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Arctic winter, Finland, Part One

I have just returned from a week’s trip to the far north of Finland and Norway. When you are that far north the weather can be an important factor that needs serious consideration.

The cold is the most obvious issue (lots of warm socks and a big furry hat are definitely the way to go!!!!) and when you are aurora watching, cloud and sunspot activity need to be regularly checked.

We had planned to split the trip into two parts. The first was in Finland where we hoped to work with pine grosbeaks (a stunning bird), Siberian jays and Siberian tits. I thought we would see loads of redpolls which were really common when I was last there but not a one was spotted.

The grosbeaks had just returned for the summer (though it was still deepest winter) and showed just how critical timing and knowledge is when planning a trip.

This is another year when the aurora is particularly strong. Unfortunately it is impossible to plan a year in advance for a particular strong night so we had to take pot luck.

The first few nights showed promise but whilst the sky cleared (contrary to the usually accurate forecast) the aurora watch only predicted a 2/9. Our penultimate night however proved to be fantastic.

Cold, crisp skies and even though the strength was only 4/9 the spectacle was stunning, mesmerising and a little religious at times.

I could never get bored with the aurora - the constantly changing green lights simply glue you to the spot, eyes peering into the dark, star spangled heaven as the lights grow and fall earthwards. I would love to see a 9/9. I just cannot imagine what it would be like.