAINS OF SOUTHERN NORWAY, Medio July-2022.
Spring went and Summer followed. Below is a couple of photos from the mountains of southern Norway I would like to share with you in this blog post. They are taken both in the lower regions that surrounds the Rjuven mountain range, and in the highest elevations of the mountain range itself. See the blog post from Feb/Mar-2002 says, “the name Rjuven means “the rocky and bare ridge”, and the name suits well for this area containing hard granite”.
In mid July the Reindeer antlers are still growing. This magnificent Bull will end up with an impressing antler when the rutting time begin in September. Note that the animal still have most of the winter-fur (PAY).
Reindeer Bulls (PAY). More images of Reindeer can be seen in the “Reindeer gallery”.
The snow fall are heavy in the Rjuven area, which are partly caused by oceanic climatic influence. Humid winds from the North Sea are blowing in from west and create meters on meters with snow. It can take near all summer to melt these down.
The area here have been used by mankind for thousands of years, -by reindeer hunters, herders etc. Some places mother nature has made the basis of a sheltered place to stay at night time and when the weather was to rough to be outside. This is such place, and where people back in time have improved the shelter by stacking stones and placed moss in between for preventing wind, rain and snow to force through the walls.
When visiting places like this one can find interesting objects that due to the remoteness has not been found by others and removed. More ancient material/photos can be seen in the “Archaeological Sites gallery”.
From the 1200-hundreds the King of Norway had all rights regarding catching Gyrfalcons for game hunting. Here we see remains of one of the very few places of this activity. It is estimated that this one dates back to the 1600-1700-hundreds and was used by Dutchmen. The circular grassy shape in the center of the photo is from a turf hut. The falcon catchers did not take falcon chicks from the nests, because they did not become very good for falconry. They only caught falcons that had learned to catch their prey in the wild. To achieve this, the hunters built small turf huts (3-4m in diameter) where they sat and guarded/waited. Outside the hut, they mounted at least two high poles with a pulley system with ropes that could be directed from inside the hut. When a falcon approached, a decoy (pigeon) was hoisted up on top of one of the poles, and when the falcon dived down to catch the pigeon, the pigeon was pulled down into the correct position for to release a net. The net was released at the same moment and fell over both the pigeon and the falcon.
SPRING IN SOUTHERN NORWAY 2022.
Below is a selection of photos from mountain to coast this spring. Winter came late this season and with significantly less snow than average. At the end of the winter it is always a pleasure to see the increasing length of day light, and the well-known signs that springtime is closing in. When writing this blog post the spring is turning in to Summer.
The Golden Eagles seem to nest in the high elevated mountain valley this year. The adult female is looking for prey when gliding along the upper side of this valley stretching from below the tree line and ending high above.
The Golden Eagle female is sliding down in front of a frozen water fall. More new images of Golden Eagles can be seen in the “Golden Eagle” gallery.
Even if spring is closing in the weather can be harsh in the mountains. Especially for us humans.
Signs of Gyrfalcon presence. Rock Ptarmigans are definitely the most important prey for Gyrfalcons. Leftovers from a fresh Ptarmigan meal speaks for itself. This year there a good numbers of Rock Ptarmigans in this part of Norway which make bigger chances for successful nesting with raising of young ones.
Gyrfalcon female. More new images of Gyrfalcons can be seen in the “Gyr Falcon” gallery.
Common Scoter male. More new images of Common Scoters can be seen in the “Ducks” gallery.
A Rough-legged Buzzard is drifting along a rock wall. The snow on ground lightens up the bird underside. As for the Rock Ptarmigans there are good numbers of Rodents this year, so it is expected several nesting pairs of these birds in the area. More images of Rough-legged Buzzards can be seen in the “Rough-legged Buzzard” gallery.
Th characteristic Blue Throat have already occupied territory on a small wooden spot with 5 Birch trees and is now calling for a female. More images of Blue Throats can be seen in the “Others” gallery.
Mating Kestrels. In 2-3 weeks the female will lay her eggs. More images of Kestrels can be seen in the “Kestrel” gallery.
Suddenly down by the coast we meet another world containing myriads of birds. Here we see that the Guillemots have started the spring congregating at the archipelago far out from the mainland. It is great to see that also this year the numbers of Guillemots on this location is good, -together with last year “better numbers than ever”.
Shags return back to the archipelago from the fishing fields offshore. Quite a bit spray from the swells after the recent storm. More images of Seabirds can be seen in the “Seabirds” gallery.
Grey Seals. More images of Grey Seals can be seen in the “Seals” gallery.
This is a historical photo of nesting Kittiwakes taken 15 years ago on the archipelago. Due to lack of specific food source for them they have not nested for the last 10 years, -at least. Some birds were observed close to this traditional nesting cliff this year, so there are a tiny hope they perhaps can find back gain if their food source show up again. PAY.
The White-tailed Eagles continue to nest at the archipelago, but at another location compared with last year. Great to have these magnificent birds back again after decades away due to earlier persecution. PAY
The White-tailed Eagle is harassed by a Hooded Crow. PAY. More images of Grey Seals can be seen in the “White-tailed Eagle” gallery.
REINDEER SURVIVAL IN ONE OF THE MOST CHALLENGING WINTER CLIMATIC AREAS OF NORWAY, FEB/MAR-2022.
Below is a selection photos from a recent trip into the snow covered mountains of southern Norway for observing how the population of wild Reindeer live in the winter time.
This specific population (Setesdal vesthei, Ryfylke Wild Reindeer area) is living under extremely rough conditions in winter time where the weather is affected by a humid oceanic climate. This causes frequent storms where the temperature can vary between around 0 -30°C. The snow depth is normally several meters at this time of the year. The ongoing climate changes have more and more often resulted in temperature above zero with rainfall up to the highest peaks & plateaus followed by freezing up again where the landscape then is being covered by an ice shield making it hard for the Reindeer to dig/scrape through the snow for finding food. When the pastures contain the least amount lichen we understand that life can be hard for these amazing animals.
The northern part of this Reindeer area the peaks reach 1658m above sea level, in the central part we find the mountain range Rjuven (Urdalsnuten 1434m above sea level), and in the south the Reindeer area falls down to 500m above sea level. The name Rjuven means “the rocky and bare ridge”, and the name suits well for this area containing hard granite.
Here we see that the Reindeer have scraped away snow to find food on the ground. Blueberry plants have been on the menu. Due to limited vegetation caused by barren bedrock with very little Reindeer Lichen they must eat what is edable and available.
Reindeer herd. More new images of Reindeer can be seen in the “Reindeer gallery”.
A TRIBUTE TO THE LAST EUROPEAN WILD REINDEER ! SEPT / OCT -2021 IN THE SOUTH NORWEGIAN CENTRAL MOUNTAINS.
Due to the threats to Reindeers caused by Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Norway described in previous blogpost “HARDANGERVIDDA MOUNTAIN PLATEAU IN SOUTHERN NORWAY, JULY 2021” this post is once again dedicated to the wild Reindeer of Norway.
As earlier described the Reindeer that migrated to what now is Norway after the last ice age came from two different areas:
1). From the southern European continent: They now inhabits Hardangervidda, Nordfjella, Setesdal-Ryfylke, Setesdal East etc. These Reindeer populations are now a mixture of released domestic & original wild animals.
2). From east (Beringia): Now inhabits only Dovre (incl. Knutshø), Rondane and Sølnkletten mountains. The Reindeer here are the direct ancestors of the original Reindeer (Rangifer Tarandus Tarandus) that migrated to the land after the ice retracted around 10 000 years ago (no mixing with domestic animals).
The disaster would be complete if the animals from Beringia should be infected with CWD and where the authorities should run the same decimation / extermination program as for the Hardangervidda and Nordfjella populations.
This blogpost show a selection of photos of the Reindeer at Dovre (Dovrefjell) that was taken during a 14-days period in late September and early October this year:
The mountain areas roamed by the Reindeer are huge and it can be a real challenge finding them. The wind blowing direction is an important factor here as the animals always move against the wind.
The same pitfall trap as above. Here we can see that the trap “covers” the whole canyon. Even today the Reindeer trail here follow the depression. The pitfall trap was covered with vegetation upon thin wooden sticks placed across the trap opening. The Reindeer was totally unaware of the trap and did not discover it before it had fallen down into it. More new images of Archaeological Sites can be seen in the “Archaeological Sites” gallery.
The Reindeer in these mountains are normally very shy, but if the wind direction is favorable and the landscape can provide some kind of shelter it is after all possible to come quite close and study them more relaxed.
The Reindeer herd in the photo above here passed just beside this hunting blind from late Iron Age. If the Viking hunter sat here he would for sure placed his razor sharp arrow into one of the Reindeer in this herd… These people knew where to place the hunting blinds.
Reindeer herd at Dovrefjell. More new images of Reindeer can be seen in the “Reindeer” gallery.
HARDANGERVIDDA MOUNTAIN PLATEAU IN SOUTHERN NORWAY, JULY 2021.
The main background for the visit to Hardangervidda is that Chronic Wasting Disease CWD) was unfortunately discovered there on Reindeer during the hunting season of 2020.
For about 3,5 years ago Nordfjella Reindeer population which border to Hardangervidda was taken fully out (1500 animals) due to this prion disease (17 animals tested positive for the disease).
The number of infected Reindeer at Hardangervidda was only 1 animal. 1 out of 3600 animals tested. The Hardangervidda Reindeer population is the biggest in Norway, both in area and population size (around 8000 animals).
The Norwegian responsible authorities have decided that the Hardangervidda Reindeer population shall be significantly reduced, starting with extremely high numbers to be harvested in the coming hunt.
The hunting season is prolonged and begin as early as August 10th this year. All bulls older than 3,5 years will be taken out this autumn, and worst case scenario for the next 2-3 years will be to reduce the population here down to an absolute survivable minimum of between 300-500 animals. There have been multiple discussions whether this is the correct way to go, but the authorities stand with their original plan.
We was of this reason eager to experience and document the last big Reindeer bulls and big herds at Hardangervidda before they deminish/disappear. If unfavorable situations later should occur for the reduced population (other diseases, avalanches etc), the population can be totally exterminated.
Norway has a special responsibility to preserve the wild Reindeer due to that this is the only country in Europe where Tundra Reindeer (Rangifer Tarandus Tarandus) live in the wild. It would be incredible sad if the biggest Reindeer population (Hardangervidda) should disappear. There are hundreds of place names mirroring the presence of Reindeer at Hardangervidda.
Hardangervidda is the biggest mountain plateau in northern Europe covering 8130 km2. We enter the plateau from the SSE side which is least visited by humans, and from there we cover great areas searching for these exiting animals.
