This exciting 4-day tour, runningthroughout Finland's high summermonths, provides a 3-night stay at awonderful Wilderness Centre, lying in aquiet taiga forest along the Russian border. Here, you have the option ofspending one or two nights in a speciallyconstructed log cabin that has beendesigned as a bear hide. We were amazed, during our firstNaturetrek visit in August 2001, to see over20 individuals on each night, with amaximum of 12 present at any one time!Rarely during the period of each watch(between 5pm and 6am the followingmorning) were Bears not in the vicinity ofthe hide. Further, being just south of theArctic Circle, at this time of year the areaenjoys virtually continuous, 24-hour-rounddaylight; it is certainly light enough towatch the Bears throughout the night,should you choose to do so. Despite themany Bears attracted to this quiet area,they seem able to mingle together, at timesin some numbers, in a relatively peacefulmanner. Only the approach of the largestsolitary males sends others scattering,though there is a fascinating hierarchy thatmay be observed through the course ofeach night. Mothers arrive, with cubs in tow (the cubs are born during the wintermonths and stay close to their mothers for over a year); playful independentyoungsters come and go throughout thenight; single females forage timidly, whilsthuge, stern males give one another space.During the course of the night, all forage,scratch, climb, sniff, scrap and play -displaying all the endearing characteristicswhich make Bears and their cubs souniversally popular with humans! For mostof the period of observation the Bears arelikely to be at 10 to 30 metres' range fromthe hide. However, at times they approachmuch nearer and a close-up view of anadult Brown Bear is a never-to-be-forgottenhighlight of the tour. Although nothing isguaranteed in the world of wildlife-viewing,we have an excellent chance of seeingthese magnificent creatures, provided thatsilence is observed within the hide. The secret of this hide's success lies in itsproximity to the great taiga forests that lieacross the Russian border. There, thepoverty, very low density of humanpopulation and lack of hunting haveallowed the large carnivores (Wolves,Brown Bears, Lynx and Wolverines) andother animals to thrive. The WildernessCentre's position could not be better, for itbenefits both from a fine range ofmammals, that are either very rare orextinct in other parts of Europe, as well asfrom the traditional comfort and facilitiesthat we have come to expect fromEuropean accommodation. As well as afternoon and night-time Bear-watching from the hide, you will have thechance to walk amongst and enjoy theforests, mires, small lakes and brooks ofthis peaceful and remote spot, either in thecompany of your guide, or independently.On the small lakes amongst the forestBlack-throated and Red-throated Diversbreed; Rustic and even Little Buntings maybe found by the lakesides and around themires, whilst deeper in the forest you mayencounter such specialities as Black andThree-toed Woodpecker, Siberian Jay andSiberian Tit. There are few species ofdiurnal raptors in this part of Europe but, bykeeping an eye skyward, Honey Buzzardsshould be seen, and there is always agood chance of seeing a CommonBuzzard, Sparrowhawk, Goshawk orHobby. In the heart of the forest, resident Capercaillie, Black Grouse and HazelGrouse are shy and elusive, but those thatare quiet and patient enough may berewarded. Whooper Swans, Red-breastedMergansers, Goosanders and CommonCranes are other denizens of the north thatmay be found breeding on the Finnishlakes and mires, though they are notnecessarily to be found in the vicinity of theCentre. The more obliging and sociablebird groups of these Finnish taiga forestsare the northern thrushes (includingbreeding Fieldfares and Redwings), tits andfinches (Chaffinch, Brambling, Siskin,Redpoll, Scarlet Rosefinch, Crossbill andParrot Crossbill amongst others).Although the Brown Bears are our primaryobjective, many other mammals inhabit thetaiga and, although they are all shy andelusive (especially when there are Bears inthe vicinity!), such species as Wolverine,Pine Marten and Red Squirrel are veryoccasionally observed from the hide.Further, in a good 'owl-year', Long-eared,Hawk, Ural, Great Grey, Pygmy andTengmalm's Owl all breed in the vicinity;although only the sparrow-sized PygmyOwl, which is partially diurnal in habits, islikely to be seen.Finland - Just Brown Bears!Join us for a long weekend (or mid-week) Brown Bear-watching holiday amongst the fine taigaforests that straddle Finland's border with Russia.Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 280 for Booking InformationRUSSIASWEDENOULUWILDERNESS CENTREKUUSAMOHELSINKIGULF OFBOTHNIAGULF OFFINLANDARCTIC CIRCLEFINLANDOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Oulu and transferWilderness Centre.Day 2/3Brown Bear-watchingand birdwatching,Wilderness Centre.Day 4Transfer to Oulu and flyLondon.AccommodationComfortable wilderness guesthousewith shared facilities; overnightBear-watching from a log cabinwith reclining seats, mattresses andshared toilet facilities.FoodTwo main meals per day, plussnacks.GradingA straightforward wildlife tour withsome gentle walking to and fromthe Bear hide, plus optional walksfrom the guesthouse. Grade A/B.FocusBrown Bears, other mammals, birdsand general natural history.LeaderA local naturalist guide.Single room supplement£120.ExtensionsMany optional extensions forfurther exciting wildlife-viewing (e.g. Owls and Wolverine) areavailable. Please call for our helpand suggestions.Web quick search: FIN0251European Brown BearsWolverineDeparture dates:19th and 22nd May Cost: £9952nd and 21st June Cost: £9955th, 12th, 19th and 26th July Cost: from £9951st, 4th, 10th and 17th August Cost: £995N.B. Our 5th July departure is a specialist photography tour and our 26th July departure is for families with children.
