söndag 30 december 2012

Photographic Summary 2012 / Tilbakeblikk på foto-året 2012

First of all, I wish all of you the very best for 2013 and I wish to thank you all for the many nice and helpful comments and suggestions regaring my photography during 2012 for which I am very grateful. Thank you!

Humpback Whale - Feeding Frenzy

In the past, I have always pointed my camera towards almost anything in nature, but during the last two years, when I have started to realise that my photography is about to turn from a hobby into a job, I have found myself concentrating mainly on the two topics that fascinate me the most: 1) Marine Ecology and 2) Aurora Photography and Astronomy.

Firstly - Humpback Whales, my job as a marine biologist has got much closer to my photography, mainly through my work to establish a Photo-Identification Catalogue on Humpback Whales in Norway and the camera is now an important tool in my work. I wish to thank all of you that have contributed to the research-catalogue by sending in your fluke-photos of humpbacks to the data-base at norwayhumpbacks@gmail.com

The data-collection has already yielded some very interesting re-sightings of humpbacks and I will continue this work in 2013 together with research institutes around the world. Below is a short video showing some of the field-work in 2012:

Data-collection for the North Norwegian Humpback Whale Catalogue

Secondly, my photography (being mainly focused on Auroras and night-time photography), has turned from a hobby into what might turn out to be a job, or at least more than a hobby. During the autumn, I found myself realising a project that I have had in my mind for a long time and teamed up with the solar phycisist Pål Brekke and wrote a popular science book on northern lights. During the long hours of writing I found myself digging more deeply into the physics behind this and many other astronomical phenomena and my old astronomy-interest has taken a new turn.

The book "Northern Lights - A Guide" will be released on 23 January 2013 at a media press-release in Oslo on 23-24 January.

Link to English version: Northern Lights - A Guide

Link til norsk versjon: Nordlyset - En Guide

The old astronomy-interest has also led me to accept to give the opening talk of the 75-year Anniversary Conference of the Norwegian Astronomical Society (NAS) in Tromsø 1-3 March 2013, for which I am honoured. In this talk, I will try to share my experience as an aurora photographer and come with tips for anyone wanting to photograph this phenomenon and explain more about what actually causes the auroras and how it is possible to predict when and where strong northern lights are most likely to occur.

2013 is likely to be one of the better years for aurora-watchers in a long time

All in all, it looks like 2013 will be a year full of interesting astronomy events for night-time photographers, and one of my other greatest fascinations, comets, seem likely to put up a spectacualar show during 2013, but more about that later.

2013 is also predicted to be a year full of spectacular northern lights due to the peak in solar activity!

lördag 22 december 2012

Humpback in the Blue Hour / Knølhval i den blå timen

Here in Tromsø, the polar darkness dress the mountains and the fjords in a magnificent blue twilight colour.

In this silent winter world, a humpback whale brakes the water surface in the hunt for herring and the sound of the splash echoes across the cold fjord - a truely magical time here in the north - the blue hour!

torsdag 13 december 2012

Geminid Meteor Shower / Geminidene meteorsverm

One of the best meteor showers of the year - the Geminids - are here!

The peak in activity will be tonight, but usually, the nights before and after the peak is also good. Yesterday evening was cold and clear and the moon is new today and doesn't interfere with the viewing conditions this year at all, so if only local weather conditions co-operate tonight, it should be a spectacular sight.

Below is two photos from this morning showing two of many meteors that streaked across the sky accompanied by pulsating auroras. The planet Jupiter and the Pleiades can be seen over the barn.

Bright Geminid fireball with a distinct yellow-reddish hue

For more information about aurora and night-time photography, check out this new book release!: The Northern Lights - A Guide

onsdag 12 december 2012

Humpback Feast / Knølhval-Fest

The Humpback Whale feast continues in the north of Norway. While the Polar Darkness starts to become a real challange for photographers and equipment alike, the few hours of light that remains is truely magic!

fredag 23 november 2012

Humpback Whale Photo-ID project / Knølhval Foto-Identifikasjon Database

The Norwegian spring-spawning herring returned to the coasts of Northern Norway in October/November and with the herring, the humpback whales have come back again!

