Monthly Archives: January 2017

Experience fosters curiosity – Matej and nature photography

Direct experience is a wonderful way to be introduced to a certain topic, or start to ask questions – in this post Matej goes through some of his best pictures and shares with us how his interest in nature photography and his formal education has gone together, and resulted in a fair share of great pictures (and memories)!

While exploring the paths in Muddus National Park, I got caught totally of guard by an northern hawk owl (Surnia ulula) directly in front of me. I started taking pictures like crazy, when I heard some noises to my left. Another hawk owl! I tried my luck by turning to the right, and yes, another one. I was surrounded by a family of owls, all looking at me with their “astonished” expressions. It was a good day!
A curious common buzzard (Buteo buteo) kept soaring the skies above me while I was trying to find a path through a maze of pastures surrounded by thorny bushes. At one point I got stuck passing such a bush and started taking pictures of the buzzard. Shortly after, he left. I guess he got enough laughter at my expense.
This unfortunate dragonfly (Anisoptera sp.) got caught in a spider web and was pulling it down due to its weight. I managed to snap a few photos, before the dragonfly became a tasty meal for the lucky spider. Cycle of life goes on.
As a large carnivore enthusiast, this is probably the favorite picture of mine. This wild mama bear brought her yearling cub right in front of a photo blind set up for wildlife photography. This was very early in my photography career, but I had an experienced wildlife photographer sitting next to me with his camera. I ended up using the same camera settings as him on my own, and I was really proud. In the six hours we spend totally silent in that small hunt, we had the privilege to observe the bears for maybe half an hour. Still totally worth it and one of my most treasured memories as a photographer and a biologist.
I’ve never been this close to a white tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) before and I doubt I ever will again. This juvenile did a really close fly by, I guess we were interesting enough. A bunch of international students enjoying a sunny day on the Stora Fjäderägg. Maybe that’s the trick: loud laughter, flashy colors and an awesome day behind us.
Ringed seals (Pusa hispida) are a favorite food of the polar bears. When they are not around though, like on Stora Fjäderägg, these fat professional sunbathers can just relax and enjoy their days in peace. The only distractions are arctic terns yapping at each other and a casual photographer trying to sneak closer. As I was trying to do just that, crawling among the rocks and keeping a low profile, I noticed two things: a snake skin next to my face and that my phone has fallen into salt water.
After I saw this kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) flying around and hunting for voles I knew that biking down to Umeälvens delta that day was a good idea. I patiently waited until she caught something and proudly presented her prey in the shade of a telephone pole. After she had her fill of pride, I saw her disappear in a nearby forest, most likely to feed the kids.
During a research trip to Costa Rica, we took many night trips from an Austrian research station La Gamba that was hosting us. The danger of stepping on a one of the highly venomous snakes in the dark was great, but so were the rewards of the tropical jungle in the night. We, most likely, woke up this red eyed tree frog who was taking a well earned rest. Sorry buddy!
Together with my classmates of management of fish and wildlife population master program at SLU, I had the privilege to observe modern Sami reindeer herding in practice. After they spent the winter on Holmön, the reindeer were ready to be transported off the island and to the mountains. This took some expert coordination on the Sami side, but they successfully managed to load most of them on the trucks and off the island. The smell and the fur however, stayed on two ferries for quite a while.
Students of biology at the University of Ljubljana organize a traditional week long research camp every year somewhere in the Balkans. That year it was Montenegro, where we spotted this small tortoise (either Testudo hermani or Testudo graeca) that, judging by the size and scale aging, was enjoying its second summer.
While in Costa Rica, I was fortunate enough to be permitted a visit to the herpetology department of Clodomiro Picado Research Institute in San Jose. They house several species of highly venomous snakes and use them to produce antivenom for most of the Americas and for some species, worldwide. They showed us a whole bunch of really scary looking snakes, and I can’t remember the exact species of this beauty, tree viper of some sort. Outside in the terrace, there are also some very photogenic trees for the beauty shots that the staff was very helpful to accommodate.
Slovenian Marine Mammal Society – Morigenos, conducts research on marine mammals in Slovenian sea and nearby areas. During my bachelors in biology, I was involved with some of the research activities. One summer day, with the dolphins spotted from a church tower in Piran, we ran in full gear across the town square, making our way through a bunch of tourists towards the research boat. I really felt like a wildlife researcher on a mission, while people were giving us weird looks. It was awesome! Soon after sailing out, we were greeted by a pod of around 15 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), that were comfortable staying very close to the boat. The society has been doing research for 10+ years so the dolphins are quite familiar with the crew, the boat and its sound. The best sign of this is the comfort of the dolphin mother letting her calf to explore the boat and us alone. Here they are however pictured together, frolicking in the sun and the sea.
Like most of the big guns of the photography, the old school badasses, I started with an analog camera with a standard 35 mm film. On one of the regular herpetology fieldwork excursions we were hosting Swiss colleagues interested in the small population of asp vipers (Vipera aspis) close to the eastern border of Slovenia. This female was one of the several snakes we caught that day and was, judging by the murky eye, planing to shed skin soon. I snapped this photo and only after I got the film developed found that it came out great. Analog camera was hard for beginners. Now you can just fire along on a memory stick and learn by mistakes. Back then such lessons cost time and money.
While on a trip in the Skuleskogen National Park with my friends, we stopped by one of the cottages to rest and replenish. After I got my energy back I went exploring with my camera and managed to snap this photo of a dragonfly (Anisoptera sp.) resting on said cottage. The light that day was quite shitty, so I had to edit the photo in post-production to accentuate the fine details of this beautiful specimen.

A story from Max: bird ringing at Ottenby station in Öland

Big Thanks Carl for letting me show some pictures on the blog! I’ll show some photos of Ottenby and the bird observatory where I’ve been working last autumn. We’ve mainly been ringing birds, but I managed to do some landscape, wildlife and bird photography in between.

The bird observatory itself is situated on the most southern tip of the island Öland on the eastern coast of Sweden. The island is shaped by extensive cultural landscape and plays an important role as breeding location for many agricultural bird species such as Montagu’s Harriers or Barred Warblers. Following the Swedish eastern coastline southwards, migrating birds from northern and central Scandinavia are gathering every year on this cape to stop and forage to do the big step over the east Sea. That is what makes it a excellent place to watch and study bird migration …

 

Regarding the actual bird catching, the observatory has been running a standardized program running with usual mist nets and Helgoland traps since 1946. The results of this long study are very interesting and meaningful especially concerning population fluctuations of diverse bird species.

 

Common species caught are among others robins, goldcrests, willow warblers, chiffchaffs, blue and great tits, pied and spotted flycatchers, sedge warblers, lesser and common whitethroats, blackcaps, white and yellow wagtails, song thrushes and sparrow hawks. However the composition was of course constantly changing over the weeks in autumn and due to the prevailing eastern winds quite lot’s of eastern migrants turned up (not just on Öland) like yellow-browed and dusky warblers, a little bunting, siberian accentors and a lazur tit.

Meet… Jone!

What have you done before your masters programme?

I grew up on a farm in Lithuania. After high school graduation decided to run away from farm life to study in another country. Scotland seem to be a wonderful option, rolling hills and fields of heather are absolutely mesmerising. So I spend 5 years in a small fishing and oil city – Aberdeen. In 4 years of Zoology we covered most fields and I developed an interest in applied Ecology. However, after two years of quite intensive studies I took 2 year break to travel, work and experience life beyond university. Love for ecology called me back and now I’m here! 🙂

What’s your first memory involving an animal?

I grew up surrounded by pets and farm animals. Living with active, outdoor loving parents I was always in the forest and fields. I cannot recall the first time I experienced wildlife. It was probably when I started taking care of our hunting dog that I explored wildlife by myself. Spending hours in the forest with my dog and camera became part of my life


What made you good to go for fish and wildlife?

I want to be able to work outdoors, the greatest motivation was to find a speciality that wouldn’t lock me in the office 9-5. This programme seem to be very applicable and knowledge can be used in many ways.

Fun hobby or fact you would like to share with us?

When I came to Sweden I got involved with bike messenger group, I don’t work as a messenger myself (maybe in near future) but lifestyle is very charming and influential. Because of that influence I plan to participate in my first European messenger championship in summer!

Dream job to land straight after graduation?

I have a hundred plans after graduation, don’t know which one to try first. Dream job would be as much field work as possible 🙂

Fish, birds or wildlife?
Wildlife!All pictures supplied by Jone

Human dimensions, poster project!

The very first project which we have had for the human dimensions course, the poster project is meant to serve as an introduction into how wildlife management systems differ between different countries!

