Jump to content
kittykat23uk

Finland- Into No Man's Land

Recommended Posts

kittykat23uk

I had in mind a number of different ideas for a short trip this year to Europe. My main goal was to see a wolverine, although other predators were also a draw. I initially got talking to some birders and we tentatively looked at Estonia as a cheaper wildlife destination. I was a little dubious because it meant dropping the idea of seeing wolverine in favour of bears, raccoon dog and possibly Lynx. Problems arose when we couldn't agree on a suitable date and the trip was finally cancelled altogether when we found out that one of the biggest peacetime exercises in NATO's history was happening in the forest where the bear hide was, scaring away the bears in the process! The guys decided to head to Lithuania for some birding instead, and so I decided to revisit my idea of finding a wolverine and began to look in earnest at the available options.

Two countries and four locations seemed promising, Finland was traditionally the most reliable for this species but I also looked at Sweden as an alternative. I eventually discounted Sweden as, whilst the sightings had been of multiple animals, the hide location seemed to be a bit far from where the wolverines would be seen and I wasn't convinced I would get the experience I wanted.

 

That left Finland; I looked at three different options, Era Eero, located in Lieksa which probably has the best record for wolverine - mainly because bear and wolf are seldom seen there. Boreal Wildlife Centre, Viiksimo, Kuhmo which seems to attract bears and wolverines and sometimes wolf. The other lodge was Kuikka Base Camp also located near Kuhmo. The hides themselves are located in No Man's Land between Finland and Russia.

I was stunned by the quality and number of images on their website of wolves interacting with bears and this, along with the excellent communication from the owner Lassi, swung me to choose this operation. The hides were spread over three locations and seemed to give a decent chance of wolverine at one of these and bears and wolves at the others. This turned out to be an excellent choice!

Five nights in the hide including all food and airport transfers came to 1430 Euros. I used some avios for my Heathrow to Helsinki flight.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kittykat23uk

Day 1 – 8th August 2015

 

 

On the flight I met a nice Finnish gentleman who was returning home from California. We got onto the subject of hunting and he explained to me that many Finlanders enjoy hunting and shooting and that the conscientious hunters take only what they can use for the pot. Unfortunately wildfowl and gamebird shooting appears to be unregulated and there are some nefarious individuals who will shoot as much as they can for the sport of it and just leave the bodies to rot- they don’t even try to sell the meat. I was shocked at this wasteful use of such a rich resource.

 

On arrival in Helsinki I was somewhat concerned when the pilot announced that, due to a failure of the baggage system, only half our luggage had made it onto our flight. Thankfully, having checked in early, mine soon appeared on the carousel. It was already late when I arrived so I went straight to the Hilton Helsinki located just a few hundred metres from the airport. I had a comfortable night’s sleep in the hotel at a cost of 95 euros, including breakfast.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kittykat23uk

Day 2 – 9th August 2015

 

The following lunchtime I connected with my onward flight to Kajaani- all went very smoothly. Some views from the plane:

 

20246705924_b10527b516_c.jpg[

/url]20150814_180937 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

20150814_180859 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

20876531261_69310a7d5a_c.jpg

20150814_181028 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

I was collected along with two other Norwegian guests and driven a further 2 1/2 hrs to the base camp. The scenery is beautifully serene as we passed many lakes and coniferous forests on the way through. In the UK, one can pretty much guarantee that wherever there is a pond or lake there will be ducks, moorhens and/or coots, possibly the occasional heron. But what struck me here was that every lake seemed completely devoid of birdlife - no ducks, coots or herons to be seen! The forests were equally bare of any deer that I could see and I wondered how such a sparse prey base could support so many predators. I enquired about this and discovered that, as this place is frozen during the winter months the breeding season for the birds is very short, so by August most have already left for warmer climes.

