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