Alive again

This autumn had been hard. The year before, it had snowed a lot in Helsinki in November, but none of this this year: rain was all we got, and not a small measure of it. Particularly irritating were the sunny days during the week, when all weekends were cloudy and rainy. That allowed me to edit a lot of pictures, but the spirits were definitely not high in this period. Viaporin kekri was an interesting event, but it was as gloomy as the whole period. The festival’s motto, “end of light, beginning of darkness”, seemed particularly accurate.

But then, a few weeks later, surprisingly, the weather forecast promised “some light” during daytime, on a weekend. I readied my gear and set sail to Suomenlinna (my favourite place in Helsinki).

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Sibelius and squirrels

In Helsinki, not far from the city center, lies a park that harbors a strange monument. Sibeliuksen monumentti (Sibelius’s monument) consists of a disorderly arrangement of metallic pipes, mimicking those of an organ, resting on pillars that hold the massive sculpture above the ground.


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Wonders of Seurasaari

Seurasaari, located north-west of the center of Helsinki, is a place loved by tourists and locals alike, for it is a beautiful island where you can lose yourself in the forest. I was about to say that it’s also a patch of wilderness inside the city, but I realized the animals there are anything but wild: remember the raccoon-dog?

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FOCUS: Great spotted woodpecker

The Focus series

The Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) is a Eurasian species of woodpecker. With the European green woodpecker (Picus viridis), it’s one of the two most common woodpeckers in France. They can both be seen frequently in gardens. In Finland, there’s no Green woodpecker, but the Great spotted woodpecker is quite a common sight.

It feeds mostly on insects and larvae, which it finds in tree trunks. When hidden by the foliage, you can hear its characteristic drumming produced by its repeated blows on the wood. When flying, the flight is undulating like a passerine.


The Great spotted woodpecker is one of the numerous species of black, white and red woodpeckers. The adult male has a red spot at the back of the head, whereas the female lacks this spot.

Similar species include Syrian woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus), White-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos), Middle spotted woodpecker (Leiopicus medius) and Lesser spotted woodpecker (Dryobates minor). I saw the latter in Finland a few times. When your eye is trained, you immediatly notice the size difference between the species. Between all these species, the variations are nonetheless subtle: take a look at the color of the crown, the neck pattern or the back color.

Lesser spotted woodpecker

Lesser spotted woodpecker

I was walking in a wood near Herttoniemi, eastern Helsinki, when I heard unceasing chirping in the trees. Going further, I noticed several cavities in a single tree. I suspected the presence of a nest in one the holes when an adult woodpecker appeared, fed the babies and left. The nest was definitely in camera range, so I readied it and waited. I waited maybe 15 minutes, and just when I was wondering whether it was to come back, it arrived to feed the younglings once more. I got some interesting shots, and then a few others. Both times it was the male coming.


I had never witnessed this before, but I spotted two other nests in Nuuksio and one in Seurasaari, where one chick was strong enough to show up out the cavity.

A cavity in Nuuksio

A cavity in Nuuksio


The young woodpecker taking a peek outside


In Seurasaari, I observed a bird roaming near mangers aimed at squirrels, along with tits and chaffinches (cover picture).

> Wildlife gallery