 

 

 

 

21900780452_3ee03eca90_c.jpg

Scenery & plantlife around Kuikka Base camp by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21725892519_8185cfb473_c.jpg[

/url]Scenery & plantlife around Kuikka Base camp by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21724937388_fc6690345f_c.jpg[

/url]Scenery & plantlife around Kuikka Base camp by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We eventually turned off the main road and travelled along graded forest tracks until finally arriving at Kuikka Base Camp. Kuikka is a former forest workers' residence situated in the municipality of Kuhmo, on the border with Russia. The base camp sits on a headland, surrounded by the Kuikka lake and boreal forest. The building is a traditional rural Finnish log house.

 

21291719653_20e6ce0c94_c.jpg

/url]Kuikka Base Camp area by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

The team were very friendly and showed my to my room which adjoins the dining area. There are 7 guest rooms, all with cabin bunks. Due to the origin of the house, there are no single or double rooms as such. There are 4 beds in every room. 8 in the largest. Rooms are basic, but clean and comfortable with shared bathroom facilities, and there are no locks on the doors. There are European style two pin sockets in the rooms for charging and good wifi is available throughout the lodge. Clean sheets were provided for guest to make up their own beds.

 

21724767750_59700569e8_c.jpg

Kuikka Base Camp area by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21290093524_4f22a3f28e_c.jpg

Kuikka Base Camp area by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

The clientele here was a cosmopolitan bunch, with guests arriving from Germany, Scandinavia and South Africa. Most people spoke English, but whether they chose to speak it was a different matter! The guide Antti, was very fluent in English as were the rest of the staff.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kittykat23uk

I had about an hour or so to settle in before dinner, so took a stroll around the grounds. There is a woodland bird feeding station in the lodge grounds. A variety of birds came to the feeders, mainly a pair of great-spotted woodpeckers, willow tits, bullfinch and greenfinch, a female pied flycatcher and, lifer for me, crested tits. A stunning Red Squirrel with a black tail also visited on a couple of occasions and proved to be very confiding.

 

21718057460_fbcba1f3f1_b.jpg[

/url]Red Squirrel by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21718289478_cfab2a5cc1_b.jpg

Red Squirrel by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21906151545_b680410f8a_b.jpg

Great-spotted Woodpecker by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21283422404_fe73c1c1d2_b.jpg

Bullfinch by Jo Dale, on Flickr

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kittykat23uk

The dinner was served buffet style at 4 PM. It was always tasty and had a very homely feel. The lady who cooked most of the meals was from Estonia. During my stay we had salmon in dill sauce, lasagne, pork casserloe, escalopes, and a delicious cheese-topped meatloaf, most were served with boiled potatoes, seasoned with dill, and salad. Every night there was a delicious pudding such as blueberry frangipane or cake.

To tide us over in the hides the lodge provided a selection of meat and cheese for making sandwiches as well as fresh fruit and biscuits. They also offer to stop off en route to the lodge if guests want to pick up any snacks. Beer/wine etc. is not available at the lodge but I could have happily spent nothing at all and still been well fed. A huge selection of teas, along with coffee and hot chocolate is freely available, along with a selection of biscuits and cake. The lodge provides flasks, so that hot drinks can be taken to the hides.

After dinner we are taken to our respective hides for the night's viewing. Most people spend the whole night in the hide, although there is an option to be collected at 11PM. They advise to take warm clothes and sleeping bags. The latter can be hired for 10 euro per night. I brought my own. A Nikon camera with lenses is available to hire along with ball heads. But I brought my own camera gear.

Myself, and the other two guys Runa and Paul who arrived with me were allocated the Lake for our first night. Wellies (rubber boots) were advised as necessary footware as the track to this hide is rather squelchy (the lodge has a selection to borrow, but I brought my own). Each group is assigned a hide according to size. As an individual, I was always given my own hide. Runa and Paul always shared a bigger hide. At the lake I was given a small hide on the left hand side, with Runa and Paul in the hide to my right. We swapped telephone numbers so we could text each other if we spotted something.

The “Lake” is a large pond and the bait is placed at the back of the pond. In the case of the two locations for bears, a pig carcass is placed in the water. These are provided by local pig farmers at no cost. If the lodge were not to take them, the farmer would have to pay for them to be disposed of. Dog biscuits are scattered about and offcuts of salmon are placed up in the trees.

