Trip into the Uncertainties, Arctic Scandinavia, July 2020. (1 Viewer)

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
19-20 July. Big Beasties, Kuhmo.

There are bears and wolves out there in them there woods. In extensive boreal forests straddling the Russian border, the region is home to some of the best concentrations of large predators in Europe, Brown Bears in particular, but also Wolves and, rather more elusive, Wolverines. And throughout the region, numerous opportunities exist to see some of these, hides available for the night overlooking baited meres that attract the animals in. And that was the plan for the evening, Brown Bears near guaranteed, Wolves hopefully a bonus.

Before that I had a day to spare. And a pleasant day it was, 32 C and sunny, plenty of butterflies. Butterflies with a distinct southern flavour was back in the mix – 13 species, headed by numerous Lesser Marbled Fritillaries and Cranberry Fritillaries, backed up by assorted other fritillaries, a few Arran Browns, my first Small Tortoiseshells of Finland and both Idas and Silver-studded Blues.

A couple of hours of R & R, then it was 5 pm, time for the main event of the day. Via a few kilometres of forest tracks, destination was a large open mere just a stone's throw from the Russian border. And here we were left on our own, home for the next 15 hours a wooden hide overlooking an area baited with fish offal and the remains of a reindeer carcass. Beyond a sunny expanse of meadow and mere stretching to pines beyond, the temperature was still over 30 C.

Well, we settled down for the wait. And what a 'long' wait it was - a mere ten minutes after arriving, there was an animal moving along the distant forest edge, oh giddy me, the first Wolf of the evening. Though I had high hopes of Wolf, and indeed had chosen this locality specifically for its high possibilities for this magnificent species, they are far from guaranteed. But here it was, a sleek sandy Wolf sauntering along, grand stuff.

Twenty minutes later, from the immediate right of our hide, a lumbering hulk of fur emerged from the woodland, barging through willowherb and out into the open right in front of us ...the first Brown Bear of the evening, a dark individual with fairly blond face. Then things went ballistic, almost nonstop bear and wolf action for the next hour:



17.45: Pale-face Brown Bear in front of hide, several Ravens, many Hooded Crows, one Lesser Black-backed Gull.

17.50: Black Kite swoops in, grabs some chunk of fish.

18.00: Second paler Bear arrives from the right, eyed by the first Bear.

18.05: The two Bears feeding 30 metres apart.

18.10: Both Bears exit left separately.

18.20: Distant Wolf returns, trots across mere to the area where the Bears had gone. Adult White-tailed Eagle arrives.

18.25: Wolf right in front of hide, a sleek young animal.

18.30: Second larger Wolf appears from the right.

18.35: Two Wolves greet, nuzzling each other.

18.45: First Wolf trots to left to rest middle distance in the meadow, c20 Ravens around.

18.50: New Brown Bear individual, all dark, moving along the distant forest edge.

18.55: The larger Wolf moves off, heading to distant forest, exits rear, then appears again ten minutes later.



As the final Wolf slipped back into the forest, there then followed a somewhat quiet period – an hour of no big predators, just Ravens, Hooded Crows and gulls ambling about in the place. Had some thoughts that perhaps that was it for the evening, but absolutely not, a Wolf returned just after 8 pm, then another, then again Brown Bears. And so the evening continued, near continuous things to see. The period around midnight, still quite bright despite being south of the Arctic Circle, was very good - the Brown Bears and Wolves squabbling over the Reindeer carcass, large chunks of it dragged away by the Wolves.

Into the early hours, much activity continued, the final Wolf being at 4.00 am, the final Brown Bears being two feasting on cloudberries on the forest edge from 4.20 till 4.55 am. For the next couple of hours, I kept an eye open for Wolverine, these occasionally sneaking in once the Wolves have departed. Alas, no sign.

At 8 am, with the sun still shining, we departed the hide, quite an experience it had been. With many of the nights bears and wolves returning many times, it is difficult to say how many individuals we had seen, but they had been at least 4-5 different Brown Bears and a minimum of three Wolves. One Red Squirrel too.
 
Last edited:

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Brown Bears
 

Attachments

  • Brown Bear fn 1.jpg
    Brown Bear fn 1.jpg
    122.5 KB · Views: 41
  • Brown Bear fn 2.jpg
    Brown Bear fn 2.jpg
    123.9 KB · Views: 23
  • Brown Bear fn 3.jpg
    Brown Bear fn 3.jpg
    126.5 KB · Views: 19
  • Brown Bear fn 4.jpg
    Brown Bear fn 4.jpg
    105.8 KB · Views: 21
  • Brown Bear fn 5.jpg
    Brown Bear fn 5.jpg
    144.9 KB · Views: 31

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Wolf
 

Attachments

  • Wolf fn 5.jpg
    Wolf fn 5.jpg
    123.3 KB · Views: 33
  • Wolf fn 3.jpg
    Wolf fn 3.jpg
    99.3 KB · Views: 40
  • Wolf fn 1.jpg
    Wolf fn 1.jpg
    94.8 KB · Views: 22
  • Wolf fn 7.jpg
    Wolf fn 7.jpg
    90.1 KB · Views: 34
  • Wolf fn 2.jpg
    Wolf fn 2.jpg
    91.9 KB · Views: 25

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Midnight hour, Brown Bear and Wolf together
 

Attachments

  • Brown Bear & Wolf fn 1.jpg
    Brown Bear & Wolf fn 1.jpg
    81.6 KB · Views: 60
  • Brown Bear fn 6.jpg
    Brown Bear fn 6.jpg
    90.7 KB · Views: 50

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
How do you just randomly run into a Hawk Owl? That's just unbelievable! I turned Norway upside down for them with no success (only to twitch one in Poland a few months later). The butterflies equally stunning, it's becoming really hard to resist getting into them after seeing this (but we just started herps, can't do everything!).
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
How do you just randomly run into a Hawk Owl? That's just unbelievable!

In September 1993 I hitch-hiked north through Norway and camped somewhere north of Tromso one night ...climbed out of my tent in the morning to find a Hawk Owl perched on a small conifer right next to me. So started my luck with Hawk Owls. Since then, though I have only once specifically looked for them, I have seen them on almost every trip to Scandinavia, about ten birds by now, including a fluke finding of a pair with chicks. I guess I am just lucky with this species.


A couple of previous encounters: adult in Sweden, chicks in Finland:
 

Attachments

  • Hawk Owl swe 2.jpg
    Hawk Owl swe 2.jpg
    106 KB · Views: 32
  • Hawk Owl swe 1.jpg
    Hawk Owl swe 1.jpg
    100.9 KB · Views: 27
  • Hawk Owl - chick thumb 1.jpg
    Hawk Owl - chick thumb 1.jpg
    61.8 KB · Views: 23
  • Hawk Owl - chick thumb 2.jpg
    Hawk Owl - chick thumb 2.jpg
    88.1 KB · Views: 24

Jeff Hopkins

Just another...observer
United States
My first Hawk-owl was a serendipitous one - on the tundra outside of Nome. After that, every last one has been a stake-out, including one that was "go to mile marker 48.5 on the highway, and it'll be sitting at the top of a spruce tree." And it was.

Never seen one outside of N. America, tho.
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
20-21 July. Southbound to Helsinki.

With bears and wolves well and truly seen and all my likely butterfly targets now found, it was now time to head south. Bought a ticket for the Helsinki to Tallinn ferry and set off on the final 660 km leg across southern Finland.

Stopped off at a few sites en route, most notably Kittee in the east and Soneby on the Baltic coast. A distinct southerly flavour to butterfly fauna here, many of the species similar to those found in the Baltic States, but pleasurable wanderings all the same - a grand total of 26 species seen, the highlight being at least 40 Arran Browns at Kittee. Also added Wood White, Brimstone, Holly Blue, Amanda's Blue, Dark Green Fritillary, Heath Fritillary and Peacock ...all my first in Finland.

And that was that, I booked a ticket for the evening ferry on the 21st and crossed back to Estonia.



22 July. Estonia.

Questionable weather, quite blustery with clouds scurrying over, but fortunately enough sunny spells to savour some of Estonia's butterflies. Decided to explore the Aegviidu area, a former Soviet military training area and today a rare example of open heathland. Cracking start in the surrounding woodland with good numbers of Silver-washed Fritillaries (at least 60), High Brown Fritillaries (30+) and smaller numbers of Dark Green Fritillary, Lesser Marbled Fritillary and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, as well as two Arran Browns and a very fine Large Copper. Then it was to the heathland, the plan to try and find a few of the more localised species that occur here, notably Eastern Baton Blue.

Several hours wandering around, plenty of Silver-studded Blues and Idas Blue, but typical of this habitat, numbers of other butterflies were pretty low. Adding to the collection of blues, managed four Amanda's Blues, one Mazarine Blue, two Short-tailed Blue and, unfortunately all too brief, one Eastern Baton Blue. Also one Grayling, the only one of the trip.

By mid-afternoon, cloud was again building, I'd seen 26 species of butterfly for the day and I decided it was enough - the forecast for next day was not very good, so I turned for home, 600 km later I was in Vilnius, trip over.
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Final batch of butterflies...
 

Attachments

  • Arran Brown fn 2.jpg
    Arran Brown fn 2.jpg
    89.4 KB · Views: 15
  • Arran Brown fn 5.jpg
    Arran Brown fn 5.jpg
    74.5 KB · Views: 13
  • Arran Brown fn 4.jpg
    Arran Brown fn 4.jpg
    74.9 KB · Views: 8
  • Large Copper es 1.jpg
    Large Copper es 1.jpg
    69.3 KB · Views: 13
  • Heath Fritillary fn 1.jpg
    Heath Fritillary fn 1.jpg
    81.7 KB · Views: 15

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
In September 1993 I hitch-hiked north through Norway and camped somewhere north of Tromso one night ...climbed out of my tent in the morning to find a Hawk Owl perched on a small conifer right next to me. So started my luck with Hawk Owls. Since then, though I have only once specifically looked for them, I have seen them on almost every trip to Scandinavia, about ten birds by now, including a fluke finding of a pair with chicks. I guess I am just lucky with this species.


A couple of previous encounters: adult in Sweden, chicks in Finland:

Wow that's so great! These arctic species are simply mysterious in a special way that no other ecozone can really match.
 

etudiant

Well-known member
Thank you, Jos, for another wonderful trip report!
It probably sets a record for size range of species seem, from Arctic Blue to Brown Bear is probably from 0.1 gram to near 1000 kilo gram.
Delighted that you were able to surmount the tick bite, they are the bane of the wilderness in so far as I'm concerned. A seriously underappreciated hazard, a relative of mine in Europe died from the complications of a bite, so not to be taken lightly.
Hawk Owls are pretty special, just a rare gift when they show up. That said, the Finnish nature organizations maintain and monitor chains of nest boxes along the main road to the north and consequently have a pretty clear idea of where to look.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top