Making dreams come true

On Wednesday the 26th of July we started a long weekend holiday. We drove first towards Koli and made the first stop on an orchid-bog where we found Early Marsh-orchids, Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchids and of course common Heath-spotted Orchids. Unfortunately the weather was very cloudy so we couldn’t get very good pictures. The clouds also made us do a U-turn in Koli parking-place as the whole hill was behind the clouds. So we headed next to Juuka Tuopanjoki to twitch a Lanceolated Warbler. We were there far too early but surprisingly heard the bird almost immediately. We had planned to put up the tent somewhere nearby and visit the place later in the evening again, but as we heard the bird already, we decided to keep on driving.

We headed to another orchid-place to Pieni-Valkeinen where we put up the tent, ate well and went to sleep.

The 27th of July. We slept well and then went to search for orchids. Right away we found lots of Common Spotted Orchids and in a couple of hours walking in the woods and bogs we found also Common Twayblades, Lesser Butterfly-orchids, Early Marsh-orchids, Fragrant Orchids and the best one was a Dark-red Helleborine. We also found some birds; a Hazel Hen was seen briefly, some Common Crossbills were flying around, a Chiffchaff and some Wrens were still singing and the best bird was an alarming Greenish Warbler.

Then we headed towards Kuhmo. After we had seen a family of Black Grouses we parked along one lake to prepare lunch. After we had eaten we continued to Kuikkajärvi where was a lodge of Arctic Media. We were there exactly in time at 4:30 p.m.

We met Antti Selin, who told us all the instructions for the hide and at 5:15 p.m. we left towards the hides. Most of the people were going to different hides as there were hides in three places. So together with Hanna we got the most luxurious hide in Paradise which was along a big bog. To our neighbor single-hides we had 3 more photographers.

We organized all our things so that we could be as quiet as possible and soon Antti came with a pig that he tied up to a tree about 70 meters from us. When Antti left we started to wait for some action.

Soon the first Ravens, Common and Lesser Black-bagged Gulls arrived. There were even 55 Ravens in one time. One of the 7 Lesser Black-backed Gulls was quite pale but probably not a Heuglin’s Gull. After about a half an hour waiting the first Brown Bear arrived and this big bear had some scars, it had been fighting a lot. It missed almost half of its ear too. But it seemed to be hungry as it started eating the pig and after some time we started to fear that it was going to eat it all!

After another 30 minutes 2 smaller bears arrived but only one of them went to the carcass after the big bear had left. Another one seemed to be afraid of everything – even Ravens. And after these 2 bears came soon the 4th one but then the half-eared big one came back and all other bears ran away. But surprisingly the fifth bear that arrived made this big one move even though it was much smaller. Also this one had some scars and the biggest one was on its butt. Maybe it had won the half-ear recently?

From time to time the carcass was empty as all the bears had moved back to the forests. Of course some Ravens and gulls were there all the time. The 6th bear was the biggest of all but it just walked soon to the carcass, picked up a big meat and walked back to the forest.

About at 10 p.m. most of the birds had gone to sleep but still some Ravens and gulls stayed. It was already getting quite dark when a huge bear with a pale collar came but while I was watching it with my binoculars I saw something pale behind him moving – a Wolf! There were 2 wolves standing behind some trees and soon they started to walk across the bog from right to left. They were maybe 300 meters from us, but there was still some light to get some pictures and videos. We had been advised not to take too many pictures of the wolves at one time as they were extremely shy. So we took most of the pictures when they were moving and the only one at time when they had stopped. These animals were absolutely gorgeous! The pale older female was really beautiful and light-brown, thinner male looked somehow much wilder. Unfortunately they just crossed the bog and were seen only once later very briefly on the back of the bog disappearing to the forest.

Soon after the wolves one more big pale-shouldered bear arrived and then it came so dark that it came difficult to identify the bears anymore.

The 28th of July. Still some Common Gulls were staying around the feeder and also 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls payed a visit. After 1 a.m. a big bear visited the carcass and soon after that I heard a Willow Grouse calling a couple of times. Hanna was then sleeping. After this I still saw a couple of smaller bears but then the half-ear arrived again and chased them away.

Just before the sun was rising fog started to cover the whole bog. The view was like from a post-card but of course the bog made it more difficult to see to the carcass. Soon the first birds started to call; Magpie Hooded Crow, Raven, Willow Tit and at 5 a.m. it was morning when Wagtails arrived.

During the morning we still saw 2 bears behind the bog, but everything had been eaten from the carcass. I had slept a couple of hours and Hanna a little bit more. At 7 a.m. there were only White Wagtails, some Yellow Wagtails and surprisingly we saw also 2 Rustic Buntings. At 7:30 a.m. we had packed everything and left towards the car where we met the others. We drove to the lodge and it seemed that everyone was happy! On another hide people had seen a couple of Wolverines too, but not so many Brown Bears. But I had a feeling that I still had missed something, I really wanted to see Wolves better and maybe also some eagles – there had been a couple of White-tailed Eagles visiting the carcass in front of Paradise one day earlier. But luckily we had booked another night too – so we already told to Antti that we would stay in Paradise again.

We prepared lunch and heard a Red-throated Diver calling while flying over us. Then we drove a little bit to a river where we put up our tent and went to sleep.

We slept long and before 4 p.m. we drove back to the lodge. We ate again and at 5:15 we left again towards the hides. There were more people now and also more of them were coming to Paradise. So we got a little bit smaller hide foe ourselves but anyway it was very comfortable. There were already 2 White-tailed Eagles, an adult and 3rd year bird, perched on the trees with Ravens when we arrived. Soon we had organized our things and then Antti came to drive a bigger pig-carcass to the bog with snowmobile. He tied it very well again and soon we started waiting again.

About after an hour waiting the first bear arrived. It was one of the big ones and it started to eat well immediately. Soon we saw also a second adult White-tailed Eagle arriving to the trees behind the bog.

Before 8 p.m. another big bear with pale neck arrived and then at 8:20 p.m. we saw a brown Wolf coming behind the bog. It was hiding behind the trees for some time but then walked in the middle of the bog and laid down there so only ears were visible! And soon the pale Wolf arrived too. It walked to the brown one and together they continued crossing the bog again.

When they had reached the left edge of the bog they attacked to a Brown Bear! Unfortunately they we behind some trees and bushes but it seemed that this bear had some meat with it and Wolves stole it.

Once the Wolves had continued behind the trees a big pale-necked bear took a big piece of meat and walked to the forest. We were afraid that Wolves would follow it and not come to visible anymore. These animals were so smart that they didn’t like to go to the middle of the bog. They didn’t want to get wet. So they were often just waiting in the woods that a Bear would come with a big piece of meat and then steal it. The tactic was that one Wolf was attacking and another one stole the meat once Bear dropped it.

At 9 p.m. the big bears were gone and there were 3 familiar smaller ones around. The shyest one wasn’t visiting the carcass but shouting from the distance. And the one with hole in its ass was doing whatever he wanted.

At 9:10 p.m. a pale wolf was surprisingly left from the carcass and cameras were clicking! Again we didn’t take too many pictures as we didn’t want to scare it away. But it seemed that there was too much traffic around the carcass and it turned back to the forest. But anyway we were now taking lots of pictures as both adult White-tailed Eagles were now feeding with bears and ravens.

But at 9:45 it finally happened! Both Wolves arrived from the forest and surprisingly the shyest bear was following them to the carcass! The brown Wolf didn’t go to the carcass but walked around it and marked its territory. But the pale beauty came to the carcass and took a big piece of meat and carried it just a little bit further to the bog and started eating!

After all brown Wolf was visible maybe 10 minutes but the pale stayed around the carcass for 40 minutes showing all the time! It visited the carcass a couple of times and after taking a big piece of meat with her, it either ate or just laid down watching other carcass-visitors. It was funny to see that White-tailed Eagles that were extremely shy to visit the carcass were afraid by Wolves and smaller bears, especially in flight.

Soon it came dark and once the pale Wolf had also disappeared to the forest there were only 2 smaller bears around. Then we saw a young 1 year old bear coming towards the carcass but it was too afraid of other ones and never made it to the meat.

At 10:40 p.m. we saw the pale Wolf crossing the bog carrying a huge meat. And 10 minutes later the brown one did the same and also it had managed to steal a big piece of meat from some bear. Meanwhile there were 4 smaller bears visiting the carcass which one of them was new.

At 11:30 p.m. it came so dark that we decided to start to sleep. I woke up a couple of times to see that a couple of smaller bears were still doing something further on the bog and also half-ear had arrived close to the carcass.

The 29th of July. At 1:30 a.m. a couple of bears were fighting in the middle of the bog, but it was too dark to see if they were playing or really fighting – anyway the noise was amazing! At 7:30 we had packed everything and met extremely happy people on the parking place! It had been the best night ever!

At the lodge we did some food again and heard a Parrot Crossbill flying over us. Then we said goodbye to everyone including Antti, a South-African photographer who had stayed there for a month already and a Norwegian man who had been visiting the place every summer for 30 years!

As we had been sleeping quite well, we decided to start driving. We stopped once along a bigger bog and heard a Golden Plover and a Whimbrel before we continued towards Juuka.

In Nurmes we turned towards Lake Suuri-Soramo where we twitched a Ruddy Shelduck that had been found a couple of days earlier. The bird was found easily and so we were soon driving again.

In Juuka we did some shopping and then continued to another orchid-place to Kusilampi (piss-pond). There we walked about 3 hours around the pond and found a couple of new orchid-species for the trip – Coralroot Orchid and Creeping Lady’s-tresses. The funnies observation was to find thousands and thousands of small Common Toads on the shore of the pond.

After a long and hard walk we cooked again and soon were ready to go to sleep to the tent.

On the 30th of July we woke up when a Two-barred Crossbill was calling nearby. It was calling a bit strangely, quite short “tyy-tyy, tyy-tyy-tyy” calls but was easy to identify from the flight call.
After we had eaten again we drove to Hepolampi to search more orchids again. This place was completely different and we had to climb up and down on the limestone-hill. Not many orchids were found but a family of Hazel Hens was heard alarming.

Our last target-place was Merilampi where we walked in bog and forest for some time but then it started to get too hot to continue. We still found a Lesser Twayblade which was the 13th species of orchid during the trip. One not mentioned earlier had been Lady’s-slipper-Orchid which we can’t tell the place where it was found. Some more species would have been possible to find, but as we had no instructions to find any orchids, we were quite happy how many we had found! Some of the flowers must be still identified from the pictures as especially all the red orchids are hybridizing a lot.
About at noon we headed again to Koli and on the way we took better pictures of Early Marsh-orchids and Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchids. The weather was now perfect and we really enjoyed visiting beautiful hills of Koli – Ukko, Akka and Paha-Koli where the scenery is one of the most beautiful in Finland!

Then we still had to drive back to Parikkala where we were in the early evening. We had really enjoyed our trip!