Reindeer Bulls among females and younger males. The antlers are not fully grown yet as we write medio July. in autumn they will be (or perhaps better to say would be) huge compared to the size now.
This specific herd with around 350 animals contained surprisingly low numbers of big bulls, -we counted only 10-12 of them.
Big bulls are very important for a herd, not only to keep the population strong and healthy with their genes, but also for removing deep snow in the winter time and be in front for removing ice from the pastures after icing in mild periods followed by freezing in winter time. Icing of winter pastures has increased the last 10-20 years due to the climate change.
The Reindeer always goes against the wind for early warning of unwanted and potential dangers as big predators and humans. This is also the case when grazing as here. In winter time the main food source is lichen, and in summer mainly grass, willow leaves and other green plants.
As we can se the Reindeer still have the winter fur, which they however really start to loose now. The bigger bulls have come further in this process and have lost most of the winter fur.
More new images of Reindeer can be seen in the “Reindeer” gallery.
Regarding Reindeer. From Erich Pontoppidan`s (1698-1764) book “The first attempt on Norways natural History” (1753), the Drawing and Description of Reindeer, or Hrein-Deer (Norwegian/Danish “Hrein-Dyr”) after the old way to write Reindeer. Erich Pontoppidan write: “This is a species, which these Nordic countries really belongs to…. Over the Eye lids the Hrein-Deer have another hole in the skin, where it can see like squinting through when they in heavy snow drift must close their eyes. Certainly another evidence of the Lords meticulous purpose for every animals need for its way of living. At the snowy mountains at Hardanger they walk in Herds of 100, yes up to 2-300 so that one with 1 shot can kill 3 or 4 in a one-time, if it is shot in the middle of the Herd…”
As we can see is Erich Pontoppidan also into Sea Monsters.
Once upon a time the Arctic Fox was common on Hardangervidda. but due to exceptional high prices of Arctic Fox fur in the 1930’s they were close to be extinct here. At that time one pelt could be sold for as much as an average yearly salary. Unfortunately the Arctic Foxes have never recovered again. Factors making it difficult to recover is the lack of predators (i.e. Wolverine and Wolf) on the plateau, where the Arctic Foxes could eat leftovers from their prey. change in climate has also influenced on the Lemming cycles which is weaker and with low numbers if/when they occur.
The opportunistic Red Fox is also a threat as they have started to inhabit the plateau.
The photo is from a traditional Arctic Fox denning area where the fox tracks and the size of the den opening show that it is probably a Red Fox who have been here.
The Reindeer have inhabited the Norway since the ice age ended here around 10 000 years ago. The Reindeer at this plateau have their origin from the south (now Spain, France, Germany etc) and migrated northwards as the temperature increased in the south.
The photo show a well used “road of Reindeer tracks”.
It has been discussed whether antler chewing by other Reindeer could cause CWD (“cannibalism effect”) but nothing has has been concluded about this.
The photo show sign of antler chewing, probably by another Reindeer.
The weather on Hardangervidda is famous to be unpredictable where bad weather can occur without any warning.
While the surrounding lowlands had sunshine with temperatures between 25-30deg.C we had all kind of weather, i.e. from sunshine to cloudy with gail force wind, rain and fog. Night time temperatures went down to 2 deg.C This kind of weather creates however some nice scenery for photographers.
SPRING IN SOUTHERN NORWAY 2021 – FROM SEA TO SUMMIT.
Spring arrived with fresh colors and increased wildlife activity. For wildlife by the sea side this is a good time with more available food. Up in the mountains the spring can still be a hard time where the species that have overwintered there is at the end of their body reserves and with less available food sources compared to down in the lowlands.
For us humans it is a beautiful and exciting time of the year, which lead us to move around and see the wonders of the land.
Below is a selection of images from April and May months.
Due to plenty of food (still) the population of Grey Seals counts around 200 individuals. More images of Seals can be seen in the “Seals” gallery.
This year the number of Guillemots have been higher than ever. This is a good sign for this species. But for others, -as the Kittiwakes which do not eat the same food as the Guillemots is therefor not present in the archipelago this year either. As you see in the photo there are also some Razorbills.
Razorbills. This population is about a 10th compared to the numbers of Guillemots. More new Seabird images can be seen in the “Seabirds gallery”.
More exciting and mysterious are these kind of constructions. No one knows who built them or what they was built for, -but due to the big rock sizes some believe it perhaps can be Megalittic constructions dating back to the Bronze age. There are around 10-12 of these out there. PAY.
And these constructions are too small to be a fishermans hut/dwelling. PAY. More images of Archaeological siktes can be seen in the “Archaeological Sites” gallery.
A Primrose has emerged from the grass and it looks like it has a kind of a nest. This plant should thrive well on this spot out here where the weather can be extremely rough. More new images of flowers and landscape can be seen in the “Landscape” gallery.
This couple have made a part of the archipelago to their territory and will soon lay their eggs. It is remarkable to see how well this species haave recovered since mid 1970s where the population was at the lowest in Norway. For decades they where extinct south of Norway`s 61st parallel, -and now they nest all over the Norwegian coast line.
The couple. More White-tailed Eagle images can be seen in the “White-tailed Eagle gallery”.
Male Kestrel in early morning light. More new images of Kestrels can be seen in the “Kestrel gallery”.
The male is flying back to the nesting cliff with a mouse in the bill. The autumn of 2020 with the following winter the rodent population increased to high numbers. Spring and Summer this year was therefore expected to be good for rodent eaters. Unfortunately the weather became unusual mild in mid February with heavy rainfall up to 1500m above sea level. The consequence of this is that the numbers of rodents became scarce in the mountains of western Norway. This couple nests near every year in this cliff and seems (for now) to manage the situation well. It is to be said that the Kestrels have a varied diet and is not completely depending on rodents.
One of the last days in May months higher up in the mountains. It begin to be difficult to move around in the field due to melting snow where the rivers are opening up. Luckily this river still have a so-called snow bridge so it is quite easy to cross
It is great to have these magnificent animals in our mountains. They are the only wild “Ice age animals” still living in Europe , -and exclusively to southern Norway. They are now in great danger as the CWD (a neurological disease named Chronic Wasting Disease) has occured in animals from some populations. The Norwegian authorities have already exterminated one population, and several others will be heavily decimated if they fulfill their plans. More Reindeer images can be seen in the “Reindeer gallery”.
Due to the extremely mild period in mid February with heavy rainfall 1500m above sea level the rodent population broke down in the mountains here. This caused predators to catch Ptarmigans as food source in the winter. The lack of Ptarmigans is perhaps the reason why the Gyrfalcons does not nest this year. This female was photographed last spring in these mountains. More Gyrfalcon images can be seen in the “Gyr Falcon Gallery”.
Rough-legged Buzzard. More images of Rough-legged Buzzrds can be seen in the “Rough-legged Buzzard” gallery.
WINTER OF 2021 IN SOUTHERN NORWAY.
Autumn left and winter took over. In the lowlands some species stay during the winter, -while som arrives from higher latitudes and overwinter here. As always it is exciting to meet these species again! Late in winter when the first signs of spring occur it is time to move higher up in the mountains to see if the typical species of there are back to their territories.
Here is a selection of images:
The Whooper Swan is a character species in the lowlands at winter time. This is a species that have expanded their range, and now the nest near all over Scandinavia. For 20 years ago they nested only in the very northern part of the peninsula.
Far above the treeline we search for Rock Ptarmigan, Gyrfalcon an Reindeer. This time we found only Ptarmigans. Due to northerly winds for weeks the Reindeer herds was not in the area at the present, -only old tracks in the snow.
Inland valleys by the treeline against the barren mountain plateaus is exciting areas with interesting wildlife. The cliffs in behind can contain Gyrfalcons or Golden Eagles. This year a pair of Golden Eagles have territory here.
AUTUMN IN THE CENTRAL NORWEGIAN MOUNTAINS, SEPT / OCT. – 2020.
Autumn is back over us again with colors and shorter days… A wonderful time with cold crisp air on a frosty ground.
Most birds are on their way south, rutting time is ongoing for many mammals and some birds, – and humans are hunting for food in good companionship with friends.
The most “arctic” for many of us is to be up in the mountains where we really can see and feel the change from summer to winter. The course is set against Dovrefjell mountains which is stated to have a complete eco system.
The Reindeer here at Dovrefjell is among a few other populations in Eurasia the direct ancestors of the original Reindeer (Rangifer Tarandus Tarandus) that migrated to the land after the ice retracted when the last ice age ended in Norway around 10 000 years ago. The majority of other Reindeer populations are nowadays otherwise a mixture between released domestic animals and a mixture of domestic & original wild animals.
Part of a Reindeer herd containing around 250 animals. Together with the Muskoxen the Reindeer are the only ice age mammals left on the planet (all the other; I.e. Wholly Rhino, Wholly Mammoth, Cave Bear, Cave Hyena, Giant Deer and the Saber-tooth Tiger are away as we all know).
Wild Reindeer were an important resource already when the first modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) migrated into Europe around 50,000 years ago. However, the history goes back even further. When modern human beings arrived in Europe and Asia, the Neanderthals (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) were already here and had been hunting Reindeer for several hundred thousand year. Finds from south-western Europe dated to the first millennia after modern humans migrated into the area show that Reindeer quickly became their most important quarry. It is assumed that hunting Reindeer crossing rivers or stretches of water was widespread, and that the introduction of bows and arrows made it easier to hunt Reindeer on land as well. No traces of Reindeer trapping systems have been preserved on the European continent. If we move a few thousand years forward in history, to the Hamburg culture (13,500-12,000 years ago) and the subsequent Ahrensburg culture (11,000-9,800 years ago), we find another period of large-scale exploitation of wild Reindeer. It is highly probable that it was hunters belonging to the Ahrensburg culture who migrated to what is now Norway, although this is subject to some debate. At some point in history, hunting wild Reindeer appears to have become part of a more “market economy. adaptation – if only for a short period. Wild Reindeer products became part of established trading patterns under control of the crown, established trading houses, the church etc. Here in Norway, this happened during the period 800-1300 AD, while a similar development took place on Greenland in the 17th and 18th centuries AD. However, after a relatively short period of time, the market economy adaptation seems to have been died out and hunting and trapping again reverted to being a supplementary source of food or a secondary source of income.
As written about in earlier blog posts we can here and there in the Norwegian mountains find evidence after the former Reindeer hunters. The photo show a hunting blind from the Iron Age. Perhaps it was a Viking that once sat here waiting with his Bow & Arrow ?
