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Monday, June 10, 2013

Report from the Arctic Circle!

We have recently returned from spending two weeks wildlife watching in Finland and Norway, including  a few days in Lapland, which is in the Arctic Circle, where, though Santa Claus was not spotted, lots of reindeer were! There was still plenty of ice and snow around and they were very adept at splaying their large feet whilst crossing the frozen lakes.

Reindeer on the ice
It is interesting to note that the reindeer roaming free are actually nearly all domesticated and owned by someone, just like the ponies on Dartmoor. They are an important source of income for local people and twice a year they are rounded up and many are sent to market as a major meat  source. 
It is a harsh landscape and many of the lakes were still frozen when we arrived in mid May.
The resulting scenery was beautiful but temperatures were often around freezing and required a number of layers to combat the chill factor.
Frozen lakes just beginning to thaw
The vegetation was mainly coniferous forests, with birch and aspen to the south and there were only 3  wild flowers species seen in the two weeks we were there,  something that was a great contrast with the colourful verges we welcomed on our return to the UK. 

We were however lucky to see some fantastic wildlife sights, including five different species of  Owls, 

Tengmalm's Owl

Pygmy Owl

and an extraordinary sight of a gull catching and flying off with a Razorbill dangling from its beak! (The poor bird actually escaped and lived to tell the tale).
Gull with Razorbill in its grip!
We had very close views of a "crazy" Capercaillie which tried to attack us as we stood by our minibus whilst admiring it. Our guide had to brandish a conifer branch to stop it drawing blood!
Crazy Capercaillie
Probably the most beautiful bird we were lucky to see though was the Bluethroat which entertained us with its song whilst perched out in the open, which it only really does in the breeding season. What a privilege!                                                                                        

So, all in all, a great holiday with lots of memories and too many photos to share in this blog, but hopefully this provides a taste of the things you might expect on a trip to the Arctic Circle in the spring.                                                                                                                                  

Amazingly when we left Finland it was 21C and when we returned to London it was only 7C so, whilst it was cold at times, it was warmer than any of us expected and the lakes had nearly all melted by the end of the holiday.


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