You can read this as a trip report if you want, or just enjoy the photos - I have just this minute managed to get Blogger not to display them crappily - it is back to how it used to be - you click on it, and then you can click on it again to make it bigger still. Sharpness has returned. Please leave a comment indicating level of jealousy where 5 = extremely jealous and 1 = whatever. It will make me feel better (or worse) about spending eight quid on a shitty hot-dog in an Esso station in Northern Norway.
Day one is actually day two, but day one was basically travelling, which took all day and the only bird I saw was a Hooded Crow at Helsinki airport. Bradders jr., Bradders sr. and I flew Finnair to Ivalo via Helsinki. Finnair is excellent - they didn't look at my hand luggage, and crucially they didn't weigh it, and that is all I really ask from an airline. Didn't lose my suitcase (Flybe take note), got there on time (Flybe take note), and didn't crash either, so highly recommended.
Ivalo is well within the Arctic Circle, and was comfortably the most northerly place I've ever been. After a Reindeer-based meal in the Ivalo hotel, and a night's sleep in a some cabin thing, we drove about an hour north to our first birding location, the Tuulen Tupa motel. The chief attraction here is a vast quantity of black sunflower seed spread liberally outside the back windows, which draws in birds from miles around. We very nearly didn't see any birds in any other forest location we tried, but at Tuulen Tupa Pine Grosbeaks jostle at the feeders with Siberian Tits, Siberian Jays, Mealy and Arctic Redpolls. Winter birding in Northern forests is very difficult, the density of birds is very low indeed, but established feeding stations make it incredibly easy. We stayed here all day, and indeed stayed overnight too. If you have a hankering to observe Pine Grosbeaks at extremely close range, and get photographs of them that are so sharp they will take your breath away, then you need to go. Be prepared to get extremely cold doing so, but it will be worth it. Take lots of memory cards, and lots of batteries. And lots of gloves.