Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Wooing season

The weather finally turned warmer and we’ve started frequenting the seaside to observe the spring progressing. In the last few days, it has been the wooing of barnacle geese that has caught our attention.

They can be seen moving around on all kinds of beaches in pairs. Everyone seems to have found their mate by now.

The chances of male grass snakes or water snakes (Natrix natrix) to succeed in mating are much more slender. It takes the females one year longer to mature for breeding than for the males and in our weather conditions they only reproduce every other year. There will always be several males trying to win a female by wrapping themselves around her and rubbing the bottom of their head against her. We were lucky to see such a peaceable bundle thanks to a few fellow hikers who had spotted the wooing process at a sunny spot under a shrub. There were at least four males in peace and harmony competing over the female, the largest one in the bunch.

Sunday was May Day, which marks the official opening of the mating season called spring also for the girls and guys in our northern corner of the world. In our country, May Day   or vappu as we call it   is a carnival-style holiday, no longer that much for workers but for everyone, especially for students. On the eve, students flock in the streets celebrating spring in their faculty-specific overalls or party-going gear, depending on where they are planning to spend the evening after the opening ceremony of the feast.

In our present hometown, the students traditionally start the festivities by gathering to the street leading down from the Art Museum. A front man or woman of the local students’ union will deliver a speech from the steps of the museum. A students’ choir or band, or a few, will perform. Finally, all students – both current and former ones  – will simultaneously do the capping, ie put their white student’s cap on. That is the moment when the celebrating really kicks off and the crowd starts to disperse. The rest of the night will involve loud merry-making with champagne or sparkling wine and often stronger beverages, too.

On May Day, the carefree celebrations will continue more or less in family style. Some political parties are having a parade or street event with speeches and music, which passers-by tend to ignore. Picnicking, strolling around the May Day market, treating your kids and yourself with goodies and the like are the priorities on everyone’s agenda.

Happy wooing to all those who still haven’t found their match! Blissful coexistence to all those who have!

PS. Should you ever visit Finland, please do not arrive on the evening of April 30. You’d believe you have landed in the middle of a crazy epidemic that has closed all the services (except for bars and restaurants) and turned everyone slightly insane.


  1. Thank you for the advice. I often arrive in cities at the wrong time! Lovely to get to the sea and enjoy some warmth. Those geese and snakes look like they are making the most of the warmer weather too. Happy May! B X

    1. Happy May to you too, Barbara. All of a sudden the weather turned warmer than usual so we are planning to picnic by the seaside as often as possible.

  2. Wonderful to see the wooing of wildlife and humans! The streets look so full it must have been quite a sight. I have been to a May Day ceremony here which I will feature next time, there was no wooing in sight! Sarah x