The nature trail in the winter and during the break of the winter

In the winter the number of birds declines. In some years a couple of whooper swans have stayed to spend the winter in the Ekonkoski rapid area, but usually they move, at least for the coldest part of the winter, a little more south, perhaps to the Gulf of Finland or to the Baltic Sea. However, some mallards generally spend their winter on the Tainionvirta river.

Mallards on the Tainionvirta in winter  
In contrast, the white-throated dipper (Cinclus cinclus) migrates from the Norwegian fjells south to the Tainionvirta, where it spends the winter. The dipper is an excellent diver; actually, it flies under the water speeding with its wings, and catches small fish and bugs. Also a first-class singer, it is well worth listening to! At the end of March, again the dipper heads north.

The white-throated dipper comes to spend the winter in the south by the Ekonkoski rapid.

A puzzle: can you see a white-throated dipper in the picture?
Birds seen in the winter around the Tainionvirta are typically different kinds of tits: great tit (Parus major), blue tit (Parus caeruleus), willow tit (Parus montanus), coal tit (Parus ater), crested tit (Parus cristatus) and long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus), which, in spite of its name, does not actually belong to the family of tits.

The long-tailed tit feeds on the leaf buds of trees in the winter
The ice cover of the river varies. Immediately after an acute freeze, the ice cover is typically at its heaviest, and the river opening is very narrow. The temperature of the water directly under the ice is about 2 degrees and deeper down it rises to 4 degrees. The current gradually draws the deeper, warmer water from under the ice of the lake to the river, and this water melts the ice cover, even though the cold weather continues. The ice cover on the river is always deceptive, and you must never try to cross the river by ice! The humidity rising from the water creates wonderful frosty lace on the trees around the river.

The otters (Lutra lutra) of the river are more easily seen in the winter as they move on the ice. Keep an eye out for round-backed rocks that suddenly start moving! Often you can also see the tracks of an otter leading to the edge of the ice, where suddenly the tracks disappear—the otter dives to fish in the cold water. You can also see how otters have slid from snow-covered rocks straight to the water.

A mother otter with her young one has come from the water to the ice.

The tracks of an otter on the ice