Pitfall trap for Reindeer in the Dovre mountains. Dated back to the Iron Age (around 1000 years old). Note the lead-fences which shall lead the Reindeer direct into the camouflaged opening of the trap. Single traps was the normality, and once the Reindeer had fallen down in the trap (which are around 1,8 – 2 m in depth) they had no chance coming up from “the whole” again because the walls on the short sides are made of huge flat & smooth stones with no place for the Reindeer to place their hooves on and force a jump up again. Opposite to what many believe, -it was not common to place sharp spears pointing up from the bottom of the trap. Why kill the animal if you could have fresh meat..?
A pitfall trap was often placed at well known Reindeer migration routes, between obstacles so that the animals anyway would chose this direction, i.e. between a rock face (or a lake) and a group of boulders (or talus). The photo show how the lead-fences clearly can direct the animals against the trap. More images of Archaeological Sites can be seen in the “Archaeological Sites Gallery”.
The antlers to the Reindeer male loosens and falls off from them each November month, but the Reindeer female keep them on during the winter time. This to ensure that the female are top ranged and get access to the best food because of their pregnancy (rutting time in Sept/Oct and calving time in May).
When the weather is not stable with high atmospheric pressure, the clouds can suddenly fall down over the landscape up here, -especially in the afternoon when falling temperature give a sudden change in dew point. When having a rest when hiking at 1700m height, a Reindeer bull came quite close. Normally these Reindeer with “zero domestic genes” are very elusive.
The complete arctic eco system at Dovrefjell mountains also includes presence of the Arctic Fox. As we can see of the photo the fox is close to fulfilling the change from summer to winter fur. In around 10 days or so the fur will be pure white.
The Arctic Fox is rare in Norway. Last summer only 25 pairs managed to get cubs. More images of Arctic Fox can be seen in the “Arctic Fox Gallery”.
Some more images of the exclusive Tundra Reindeer species which Norway is the only country in Eurasia that hold. Recent research shows that the Norwegian population of wild Reindeer consists of two varieties. Analyzes of the genetic material show that the wild Reindeer on Dovrefjell comes from Reindeer that migrated in from the east, from Beringia. These Reindeer is therefore different from the Reindeer further south in the country, for example those on the Hardangervidda mountain plateau which originates from Reindeer that migrated in from southern Europe.
Reindeer at Dovre. More images of Reindeer can be seen in the “Reindeer Gallery”.
The Hazel Grouse have two lekking periods per year. One in the spring and one at autumn time. Their lekking is not as loud and displayish as i.e. for Black Grouse and Capercaillie, but more quiet and calm. The male is making a high frequency whispering sound, and walk/run in a circle of between 10-30m. This for attracting and/or strengthen the bonds to the female.
Male Hazel Grouse. More images of Hazel Grouse can be seen in the “Ptarmigans, Grouse & Capercaillie Gallery”.
Summer in the southern Norwegian mountains, July 2020.
This is a continuation of the previous post from spring time in the same part of the country.
Even if it is in the last half part of July month there are considerably amounts of snow left. The positive side of this is however the absence of mosquitoes…
The main focus of the trip is to see and document the Reindeer and previous human cultural sites in the area. The Reindeer that roam the mountains here in Rjuven is the southernmost herd (Setesdal vesthei, Ryfylke) in the second biggest dedicated Reindeer area (6000 km2) in Norway. The estimated population is per now around 3300 animals which give a density of 0,5 animals per km2 that is the lowest Reindeer density in the country. So that mean we will really have to keep our eyes open to find these magnificent animals. One of the reasons for the low population density is the tough climate with regularly icing of the pastures in winter time caused by an oceanic climate. As we know Norway has a responsibility to protect this fantastic species because it is the only Eurasian country that have wild Tundra Reindeer left after the last ice age that ended here around 10 000 years ago. If we go 30000 years back in time the Reindeer populated Central Europe south to the Mediterranean. The first people that inhabited southern Norway when the ice age ended was ancestors of Reindeer hunters from what now is northern Germany.
This is the view our ancestors in the Stone Age (Neolithic Period starting 6000 years back in time) had when they looked out from this specific cave thousands of years ago when scouting for Reindeer. This cave has by the way been periodically used by man up to a century ago.
Busy Reindeer Bulls. More Reindeer images can be seen in the “Reindeer gallery”.
Spring in southern Norway, May 2020.
Spring again ! The most beautiful time of the year has arrived, -and per posting this article it has already passed. At that time of the year it is always a great pleasure watching wildlife in the mountains, moving around either by ski or ordinary hiking. Spring was late this year and even in the middle of June there are still much snow in the higher parts of the mountains. Most people are more attracted to the sea and coastal areas now so the chance of meeting people in the higher mountains is rather small. This is however good for the wildlife who then do not get any human disturbance.
Setting off by skis and full equipment for being able to stay here for a short week the landscape soon turn out to be as snow & ice covered as late winter, even the time now is late May.
The mountains are snow covered and all lakes are frozen even in late May. The snow melting has not really started yet and it was very difficult to find water to drink the first day of the trip.
See the old Reindeer tracks in the snow in front and left side of the photo.
Tracks of Reindeer are everywhere, but unfortunately no Reindeer are seen at this trip. A great number of Ptarmigans are seen however, -this make the possibilities better for that the Gyrfalcon couple in these mountains perhaps can nest this year. As we know Ptarmigans are the main prey for the Gyrfalcons. Some places in Norway the Gyrfalcons therefore are called “Ptarmigan-falcons” by the locals.
A recognizable silhouette suddenly pass in the landscape below, -a Gyrfalcon. It is in the middle of their territory so they are probably nesting afterall.
One of the adult Gyrfalcons make a turn showing the wintry landscape in their territory. For more Gyrfalcon images, -please see the Gyrfalcon Gallery.
The sunny days making it possible to collect water for drinking without going back to camp and melt snow with the Primus.
After staying in the winterly high mountains the course was set for the lower areas. The Birch trees there has already got the fresh light green leaves and many minor birds was singing to claim territory and attract a fellow species.
Due to low numbers of rodents this year the Eagle Owl was not nesting at this traditional place. The high peak of Rodents from the early winter had collapsed and only a few of the typical Rodent eaters were nesting.
Kestrel female showing the landscape in the lower mountain areas. For more Kestrel images, -please see the Kestrel Gallery.
Passing one of the many old abandoned mountain farms in the valleys below the high mountains make me stop and think how people lived a while ago. The farms was often built on beautiful places at open fields near a lake or a river. Many people in these modern days look back in time and wish they could have lived at such places. A simple life where they could live of the land. But in reality It was a hard and tough life with occasionally hunger, cold and also longings with dreams of a life in the town, -of which the latter they often could not afford.
This specific farm was driven until the 1970`s. Some of these places have inhabited people since before the Black Death (1349-52), and later reoccupied from around 1500-1600ds until recently.
Typical livestock for such farms was 1-3 cows (for milk), some goats and a dozen sheep. From the land the people hunted Reindeer, trapped Grouse, fished Trout and collected berries in late Summer. They cultivated grass and cut leaves from tress for winter food for the livestock, and grew vegetables as potatoes, carrots, turnips and rutabaga for themselves. In some sheltered and warmer places they could also grow corn.
Autumn in Southern Norway, September 2019.
Just under the glacier at the northern part of Hardangervidda Mountain Plateau in Norway there is a special lake. The lake is in the middle of an ancient Reindeer migration route from north to south and vice versa. And the special about this place is that the lake has two small Peninsula`s just opposite to each other in the middle of the lake where the partly shallow water between them is only about 150m. The surrounding landscape is relative flat compared to the more rugged terrain with mountains and cliff walls east and west of the lake. It is therefore a natural place for the Reindeer herds to cross between the Peninsula`s on their migration route. And so did the Stone Age people (from middle Mesolithic) find out, and also in the Bronze Age, and in the Iron Age (including Viking Age) and finally in the Medieval period. On the southern Peninsula (left side in the photo) we find dwelling sites, hut ruins & evidence (spear heads, tools etc) from all these periods. Very few people nowadays visit this extremely interesting place. After wandering around on this southern Peninsula looking at the old sites it is great to sit down and reflect over life and try to imagine how they lived here thousands of years ago.
In front we see the ruin of a Stone Age dwelling (Neolithic Period), further back a person study the ruins of a dwelling site from the Bronze Age, and on the base of the Peninsula behind the person we can see the ruins of the Medieval Buildings.
Partly collapsed ancient hunting blind. It is exciting to think that for a very long time ago the hunter sat inside here with his bow & arrow or threw his spear against Reindeer that was running just below along one of the sides of this little crag.
Ptarmigan are the main prey for Gyrfalcons. We see the Gyrfalcon nesting cliff behind the Ptarmigan. Even if it is in the beginning of autumn the female Gyrfalcon are often seen by the nesting site here north on the Hardangervidda Mountain Plateau (FAY).
Towards the western Canadian Arctic, June 2019, -supplementary from June-2018 (please see 3 blog posts below).
The referenced blog post from June 2018 describe an aborted trip to the westernmost island of the Canadian Arctic archipelago due to extraordinary late spring & summer with snow and ice on the land, and where the trip should be fulfilled first in a year. –So here we are again !
On the travel from Europe to Canada we cross Greenland. The coast of Liverpool Land north of Ittoqqortoormiit (Scoresbysund) on the east coast of Greenland has a bad reputation because numerous ships have been crushed by the drifting ice there. Around 90% of all drift ice from the North Pole basin has its outlet to the open sea via the Fram Strait east of Greenland. This make the ice concentration extremely high year around at this coast. We see Rathbone Island down to the right.
The landscape in Scoresbysund (the worlds longest and deepest fiord) is beautiful with its alpine mountains and numerous glaciers. The Daugaard Jensens Glacier in this photo end in the Nordvest Fiord which is one of the most impressive fiords in the world. Due to the huge dimensions in landscape it is hard to believe that the photo is taken from 10.000m hight.
It was decided to spend some time in the area in the North West Territories from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk prior to the departure further north. Below are some additional photographs to those that were taken in June 2018.
The Great-horned Owl can be found in Canada up to the very edge of the boreal forest zone between the tundra and the forest. This female Owl was located between the partially forested Mackenzie delta and the tundra of the Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula.
From the tundra zone on the Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula:
PART 2: Banks Island, -the westernmost island in the Canadian arctic archipelago.
Banks Island is in general a polar desert where the tundra is frozen and snow-covered from September until June. Snow and freezing temperatures can however occur at any time of the year. It is such placed in the archipelago that does the island to be extremely weather exposed. The island is visited of only a handful or two humans a year except for the inuvialuits living at the Ikhuak (Sachs Harbour) settlement and people to visit there. Per today the settlement counts 115 residents. They are used to delays & cancellations of flights due to often unfavorable weather conditions.
Banks Island covers an area 70,028 km² and it is the world’s 24th biggest island and Canada’s fifth biggest island.
While parts of the Arctic have been inhabited for nearly 4000 years, the earliest archaeological sites found on Banks Island are Pre-Dorset cultural sites that date approximately 3500 years back.
