The First Signs of Spring: Migratory Birds Return to the Tainionvirta

A clear sign of winter’s break and spring’s advance is the return of waterfowl to their nesting areas. The swans begin to noisily scare away last year’s juveniles; it is time for the youngsters to become independent. A pair of swans forms a life-lasting intimate couple, and they strengthen their relationship in the spring with ballet-like dances. Several pairs of swans nest on lake Jääsjärvi, and they come to claim their nesting places when the water is still frozen. They guard their chosen places during the day, but on April evenings, they come to the river to feed on the plants on the shallow bottom. Sometimes you can see as many as a hundred swans at the neck of the Tainionvirta river, waiting for the lakes further north to lose ice cover.

Picture: Swans have gathered to wait for the ice to disappear.

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Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), wigeons (Anas Penelope), teals (Anas crecca), goldeneyes (Buchefala langula), red-breasted mergansers (Mergus serrator), and common mergansers (Mergus merganser) arrive in March–April dressed in their display attires: the colors are bright and clear. The goldeneye males arrive somewhat ahead of the females. They carry out fierce “marine battles” with each other trying to secure the favor the females.

A goldeneye in its display outfit

Male goldeneyes try to scare others from a female.
Often in the spring you can see hundreds of goldeneyes and divers (Gavia arctica)  in the open waters at the neck of the Tainionvirta, where they stop to rest and wait for the lakes to free from ice cover

The call of the diver across the lake is an integral part of a Finnish spring or summer evening.
In the spring you can see surprising visitors in the tops of the trees on the islands near the neck of the river. Black grouses (Lyrurus teteris)  living in the Isosuo bog nearby sometimes gather in the trees. In March–April they gather to display in the bog, and you can hear their clucking early in the morning or in the evening at sunset.
During the migration period, the river is an interesting place for bird watching. There are always plenty of bugs by the river, making it an excellent stopping place for migrating birds. Every year the first wagtails are spotted hunting insects on the rocks. Also rare species of birds often stop by the river, like cormorant (Phalocrocorax carbo) , grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) , coot (Fulica atra) or bluethroat (Luscinia svecica), which nests on the fjells of Lapland.

A cormorant resting on the Tainionvirta during its migration to the sea

Blooming wood sorrel covers the earth like snow