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Despite a long history of over-huntingand other human pressures, themighty Musk Ox still roams thewindswept mountains and tundra of thehigh Arctic. Although the core of theirdistribution remains in Greenland andnorthern Canada, small remnantpopulations also occur in Alaska, Russiaand Norway, the descendants of animals re-introduced to their former range in the midto late 20th century. The Norwegianpopulation was re-introduced in 1932, androams the beautiful alpine and subalpineuplands of the Dovre Mountains,approximately 200 kilometres from thecoastal town of Trondheim. Theseimpressive and formidable animals - whichlook not unlike shaggy carpets on legs -live alongside an impressive range ofsought-after Arctic bird species such asDotterel, Gyr Falcon and Long-tailed Skua,together creating the perfect wildlifecombination and the focus of this uniqueand exciting Naturetrek tour.Winter lingers for a long while in theNorwegian mountains, but by mid-June thesnow has usually melted from all but theupper slopes, the valleys are bursting intoflower and numerous birds are busilysinging, staking out territories and gearingup for the short, but frenetic, breedingseason ahead. Those birds that choose tobreed on the upper slopes, such as Dotterel,Golden Plover, Ring Ouzel and Wheatear,are often found in impressive numbers in thevalleys at this time of year waiting for thesnow to melt and their breeding grounds tofinally open up. Any lingering snow will notaffect our plans, however, for the areas ofthe Dovre Mountains that we need to exploreare easily accessed from Trondheim andcriss-crossed by a network of cleared,sealed roads.Our tour starts with a short, and direct, flightto Trondheim, a pleasant coastal townwhich sits on the edge of Norway's intricateand mountainous coastline. FromTrondheim we head inland and climb upthrough the Dovre Mountains to the villageof Kongsvold, an attractive community ofwooden houses with white picket fences,backed by spectacular mountain sceneryand within earshot of singing Bluethroats.You may even be fortunate enough to see adistant Musk Ox from your bedroomwindow! A comfortable mountain hotel willbe our base for the next four nights.We will spend the following day exploringthe alpine habitats, pools and marshes ofthe Dovre Mountains in search of some ofthe typical birds of the Scandinavianuplands. Waterbirds such as Red-throatedand Black-throated Divers, Scaup, Velvetand Common Scoters, Long-tailed Duckand Red-necked Phalarope are frequentlyseen. Waders include Temminck's Stint,Wood Sandpiper, Golden Plover, Dottereland Whimbrel, while Bluethroat, LaplandBunting and Shore Lark are all possible.Overhead soar Gyr Falcon, Golden Eagleand Rough-legged Buzzard and, for thefortunate, perhaps even a Short-eared Owlquartering the heather-clad slopes. In theevening we will visit a nearby wetland towatch lekking Great Snipe, which is surelyone of Europe's most bizarre, butenjoyable, ornithological sights.From the smaller inhabitants of themountains we next turn our attention to thelargest. We will spend most of the followingday heading up into the mountains on a'Musk Ox safari'. While nothing can beguaranteed in the world of wildlife-watching,we would be very unlucky not to see thisimpressive animal. The Musk Ox is actuallymore closely related to sheep and goatsthan to cows and has evolved to withstandbrutally cold temperatures of minus 50ºC orless. The Norwegian population currentlystands at about 215 animals and in thesummer they typically live in herds ofbetween 10 and 15 individuals. In additionto the Musk Oxen we'll keep our eyes openfor Reindeer, Mountain Hare and a variety ofbirds. Both Lynx and Wolverine also live inthese mountains but they are both veryelusive and only seen by the fortunate few.We will spend our final full day birdwatchingin the mountains, visiting such sites asFokstrumyra and the spectacularVinstradalen Plateau. These areas are hometo many of the species mentioned above,as well as to Ptarmigan, Willow Grouse, HenHarrier, Long-tailed Skua and Ring Ouzel.Finally, we must leave the Dovre Mountainsbehind and return to Trondheim for our flighthome. We should, however, have timebefore we leave to enjoy a little lowlandwildlife-watching, perhaps ending the tourwith a Slavonian Grebe resplendent in itscolourful breeding dress or perhaps a hugeElk crossing the road.Norway - Musk Oxen & MountainsA 6-day holiday to Norway's Dovre Mountains in search of Musk Oxen and upland birds.Thursday 20th June - Tuesday 25th June Cost: £1,795Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Trondheim; transferKongsvold.Day 2Birdwatching, DovreMountains.Day 3 Musk Ox safari, DovreMountains.Day 4 Birdwatching, DovreMountains.Day 5Trondheim.Day 6Fly London.AccommodationComfortable mountain hotel withprivate facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingGrade A. Easy walks, althoughsometimes on rough terrain.FocusBirds, mammals and mountainscenery.LeaderTerje Kolass.Single room supplement£295.Web quick search: NOR08102Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryOSLOBERGENKONGSVOLDTRONDHEIMSWEDENNORWAYNORTHSEANORTHSEADOVRE MOUNTAINSMusk OxDotterelSlavonian Grebe

