Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Things we didn't see in Norway

The only bird we dipped on in Norway was Willow Grouse. There was no hint of them anywhere, we never even saw tracks. We floundered around in waist-deep snow near Willow scrub, we walked down deserted tracks lefts by snow-mobiles - nothing. Now Hawk-Owl and Gyr knock Willow Grouse into a cocked hat obviously, but it seems a shame to go so far and miss out. Given that we saw none at all, we wondered if they had all been predated, and if so, what the main predator of Willow Grouse might be - turns out the answer is taxidermists. Stuffed Willow Grouse were everywhere, in every imaginable pose. What should we have circling over our heads as we ate dinner at the Ivalo hotel on the first evening? Yup, Willow Grouse, in groups of five above every table. The population at Ivalo airport was particularly dense, with all sorts of displays. One of the baggage handlers must moonlight as a taxidermist, as in addition to the entire Finnish population of Willow Grouse, there were Capercaillie, Pine Marten, an Elk, Ermine, and most curiously, two European Jays.

Anyway, I can thoroughly recommend Ivalo airport as the easiest and best (and only) location in Finnmark to view Willow Grouse at really close range. Fantastic views with no effort at all, and nice and warm too. Slightly disturbing, but great fun. I walked round the small departure lounge several times, and found more and more on each circuit. There was also an empty log - either awaiting freshly stuffed residents, or some Finnair punters had snuck a few on board....

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