Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Lance Armstrong

My little Finnish mate
Last night's Eagle Owl stakeout was a little weird. I was standing on the 13th floor of a packed hotel terrace pressed up against a rather tall plate glass wall with a bunch of drunken Finnish revelers. I must have cut a sad figure to the guys singing joyously at their tables: a guy on his own with an orange juice in one hand, binoculars in the other peering over the side of the hotel intently staring at the rooftops below. They must have thought that I was contemplating suicide!

I lasted about 90 minutes before giving up the ghost. It probably wasn't there anyway! I rode back to the nearby hotel on the free bike they supplied. Now let me tell you about this bike. Imagine a girls bike from the 50's made of wrought iron and weighing more than a small Bison. To cycle on this machine meant that you had to peddle furiously, even on a level road. The moment you stopped cycling the bike would quickly cruise to a standstill. The bike also had no brakes (which took some getting used to) and you had to cycle backwards to stop.

Despite all that, at 2.30am after no sleep, I borrowed the bike and did the c14km round trip to Seurasaari, a forested 'island' joined onto the mainland by a thin strip of land. It's essentially a tourist trap with some interesting examples of ancient architecture dotted around. The interesting thing about the place was that some of the animals seem exceedingly curious. I was wielding my loaned Nikon D90 when I noticed an adult Great Tit feeding an eager juvenile. When it got close enough I slowly raised my camera to start taking some shoots. As I did this the adult noticed me. Instead of moving away it momentarily abandoned its hungry youngster and approached me to look at me. It came so close that I thought it would walk onto my head.

Shortly after, I flushed a Red Squirrel. It ran down the road, stopped, had a think then ran back towards me. It stopped literally 3 feet away from me, had a good look then scampered off. I was beginning think that I had left my flies undone or something!

An immature Long-eared Owl
Moments later, an owl swept into a clearing to land on a branch. Sods law, there was a spray of leaves obscuring its face but judging from the buffy patches on its primaries I guessed that it was a Long-eared Owl. It then leaped onto the woodland floor and was obscured by the long grass for short while. Finally, it re-emerged to land on the branch that I attempted to photograph it on.

What a result!

The journey back to the hotel wasn't as tortuous as I had thought it would have been. No Lance Armstrong moments were called for. I got back in time for breakfast and to nurse my knackered thigh muscles and saddle sores!

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