Jonnie Fisk and I were invited up to arctic Norway in Varanger by Tormod Arundsen to represent Next Generation Birders at the event. It was a huge honour to be invited as it's a place I've always wanted to go to, however never actually thought I'd ever go!
I am unbelievably grateful to Tormod for the invite and I can't thank him enough for the opportunity!
We flew up to Kirkenes airports after changing at Copenhagen and Oslo (with a night in Oslo) and got picked up by Tormod's wife Elin. We then drove an hour and a half to a 'electricityless' cabin deep in the Pasvik Taiga forests.
In addition, something I was hoping for, but didn't expect what to be along the edge of the Pasvik river and see the Russian border on the other side with lots of observation towers looking back at us! Being only 40-50m away from the border at one point, it was so close to being a 'Country Tick!'
We all gathered around the active feeding stations to watch all the incredible birds including the above Coues's Arctic Redpoll (1 of 3 but only 1 male) which was a lovely lifer and fantastic to watch. The male was like a little snowball!
I couldn't get over just how big the Grosbeaks were. I thought they'd be like a Hawfinch but they're as big as a Redwing if not bigger! With sun in the air too, the males were sat in trees singing away almost constantly. Absolutely magnificent!
While the obvious spectacle was the pure number of Grozzers, there was a small handful of Siberian Tits that came in often to feed. These really stole my heart and until the very last day, this were my favourite bird of the trip (I'll explain why that changed later!)
We also had several Northern Bullfinch, Great Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker and the amazing grey Red Squirrels visiting the feeders.
Camera batteries dying after 30 minutes, walking inside and your optics condensate and then freeze over, getting ice in your nose and struggling to breathe whilst breating on your scarf and that gets covered in frost! An amazingly unforgettable experience!
Generally speaking, the rest of the trip is pretty coastal, but for now, I thought a taster of Taiga forest was like as I've said since I was a small child that Taiga Forest in winter is literally the absolute dream habitat for me to visit.