Good weather for ducks?
1 March 2013
has been regularly counting ducks and swans in SW Finland for 38 years - and
made some fascinating discoveries. We asked him some questions:
Where do you count?
On the lakes and coastline of the island of Aasla, where I live.
How often do you count the waterfowl?
On at least 14 days each month during the winter, in November, December and
What’s changed since 1975?
The weather! Our winters are milder now. In the 70s and 80s the lakes sometimes
froze as early as November. Now they can be ice-free in December, or even in
January. The shallow, coastal sea freezes for a shorter time as well.
How does the weather affect the birds?
Waterfowl which have bred further north begin to concentrate on our brackish
Baltic coast and local lakes from October-November. When the lakes on the
Finnish mainland freeze, we have an influx and then they gradually move further
out into the Baltic. In spring, when the sea-ice melts, flocks stop off
here on their northward migration back to their breeding grounds. So the winter
temperatures strongly influence winter movements. I’m recording much bigger
numbers of wildfowl now.
you give us some examples?
|Goosander by Veli-Matti Väänänen
Mute Swan Cygnus olor has established itself as a wintering bird since
the census began and the numbers increased dramatically until recent years,
when there has been some levelling off. I’m seeing much bigger flocks of
Goosander Mergus merganser, Goldeneye Bucephala clangula,
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos and Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
than in the early years.
What motivates you to go on counting during the coldest months of the
Studying the birds in winter is like an extreme sport: temperatures have
sometimes been as low as -30 °C! But I census birds all year round with the same
intensity − I’m now preparing an article on the post-breeding populations of
waterfowl. With climate change being a major issue, I have extra motivation, as
long-term data has become scientifically very important.
You were one of the founders of A Rocha Finland – what’s your role there
I am still on the board.
Can you give us some news?
Panu Pihkala, the new Chair, writes, ‘We are currently re-booting A Rocha
Finland! The group is contributing significantly to Christian environmentalism
here through a new book on ‘Nature and Worship’, and to a greener emphasis in
the school activities throughout the country which prepare young people for
confirmation into the Lutheran Church of Finland. We are also starting a new A
For more information see Saari, L. (2012). ‘Pitkäaikaismuutokset
Saaristomerellä talvehtivien vesilintujen kannoissa’. Suomen Riista 58:
75–89. [With an English summary]
Small image: Mute Swan by Markus Varesvuo