 

As some final bits of bait were put out by our guide Antti, we took our places in the hide. I spent some time setting up my camera and camcorder using the provided threads and wooden blocks to secure my tripod heads (ball head for camera, pan/tilt for the camcorder). Each hide had a bench on which to mount cameras and drawstring fabric holes for the lenses. They also have plastic viewing panes above the camera holes so that one can observe the comings and goings without having to continually stare through the viewfinder. We sat in quiet anticipation of the evening’s activities as Antti left us for the night.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
xelas

@@kittykat23uk

 

Lovely to see also reports from places in Europe. How was the mozzies situation while sitting in the hide?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
CaroleE

@@kittykat23uk

I was hoping there would be a report for this trip. Great to read about a wildlife experiece in Europe. The camp/hide set up looks ideal. Looking forward to hearing about the rest of thr trip.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Game Warden

@@kittykat23uk Anything with Wolverine as a tag gets my attention - bucketlist sighting. Hope you got some great photos!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TonyQ

@@kittykat23uk

I have been looking forward to your report since I knew you were going.

A great start - anticipating your first night in the hide...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kittykat23uk

@@kittykat23uk

 

Lovely to see also reports from places in Europe. How was the mozzies situation while sitting in the hide?

They were a bit bothersome. Repellant is advisable and they provide bug spray in the hides. I got bitten a few times but my skin did not react as badly as when bitten at home. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kittykat23uk

A sharp, plaintive cry heralded the first of the scavengers, a Baltic gull. These were soon joined by a cacophony of repetitive “Crrrucks,” sharp calls and gutteral gurgling croaks, as a party of argumentative ravens joined the scene. For the first hour an increasing number of gulls and ravens descended to feed.

 

Then at about 1830 I spotted a single shadowy figure moving behind the tree-line to my left- my first European brown bear! The bear originally kept his distance as he crossed a gap in the trees and then headed up a hill behind the hides, I lost sight of him as he disappeared behind a collection of boulders. The bear soon reappeared and descended down towards the pond from my left. Emerging into the open I was able to fully appreciate such an impressive beast. He sported a rich coat of burnished bronze that seemed to glow in the evening sun. His pelage deepened to a rich chocolate on his flanks through to almost black on his legs and belly, his dense fur giving him a much neater appearance in comparison to his grizzly North American cousins.

 

21906271915_2204f53ed9_b.jpg

European Brown Bear by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

The bear made a beeline for the salmon that had been placed high up in the trees and, leaping with surprising dexterity, the bear deftly plucked the tidbit off the branch and dropped to all fours to enjoy his prize.

 

 

21718452790_7e29c4bbb5_b.jpgEuropean Brown Bear by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21718683438_92b133a875_b.jpgEuropean Brown Bear by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Over the course of the next few hours a whole sleuth of bears joined us. We estimated there must have been at least six to eight different individuals with numbers peaking at four bears in view at a time. There is a definite pecking order with smaller bears feeding nervously, clacking their teeth, in deference to lager animals, before giving way to a larger bear that appeared on the scene, but we didn’t see any open hostility on our first night. A few of the smaller individuals were generally much more uniform dark brown/black with paler bronze faces. I later asked Antti if this denoted a juvenile but he advised that there are some adult bears that are smaller and the colour varies between the bears of all ages. Mothers with young cubs are seldom seen at the feeding sites, as they attract many large males that would be a threat to their young.

 

21916168161_d372b43a47_b.jpgEuropean Brown Bear by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21916215291_dcd60b2556_b.jpgEuropean Brown Bear by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21719486369_2be57b29f8_b.jpgEuropean Brown Bear by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21719502999_357630cab5_b.jpgEuropean Brown Bear by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

A breeze rippled across the pond as a white-tailed eagle showed up briefly before departing. Some of the bears came foraging very close to the hide during the course of the night. By about 10.00 PM the light began to fade and by 11.00 it was really too dark to see more than a few shadows. At this point I tried to get some sleep in the hide. The floor of the hide is padded and additional bedrolls and thin pillows are provided in the hides. In the larger hides one can sleep on the viewing benches, but I preferred the floor.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kittykat23uk

Here's a video from the first night. It has background music so if you are being naughty and reading this at work you may want to switch off the sound before you watch it. Though you will miss the lovely song at the start and the captions won't make much sense! :)

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sverker

Nice, nice!

