Snowy Owl on snow-covered plateau in Nordkyn/ Norway

SchneeeuleHaving booked a snowmobile-trip with Nordkyn Nordic Safari AS to the fjell-region south of Mehamn (the most northern fishing town of the world) to enjoy the snow-covered nature of this beautiful nordic countryside and to have a look for the first arrivals, arrivals of birds coming back to their breeding grounds. Already before starting the trip, there were rumors of a Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) hanging around in the area we were supposed to visit. Local people and winter enthusiasts had already enjoyed the sightings of at least 2 Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) in the past months around Lake Skillevatnet. The area is only on 260 meters above sealevel (asl) and is highly frequented by snow-mobiles and other winter activities which bring hordes of people to this otherwise snow-covered loneliness. As they say, that the Snowy Owls hang around since several weeks, it seemed obvious, that the Owl had adapted to some kind of human disturbance. Anyway, I hoped for a chance to have a glimpse on the Snowy Owl.

In the beginning of May, we started the trip in the evening at the office of Nordkyn Nordic Safari in Mehamn to prepare and pay the scenic ride over the mountains. When we arrived at the site, from where the snow-mobile were supposed to start, we heard already the high trilling calls of the European Golden-Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria). The days before, it had been warm already, very warm for these latitudes and the snow had melted considerably. Large watercourses had established making the use of the established snow tracks not very pleasurable. But the scenic landscape could easily offset for this disadvantage and it was great fun to see the European Golden-Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria) and some Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis). Then, after a while, the driver hint on a white Owl sitting on a power line pylon. Motionless, looking in our direction. Without haste the Snowy Owl flew away, without any attempt to approach from our side. So, I thought to myself: “… at least I´ve got it to see.” After a while, we found the Snowy Owl again. Sitting on a barren hill, with its white colors showing a nice contrast to the grey-brown barren rocks. This time, the Snowy Owl was sitting quiet, looking from to time to time to our snow-mobile; obviously without harm when we approached with caution. Eventually the Snowy Owl stretched its wings and started the flight over the valley leaving my driver and myself very impressed by this unique encounter.

We refrained from following the Snowy Owl not to want to chase this rare bird, which should still feel welcome in this snowy loneliness of Nordkyn/ Norway.

After the sighting of this rare Owl at Hanstholm at the coast of northern Jytland, Denmark in the beginning of January 2014 this is my 2nd encounter of this fantastic creature. Last time it was a young female Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus), which could be observed in the south of Hanstholm in a reserve called Hanstedreservatet.

Snowy Owls are anything but a familiar sight – not only for the middle of Europe. And if you look at their breeding range in Europe e.g. Lapland or Spitsbergen you will see, that it is not easy to photograph a Snowy Owl on closer distance. In winter it happens to be straying into Scandinavia, Denmark and mainly the west coasts of the Northern Sea and the Atlantic, but there are years in between.Thus, most central Europe observers watch Snowy Owls during an invastion in wintertime – as happened in the winter 2013/14. Observations even in their core breeding areas are not easy either. Breeding success and the frequency of observations obviously depend on good year of voles, the main prey of the Owls.

The trip with the snow mobile was a side trip to see and photograph migrating seabirds with a strictly northern circle on the northern tip of Norway. A report about the close-to-coast cruises in front of the lighthouse of Slettnes and the nice images of flying Parasitic Jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus), European Shag (Phalacrocora aristotelis), Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus), Razorbill (Alca torda), Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle), Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata) and – the highlight – Yellow-billed Loons (Gavia adamsii) is already published in bird-lens.com.

As with the boat ride, I relied on Vidar and his team of Nordkyn Nordic Safari (http://www.nordicsafari.no/en.php/about_us/ ). They are true professionals and do the right things right. This snow mobile trip lasted about 2 hours, which, in regard to the temperatures (although “warm” for this latitude) around 0° Celsius, is more than sufficient. For accommodation you might use the so-called Adventure Camp Mehamn, which contains of a hostel with 5 rooms with total13 beds, 5 fishermen huts and 18 separate located parking places for camping cars. The site of the Adventure Camp is located on an island in the center of Mehamn, the northernmost fishing village at the European mainland, 71° 01′ 55″ northern latitude. In order to meet the growing demand for top shots of the rare species of the Palearctic, bird-lens.com is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western palearctic. The nice image of the blog is only a first impression of what you will find in the gallery in the “Picture Shop” very soon. Just give me a message, if bird-lens.com could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.

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