It was not until 1850 that Europeans visited Banks Island. Robert McClure, commander of the HMS Investigator came to the area in search of the lost Franklin Expedition. The Investigator became trapped in the ice at Mercy Bay at the island’s northern end. After three winters, McClure and his crew – who were by that time dying of starvation – were found by searchers who had traveled by sledge over the ice from a ship of Sir Edward Belcher’s expedition. They hiked across the sea-ice of the strait to Belcher’s ships, which had entered the sound from the east. McClure and his crew returned to England in 1854 on one of Belcher’s ships. At the time they referred to the island as “Baring Island.”
From 1855 to 1890 the Mercy Bay area was visited by the Copper Inuit (Inuinnait) of Victoria Island to collect important raw material such as metal and wood from the abandoned ship. They also hunted Caribou and Muskox in the area as evidenced by the large number of food caches.
Note! Some of the photos in the report are not shown in cronological order.
Finally at Banks Island, after a 2 hours flight from Inuvik and refueling in Sachs Harbour we continue our flight and heading northeast for the next hour. Big River below us. This is a typical meltwater river, -it is only to hope that “our” river which also is a meltwater river does not have as low water level as the Big River.
After the plane has left it is remarkable quiet. It is wonderful to be in the arctic again !
Now it is us few humans in a huge and magnificent landscape, the wildlife and our canoes that counts for the coming weeks.
Our way of transport northwards in the Thomsen River valley, -beautiful and welcoming…! The land along the route is characterized by a broad, lush valley flanked by gently undulating hills. The eroded landscape to the northern seashore is from the Cretaceous and Devionan epochs. A big area here in this part of Banks Island was not glaciated during the last ice age. It is anticipated that this area was part of the Banksian refuge in this period.
After establishing our first camp it was time for a hike in this beautiful land. The Thomsen River valley has been used by ancient inuit cultures for thousands of years. Here remnants of a cache once filled with meat. Typical placed on a hight beside the river.
Part of camp by the Thomsen River. The weather can occasionally be rough here and it is important to use tents who can withstand continuous strong winds. Permafrost does use of tent pegs difficult some places, and self standing dome tents are recommended. Observe the Muskoxen on the hill top at the other side of the river. After setting up camp we discovered that people from the Thule Culture had done the same here between 1000 – 1500 AD (see tent ring in the foreground).
The river is silty caused by constant land erosion during the thaw up in the brief summer. Now and then we observe that small parts of the land slides into the river. It has happened that parts of Pleistocene animals (Woolly Mammoths etc) become exposed.
Curious adult male Arctic Wolf coming to check out the intruders to their territory. For more Arctic Wolf images, -please see the Wolf gallery.
Muskoxen are the main prey for the Wolves. It is typical for Wolf inhabited areas that the Muskoxen form either a line of animals close by each other, or a circle with the calves inside when the threats come from different angles (i.e. a pack of Wolves).
No Muskoxen was seen on Banks Island in the 18th century until 1952 when a Canadian biologist observed one animal at the north coast of the island. The population increased with a near unbelievable speed and counts per today around 50.000 animals here, which is about 2/3 of the global population. For more new Muskox images, -please see the Muskox gallery.
Naquk kill-site (also called Head Hill) is a very special place. It was used by the Inuinnait (Copper Inuits) from 1600 – 1900 AD. Around 500 Muskoxen and some Caribou were killed there in this period. There are many tent rings, meat cache, drying arrangements for meat etc on that specific hill.
Tent ring at the Naquk kill-site, -note the stone pavement inside, which is for food preparation and is typical on Inuinnait tent rings on Banks Island (left photo). Just beside there was a cluster of man-splitted bones, -which was done to get hold of the marrow (either for eating or used in a lamp), (right photo).
The Inuinnaits led the Muskoxen up to the hilltops where they, as usual, turned and went into a defensive position. The inuit dogs kept them at the place. The hunters shot them with arrows fitted with copper and iron heads. The arrow shafts were carefully selected willow sticks and tied together with sinews. Today (see photo) we find the little arrow hole in shoulder blade after shoulder blade, at an angle showing that the arrow went straight to the heart. The inuits had accurate knowledge of the animal’s anatomy.
The Muskoxen was cut up where they was killed and camp was set up (see tent rings).
From such camps it is assumed that small groups of inuits went back and forth to HMS Investigator in Mercy Bay to collected iron (see photo further down in this post) and wood from the ship stranded in 1851 and abandoned in 1853. This same camps was used year after year, and Muskox skeletons piled up by the camp. Some scientists says this was the reason for the collapse of the Muskox population.
The Peregrine Falcon is considered to be the fastest bird in the world. For more Peregrine Falcon images, -please see the Peregrine Falcon gallery.
The amount and different species of wading birds was relative sparse.
Ruddy Turnstone (sub species “Morinella”) to the left, and nesting Semipalmated Plover (right).
The Buff-breasted Sandpiper is a special species, they have i.e. lekking behavior as the Ruff. The population has been severe reduced where loss and degradation of its spesialized grassland habitat, both on its wintering grounds in South America and along its migration routes, are believed to pose significant threats.
Baird`s Sandpiper at nesting place. For more New images of Waders, -please see the Waders gallery.
As mentioned earlier in this post this river valley has been used by ancient inuit cultures for thousands of years. This caused by the fertile areas with plenty of game along the river valley. It is not known which animals that was the main food source for the people at the oldest inhabited period (Pre-Dorset), but for the latter cultures (Thule and the Copper Inuits) it has definitely been the Muskoxen who attracted them to this place.
On the photo we can see the remains of a tent ring from the Pre-Dorset people who came to this island around 3500 years ago (the tent ring stones have been deliberately highlighted in the photo).
A piece of iron that once probably was collected by the Copper inuits from the HMS Investigator in Mercy Bay after it was abandoned there in 1853 (look closely on the top of the rock in the foreground of the photo). For more new images of Archaeological sites, -please see the Archaeological sites gallery.
We deliberately ended the trip 12 km before the seashore at McClure Strait. This to avoid unwanted confrontations with Polar Bear.
And just as planned, -the Twin Otter picked us up for transport back to the mainland.
A little white chap in a big grey landscape. Southern Norway, February 2019.
The Ermine is classified to belong in the mustelidae family. Typical for many mustelids is having a long tube-shaped body, short legs, and a strong, thick neck with a small head. The advantage of this shape is that the ermine is one of the few species able to follow burrowing animals into their own homes.
This winter has been one of the mildest ever in southern Norway. Animals who have changed to white winter fur in the lowlands suffer of the lack of camouflage in a snow-free landscape, -like the adult Ermine male in the photo series below.
In general, the Ermine does not change to white color all over the habitat range. In colder climates the winter coat is white, except for the black tail tip. In moderately cold climates the fur becomes only partly white, and further south they do not change color at all.
Historically, the white winter-taken pelts, prized for fineness and pure color, where once among the most valuable of commercial furs and where obtained mainly in northern Eurasia. During the reign of Edward III (1327–77) of England, the wearing of ermine was restricted to members of the royal family.
The Ermine inspects the remnants of an old tree in search of food. These animals are very quick & energetic and are “everywhere” in search of something to eat. Their fast metabolism leads to near continuous search of something edible.
Ermines normally feed on rodents in the winter time, but if their territory include areas with fish-bearing rivers their diet can include fish. This specific river is rich of salmon and trout and the Ermine is here probably scanning the river for this (mostly for any dead once along the shores).
Adult male Ermine. The adult males can be at least twice as big as the females. For more Ermine images, please see the Ermine gallery.
Some final, interesting words about the Ermines scent: Communication and location of prey occurs largely by this, since the ermine has a sensitive olfactory system. As a result, much of this communication is missed by human observers. However, ermines are believed to identify females in estrus by scent, and also the sex, health, and age of prey.
Thanks to my brother Kjell who lives in this remote valley and notified me about this little white beauty.
Autumn in the Norwegian mountains, September & October 2018.
After an abnormal warm summer, a chilly autumn finally came and made a temperature relief for both wildlife and humans. Many of the snow fields in the mountains that mammals normally use to cool themselves down by, and also use as an escape from insects, had melted during the summer. In the last half part of September month much of the higher mountain areas had again been covered by snow.
This is the time for wildlife viewing and photographing. Below there are a selection of photos from the 2-week trip, with links to the different galleries with a broader variety of motives.
Reindeer herd at Dovrefjell. Note the bigger bulls beside the herd, -it is typical that the bigger males guard the herd when they are not on the move. The Reindeer at Dovre is one of the very few populations that have not been mixed up with domestic Reindeer, and have of this reason the original DNA from the Reindeer that inhabited Norway after the last ice age.
The bigger bulls does not necessarily lead the herd, -while moving they are very often found at the rear back of the herd. For more photos of Reindeer, please see the Reindeer gallery.
Ruin after shelter used in conjunction with reindeer hunting in late medieval period. For more photos from archaeological sites, please see the Archaeological Sites gallery.
Arctic Fox. For more new photos of this beautiful animal please see the Arctic Fox gallery.
The land below the treeline show of course another fauna with bigger varieties of species:
A Sparrow Hawk hunting for prey, Telemark. For more new photos of Sparrow Hawk, please see the Sparrow Hawk gallery
Towards the Canadian western arctic, 2H June-2018.
The Canadian northern archipelago is the biggest arctic archipelago in the world. It populates many inuit settlements and numerous remnants of extinct inuit cultures. The wildlife is great and in general with complete ecosystems.
The extreme western part of this archipelago are not frequently visited compared to the middle and especially the eastern part, and is therefore very interesting for a photographic visit.
However, the westernmost island which is our final destination can offer a real challenge for visitors due to frequently unfavorable weather conditions (wind, fog and bad weather systems in general) which i.e. can lead to problems reaching landing spots by air.
PART 1. The Mackenzie river delta and Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula:
Looking southwards down from the plane (altitude 11500m) towards the destination we see a partly ice covered Hudson Bay. Nottingham Island in the foreground and Salisbury Island in the distance behind.
Southampton Island below has still not left the winter as we can see. Coats Island against south behind. These areas in northern Hudson Bay are old British whaling waters. The Southampton Island have an unlucky history where the whole Sadlermiut population where wiped out of a disease (possible influenza) which the whalers from the british ship “Active” brought with them in 1902. The Sadlermiuts were the last remnants of the Dorset culture.
The Dempster highway starts near Dawson City and end traditionally in Inuvik north at the Mackenzie river delta north-east. Numerous numbers of trucks use this road for transport of gods to the northern setlements. The new road to Tuktoyaktuk have recently been worked out and act as an extension of the road.
