AVAILABLE NOW – Alone Through the Alps: from Lake Geneva to Nice on the GR5

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The English edition of my GR5 book – Alone Through the Alps: from Lake Geneva to Nice on the GR5, is now available HERE as an Amazon Kindle eBook. If needed, here’s a free Kindle reading application for different devices (PC, Mac, phones, tablets). A PDF alternative can be found at Payhip (requires Paypal or credit card). If having trouble obtaining the book, please contact me at a.rantsu at hotmail.com and we’ll sort it out.

I hope the book will inspire people to explore the magnificient mountain range of the Alps, and not to be afraid of tackling a true Alpine crossing, as a whole or section by section. To support my writing in the future, please feel free to sent me constructive feedback, spread the word if you liked the book or even leave a short review to the Amazon page. Super thanks for all who have been helping in this project, especially there in the copyediting department!

Saariselkä

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Crown snow-load weighs still heavy on the shoulders of candle-shaped spruces. From smallest branches jutting out from the snow to tallest trees standing exposed on the fell sides, everything is covered in magical rime and whiteness. But it would be only a matter of days, when the wind and risen temperatures will shake off the memories of the winter. In the horizon, snow fields of the distant and bare fells glimmer in the spring sun. With the retreating coldness, new enthusiasm sounds in the singing of cute, tiny Siberian tits and playful -jays. Old northern raven wanders high up in the sky, monitoring the progress of the spring, like it has done for years.

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On both sides of ski trails openes up a vast, untouchable wilderness – the home of hares, reindeers and other arctic survivors. Strong wind sweeps over the treeless fell tops but lower, only the swooshing of the skis disturbs the silence.

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At night wakes up another magic world. After the day has disappeared behind the fells and starfields started to twinkle ever brighter in the darkening night, the Northern Lights begin their own, enchanting play.

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Lapland kept its promise, once again, and calls back to it the next winter too.

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The Big Year 2015

Whether it’s about knowing local history, cloud formations, notes on geology or botany, the more you’re able to make observations of  the nature, the richer the hiking experience. I had regret for long of recognizing mere handful of different bird species.

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A year ago I saw the movie The Big Year, which tells a warm and funny story of three bird enthusiasts and their year-long bird-spotting competition. Actually the movie is more than just that, but anyway, my inner competitor woke up; why not to try the same? What would be a better way to try to learn different bird species?

In the end, my bird year became more than successful. On top of seeing more than hundred different species here in Finland, I learned to observe the nature in a completely new way. A whole new world opened up – the world of birds. Suddenly, they meant something to me. While walking, every sound or movement at treetops could have been an exciting, new sighting. I had to start looking up to the sky as well. Most of all bird-spotting increased significantly the amount of time I spent outdoors.

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For my last hike in Wales, I took a small binoculars with me, which was an excellent decision. Walking along the coast, it was interesting to observe the rich bird life of the coastal Wales. I can easily say that knowing birds, even passably, has added a new, interesting dimension to my hiking hobby.

Here’s my list for the past year in chronological order, in case some of you share the same interest. To spot much more would require significantly more effort and having a telescope, in other words, it would get too serious for me then. I wanted to avoid the loop of buying better and better gear for this, so my only investment was Brunton Echo Porro 7×50 binoculars for 79eur. Unfortunately, most of the photos are taken with my pocket camera and as such, are not that good bird photos.

1. CROW (varis) 2. MAGPIE (harakka) 3. GREAT TIT (talitiainen) 4. JACKDAW (naakka) 5. BLUE TIT (sinitiainen) 6. BULLFINCH (punatulkku) 7. JAY (närhi) 8. GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER (käpytikka) 9. BLACKBIRD (mustarastas) 10. RAVEN (korppi)

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A cute Treecreeper, creeping.

11. WHOOPER SWAN (laulujoutsen) 12. GOLDENEYE (telkkä) 13. CANADA GOOSE (kanadanhanhi) 14. SKYLARK (kiuru) 15. TREE SPARROW (pikkuvarpunen) 16. NORTHERN LAPWING (töyhtöhyyppä) 17. MUTE SWAN (kyhmyjoutsen) 18. MALLARD (sinisorsa) 19. SMEW (uivelo) 20. YELLOWHAMMER (keltasirkku)

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21. GREENFINCH (viherpeippo) 22. GOOSANDER (isokoskelo) 23. BRAMBLING (järripeippo) 24. EURASIAN COOT (nokikana) 25. TUFTED DUCK (tukkasotka) 26. COMMON POCHARD (punasotka) 27. SPARROW (varpunen) 28. WOODPIGEON (sepelkyyhky) 29. BLACK-HEADED GULL (naurulokki) 30. GOLDFINCH (tikli)

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Migrating cranes over Espoo, early April.

