Midsummer Afternoon – Part 1 – Visit to Harakka Island

Guest posts by Ice Swimmer


It was a hot afternoon just after Midsummer. I went to downtown Helsinki to take some photos.

In the first photo, you can see a jackdaw walking at the Market Square tram stop. I took the picture while waiting for the tram.

A jackdaw walks by © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The second photo is an “aerial photo” of a family of mute swans, two adults,

and five little cygnets. I’m on the shore end of the pier, from which the boat to Harakka picks up passengers.

I think the leftmost cygnet has some Cladophora around the base of the neck, at least I’m hoping it’s that and not plastic (I noticed the green stuff when looking at the edited photo). The green algae, which has a Finnish name ahdinparta, beard (parta) of the old Finnish god of the sea Ahti, is rather ubiquitous in shallow waters here and there’s a lot of it on the underwater stones in the picture.

Swan family dinner. © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I took the boat to Harakka. The digitalis was in bloom and there were wild strawberries. It could be that when the Imperial Russian army was using the island before Finnish independence, they planted strawberries and other berries, as I’ve heard stories that it was their way to prevent the soldiers in fortress islands from having scurvy.

Digitalis and strategical strawberries.  © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This red-leaved rose was growing in a forested area on Harakka. I like how simple and unpretentious it looks.

Red-leaved rose with green leaves. © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Most of Harakka is ruled by dinosaurs in the summer. This gull seemed to be above any ergonomic considerations.

Common gull forming an animal puddle. © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

My visit to Harakka was cut a bit short by the low battery charge level of my phone. I had neglected to take an emergency charger (“sähköpossu”/”electricity piggybank” as I like to call them) with me.

Having come back to the mainland from Harakka, I saw these crows on a sign (warning about the underwater cable AFAIR) on the pier. They were “singing”. There’s a Finnish saying “Äänellään se variskin laulaa.”, which could be translated as: “Even the crow will sing with its own voice.”

Crows singing with their own voices. © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I did take more than these pictures on Harakka and there could be material for further posts.

Kyoot Kestrels

Yesterday evening when watering my citruses in the greenhouse, I heard the typical cry from a nearby oak tree and when I looked there, I saw these two cuties sitting atop of it. They were kind enough to wait for me to go inside and fetch the camera, but not long enough for me to get the exposition settings right for the crappy lighting – I only got one shot and they whooshed.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

In case you are wondering, the tree is living, but it was struck by a lightning a few years ago and it has one dead branch on the very top and a strip of deadwood down to the earth since then. Right next to it is an ash tree with a dead branch on which I have photographed kites a few times.

Raptors like to sit on dead branches, I guess they provide them with a good view.

Lost And Found Birdies

Today, I’m sharing 2 beautiful photos that were taken by Emily Davis, in La Jolla, during March of 2019. They were submitted by her mother, Anne, Cranky Cat Lady, in that same month and, upon receipt, I carefully filed them away in the wrong place! Then, I promptly forgot all about them until a few days ago, when I found them while I was looking for something else. So, here, at last, are two very pretty birds.

American Robin, ©Emily Davis, 2019

Hooded Oriole, ©Emily Davis, March 2019.

Goldfinches Come for a Visit

This year I planted some cornflowers that grew in front of the window. They were planned as degu treats, but with one thing and another, I didn’t get around to harvesting and drying them. They do look pretty sad to human eyes now, but they look damn delicious to the goldfinches. I rarely get to see them, so I was all the more surprised to find them within 30 cm of my nose, happily munching the seeds.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved This one’s grainy because I took it with my phone

Milan Royal – Magnifique!

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Last week this magnificent bird sat on a dead branch of a nearby ash tree. It is their favorite spot and I have gotten some pictures of kites sitting there already, but this time It was later in the day, so the sun was at a much better angle. And the bird obliged staying in one place long enough for me to actually run with the camera outside.

It is a bit of pity that there seems to be some dirt stuck to the corner of its beak. Really, no sense of style whatsoever. One would expect a model to show to a photoshoot well groomed and clean and not with bits of food stuck to the corner of their mouths.

Still, what a magnificent bird. I shall definitively make a kite-themed knife. Soon.

High as a Kite and Higher

There is a pair of kites flying around every day and I hear their typical cries from morning until evening, so they are probably nesting somewhere close-ish. I hope they do and I also hope they will help with local water vole population, i.e. massacre it.

Unfortunately, I did not manage to get both into good focus, so a blurry picture must do.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I did manage to get a few decent pictures of one of them though, from different angles.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The pictures are of suboptimal quality because they fly very, very high. Even finding them through the camera lens is a challenge, and to take focus and press the trigger button on a moving target that high is a bugger, that much I can tell ya.

But no matter how high a kite flies, there was something even higher that day around her. I could not find it in my bird atlas so the species is not determined. If you know it, let me know in the comments.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

 

Kestrel Maneuvre

Unfortunately, I was taking these pictures against the sun and I did not have too much time to get the exposition settings right. The little bugger hovered in one place exactly as long as it took me to take a focus and press the trigger button. So this is the “whoosh” sequence.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Grumpy Redstart

It is very rare that I get an opportunity to take a picture of male black redstart. I see them all the time, but they are restless and they never come to the feeder. This one was moving around the feeder, although he did not eat the seeds – he used the surroundings for vantage points to spot insects in the grass. And he stayed a few times in one place long enough for me to take a picture.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

That last picture gives me the impression of an old grampa looking disapprovingly at me. Something about the line between the black and grey feathers above the eyes gives him that look.

Tiny Vegetable Patch Inspectors

The inspectors are tiny, not the vegetable patch. That is quite huge (over 40 square meters). It took me 1 hour to plow it all and that knocked me out for two days. Now I am breaking the dirt lumps and making the beds for the veggies which I expect to keep me busy for a week. Last year we had only one huge patch with potatoes, this year it will be split into several small ones for peas, onions, beans, and cucumbers.

And today when I had my lunch break, several small birds came to inspect my handiwork and feast on earthworms and insects brought to the surface – the redstarts are back, a sure sign that spring has really begun. These birds never come to the feeder, they are strict insectivores and they really enjoy the vegetable patches after the rain or when the surface is disturbed.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

I assume that these are all black redstarts Phoenicurus ochruros, because those I usually see around here. But there might be some common redstarts Phoenicurus phoenicurus among these four pictures this time or even all of them. These are all females and those are hard to distinguish, species-wise, for me. Today was one of the rare instances when I have also seen male common redstart, but he, unfortunately, whooshed before I got him into focus.

Kites are Back and Tempting Again

Red kites returned from their winter vacation south and are circling our house daily. Regularly staying in one place just long enough that I manage to fetch my camera, but not long enough to take a picture. So this is a so-so picture from a few weeks ago. I also hear daily their typical cries, so even when I do not see them, I know they’re there, somewhere.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Tits in Front of my Window

Not my window, but rather a window belonging to Avalus, who says,

Now I can finally make a tit-joke posting.
The pair just would not want to get close enough to each other. Cute little critters they are.
Also, a blackbird got in on the action.

©Avalus, All rights reserved.

©Avalus, All rights reserved.

©Avalus, All rights reserved.

©Avalus, All rights reserved.

Birds on Snow

I will post some pretty birds from this winter in due course. So the weather in the pictures will not always correspond to the actual weather out here.

However, these pictures were taken today. The winter tried to reclaim the land and we had several days of wind, snow, and freezing temperatures. I do hope that the seeds that I have planted in the greenhouse survived.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size