F Is For Fantail Warbler and Fuinha-dos-Juncos.

Fantail Warbler. Fuinha-dos-Juncos.

Common English and Portuguese names for the bird Cisticola juncidis, here perched on a maize tassel. It’s a small insectivorous bird with a characteristic “zit…zit…zit…zit” call and a zigzagging flight, easy to spot in flight but not always easy to figure out where it landed, as it rarely chooses such a conspicuous perch as in this photo. A funny thing is the Portuguese common name, which means marten-of-the-reeds. Yes, marten as in the mustelid. I don’t know why.

Click for full size!

© Nightjar, all rights reserved.

E Is For Eucalyptus.

Eucalypt in English, Eucalipto in Portuguese.

This is, as you can see, a dead and dried branch, part of the landscape now. In fact, I decided to include an extra photo just so you can see what I’m talking about (part of that has already been burned in a controlled manner by my neighbours, a few days after I took the photos). It’s like this everywhere. What happened? Well, many things. First, Portugal has been replacing farmland and native forest by Eucalyptus plantations since the 80s, sponsored by the state and fueled by the demands of the paper industry. Our “green oil” as it was once called by a minister, alluding to its economical value (also like oil, it burns very well and destroys our ecosystem, but none of that was a concern at the time). Second, the process was completely unregulated and suddenly you had entire villages in the middle of one big, messy and chaotic Eucalyptus plantation, with branches touching the houses and no signs of any attempt at spatial planning. Third, we have always had a problem with forest fires, a problem that was arguably made worse by the flammable Eucalyptus and certainly made much worse by climate change. Last year, all of the above + severe drought + atypical weather = the whole country ablaze and 111 deaths. What you see here is part of a desperate attempt to correct 30 years of mistakes within a few months, in time to avoid another deadly summer.

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© Nightjar, all rights reserved.

D Is For Dandelion and Dente-de-Leão.

Dandelion. Dente-de-Leão, Portuguese for dandelion, literally meaning “lion’s tooth”.

Wikipedia tells me the English dandelion comes from the French dent-de-lion, also meaning lion’s tooth, and I know it is diente de león is Spanish as well, so that makes it at least 4 languages with the common name having the same meaning. I’m curious about how other languages refer to this common wildflower.

A stunning shot, click for full size!

© Nightjar, all rights reserved.

C Is For Cockatiel and Caturra.

Cockatiel. Caturra, Portuguese for cockatiel.

This sweetie is my pet cockatiel, simultaneously a complete accident and the best thing to happen to me recently. An accident because I never planned to have a pet cockatiel. But when I realized that 1) her parents had stopped feeding her way to early and she was starving on the aviary’s floor and 2) no one but me seemed to care, I decided to do something about it and hand-fed her. She’s part of the family now.

Click for full size! What a beauty. She looks on the mischievous side.

© Nightjar, all rights reserved.

A is for Ambush and Aranha.

We have a new Alphabet Challenge from Nightjar: For every photo there will be two words, one in English and one in Portuguese, meaning the same or different things (with a few exceptions for genus names and K, W and Y which are not part of the Portuguese alphabet).

Ambush. Aranha, Portuguese for spider.

Flower crab spiders belonging to the family Thomisidae do not build webs, they are instead ambush predators. Some can change colour to match the flower they are on to blend in, then they wait for insects to visit the flower and catch them. In this case, a fly visiting a Paris Daisy (Argyranthemum frutescens) was not so lucky.

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© Nightjar, all rights reserved.

Scandinavian Letters: Öga.


Öga is Swedish for eye. Jackdaws have light-coloured irises which makes their eyes look more eye-like for the human eye. Jackdaw is naakka in Finnish and kaja in Swedish. This jackdaw was on the quay of Helsinki Market Square in November 2016.

The letter Ö, used in German, Estonian, Finnish and Swedish is the last letter in Finnish and Swedish alphabets and so this post concludes the series.

This has been a fabulous series, and I hope everyone has enjoyed it as much as I have. Many thanks to Ice Swimmer for meeting a tough challenge with such flair and ease. Click for full size!

© Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved.

Scandinavian Letters: Äng.


Äng is meadow in Swedish. The sunset picture is a variant version of a picture from the Laajalahti Nature Preserve I’ve used before and sent to this blog. While there are trees in the picture, there’s open land that is used for as a cow pasture there, in order to restore traditional seashore meadowland.

The night time picture is from summer 2017. I was walking home from my cousin’s wedding and decided to take some night photos.

Ä is used in at least Finnish, Swedish, Estonian and German. In different languages, different pronunciations are used, but it’s generally a wovel pronounced in the frontal part of the mouth. In Finnish and Swedish it’s the second to last letter in the alphabet.

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© Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved.

Scandinavian Letters: Å.


