Fillefjell, summer 2011

During April 2011 a special phenomenon took place on Fillefjell and other mountain areas across Norway. Lemmings started to show up on the snow; first a few, but soon in numbers I have never seen before! They could be seen all over, hastily crossing extensive snow fields, ski tracks, rivers, lakes, and roads. Sometimes you had to be careful in the ski tracks not to override the small creatures. The lemmings seemed to be continuously on their way to “everywhere”, and many were killed during road crossings. Some of the major roads, such as E16 crossing Fillefjell, became dark-dotted and slippery due to the number of dead lemmings on the road. Luckily, high numbers of lemmings survived the spring and summer, and supplied abundant food for stout, foxes, ravens and birds of prey. This had a positive effect on the number of hares, ptarmigans, and passerines, who were less vulnerable to predators due to the availability of lemmings.

Despite abundant lemmings and other food sources, finding a continuous supply of food can be a challenge for foxes and other predators. Foxes are known to eat everything but one early morning I saw that the red fox is truly omnivorous. I was asleep but heard aggressive sounds from magpies just outside our second home. Sometimes they tease the foxes like this and I went to see if this was the case. I carefully looked out of the window – and what did I see? A red fox was balancing on top of the fence two meters away, eating sunflower seeds meant for the small birds! Two magpies were teasing him as much as they could. Judging from the look in the fox’s face it was obvious he was not comfortable with the situation. He was not afraid of the magpies but they quite clearly annoyed him. He was obviously not too happy with the food either –sunflower seeds were not among his favorite foods, but were still food. The fox was making his face while trying to swallow the hard, dry seeds. He stood on top of the fence for quite a long time though, allowing me to get some shots through the window. The fox and the magpies were completely unaware they were being watched by me and the rest of the family. When the fox finally decided to leave he went hunting for mice or lemmings in the field close to our cabin.

The stout (røyskatt) could be seen many times through the summer, probably due to availability of lemmings and other food. Sometimes we were able to watch them for half an hour or so, continuously and systematically searching for food in the bushes. Although shy, they are also curious, and sometimes they showed up 1-2 meters from where we stood waiting with our cameras. Some of the images are shown below.

During the summer we also took notice of the diversity of mountain flowers, butterflies, dragonflies and other insects. During the hikes we often met flocks of reindeer. A selection of images can be seen below.