The only way to see Owls is to perform a small quasi-religious ritual involving Euro banknotes. You all sit around a small pot at midnight holding hands and going "OMG OMG OMG", and wantonly throw Euros into it until you are completely and utterly broke. After that you give the pot to a representative from Finnature, and then Owls immediately start to appear. Simple. We saw Great Grey Owl about fifteen minutes after setting off, and it was magnificent. Enormously magnificent. My photos were less than magnificent, so you will just to imagine its magnificence. Over the course of the next ten hours we were taken from one site to another to enjoy the secretive birds of the region, the guides having staked out multiple nest sites for all the species. Three-toed Woodpecker fell pretty quickly, but Ural Owl took two attempts at different sites. On the plus side it didn't kill or maim us. Pygmy Owl (my fave bird of the trip, so much attitude) was at the first nest hole we tried, but Tengmalm's Owl took three different locations before a nearly fledged chick was found having a look around.
|Surely the inspiration behind Gonzo|
I could not in good conscience fail to mention a considerable downside to our owl mission, and that is that the insect life within Finnish forests at this time of year can only be described as voracious. Finland is basically one large boggy forest with a shed load of lakes thrown in. This is mosquito heaven. It doesn't matter what counter measures you take - repellents are just a garnish, clothing a slight challenge, and we were eaten alive. To the point where tick and run (literally, run) became the order of the day. It is difficult to choose the worst point, to single out the hungriest. The Three-toed Woodpecker nest hole site probably takes the prize, but the first Ural Owl site (the one without the owl....) was relentless. Almost no part of me was safe, I lost pints. My wrists and hairline were particularly singled out, and by the end of the day they were biting through the previous bites, to the point where when I ran my hand over the back of my neck it felt a bit like bubble-wrap. I've no idea who they liked best, who was especially favoured/savoured, but I'd like to think that the Prof was the tenderest of the three of us and thus the most enjoyed. My bites have mostly declined now, but it was hellish out there. Next time I go I intend to take one of two items - either a full bee-keepers outfit, or a hat with a dozen Pied Flycatchers attached to it with small pieces of string.
|The Prof enjoying a cup of DEET|