End of light…

… beginning of darkness.

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.

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Reindeers, Ruska & Revontulet

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.

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Cold but bright

Now that I’m finished with Hungary, I decided I would post some more recent stuff (Marci will like that :p). Therefore, from now on we will follow two timelines in parallel: the one we’ve always followed, which continues, and a new one, which starts now (I haven’t decided yet whether it would go forward or backwards… maybe both, which would actually make a total of three timelines… :D). Don’t get lost!

Autumn had been quite interesting. No real cold spell, but a lot of rain. Sometimes, it had rained for three days straight, and each morning, on my way to the office, I could see the ditches were fuller and fuller. Last weekend, at last, the skies cleared and the temperature dropped close to zero. I had been forced to postpone an excursion with my friend Mark two weekends in a row, because it was raining all the time, but finally, this was our chance!

I offered him to join me during the morning, but to my great surprise, he said he would join me on my sunrise-seeking trip. We arrived in Viikki at 7.30, long before the actual sunrise time. So we walked to the edge of the reedbed, following paths I now know by heart. I showed him some birds, like this Blackbird (Turdus merula) singing on a wood pole by the side on the duckboards. Well, in the dark of the woods, we could barely distinguish its outline, but we heard it loud and clear!

Leaves fell around us, and I was startled every time one reached the ground. “Is there a bird foraging on the ground? Was there something up there that made it fall in the first place?”. But no, most of the time the leaves had decided to fall on their own.

No crazy hue colored the clouds when the sun came, but the view from the bird tower was nice.

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Before the storm

It was still autumn. Sure, there were fewer golden leaves on the trees, and it was getting colder, but nothing announced the forthcoming storm. I was out, looking for the elusive Siberian accentor (Prunella montanella), first in Vuosaari, then in Myyrmäki. I followed tenuous paths, wandered through secret places, and ultimately found the bird. Oh it was a short sighting, and most of the time I only saw its rufous back, when it fled my approach from one bush to the other. But still, from the distance I saw this wonderful yellow face, and that made my day.

Below are some pictures from these glorious days in Helsinki, in Keskuspuisto, Vuosaari and Honkasuo. I admired the squirrels, in their grey winter coat, cautiously coming near the feeders, or the thrushes, Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) and Redwings (Turdus iliacus) alike, feasting on rowan berries, like the Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) before them.

Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

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And there was autumn

When I left France, we were barely leaving summer. Nights were getting fresh, but the only hints of orange in the forest came from dead trees, those which didn’t survive the latest heat wave.

I feared I would arrive in Helsinki after the end of the autumn colors, what they call here “ruska”. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, and the ruska was in full swing! So I took a walk on my first day, going from Munkkivuori to Ilmala, visiting a patch of kitchen gardens, a residential area, a park and a forest. Yes, I did not even leave Helsinki, yet I did all this in one afternoon.


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Owls Predict, Oracles Stand Guard

A few weeks ago, I saw on Facebook pictures of a Long-eared owl (Asio otus) taken in Vestre Kirkegård, a large cemetery in Copenhagen. It’s not far from where I live, so I decided I would take a look one day, when I have time and the weather is sunny. By asking the people who had posted online, I gathered information on how to find the bird without troubling it too much. Long-eared owls are nocturnal birds (not all owls are!), therefore they can be sensitive to day disturbance (there was a debate about that in the Danish birding Facebook group). I was kindly provided the precise location of a sighting (I was asked not to share it, so I won’t), so I was ready to grasp any opportunity to visit this cemetery.

These last days had been quite gloomy, but when I woke up this morning, the sun was shining. Incredulous, I checked the weather forecast, where I discovered it was going to be sunny all day long. OK, let’s do it!
So first, a warning: when dmi.dk shows the picture of a sun without any cloud, that actually means “sun with many clouds in the sky”. Not that it was unpleasant compared to the beginning of the week, but it was not really what I expected…


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