En vrac, which roughly translates as “loose” or “in bulk”, because I haven’t had much success in photography recently, at least nothing worth a good story. So here are a few pictures from the last weeks. Spring has arrived to Denmark, and I’ll soon have new material to show you 🙂
As a new year is about to start, we see flashbacks on 2015 pop every there and then. I’ve just discovered that WordPress offers you a summary of your blog’s year, if you type /2015/annual-report/ after the address.
What does it tell me?
A tramway in San Francisco can transport 60 persons. My blog was visited 1500 times this year. If every visitor was to take this tramway, it would have to make 25 trips to carry everyone.
Here is the full report (might be in French). Of course that’s the summary of only half a year of blogging, as I published my first article on the 18th of June.
Nevertheless, this has been a very enlightening experience for me, I learnt a lot while writing. The most successful articles were Owls Predict, Oracles Stand Guard, Icy sunrise, Helsinki, beautiful city, Foggy day and Staunings Ø, but I’m sure 2016 will bring new exciting adventures!
The other day, I was walking in Utterslev Mose when I saw a heron fly down a canal, in the direction of the main path. When I got there, on the small bridge, I couldn’t find it! I hadn’t seen it fly away, so I was a bit surprised, but that was nothing compared to the moment when I realized it had in fact landed a mere three meters from the bridge; I was looking for it much farther! So here I was, standing on a bridge, basically on a bike lane, with a young heron hunting near the bank a few meters away. Fortunately, few people were in the vicinity, so the bird was far from frightened, and I was not at a too high risk of being trampled by a careless biker.
I was traveling last week, birdwatching on the windy shores of the North Sea. Before that, I went to Staunings Ø (map) with a group of birders, for a stunning morning.
I arrived early on site, and was greeted by the rising sun. Playing with the clouds, it displayed all possible shades of orange. Needless to say that I was delighted; the early wake up was worth it.
French word of the day: lièvre = hare
When I arrived in Finland, I lived in Lauttasaari before moving to my appartment in the city center. On this quiet island, there are many parks, and I was surprised to see hares roaming on the grass, in plain sight. Moreover, one could get quite close to them without seeing it move. In France, I can spot rabbits from the terrace of my house, but hares are usually shier.
The species we’re talking about is the European hare (Lepus europaeus). Native from a region including Europe and parts of Central Asia, it has been introduced to many parts of the world, such as Patagonia or Australia.
It is related to the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), and people often mistake one for the other. The hare is larger and has longer ears and hind legs. Because of these long legs, when it walks, it kinda looks like a kangaroo…
Moreover, hares breed in a hollow on the ground rather than in burrows. In Europe, the European hare has a cousin called Mountain hare (Lepus timidus). Smaller, it turns completely white during winter, like a Stoat or an Arctic fox. I currently have no picture of rabbit nor Mountain hare, but I found this nice picture (unknown author) on the almighty Internet which shows well the differences between hare and rabbit.
In June, I was walking in Otaniemi (in Espoo, near Helsinki) in the end of a rainy afternoon, when I met three hares foraging near a small parking. They were not overly afraid of me (like most Finnish animals, it seems), and I spent a lot of time shooting them. I was delighted to discover how they devour tall grass: they cut one blade of grass, and then swallow it bit by bit, like spaghetti! Funny…
BONUS: in Saint Petersburg, there’s an island called Hare Island. It’s situated in the Peter and Paul Fortress, and is supposed to shelter hares. I saw none alive, but met a larger kind of hare…
French word of the day: canicule = heat wave
These days, Europe is suffering from a heat wave. In France, temperatures have reached at least 40°C. What is really hard to bear, and also is a characteristic of heat waves, is the night temperature, which doesn’t decrease very much. As Wikipedia says, heat accumulates more in daytime than it evacuates during nighttime. There is no universal definition for heat waves, as it depends on the climate of a certain area. For instance, in Toulouse, in the south-west of France, we say that there’s a heat wave if the temperatures reach 36°C during the day while not going under 21°C during the night. I guess it’s more or less the same in Grenoble.
