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In search of the Arctic Fox

I am back in Norway. This time focusing on wildlife on the other end of the size spectrum to polar bears which was the focus in my last trip.

But as we roam around different places of this intensely beautiful country, I thought that it is only apt that I talk about a non polar bear experience the last time I was in these parts of the world.

And, yeah, while I sure have loads to share from this trip after my return, for the moment, I hope you enjoy reading about this experience.

We went on a fox hunt. Arctic fox hunting.

An plan that did have me rather curious. I had always thought that foxes are wary little creatures and I wondered how easily one would come close enough for us to take some good pics. We were at Longyearbyen ( remember…this ? ) and since we were set to sail the next day, we had the evening free and the plan was to go looking for the Arctic fox.

We drove up to an intensely pretty spot, right in front of the sea. Far to our left, the craggy mountain had decided to shed his arrogance and swoop down to woo the icy, cold, sea.

We got out of our cars and immediately felt the biting cold in the open landscape hit us. We dug our hands deep into our pockets, hunched our shoulders and started to walk.

Such walks are the ones that stay in your memory. We walk, engaging in small talk with whoever might be next to us, chuckle at the jokes that we overhear from the guys ahead, or we drop back to be on our own, to get lost in our own little thoughts while soaking in the scenes around us.

We walked down winding roads taking in the sights of this remote spot in one of the remotest towns in the world. We marveled at the good fortune of the inhabitants of the cottages that occasionally dotted the landscape, and wondered what it would feel like to step out of their house each morning and soak in the incredible beauty that lay spread out generously around them.

A narrow track separating the sea on one side and the mountains on the other side

On our right, spread out the sea. Cold. Sullen. Distant. Ignoring the outreach by both land and clouds and staying huddled up with nary a wave of acknowledgment.

On our left, the mountains stood tall and haughty, its peaks hidden amongst thick swirling clouds. We could see the doughty little awks, fly around the peaks in a frenzy, as if spying on us and anxiously reporting every movement back to the Evil Lord.

It looked rather surreal...swirling mists, restless, tiny birds and craggy mountains

The landscape lay rather barren, running up to meet the mountains. A grassy carpet in a bewildering mix of colours, green interesected with rusty brown and different shades of yellow and ochre, rolled around us. Stony gray pebbles and rocks of different sizes, provided the harsher counterbalance to the richness of the colours of the grass. A very light drizzle added to the overall atmosphere.

How on earth would we find a fox here ? Let alone get close to one.

I guess, the guides know their stuff :) .

We saw the first one rather early. He was a little wary. He would dart in occasionally sniffing around and keeping a beady eye on us. We noticed that he had a collar attached to him and decided that we should go further up and hopefully get another fox that didn’t have any man made attachment on it.

This guy was a wary chap. Kept his distance mostly. You could see the radio collar hanging on his neck

Yup...most certainly hesitant and nervous

It took a little time. Fortunately that led us to walk for even longer distances. We saw a snow bunting, fluffing and preening and a reindeer walking past us, ignoring us rather rudely, and even more beauty around us ( if that was possible ).

A snow bunting, preened and fluffed acting totally oblivious of our presence

The Arctic Reindeer is a decidedly odd looking animal and in keeping with every other creature we ran into , ignored us

Soon, however, our guide Oddgeir, noticed some movement behind some of those boulders.

Sure enough, there was another fox. This one was a little braver and sniffed around rather unconcernedly.

Arctic foxes take a complete white colour in the winter and that definitely is a sight to see. They have a pure white coat and images of them against the white snow just look brilliant. Only their bright eyes and shiny noses stand out in a sea of white.

Come summer, and they lose their white coat, often in a rather clownish manner. I have seen images of foxes with tufts of white stubbornly hanging on, a brown body with a pristine white tail and some weird white patches on their ears. The foxes we saw, looked like shedding their winter coats in a slightly more dignified manner.

Looks like an inquisitive chap.

Yeah...quite bold...look at the colours around it !

And then this one too proceeded to ignore us

Oh, and the sole of my boot came off. On the first day of a long trip.

This is going to be fun.


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