Monday, 23 March 2015

5th to 17th March, 2015 Cruise to Northern Norway.

After a tough 2014, Doreen and myself decided to make a late booking for a cruise to Northern Norway in the hope to see the Northern Lights. Needless to say, we took our binoculars with us although very few birds were seen in the deep fjords. On one day we had storm force winds and large numbers of Fulmars of various colour phases, and Kittiwakes were moving.

5th March - Departed Southampton @18.00 hrs. towards the Dover Straits.
6th March - Headed north up the North Sea.
7th March - Arrived Stavanger where we birded around the Port and in the local park. Departed @ 16.00 hrs.

Arriving Stavanger

8th and 9th March - Continued north crossing the Arctic Circle.
10th March - Entered the fjord with snow capped mountain ranges on both sides leading to Tromso. Birded around the waterfront in Tromso and stayed overnight. Spent several hours looking for the Northern Lights.

 Approaching Tromso

11th and 12th March - Departed early morning for Alta just 119 nautical miles away again through spectacular scenery arriving at Alta around mid-day for a 2 night stay. Both nights we looked for the Aurora Borealis but the cloudy conditions spoilt our chances.


Alta modern Cathedral.

13th March - Departed during the early hours starting our return journey and by morning we ran into storm force 11/12 winds. Huge numbers of Fulmars and large numbers of Kittiwakes with a number of Glaucous Gulls were seen. During the evening, the cloud cleared although the winds remained at force 12 on the Beaufort scale and we spent until after 1.00 am at the rear of the boat and enjoyed a superb showing of the Aurora Borealis although I was unable to photograph even thou I had my camera set on the tripod owing to the sea swell, and strong winds.

Stormy seas

14th March - After our late night, we took it fairly easy during the day as we continued our passage south and with the winds now easing and with clear skies we again spent until the early hours at the rear of the boat and again the Aurora Borealis performed well from around 10.30 pm. This time with much calmer seas I was able to set my camera on the tripod and adjusted my camera on the following settings: ISO 800/1200, Speed 20/30 seconds at F4. Also to avoid any shake I delayed the shutter by 2 seconds. The light show ended around 1.30 am.
15th March - We arrived at our final port visit to Bergen. Beautiful warm calm day and we visited a nearby park with a lake but again very few birds were seen.


Arriving at Bergen

 We weren't the only ship in port.

The attractive city of Bergen

16th and 17th March - Continued our return journey to Southampton. Unfortunately, one of the liner's engines had now packed up and we were approx. 7 hours late arriving back at Southampton where we were met by David.

Birds seen:
Black-throated Diver - One seen on the sea close to the liner as we approached Tromso
Fulmar - Good numbers seen on several dates and thousands on the 13th in the storm force winds including large numbers of Blue type Fulmars.
Kittiwake - Small numbers seen on several dates with large numbers seen on the 13th.
Glaucous Gull Approx. 20 in the Arctic areas with the majority passing the liner on the 13th.
White-tailed Sea Eagle - One pair as we approached Alta over the cliffs for around 10 minutes.
Black Guillemot - Fair numbers seen on several dates all appeared in summer plumage.
Long-tailed Duck Approx 30 in the harbour at Tromso.



Long-tailed Ducks - Tromso Harbour


Various Glaucous Gulls





Different colour phases of Fulmars

The Aurora Borealis show taken from the rear of the liner.