Saturday, 18 June 2016

Swans bathing

Until very recently, early summer has been so lovely we’ve been practically constantly on the go enjoying the wonders of nature. Probably the most memorable experience so far this season has been observing the bathing and grooming of  a group of 13 mute swans (Cygnus olor) (kyhmyjoutsen).

That afternoon our timing was perfect. On our arrival to the seaside the swans were just gathering to a sheltered bay where a few were already swimming around and feeding stretching their necks to the bottoms of the sea. Swans mate for life and we could clearly spot the couples.

Before too long, the swans started to water themselves. It felt as if they were washing up their dirty necks before preening. One young swan in particular ran a playful show swimming and diving around like a wheel whirling on water. Judged from its brownish colouring it was most likely a cygnet from last year who simply couldn’t get enough of the joys of water.

One by one, the swans were assembling closer to the shore to start the grooming process. The flexibility of a swan’s neck is amazing. It can get to every corner of the plumage when the bird is diligently preening its large body and wings cleaning the feathers and spreading preen oil through them to keep them waterproof. The oil gland is located at the base of the tail so I guess the above two swans are stretching for a fresh dose of the waxy oil.

The swans provided a skillful balancing act. Feathers and down were blowing about when the acrobats were twisting themselves around often using also one of their legs as an aid in the preening.

We spent a good half an hour silently watching the fascinating performance. These swans summering on the waters of the Ruissalo island are used to people and didn’t mind the onlookers at all. The two barnacle geese on the shore, on the other hand, were a bit disturbed by someone walking his dog on the seaside rocks and decided it was better to fly to safety. When the dog began to bark it was too much even for the swans. They raised their necks up and started slowly gliding away busking, ie holding their wings slightly up, as if they were drying them.

All this happened a few weeks ago. We’ve paid several visits to the area since then hoping to spot new cygnets but haven’t seen a glimpse of any young ones yet. The outings will continue.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Courtyard highlights

Even a tiny inner courtyard of a downtown apartment building can offer lovely things to look at.

The star attractions in that of ours are a more than four-storey high horse chestnut – not exactly ‘my maple’ but quite a beautiful replacement – and a lush lilac shrub. I love the fact that the lilac flowers are the same colour as those in the garden of our previous home.

The above blossoms are now fading but little by little new plants are starting to bloom as our exceptionally warm early summer is being followed by a cooler period. Luckily, there are two more weeks until Midsummer. I am keeping my hopes high.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Another orchard

There is another orchard not too far from the town where we like to pop in every once in a while, that of the Kuusisto Manor on the Kuusisto island in Kaarina, a suburb of Turku.

The old orchard of apples, pears, cherries and plums rises from a meadow where a path is being kept mown providing visitors an easy access around the garden. Summer came early this year and our stroll of last week was a bit too late for the peak of blossoming. Luckily all varieties do not bloom at the same time.

The present manor house was built in 1738 as the residence of a colonel. It is one of the oldest preserved wooden dwellings in our country. In the 1980s, the National Board of Antiquities restored it and opened it as a museum but it was closed as an austerity measure in 2012.

Since then the place has acted as a summer art venue, the ‘Kuusisto Art Manor’. Unlike this time, the summers have started late in recent years and therefore this season’s art exhibitions were postponed to open only in mid-June.
The linden alley leading from the manor towards the nearby castle ruins.

The history of the estate dates back at least to the 16th century when it served as the farm of the Kuusisto Castle, the stately residence of the catholic bishop. After the Reformation, the castle was demolished and bricks were reused for construction elsewhere. Excavations, conservations and restorations of the ruins have continued on and off since the late 19th century.

'I'm gonna fix you' by Kimmo Peltola, 2014.

There is much to look forward to at Kuusisto even before harvesting including the ‘Artwork called Café’. I could never resist a picturesque historic site with an idyllic café. If only I learned to resist the cakes.

The interior in 2015.