As part of my project on establishing a Photo-Identification Data-Base of humpbacks in Northern Norway, I have been out at sea to try to collect as many fluke-pictures as possible. All whales have unique patterns on the underside of the flukes (see photo) and not two humpbacks look the same.

By using photos of the flukes as a fingerprint makes it possible to identify individual whales and follow their migrations over the world. In this way, it has been shown that "Norwegian" humpbacks may travel all the way to the West-Indies and the Carribean, some 8000km one-way trip!

Each fluke is unique !

To help finding out more about the biology and the migrations of humpbacks in Norway, I would be very happy to hear from you if you have seen and photographed humpback whales. Maybe it is you that have the pictures leading to a new discovery about humpbacks?

Please contact me at: norwayhumpbacks@gmail.com

WANTED: Humpback / Knølhval - Photos

For more information (in Norwegian) click the following link to an article about the Photo-ID project made after a photo-trip with my friend and colleague Espen Bergersen: Naturgalleriet

torsdag 22 november 2012

Beginning of Polar Darkness

Today the Sun climbed above the horizon for the last time in 2012 here in Tromsø in northern Norway....

....but the polar darkness is far from dark !

This is what the sky looked like yesterday, marking the beginning of the most beautiful time of the year.

tisdag 30 oktober 2012

Bird Picture of the Week / Ukens Fuglebilde

All over northern Scandinavia, Eastern vagrants of the bird-world have yet again found their way to the west - driven by the plenty of rowanberries as is so often the case in October/November.

Large amounts of thrushes and waxwings have invaded the north Norwegian coast during the last two weeks and here and there the beautiful Pine Grosbeaks / Konglebit / Tallbit can also be seen feasting on the rowanberries while singing their melodious tones.

The bird picture of the week will be one out of many shots taken of this colourful finch from the East.

Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator) / Konglebit / Tallbit


fredag 26 oktober 2012

Bird Picture of the Week / Ukens Fuglebilde

It has been a very long break in the series "Bird Picture of the Week", so I feel that I have to start out small when trying to take up the thread again...

Therefore, I`ll re-start with a photo from yesterday of no other than the smallest bird in Europe, the Goldcrest (Regulus regulus).

Goldcrest / Fuglekonge / Kungsfågel

måndag 15 oktober 2012

Solar Storm

After a strong geomagnetic storm on Oct 13, bright auroras have been seen over much of the planet - also far south of the aurora zone. When the storm first hit us, North America was on the night side and here in Scandinavia it was bright day.

The following nights have been characterized by mainly strong pulsating auroras covering the entire sky with the occasional surge in intensity creating curtains, rays and coronas shining through the "aurora haze".

One effect of being in the middle of a storm as soon as the sun set was that the most prominent parts of the Milky Way was still high up in the sky and the auroras coloured it in red and green.  The Andromeda Galaxy can be seen as a "smudge" in the lower right of this photo.

Milky Way and Auroras

måndag 1 oktober 2012

Full Moon Auroras

After midnight the rain-clouds parted and revealed a spectacular view of the Full Moon surrounded by bright and unusually colourful Northern Lights in green and purple.

All three photos are taken due south - the light of dawn can be seen on the second photo.

onsdag 19 september 2012

Breath-taking Auroras

After several weeks with mostly cloudy and rainy weather here in the north, the sky cleared up tonight and revealed one of the most spectacular and colourful displays of northern lights that I have seen in a long while.

Now that solar maximum is approaching, it is likely that the coming months will be filled with truly spectacular auroras that may extend far south of the Arctic circle. Already last season, auroras could be seen as far south as France and Italy in southern Europe and in the southern states of the US.

One of the many photos I took during the night shows a lonely tree clad in orange autumn colours and was selected by NASA today as the best Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD)

All the photos below are taken during the night 19-20 September on one of the islands off the north Norwegian coast close to Tromsø - for more aurora photos - check out the web-site Northern Lights Photography

I wish you all clear skies and hope to see you under the auroras some day!


onsdag 5 september 2012

Bird Picture of the Week / Ukens Fuglebilde

Autumn is here and this is always an exciting time for bird-watchers.

