Polar Migrations

The Barents Sea region well north of the Arctic Circle encompasses territory from Russia, Norway, Sweden and Finland. The area is uniquely wild and is home to one of the last truly nomadic herding cultures on earth, the reindeer herding Sami people.

We had an opportunity to travel to the Norwegian region of Finnmark in Norway’s far north to observe this remarkable landscape first hand in the waning days of winter. Gearing up for an expedition like this meant shifting to our cold weather kit. After three weeks in the Caribbean swimming with whales this presented some challenges.  The temperatures were cold with averages during the day of – 10 degrees C and as low as -30 degrees C at night. One of the most beautiful spectacles in nature, the aurora borealis or “northern lights”, are often visible at this latitude on cold clear evenings. We ventured out a few evenings and braved the cold to witness this. During this expedition we also explored the rocky, treeless coast and ventured far into the frozen river system that separates Norway from Russia in the land of brown bear and wolverine. We traveled by snowshoe, snow mobile and dog sled into the birch forest areas where reindeer graze for the winter before they make a spring migration back to the coast – a trip they have been making for thousands of years with the indigenous Sami people. The people were warm and welcoming and the landscapes were dramatic as you can see. In another post we will report more about the region’s political organization formerly known as Lapland and now known as Samiland.

Here are a few images recorded along the way. We have included a few examples of artwork by indigenous artists we found in special places on our journey to help tell the story. Huge thanks go to Kevin Clement of Zegrahm Expeditions who lead our trip and also to Kaare Tannvik, our mentor and guide for this journey. They lead us back in time into places that most people will never see. And our traveling companions from South Africa and the USA were wonderful to be with for this extraordinary adventure.

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Steller’s Eider Drake

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Long tailed duck drake

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Magnificent King Eiders in flight

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A Painting by Nils-Aslak Valkeapaa

JJK_3508 JJK_3013JJK_3620IMG_2430JJK_3072JJK_2918JJK_3603JJK_3955IMG_2337JJK_3540JJK_3353IMG_2577JJK_3947IMG_2466JJK_4037JJK_3728JJK_3314_JJK1299JJK_3262Samiland 2014 (7)JJK_4040JJK_3818JJK_3875JJK_3506 JJK_3688IMG_2522JJK_3559IMG_2408 JJK_4260

Read more.. Saturday, March 29th, 2014

In the Cathedral of North Atlantic Humpbacks

Thinking of these magnificent creatures making their way on the long journey from summer feeding grounds some females heavy with calves makes a visit to the Silver Bank off the north coast of the Dominican Republic very special. This was our third trip to be with Tom Conlin and his brilliant crew of Aquatic Adventures on the Silver Bank. Weather conditions on the Bank had been a little breezy with the afternoon trade winds blowing up to 25 kts for a few days presenting some cloudy underwater conditions for many locations but the interactions were absolutely remarkable. For months we have been training to increase wind and build flexibility to be lithe and supple in the water and to be able to stay underwater for longer periods while being a passive observer of the delicate mother and calf bonding and feeding activity.

JJK by TConlin 2014

Tom Conlin got this magical image of JJK while the youngster nursed by its mother. All rights reserved – Tom Conlin

 

11 year old Estela was impressed with the young calf and “nicknamed” her Racci

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Check out the blog post prepared by Lisa LaPointe of Aquatic Adventures describing our week with them.

http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Aquatic-Adventures–Whale-Tales-S24-W6—Updated-weekly-from-the-Silver-Bank-.html?soid=1107080557940&aid=NyEpvrHwW4w

Read more.. Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Sperm Whale Heaven

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Wow! Off the water and now cooling our heels with friends in San Juan, PR after 9 amazing days in an around the waters off of Dominica. Our objective was to return once more to work with our contacts at the Dominica Sperm Whale Project. Under special permits we were allowed to get in the water and swim with the population of sperm whales that hunt in local waters there. Using photo ID s of the whale flukes we were able to visually identify more than 15 whales during our time there working with local researcher Pernell Francis. Some whales we observed multiple times.

