World Migratory Bird Day – observations in the Geopark area

For tired passers-by, Geopark’s tranquil forests, flood meadows and extensive marshes are safe rest areas.

Observations in the Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas Geopark area in the World Migratory Bird Day

When spring comes, tens of thousands of migratory birds can be seen in the Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas Geopark area. Some of them have returned to nesting in their birthplaces, while others just stop to rest and feed. For tired passers-by, Geopark’s tranquil forests, flood meadows and extensive marshes are safe rest areas.

Observations were made in different habitats

Participation in the World Migratory Bird Day on May 14, 2022 was considered important also in Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas Geopark. Bird watchers were encouraged to hike and take notes on the bird species observed. Observations were made from a wide range of different habitats: the Mustansaarenkeidas, which belongs to the Haapakeidas mire reserve, and the surrounding forest in Isojoki, the flood meadows and forests of the Viinikanjoki River in Parkano, and the shores and fields of the lakes in North Parkano.

Over 50 migratory bird species observed

On the World Migratory Bird Day, 62 different bird species were seen at selected sites. Of these, 51 were actual migratory birds. After a shorter or longer flight, they had ended up in the Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas Geopark area either to stay or to continue their journey after a break. Some migratory species, such as the whooper swan, had arrived in their nesting area very early. The lakes were still frozen at that time and there were few melted places. The last returnees, insectivores, had only arrived in the previous days. Their migration is still in progress, and the rest of the species are expected to return in the coming weeks while the weather is still warming.

Distant visitors

The longest migration was made by lightly flying Common terns wintering off the coast of southern Africa. Large Cranes, whose wintering areas are in the Blue Nile regions, in turn, skillfully use rising air currents to sail through the air toward their northern nesting sites. They are also early arrivals.

Tiny long-distance travelers

The small-sized insectivores seen in 11 different species achieve amazing performance. These species overwinter in different parts of Africa. For example, Pied Flycatcher, a general species for us, arrives from north of the rainforests of West Africa in May. Reminiscent of each other, but with completely different songs, the Willow Warbler and the Chiffchaff overwinter in the eastern and southern parts of Africa, as do the Sedge Warbler of the beaches.

Many of the skilled flyers, the waders, Wood Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper and Ruff, which were seen during the expeditions, also winter on the African continent. Especially seeing a flock of 35 Ruffs, which are now classified as very endangered, helped to believe in a better future for them, so that the requirements of migratory bird habitats are also known and the need for protection is taken into account.

Resting places during the migration are important

A total of 22 of the 51 migratory bird species observed are wintering in Africa. They will therefore have to cross the Mediterranean and most of them the Sahara desert on their migration in the spring and again in the autumn. At the same time, they cross the borders of many countries and also stop by in their traditional breaks in different countries.

Hopefully, resting and eating places along the way in different states and habitats at both extremes of arduous migration journeys will continue to be appropriate for them. This will be achieved through transnational cooperation, raising awareness of migratory birds, their migratory routes and the importance of places to eat and rest.

Text: Eira-Maija Savonen

Photos: Terttu Hermansson

WORLD MIGRATORY BIRD DAY

Global Geoparks Network encourages its members to pay attention to the state of the world’s migratory birds and the changes that have taken place in their migratory routes.

WORLD MIGRATORY BIRD DAY

May 14, 2022

Global Geoparks Network encourages its members to pay attention to the state of the world’s migratory birds and the changes that have taken place in their migratory routes, and to organize events to highlight these issues.

At the initiative of the United Nations, World Migratory Bird Day has been celebrated twice a year since 2006, in May and October on the second Saturday of the month. That’s when spring and autumn migration of birds are usually at their peak.

LIGHT POLLUTION – THEME OF THE YEAR

The aim of the World Migratory Bird Day events is to raise public awareness of the importance of international cooperation in the conservation of migratory birds. Migratory birds do not care about border formalities when traveling but use the airspace of numerous states and even cross entire continents.

