23rd January 2017
As it nearly the first anniversary of the trip, its probably time to put up a duck-based blog. As you can probably tell I’m doing almost anything now to put off the tedium of doing my tax return!

Anyway, this was a trip that was relatively disaster-free, which is my glass-half-empty speak for ‘rather splendid’. After the previous years’ soggy month in Iceland, this trip came together well and we had the weather needed; often four seasons in one hour (As Crowded House nearly said). There was gale force winds one day and certain issues with fishcakes, but no problems - apart from getting a flotation suit on at 4am before sufficient coffee.

So, the shutter goes up and this is then first view of Planet Duck

...And then the snow sets in.......Mmmmm

King Eider sheltering near the shore

Mmmm, and then the snow sets in again

King Eider have a massed flap....

I won’t concentrate on the days at Kaamanen - which were a way of me remembering what birds looked like and stocking up on substantial snacks. For me it is luxurious to do a session bird snapping and when it got a bit parky, popping inside for some bottomless coffee.

King Eider investigating some ice which has fallen off the fish-plant roof. King Eider don't need much entertainment

Rather perky looking male Long Tailed Duck in the reflected red water

The first kipping duck

A simple portrait of a King Eider - the red water helps....

Oh, and another

The main reason for not spending too much time on these days is that the content has largely been covered by my previous ‘emergency’ blog on Trevor the Siberian Tit. There are many snaps of Pine Grosbeak, Siberian Jay et al, but I won’t bore you with these ………. For now!

King Eider inshore

The main business was carried out in Batsfiord - in Arctic Norway. A typical functional Norwegian fishing town - deserving of its own ten part Scandi-Noir BBC4 Saturday night drama. I'm not suggesting that Norwegians should gratuitously murder each other so that a dysfunctional/maverick policeman/woman can take weeks to uncover the convoluted plot - but if they did, the set is already built. Its a long time since a cake-shop went that quiet when I walked in........ However, the rooms were hot, the fishcakes err, hot and Ducks were the order of the day. Early starts and donning flotation suits were the forerunners of speedy zodiac rides to a submerged hide in the harbour. Once in you picked your spot on the moist carpet, opened a water-level window to the darkness….. and ate your packed lunch some 5 hours earlier than the designated time.

Handsome Long Tailed Duck portrait

Wider shot of male Long Tailed Duck - taking advantage of the reflected colour

Same again, but having a kip!

A move to the left and it becomes almost monochromatic

As the light slowly picked up you began to hear the rafts of Duck floating in and out of that corner of the hide - there was some attractive outfall from a nearby fish plant which is like nectar to an Arctic Duck. In principle there were four species: Common Eider, King Eider, Long Tailed Ducks and Stellars Eider. Common Eider had the best call, King Eider were just spectacular, Long Tailed Duck look better in Winter than when breeding and Stellars Eider specialised in pretending to be asleep - but with one eye open.

Kipping King Eider - probably

Female Long Tailed Duck - a very nice duck.

Stellars Eider on interesting water

Stellars Eider appear either very alert, or asleep

With the exception of the Stellars, they all floated about in rafts; preened, fished, panicked and bobbed about in front of us for several hours until they headed out into the outer harbour and fiord - a daily routine. Right thats the behavioural stuff out the way - snap time…..

King Eider as the sun comes out - a plumage that benefits the sun

King Eider as the sun comes out

We were fortunate that the weather was variable. The first day gave us gale force wind, but sun, cloud, hail, snow and all stages in between at regular intervals. If you were cunning and waited a duck would cross patches of water which were coloured red by the fish plant and glinted like a disco with their arc lights. In short, you could shoot, wide, close-up in any sort of weather - all at water level (nearly) without having to significantly move position.

Three more posing King Eider in the sun

On the second day the wind dropped and we had a zodiac tour of the harbour on the way back - this just made me regret not being able to do this on day one, as a second try at any type of snapping gives you the experience of the first day.

Common Eider fling over the fiord

....and again

And another one - so badly wanted a second session in the open fiord

Stellar's over calmer water

Massed Long Tailed Ducks circling the fiord

It would have been very easy to overlook a Kittewake...

Ok, A random selection of snaps in no particular order

A Common Eider doing the flappy thing in a small space

King Eider taken very early when the factory arc lights were still reflecting on the water

Long Tailed Duck coping with an unfortunate tail wind

King Eider bouncing over the waves

Strange how such buoyant creatures are designed to dive... must have dogged web feet as they bounce out of the water like a bath toy when they surface

Section of a King Eider raft

King Eider passport photo

Immature King Eider bath time

Kipping Stellars Eider.... or is it!

Long Tailed Duck maintenance - nice narrow DOF

Common Eider doing the duck flappy thing

Strangely alert Stellars Eider

Stellars Eider - still awake

Semi submerged Long Tailed Duck

Common Eider as the weather deteriorates again

Female Long Tailed Duck

After the bread and butter stuff, you have time to experiment - in this case slow shutter speed panning. Some work, many don't, but there are nice abstract patterns to be had. Other efforts are on my erstwhile FB page: