My spring in Suomenoja

Beware, this is a long story. This is the tale of a known place discovered again, explored and enjoyed in new ways. I’m flying today to Lapland and Varanger, for two weeks of birding and photography. Talk to you soon!

I discovered Suomenoja when I was still a student in Helsinki, three years ago. I actually do not remember how I came to know about this pond, but I was amazed by the quantity of birds, and the proximity with the exciting Horned grebe (Podiceps auritus). I was so enthusiastic I wrote a “Focus” article about this species… before you click here, be warned: I was a very early beginner at bird photography, so the photos you will see there are, well… not up to the standards I keep nowadays, let’s say.

I went again last spring, but only once: it’s a bit far from where I live (1 hour, bus or bike). In addition, I wasn’t very comfortable with the shooting method I should employ. You see, in bird photography, eye-level shooting is often primordial, to ensure connection between subject and viewer. Problem: all the target birds in Suomenoja (grebes and ducks, essentially) are waterfowl, so they glide on water, and unfortunately, water is often at a lower level than ground. There’s no way to shoot standing: one should go on their belly, close to the water’s edge, but even that’s not enough. The ideal, and that’s something I’ve dreamt about, is a floating hide, to go into the pond and have the camera just above the surface. I’m not equipped for that (yet), so the shore would have to be.

Northern shoveler (Spatula clypeata)

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FOCUS: Horned grebe

The Focus series

Definitely counting among my favorite sights in Finland, the Horned grebe (Podiceps auritus) is a small nordic water bird from the grebe family. I find it particularly beautiful, with its rufous body, black head and golden “earlike tufts” on the sides of the face (description freely adapted from the one on Wikipedia).

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Fun fact: before diving in quest for fish, the horned grebe folds up its tufts, like in the following picture.

Before diving

Before diving

I spotted the bird in Suomenoja, where there is an IBA (Important Bird and Biodiversity Area) sheltering many nesting Black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus), 3400 pairs in 2008 according to Birdlife Finland. Given the noise, you can’t really miss them when you arrive there. The site also held 17 pairs of Horned grebe in 2007, making it an important area for this species in Finland.

I was there too early for that, but I saw pictures of grebes carrying babies on their back. Would have been a sweet sight. Next time, maybe 😉

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To see more Horned grebes (and several other birds, actually), please visit my Wildlife gallery.

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