This week`s bird-picture was taken earlier today when I was sneaking around through the autumn-coloured leaves of some mountain birches and discovered a bird that is only visiting Northern Norway during this time of the year.
Why these small (9-11 cm) warblers decide that it is worth the effort to come all the way here from their original distribution range in the far East (most breeding birds are found east of the Ural Mountains in Russia) I don`t know, but it`s a fascinating, a very long and somewhat different type of autumn-migration than "normally" seen.
So far this year, this is only the 4th Yellow-browed Warbler found in Norway (and the first was found by a good friend of mine on 31 August while ringing birds on the same island, Kvaløya outside Tromsø)
Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus) / Gulbrynsangere / Taigasångare

söndag 19 augusti 2012

First auroras of the season / Sesongens første nordlys

After a long period with midnight sun and no stars, it felt almost unreal to see the auroras dancing across the light blue sky again. Only Jupiter, Venus and the brightest of the stars were visible against the light sky, so it must have been a fairly strong "impact" at around midnight local time.
At its strongest, both green and red/purple rays were dancing over my head while I was standing barefoot in the grass and watching the auroras - a somewhat unusual combination here in Tromsø!
The aurora-season has finally started!

fredag 17 augusti 2012

Bird Picture of the Week / Ukens Fuglebilde

This week I decided it was time for a somewhat humouristic bird picture, showing a Slavonian Grebe / Horndykker (Podiceps auritus) with an unusually small head compared to its body...

Slavonian Grebes breed in freshwater areas with a lot of vegetation and usually lay 1-2 eggs. After hatching, the striped chicks are often carried on the back of the adults.

While the adult bird was sticking its head under the water I snapped this photo of the newborn chick trying to hold on to the back of its mother.

måndag 13 augusti 2012

Spending more time with the Humpback Whales / Knølhval

This summer I have tried to spend some time with one of my favourite animals in the world - the humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) - a species that I am trying to understand and learn more about from photo-identification that makes it possible to study the migration patterns and other aspectis of the biology of the humpbacks.

Below is a selection of photos taken in July this year that I decided to leave without any text this time and let the photos speak for themselves.

onsdag 8 augusti 2012

Bird Picture of the Week / Ukens Fuglebilde

This week`s bird picture is of a small colourful wader - the Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus).

They breed in small tundra marches/ponds here in the high north and spend the winter pelagically as far away as in tropical oceans like e.g. the Indian Ocean.

They are well known for having reversed sex roles compared to most other birds. The females pursue the males and compete for nesting territory and most of the females have already migrated south. The males incubate the eggs and look after the young before they leave too.

Red-necked Phalarope / Svømmesnipe / Smalnäbbad simsnäppa

måndag 30 juli 2012

Bird Picture of the Week / Ukens Fuglebilde

This weeks bird picture is of Gannets / Havsule (Morus bassanus) circling the air at different heights close to the breeding colony on Eldey, Iceland.

måndag 23 juli 2012

Bird Picture of the Week / Ukens Fuglebilde

This weeks bird picture has a questionmark behind it. Maybe someone can help me?

In the middle of what seems to be a rather poor year for most birds, the terns are busy bringing in food to feed their newborn chicks. This bird, although resembling a first-year tern in the autumn, however, is probably a second-year Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea), not a too common sight here in the north as most 2nd year birds stay in the south. Maybe also 3rd year birds can look like this, even though I thought they resembled the adults by that time? Or is it even a Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) at its 2nd year?

Around 100 people have viewed the picture on the national bird report system, where I reported it as a 2K Arctic Tern with a questionmark, but no one has commented on species or age. Any tern specialits out there?

The picture is taken on the 21 June in Tromsø, Norway, me being a bit behind the schedule on the bird picture of the week..

lördag 30 juni 2012

Bird Picture of the Week / Ukens Fuglebilde

The Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) is a fairly common wader along the shores of Norway, and a very beautiful one. With its orange legs, black-and-orange beak and a contrasting plumage in brown, black and white, this small wader has a lot of colour and is at the same time well camouflaged.

Ringed Plover / Sandlo / Större strandpipare

måndag 18 juni 2012

Bird Picture of the Week / Ukens Fuglebilde

After having spent most of the last week at sea outside the coast of Nordland county, the bird picture of the week had to be a sea bird, so this week an adult Gannet / Havsule (Morus bassanus) flying low over the water surface is the front figure.

söndag 17 juni 2012

Big sun-spots / Flekker på Solen

With the solar maximum coming up, the Sun has been filled with sunspots lately, and yesterday the huge sunspot 1504, which is facing Earth, had developed a very strong magnetic field.