Great pics.

 

Password for the video?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kittykat23uk

You shouldn't need a password for the video now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
cheetah80

Nice start! Glad you got nice photos of the bears - looking forward to the rest of the trip report now!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kitsafari

@@kittykat23uk great capture of the bear in the middle of the jump and the spray that came from his paws (i think).

 

looking forward to the big highlight --- the wolverine. can't wait! :D

 

and to add - those are beautiful views of the lake from the camp.

Edited by Kitsafari

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Carol Baldock

Hi Jo, I am working my way through your trip report of Finland :D

Only part way through, so far...

Love the landscape shots of your location- stunningly beautiful .

Pleased to read that you got a share for the transfer and interesting to read your motivations for the trip :D

Rob and I had crested tit as a lifer, around the same time as your trip- but at Loch Garten in Scotland for us, with red squirrels to boot - captivating and fascinating birds :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
CaroleE

@@kittykat23uk

 

Fantastic first night sightings!

I have to admit that bears have always put the fear of god into me but these are beautiful animals. If somewhat terrifying with the ease with which it jumped for the salmon and made light work of that pig carcass.

 

Great video (loved the song and captions combination!)

The lake looks beautiful with the light of the setting sun on it and the trees (and the bear naturally :) )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kittykat23uk

Hi Jo, I am working my way through your trip report of Finland :D

Only part way through, so far...

Love the landscape shots of your location- stunningly beautiful .

Pleased to read that you got a share for the transfer and interesting to read your motivations for the trip :D

Rob and I had crested tit as a lifer, around the same time as your trip- but at Loch Garten in Scotland for us, with red squirrels to boot - captivating and fascinating birds :D

It was definitely a case of quality over quantity, waiting patiently for stuff to happen and really spending quality time observing the animals' behaviour. The rewards were high though, wait until you read the rest! :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kittykat23uk

Nice start! Glad you got nice photos of the bears - looking forward to the rest of the trip report now!

 

Thanks! I got shedloads of bear pics, It's difficult to pick the best to show you. :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kittykat23uk

@@kittykat23uk

 

Fantastic first night sightings!

I have to admit that bears have always put the fear of god into me but these are beautiful animals. If somewhat terrifying with the ease with which it jumped for the salmon and made light work of that pig carcass.

 

Great video (loved the song and captions combination!)

The lake looks beautiful with the light of the setting sun on it and the trees (and the bear naturally :) )

 

Thanks, yes it is a little unnerving with bears wandering round just in front of the hides, especially knowing they are hungry and you have snacks in the hide with you. The toilet outside is just partitioned off by a thick canvass too.. But there is plenty of food put out for the bears to keep them happy! :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kittykat23uk

Day 3 – 10th August 2015

 

I had a restless few hours as bears continued to feed right in front of my hide. By 03:00 I had given up on the idea of further rest and began observing again, sighting a single bear at 03:40 in the twilight. Later a goshawk took offence at one of the ravens and chased him off and the white tailed eagle put in another appearance for a short time. There was no further bear action that morning and so at 07:50 I packed together my stuff and headed back towards the road with the other guests. We met up with Antti and enthusiastically recounted the events of the past evening.

 

21886544206_f8d01a0742_b.jpgScenery and plantlife around Kuikka base camp by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21724641870_c4b0bafd57_b.jpgScenery and plantlife around Kuikka base camp by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21291587743_46339332a9_b.jpgScenery and plantlife around Kuikka base camp by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

21922409481_b3cc7bb065_b.jpgScenery and plantlife around Kuikka base camp by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Our drive back to the lodge was uneventful. One would be lucky to see any ungulates in the vicinity of the hide as the presence of all the carnivores must be pretty off-putting. Arctic hares can be seen on the tracks, but Antti explained that these are usually seen late evening and early morning (when guests are in the hides) and I didn’t see one myself. Sightings at each hide were duly noted on a white board and records for the past year are pinned up around the lodge. We had about half an hour to freshen up before breakfast was served.

