Hills of Lapland

I landed in Ivalo in early evening. The aircraft’s door opened to a fine weather, partly sunny, partly cloudy, bathing in warm light. I picked up the car, went grocery shopping, and drove to the shore of Akujärvi. I had heard about some nice bird observations on that lake, and wanted to find a place to camp there. Following a track I had noticed on Google Maps, I found a lean-to shelter next to the water.

I suddenly found myself too lazy to set the tent up, so I slept in the shelter itself. It was cold, but that’s not what made it hard to rest there: whenever I closed my eyes, it seemed like a bird decided to fly or call very close to my shelter… and every time, I opened my eyes, just to be sure I was not missing anything exceptional! That way, I spotted a pair of Bean geese (Anser fabalis) flying over the lake, and felt very connected to the nature around me, but in the morning I was already pretty tired.

My shelter

After this sunny night, I met my friends-with-a-feeder in Ivalo; I saw the same species as in autumn, but they all sported more colorful plumages.

Common redpoll (Acanthis flammea)
Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)
Eurasian siskin (Spinus spinus)

I loved the deep green background I got in my photos, which made for a third different mood in as many visits to this place of wonders. The greatest surprise came in the guise of a Pine grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator): I thought this was a bird that visited feeders only in winter, and stayed hidden in the forest in summer… apparently some of them enjoy an easy meal from time to time 😉 The green background feels really odd on this “winter” bird, and I don’t think I have ever seen a similar feature on a grosbeak picture.

Pine grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator)
Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), female
Common redpoll

I had a fantastic time.

Common redpoll
Eurasian siskin
Willow tit (Poecile montanus)
Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)
Common redpoll

Finnish word of the day: tunturi = hill (in Lapland)

That’s a word I like, for what it sounds like and what it represents. It reminds me of my childhood also, and this peculiar moment that got stuck inside my head: I was a kid then, and I had probably never heard of Finland, when a friend of my dad’s, a certain Nora Tunturi, visited us. Tunturi was not her real name of course, but she carried in her luggage a piece of the North, a book depicting Santa Claus’ workshops somewhere up there, and the little elf helpers. This book left a brilliant trace in my memory!

By the way, in case you wonder: Santa Claus’ home is most definitely Finland. No doubt to have about this 😉

So, whenever I get to go to the tunturi, I’m happy. That day, I had precise instructions on how to find Rock ptarmigans (Lagopus muta): climb up to Kiilopää, and then go left. There, on the slopes of the hill, look for a splash of white color, for the ptarmigans do not yet have their summer plumage. And sure thing, I found one!

Rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta)

I spotted this male as it foraged in the tundra, but, after my initial approach, it settled near a pile of rocks and started preening. It was great because it stood against a background that was far away, creating a soft, regular bokeh.

Rock ptarmigan
Rock ptarmigan

I tried to include more environment into my shots, with the tunturi behind giving a hint at what a ptarmigan’s habitat might be. Unfortunately, the sun shone at that time and light was very hard.

Rock ptarmigan

I went to sleep early in the evening, to be up early in the morning and hit the road in search of grouses. That didn’t work out so well, even though I met a few Mountain hares (Lepus timidus) in their summer coat.

Mountain hare (Lepus timidus)

However, a walk along a small river produced the first Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica) of the trip, and a confident Willow warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus). I also talked to a couple of birders from Switzerland, who directed me to a spot where one can see Little buntings (Emberiza pusilla). I stopped there on the way north, and with the help of a man from Canada-Australia and one from Grenoble, my home town, we found a male singing from the top of a pine tree. First lifer of the trip! A good one, even without a photo.

Willow warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Willow warbler

Later, I would witness a spectacular wader display… but that’s a story for another day. Stay tuned 😉


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10 thoughts on “Hills of Lapland

  1. Ney! Everyone knows Santa Claus keeps a flat in Finland for the season, but he actually lives in the Samoas. Wonderful scenery and shots. Love that shelter. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Superbes rencontres Samuel dans un lieu vraiment splendide.
    Je crois que je n’aurais pas monté la tente non plus.
    Merci pour ce partage.
    Dimanche j’ai entendu le lagopède, mais je ne l’ai pas vu!
    Grandiose ce ciel nuageux 🙂
    Bonne journée

    Liked by 1 person

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