Even with modest equipment (as here, using a Nikon DSLR with 300mm lens and 2x converter + Baader solar filter) the sun-spots can be seen easily.

As can be seen from the photo, the sunspots has darker inner cores - each dark core about twice the size of the Earth.

The Sun - 17 June 2012 with huge sun-spot AR1504 to the lower right

torsdag 7 juni 2012

Transit of Venus / Venus-passasjen

On June 6, the much anticipated transit of Venus took place. This historical event was witnessed by millions of people all over the world. For me, it was the first time I observed a transit of Venus since I didn`t see the last one in 2004.

With midnight sun here in Northern Norway the transit of Venus was an amazing sight and below are two (of many) pictures taken of the transit.

Transit of Venus as seen from Stø in Vesterålen, Norway.

Close up during ingress, when the disk of Venus enters the sun’s disk

Later in the evening (=early morning), Venus passed by the many sun-spots that were covering the solar disc.

Early morning - Venus has now reached more than half of its path across the Sun`s disc.
The major sun-spots are marked with numbers

tisdag 5 juni 2012

Kittiwake-conflict in Stø / Krykkjekonflikten på Stø

The kittiwake / krykkje / tretåig mås (Rissa tridactyla) is a seabird species breeding on cliffs along the coasts of the north Pacific and north Atlantic. In Norway, the main distribution of kittiwakes is in the northern parts of the country. They are primarily fish feeders, and are much more pelagic than other gulls outside the breeding season and do not scavenge at garbage.

Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla)
The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, NINA, have monitored the populations of seabirds in Norway for the last 30 years, and their research show a very clear and dramatic decrease in numbers of kittiwakes in Norway. Since the monitoring started, the population of kittiwakes have decreased by 70-85 % and the number of kittiwakes is now only a small fraction of what it used to be.
This dramatic development has accelerated during the last couple of years and in 2010 the status of kittiwakes on the Norwegian Red-List changed from Vulnerable (VU) to Endangered (EN).

Dead kittiwake under the colony

It was, therefore, with a small shock that I noted that the local colony of kittiwakes here in the fishing village of Stø in Vesterålen in Northern Norway was covered with a large net this season. Already last year there were some small remains of an old net in the upper part of the colony where both dead kittiwakes and kittiwakes entangled in the net were found. Needless to say, the number of breeding pairs also in this colony has now decreased.

Net has been put up in the kittiwake colony to prevent the birds from breeding

Gunnartangen argues that the birds can not get entangled in the net !

Who puts up a net in a colony of an endangered species and why? The answer turned out to be the owner of Gunnartangen Rorbuferie, an operator that offers accomodation in Stø with the slogan on their web-page: "Welcome to a vibrant fishing village in Vesterålen, where you can enjoy the nature both on land and by sea - winter and summer"

Gunnartangen Rorbuferie with the kittiwake colony in the background

In an extensive article on NRK (Norwegian News); here it is shown how the owner explains that the kittiwakes are chasing the tourists away, agressively attacking people and that most inhabitants in Stø wants them gone. In addition, he explains that he was there first and that the kittiwakes must leave. He also argues that the net is constructed in a way that the birds can`t get entangeled. The authorities, are, however of another opinion and classifies the net as fauna-criminality.

This is puzzling, because many that offer similar accomodation are happy to have kittiwakes close by and/or on their accomodations, and tourists and guests in the village are delighted to take pictures of the birds and even at a distance of 2m from the birds the kittiwakes hardly even bother to look at you, and they definitely do not attack.

Passing by the kittiwakes is perfectly safe

Dead kittiwake beneath the colony

To point out that the arguments are far from both the truth and the public opinion I have therefore published a short report together with the Norwegian Ornithological Society (NOF) today; NOF-report about the kittiwakes in Stø and I encourage anyone with experience from their stay in Stø to contact Gunnartangen and express their views (good or bad) in order to give the owner a realistic view of what they have experienced. Contact; Gunnartangen Rorbu-Ferie

Like in most fights between endangered species and humans, one side is heavily armed while the
other side doesn`t even know there is a war going on and if there is not room for both people and birds in a fishing village, then something is very wrong indeed...