Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Beyond 66.5 Degrees North - Days 9 and 10: South, West and Home

It was time to pack up and leave Norway and start the long journey home. So we packed our gear, cleared out and tidied up the hire car, ate some breakfast and hit the road southward. Before leaving Vadso we went online to find some accommodation as we had nowhere booked for the evening. We found a hotel in Ivalo near to the airport.

Our destination for the day was to return to the 'Grosbeak Motel' in Finland for another session on the feeders but we would try and see if we could have find anything on route. The trees returned to the roadside and grew larger as we headed southward. We made good progress weaving our way along the quiet pine forest clad roads of Finland under some fine weather and increasing warming temperatures. We occasionally would stop at a roadside lake to see if there were any birds to photograph. As usual when driving  through Finland, it seems remarkably devoid of wildlife.  It is there but hidden from view in the extensive forests and you really need to stop and explore for a while to find it. We found a male Smew on one lake, but it remained uncooperative and out of photography range.

We arrived back at the Neljan Tuulen Tupa in the early afternoon and it felt warm as I stepped out the car. In these northern latitudes, warmth generally equates to mosquitoes and they were out in force around the feeders at the back of the hotel. This made for some uncomfortable photography. I concentrated mainly on the Brambling which showed a lot of variation.

Some Red Squirrel where visiting including a couple of young ones.

I finally managed to get a photograph of a Siberian Tit which unusually just paused for a moment in its hyperactive life.

In the end I'd had enough feeding the female mosquitoes and started thinking a blood transfusion might be necessary if I remained any longer under the constant bombardment. The final photograph of the trip was a lovely looking male Pine Grosbeak which briefly appeared before I beat a retreat from the whining mosquitoes.

We continued southward to Ivalo and found the hotel we had booked earlier in the day. We decided this 'Norman Bates Motel' was not for us, the mop and bucket propped up against the entrance didn/t bode well and there was a much better looking place next door. We went back online and cancelled our reservation.

Our arrival at the adjacent hotel coincided was a coach of Chinese tourists. One in particular was fascinated by our camera kit and he insisted on trying my camera with the 600mm lens to photograph some of his travel companions in the hotel corridor. It was a funny moment.

There was not much left to do now except eat some food, go for wander and hit the bed for the early start in the morning for the flight home.

On arrival at the airport the next day we were the only ones there when we arrived for the first of the two flights home. Given that the woman on check-in had plenty of time to spare she decided she was going to weigh our hand luggage. This was not ideal as I decided to pack all my camera gear into my bag which took it about 7kg over the 8kg allowance. She weighed Adams hand luggage first and while he transferred excess weight to his suitcase at the checkin desk, I retire to a nearby packing table and transferred two camera bodies and the 100-400 lens into my photographers vest under my fleece. She weighed the bag and it was spot on 8 kg and it was tagged. I walked away and transferred all the kit from my vest back into the bag. I always think this hand baggage policy is crazy especially when you are in a queue and the behind person may weigh 40 to 50 kilos more than you.

Back in Helsinki I paid farewell to Adam who was picking  up a flight back to Paris and went off for mine back to Manchester and home. the rest of the journey went smoothly.

Overall it had been a great trip with the main target bird species found and photographed. The highlight of the trip was of course the Ruff which was the primary reason for returning to the wonderful Varanger Peninsula. I would like to express my gratitude and thanks to a few people:

  • Firstly to Adam for being such a great companion and making it a special and enjoyable trip. 
  • To Dawn and Jayne for holding the forts while Adam and I wandered the icy tundra. 
  • To Agle at the 'Grosbeak Motel' ( Neljan Tuulen Tupa ) 
  • For the great people who run the 'Birders Hotel' in Vadso (Vadso Fjord Hotel )
  • To Alonza at Biotope for all his help (Biotope )
Hope you enjoyed the trip. Next year is already in planning and I will be heading somewhere warmer having spent the last two year's trips in the freezer!!!


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