Great Grey Owl
South of the tree line winters are shorter, so trees grow faster and taller and forests begin to appear. As the warm humid air from the South meets the cold Arctic air the moisture it carries crystallises and snowflakes fall from the sky. Each crystal forms around a particle of dust. All have a six-fold symmetry but no two have ever been found with exactly the same shape. Their variety and complexity is breathtaking.
Each snowflake is water waiting to be released in spring. For this reason, snow is the lifeblood of these forests and all that live here depend on it in one way or another. Some, like the Great Grey Owl appear in spring for the boom-times and then vanish like phantoms.
Others, like their Lemming prey, are here all year round, beneath the snow, insulated from the cold air above. The northern forests are the crossroads for seasonal visitors and Arctic specialists. But, they are so much more than this and together they make up the taiga, an unbroken belt of forest that stretches 7000 miles around our planet and contains one third of all the trees on Earth. The taiga forest marks the end of our journey through the Arctic from the frozen ocean down across the lands that surround it.