Wildlife of the taiga and delta area is rich and varied. Below some photos of typical species:
Wildlife of the barren Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula show some difference compared to the taiga, -some images from the tundra there:
The Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula inhabits the world greatest concentration of Pingos, here is one of the biggest in the world. A pingo is as we know a mound (normally conical) formed by the upheaval of ice underneath the soil in regions with permafrost.
The Inuvialuit settlement of Tuktoyaktuk (in Inuvialuktun: “It looks like a caribou”) lies on the shore of the Arctic Ocean. Its formerly name was Port Brabant, and was the first place in Canada to revert to the traditional indigenous name (in 1950). The place has been used by the native Inuvialuit for centuries for harvesting of Caribou and Beluga Whales. Between 1890 and 1910 a great number of Tuktoyaktuk`s native families were wiped out in flu epidemics brought by american whalers.
The Arctic Ocean is still covered by thick winter ice. Inuvialuits in Tuktoyaktuk says that this spring/summer is like the old days with thick sea ice until at least out June month. We would soon experience this for our planned trip further north to Banks Island…
PART 2. Banks Island, – the westernmost island in the arctic archipelago:
Sorry, -but this part will first be fulfilled in a year. Due to extraordinary late spring & summer the land was snowcovered and with still ice on the rivers. We could therefore unfortunately not do the trip this year. The plan was to canoe down the Thomsen River to the northern shore of the island. Please be patient…
Another day in the mountains of southern Norway, end of May-2018
A recent visit to a Gyrfalcon site gave great memories and a coupe of photos to show on the blog. The predators of these mountains should have good opportunities to catch prey this year due to high numbers of rodents (mainly lemmings).
Note the falcon claws (and head) at the cliff below the falcon in the air.
For more new Gyrfalcon images, -please see the Gyr Falcon gallery.
A day in the mountains of southern Norway, end of March-2018
Some images from a certain day in the snow covered mountains.
When closing in to the Golden Eagle territory, the old female came for checking up the “trespasser”. For more images of Golden Eagles please see the Golden Eagle gallery.
There are plenty of Grouse this winter. They have not yet begun changing plumage. For more images of Grouse please see the Grouse and Ptarmigan gallery.
If you would like to see more images of Red Fox, -please see the Red Fox gallery.
Autumn in southern Norway, September & October-2017
Below is a small selection of photos from spending near 2 weeks in the mountain forests and at & above the treeline in the mountains of southern Norway
New photos will gradually be added to related galleries.
Sparrow Hawk in the mountain forest of Telemark. For more new Sparrow Hawk images, please see the Sparrow Hawk gallery.
Moose bull with his two ladies. From Dovre mountains. For more new Moose images, please see the Moose gallery
Reindeer herd at Dovre mountains. For more new Reindeer images, please see the Reindeer gallery.
A journey in the Canadian Barren Lands, June & July-2017.
After some weeks on the tundra canoeing the Burnside River north on the Canadian mainland, -I have returned back to the civilization and worked out a short photographic trip report with some selected images. The report includes also images from a stay in the huge taiga near Great Slave Lake prior to departure to the tundra of the Barrenlands.
Typical for the Barrenlands is complete and functional ecosystems. However, heavy decline in the Caribou populations the last decades have made certain changes in some of the wildlife species populations there. It is unknown what causes the decline, if it is natural fluctuations or human influence (i.e. climate changes), but it is believed to have its roots in the latter which gives a milder climate.
Part 1 of the photographic report comprises wildlife and human activity such as gold mining near Great Slave Lake (subarctic climate zone).
Part 2 cover the trip itself out on the tundra (arctic climate zone).
Some of the photos in the report are not shown in the same order as they were taken.
PART 1. THE TAIGA AT GREAT SLAVE LAKE.
Some of the gold-bearing rock formations is seen as red-brownish color. I.e for the Giant Mine near Yellowknife. The goldrush on the north side of Great Slave Lake started in 1934 with official opening of the Con Mine in 1938. The Giant Mine followed up and opened in 1948. Yellowknife is per today also known as North Americas diamond capital due to several huge diamond mines out on the Barrenlands.
The Bonaparte`s Gull is the only Gull that regularly nest in trees. The name honors Charles Lucien Bonaparte (nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte) who made important contributions to American ornithology during the 1820s.
PART 2. THE TUNDRA OF THE BARREN LANDS.
From the air we observed that most lakes now are ice free, with the exception of some greater lakes. These ice covered lakes cause low clouds and the plane (Twin Otter) is forced to go below them. We are only some tens of meters above the ground even if we had 15-20 minutes left before landing. If the plane had gone above the clouds there where possibilities that we could not fly under them again to land without risk of sight loss with possibilities of impact to ground.
After near 2 hours in the air the pilots say goodbye to us. Together with a few Canadians I am now left alone at this huge wilderness plain for over 2 weeks. We are now in the upper part of the water system (380m above sea level) and will use canoes as transportation method downstream between selected areas of interest for us photographers.
The Peregrines are as we know eminent in the air. For more new Peregrine Falcon images, please see the Peregrine Falcon gallery.
This first camp give us sightings of tundra Grizzly Bear and two Wolves that followed three Caribou on their migration south.
We clearly understand that we are at higher latitudes when we are surrounded by hordes of bloodthirsty mosquitos. Bug jackets on!
Other common birds of the tundra here are Harris`s Sparrow and White-crowned Sparrow. The Harris`s Sparrow is Canada`s only endemic breeding bird.
After a couple of days we head downstream in our canoes, -some headwind in the wide areas of the river force us to use real muscle power. Half a day later we arrive a remarkable archaeological site at the tiny islet of “Nadlok”. The islet is placed in the middle of the river and the name means “the place where dear cross”. Seeing the landscape it is very understandable. The islet is the only permafrost free land here, and is caused by the surrounding water on all sides. On the islet we see remnants of several hundred years old inuit camp sites used in conjunction with Caribou hunting. Meat was air dried and dug into the cool ground here and stored. Near the entire islet is covered with Caribou bones and antlers as deep as at least half a meter down into the ground. The indigenous people used this place at least from the start of “The little ice age” around year 1450 A.D. when the sea ice in the Coronation Gulf and Bathurst Inlet stayed all year around and gave less sea mammals to hunt.
Caribou bones on Nadlok appear as the earth bursts and erodes away. For more images of arctic archeological sites, please see the Archaeological Sites gallery.
This upper portion of the river is in general the most productive, and quite rich of birds as well. Common birds here are Long-tailed Ducks, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Herring Gulls, Ringed-billed Gulls, Arctic Terns, Red-necked Phalaropes, Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers etc.
After some days we continue our journey downstream. The river is calm here and with few rapids. We keep our eyes both on the river itself and along the sides in case of interesting wildlife shows up, but nothing exciting to see today.
We have a rest on a small island covered with Arctic Lupins before we continue further on.
Later this day we arrive one of our planned main campgrounds. There should be chances of seeing Wolves as they frequently den here. We drag the canoes high up on land only 10 meters before the biggest rapids of the river in the upper part. After setting up our tents we hike around in the area. We see lots of Caribou tracks (mainly old), and also fresh Grizzly and Wolf tracks.
Adult Wolf in big landscape. For more new Wolf images, please see the Wolf gallery.
Three good friends. The Arctic ground Squirrels are common all over the Barrenlands. These animals have the deepest hibernation of all mammals on earth, where i.e. the core body temperature goes down to -3°C, and with only one heart rate drops to 1 BPM during this time. Every third week the body temperature increases to normal (36,4°C) for a period of 12-15 hours before dropping low again.
Arctic ground Squirrel. For more images of these interesting mammals, please see the Arctic ground Squirrel gallery.
Some reddish cliffs along the way was inhabited by Rough-legged Hawks, Peregrine and Gyr Falcons.
The Gyr Falcons here used to be white phased, -now the site is inhabited by grey-phased. Here the female Gyr Falcon. For more new Gyr Falcon images, please see the Gyr Falcon gallery.
This huge land also inhabit Muskoxen. This herd contained 25 animals (including 2 large bulls and 9 calves). For more new Muskox images, please see the Muskox gallery.
Ready for the return! Not far away from where the topography changes to a much more rugged and mountainous terrain we are picked up on the river. The wildlife is poorer on this last part of the river, -so we had earlier decided not to spend time there at all. The pilots had some problems finding us, -and the plane arrived Yellowknife 7 hours after take-off there this morning for our pick up.
Below and above the treeline, -southern Norway, late May-2017.
Spring has come and will soon go over in summer. This is an exciting time with high activity among the wildlife. This year the activity is above average for some species due to high density of rodents present.
For over a week I have been out in the field documenting interesting species both below and above the treeline. Most of the snow have disappeared below the treeline and the landscape is becoming more and more green for each day. Many birds have got their eggs hatched by now. Above the treeline there are still considerable amount of snow, and many lakes are covered by ice. Most rivers have however opened up and the snow melts quickly, especially on two of the days in late May with heat records for the month several places in southern Norway.
Here are a selection of images from the trip:
The male Kestrel with prey. For more images, -please see the “Kestrel gallery”.
The Gyr Falcon is a fantastic bird. This strong beauty can spend its entire adult life in the territory up in the mountains. The winters can be extremely hard with temperatures below -30deg.C with storms and gale winds for weeks.
Gyr Falcon in attack. They normally catch their prey in flight, -so they will now and then have to scare the prey up in the air before hunting it down. The favorite prey to the right.
Gyr Falcon female with prey (Ptarmigan). Ptarmigan is by far the most common prey for this falcon. Unfortunately the Gyr Falcons have declined in Scandinavia the last decades due to reduced populations of Ptarmigans (as well as other reasons). For more new images of the Gyr Falcon, please see the “Gyr Falcon gallery”.
A herd of Reindeer resting far away on a snow patch in one of the warmest days in May month ever recorded in southern Norway. Norway (in fact only the southern-most 3rd part) is the last country in Europe that still have remains of these animals from the last ice age. For tens of thousands years ago they roamed all over Europe.
We must really take good care of them with ever increasing temperatures on our globe.
More Reindeer images can be seen in the “Reindeer gallery”.
Images from Norway`s extreme northern border, March / April-2017.
Late March up north at 70 degree latitude is not winter, nor spring either yet. It is however a great time, because then we can have a taste of both seasons… To explore the wildlife at this time of the year we first want to stay in the woods of the huge taiga that cover Siberia and stretches further west to northern Finland and Norway.
March 25th we landed at Kirkenes airport, picked up a rental car and drove into the Pasvik valley. This valley is a relative narrow north/south arm between northern Finland in the west and the Russian Kola Peninsula in the east. Near the end of the road we divert from this and stay in an old loggers cabin near a frozen lake.