At home, we really take care of opening windows during the night and closing everything as soon as the outside temperature overcomes the temperature inside the house. To escape the heat, I also try to go out early in the morning. This Saturday, I woke up at 3.30 to go walking in the mountains. I met a friend in Vif, and together we headed to Col vert (“the green pass”, literally). The area is supposed to be a really good spot for mountain species while being quite easy to access. In the car, along the road, we saw two roe deers (Capreolus capreolus) and a Beech marten (Martes foina).
The walk (I tried to made it clear so that you understand it with the text; feel free to ask if you have any doubt)
We started to walk at 5.30 with the rising day. Even if we were quite high in altitude, the air was abnormally warm, and it was an unpleasant hike. Still, there were some birds around, among them thrushes and blackbirds on the path and Eurasian blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) singing in the trees. We visited a tree formerly occupied by a Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus), but the holes in the trunk were empty. Afterwards, we left the forest for open meadows covered by Apiaceae plants, these flowers sheltering countless insects, including bees. Above us, we spotted a male Common rock thrush (Monticola saxilis), displaying from a rock, but it was far away. In the sky, a Common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) was circling, and we also saw a Rock bunting (Emberiza cia) singing. What a beautiful bird!
We stopped in a field, overlooking Saint-Paul de Varces and the urban area of Grenoble. We were waiting for the Ring ouzel (Turdus torquatus), a close relative to the blackbird which is very common in the area. However, we could not see any, and the area was not very active anyway. Were the birds stunned by the heat? The Tree pipit (Anthus trivialis) was however omnipresent.
When we were getting dispirited, an Alpine marmot’s (Marmota marmota) cry woke us up. We turned round and discovered a gorgeous Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) patrolling above the ridge. The kestrel attacked it a bit later, probably trying to move it away from its younglings, but the eagle, unshakeable, simply followed its course. We saw it go to the south, then north again, but I failed my picture attempt, for I was not in “animal photography” mode. What a shame, but what a sight!
We decided not to go to the pass, but to go to a spot renowned for the presence of the wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria). We climbed in boulders to close on the cliff, sat and looked up. After some time it showed up but did not stay long. The sun was already high in the sky, the stifling heat of the last days back, so we went down the mountain to find shelter at home. On our way, we visited the Tichodrome, a fauna shelter healing a lot of injured birds, including many birds of prey. By the way, tichodrome is the French name of the wallcreeper…
> Full gallery of the day
The Lake Luitel nature reserve, situated at 1600 meters of altitude, consists of two mires, one completely closed while the other is still a small lake (the so-called Lake Luitel, which looks more like a pond in my opinion). Some ten thousand years ago, a glacier was covering the area, digging depressions in the rock. When the climate warmed up, these depression were filled with water, and conquered by vegetation. Peat mosses accumulated there, forming evergrowing rafts which tended to cover the whole water area.
The two mires appeared at the same time, but they evolved at different speeds because of their difference in depth. The “pass mire” is a bog, which means that it receives water only from precipitation. It is higher than the surrounding landscape (although it’s not obvious when you are on site) and hosts mountain pines. Lake Luitel is a fen, as it resides in a depression and also receives groundwater.
This kind of mire is quite rare so far to the south. Because it is situated next to a road leading to a major ski resort (Chamrousse), the area is threatened by the huge amount of salt used during winter.
I was there at around 9.30 in the morning. Fortunately, it was not so hot, thanks to the altitude. I was greeted by a flock of Coal tits (Periparus ater) and a Goldcrest (Regulus regulus). As I walked on duckboards in the bog, I was suddenly surrounded by Long-tailed tits (Aegithalos caudatus) feeding in the pines. There were a few fluffy younglings, and also a Willow tit (Poecile montanus). Later, as I was going around the lake, I observed several young Coal tits in the woods and reeds. They were not really afraid of me, so I managed a few nice shots. Overall, it was quite difficult to take pictures of the birds: the autofocus was a bit lost because of the numerous branches and leaves, and the birds were often too far to use manual autofocus, for I could not tell with the eye whether the pic was going to be blurred or sharp. I also spotted a Crested tit (Lophophanes cristatus), high in the pines.
