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As cute as chips.

European brown bears are one of the most enigmatic of our continents large mammals. Sometimes huge, often intimidating, occasionally humorous and every now and then as cute as chips!

Over the last few weeks I led two Nature’s images trips to Northern Finland to spend a fantastic, if sleep deprived and energy draining two weeks experience.

The range of settings here is fantastic and when the sun does shine in the evening the light can be phenomenal. Every time I go I hope there are some small cubs. I do like the adults but when it comes to entertaining the evening hours away there is nothing better than small cubs. This year we were lucky in that we had at least 3 females with cubs, one with small, 4 month old cubs and 2 with triplets of yearlings.

Every time I repeat a trip, and I have worked with the bears on numerous occasions in the past, I try to be selective and work on new images or ideas. I thought I had succeeded but when the cubs were about I simply kept hitting the shutter button. By the end of my 2 weeks I had taken thousands of images, far more than I intended!

This first blog focuses solely on the 4 month old cubs and their mum. We were lucky in that she showed up every evening though the only place she was totally reliable was in the cotton grass swamp. I guess here mum felt far less threatened and her cubs could keep to the forest edge if danger lurked (a bigger bear). When mum thought the cubs might be in danger she would quickly signal them with a grunt and they would swarm up a tree at an incredible rate of knots, claws scrabbling hard on the pine bark. When the coast was clear she would let them know and they would come down at a far slower pace than they went up!

Photography can occur at any time during the night, hence the severe lack of sleep but the constant promise of another visit by the cubs meant that the hours simply flew by. When it did drag a bit a good blast of Led Zep on the ipod kept my eyelids from drooping too much!

Both groups this year were brilliant, your company and humour kept me entertained at all times, and Ivor, hope there’s a few here ‘I bet you wished you had taken!’ And of course, Jean, keep the Jaffas flowing!