The trip to Finland had been very much with one target in mind - it was all about bears. But wildlife doesn't work like that. At the centre itself there were some feeders and on the first morning I was up and down to the tent hide before breakfast. The light wasn't great but there were clearly a few visitors worth snapping. The squirrels weren't at their winter best, but how often do I get to snap red ones.
Birds -wise I was surprised to see plenty of bullfinches although the siskins were more expected.
Other visitors included the greenfinch, great spotted woodpecker and a thrush. That had me doing a double take though - up here the thrushes were fieldfares!
Not a tit, and not a bird I expected to see either. The male appeared shortly afterwards and confirmed the identification.
A bird I'm used to seeing in old oak woodland and here it was amongst firs and birches - a pied flycatcher. I wasn't close enough for decent pics and although my experience is that they tend to be reasonably tolerant of people I just settled to watch and grab the odd shot I could when they came to have a look at me.
Sadly though I'm not sure they'd have raised a brood as one of the other local birds was taking an unhealthy interest - even though the female was in the box sitting tight.
The male tried his best to drive the woodpecker away, but he was just too small to be anything other than a nuisance.
I expected to spend more time with the squirrels, but events took over. Paul told us that one of the guides had some hides set up in a wood about 20 minutes away, and for the last 2 days of the trip I spent all day in a hide after spending all night in one. No wonder I needed a holiday by the time I got back.
The target - this 'car crash' view might give you a clue if you know your birds?
A great grey owl nest - now I won't find one of those in South Wales. Jari had made this and numerous other nest sites in the hope one would
be used and he had struck lucky. Mind you the poor female didn't do a
lot - various poses as she baked in the heat.
The second day the male didn't show in the hours we were there but the female did stretch her wings briefly. I thought I'd got a couple of decent flight shots, but I'd underestimated the shutter speed needed and the point where she brought head and feet together before landing meant there was just too much blur. I got the wingspan wrong too, but never expected the wings to be so far behind her.
Still a great bonus to an already fabulous trip.
If you fancy a chance to snap bears I would heartily recommend Martinselkonen and Natures Images were a good company to go with. No criticism at all about any aspect of the trip. Paul Hobson was a good guide and nice guy, and our fellow travellers made it a great trip. So thanks to Brian, Ivor, Mike and Judy and Dave - and of course the lovely Kay - who better to share a hide with!
Thanks too to the staff at Martinselkonen.
To close a snap with the pocket camera of the youngster who decided he'd like to share the hides - first ours and then he gave Brian a shock next door!