Monday, 14 March 2016

The Northern Lights and a King Eider or Two!

We have just returned from a 12 day cruise from Southampton up to the top of Norway. The sole objective being to see the Northern Lights with anything else being a bonus. First off we appear to have been lucky as the for the whole trip the Captain said that the weather was the calmest he had ever seen for the North Sea in winter.

We set out from Southampton about 6 hours late as they couldn't start one of the engines, not a good start. We then cruised the next day until arriving in Stavanger our first port of call. Along the way a few birds were sighted,
As well as these various Gulls were seen as well as Guillemot and Gannet. We arrived the next morning in Stavanger and had a wander around that we enjoyed greatly. Of course there were some birds about, a couple of Eider showed well:

A pre-breeding plumage Cormorant then turned up:
It was great in the clear waters of the harbour watching both the Eider and Cormorant diving and zooming around under the water something we hadn't seen before.

Stavanger itself yielded Hooded Crows in abundance, some Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Mallard and Common, Herring and Lesser Black Backed Gull on the park lake behind the Cathedral. As we wandered around the quiet lanes of the old town we found a little area with a few benches and picnic table an ideal spot for a coffee. A neighbouring garden had feeders were we saw Starling, Tree and House Sparrow and a couple of Greenfinch.

So back onto the boat by 3.30pm for a departure shortly after. As the boat departed it raised about 20 Grey Heron from a small island, most we have ever seen in one go. Next stop Tromso in a couple of days.

We arrived in Tromso in the morning of the 1st. The scenery on the way had been spectacular as we hugged the Norwegian coast:
 Not sure I fancied a swim though

There were plenty of birds around at the port, mostly Eider, but as I looked out of our cabin window, just below us was a group of 6 duck, I had a quick glance through the bins, just before going up on deck, thinking Eider. I was kind of right, but they were King Eider, fantastic. I quickly phoned Jo & Jimmy in the next cabin to give them the heads up, as I desperatley tried to put the 500mm lens on the camera. When done looked back and they had gone! Frightened away as the ship docked! C'est la vie!

We went up on deck, to look around, there were plenty of Common Eider and a few passing Long-tailed Duck, but then we spotted this little beauty:

So a life first for us, well pleased. We saw a group then for a while hiding behind a Russian Trawler docked behind us, so sadly I never managed a close up. But what a result.

We then spent the day exploring Tromso in the freezing cold (only -5 so quite warm for the time of year!!)
So after exploring we headed back to the ship for dinner and to set sail for Alta.
Another morning found us docking at Alta, well 4 miles outside actually, right at the end of the runway at Alta airport. More on that later.
We were in a bay that was full of Long-tailed duck:
I would say there was over a thousand of Tina's favourite Duck. As well as the Long-tail there were also plenty of Eider:
Red-breasted Merganser, Black Guillemot, Gulls and this Red Fox scavenging at the end of the runway:

That night was a trip out for the Northern lights. Before that though we did get a showing from the back of the ship:

Later on we were going to get away from the city to get the best chance and boy did we get it! We were out until 01:30 and had two hours of a spectacular show.

I have over 90 shots but I won't put them all up here, probably even much better ones than these. But it gives you the idea!

We were so lucky the, as next night proved cloudy and nothing was seen.
Finally at Alta I mentioned we were docked by the end of the runway, so a little bit of heavy metal is in order:

We left Alta the next day after an explore round the very small town and steamed down the coast then through the Sognefjord to Flam. Sadly we traversed the fjord at night in both directions missing the fantastic scenery. I think P&O dropped a very big clanger there, surely they could have timed some of this during daylight!

Anyway at Flam the only additional bird was a few Goldeneye, but the main event was the Flam railway, a spectacular journey up the mountain side.

After Flam it was the long cruise back to Southampton. We did see a few distant whales one morning but much to far away to identify.

So that will do for this post.

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