Prince of the woods

Hello world! I’m in Norway for a week, with my friend Marci, chasing arctic birds along the Russian border or on the Barents Sea. This is kind of a luxury trip, as we have internet in the evenings to share our adventures in real time 😀

Pine grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator)

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White wings of Hanko

Hanko, a small and isolated town, is located at the southernmost point of mainland Finland. When we told our colleagues that we would go there in winter, Miguel and I saw bemused expressions on their faces: “Hanko, now?”, “There nothing to do in Hanko in winter”… Not something to scare us, of course. I’m quite amused when I do something people wouldn’t even consider, even more so when I enjoy it!

Miguel had downloaded an app for geocaching, so immediately after leaving the train, we began our quest, and found a capsule in a tree, where we wrote our names. Alas, after finding a second one next to the water tower, our other targets remained invisible. Now, though, we can say we have done geocaching.

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Colors of winter

When people think about the Finnish winter, their first thought usually is: “snow”. And then, when they get to know the country a little bit more, especially the south of it, they think: “grey”. Yes, snow but not enough to cover everything, and then it melts quickly, creating this depressing pools of slush stirred by the passage of cars and buses. Not to mention the clouds.

I totally understand this feeling: I love snow, I love to see it fall and hide the roads, and attenuate all the sounds. I love the sight of a city wrapped in a blanket of peace, and I always get distressed when temperatures rise again. When snow stops falling, I hate to see those endless, boring grey skies, and I start dreaming about sunny days. Or more snow. Usually I dream about a return of the snow.

When I went to Kontiolahti to view the Biathlon World Championship, I saw a wonderful sunset over the frozen lake, and it was a revelation: there is beauty out there, waiting for me!

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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).

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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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From sunrise to sunset by -20°C, part 2

On the day after, I was due to visit Suomenlinna with a birdwatching tour organized by Tringa, the local bird protection society. However, I already knew that conditions would be very different, with temperatures rising and the sun disappearing behind a veil of snow. So, after Miguel left me (click here to read the first part of the story), I embarked south. I didn’t really expect to arrive in the midst of a fairytale.

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From sunrise to sunset by -20°C, part 1

Mr. Winter this year is lunatic and, to be honest, rather frustrating: one day it snows (a lot), and you start believing in the possibility to go skiing, finally… except that the day after, the temperature rises above 0°C, and everything melts. Everything? No, some parks and sidewalks resist eternally against the pervading warmth, but trees are bare again, and streets are slushy brown. It’s not fun.

Purple hour

Purple hour

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Frozen

Maybe the title of this article has reminded you of the Disney film of the same name. Maybe the theme song is now stuck in your head (I know people who hate that). I have never seen the movie, but I’m pretty sure the following interpretation is among the best you can find…

OK, now that I have delivered my joke, let’s move on. Snow has become a rarity in Copenhagen, and tempereatures rarely drop below zero during the day. However, nights are still fresh, and when you travel early in the morning, you see frozen water everywhere. That’s unfortunately a bit cold for birds, we will have to wait before we see the first migrants, but I joined a DOF tour to HellebĂŚk nonetheless. Weather forecasts were not really optimistic, and it was snowing when I woke up, but the sun wanted to be a witness of this day, so it chased the clouds away when I arrived to the north of SjĂŚlland. Still, it wasn’t very strong, so every blade of grass was encased in frost, and so were the few ponds scattered in the fields.hellebĂŚk

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Seized by winter

Winter, finally! Now that 2015 is over, we can leave behind us these warm days and dive into a world of frost and crystal-clear skies, a world of dancing snow flakes and cold Siberian air. I’ve been back to Copenhagen for only two weeks, and I’ve tasted multiples flavours of the season: I have biked under the falling snow, on the treacherous melting snow, between sheets of ice and against a biting gale, I have chased birds on a snowy, sunny beach and in the fog.

flyvestation

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Birds at the feeder

Winter can be rough for birds. Days are cold, nights are long and colder, and food may be hard to find. Songbirds, which usually feed on insects during spring and summer, switch to seeds when the autumn comes and the resources become scarce. That makes it way easier for us, well fed humans, to give them a hand during this bad period.

At home, we have fed birds for years, enjoying this incredible festival of claws and feathers while having breakfast or lunch, well hidden in our warm house. From my experience, pure sunflower seeds is the most appreciated food, along with peanuts and all kinds of vegetal fat preparation. If I remember well, robins like oat, and blackbirds like apples. The only time we gave them some kind of seed mix, the birds ate the sunflower and left the rest aside.

I was always told to feed birds only during winter (mid-November to mid-March in France), and that’s also what the LPO (the French bird protection association) advocates. On the other hand, the British RSPB and the American Cornell Lab of Ornithology say you can feed them all year long. Check the links for many tips and tricks about feeding birds.

I haven’t lived at home for three and a half year, but my parents have never stopped feeding birds. I was very glad to see these hords of tits, goldfinches and nuthatches roam around, either sitting at the feeder or picking a seed and them flying away to eat it, hidden in the bushes.

Twice I sat two or three meters from the main feeder, next to the hedge, to shoot the birds. I regret I couldn’t spend more time at home, because I feel like they would have grown accustomed to my presence, had I been able to stay there longer.  I also regret that these two shooting sessions happened on two cloudy days, but well…
The Blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) were the boldest birds, always the first one and most numerous to come.

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Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)

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