 

The delicious breakfast consisted of bacon, eggs, sometimes little sausages/frikkadelan and potato. Cereal and cold cuts were also available. For tonight, Antti advised me and the Norwegian duo that we would go to Paradise. This pleased us no end as wolves had been seen two nights running so we were hopeful we might get lucky.

 

After chatting to the other guests I tried to sleep for a little while between around 10.30 and 1 pm. I spent some time in the late afternoon walking a few of the short trails around the lodge, photographing some of the beautiful lakes and interesting flora of this boreal landscape.

 

21900719652_c75c745afc_b.jpgScenery and plantlife around Kuikka base camp by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21724651570_fddd79e63e_b.jpgScenery and plantlife around Kuikka base camp by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21900723682_184bfc0416_b.jpgScenery and plantlife around Kuikka base camp by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

After another delicious meal it was time to head to Paradise!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kittykat23uk

The Paradise Hides are located at a wide expanse of marshland, bordered by forest. It’s located about 1 km from the lake hides and the animals can easily visit both areas in the same evening. The pig carcass is placed in the water an area of scrub and bare trees. I had a hide on the right hand side, this was quite comfortable with wide bunks, but was further from the closest tree-line.

 

A pair of white-tailed eagles perched regally on top of these dead trees.

 

21722363598_19dc9623c3_b.jpgWhite-tailed Eagle by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21723323949_a162114c3f_b.jpgWhite-tailed Eagle by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21287472934_f767c67744_b.jpgWhite-tailed Eagle by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Not long after the last of the food had been scattered around, flocks of ravens and hooded crows descended to feed. After about two hours, the first bears started to gather.

 

21884149466_362787d6e1_b.jpgEuropean Brown Bear by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

All was quiet, with bears feeding peacefully at the carcass and in from of the hides.

 

21722465528_05439ccd25_b.jpgEuropean Brown Bear by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21920010081_1d92e46c55_b.jpgEuropean Brown Bear by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21287575124_04942c5edd_b.jpgEuropean Brown Bear by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

21884162326_7e453626b5_b.jpgEuropean Brown Bear by Jo Dale, on Flickr

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kittykat23uk

 

 

Then all of a sudden, two bears faced off against each other! Rearing up on their hind legs, they used their front paws like boxers, delivering blow after massive blow against each other. The roars could be heard from our hides. One bear quickly gained the upper hand, and pressed home his advantage, the other, panting, grabbed the trunk of a tree for support. Falling to all fours, the victor continued his posturing for a while, but things quickly settled down and the bears continued to feed side by side for some time.

 

 

 

More bears arrived throughout the evening and continued to feed peacefully until it started to get too dark to see.

 

21722483708_e92372c8c4_b.jpgEuropean Brown Bear by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21884169586_789a19ddde_b.jpgEuropean Brown Bear by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

At that point I decided to get some rest for a few hours.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kittykat23uk

Day 4 – 11th August 2015

 

Dawn the next morning was beautiful as the golden light shone through the steaming marshland, it was if the land itself was alive and breathing. A bear came to feed and a white tailed eagle emerged from the forest, carrying a part of the carcass to feed at the back of the marsh. At 06:30 I spotted three wolves dashing from behind the hides into a strip of forest to the left of the feeding area. Alerting Runa by text, I kept an eye on the edge of the forest and soon enough one wary wolf emerged and scanned the area.

 

21722710250_baca294d78_b.jpgEuropean Brown Bear by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21898814832_e2e582da16_b.jpgParadise by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21722962198_c57a499efc_b.jpgParadise by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

21724008969_baee33cb17_b.jpgEurasian Grey Wolf by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

:D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This topic is quite old. Unless updating a photographic thread with new images, please consider starting a new discussion. Thank you.

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy