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Peter Cairns – Hällefors, Sweden

May 28th, 2009 Posted in Northern Europe, Uncategorized

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Here we go again then. Back on the Wild Wonders roller coaster. Destination: Sweden and the first of several species on the mission list.

There was a time when spring brought with it panic and a desire to try and photograph all that this most frantic of seasons brings with it. But I’ve learnt that you can only be in one place at one time and it’s better to cover one subject well than many subjects badly.
So the subject in question? Red-throated divers – that most primeval of all birds and a true Nordic classic with a haunting call that punctures the dawn and captures the very essence of wildness. Bergslagen is home to many pairs of redthroats and as the thawing lakes swallow the last shards of ice, they’re back on territory.

Aulis Syväjärvi is my guide and Älghornet Hostel in Hällefors, is my home for a week. Aulis is a film maker and media expert. He knows these forests well and has plaster casts of local wolf tracks on his wall. Ten years ago, this would have been unheard of. In the words of a Norwegian photographer that I meet “ the forests are alive again.”

Day 1: 0500 and the first dawn is cold with mist carpeting the myriad lakes in these vast forests. As the sun pierces the dawn, I manage my first shot of a redthroat pair answering the call of rival neighbours silhouetted in golden light – pure magic! Two hours later, the sun is high and strong and it’s all over until evening time.

Day 2: The morning brings rain and wind and after 4 cold hours waiting for an improvement, I give up. I spend the day looking around for other potential sites but conclude that where I am is best – I just need some good conditions.

Day 3: More bad weather and I’m starting to get twitchy. I manage a few nice close-ups of goldeneye from a hide but the divers are not quite coming together.
Aulis takes me to look at two beaver sites – the species next on my list. One is right next to a busy road. The industrious nature of this aquatic rodent is quite remarkable. The beaver lodge is the size of a small house – years and years of painstaking work; generation after generation of constantly repairing and expanding this fantastic feat of natural architecture. But the beavers will have to wait.

Day 4: A cold night and a half-misty dawn. A few successful diver images and we’re back on track. It’s now 25ºc in the middle of the day so the window of opportunity for effective images is very short. A whole week seems a long time to photograph just one bird but to do this particular bird some sort of justice, needs good conditions…and time. I’m trying to avoid doing what other photographers have done before me – the reason Wild Wonders has sent me here is to try and look at things afresh but the conditions are such an important factor, sometimes you have to take what you’re given.

Day 5: Sweden is having a mini heatwave! Another half-misty morning – not quite perfect but not far off. At 0430, this system of wetlands and bog woodland is alive with birdsong. Black Grouse are bubbling away; curlew, snipe and lapwing are all doing their spring thing; occasionally cranes bugle overhead and the icing on the cake is the haunting wail of the redthroat. This morning I meet a wildlife sound recordist – he must think he’s died and gone to heaven here!

Day 6: The best dawn so far – absolutely stunning! But…no divers! Actually that’s not completely true but the birds that were around were not quite in the right position and when they were, there was either no mist or too much! Are we ever happy? No. But I should be. I’ve spent a week in a stunning location with my favourite birds of all and what’s more, I have just a few images I’m happy with. Bring on the next mission!

Day 7: The drive to the airport reminds me why I love Scandinavia. Mist crawling over every lake, cranes feeding in forest clearings, moose browsing fresh growth, beaver cuttings in birch woodland and a squadron of whooper swans honking overhead. More please!


Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.

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  1. 6 Responses to “Peter Cairns – Hällefors, Sweden”

  2. By Rolf Steinmann on May 29, 2009

    Hi Peter,
    I am also in Sweden again. You’re right, it is fantastic here in the springtime.
    Wonderful images. I want to see more!
    Take care.
    Rolf

  3. By Henrik Randén on May 29, 2009

    Hi Peter

    I see you got some really nice images from Hällefors :)

    BR
    Henrik

  4. By Carl-Johan Rådström on May 30, 2009

    Nice images!

    Sweden is fantastic :-)

  5. By Yann Sochaczewski on May 30, 2009

    I can only agree with my colleague Rolf! Your photos really whet one’s appetite! :-)

  6. By Staffan Widstrand on May 31, 2009

    Sweden is beautiful.
    And it takes a Brit to show it!
    Great stuff, Pete!

    Staffan

  7. By Lotta on Jun 15, 2009

    hello Peter. looking forward to see the pictures from the Malingsbo and Kloten area. These photos are really nice All the best

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