The area is known to hold Norway`s densest Brown Bear population, but also Lynx, Wolf and Wolverine can be found here, including typical taiga bird species. Due to that this is Sami land, -the populations of the latter mammal species are kept down by the indigenous people to protect their reindeer herds.
No electricity nor running water in the cabin makes life a bit cumbersome, but also wonderful basic.
We thereafter moved further north, crossed 70 degree latitude and ended up on the huge Varanger Peninsua. The northern part of this is in the arctic climatic zone. A good feeling to be in the arctic again (ho!). By the way, the word “arctic” is often misused to captivate interest for areas further south that what is real arctic…
Big parts of the coast here is ice free in the winter time. This caused by the “warm” water current originating from the Gulf of Mexico that are sending mild water masses across the North Atlantic Ocean and along the Norwegian coast as well as a tiny arm all the way up to the Svalbard archipelago. Siberian ducks find the area of the Varanger Peninsula (and adjacent fiords) attractive as winter habitats. In example, huge parts of Eurasian Steller`s and King Eiders population spend the winters here
One of the many cairns in use from the 17th century with the purpose as road markers on the postal route across the Varanger Peninsula. This was once the toughest postal route in Norway and it could take up to 8 days to walk between Vadsø and Vardø.
Mountain Hare. For more new photos, please see the Mountain Hare gallery.
Owl Bonanza in the Norwegian lowlands, March-2017.
A certain species of owls has been one of the photo targets this winter. A couple of Short-eared Owls have found their perfect spot on earth for the last month. It has been a very interesting time to follow these clever rodent hunters. Contrary to most other owls they are not nocturnal, but search for prey at daytime. When spring now is emerging in the lowlands they will soon slowly head out against the higher marshes and arctic tundra to finally arrive their nesting places in May and June. In the mean time they feed themselves up here in the mild part of Norway close to the North Sea.
The Short-Eared Owl sitting on top of a grassy slope.
Patrolling the coast line.
A fantastic eye sight combined with extremely fine hearing make them specialists in catching rodents.
Whoooom, -and another mouse is soon in the sharp owl claws.
It can look a bit peculiar when the hungry owl suddenly decide to dive down to the ground for grabbing prey.
For more new photos of these owls, please see the Short-eared Owl Gallery.
AUTUMN IN THE SOUTH NORWEGIAN MOUNTAINS, -primo October-2016.
Autumn is the traditional time for time for hunting and gathering. Spending time in the mountains at this time when the temperature have dropped and you feel the sharp & fresh air in the face is wonderful. Coming back after spending some time there I want to show a couple of images from the trip:
A week into October month the rutting time is over for the Reindeer, and they continue the annual migration pattern.
For more images of Reindeer, please see the Reindeer gallery.
The Hawk Owls are also to be found in the lowland, as this owl. For more images of Hawk Owls, please see the Hawk Owl gallery.
Some recent images from southern Norway in Spring and early Summer of 2016.
The female Peregrine Falcon lands on its favorite cliff at the coastal nesting place. More images of this falcon are to be found in the “Peregrine Falcon” gallery.
The Kestrel couple looking down on the human intruder entering their territory in the mountains.. The male on the left side, and the female to the right. See the “Kestrel” gallery for more images.
Female Gyr Falcon with prey heading for the nest in a cliff well above the treeline. Very good to see that despite low numbers of Ptarmigans also this year the falcons manage to rise young ones. See the “Gyr Falcon” gallery for more new images of this species.
Beautiful and mystic Arctic Loons gathering at sunrise in a remote lake.
Female Arctic Loon, -the male in behind. For more images of these magnificent birds, please see the “Loons” gallery.
Winter images from the Nordic countries.
A couple of shots from the winter 2015/16 photo sessions:
The beautiful male Hen Harrier in south western Norway. See the “Hen Harrier” gallery for more images.
Female Goshawk in south western Norway. For more images, please see the “Goshawk” gallery.
Male Velvet Scoters in Hafrsfjord, Norway. More Velvet Scoters are to be found in the “Ducks” gallery.
Lone Grey Wolf in eastern Finland. See the “Wolf” gallery for more images.
Reindeer in the south Norwegian mountains, October 2015.
For the part of the Norwegian population that live in small villages and farms at higher altitudes autumn is synonymous with hunting and gathering. Regarding hunting mainly reindeer, -as it has been since time immemorial, -hundreds, -yes thousands of years back in time. This hunt still continues, some using rifles and some cameras. Below here are some examples from the camera hunt in the south Norwegian high mountains.
Bulls in the last hour of the day`s light. It is fascinating to to think that these proud and beautiful animals have lived in the Norwegian mountains since the last Ice Age, and that they are the last population left of a species that once roamed all over Europe.
The guard of the Reindeer herd. Please see the “Reindeer” gallery for more new images of Reindeer.
The rutting season is still ongoing. Two bulls that are not quite sure if it is worth another fight, -they have both been in hard battles earlier today.
Ancient Reindeer pitfall trap in perfect condition, see the “Archaeological Sites” gallery for more images, -and what this specific trap contained… Here from the Rondane mountain range.
Recent photographs from Norway, Summer-2015.
Good to see that the local Peregrine Falcons found back to their traditional nesting place also this year. This is the adult female. Please see the “Peregrine Falcon” gallery for more images of his beautiful bird.
…and so did the majestic Gyr Falcons. Despite low numbers of rodents and Ptarmigans in the south Norwegian mountains the local couple managed to get two juveniles on wings. See the “Gyr Falcon” gallery for more images.
Adult Eagle Owl at their coastal territory. See the “Eagle Owl” gallery for more images of this mystic bird.
Due to unusual late Summer with quite many mountain lakes and ponds still ice covered / partly ice covered in the middle of July, many ducks (as the Common Scoters on the photo) had still not started nesting yet.
It is always interesting to stop for a look at places where ancient history can be found. This is an approximately 2000 years old Reindeer trap in the Rondane mountain range, and is placed at a traditional Reindeer path (this path is even used by the Reindeer today). The Reindeer was first scared by ancient hunters in the direction of the trap. Lead-fences and markers of stone closer to the trap made the Reindeer thereafter running exactly against the trap opening (the short end were the person on the photo stand). When they rushed past the small rock formation in the foreground they jumped straight down into he trap (the trap could not be seen by the running Reindeer before it was to late), and were not able to exit the trap due to high walls (up to 1,8m). See more images from this site on the “Archaeological Sites” gallery.
Norwegian spring, April-2015.
Adult Golden Eagle patrolling its territory high up in the snow covered mountains. See the “Golden Eagle” gallery for more images.
Adult male Red Fox in search for food to the female that is in the den with their cubs.
Any rodents to catch ?
The foxes territory is hilly with lakes and steep valleys. The “Red Fox” gallery contains more photos of this interesting animal.
Raptors and Owls in the south Norwegian winter, March-2015.
Some photographs showing the latest captions of these beautiful birds:
Male Hen Harrier.
Male Hen Harrier. For more new images of this species, please see the “Hen Harrier” gallery.
Adult female Goshawk. See the “Goshawk” Gallery for more new images of this terrific bird.
Images from Summer – Autumn in Norway-2014.
I`ll here show a couple of images from two of the photographic trips in norway this Summer and Autumn. First by the seaside at Helgelandskysten, close to the Arctic Circle. Thereafter from the latest trip to the mountains in southern Norway.
Part from the archipelago at Helgelandskysten. Bands with Calcite Marble characterizes this area.
Europe`s densest population of Eagle Owls are found on this Archipelago. The territory sizes can here be as small as one square km. Main prey for them are not sea birds, but voles. See the “Eagle Owl” gallery for more images of the worlds biggest Owl.
In great parts of the mountains in southern Norway there are huge poplations of Lemmings this year. This is from the Hardangervidda mountain plateau.
Rough Legged Buzzards feed on Lemmings, and are to be found in great numbers when the Lemming population are at peak (as this year). See the “Rough-legged Buzzard” gallery for more images.
Man has hunted Reindeer in the Norwegian mountains for thousands of years. This is a pitfall trap from the Viking Age where we still can see remnants of the fences that lead the Reindeer in the direction where the pitfall trap was. The pitfall had a crate of thin branches on top and was covered with moss and heather as the surrounding vegetation. The grazing or migrating Reindeer did not see the pitfall before it was too late and they had fallen down into it. Here from Hardangervidda mountain plateau. See the “Archaeological Sites” gallery for more images from the ancient Reindeer Hunters period.
Medieval dwelling ruin on Hardangervidda mountain plateau.
Part from the south Norwegian mountains. This move block shows that the land here once was glacier covered. Now we only see minor remnants here and there of the ice age that by definition ended 9000 thousand years ago.
…and the first inhabitants that arrived after the ice age was the Reindeer. They actually followed the retracting ice cap.
Here in southern Norway it is the only place in Europe where we still can find wild Reindeeer. Animals that 20-30.000 yers ago once roamed all over Europe. It is therefor extremely important that they are taken good care of. See the “Reindeer” gallery for more images of these amazing animals.
A journey to the archipelago of Svalbard, June 23rd to July 05th-2014.
After a couple of weeks in the Norwegian high arctic archipelago of Svalbard I want to share some moments with you below here. On behalf of Arctic Images I have been up there at this fabulous place numerous of times, and never ever been disappointed what the land can show up, -so with this trip.
The original plan was to bring the ship north along the west coast before heading eastwards. From there, -weather, ice and the spirits would decide where to go. But it did not become like this, heavy ice from the north pole basin has for weeks effectively prevented ships for sailing the north coast. Instead we went south along the west coast, rounded Sørkapp and up again in the big fjord of Storfjorden. Our area of activity stretched from this area to 80 degrees north in Hinlopenstredet that divides Spitsbergen from Nordaustlandet. In periods there was no ice, and other periods there was heavy pack ice also there. I was very pleased taking this route on the “back side” of Svalbard due to that this land is far less visited by man than the north west and northern coastal areas.
The weather was generally calm with little or no wind, but blue sky was as often up here in the northern Barents Sea area covered by low clouds.
Polar Bear mother and cub on the sea ice near Hinlopenstredet. The midnight sun shines through the fog against Hochstetterbreen in the behind.
This Polar Bear cub by Inglefieldbreen seems to be a bit wary of the visitors…
Whatching… For more new Polar Bear images, please see the “Polar Bear” gallery.
Brunnich Guillemots on a piece of glacier ice in the Hinlopenstredet.
Black Guillemots in Palanderbukta, Nordaustlandet.
Svalbards mosts spectacular bird cliff is Alkefjellet in Hinlopenstredet. Approximately 90.000 Brunnich Guillemots nests on these basaltic cliffs.
Fulmar in front of Isbukta, Spitsbergen. The mountain peak Haitanna (“The Shark Tooth”) behind.