We look at questions ranging from how their management system is influenced by the front running philosophers and norms at the time at which the system was first implemented (even if much has changed today!) to how wildlife is governed.

Is wildlife for example owned by the state (Sweden), owned by the landowner, owned by everyone (U.S.A.) or owned by nobody (Austria)?

How is wildlife management funded?

Have a look at my poster above for an idea about Norway!

 

Start of human dimensions!

Also a fan of ye old head scratcher? 

As you might’ve guessed, I have once again swopped the south of sweden for Umeå in hopes of better skiing weather (and the start of this term).

And with the new term, we’ve just had our first week of “Human Dimensions in fish and wildlife management” (15 ECTS) and the arrival of a couple of new faces to our class! Welcome!

  The white throated dipper is Norways national bird! How does that change what it means to norwegians?

Human Dimensions is all about how people interact with wildlife:

How do people connect to nature and their experiences translate into feelings, attitudes?

How does this set an arena for potential conflict when there might be groups with different viewpoints?

What guidelines can we use to be able to resolve these disputes in a constructive manner?

How do these feelings and attitudes potentially develop into norms over time? Is it for example all right to leave wildlife leftovers after hunting in the wild for the benefit of scavengers (who might be having a hard time?) Or is this seen as completely out of question?

What kind of difficulties might arise when man and animal both compete for the same resource?

The Eurasian nuthatch is a frequent visitor at our feeding tables, how does this change how we value it?

Human dimensions of wildlife is a relatively new term and field of study for questions which have never failed to pique interest. This should be good fun!

Another day out skiing!

As of late, the weather presenters have been good to us and blessed Umeå with proper skiing weather (which we haven’t been late to exploit!)

I went out with a group of friends to take advantage of the cold weather and new fallen snow on the lake. Needless to say, Umeå can offer plenty of opportunities to the skiing enthusiast!

Here’s some more off-road skiing – here we’re crossing a mire in close vicinity of Umeå.   

We stopped for some quick pictures under the clear skies before we ventured homewards through a bout of trees.

Trees laden with snow hung over the trail creating a truly magical feeling during the sunset!

F/W Interviews… Meet – me!

What have you done before your master’s programme?

I came straight to university after I finished the natural sciences programme at upper secondary school. Since then I’ve taken a bachelors in forestry here at SLU, during which I’ve developed a profile towards environmental science (including plant science, ecology, soil science and biogeochemistry).

What’s your first memory involving an animal?

One of my very first memories includes sitting on a slight hill together with my uncle, drinking hot chocolate and looking down over a snow-laden field. Suddenly,  a rabbit in full winter coat sprung out from between the spruces, startled by the dog, and spurred up the snow on the field in its wake as it rushed off along the timberline!

What made you good to go for fish and wildlife?

Although from the beginning studying forestry, the possibility to include the  fish and wildlife masters programme was what attracted me from the start to start here at SLU. I have always been interested in the outdoors, and I have successively understood that to me animals and human-wildlife interaction are an important part of a thriving landscape.

I let my curiosity guide me and develop my interests –

“For in the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. And we will understand only what we are taught”                                                                                      -Baba Dioum

Fun hobby or fact you would like to share with us?

I’m a big fan of wildlife photography!

Dream job to land straight after graduation?

It is my dream to get a phD in an interesting subject, but due to the nature of these very specific projects, it may be difficult to land one for which I will be a good fit straight away!

I would also like to be a part of the county administrative board, as I would feel that I would be directly affecting my surroundings.

Now, Matejs questions!

Beer, wine or whiskey?

Beer!

I’ve heard that you’ve lived in many different countries. Which one is your favorite, and why?

My favorite is Sweden, due to how close I can come to nature, and the freedom to roam (Allemansrätten). Although I have not yet been there, Norway seems to have good scenery….? 😉

What are you afraid of?

That changes between days! Some days I am afraid that I have too little experience compared to my peers which I will be competing with on a job market.

Through a complicated (but totally believable!) process you got selected as the new masters program coordinator. What would you change?

I would introduce a course dealing with habitat management.

What do you strive the most for in life?

I strive for making my days, on average, better and leaving myself with a sense of achievement.

Fish, birds or wildlife?

Birds are close to me, partly because of their abundance. But wildlife encounters always leave me with my breath hanging!