Tuesday 3 April 2012

The Hotel of Grosbeak Happiness…

…is little more than an hour’s drive north of Ivalo airport, well inside the Arctic Circle at Neljan Tuulen Tupa in Kaamanen. We’d heard some great reports of this location’s bird photography possibilities from various people, including Hugh Harrop and his wildlife photography tour participants, and seen some cracking results – but would the reality live up to expectations?

Undoubtedly: go there! You will not regret it.


Arriving in Ivalo in near darkness and light snow, there was no chance of any birding on day 1. So we were keen to be up and out early (in temperatures around –14) the next morning, to get on the road north and see some of the Lapland forest specialities. By mid morning, we’d dumped our cases off into a comfortable room (as the only guests in the hotel), unpacked our optics and assembled our camera gear.

Next stop – the feeding station. I had never in all my life seen so many black sunflower seeds! But nor had I seen so many Pine Grosbeaks, or in fact any Pine Grosbeaks! Numbers were probably around 30 in total, with up to 15 feeding together at a time, all within 5m. They regularly few within a few inches of our heads. Imagine tiling a dozen copies of this video side by side, with all the birds singing, calling, and interacting constantly, and you have the scene.

This shot of Mr L hard at work also serves to illustrate the layout – the snowy seeded bank on the right is in sunshine from mid morning onwards, and the birds are unconcerned even if you position yourself much closer. A 500mm lens is definitely not a necessity. (Also note the carefully selected camo hat!).


And for when your feet have turned to ice, your shutter finger is frozen solid, and you’re simply just too cold to carry on, you can retreat inside for a coffee or hot chocolate while watching a second feeding station from the comfort of the restaurant. Here, you’re basically nose to beak with the birds, as they visit tables immediately outside the windows.

Anyway, it won’t come as a surprise to hear that over the next four or five hours, some photos were taken. Rather a lot in fact. Here’s a few for starters – and don’t worry, I’ve got plenty more where they came from!


There were a few other quality birds as well, mind… but since it’s taken me so long to plough through the first pass on this lot, they’ll have to wait until tomorrow!

1 comment:

Dominic Mitchell said...

Superb images and video, David - N Finland and Norway is surely one of the best European birding itineraries