Readers’ wildlife photos

June 2, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today we have the second batch of photos taken by ecologist Susan Harrison on a recent trip to Finland (part 1 of her trip is here). Her IDs and narratives are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Finnish Forest Fauna

While visiting the University of Oulu in May 2023, after enjoying the common migratory birds flooding into the city’s parks, I took two guided day tours to see elusive forest-dwellers such as owls and grouse.  On these trips I met British “twitchers” and German “Vogelbeobachters” who’d come to Finland just for this purpose, since it’s one of the best places in Europe to see forest wildlife.

Large old trees with nest cavities are scarce, so nesting boxes are frequently set out by bird-lovers.  The nature tour company in Oulu takes it a step further: they put up owl boxes, and take customers to view the inhabitants, but you must sign an agreement not to record the location.  I guess on balance this is a good arrangement for the owls and us.

Female Ural Owls (Strix uralensis) sometimes maim people who approach their nests, so we were cautious:

Her three owlets seen from a respectful distance:

Female Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) tending her owlet in the former nest of a Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis):

My grouse-oriented tour took place around Kuusamo, a small resort town on the Russian border. Finnish bird tours begin at 3 am, so please forgive some grainy photos taken in dim light.

Male Willow Grouse or Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta):

Male Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), the size of a turkey, strutting and fanning his tail:

Female Capercaillie stuffing her gizzard with roadside gravel:

Male Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix) running, leaping and tail-fanning in front of females:

Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) stalking the forest:

Domestic Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) wandering around in radio collars:

On both trips we also saw many interesting songbirds and water birds; here are some of the latter.

Arctic Loon (Gavia arctica), a.k.a. Black-Throated Loon or Diver:

Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus), known as Horned Grebe in North America, and also picturesquely called Devil-Diver, Hell-Diver, Pink-eyed Diver, and Water Witch:

Male Ruff (Calidris pugnax). This shorebird has three types of males, determined by a chromosomal inversion. The common type (85-90%) is colorful and puts on aggressive group displays. A second type is paler and less aggressive, and a third type mimics females and sneaks copulations.  The genetics and evolution of this complex mating system are just beginning to be understood.  This male is of the common type:

JAC: I’ve added a figure from a paper in BMC Genomic Data showing the various types of males. “L. L. F.” is Lindsay L. Farrell, and “S. B. M.” is Susan B. MacRae; click to read the caption.


We watched their displays at a distance:

7 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Hasty and rare note to say :

    Readers’ Wildlife Photos gets better and better – never fails to settle my mind – and increase my observational insight when on the occasional Nature hike.

  2. Very good! The ruff mating types seem similar to that of the sparrow mating types described here recently. There are many other examples of male mating types in the animal kingdom, so one can now wonder if there are yet more chromosome rearrangements behind them.

    1. How long do we have to wait for the ruff’s mating system to be put forward as another example of multiple sexes in nature?

  3. This is a delightful set to wake up to. Very exciting.
    I’m fascinated by the male Ruffs. Thank you for this information.

  4. You sure get around! Thanks for these lovely pictures of several difficult-to-encounter birds and other wildlife. Looking forward to more of your travel adventures.

  5. Lovely photos. It’s interesting to see how species representation varies across the boreal. Some species we have here, and some we don’t, although the environments seem very similar.

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