Blog Site by Appointment to His Regal Majesty the Maalie King

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Arctic Equinox

With the proximity of the Autumn Equinox, I once again experienced those innermost stirrings which pulled me to the Arctic in order to bid the Sun farewell on His sojourn to the Southern Hemisphere. And so it was Ryanair to Tampere in Finland in order to get as far north as was practicable in the conditions. One aim was to find the mysterious Siberian Jay, which I missed on my previous trip to Lapland.

My route north was by the Karelia Way along the border with Russia, and on the second day I was entering the circumpolar taiga forest ecosystem and spotting typical taiga bird species such as Black-throated Diver, Smew, Goldeneye, Northern Grey Shrike, Hazel Grouse and Black Woodpecker. I pitched camp close to the Oulanka National Park which is an outstanding wilderness area with mountains, forests, lakes, streams and deep ravines with spectacular rapids and waterfalls. In September many of the summer birds had already migrated south and the forest sounded eerily quiet but nevertheless there were waterfowl like Velvet Scoter and divers to be found on the lakes, and Black Grouse and Willow Tits in the forest.

Rapids through a gorge in the Oulanka National Park
Forging north towards the Lapp town of Ivalo, I felt I was in the heart of the taiga ecosystem when I reached the Urho Kekkonen National Park. This park has a number of nature trails of varying lengths, and I set out on the longest, aptly named the "Siberian Jay Trail", with high expectations. It was from raised ground in this park that I was able to gain some comprehension of the vastness of the taiga ecosystem which, from my viewpoint, spanned as far as the eye could see, from horizon to horizon.
The taiga extends beyond the horizon continuously into Asia and around the north pole

Depressions in the taiga ecosystem become filled with water and sphagnum mosses and form the mires beloved of wading birds, cranes and waterfowl





The dominant tree species in the taiga is the Siberian Spruce that has evolved with downward sloping branches so that snow may slide off without too much damage to the tree






unlike this birch tree whose branch has been broken by the weight of winter snow.


A couple of reindeer emerge from the forest
Suddenly I heard some raucous bird calls I was not familiar with. Could they belong to the elusive Siberian Jay I was so keen to see? Shortly a family party of these small crows with reddish wings and tails crossed the track in front of me and I was able to watch them feeding on berries of the forest at close range!

This Siberian Jay posed briefly for a photograph!

THE LAST SUPPER

With the "birding essential" completed it was time to consider the serious aspect of my visit to Lapland. I was aiming for the shores of Lake Inari that lies 162 miles (260 km) north of the Arctic Circle and I reached it as the wind turned to the north I encountered the first frost and there was ice on my tent at night. The rituals are known to Courtiers (The Royal Maalie Court: Manual of Ancient Customs and Practices, Vol. 1, page 1). They involved the final supper before turning south.




Communion with the land: reindeer meat stew with root vegetables






Communion with the lakes: fresh perch






Communion with the forest: these sweet- tasting cloudberries (red) and bilberries (black) carpeted the forest floor at this time of year



Sunset over Lake Inari which in a matter of weeks will be cloaked in darkness and ice

For the route south I adopted the well-worn route of Santa's Road which led to Santa's Village at Rovaniemi situated right on the Arctic Circle. The village is a marvellously constructed affair with displays of all things Yuletide to scrutinise. I was really quite impressed though, for my taste, there were far too many nauseating kids around. Maybe it would be better on a weekday when they are all in school.

I could scarcely conceal my astonishment that among the racks of tree decorations and cuddly reindeer, with strains of "Rudlof the Red-nosed Reindeer" filling the air, there was also a cabinet where you could buy reindeer meat! I looked for a red nose but it must have been sold already.






The "Official" Arctic Circle, location of Santa's Village










The route south took me to the west of Finland down the Gulf of Bothnia in the Baltic Sea. A birder's "must see" is the Liminganlahti Bay, just south of Oulu which is the primary Finnish wetland for breeding and migrating birds. Althought the breeding season was well over, I was able to add migrating Common Crane, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Bluethroat and Lesser Whitethroat to my bird list.

I made time to spend a day in the wonderful Seitseminen National Park that I had visited on my two previous visits to Finland. There are some excellent hiking trails and on this occasion my 16 km route revealed the changing colours of the birch trees.

The Seitseminen National Park in its Autumn glory

Sunset over the Baltic. I noted that the sun set a couple of degrees north of west; in a few days it will set due west, and then slide away to the south until it commences its return at the Winter Solstice

My route:

North from Tampere via Jyvaskjla, Kuopio, Iisalmi, to camp nr Suveka (1 night). Kajaani, Suomussalmi then minor road 843 to Kuusamo then Juuma for camp (2 nights). Minor road 950 via Salla and Savukovski to Sodankyla. Through Ivalo to Inari (2 nights). South 955 to Kittila, 79 to Rovaniemi, 78 and 924 to Simo, camp just South from Oihava. Main road to Himanka, camped near Lohtaja. Kokkola, Seinajoki to camp at Parkano. Via 332 to Kuru and Tampere.

31 Comments:

Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

maalie.... you always go to the most interesting places! Your photos show such a beautiful side of Finland!

7:24 pm  
Blogger May said...

