Suomen Luonto
English summaries 3/2002

Actor Lasse Pöysti´s four seasons
By Ritva Kupari
Pages 1820

Finnish actor Lasse Pöysti would like to see some snow fall during Helsinki´s currently rainy midwinter season so that he can make a sledge run for his grandchildren. All the seasons are important to Pöysti. Now living permanently in Paris, where there is no real winter, he is at present working in Helsinki, where he had hoped to find one. His work will keep him here until the spring. Recently celebrating his 75th birthday, this master of the medium is currently performing in two highly popular plays at Helsinki´s city theatre, Bengt Ahlflors´ Kashmir and Charlie, which Pöysti has also translated into Finnish, as well as in Ronald Harwood´s Quartet.

In his memoirs, Lasse´s formative years (1990), Feet on the ground (1991) and Borrowed coat (1992), Pöysti has enlightened us about his long and bountiful theatre and film career. The books also reveal Pöysti as a keen yachtsman with a profound love of nature. His fondness for nature and boating are a heritage of early childhood. The family lived at Sortavala (now in Russia), spending their holidays on Haavus island on Lake Ladoga. Lasse Pöysti´s father was an ardent nature-lover. The same fondness and respect was transferred to his son and grandson. Tom Pöysti, Lasse´s son, is well-known to the public, not only as an actor but also as an accomplished ornithologist.

For years the Pöysti´s have been sailing together, spending their holidays on their own island in the Tammisaari outer archipelago. \"A shattering change has been the pollution of the Gulf of Finland and the entire Baltic.\" Of course, the archipelago has not lost its special charm for the 75 year-old actor over the decades. Next summer he intends spending at least six weeks sailing on this sea in both the Baltic and Swedish territories.

But the state of the Baltic is a nightmare, the cause of Pöysti losing a great deal of faith in mankind and to fear for the Earth´s future. \"I believe that our planet will be badly affected. Everything is constantly getting bigger, more powerful and more self-important\", he declares.

Pöysti considers summer and autumn the best seasons in Paris; his favourite locations are the banks of the Seine, the parks, and the woodlands surrounding the city. \"Paris is such a beautiful city that it almost feels natural.\"

The ruby tiger´s vanishing trick
By Jaakko Heinonen
Pages 2224

Furry ruby tiger moth caterpillars are often seen scurrying across the snow and open ground, but where do the adults fly? The larvae can be found at all times of the year. However, most of them seem to be about during the autumn, although they are not always easy to detect then owing to their dark colouration. Commonly these insects are observed in mild weather in November or December walking across the snow. The purpose of this activity is presumably to find a suitable place for pupation. But who among us has seen the adult moth?

Many lepidopterists have had to resort to collecting some larvae and letting them pupate in a closed jar in order to secure an adult moth. The adults ought to be active from the end of May to July. Yet, despite the fact that they will take to the wing during the daytime, few people manage to observe them.

So far Jaakko Heinonen has only found a ruby tiger twice - both times by accident. It is a fine looking moth in a rather subdued way, looking as though it were dyed in fungal colours, but much smaller than one would expect from such a large caterpillar. Heinonen says he has only once seen a moth fly. Its flight was along a smooth trajectory, like that of the dor beetle. An important factor in regard to spotting an adult is the moth´s reddish colouration. Even when the light is only slightly dim, the insect rapidly disappears from view.

While taking some close up pictures of the adult, Heinonen noticed that the wing muscles were densely covered in hair so that from the front the moth resembled a bison in winter. From this he deduced that the insect normally flies on cool summer nights, when it easily vanishes from sight into the gloom.

Glider in the dusk
By Ilpo K. Hanski
Pages 2633

Flying squirrels come out at dusk. Gliding silently from tree to tree, they contract into dim balls of fluff as they land in a branch close to a trunk. Now, in March, flying squirrels are preparing to breed.

Ilpo Hanski began fitting radio collars to flying squirrels six years ago as a consequence of an almost total absence of information regarding the nocturnal behaviour of these small mammals. Each collar contains a radio transmitter which outputs silent signals that can be picked up by a receiver. Using this kind of device, it is possible to locate an individual almost without fail, even in the pitch darkness of October.

Flying squirrels spend most of the night in their nests. Each individual has several nests in its territory, the males maintaining on average eight such hideaways and the females six. Old woodpecker holes (strictly speaking cavities) and the dense nests, called dreys, of squirrels are favourite places for setting up home.

Early in March, the animals´ behaviour changes. The males become more active, constantly changing their nest locations and often visiting females. Females may also move from one nest to another, but their nests are situated in a much smaller area. The first mating season occurs in the second half of March, the second coinciding with the late April to early May period. Females are on heat for only 24 hours. A pair may mate as many as 50 times over a two-hour period. The female then drives the male out of her nest, spending the entire spring and summer without him.

From two to four young are born in the last week of April. With the exception of brief excursions into the forest for food, the mother remains with them continuously. At around six weeks old, the young begin to venture out of their nest but remain close to it. In August they begin to search for their own hibernation quarters and breeding territories. However, four out of ten young males remain close to where they were born. Young flying squirrels are extremely active, some covering distances of up to nine kilometres.

As her first brood becomes independent, the mother will already either be caring for the second brood or preparing for the coming autumn and winter. Males wind down for the winter in October. Flying squirrels occupy the same territory throughout their lives. The female´s territory covers some 4-10 hectares and the male´s around 60 hectares. The species demands spruce-dominant forests containing a certain amount of broadleaf growth. Forests of this type are fairly old from the forestry standpoint and thus ripe for felling, which explains why they are easily swept away. Forest fragmentation is a serious threat to the survival of the flying squirrel in Finland.

This notwithstanding, the species´ mobility in many kinds of forest environments and its ability to seek out suitable sites over a broad area may enable it to survive in the fragmented forests of southern Finland.

Norway´s Lofoten cold but beautiful
By Juho Rahkonen
Pages 4045

The word Lofoten means \"the foot of the lynx\" in Norwegian. This fanciful name most probably comes from the rather elongated, slightly curving shape of the Lofoten island cluster. Standing 190 m a.s.l. above the Atlantic Ocean, the group comprises seven largish islands together with a number of smaller islands and islets. It is principally renowned for its wealth of seabirds.

The Lofoten islands are inhabited by some 30,000 people and millions of seabirds. Fishing is the main occupation, the most important catch being the cod, which is dried on frames ready for storage. The second most important means of livelihood, and one that is burgeoning, is tourism. Tourists are attracted not only by the chance of good fish catches, but also by the clear waters, ideal for diving. A strongly maritime climate predominates, weather conditions changing abruptly. The craggy mountains decorating the islands reach slightly over 1000 m a.s.l. Owing to their precipitous nature, only some of the island shores are inhabitable. Huge numbers of seabirds live on the sea cliffs.

Few things have as yet threatened Lofoten´s practically inaccessible terrain. A road is planned between the island cluster and the mainland, but at present the only way to reach these lovely Norwegian islands is by ferry.

Teksti: Leigh Plester