Most men have a hobby. Some are encouraging their favourite soccer club, some become a wonderful cook, other go running, start saving stamps or maybe even start saving tattoos...
For me I started photographing birds in the cold north. Arctic birds aren’t colourful nor numerous. For the same (or perhaps even less) amount of money you can travel to tropical destinations where birds without exception are wonderful and colourful.
I don’t know exactly why, but for me Arctic birds are wonderful creations. In March 2017, I traveled to Greenland to photograph redpolls. Yes, you’re right… I had been done that before! But this time the destination is Illulissat, in the western part of Greenland. Before I left, I sent a package of birdseed by mail to Greenland. However, it didn’t pass the Greenland customs, obviously, they didn’t trust it. Months before my departure I had contact with residents through a Facebook group. So, I got already an impression of everyday life and to my surprise one of my new ‘Facebook-friends’ uploaded beautiful pictures of… redpolls! I asked (and received) already permission to visit her balcony during my stay at Illulissat.
Thursday March 9th
I travelled from Schiphol Airport to Copenhagen and from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq (Greenland). At Kangerlussuaq, I had to wait for an hour at the airport, so I left the airport and quickly went to the local supermarket, to buy birdseed. At the opposite of the shop I saw some redpolls! Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to take pictures.
The last part of the trip was by a small airplane from Kangerlussuaq to Illulissat. When I arrived in Illulissat the temperature was minus 17 degrees Celsius. During a short walk, I watched: Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll, Raven, Glaucous Gulls and a Great Black-backed Gull.
Friday March 10th
In the morning, I met Erene, the lady I knew through Facebook. She was very welcoming, offered me a delicious meal and I had the opportunity to photograph some Hornemann’s Arctic Redpolls. After photographing, Erene showed me around at Illulissat with its glacier and huge icebergs in the sea. Very kind of Erene to show me these beautiful places! I photographed: Glaucous Gulls, a Great Black-backed Gull and an Iceland gull (not a Kumliens).
Saturday March 11th
Nearby the hotel, I found another feeder and I spent the morning and afternoon photographing redpolls. I even spotted a Greenland redpoll (rostrata) between the Hornemann’s Arctic Redpolls. Hopefully during the rest of my stay I’ll get the opportunity to photograph this interesting bird. I collected a dead Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll (adult male), probably crashed against a window. I took the bird to the hotel to do some measurements. In the late afternoon, I went to the harbour where I saw many Glaucous Gulls. At the end of a perfect day I took some pictures of the local church. Amen!
From bill to tail: 15,5 cm
Wing: 8,9 cm
Bill length: 0,9 cm
Bill height (measured at the bill base): 0,9 cm
Sunday March 12th
The day started at ‘my’ redpollspot. I took pictures till the afternoon and after that I walked to the harbour to photograph gulls. I spent the night at Erenes place, because I was invited for an authentic Greenland dinner together with her boyfriend Abia, his son and his girlfriend. Very interesting to hear from locals about their culture and country. Redpolls are just for the last ten years wintering in Greenland. Perhaps because they have been fed or maybe because of the temperature increase?
Monday March 13th
I had breakfast with two German ladies (Sonja and Jenny) who are traveling to places all around the world that can not be reached by car. Very special! It’s cloudy, temperature around minus 16 degrees and there was some snowfall during the day. I took pictures of a beautiful coloured male Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll: a lot of white and beautiful pink colour on the breast and rump. Probably it’s the most beautiful bird I have ever seen! An estimated 20 to 25 redpolls were visiting the feeder. I also saw a snow bunting and I took pictures of a Greenland Redpoll (rostrata). Obviously the Greenland Redpoll is smaller than the Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll but it has a larger bill.
Greenland Redpoll (rostrata)
Tuesday March 14th
Today in a few words: breakfast; some grocery shopping (birdseed nowhere for sale); snow; minus 17 degrees; windy (so it feels like minus 27 degrees); a hole in my glove; cold and a lot of redpolls...
Wednesday, March 15th
In the morning, during a walk at the harbour, I watched a first winter Iceland Gull (not a Kumliens). Then I waited all day for redpolls, but strangely enough, they didn’t show up. Did they already go to the north? Only the Greenlandic Redpoll (rostrata) did show up. Fortunately I saw at the end of the afternoon three Hornemann’s Arctic Redpolls. A nice end of the day!
Thursday, March 16th
This day, the redpolls were back, even in great numbers! It’s my last day at Greenland, therefore I photographed non-stop. I was not the only ‘redpoll-lover in town’, even the neighbour’s cat seems to appreciate them (see picture).
Friday, March 17th
I flew to Kangerlussuaq (by the way, in Greenland are no security checks on domestic flights) and from Kangerlussuaq (minus 26 degrees) to Copenhagen, where I stayed overnight. The next morning, I flew to Amsterdam. That’s it: the end of a beautiful trip!
Birds I’ve seen during the trip
Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll
Greenland Redpoll (1)
Iceland Gull (2)
Great Black-backed Gull
Snow Bunting (1)
My special thanks go to Rasmus Due Nielsen, David Boertmann, Erene Olsvig and the owner of hotel Hvide Falk. Thanks to their help this trip has become so successful...