Beautiful pics!
(Sigh. I want to go there too, NOW)

8:07 pm  
Blogger Tina said...

Welcome back Maalie! Beautiful pictures as usual and I am glad you got to see the Siberian Jay. What a lovely and up close picture you got of it!

Did you see the Northern Lights? I have always wanted to see that.

9:59 pm  
Blogger Martin Stickland said...

Love that sunset over the Baltic, looks like you had a great time (but a little bit cold?)

Would love to be there!

10:21 pm  
Blogger Ju's little sister said...

Quite nice Maalie. Good job ;-)

10:25 pm  
Blogger simon said...

yes what can one say:- great trip/great photos/great report!

3:47 am  
Blogger Merisi said...

Mission accomplished, congratulations!
Now I am really worried that you will be disappointed by that tiny refuge down there in Italy.
I read this article in today's Washington Post:
Climate Change Brings Risk of More Extinctions, I am sure you know more than the journalist who wrote it.

7:10 am  
Blogger Merisi said...

Maalie,
would you please have a look at my spring house post? I would need some help with translation.
Mille grazie! :-)

8:21 am  
Blogger Ju's little sister said...

Voted for you on word imperfect. Nice one I like that. I don't even play golf!!!

I was thrilled to win on my first attempt!! (Dotard, if you care...) but haven't been nominated since.

We have a llama at work as well and I have him watching and voting on the site, though he hasn't been brave enough to attempt a definition yet. I think he's intimidated by Lorenzo's user name...

11:32 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Too many nauseating kids'?
Haven't you just had your first grandchild?

Apart from that, great pictures of autumn. I can't wait for it to arrive here in Tokyo. It seems a long way off, it was over 30 degrees here today.

Jack

1:24 pm  
Anonymous May said...

A grandchild? That's great news.
Male or female?

6:20 pm  
Anonymous Ellee said...

I am envious of all your travels, but I am glad you know how to enjoy life, and delighted you saw your Siberian Jay. You've taken some fantastic pics too, it's been a delight to read.

7:19 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Thanks to all for comments.

May, it's a boy. That makes it the fifth consecutive generation of first-born sons (at least, as I have no records before my own grandfather). Now let me see, the probability of that is...errrm... 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5 = 0.031. That is statistically significant wouldn't you say?

8:09 pm  
Anonymous May said...

CONGRATULATIONS!

Oh yes, it is quite a rare event. When was he born?
Does he carry your first name as a second name?

You should ask the parents the permission to post a photo of him - babies are so cute.

8:18 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

May, Saturday. Better than that, my first name is his FIRST name. The first and second names have run alternately through the five generations!

8:33 pm  
Anonymous may said...

WOW!

8:36 pm  
Blogger TCA said...

Photo of James junior
Here

Dad

9:22 pm  
Anonymous May said...

Thank you for the photo!
He looks sweet and quiet, a lovely baby.
James Senior should watch out that they don't disturb James Junior's sleep.

Have you bought him a nice teddy-bear?

9:32 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

May, actually, I'm on the look out for a cuddly maalie. My own son's first toy was a cuddly kiwi (he was born in New Zealand!).

9:38 pm  
Blogger Merisi said...

Congratulations, Maalie,
to you and to the parents!
May be grow up healthy and become a birdlover like his grandfather,
Merisi

(If that is not a good omen: ngutrmma! *g*)

10:32 pm  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

maalie.... wee James looks just beautiful. Congratulations!

6:51 am  
Blogger TCA said...

Maalie,

I am not sure you could tolerate the taxonomic and evolutionary discrepancies but there is a Procellariiforme available.

Alternatively there are a range of other species abundant in the Maalie Kingdom including puffin

W

9:47 am  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Maalie, many thanks for making me laugh this morning with your typo in the comment you posted on my blog about Vista:
"I had to renew my lapdancer quite recently as I spilled Leffe beer all over it..."

I hope you dried her off afterwards ;-)

9:57 am  
Blogger Beaman said...

I've been looking through your vast photograph collection. Very interesting indeed. Keep posting.

3:04 pm  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Maalie, I hope you haven't been spilling any more beer over your lapdancers!

3:48 pm  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Ahoy King Maalie! (Today is Talk Like A Pirate Day.) Your photographs are absolutely breathtaking.

Say, when is a pirate most like a bird?
When he is a-robbin'!

Arrr!

Congratulations on the grandson.

8:15 pm  
Blogger Ju's little sister said...

Ah but Maalie, statistics is the discipline which says "if your head is in an oven, and your feet in a freezer; on average you will be comfortably warm."

Stats are okay for an overview, but I trust them as much as I trust the internet.

PS - did you know that 3 out of every four people make up 75% of the population?

1:23 am  
Blogger Ju's little sister said...

PPS - your new grandson is 100% gorgeous. Lots of Love, JLS

1:26 am  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Congratulations from me on a beautiful new grandson, it won't be long before he has his own binoculars.

9:59 pm  
Blogger Tortoiseshell said...

Just seen the photo - nice one. The unmistakable "mouth of Fowler" is present and correct!

5:12 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Three postings since I have been away. Haven't time to read them as only have 30 mins on computer.
Love lorenzo.

8:51 am  

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