Curious Walrus in Palanderbukta, Nordaustlandet.
Walrus on drifting ice in Hinlopenstredet.
Walrus from the haul-out place at Isbukta, Spitsbergen.
Walrus photographer Ole-Jørgen at Andretangen, Edgeøya. For more new images of Walrus, please see the “Walrus” gallery.
Arctic Foxes are abundant all over Svalbard. This belong to a family group of foxes sited close to a bird cliff north of Diskobukta, Nordaustlandet.
Reindeer bull at Bellsund. The land below Ingeborgfjellet bird cliff is heavily fertilized by bird droppings and is one of the best grazing grounds for Reindeer on Svalbard.
A really exclusive species found on an island in Storfjorden. Three pairs of Sabine`s Gulls was nesting there. This is the second “biggest colony” of these birds on Svalbard. The total poulation Sabine`s Gulls are estimated to be around 20 pairs at the archipelago.
The Sabine`s Gulls have a special ritual when saying hello to each other. For more new images of the Sabine`s Gulls, please see the “Gulls” gallery.
The high arctic King Eiders making new family… For more images of King Eiders, please see the “Ducks” gallery.
Old trappers station on Edgeøya (Diskobukta) named “Villa Disko”. There are many of these stations at Svalbard from the time when man hunted Polar Bears and Arctic Foxes for their fur. This specific station was built by oldtimer Georg Bjønnes in 1929. A few of the old trappers stations are still in good condition, but the majority of them are in decay or as ruins. The fur hunting epoch at Svalbard is an important part of its history, and it is sad to see the stations in increasingly poor conditions.
Remnants from a bygone era. Old trap to kill Arctic Foxes. These special traps are typical for Norwegian trappers at both Svalbard and North East Greenland. The stones beside the trap was loaded on top of the trap (wooden frame) that was raised approximately 30 degrees above ground level and held up by a special wooden locking mechanism. A bait (often a ptarmigans head) was attached to this mechanism. When the fox snatch the bait, -the wooden fram with the stones on top will fall over and kill the animal. For more images from the fur trappers period, please see the “Fur Trapping” gallery.
This trappers station at Andretangen on Edgeøya was in earlier days one of Svalbards most important stations for Polar Bear hunting. The legendary trapper Henry Rudi built this station in 1946 and lived here for long periods. Last time I was here, the boat in the foreground still had a boats shape, but as we see the degradation is now at full swing. It does not show in the picture, -but the station itself is also in decay (roof collapsing due to rotting materials).
Bowhead Whale bone (Greenland Whale) at Diskobukta, Edgeøya. For more landscape images, please see the “Landscape” gallery.
Sleeping Red-Phalarope in Adventdalen.
Barnacle Geese have increased in numbers on Svalbard. Note the Red-Phalarope.
White-beaked Dolphins are frequently seen west and south of Svalbard during summer time. These are photographed west of Bellsund when we returned back to Longyearbyen at the end of the journey.
The Peregrine Falcons arrive to their territory, May 01st-2014.
A visit to one of my favorite areas in coastal western Norway shows that the Peregrine Falcons are back to their territory again. It is always nice to see these birds, especially when we know that they for only 3-4 decades ago was near extinction in Norway. In mid seventies only 6 pairs nested in the country. Now the population counts hundreds of pairs. Let us take good care of these gorgeous birds !
The adult male Peregrine. See the “Peregrine Falcon” Gallery for more images.
This actual Peregrine territory is quite a bit out at sea from the mainland, where the weather is too harsh for trees to grow.
Winter raptors in the Norwegian lowlands, March-2014.
Each winter several bird of prey species are found wintering by the coast of south western Norway where we live. Due to a relative mild climate and good access to prey some of them stay in the area all winter. Great for birding and photographing !
Below here I show some example images of these magnificent hunters taken this winter.
Most all wintering Goshawks here this season was adult birds, -which indicate low reproduction success in 2013.
The Goshawks short and wide wings together wits its long tail make this powerful raptor to an agile hunter. See the “Goshawk” gallery for more images.
The numbers of wintering Rough-legged Buzzards can briefly reflect last summers vole population. Only a few Rough-legged Buzzards was observed in the wintering area and that means averagely low density nesting birds on the Scandinavian Peninsula.
Rough-legged Buzzard. See the “Rough-legged Buzzard” gallery for more images.
Female colored Hen Harrier. These beautiful birds most characteristic look is the owl-facial appearance.
The Hen Harriers are specialists in catching voles, frogs etc. and can search in hours for them flying only a few meters over the ground. See the “Hen Harrier” gallery for more images.
Autumn in the Norwegian mountains, October-2013.
Autumn again ! Nothing is as fresh and beautiful as a clear sub-zero autumn morning in the mountains. Then we really feel we are living beings originated from Mother Earth.
Under here you`ll find some images from my last autumn trip to the mountains of southern Norway, -it was a wonderful time with good memories of the encountered wildlife:
Reindeer above the incoming fog layer.
After sunset the colors turn bluish a little while before the night cover the scene..
It is a great experience to have close contact with a reindeer herd. If the wind is very low, -they sometimes can come quite close to get the scent of what creature they are dealing with. This time a harmless photographer ! See the “Reindeer” gallery for more new reindeer images.
The reindeer have been hunted in the mountains for thousands of years, -in fact since the end of the last ice age for app. 9000 years ago when mankind started to populate this land. For lets say a hundred years ago and all the way back to the ice age, this hunt was crucial for the existence of many of the people living here. People laid down a great deal of work trying to catch this magnificent source of food. Some places we can still find remnants of traps and stone constructions in connection with reindeer hunt.
This photo from Hardangervidda (north Europes biggest mountain plateau) show a 1000 years old pitfall trap with stone fences for leading the reindeer to the trap that then was covered with moss and heather (on top of a frame of thin branches).
In the Rondane mountain range there exist a huge ancient stone trap for collecting up to 15-20 reindeer at the same time/same herd when they are scared up to this mountain top by the early hunters. Only a few of these traps are left in he Norwegian mountains. The “Archaeological Sites” Gallery contains more new images, -take a look if you have the time !
Arctic fox in the Dovrefjell mountains. The winter is soon coming and the fox are close to have changed to its white winter fur. This year quite a number of arctic foxes had succesful denning in Norway, -this in contrast to 2012 when there was only 1 successful denning. The main reasons for successful denning or not is the amount of presence rodents.
Just before sunrise.
Arctic fox profile in late evening light. See the “Arctic Fox” Gallery for more images.
Siberian Jays inhabits the woods below the treeline. This bird is also called “The lumberjacks best friend” due to that they are extremely trustful by nature, -and was of this reason often hand-fed by loggers at their meal breaks.
Another interesting bird that this year is especially numerous are the crossbills.
A visit to the indigenious Nenet People on the Russian Yamal Peninsula and in the mountains of the Polar
After returning home from a trip to western Siberia I would like to share some images with those who are interested in indigenous people.
Today you can literally not find any arctic people that are not influenced by modern civilization. Well, this can perhaps be valid for all people on earth, -except for some extremely remote tribes in certain tropic jungle areas.
The Nenets, that I visited from early April and show a selection images of here, are characterized as the most traditional living people on the northern hemisphere. They are reindeer herders living in the old world from the Kanin Peninsula in the west to Taimyr in the east. They are true nomads that migrate together with their reindeer herds year round. What makes them unique and true as nomads is that their migration includes all parts of the family; children, wife and parents/grandparents. This is especially valid for the nenets of the Yamal Peninsula (“Yamal” means “The end of the world” in nenet language). An overview over their yearly migration cycle can be as follow: From January to mid March when the winter is as its coldest and the weather roughest they spend their time in the forest tundra in the Nadym region south of the Gulf of Ob. In these good reindeer feeding grounds they do not move camps very often, but stay behind and do work such as making new sledges, tools, necessary maintenance of equipment etc. Temperatures can also there easily drop to minus 50°C at this time of year, but it is far less windy than on the tundra further north. From mid March to beginning of June they migrate with first crossing the Gulf of Ob, for so continue migrating northwards on the huge Yamal Peninsula. Averagely they move camp every 2-3 days before reaching the Yuribei River halfway up the Peninsula. This big river must be crossed when the ice is still present, and they are therefore in a rush to reach there before the river ice breaks up. Grandparents and all winter equipment are left behind just before crossing the river. The Grandparents will stay at this place all Summer and support themselves mainly by fishing. With lighter equipment the younger generations head northwards with the reindeer herds. The sledges which are pulled by reindeer are used all year round and are now gliding on grass. The speed is slower, but goes remarkable smooth afterall. Making a huge circle up further north all Summer for finding good pasture land for the reindeers they are back again to the newly frozen up Yuribei in October month. They pick up their Grandparents and head south again on snow covered tundra towards the Gulf of Ob that is crossed in mid December. The migration circle is closed when putting up their Chums (tepee-like fur tents) /winter camp in the forest tundra of the Nadym region south of the gulf in early January.
Some of the Nenets, -those with the longest migration routes can travel up to 1000km northwards, and the same distance back south again later on the year.
Caravan of migrating Nenets. The women runs the sledges with all the belongings while the men is herding the reindeer.
It was a very interesting trip to this rugged people of the north. To explore their way of living gave me an extra tad of realism since I ate the same food as them (reindeer and fish, -most raw…) and was dressed up in reindeer fur & footwear clothing just like them. A bit uncomfortable for photographing in these bulky clothes, but this was outweighed by a never freezing photographer !
My trip to Siberia also included a visit to the Nenets living in the Polar Ural mountains west of the Yamal Peninsula. The way to these people lead me first to the abandoned settlement of Polyarnyj from where the former Soviet Union launched nuclear missiles to explode over the Novaya Zemlya test field. Thereafter I travelled up and deep into the mountains to a remote Nenet camp. In the Polar Urals these nomads rarely leave the mountains, and migrate together with their reindeer herds in a south-north direction year round.
Scroll down for a selection of images, -or have a look at he the “People of the Land” gallery HERE (starting with image PL-35) for more images of this amazing people !
Travelling by reindeer sledge is the most common way of transport on the Yamal Peninsula.
The Nenets still use their holy Sacrificial Places which are to be found all over the huge Yamal Peninsula.
Part from Camp on the Yamal Peninsula.
Young Nenet girl Ulya at the family camp call for her favorite Reindeer. Yamal Peninsula.
Nenet man on the Yamal Peninsula. Bad weather is approaching, – a couple of hours later the storm arrived.
Reindeer herd on the Yamal Peninsula.
The Nenets on the Yamal Peninsula are held as the worlds best reindeer herders.
Beside reindeer herding, the Nenets of the Yamal Peninsula also trap foxes, mainly for fur trading purposes. Two years ago it was mainly Arctic Foxes here, but now over 50% of the foxes are the Red Fox species.
