I travelled down to heathrow with Mike and by 0445hrs we were checkimg in for our flight and beginning of our epic journey to Arctic Norway! We had seven and a half hours to wait in Oslo for our our plane to Kirkenes; by the end of this time I had walked my way around the terminal so many times I was beginning to feel like Viktor Navorski!
We soon met up with Martin Garner and his wife Sharon along with some of the group heading with us for this arctic adventure! By 2000hrs local time we had arrived in Kirkenes and were loading up the minibus and heading to the Birkhusky Guest House. On arrival here we were made to feel very welcome and soon we were enjoying our evening meal in the amazing Viking Longhouse! The food was great and the hospitality fantastic! We were in the Norway, in the Arctic Circle and only a river separated us from Russia!
I did not get much sleep through the night due to the excitement and wonder of what the following day would bring!
This morning I decided to get some birding in before our breakfast; so at 0500hrs I was out the door and exploring! There were good numbers of Redpoll about; though none landed to allow me to identify them! However a superb
Ptarmigan Willow Grouse very promptly gave me my first bit of excitement! I heard a bird singing that I did no recognise; however views soon confirmed that I was hearing and seeing my first ever Pine Grosbeak! Wow! Shortly afterwards I was enjoying views of my first ever Siberian Jays; truly gorgeous birds!
After an ample breakfast we made our way to the dog yard where after instruction we were hitching up the last of the six dogs onto our sled! The dogs were wonderful creatures, very friendly and eager to set off! I teamed up with Dutch birder Vincent . We were soon on our way into the Arctic Taiga! This was a vast beautiful landscape giving a real sense of remoteness! The 8km trek to the cabin and feeding station was hard going; though thoroughly enjoyable. Vincent did a fantastic job of driving the sled and the dogs did an amazing job of pulling!
The feeding station was soon allowing us fantastic views of Siberian Tit! I was soon distracted when Martin informed that Nils had found us our first ever Hawk Owl! This epic bird showed very well; allowing us to view it at close range! Back at the feeding station Siberian Jay along with Pine Grosbeaks and Siberian Tits were giving us all breathtaking views! A superb borealis Willow Tit was also a great bonus!
We spent most of the day here enjoying the area and superb views of these arcic specialities! The Birkhusky team put on a fantastic lunch for us around a very warm fire! As the day moved on it was time for s to head back to base. For the return journey I teamed up with the Danish guide from Birkhusky; she was a great company and a fantastic sled driver and not only had great respect for the dogs, but also clearly cared about them.
We finished off the day with another very nice evening meal and some informal talks! This day will rank as one of the best days of my life ad will stay with me forever! I love Norway!