Although the migratory journeys of birds are long, many species progress in short stretches of day and rest in between. So, they need safe, undisturbed, species-specific resting and dining areas. Based on the implementation of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), action will be taken worldwide to promote the safe migration of birds.

The World Migratory Bird Day 2022 campaign focuses on “light pollution,” which has been found to cause problems, especially for nocturnal insectivorous birds.

WHERE DO THE BIRDS FLY?

About 250 different bird species nest in Finland. The number of birds living here is estimated at about 100 million. Admittedly, it varies greatly with the seasons, as more than 80 % of the species that nest here migrate elsewhere.

Some birds only move as much as they are forced to. For example, swans and the hardest waterfowl move further south only that the body of water remains thawed. Other species, on the other hand, make very long migratory journeys, such as the Arctic Tern, which migrates from the extreme, arctic regions of the north to the fringes of the Antarctic. The length of the journey can be up to 20,000 km twice a year. The weight of the bird is about 100 g. And the Common Tern, not bad either, it migrates from the home lake to southern Africa to spend the winter.

TO AFRICA FOR WINTER

Numerous bird species in the northern hemisphere move south to the equator for the winter. Species flying to southern Africa will have to cross a vast, demanding Sahara Desert. So do our Common house martins, which weigh only 15-23 g. If there is no peaceful oasis with drinking places along the way, the trip can end short.

Many other insectivores are also migrating to Africa. Among other things, all the Northern wheatears in the world – including the Finns – overwinter there. Thus, on the American continent, Northern wheatears nesting in Alaska travel about 14,500 km across Asia to central Africa. A Whinchat that nests on the outskirts of meadows in Finland spends its winter in the savannahs of Africa with lions and zebras. The osprey, on the other hand, fishes in the African lakes during the winter season.

TRANSIENT BIRDS

In addition to leaving our own migratory birds in the autumn and arriving in the spring, Finland is also a transit country for many bird species. The passage of Arctic waders, Long-tailed ducks, Common scoters and Velvet scoters can reach millions of individuals. Today, several hundred flocks leave the migration of hundreds of thousands of geese to feed in Finnish fields. Before, Barnacle geese used to fly by, now, some of them stay here to nest.

Wading birds in the Arctic tend to migrate to the southern hemisphere. Almost 20 species of water and shorebirds in the Arctic coastal region regularly migrate across Finland. They do not nest here but remain on the shallow seashore for long periods of time, especially during the autumn migration. Among other things, on the beach sludge in the autumn, the Curlew sandpiper does not nest or overwinter anywhere in Europe, but it does stop by to eat.

MIGRATORY BIRDS NEED SAFE REST AREAS

FINNISH BIRDS – OUR OWN OR GUESTS FROM FAR COUNTRIES?

So where is the “home” of the migratory bird? Is it in a nesting area in Finland, or perhaps in a wintering area in the Mediterranean countries / Africa / Asia? Why does it go on such a long and arduous journey at all, where it is exposed to many dangers? It can catch prey on its way or be killed by a person shooting birds for fun. The traditional resting and dining places of its migration route may have turned into a built-up area with no more room for an exhausted little bird. So why go far north to nest? Wouldn’t a closer place be found for reproduction?

The northern spring and early summer have some characteristics that help the nesting succeed: in the spring and early summer, the air is “thick” with flying insects, so there is enough food for the hatching chicks. In the long, bright night in the north, mothers can feed their chicks at night as well. The chicks of many bird species would not survive the tropics’ 12-hour night without feeding. Among other things, these reasons cause birds to return to their birthplace, their “home,” repeatedly.

CHANGES IN BIRDS INDICATE CHANGES IN THE ENVIRONMENT

More than a third of the bird species nesting in Finland have declined. Birds wintering in Africa and Asia in particular, as well as birds nesting in the farmland and northern bird species, are declining alarmingly. The populations of species nesting in wetlands and agglomerations began to decline in the early 2000s. Migratory species suffer most often man-made deterioration of living conditions during the migratory period and in wintering areas. The former resting and eating places may have been completely lost, for example due to construction. There is therefore a need for international cooperation to ensure safe migration routes for birds.