31. COMMON EIDER (haahka) 32. LONG-TAILED DUCK (alli) 33. OYSTERCATCHER (meriharakka) 34. COMMON GULL (kalalokki) 35. HERRING GULL (harmaalokki) 36. CRANE (kurki) 37. GADWALL (harmaasorsa) 38. CORMORANT (merimetso) 39. SPARROWHAWK (varpushaukka) 40. FIELDFARE (räkättirastas)

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A couple of Gadwalls at a nearby bird pool.

41. WHITE WAGTAIL (västäräkki) 42. GREAT CRESTED GREBE (silkkiuikku) 43. WIGEON (haapana) 44. TEAL (tavi) 45. REDHSANK (punajalkaviklo) 46. FINCH (peippo) 47. RED ROBIN (punarinta) 48. RINGED PLOVER (tylli) 49. PHEASANT (fasaani) 50. WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE (merikotka)

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First time seeing majestic White-Tailed Sea Eagles.

51. GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL (merilokki) 52. CASPIAN TERN (räyskä) 53. GARGANEY (heinätavi) 54. NORTHERN SHOVELER (lapasorsa) 55. NORTHERN GOSHAWK (kanahaukka) 56. STARLING (kottarainen) 57. WHEATEAR (kivitasku) 58. COMMON REDSTART (leppälintu) 59. PIED FLYCATCHER (kirjosieppo) 60. COMMON MOORHEN (liejukana)

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Red-Necked-Grebe on Lake Saimaa.

61. SLAVONIAN GREBE (mustakurkku-uikku) 62. BROAD-BILLED SANDPIPER (jänkäsirriäinen) 63. TEMMINCK’S STINT (lapinsirri) 64. REED BUNTING (pajusirkku) 65. BARNACLE GOOSE (valkoposkihanhi) 66. COMMON TERN (kalatiira) 67. BARN SWALLOW (haarapääsky) 68. COMMON SWIFT (tervapääsky) 69. WESTERN MARSH HARRIER (ruskosuohaukka) 70. EURASIAN HOBBY (nuolihaukka)

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An Osprey, like my loyal backpack.

71. SEDGE WARBLER (ruokokerttunen) 72. GREYLAG GOOSE (merihanhi) 73. GREY HERON (harmaahaikara) 74. COMMON SNIPE (taivaanvuohi) 75. RUFF (suokukko) 76. REDWING (punakylkirastas) 77. OSPREY (kalasääski) 78. LOON (kuikka) 79. WOOD WARBLER (sirittäjä) 80. EURASIAN NUTHATCH (pähkinänakkeli)

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Rare Eurasian Nuthatch climbing up and down along the tree trunk.

81. FERAL PIGEON (kesykyyhky) 82. SONG THRUSH (laulurastas) 83. COMMON SANDPIPER (rantasipi) 84. RED-NECKED-GREBE (härkälintu) 85. LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL (selkälokki) 86. SPOTTED FLYCATCHER (harmaasieppo) 87. EURASIAN SISKIN (vihervarpunen) 88. WILLOW TIT (hömötiainen) 89. COAL TIT (kuusitiainen) 90. TREECREEPER (puukiipijä)

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A group of Long-Tailed Tits spotted on a walk in Espoo central park

91. LONG-TAILED TIT (pyrstötiainen) 92. WILLOW WARBLER (pajulintu) 93. BLACK WOODPECKER (palokärki) 94. GOLDCREST (hippiäinen) 95. COMMON BUZZARD (hiirihaukka) 96. HEN HARRIER (sinisuohaukka) 97. DUNLIN (suosirri) 98. ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD (piekana) 99. BRENT GOOSE (sepelhanhi) 100. DUNNOCK (rautiainen)

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A Black Woodpecker seen through my living room window.

101. GREY-HEADED WOODPECKER (harmaapäätikka) 102. WAXWING (tilhi) 103. LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER (pikkutikka) 104. BEARDED TIT (viiksitimali) 105. WHITE-THROATED DIPPER (koskikara)

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White-Throated Dipper enjoying the melt stream just before Xmas.