zondag 15 maart 2015

My first Lappish experience: one to embrace!

From the 2nd till the 7th of March I joined a student trip (from ESN Joensuu) to Levi, a famous ski resort in Lapland. Levi is located just north of Kittilä, in the north east of Lapland. Beforehand I had done some birding preparation with the help of tiira.fi but, most observations of my target species were not in the area where I would be staying.. and since I was not on a birding trip I would just wait and see what happens! And this turned out pretty well I must say!

For the long the 700km up north we left Joensuu at 1.30 am and arrived at our first destination: Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, too much commercial nonsense if you ask me. Taking a photo with Santa Claus for 25 euros, why not? :) However, this was our (and mine) first experience of crossing the arctic circle, and yeah, after crossing it I really felt like I was in a different world! After Rovaniemi, we visited Lainio Snow Village, ca. 30km west of Kittilä. That was a really nice visit, seeing nice sculptures and you could also spend a night in the snow village, sleeping on a matress above a pile of ice! Beforehand, I saw on tiira that the Azure Tit that has been present in Lapland was still there, and I was only 30km away from it... too bad it was in the other direction, so no chance for me..
Crossing the arctic circle near Rovaniemi
A room in the snow village, how comfortable!

After visiting these places we arrived in Levi around 17.00. We had a nice cottage with 13 people and enjoyed our first meal in Lapland together. The next morning, the 3rd of March, we were up for a Husky safari. But first I had a small walk and saw my first new bird in Lapland: a Siberian Jay! It was at some feeders in front of a house, very nice and unexpected! After this, we went for the husky tour. This is one of the things you have to do when you are in Lapland. In pairs we could get on a sledge with five huskies in front and start the safari. Driving the sledge through this amazing Lappish landscape was amazing!
My first Siberian Jay (Perisoreus infaustus)
The Husky Safari

In the afternoon I had a walk with some of my friends in the nearby forest. As we were walking in the forest we suddenly flushed three Hazelgrouse! They were not shy at all and I could take some really nice photos! This is only the second time ever that I see them so well (most of the time you hear only the wingbeats when you flush them).
Hazel Grouse (Tetrastes bonasia), female and male
Dipper (Cinclus cinclus)
Wednesday (4th) and Thursday (5th) were mostly spend doing cross country skiing, which was really nice! On wednesday we did a track of 20 km, through some hills and flat areas close to Levi. During the track I added another new species to my list: Siberian Tit! A group of at least 7-8 crossed the skiing track. I noticed them first by their calls, clearly different than any other tits, reminding most of Willow Tit. I tried to make some recordings which I might add later. Also during the skiing I had a pair of Siberian Jays. Such curious birds as they come to check you out!
Cross-country skiing

Thursday morning I made a hike to the top of a hill next to the Levi fell, wonderful views! Thursday afternoon we did a skiing track of 15 km, very nice weather but few birds, just had 2 Siberian Tits, nice to see them again.
Beautiful landscape...

Friday morning we tried a new hiking track on the eastern side of the village. Some of my friends had seen 2 Willow Grouse there and photographed them very well... So I wanted to see if i could find them. Unfortunately they were no where to be found. We did see good numbers of Siberian Jays (at least 6-8 birds). Next to this I had a singing Pine Grosbeak, nice surprise. The best surprise of all came at the end of the hike.... I suddenly spotted a Hawk Owl perched in a dead tree! Amazing! It was being mobbed by Siberian Jays continuously. After this successfull hike we proceeded to the city where we spend the rest of the afternoon in the spa, very relaxing.
Siberian Jays (Perisoreus infaustus)
The Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula)
Friday evening around 5.30 we left for Joensuu again. We did not see the northern lights due to cloudyness all week... a real shame.. hopefully I will still see some here in Joensuu, fingers crossed. Nevertheless a great week in Lapland!
Levi at night, during a snow-shoe trek
Ski piste at Levi

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