LAUHANVUORI – HÄMEENKANGAS GEOPARK PROVIDES A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR MIGRATORY BIRDS

Geopark areas contribute to the adequacy and safety of nesting and resting areas. In the Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas Geopark area, there are bogs on Metsähallitus’ lands where moving is forbidden during the nesting and migration period of birds. Restrictions are also needed to allow birds to rest during the autumn migration in Kauhaneva. The purpose of the marked trails and duckboard paths is to ensure nesting peace also outside the restricted areas.

Organized by BirdLife Finland and carried out by regional bird associations, the most important bird gathering areas in each province (winter and migratory feeding and resting areas and areas for molting of feathers) have been identified. In the Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas Geopark area, there are 11 of these regionally important bird areas, in addition to the two already known nationally important bird areas, Puurokeidas – Hannankeidas and Häädetkeidas Nature Park + Keidaslammit ponds. The identification of migratory breeding areas and migration routes is particularly important so that they can be considered in social decision-making, such as zoning, and so that the birdlife important values ​​of the areas are not inadvertently degraded.

More information on migratory bird routes and resting areas is needed. Thus, Lauhanvuori – Hämeenkangas Geopark invites bird enthusiasts in the area to participate in the World Migratory Bird Day on Saturday, May 14, 2022.

 

Text: Eira-Maija Savonen

Photos: Terttu Hermansson

Main image: World Migratory Bird Day

Quiet life of winter in Geopark – On skis to the mire

The mystical mires are easy to explore in winter, for example on skis. The skis provide access to places that are inaccessible during melted ground.

On skis to Huidankeidas

The mystical nature of mire is easy to explore in winter, for example on skis. They provide access to places that are inaccessible during melted ground – partly because they cannot be reached and because many wetlands are nesting areas for birds where you are not allowed to go. So is Huidankeidas.

Huidankeidas is located in Honkajoki, and there is a guided route from Siikaistentie via Haukantie. The road leading to the parking area of Huidankeidas is kept open in winter. I drove there and skied first along the path to the observation tower.

Cross-country skiing

The trail had not been walked since the previous snowfall, so I got to ski in thick unbroken snow. The landscape was really beautiful, the sun was shining low, how it can shine in January, and painted warm shades on top of the trees.

Birch grove

On the edge of Huidankeidas, there is a magnificent birch grove where the trees curved from the weight of the snow. In 1959, there was a conflagration in the area of the municipalities of Honkajoki and Isojoki, and the birch grove was born after that. In summer, it is a paradise for small birds.

Peaceful mire

The mire opened bold and calm, clean crust shining in the sun. There was no sound. I continued southeast of the tower near the edge of the mire, sometimes over the pools on solid ice and over the hummocks, sometimes diving between stunted pines. Gradually, traces of life began to appear.

Traces on the snow

An ermine had wandered on the surface of the snow purposefully. Small pairs of traces ran across the hummocks as a regular ribbon. The ermine keeps the little rodents in check, but it can also catch rabbits by biting its prey into its neck. The ermine has also been seen caught in the throat of a capercaillie.

Soon I found myself in the middle of a suburb of the black grouse. There were numerous hollows and corridors here and there, and there were also droppings in the pits, revealing to whom the beds belonged. Sufficient amount of soft snow means a favorable winter for the black grouse. It gets to rest out of reach of birds of prey and the cold.

To Huidansalo

At the edge of the mire, traces of a hare crisscrossed. They didn’t seem to lead anywhere, they just ended. The hare is a cunning guy, as it makes a comeback by walking its own footprints a little further back and then jumping to the side. Thus, it misleads potential predators.