Å is Swedish for river. These pictures are from the two biggest rivers flowing in Helsinki. Vantaanjoki (Vantaa river, the Swedish name is Vanda å) and Mätäjoki (rotten river, the Swedish name is Rutiån). Mätäjoki was the original channel through which Vantaanjoki flowed into the sea, west of Helsinki peninsula, but about 3000 years ago, Vantaa changed its course eastward and started to flow into the sea east of the peninsula.

Mätäjoki is more like a brook, even though it’s called a river, a few kilometers long, flowing in its oversized channel. Vantaanjoki, on the other hand is 101 km long and a proper river.

The first two pictures are from Vantaanjoki at the Vanhankaupunginkoski (old town rapids, the modern Swedish name is Gammelstadsforsen). The city of Helsinki was originally sited near the rapids at the moutgh of the river in Helsinge parish (the name is a Swedish name, the population was mostly Swedish speaking).

The third is a picture of Mätäjoki flowing through a park in Pitäjänmäki, Helsinki.

The fourth is Vantaanjoki a bit upriver from Vanhankaupunginkoski.

The fifth is from the same park as the third and the sixth is a bit upriver from the park, Mätäjoki is flowing between a street and a residential area.

In the seventh and eighth it is again Vantaanjoki at Vanhankaupunginkoski. There’s an island in the river at the rapids. The western channel has been dammed and there’s a power station there (nowadays a museum, but it produces electricity), but the eastern channel has been restored closer to the natural state and the salmon and trout can swim through the eastern channel upriver to breed in the river.

The letter Å is one of the so called Scandinavian letters. It originates from late medieval Swedish and is nowadays used in Danish and Norwegian as well. It is used in words which used to have long a A in Old Norse but the pronunciation changed to an O (think of Latin or Standard German wovel sounds, not English).

More photos under the fold, click for full size!

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Idioms & Expressions.

Have you ever been happily reading, and come across an idiom, expression, or turn of phrase you’re familiar with, and suddenly the absurdity of it strikes you? Came across one yesterday in one of Jim C. Hines’s Princess series, The Mermaid’s Madness. (Re-reading, they have become comfort reads).

“That earned another chuckle. “He’s prince of Lorindar. He’s not used to feeling powerless.” He climbed to his feet.”

Climbed to his feet. That means to stand up, but it’s a damned silly expression. The more I think on it, the sillier it becomes. I used to have a bunch of these absurdities in my head, but naturally I can’t think of any of them now. Out of curiosity, does anyone else have favourite absurdities of expressions? Or peeves?

Z Is For Zuge.


Zuge is Helsinki slang for a train. In standard Finnish train is juna and in standard Swedish tåg. The z is pronounced ts in Finnish, like in German, but a bit more lazily.

Helsinki slang takes its vocabulary from many sources. Some words come from Swedish, English or Russian. Zuge comes probably from the German word for train, Zug. Old Helsinki slang was to a great extent a mixture of Finnish and Swedish, which was understood by both Finnish and Swedish speaking working-class youth. Now the slang is much more influenced by English.

I’m not really in the slang speaking demographic, being a bit too old and not born and raised in Helsinki.

All the train pictures here are electric multiple unit trains, with no locomotive. Except for the Pendolino high-speed train leaving Helsinki Central Railway station in a cloud of snow, all are regional trains operating in the Capital Region and its surroundings. The Pendolino is a long-distance train with a somewhat troubled history. The Italian technology has had a lot of problems with snow and frost.

The red train is an old Sm2 regional train made by Valmet Lentokonetehdas (Valmet Airplane Factory). The other train photographed from the same place on the Linnunlaulu bridge is a Sm4 regional train used for longer regional lines. In the summer picture from Vantaankoski station in Vantaa, the train is a Sm5, which is used for the shorter lines in the Capital Region.

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© Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved.

Y Is For Yachting.


This sailing boat was on the sea in May 2016. I took he photo on an evening sightseeing cruise to the Helsinki Archipelago.

The bonus picture is about the long off-season for yachting. These boats must have been sitting in the dry from late autumn. The sea ice could have broken them so they had to be lifted from the sea. The photo was taken in late March 2018.

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© Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved.

X Is For Xylem.


Xylem is a scientific term for vascular plant tissue that transports water and nutritients from the roots to other parts of the plant. Wood is xylem and the term comes from the Greek word for wood, xylon. The pictures are close-ups of the wood, pine, birch and oak glulam boards, used in the pieces of crude furniture I’ve made for myself. I’ve applied a mixture of linseed oil and polyurethane lacquer on them as finish.

The pine board with the Phillips head screw is the top of of my windowsill extender. With the extender I can get a second level on my window sill, so that I can grow more herbs. The extender stands on the windowsill and consists of an oak bottom board, legs and support structure of the top made of pine slats and the top itself.

The oak board with the holes is the top of a short-legged table for my laptop computer. The holes are there to help supply air for the cooling of the computer. The table is usually on top of my table/desk and I keep my music keyboard, WiFi router and miscellaneous other stuff under it.

The birch board is the top of a cabinet used for housing my plant watering equipment, Raspberry Pi stuff and paper to be recycled.

Click for full size!

© Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved.