Eagles, bears, new snow and even more dead trees!

Day 9 continued:

We had another couple of hundred kilometers to go from Nuorgam , (which is, by the way, European Union’s most northernmost town), so we left Finland behind and drove along the eastern Norwegian coast south towards Kirkenes and Svanhovd Research Station. The previously defoliated area seemed to extend all the way to Skippagurra and south from there: we saw dead forest patches almost all the way down the coast. The dieback of trees was even more pronounced near the town of Neiden, where a clear belt of brown, previously defoliated, mountain birch forests could be seen on the mountain slopes, whereas lower areas were overall a bit greener. This phenomenon is quite common in these northern areas, where heavier colder air accumulates at valley floors and occasionally is cold enough to kill the overwintering eggs of our study moth species.

Lower valley floor was saved from defoliation by accumulating cold air during winter

When continuing south on the winding roads (typical for Norwegian coasts in my opinion), we had to make a sudden stop when we saw a huge bird chased by a smaller one. We didn’t quite have the time to take out our binoculars to see the big bird in more detail, but we were quite sure it was a bird of prey chased by a crow. Another car stopped there too to look at the bird, and funnily enough, they were heading towards the Svanhovd station too, as we later saw the ornithologists and their car at the station. They were able to confirm that the bird was, in fact, a sea eagle!

Our encounters with a little bit bigger animals didn’t quite stop there. The garden around the large Svanhovd station was very lush and green, in comparison, and at the station they had a very nice exhibition about bears. Bears, we heard, are quite numerous in those areas. Later we also heard from the managing director, Snorre Hagen, that they had just the day before shot a bear in Neiden, where we planned to go back to do our sampling…

Day 10:

Neiden, +3 degrees Celcius, strong wind from the north and rain…what more can you say. We were also pretty sure there was some snow on the mountain tops that wasn’t there the day before when we drove by. Luckily we were prepared with layers and layers of warm clothing. We didn’t see any bears, but we did find larvae of both autumnal and winter moth, which warmed our minds and hearts at least a little bit. Our site was located just beside the nature reserve area with a huge palsa mire, Ferdesmyra, and once again the view from our site was quite stunning.

A view over Ferdesmyra from our sampling site

Still, we were quite happy when we finished sampling and got back to our rented car. Our clothes were soaking wet, our hands were freezing, but it didn’t matter anymore since we had survived our testing sampling sites, got good samples from them all and had hot coffee ready in our car to warm us up!

After the freezing cold weather during sampling, warm coffee tasted so good!

Abisko one more time and home!:

After sampling in Neiden, all that was left to do was to catch our plane in a couple of days at Kiruna. We spent the extra day visiting Abisko station one more time and this time the sun was shining! The larval outbreak was already a little visible from the brownish color on the mountain slopes and we started wondering, if the actual peak is going to be next year, which would result in even more profound defoliation. We will see if the winter is cold enough to kill the overwintering eggs this year or not.

The leaves looked quite bad on our quick return visit to Abisko and Epirrita-larvae were still feeding on them

The next day we packed our stuff, packed our larvae too and headed for Kiruna airport. After a short discussion, and a few raised eyebrows (and a promise that our larvae would be treated nicely), the larvae were allowed to fly as pets in a heated cargo area in the airplane. A full blown summer greeted us at Arlanda airport an hour and a half later.

Tea & Helena thank and sign out for the summer. We will be back for another trip in the autumn!

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