It is truly difficult to describe how moved we were to swim alongside these incredible gentle giants with the largest brain in the animal kingdom. But hopefully these images will help to transmit the emotion. Rather than spoil the moment with lots of technical explanation about what is going on we thought we’d just let the images speak for themselves. But trust us in this…it was absolutely magical.

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Read more.. Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Wild Cape Cod Notebook: Winter

We are still sifting through the images and savoring the experience of our recent trek down Sandy Neck here on a frozen Cape Cod but this has not stopped us from continuing to get outside in the frigid but beautiful winter landscapes here to find the wild things. The weather is forecast to change and warmer temperatures with lots of rain and wind are expected shortly….so we thought we would post some of the images we have recorded in the past week including a host of beautiful raptors and some uncommon waterfowl. We also have had a few additional snowy owl encounters and a sighting of a White Fronted Goose among the Canada Geese on a local golf course.

This will likely be our last report for awhile as we head south to Caribbean waters to be with our friends the Sperm whales of Dominica and the Humpback whales of the Silver Bank near the Dominican Republic. Check back for these reports in a few weeks.

White fronted goose (right) - A rare Cape Cod visitor

Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge - Chatham

Snowy Owl in flight

North Chatham overlooking Tern Island toward the Outer Beach

Northern Harrier in flight - Fort Hill, Eastham

Great Blue Heron in flight - Fort Hill

Northern Shoveler (male)

Northern Harrier

Hooded Mergansers in flight - Eastham

Fort Hill view of Nauset Beach

Hooded Mergansers in flight

White fronted goose in flight (left)

Peregrine Falcon overlooks the frozen turf at Eastward Ho!- Chatham

Red Tailed Hawk - Chatham

Surf Scoter - Morris Island, Chatham

Common Goldeneye - Morris Island, Chatham

Read more.. Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Wild Cape Cod Notebook: Winter

One of the benefits of the continuous storm track we have seen on Cape Cod this winter is the incredible “post storm” landscapes that are left once the snow stops and the system’s move up into the Canadian Maritime Provinces. One needs to bundle up but the results are worth it. In particular the magnificent snowy owl has been easier to find and shoot! Check out our latest images here.

Morris Island, Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, Chatham

Morris Island, Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, Chatham

Read more.. Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Wild Cape Cod Notebook: Winter

Brandt Geese forage on seaweed at the shore's edge

A pair of Hooded mergansers

The magnificent Snowy Owl. A juvenile

Young Red Tailed Hawk a bit annoyed by my interest in its meal

Mouth of the Swan River at dusk

West Dennis Beach

Near the mouth of Bass River

Red Breatested mergansers (3 females) with Hooded merganser pair

Perseverance has finally paid off in our quest to find the snowy owl and capture some images. There are still reliable reports of these beauties hunting on Sandy Neck (2), West Dennis Beach, Gray’s Beach, Nauset Beach, Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, High Head (2), Race Point, and the West End dunes in Provincetown (2). We finally caught up with this fellow late one afternoon at West Dennis Beach. For those who don’t know West Dennis Beach lies at the southern terminus of Bass River as it empties into Nantucket Sound, is easily accessible and offers an impressive winter landscape right now. In addition to the snowy owl we also found some other natural happenings including a young Red Tailed hawk who appeared to be devouring a small waterfowl, some hooded mergansers and of course Brandt geese and juvenile Herring gulls seemingly impervious to the winter chill. On this winter day the temperature was mighty cold and we had to take special care with the cameras. Air temp was approximately 10 degrees F and with windchill (SW winds of 15 kts) the temp felt like minus 10 degrees F (that is -23 degrees C)! Have not felt those temps since we returned from the Himalayas!