I went back to the bog, and noticed a colorful bird on top of a pine. It was a male Common redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus). I observed it hunting insects in the loose wood of pines, then it entered a cavity in a dead tree. I waited to see if it was to come back, and after a long time, it did! I think the bird had a nest there.
This happened two days ago. Today I went to “Bois de la Bâtie”, a wooded area surrounding an oxbow lake, an old meander that got cut off the river. The reserve is near Grenoble, in the valley. Even though I was there at 7.30 in the morning, the sun was already ardent, and the heat was barely bearable out of the shade. Next time, I’m going to the mountain again!
16th of June 2015. My last day in Finland. Indeed, I was to fly to France the day after, early in the morning. The weather was said to be good this day, so I decided to go birdwatching. My last experience in Nuuksio, in the middle of the day, exhorted me to go in the morning. The problem is, in Finland in June, the sun rises early in the morning. By this I mean, very early, like 4 am. Well, this was my last day, so I set my alarm clock to 4, slept four hours and got out of bed full of enthusiasm.
I had decided to go again to Laajalahti, a small nature reserve next to Otaniemi, where I resided. I left home at around 5. Birds were singing everywhere, and everything else was very quiet. During holidays, the campus is very peaceful.
The site: Laajalahti nature reserve, Espoo
From Otaniemi, you can access it from Konemiehentie. The closest bus stop is Konemies.
Even before reaching the reserve itself, and while the woods were still dark, I was greeted by an unknow birdsong. After playing some hide-and-seek with the bird, I identified an Icterine warbler (Hippolais icterina). It’s not common sight for me, so I thought that the day was starting perfectly. It was high, restless and camouflaged in the foliage, so I did not even try to take a picture. A Willow warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) was also present, and gulls were circling abovehead.
After turning in the reserve, you find yourself on a path lined with birches, with reed areas to both your left and your right. This area favors the observation of warblers and European reed buntings (Emberiza schoeniclus), and the White wagtail (Motacilla alba) likes to walk on the path. I spent almost an hour on these 500 meters, trying to catch a glimpse of birds wandering in the reeds. I identified a Sedge warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus), but was confused by another furtive warbler: in my opinion, it was either a Eurasian reed warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus), a Marsh warbler (Acrocephalus palustris) or a Blyth’s reed warbler (Acrocephalus dumetorum). Since it was bustling in the reed, I suspect it was the first one, but I can’t be sure.
A snipe was singing from a dead tree. It looked like a Common snipe (Gallinago gallinago), but I was not totally convinced it was not a Great snipe (Gallinago media). However, when I was in the birdwatching tower, a bird landed on the rail, showing me its white belly. It was a Common snipe, a few meters from me, and it started to sing as if it was completely alone. It left after I got nice shots of it. In the water below were many ducks, gulls, Grey herons (Ardea cinerea) and Caspian terns (Hydroprogne caspia).
Further on in the reserve, the path turns into a duckboard trail,
between the forest and the meadows by the seashore. Although the fields were not very lively, many passerines were active in the trees. Lesser whitethroat (Sylvia curruca), Great tit (Parus major), Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus), Blackbird (Turdus merula) and Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris), but above all, I saw for the first time the Common rosefinch (Carpodacus erythrinus). The first individual I glimpsed was unusual, with a grey-brownish cap, whereas in my book it was supposed to be red. Later, I saw a pair or normal individuals, so I was able to mark the tick. I finally saw the unusual individual again, and noticed that it was singing exactly as the ones before, so I suppose it was a rosefinch.
It was a great last morning in Finland (although I’m coming back for a few days in early August). The end of the day did not prove disappointing either, with a fantastic show from Gojira at The Circus. What a day…
The pictures can be seen in my gallery Wildlife