Sveta is about to skin an Arctic Fox (Nenetsk: Nokho).
Part from inside the Chum (Nenetsk: Mya). Sveta is skinning a Red Fox (Nenetsk: Tyonya)
Caravans of migrating Nenets and their reindeer herd. Averagely they migrate northwards every second day to be able to reach the big Yuribei River for crossing this in early June before the river ice breaks up.
Well decorated Caravan lead reindeer.
Maksim the Nenet.
As mentioned in the text above, -for more images from this trip, see the HERE (starting with image PL-35).
WILDLIFE WINTER-REPORT FROM THE BORDER ZONE BETWEEN FINLAND AND RUSSIA, NOV/DEC-2012
After spending a week in “No Mans Land” between Finland and Russia you will below see some image-examples of wildlife I observed there that week. My photo target no.1 on this trip was Wolves. Photographing these elusive animals is easier said than done…, – winter time is difficult for these wildlife motives due to short days with limited light for photographing, low temperatures and wolves that use most of the time patrolling their huge territory. The first 5 days no wolves, -nor fresh tracks of them was seen. The days in the Taiga forest was exciting afterall, -there is always a chance of animals to show up, anywhere -anytime. The first winter cold showed up instead, with temperatures below -30 Deg.C. Such cold days make special noises in the forest; Loud “bangs”, – like hundreds, maybe thousand of rifle shot like sounds. Noises originated from contraction of trees.
The Wolves showed up on the 6th day. Four of them crossing the snow covered marsh ahead of me. – and suddenly they were gone. Just like nothing have happened…
But one of the four Wolves turned and came my way…
See the “Wolf” gallery for more images.
Once in a while a photographer can have luck getting these beautiful animals close up.
(due to the lack of new wolf photos from this trip I here publish 2 “new” photos taken in 2010)
Quite focused, – must be someting edible.. (photo from 2010)
Some White-tailed Eagles also spend the winter in the huge Taiga forest.
See the “White-tailed Eagle” gallery for more images.
…and the same does the Golden Eagle. Here photographed a clear day showing the warm color from a sun that never
reach tree-top height at this proximity to the arctic circle.
See the “Golden Eagle” gallery for more images.
AUTUMN IN THE NORWEGIAN MOUNTAINS, SEPT/OCT – 2012
Autumn in the Norwegian mountains means for many people recreation and Reindeer hunt. Southern Norway is the only country in Europe that still have wild Tundra Reindeer (Rangifer Tarandus) roaming in the mountains. Since the end of last ice age the Reindeers have been the most important mammal to hunt for Norwegians. Well, -it can be discussed how important Reindeer hunt is for modern household nowadays, -in fact as important as earlier, but more for recreation.
In the Suldal mountains there is a special place that Reindeer Hunters have travelled to for thousands of years. Among numerous rocks here there is one big rock placed strategically between a mountain and a lake, -and have got the name “Skutesteinen”. The Reindeer have their path below the rock and the lake, and hunters have made a blind by the rock for hunting them. The blind is a pile/wall of stones stacked up on each other. Well, -it is only remnants of this blind left today. It was originally buildt no later than the Viking age. On the roof/wall of this “Skutestein” we can find 1000 year old carvings of Reindeer, Moose, Fox and other animals. And also the hunter himself, a Viking named Vivil have written with Runes several sentences such as ” I want to choose the most beautiful girl in the world”, and “Vivil the archer lived here”. May be it was Vivil that carved himself on the rock? -See the carving below here. On the image above you can see my friend Arnfinn Nilsen studying the Runes on “Skutesteinen”.
Is this “Vivil the archer” ? The Viking ? For more images from this place, please see the “Archaeological Sites” gallery.
Here is a 1000 year old example of the animals these hunters waited for at this special place.
…and here they are in real.
Reindeer in the Norwegian Mountains. This is October, mating season, and fighting between bulls is rather common. These beautiful bulls walk in peace and have obviously found their place in the herds hierarchy.
Reindeer herd in evening light. Go to the “Reindeer” gallery if you are interested to see more images of these majestic animals.
The Red Listed (mainland Norway) Arctic Fox is to be found in certain areas of the Norwegian mountains. It is early October, and the foxes are soon finished developing their soft & warm winter fur. See the “Arctic Fox” gallery for more images of this beautiful animal !
ICELAND JULY 2012 – A SHORT TRIP WITH GOOD FRIENDS
Here is a tiny selection of images from our week long trip to north east Iceland together with Odd & Ruth Gabrielsen.
I had been in the area a couple of years ago, and wanted to show them some of the best nature & wildlife Iceland can offer.
Here we are (as usual minus the photographer…) walking in a 2500 year old lava field.
The beaches on Iceland are vulcanic black. In nice contrast to the “always” sand-coloured beaches that is “normal” for us non-Icelandic residents…
See the “Landscape” gallery for more landscape images from Iceland.
Here in the geothermal areas we can really smell and feel the interior of the planet we are living on.
Due to this closeness to Mother Earth`s ground materials, – it can be quite challenging taking a shower in the evening at the hotel when the water flashes off m3`s of stinking Sulphur gas…
One of the most interesting bird species on Iceland is without doubt the Harlequin Duck. This is the eastern most
outskirt of its general distribution. The drakes as this are beautiful, and “all foreign birdwatchers” are looking for them. But they must be aware of that the drakes are away from their local territory by the end of June for spending the autumn and winter at sea.
Another highly sought bird species is the exclusive Gyr Falcon. This falcon have for the last decades become rarer
in many countries, especially in the southern part of sub arctic. People that are so lucky to find an inhabited
Gyr territory must be extremely careful for not to scare the birds. Please do not publish any nest sites !
See the “Gyr Falcon” gallery for more images of this species.
Iceland is also renown for whales and whaling. The whaling have now ended, and the whales are frequent
seen in the western and nortern fiords. Here a Humpback whale by the north coast.
We saw 6 Humpback Whales and 1 Minke Whale during a 3 hours boat trip.
More Whale images are to be seen in the “Whales” Gallery.
Lake Myvatn and surroundings is the most known bird watching area on Iceland. Here a couple of Horned Grebes.
Common Snipe on a clump of lava by the shore of Lake Myvatn, -the vulcano Hiidarfjall in the background. This Snipe is together with the Whimbrel, Golden Plover and Dunlin among the most common waders in the area. Since Iceland is placed in the middle of the New and the Old World, there are for sure many celebrities of bird species that shows up from time to time…
If you are interested in Waders, please take a look in the “Waders” Gallery.
By the way: I was recently on a photographic trip to Ethiopia, not really arctic (!!), but quite an interesting place.
Take a look at the images here: Ethiopia !!
Arctic Images website is now renewed & modernized with total new layout !!
I hope you will enjoy the site and also a selection of some new images from Norway during this summer:
Starting in southern Norway.
My brother Kjell Tysdal (Owl expert) reported about a photogenic Tawny Owl near his home in Aardal, Ryfylke. We both had some interesting evenings when we photographed this male owl using radio controlled cameras. Each evening the owl appeared in the opening of this ash tree when the light dimmed. This is his year around day-place. The exposure time was down to 2 seconds, but with a solid tripod in combination with the cameras mirror lock-up, the images became razor sharp. Of course depending on a static owl.
Male Tawny Owl.
Further north; in Trondelag county:
The small and trusting Pygmy Owl nested in an old Great spotted Woodpecker hole near Levanger. The day-active owl had regular hunting trips in the near by area. When she flew out from the hole it was important to spot the owl and approach her carefully for watching & photographing. In one occasion she flew out, for shortly after to dive down to the ground for seconds later to turn up with this mouse.
See the “Pygmy Owl” gallery for more images !!
Female Pygmy Owl.
It is an exclusive experience to be able to watch lekking Great Snipes. These leks are performed on elevated, slightly south-faced marshes during night time. The birds are so occupied with the lek that they do not hold the normal shyness for people. This actual lek contained up to 20 snipes that for hours perfomed this peculiar play with territoriel markings and intensive noises that sounds like rolling “Ping-Pong balls”.
If you are interested to see more images of the Great Snipes in lek, please see the “Waders” gallery.
Male Great Snipe in lek.
And finally to the top of Norway, Varanger Peninsula:
The northern part is in fact real arctic, with its animal & bird species, and also humans living in close relations with the land here.
Drying of fish (mainly Cod) are on many places still done by the traditional method.
Not far away, over at the Russian side of the border we see one of the worlds most polluting cities; Nikel. Luckily for Norway, -the most frequent wind direction are from west to east. Last year, when I was over at the Russian side of the border I could with own eyes see that tens & tens of kilometers eastwards consists of desert-looking landscape were all vegetation are dead. The average age of the people are significant lower than the rest of Russia.
Nikel seen from the Norwegian/Russian border.
Varanger Peninsula is extremely rich of remnants of from its Sami cultural history.
This Offer stone Ring dates at least 1000 years back. On the upper left side you can see the holy Bear Stone (Guovzageadgi) that was the supposed reason for placing the holy Offer Ring here.
If you are interested to see more af the archaeological sites in the Varanger area, please see the “Archaeological sites” gallery.
Holy Sami Offer Ring at the Varanger Peninsula.
Varanger is a heaven for Ruffs. While the Ruffs are declining in both southern and middle Norway, the Ruffs are thriving up here in the arctic landscape. Countless leks are to be found here. To watch lekking Ruffs is really exciting. Take a look in the “Waders” gallery for more Ruff images.
Male Ruffs in lek.
Southwards again to Finnish Lapland:
The sub-arctic Spotted Redshank are on many birders wishlist. But they are not common to see in summer time, -and rather difficult to find at their nesting grounds. This summer I found two pairs nesting in northern Finland. Why are they black ? This have been discussed in several scientific forums….
Male Spotted Redshank.
SVALBARD MARCH – 2011.
The travel to Svalbard was this time done together with my son Mats and Mattis. What a great time we had !
Lunch at the Tunabreen glacier front..
Stranded icebergs can sometime act as reflecting prisms. See the “Ice & Snow” gallery for more new images.
Prior to an incoming low pressure weather system we saw the phenomenon “Parhelia”. This is described with great interest by the early arctic explorers
On our journey in the arctic wilderness we also met Polar Bears. See the “Polar Bear” gallery for more images.
This big male bear is wandering unaffected on the sea ice. They are really the King of the arctic !
The Dwarf Reindeers have no real enemies on Svalbard, so they are not afraid of humans. See the “Dwarf Reindeer” gallery for more images.
We also made a visit to one of the few active fur trappers on Svalbard. Harald Solheim on Kapp Wijk have lived and trapped here since 1978.
What a beautiful creature we met on our journey. Can we call it “Ice Bear”?