This long-weekend break is timed toprovide two very specialornithological experiences amid thedelightful rural setting of northern France'sChampagne country. Firstly we visit anarea of three very large artificial lakes tothe east of the town of Troyes, a little morethan 190 kilometres to the south-east ofParis. The Lac du Der is the largestartificial lake in France and was built on theMarne River to hold back water in thespring and thus assist in preventingflooding in Paris. Close by are two othervery large lakes (Lac du Temple and Lacd'Orient) both within the Forêt d'OrientParc Naturel Régional, and built to holdfloodwater from the Seine. As well as thelakes, we will also spend time hereexploring this immense forest whereseveral reserves that have seen little or nohuman intervention for decades havebecome a paradise for many species ofwoodland plants and animals. We could have no better guide on thisholiday, as Tony Williams, who lives locallyand works for the LPO (the Frenchequivalent of the RSPB), is a veritableexpert on the region, with a network oflocal contacts which will increase ourchances of finding the species we arehoping to see. After using the excellent Eurostar servicedirect from London St. Pancras, we willmake the most of our time spent aroundthe Lac du Der looking, in particular, forCranes. Twice every year more than 60,000Common Cranes pass through the area ontheir journeys between breeding groundsin northern Europe and wintering sites insouthern Spain and Portugal. The autumnmigration is quite protracted, but in mid-March, vast numbers arrive at much thesame time and pause here to rest and feedbefore continuing their journey. We shouldobserve many hundreds feeding in thenearby fields during the day andthousands coming to roost in the lateafternoon, filling the air with their evocativetrumpeting calls. As many as 25,000Cranes have been estimated at the roost,making this one of Western Europe's mostspectacular assemblages of birds.The lakes and meadows attract many otherinteresting species. Birds of prey arevaried and plentiful, the most interestingbeing White-tailed Eagle. This is their onlyregular wintering site in France, attracting aminimum of two or three birds every year.Despite their size they are notoriouslyelusive but we hope that local knowledgewill mean that we are rewarded by views ofthese magnificent eagles. Other regular,but difficult to find, raptors include Rough-legged Buzzard, Merlin, Marsh and HenHarriers. Waterfowl are plentiful on thelakes and of particular interest will be raftsof Smew bobbing on the open water and flocks of Bean Geese grazing inwaterside fields.With spring just around the corner, thevanguard of summer migrants will bearriving into northern France and we may be fortunate to observe the first hirundines, Wheatears, Chiffchaffs, andBlue-headed Wagtails of the year, with achance of perhaps spotting a newly arrived Black Kite soaring effortlessly over the countryside. Within the vast woodland of the regionalnature park, several areas have been setaside as reserves in which there has beenno tree management for decades. Sixspecies of woodpecker are resident andthis is an ideal time to find them as thedeciduous trees will not yet be in leaf. Thebirds are therefore at their mostconspicuous as they proclaim territories bybursts of 'drumming' and indulge incourtship displays. During our time in theforest we will hope to quickly find theimpressive Black Woodpecker and shouldalso have little difficulty in locating itssmaller cousin, the Middle Spotted, but thethird non-British species, the Grey-headedWoodpecker is more problematic and oftenelusive in this ocean of trees.Woodpeckers are not the only species ofinterest in the forest at this time of theyear; we will also be spending time lookingfor other local residents such as Short-toedTree-creeper, Crested Tit, Firecrest,Woodlark, Cirl Bunting and, with luck, wemay even hear the melancholy trill of anearly Bonelli's Warbler.As we leave France by train after this briefbut memorable taste of two verycontrasting bird habitats, we should lookout for wayside Crested Larks and thehandsome Black Redstart that may bid usadieu from the rooftops.SPAIN ITALY SWITZERLAND GERMANY BELGIUM CALAIS PARIS LILLE FONTAINBLEAU LAC DU DER TROYES MAGNANT TOURS POITIERS TOULOUSE BORDEAUX FRENCH ALPS STRASBOURG (FROM LONDON ST. PANCRAS)ENGLISH CHANNEL ATLANTIC OCEAN MEDITERRANEAN SEA FRANCE 52Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.uk for your free Trip ItineraryOutline itineraryDay 1Eurostar train fromLondon St. Pancras toLille. Drive to Lac duDer.Day 2Birding around Lac duDer.Day 3Lac du Der; drive toForêt d'Orient.Day 4Forêt d'Orient.Day 5Early morning birding.Eurostar train from Lilleto London St. Pancras.AccommodationComfortable hotels with en suitefacilities and excellent local cuisine!FoodAll included in the price, except forany meals taken during journeys toand from our French hotels. GradingA. Birdwatching day walks only.FocusBirds.LeaderTony Williams or Bob Dawson.Single room supplement£95.Web quick search: FRA08France - Cranes & Woodpeckers A 5-day birdwatching break, focusing on two contrasting localities innorthern France at the most rewarding time of the year. Friday 9th March - Tuesday 13th March Cost: £695Middle Spotted WoodpeckerCommon Cranes