Suomen Luonto
English summaries 5/2002

Enchanted by adders
Text Antti Halkka, photos Urpo Koponen
Pages 4—11

Urpo Koponen, a primary school teacher and wildlife photographer from Kotka, has chosen the adder ( or viper, Vipera berus) as his subject. The adder is Finland’s only poisonous snake. Koponen photographs his subjects at extremely close range, frequently lying flat on the ground in order to do so. Although they often slither right over him, the adders will not bite so long as the photographer stays motionless.

The arrival of spring in March-April arouses adders from their winter sleep. They come out of their hibernating quarters to bask in the sun, even while the ground is still covered by snow. Once the males are out, it is the females’ turn; by the early spring these are already preparing for reproduction. In general, however, a female will give birth only every two years.

Male adders compete physically for the best pairing places. Winding themselves around an opponent, an individual will squeeze as hard as he can. Naturally, the strongest individuals win and these are able to secure the best pairing sites. When females arrive on the scene they pair with the dominate male in the area. Having paired, a male will block the female’s cloaca with a ‘plug’ to prevent her mating with other males.

Lately, the number of adders in Finland has dwindled. Urpo Koponen feels that thought ought to be given to protecting them; in Sweden, for example, the species has already been protected. Since the adder poses a danger to small children, protection would not need to extend to yards, gardens or playgrounds. All other Finnish reptiles have already been officially protected, but many harmless slow worms and grass snakes lose their lives due to people’s general fear of adders.

Maretarium opens in Kotka
By Ville Vanhala
Pages 14—15

A total of 62 species of indigenous fish inhabit Finland’s inland waters and marine areas. In the Kotka Maretarium, opened recently, there are exactly 50 species on display to the public . The tanks also include oysters, molluscs, the isopod Mesidotea entomon, and signal crayfish.

The maretarium’s largest tank is the Baltic Sea exhibit, which has a volume of 500 cubic metres (500,000 litres) and a depth of 7 metres. No attempt has been made to display all the Baltic’s fish species, the tank’s contents being roughly what one could expect to encounter along Finland’s coasts. No previous information was available on how certain species fare in an aquarium; these include the lamprey and lumpsucker. The maretarium is not a so-called recreational aquarium traditionally using sharks, for example, to lure visitors. On the contrary, its main purposes are research and education. This is to be expected, when one considers that the founders of the establishment were the Municipality of Kotka, the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute’s fisheries division, and the University of Helsinki.

Lasse the Osprey spent the winter in Israel
By Pertti Saurola
Pages 18—23

Many Finnish birds are flying about in the world at large with a radio transmitter attached to their backs so that they can be tracked by satellite. Cranes, lesser white-fronted geese, and golden eagles were joined last year by the first Finnish osprey to be fitted with a transmitter. The bird was christened Lasse. The whole idea was born when the Portuguese, whose own osprey population had to all intents and purposes become extinct, asked the Finns if they could supply some young ospreys for reintroduction. First it was necessary to determine in what direction, and how, ospreys transferred from Finland would migrate. Unfortunately, the project became bogged down by Portuguese bureaucracy and nothing happened for several years.

As the Finns had already taken care of the necessary funding and detailed plans, a decision was taken here to fit an osprey from northern Lapland with a transmitter so its movements could be monitored. Ornithologists were very excited, since they could now compare how the world’s northernmost ospreys could adapt themselves to conditions differing sharply from those in southern Sweden, Scotland and Germany. These countries had already published information about the satellite tracking of ospreys.

In the 2001 summer a male osprey was captured at Utsjoki, in northernmost Finland. This bird had been ringed seven years previously in a nest three kilometres away. Nicknamed Lasse, the bird was fitted with a radio transmitter and then released. Lasse’s nest was almost certainly the world’s most northern active osprey nest last year, since nests further north in Finland remained empty.

Lasse set out on his migratory flight on 23rd September, flew east of Lake Ladoga (Russia), where he was tracked on 29th September, and alighted in the Ukraine. Here he remained for a week before continuing his journey via the Crimean Peninsula (6th October), over the Black Sea into Turkey. From there the bird flew to northern Israel, whence came the first satellite fix on 11th October. The satellite indicated that Lasse was located in the valley of Jordan 30 kilometres south-east of the city of Nazareth. There he spent the entire winter. Ornithologists later spotted him perched on top of a pole beside a fish pond on the Beit Alfa kibbutz on 26th February 2002. Lasse had made a far shorter journey than many other Finnish ospreys, covering \\\"only\\\" 4,173 kilometres. Many Finnish ospreys make the 6000-kilometre trip to the Equator region.

Photographing myths
Text Jenni Toivoniemi, photos Arvid Sveen
Pages 28—33

Norwegian Arvid Sveen became fascinated by Saami (Lappish) stone idols and sacrificial sites. He photographed the sacred places and landscapes of the fell Saami people in Finnish, Norwegian, Russian and Swedish Lapland. This work he entitled \\\"Mythical Landscape\\\".

The Saami folk of the fells have a pagan relationship with nature; nature itself is sacred and does not need to be changed. Sveen asked himself why a particular stone or place was considered sacred.

Sveen searched for places of interest in old writings, studied place names on maps, and asked local people for guidance. Official attitudes varied considerably. In Sweden he was regarded with suspicion because by no means all the sites had been studied, whereas in Finland he was provided with a list of sacred places and maps showing their location. A waymarked trail led to many of them.

Setting up home on the island of Vorms
Teksti Aura Koivisto, photos Risto Sauso
Pages 38—43

Aura Koivisto and Risto Sauso moved to Vorms, Estonia’s fourth largest island. Slightly less than 100 square kilometres in extent, Vorms is conveniently sized. The reason for their move is clear: in Finland it would be far too costly to purchase a home close to the sea and the shores are now extremely built-up. Nowadays less than 300 people live on Vorms all year round, but before the Second World War there were almost 2,500 Swedish-speaking inhabitants making a living there.

The island’s habitats are diverse. Each spring thousands of barnacle geese graze on the large fields and meadows, while during the evenings and at night foxes, roe deer and wild boar roam the meadowland. Bats roost in the lofts of outbuildings, Roman snails (Helix pomatia) crawl among the debris of a collapsed earth cellar, hornets buzz about the lilac bushes. In many places the island’s herb-rich forests have become impenetrable thickets. The vegetation is lush and differs from that in Finland, thanks to the calcium-rich soil.

The people, too, are different. They are unhurried, drink large quantities of alcohol, and are extremely talkative. And, most importantly, they are very friendly towards the newcomers from abroad.

Fair Isle – a fair way from anywhere
By Lauri Hänninen
Pages 48—49

Fair Isle is not only one of the world’s most famous locations for birds, it also has a lot of other things to offer. Getting there may be difficult owing to bad weather, but it is well worth it in the end. Situated between the Orkneys and the Shetlands, this small island is one of Britain’s loneliest places. Yet it boasts a football pitch and the familiar red United Kingdom telephone box!

Teksti: Leigh Plester