Friday 26 May 2023

Finland, Brown Bear watching, Kuntilampi Karhu - Night of 19th/20th May 2023

The drive to Karhu seemed the most remote part of Finland that we'd driven through. There were very few petrol stations, stores or centres of habitation. As we neared the viewing centre we became part of a convoy all headed in the same direction. There were quite a lot of people  although most were only doing the evening viewing and we were split into groups and directed to various hides. We were in the largest building complete with bunk beds, rather archaic heater and toilet. The toilet was a necessary curiosity, essential when spending 14 hours without the possibility of leaving the building. It was clear, however, that nothing put down the toilet actually went anywhere.

Bait was put out to ensure a visit from bears, mostly they believed crossing out of Russia.

Salmon bait attracts more than the bears.

We started with some 10 and a guide in our hide and settled down to wait. First there were waders, ducks, gulls and eagles to watch.

Herring Gull Omissus subspecies and Baltic Gull

Juvenile White-tailed Eagle with darvic that we couldn't read

Ruff in breeding plumage

Common Snipe

Spotted Redshank

The first bear to arrive was a young female with a light honey coloured coat. She set about finding a lot of the salmon that had been hidden away from the gulls in holes in the ground and in trees. She seemed wary of the forest, or something in it and left after some 10 minutes.

This was the only bear seen by the evening only viewers who left at 10pm. After that just 5 of us were left in the hide. We decided not to use the heater although the temperature soon dropped as the sun sank in the sky.

The sun had still to drop below the horizon after 10pm.

Another young female came by at 10:15pm

She found a few morsels and soon left. There was another bear
just within the treeline and she seemed keen to keep her distance.

This male bear emerged next and had been loitering at the forest
 edge while the previous female fed.

He began foraging but was soon joined by a paler coloured bear.

I thought there may have been trouble when the second bear turned up but 
the first bear acted submissively, although paced about a lot and seemed quite frustrated.

Here he hugs a tree that had held salmon taken 
by the honey coated female.

When he decided to leave, the second bear followed him closely.

There is a brief appearance from a bear that sports a two tone coat, 
possibly part way through moulting at 11:20pm

This may have been the two bears interacting together early, 
but not certain 12:20am

A single bear came in at 02:40 am and foraged beyond where the bait had been placed. It was
 finding food, possibly plant matter. It was now getting lighter and the gulls were back.

There was a bit of a lull after this bear and most people in the hide got some sleep. I stayed on a couple of chairs,catnapped and checked any sounds that drifted across the clearing. 

At 04:50 am this big fella strolled in.

He seemed more aware of the hide than any other bear that we'd seen.

There were no bears over the next hour so we decided to leave, knowing all the time as we walked to the car that several bears could be nearby.