Suomen Luonto
English summaries 12/2001

Jewels in flight
By Juha Valste
Pages 4 -11

A group of extremely colourful kinds of birds, Coraciiformes, which the Finns appropriately call \"glitter birds\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\", share the common habit of nesting in holes (strictly speaking, tunnels). Among them, only the kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) nests in Finland with any regularity, its population fluctuating enormously according to the severity of the winter. The roller (Coracias garrulus) used to breed in this country, while the hoopoe (Upupa epops) has nested here once. Each year, bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) are seen in Finland and in the last few years a few blue-cheeked bee-eaters (M. superciliosus) have also been observed.

Weighing only around 40 grams, the kingfisher has a thin, stiletto-type bill taking up rather a lot of its length. Its weakness is a reluctance to migrate, as a consequence of which cold winters are fatal to the bird. By contrast, the bee-eater is an enthusiastic traveller, breeding commonly in southern and south-eastern Europe, the Middle East, northern and southern Africa. The winter is spent in tropical Africa, after which the birds fly back to their breeding areas in spring as soon as there are enough flying insects about.

The last reliable record of a roller nesting in Finland came from Åland (Ahvenanmaa) in 1943. Visits by the species to this country also tends to be fewer nowadays than previously. This appears to be because, preying mainly on larger insects, rollers have been adversely affected by the loss of large cow herds from the Finnish countryside. In southern and south-eastern Europe, however, the birds are still plentiful.

Hoopoes used to nest in Denmark and Sweden but nowadays they are only common further south in Europe, their range extending over a considerable part of Africa and Asia as well. There is only one species of Upupa in the world. Compare this with the kingfishers, of which more than 90 species have been recognised over all continents, in addition to 25 different species of bee-eaters and 12 species of rollers, both of which are confined to the Old World.

Welcome back, roe deer!
By Timo-Heikki Varis
Pages 22 - 27

The roe deer formed part of the Finnish fauna during the 16th and 17th centuries at least. In the 18th century this small member of the deer family suddenly vanished, to gradually reappear in the 20th century. Viitasaari journalist and wildlife photographer Timo-Heikki Varis has been observing roe deer in his home area, where the species was first recorded again some 20 years ago.

Roe deer are most active in the dim light of dawn and dusk. Despite their tiny hooves, they survive the winter snow by eating bilberry shrubs and broadleaf shoots remaining uncovered under the spreading branches of spruce trees, as well as by taking advantage of food put out for them by well-meaning people. The deer also visit hay barns.

Snow tends to cut roe deer off in forest areas measuring a few hectares in extent. Occasionally there comes a winter when the snow is hard enough to support their hooves, and then the animals are able to walk over fields from one stand to the next.

It has been estimated that within the next decade, the roe deer population will be bigger than that of any other member of the deer family. Climate warming helps the species to spread. It is hoped that, like the whooper swan, this once rare species will once again commonly grace our countryside.

Literature in aid of the environment
By Pertti Sillanpää
Pages 30-33

During the 1960s environmental matters became political issues and were firmly established as newsworthy affairs. Simultaneously, the environment began to creep into books. Authors have participated in the discussion about the environment by writing about the Finnsí relationship with their environment and their environmental problems, and by criticising the ideology of growth. Finlandís milestone environmental conflicts - from Koijärvi to Alta and Kessi - have also found their way into classic Finnish literature.

The main theme in current environmental literature appears to be criticism towards the culture that has driven a wedge between mankind and nature. The written art form has also accepted responsibility for the future of mankind, since an ecologically sustainable life style programme can be found in books published as early as the 1970s. According to texts, the question is one of life style, and respect for nature and the diversity of life. A democratic regard for nature is also based on equality between different kinds of people and respect for one another.

In his thesis for the licentiate of philosophy degree, Pertti Sillanpää has studied the role of literature in Finnish environmental discussion during the early 1970s.

Nature brings relief to he who brings relief
By Kari Kovalainen
Pages 40-41

Dedicated to work among youth succumbing to the abuse of alcohol, Harri Talman has had almost two decades of experience of helping others. The responsibility and the sharing of distress is exhausting, but earning the trust of young people is highly rewarding. As an antidote to this demanding work, Talman takes a great deal of pleasure in getting out into nature. Although the sea is especially important to him, he is also happy in a natural state forest or a cultural environment.

Harri Talman has faith in the healing powers of nature. He has observed this often enough on trips into the wilds with young folk. A natural environment creates a state in which people tend to \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"open up\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\" and talk about their problems. On an expedition into the wilds the protective roles are no longer necessary and the sharp division between the helper and those needing help may become blurred. Talman makes no attempt to give a name to the mechanism through which nature influences people in this way. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"Nature has a positive effect; you see this miracle time and again,\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\" he says simply.

Teksti: Leigh Plester