Read more.. Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Forest Observations: Costa Rica

Flower piercer in Savegre

Scintillant hummingbird - Savegre

We manged to take time out of enjoying the Cape Cod winter to perform a surgical strike into two distinct wild areas of Costa Rica over a short ten day window. Long a preferred destination by Eco-adventure travelers all over the world we had never taken the time to visit and were keen to get in on the experience. Our primary goal in this exploratory trip was to explore two significant  and different areas in the country – the magical lowland rainforest on the Osa Peninsula in the south and the spectacular cloud forest near San Gerardo de Gota and the headwaters of the Rio Savegre in the Talamanca Mts. What we found with the help of excellent local guides were some of the most beautiful bird life we have witnessed anywhere in the world. In fact we were successful in identifying more than 200 different species while on the ground in Costa Rica. 75% of which were birds we had never seen before anywhere..known as “life birds” among the active birding community. Here are a few of the images we recorded.

Yellow thighed Finch - Savegre

Silver throated Tanager

Golden Winged Warbler - A Rare Beauty, Osa Peninsula

Long tailed Silky Flycatcher

Black mandibled toucan, Osa Peninsula

Violet eared hummingbird

Collared Redstart

Incredible Scarlet Macaw

King Vulture

Mangrove Black Hawk

White Hawk and Scarlet Macaw share space but have different interests

Magnificent Quetzal (female)

Black chested Trogon

Magnificent Quetzal (male)

Tiny Hawk - Rare and hard to see in Central America

Sunrise Osa Peninnsula

Read more.. Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Wild Cape Cod Notebook: Winter

This is the third post highlighting our walks on the barrier beaches on the Cape in the month of January. Still in search of up close and impressive images of the Snowy Owl visitors we venture onto Harding’s Beach in Chatham in the late afternoon to investigate. As those who follow this blog know even if your prime objective is elusive there is always something interesting to observe….always. Cutting to the chase – we did not find the owl this day but other visitors caught our attention.

Brandt Geese are passing through Cape Cod coastal areas still on their way south.

American Black Ducks take flight

Sanderlings are among the few shorebirds that winter over on Cape beaches

Dusk at the entrance to Stage Harbor looking south to South Monomoy Point

Sadly a Short finned pilot whale has stranded and died over night mysteriously

Read more.. Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Wild Cape Cod Notebook: Winter

Orleans - Nauset Beach

We have spent a few days hiking the beaches on the Outer  Cape as well as on Barnstable’s  Sandy Neck enjoying the winter landscapes. Largely desolate and dramatic we have also been hoping for good views of one of the many Snowy Owls that have been visiting Cape Cod from the Canadian Arctic the past month. Though we have been fortunate with a couple of nice long distance sightings we continue to look for better images. As our search continues please get outside and  check out and appreciate the beauty of winter on Cape Cod.

Sandy Neck - Cape Cod Bay side

Sandy Neck - Great Marsh side

Wellfleet - LeCount Hollow

Eastham - Coast Guard Beach

Orleans - Nauset Beach

Truro - Ballston Beach

Eastham - Coast Guard Beach

Read more.. Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Patagonia: Magellanic Spring

Our recent posts about traveling in Ecuador and Peru got us to remembering our trek into Patagonia now five years ago. In this “hot stove league” time of year and while we gear up for some new adventures in 2014 take a peak at some images of mountain spring memories from out journey into Chile’s incomparable Torres del Paine park and then on to Argentina’s El Calafate thereby bracketing Patagonia. Some breathtaking scenery and a first hand look at one of the largest ice sheets on Planet Earth …third behind Antarctica and Greenland. The hiking was grand! If you are thinking of making the journey to Antarctica some day ( and we hope you do) consider adding  two weeks to see this area on the front end of your trip. You will not be disappointed. On this adventure we traveled with our friends at Zegrahm Expeditions in Seattle. We recommend them highly.

The Perito Moreno Glacier is a glacier located in the Los Glaciares National Park

Guanacos - Torres del Paine

Magellanic Fox in rest mode

White Tufted grebe and youngster

The Towers at Torres del Paine

Black faced Ibis in a field of wildflowers

Young Andean Condor

Dawn at Torres del Paine

Read more.. Saturday, December 28th, 2013