Day 1 was mostly a travelling day with flights from Heathrow to Oslo and then on to Kirkenes (pronounced 'Sherkenes') in the far north and close to the Russian border. It was at Kirkenes airport that we all met. The group consisted of a mixture of British, Swiss, German and Dutch birders from tour operators to magazine editors and even a wildlife artist which made for a wonderful mix. The friendliness of everyone made this become a very special week. The list of names goes like this:
Steve Rogers, James McCallum, Colin McShane, Nigel Jones, Martin Garner, Han Ueli Grutter, Jorg Kretzschmar, Ruud van Beusekom and Andre van Loon.
The trip had almost a surreal start - within minutes of welcoming handshakes we were in the minibus and being whisked down the road. Only a couple of miles down the road we stopped, raced up a rocky slope and scoped a huge Brown Bear on a snow-covered slope on the other side of the road! We were staring at each other in amazement! The event was something of a local attraction with a group of about 20 people watching the spectacle as the bear guarded a reindeer carcass in a hollow. Steve was able to get this great photo even in the fading light.
Brown Bear, Kirkenes (copyright Steve Rogers)
That evening we stayed at the Thon Hotel in Kirkenes, ate a late dinner and watched Long-tailed Ducks whizz past through the picture windows. This place truly lived up to its tag of 'Land of the Midnight Sun' as this photo taken from my room window at the stroke of midnight proves.