6 Apr 2014

Day 2 - Hey Teddy

Friday 4th April, -4 Celsius, Kuhmo Finland

After an early dinner, I led the renowned German photographer, G√ľnther Spillner, 1 km or so through the snow covered spruce pine forest, towards the group of hides we would be using until the morning as our cover and safety. A light flurry of snow fell as we dragged a sled brimming with Canon's whitest and finest down towards the hides. Normally bordering a smallish lake, the hides are currently situated amongst a great expanse of brilliant white, over a foot of cover had fallen only 8 days previously and with the low daytime temperatures there was no sign the landscape would change any time soon.

I was fixing my equipment onto the ball-head at roughly 17:00, the sun was still high above but was beginning to dip towards the rear of the hides. The air was perfectly still, as I have become accustomed to in this area; no wind, no sign of life. An hour passed before a small flock of hooded crows came into view, slightly larger and different colouring from the species I have seen before. Although not quite an apex predator, a good sign of activity nonetheless. Two large ravens, presumably male and female, were tied in a ritual of the season, chasing each other, combing steep dives with tight turns amongst the winter woodland. At 19:30 the sun was beginning to drop towards the horizon, leaving behind a golden light which was lingering on the landscape opposite. The photo below was taken at 19:46. I was on about the 4th or 5th photo in a panorama when I noticed that the last frame had something abnormal about it, I grabbed my binoculars and sure enough the outline was unmistakable, it was a brown bear,  and more importantly it was my first bear of the year.   

I was very concious of the thin netting, and what could only be described as 'matured' 2-by-4 which was separating me from this 5 year young, hungry male, a bear that weighs over twice a 'Shaquille O'Neil' and could break into a light sweat to comfortably outrun Usain Bolt. Waking at 5am, shaking uncontrollably in -8 Celsius cold, by the creaking of ice and the breathing noise from this bear at under 10m away, was not a highlight by any means. However, it was an incredible experience which a relative few get to experience and with 180 days remaining I am sure that I will be in a cold sweat again soon.