July 2011, Part 5, Finland bears and wolverines



At the end of July I went to Finland to photograph the "large carnivors" This trip was orginazed by www.finnature.fi .

On friday the 22nd of July I departed from Brussels to Helsinki. In Helsinki I took the flight to Joensuu airport. A guide was waiting for me and he took me to the Keljanpuro Lodge in Kontiovaara a village close to the Rusian border some 30km south-east of Lieksa.

The owner is Eero www.eraeero.com . It is a beautifull lodge in de forest. There is no electricity nor running water, but there is a sauna and water is comming from a well. For the rest there is a lot of nature. I arrived late, so after having some fish soup I went to bed.

The next morning the guests, who spend the night in the photography hides at the wolverine site came back about 7:30. They were realy enthusiastic, they told me during breakfast, that besides wolverines a bear came to the site. 

During the day I did some photography in the surroundings of the lodge.











By 4 o'clock it was time to go to the feeding site. There are 2 photography hides and 1 big hide for non photographers. I joined a Swedish photographer in the big photography hide. The owner Eero was distributing small pieces of salmon over te feeding site, while I was setting up my camera at one of the camera holes in the hide. After Eero finsished with hiding the food at several locations on the site, he left. Then the intention was to stay as quiet as possible. Eero returned the next morning about 7 o'clock. Both of us in the hide had a picknick basket full of food and water. The toilet in the hide looked like a "chemical toilet " type, but then a "dry" one. Somebody must have cleaned it on a regular basis beacause it did not smell.

The it was waiting for the wolverines. In the meantime seaguls and rafens were feeding themselves on the salmon that Eero tried to hide from them. I was cocerned if there was anything left for the wolverines! After several hours the first wolverine showed up.

Later more wolverines showed up, it must have been a family because they normally live solitary ( as far as I know). Also I was told that wolverines are a rare sight, there only living about 150 in Finland. It is forbidden to hunt wolverines in Finland.

I spend two nights in the same hide in Kontiovaara, the second night was with a German journalist from the Nordis magazine  and his wife. At the end of july it gets too dark for photography after about 11o'clock in the evening. Then I took some sleep in 1 of the beds in the photo hide. Early in the morning about 4 o'clock there was enough light again, but only on the second night the wolverines were seen in the morning, during sunrise.  




























After 2 nights in Kontiovaara, the guide brought me to the Boreal Wildlife Center in Viiksimo www.viiksimo.fi .It is a formal Finish border patrol station now renovated with comfortable guests rooms.

Again about 4 o'clock in the afternoon we were brought to the bear site. I spend one night in the big hide. This hide has place for about 10 photographers but I was on my own. The other  guests went to other hides around the feeding site.

I was told that besides bears and wolverines, wolves were seen on a regular base from this hide, but I have not seen them that night.

At this site, rangers tied some pig carcasses to a tree trunk. Also they put some salmons at varous places around the site to attract the bears.

This site is meanly visited by bears. I did see wolverines but the conditions were not good enough to photograph them. A bonus was a white tailed eagle and a black kite, when they came feeding on the left overs in the morning.

























































After breakfast in the Boreal Wildlife Center in Viiksimo, a guide brought me to the Martinselkonen Wilds Centre www.martinselkonen.fi . It is located close to the Russion border, about 60km north-east of Suomussalmi. This accomodation is similar to the Boreal Wildlife Center.

For the feeding of the bears they use dog food. At the Martinselkonen Wilds Center they use 3 different sites for feeding: in a swamp area; in the forest and at a pond.

The professional photo hides are small here, there is place for two persons. I booked each night a professional hide for my own, this way I could use all the camera holes in the hide. On all the locations there were devices to attach a tripod head, so I did not take my tripod with me, only the ballhead. A small bucket is used as a toilet.

The first night I went to one of the of the hides at the swamp area







































The next night I used a photo hide in the forest. The difficulty in the forest is when the sun shines, the contrast can easily be to harsh. So it was a challange to photograph to bears here.
















































When the bears are finshed feeding and all to dog food is gone. They disapear in the forest and they will not come back again till the next day. I did wake up early anyway hoping to see anything but nothing hapens in the morning. I was told that it is different during the mating season when the bears have other things on their minds, and food is available the whole night.





At the Martinselkonen Wilds Centre they also have a bird feeder, just like they have in the Keljanpuro Lodge and the Boreal Wildlife Centre. Most of the bird photography I did at the Martinselkonen Wilds Centre. Not only birds are feeding on the sunflower seeds, but also red squirrels and this mouse.





















The 3rd night at the Martinselkonen Wilds Centre I was photographing at a pond. It is a really nice location good for making photos from bears in and around the water. Also I did do some experiments with bear silhouttes. Around the pond there is a wooden "walkway". Of course this looks unnatural and although they tried to hide this as much as possible, sometimes I could see this walkway on my photos. The guide discussed with me were to distrubute the dog food, and after he left it was a long time waiting for the bears. It is not like you can hear them coming, but suddenly one will apear out of the forest.




















































































After my photo session at hte pond I returned for breakfast at the Martinselkonen Wilds Centre. At the bird feeder a woodpecker showed up. Then it was time to go home again. A guide brought me to Kajaani airport for my flight to Helsinki. On the way to the airport we saw some commen cranes.





If you like to see all my photo's of this trip then click here:http://www.pixelsofnature.nl/pixels-of-europe/2011-pixels-of-finland/