27 February, 2011

Nice afternoon birding walk

Today I was birding for the first time since couple of weeks due to influenza and pneumonia. No hardcore birding, just a slow 8 km hike in and around downtown Valkeakoski, as I'm still convalescent and eating antibiotics. My younger son Roni was with me, we both enjoyed the walk in sunny and warm spring-winter afternoon. Warm indeed, as the temperature was +33°C higher than week ago; 0°C. No doubt, there was spring in the air!

Great Tits, Blue Tits and Green Finches were all singing, as well as Bullfinches and Hooded Crows. In the channel of Valkeakoski we saw 4 Goosanders and 4 Goldeneyes, the first ones arrived already two weeks ago.

Eurasian Jackdaws were playing in the sky and flock of 35 Bohemian Waxwings were eating last Chokeberries. So, nothing new for this year, but anyway a nice afternoon birding walk!

Eurasian Jackdaws

The new Swarovision EL 50 series binoculars from Swarovski


 I've been looking for new binoculars for years. Excellent ones that I would use for next 30 years or even much more longer. And I think I found them finally; new Swarovision EL 50 12x50. The price is high, at the moment I have seen prices like 2200 - 2700 €. Yes, they will be very expensive bins and I have to save money to get them. But when you divide the price with 30 or more years, then it's not so expensive anymore. So, what makes these binoculars so special? Watch the video below, and read the reviews from the following links:

26 February, 2011

Jack Snipe is a tough guy

This Jack Snipe was photographed during winter 2006.
Photo copyright Pekka Sarvela, thanks to him for allowing me to use it.

The Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minumus)  is a small stocky wader. It is the smallest snipe, and the only member of the genus Lymnocryptes. Their breeding habitat is marshes, bogs, tundra and wet meadows with short vegetation in northern Europe and northern Russia. Jack Snipes are migratory, spending the non-breeding period in Great Britain, Atlantic and Mediterranean coastal Europe, Africa, and India.
But... did you know that part of the Jack Snipe population spend winters up here in the north, up to 62nd latitude. They are able survive in very small ditches and brooks, open drains and industrial areas where warm condensation water is let out to nature. Naturally, the weather in the end of autumn affects directly to the number of overwintering snipes. During winter 2000/2001, after warm autumn, 116 Jack Snipes were found from southern Finland. The real number must be much bigger, because this bird is really difficult to find. Their survival strategy is interesting; they don't move at all during day time! When the sun sets down and the dusk arrives, Jack Snipes activate. They may even fly long times over the open water, land every now and then and continue flying. Probably they also move between open ditches and brooks. Often the only sign that birders see, are the small foot steps of Jack Snipe somewhere along the ditch.

Surprisingly big number of overwintering snipes also survive to the spring. Of course it depends on the winter; for example this winter has been very cold and fatal to snipes, because most of the ditches and brooks are now covered with ice. But probably some of the luckiest ones will survive to spring - Jack Snipe is a tough guy!

05 February, 2011

Chernobyl birds are small brained

Sad news: Birds living around the site of the Chernobyl nuclear accident have 5% smaller brains, an effect directly linked to lingering background radiation. The finding comes from a study of 550 birds belonging to 48 different species living in the region, published in the journal PLoS One. Brain size was significantly smaller in yearlings compared to older birds. Smaller brain sizes are thought to be linked to reduced cognitive ability. The discovery was made by a team of researchers from Norway, France and the US led by Professor Timothy Mousseau from the University of South Carolina, US, and Dr Anders Moller from the University of Paris-Sud, France

Read the whole story at: BBC - Earth News - Chernobyl birds are small brained