Norway is a country of manyspectacular landscapes. From thegentle rolling green hills surroundingOslo, to the harsh snowy tundra of theArctic and the towering mountains, cut bydeep dark fjords, it is a land ofbreathtaking contrasts and beauty. Evenamongst such natural splendour, however,one region stands out. The Lofoten Islandslie deep within the Arctic Circle and offer awild beauty that can best be described ashumbling; their majestic mountains risingvertically out of an inky-blue sea, leavingroom for only a threadlike shore. This is the'Land of the Midnight Sun', a place ofdramatic landscapes, idyllic summers andabundant wildlife; a source of inspirationfor many and the soul of northern Norway. Jutting out from the mainland, the Lofotenarchipelago extends westwards far out intothe Atlantic Ocean and it is this uniquelocation that attracts such a wealth ofwildlife. The open sea, the influence of theGulf Stream and the proximity of thecontinental shelf offer a rare opportunity toexperience the atmosphere and theexcitement of an Arctic whale-watch with adifference. We hope to witness the naturalphenomenon of Sperm Whales gatheringon the edge on the continental shelf,where the warmer Atlantic currents andcold Arctic waters merge to create richfeeding grounds for some of the largestcreatures on the planet. On land we willexplore the spectacular birdlife in one ofthe world's most beautiful and pristinearchipelagos - travelling on the quietroads that snake around beautiful fjordsand through some dramatic countryside,where breathtaking views presentthemselves at every corner.Our 6-day holiday begins with a flight fromLondon, via Oslo, beyond the Arctic Circleto Evenes, from where we continue ourjourney by minibus. The scenery is awe-inspiring: craggy mountains whose jaggedteeth seemingly bite the skyline and trap astring of tiny fishing villages tight againstthe shore. The main highway weaves ascenic route as it hops from island toisland via sweeping bridges andcauseways and occasionally throughtunnels beneath the sea. Our timeexploring this spectacular region will besplit between three nights on the island ofAndøya, on the northern Vesterlån Islands,and two nights at Moskenes on thesouthern tip of the Lofoten archipelago. On one day we will travel north to thepicturesque fishing village of Andenes fora day's whale-watching, the undoubtedhighlight of the tour. On our way out to thewhales' feeding grounds we will visitseabird and seal colonies and keep asharp eye open for the majestic White-tailed Eagles which are frequently seenhere. By spending a whole morning (3-5hours) out at sea we hope to optimise ourchances of seeing several differentspecies of cetacean. Although SpermWhale, the largest of the toothed whales, isthe most frequently observed species, weshould also look out for Minke, Humpbackand Long-finned Pilot Whales, White-beaked Dolphins, and perhaps thedistinctive tall dorsal fins of a patrollingpod of Orcas. While Andøya is not strictlypart of the Lofotens it is one of the mostproductive regions for birds, having adiverse avifauna representative of a widerange of habitats that includes mountains,moorlands, bogs, lakes and woodlands.Species we may expect to seeinclude Willow Ptarmigan,Rough-legged Buzzard, Merlin,Whimbrel, Ruff, Red-neckedPhalarope, Redpoll, Bramblingand Snow Bunting. No visit to the Lofoten Islands would becomplete without the experience of seeingMoskenes. This spectacular region hasbeen sculpted over the millennia byglaciers and other elemental forces,creating one of the wildest and mostfascinating places in Norway. The area ischaracterised by sheer-faced mountainsand some of the oldest rocks in Europe,approximately 3 billion years old. Here,rising to an altitude of 1,029 metres, MountHermannsdalstind dominates the westernLofotens and is one of the highestmountains in the archipelago. We will alsoembrace the rich cultural heritage of theLofotens and during our time in the southof the islands we will observe theprocessing of the region's most importantexport, 'Stockfish' (air-dried cod). Naturally,we will also be making frequent stops forbirdwatching en route, including a visit tothe wetlands at Leknes.The magnificent scenery, wealth of birdand marine-life together with fresh Arcticair will surely combine into a unique andunforgettable experience, but the greatestexperience of all is, perhaps, just beingamongst the Lofoten Islands themselves.While nothing in nature is guaranteed, onething is certain on this tour: enduringmemories of awe-inspiring landscapesquite unlike any other in Europe!Whales & Seabirds ofNorway's Lofoten IslandsA 6-day holiday to the land of the midnight sun, focusing on the whales, seabirds and landscapes of Norway's spectacular Lofoten Islands.Sunday 23rd June - Friday 28th June Cost: £2,295Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationNORWAYLOFOTENISLANDSVESTERLÅNISLANDSSWEDENSORTLANDEVENESANDØYALEKNESMOSKENESANDENESOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Evenes; transferAndøya.Day 2/3Wildlife exploration fromAndøya.Day 4/5Wildlife exploration fromMoskenes. Day 6Fly London.AccommodationComfortable guesthouse on Andøyawith private facilities. On the island ofMoskenes our group will be splitamongst a series of attractive cabinswith wonderful mountain views. Eachcabin has two bedrooms sharing onebathroom. FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Easy to moderate day walks. FocusWhales, seabirds and mountainscenery. LeaderMalcolm Stott.Single room supplement£395.Web quick search: NOR07103The Lofoten IslandsSperm WhalePuffin