Wader show

I’m at an erotusaita, near Karigasniemi. This is the place where reindeers are herded, marked, and separated to be slaughtered for meat. But it’s deserted. I’m surrounded by all sorts of small cabins that form an uncanny assortment, while on one side I see high fences marking out large enclosures. No trace of the beasts, though. Either they are already roaming free, or they haven’t left their winter farm. In any case, I’m alone. The sight is eerie.

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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.

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You’re cheating, it’s photoshopped!

Well, yes. What did you expect?

Eurasian siskin (Spinus spinus)

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.

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Here are the birds

We checked in at BIRK Husky, a place well known to the birding community for its feeders, which offer great opportunities to meet the local fauna, and particularly the taiga specialities.

Right after waking up, on my way to the toilets, I saw two Siberian tits (Poecile cinctus) at the feeders. A bit later, I spotted three or four squirrels in the vicinity, some chasing each other in the trees while other peacefully enjoyed sunflower seeds from the feeders. That was before birds woke up: usually, they are active at dawn, but that day it seemed that activity peaked a bit later, and the morning was slow to start.

Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

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What’s in a pic

Two weeks ago, I made a picture that I felt was great, and which is undoubtedly my greatest accomplishment from a purely technical point of view. It was this portrait of a Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus).

seurasaari-4
Today, I want to explore the path that led me to it: how I created it, what I find so great in it, and what it means to me. So let’s go!

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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.

helsinki-6

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My Denmark: one year in a flat country

A year ago, I arrived in Copenhagen as a student, and settled in Tingbjerg, somewhere half-way between the center of the city and the university, located in Lyngby. My passion for birds had reignited a couple of months before, when I had bought my telelens, and I knew I would want to see birds there. I didn’t really have any expectation, but I found that the local bird protection society, DOF (Dansk Ornitologisk Forening), had a website with many birding spots located and explained.

I discovered that one of those, Utterslev Mose, was located next to my new dorm. What a great way to start!

Mute swan (Cygnus olor)

Mute swan (Cygnus olor)

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Birding & mosquitoes

Finnish word of the day: vene = boat

I have waited for this moment since I arrived in Denmark, it seems, almost a year ago, but here we are: I’m spending the summer in Helsinki. While I am looking for a job, I have plenty of time to go out and see things… yes, mostly birds of course 😉

After the concert of Black Sabbath, I spent a few days at Jaana’s mökki (what, you don’t remember what a mökki is? Hop, take a look!), where I saw a family of Black-throated divers (Gavia arctica) every day.

Valajärvi

Valajärvi

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Insects for lunch

After two days of adventures on our own (see the updated map), the last day in Bornholm was to be in good company: Alex’s stepfather had arranged a meeting with Mogens, a birder from the island. Our journey started in a farm in the south-east of the island: we met a small group of birders there, and the owner offered us a tour to see the rookery established for years in the trees behind the farm. We learnt many anecdotes there, with clear explanations given in English especially for me (thank you!). Rooks (Corvus frugilegus) nest there, but they leave for the winter, feeding on the coast of Bornholm.

After this interesting morning, we drove to Svaneke (I was still behind the wheel), where Mogens offered us a generous lunch. I tasted some delicious marinated herring from Christiansø. I will remember it for a long time! The most exciting thing at Mogens’ home, though, was the garden: in nesting boxes, I found a pair of Common starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) and a pair of Common redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus).

Common starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Common starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

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