OK, let’s start from the beginning. More than anything else, especially more than a birder, I’m a photographer. As a photographer, I want to make pictures that I like, pictures that are pleasing to the eye, pictures that I find beautiful. My goal is not to make pictures that show exactly what was visible when I took them.
Our journey started in Rovaniemi. We went grocery shopping, then we headed north.
Our first house was to be an AirBnB in Sassali, near Sodankylä. We had a few hours to reach it and still arrive before dusk, so we took our time, and stopped in the Arctic Circle Hiking Area, walking a few kilometers in the forest while miraculously avoiding the rain (well, too much of it at least…).
As night fell over Finland, I went to Suomenlinna. Again. Viaporin Kekri, the night of the spirits, was organized there. The revival of an old festival of harvest, this celebration brought forth culture and history, opening hidden places to the public for all kinds of performances that exposed echoes of ancient times.
Sometimes, I come up with crazy plans, like spending the weekend 300km away, sleeping in the car during the day, and driving around during the night.
Yep, I did that in the very beginning of June, when I wanted to see Siikalahti, the so-called “best bird lake of Finland”. The name seemed oddly familiar, and I wondered whether I had visited the place during my first trip to Finland, in 2003. I had to make sure. So I drove east and north, past Kotka, Lappeenranta and Imatra, and arrived late in the night in Parikkala, under a deluge. I say “night” because of this very downpour; otherwise, nights are very bright in Finland in this period, and brighter as you go further north.
Given the weather, I had no other option than just sleep… which wasn’t as easy as it sounds like! Mind you, a Skoda Fabia is a small car, and it’s surprisingly not meant to be used as a bedroom. I struggled to find a comfortable position in the passenger seat (I didn’t find any), until exhaustion pushed me to oblivion.
This is the story of a failed endeavour turned into fruitful exploration.
Last May, I wanted to see the blossoming cherry trees. I went to Roihuvuori, where the so-called “cherry park” (Kirsikkapuisto) was opened in 2007, with trees sponsored by the Japanese community in Helsinki. Every year, the Japanese spring festival, Hanami, is celebrated there. Alas, I was one week too late, and there was nothing left in the trees. I found myself alone on the other end of the city, with the very reason why I was there, well… gone.
In September came a long-awaited journey: I traveled to Lapland to witness the famous ruska, the autumnal color bloom. Up there, it’s not only trees that turn yellow and orange: the low vegetation, berry bushes and bog grass alike, takes a different tint, sometimes purple, red or black.
I took two friends from France with me; Alexis and Sylvain were both late sleepers, but talented cooks and enthusiastic sauna-goers. I never expected to eat a home-made pizza in the middle of Lapland, but somehow it happened, and it was delicious! Together we experienced the ruska, the reindeers on the side of the road, the rain (a bit of it, and sometimes more, every day. Like Brittany), and other wonders!
This is only a first peek into this trip, a short mise en bouche, if you will. Like I said in a previous article, I’m really far behind in my picture editing, and so am I in my writing, but I want to talk about more recent things while the memory stays vivid in my mind. So I took the backwards timeline, and am going back by almost two months. Yes, I consider that “recent”. Please bear with me.
When I came back from Hungary, I found Finland somewhat warmer (warmer than before, not warmer than Budapest). It was the month of May, which means the owl chicks had left the eggs. Therefore, the adults would be outside the nest, but close, guarding the area against unwanted guests. My friend Karri, who was my guide around Hämeenlinna the summer before, has a nesting box in his garden; he invited me to check it.
He picked me up at the bus station, but first took me to Ahvenisto. There’s a beach and a swimming pool there, and both were cramped in this warm afternoon (can I use the word “torrid”? There were more than twenty degrees!); there’s also a motor race circuit, but that’s not what we were interested in.
Ahvenisto has woods as well, and a small protected area, crossed by nature trails. We were looking for Greenish warbler (Phylloscopus trochiloides) and Red-throated flycatcher (Ficedula parva), but we dipped badly, without even hearing one. Karri told me that, after this long winter, forests were unusually silent.