After a fantastic first night in the hides, we went back to the lodge for some breakfast and a short sleep. Some of the clients wanted to go out again, into the forest, and see what was about. Our guide Jarkki told us that we must keep an eye out as it was a good day to spot an Elk (Moose). The weather was gloomy this morning and it was raining, to be honest it didn't look like it would be a very promising day at all.
After only about 15 minutes in the car, scanning the forest edge, I noticed a tiny bit of movement in a copse of trees. Then I realised that Jarkki's advice about Elk was spot on, there was a female Elk standing only 5 yards into the forest, browsing. We stopped the vehicle, reversed back down the road and she was standing in small clearing staring at us. She was intrigued by us, watching and listening intently as we were photographing and admiring this beautiful and elusive mammal. She really was very striking and I have to say I am absolutely delighted with the image I managed to get.
So after our great sighting of the female Elk we moved on and explored some more of the local area. We visited quite a few different lakes and saw a variety of bird species. No real photographic opportunities though.
We made it back to the lodge in time to get our things ... ready for a second night in the Bear Hides. We once again had a late lunch which should keep us sustained for the evening ahead. My group decided that tonight they would try a variety of things. A couple decided that they would visit the "evening only" hide where they come back to the main lodge before midnight, another couple of individuals decided they wanted to spend their time at one of the "professional" hides and the others joined me once again in the main hide.
We were really hoping that tonight we might get to see some of the cubs interacting a little more and perhaps we would even get to see them climb some trees. Once we made it to the hides there was the excitement again, just as there was the night before. The evening started much quieter than the night before, perhaps because of the rain? I don't really know but I was a little worried that this evening might be a little disappointing compared to the evening before. I was being overly cautious as a leader though and this evening would disappoint!
It started off once again with the big male dominating the best spots, ensuring that no other bears would get close to his dinner, but there were a lot of families around and they females together seemed to have some power over this lone bear. You will notice throughout the following images that the rain only stopped as our bear viewing started, nearly all of the bears look soaked through at the start of the evening.
It was about now when the conflict between the big male and females started to cause the cubs to become a little restless. They were easily startled and never ventured too far from their mum, or a tree to where they could scamper to safety. And my word, they are amazing climbers. The speed at which these endearing little things climb the tree is quite remarkable.
The photograph above, although not particularly special, captures a moment that I absolutely loved watching. The bear cub coming down the tree had been up to all sorts of mischief. It had been playing chase up and down the tree with one of its siblings, having lots of fun and showing off. Then mum decided it was time to move as she had seemingly had her fill, she called at the cubs and the two of them started to descend. This one individual then went sprinting back up the tree and watched her walk off as she called all the while. The cub seemed distraught and we were worried that the cub was left behind for the night, but the mother had other ideas and about ten minutes later she was back and she was not happy. She repeatedly called to the cub and eventually, knowing that it was in trouble, the cub came down the tree sheepishly. This image captures the moment that the mother, and one of its siblings, were waiting at the base of the tree as the naughty individual finally made its way down to terra ferma!
So a wonderful few days in the remote Taiga forest of Finland. The second night in the hides was definitely much quieter than the first night and the photographic opportunities were certainly a little more limited but with such a successful night and a completely different set of behaviours on show it was still absorbing. I can't recommend this fantastic place enough, even if you are not into your photography as such, it is still well worth a couple of nights in the hides.
Take a look at the short video below and you can see the mischievous cubs enjoying their tree clim