The rabbit had dug up the snow to the ground to find something to eat. Fortunately, the snow was soft, so it had gotten in easily.

I skied to Huidansalo, which seemed interesting on the map. It is a “foreland” at the edge of a mire, gentle undulating terrain with ridges of dunes and ancient embankments. There were several elegant deadwoods on the edge of the mire, and on the dry land side began a magnificent, spacious pine forest. Immediately at the edge of the pine forest, the capercaillie had scampered back and forth. I followed its traces a little way if I had seen it, but I soon gave up the chase.

Quiet pine forest

In the pine forest I heard only a woodpecker tapping, all the little birds were conspicuously absent. The weather was quite cold, it was over ten degrees below zero and it started to get a little windy, so the smaller birds were definitely in more sheltered woods.

Surprise on top of a tree

After enjoying a packed lunch I returned and still admired the peace of the mire and the fine colors of the sky. On the way back between Honkajoki and Siikainen, I noticed a capercaillie eating at the top of a pine tree. It uses the needles of weak and old pines for food, as they contain less resin substances that impair digestion. The capercaillie cock  on top of a frosty tree is called “frost capercaillie”. It is a term especially familiar to hunters.

Although the mire looks quiet in winter, there are plenty of traces and signs of biodiversity in the harsh conditions. The stories are written on the surface of the snow, and passing slowly you may see the ones who have made the traces. The sparse soundscape also speaks its own language. Welcome to the mystical mires of the Geopark on bright winter days – and moonlit nights!

Text and photos: Terttu Hermansson

LOCAL NATURE AND CULTURAL LANDSCAPE MADE INTO A MOVIE

The movie ”NÄÄ MAAT, NÄÄ MANNUT – MEIDÄN KAUHAJOKI” ("these lands, these places - our Kauhajoki”) produced by Kauhajoki-Seura is a product of volunteer work and love, made as a tribute to the region and its nature.

These lands, these places

The movie ”NÄÄ MAAT, NÄÄ MANNUT – MEIDÄN KAUHAJOKI” (“these lands, these places – our Kauhajoki”) produced by Kauhajoki-Seura premiered in Bio Marlon in autumn 2021. The movie is a product of volunteer work and love, made as a tribute to the region and its nature. The filmmakers were happy when the audience found the film and new showings needed to be added, one after another. The popularity of the film also contributed to their biggest wish: that the experiences shown in the film would inspire to cherish our ancient heritage and go explore the diverse environment of our home region.

The film is based on Kauhajoki’s exceptionally extensive local heritage literature that covers over 100 titles. In particular, its nature and the cultural landscape are described thoroughly in a series of five books: Kauhajoen luonnonkirja (“The book of Kauhajoki nature”, 1983); Kauhajoen vesien kirja (“The book of Kauhajoki waters”, 1991); Kauhajoen metsien ja soiden kirja (“The book of Kauhajoki forests and mires”, 1999); Hämes-Havunen (2006); and Kauhajoen kulttuurimaisemien kirja (“The book of the cultural landscapes of Kauhajoki”, 2012). The books were also a marvel of volunteer efforts: every one of the approximately 100 authors wrote articles about their area of expertise without compensation. The same applied to the dozens of photographers. The books were also published and the editions of 2,000-3,000 books were sold as volunteer work by the Lions clubs.

The books are a source of many wonderful discoveries. What the bedrock tells about the history of our entire planet and the soil about the many glacial periods; What the brown trout in headwaters and the herb-rich forests by the brooks reveal about the groundwaters. The list could go on and on: the power of erosion, the breathtaking grand mires, the cultural landscapes of the Hyypänlaakso valley and the open terrain…

Over the decades, the books have provided a lot of information. Some of them only exist as archive copies now. Suddenly, there was a need to preserve them for younger generations and open the treasure trove of knowledge to the communal use of all interested parties using digital methods, both as a traditional reading experience and through editing from substantial data material. This work received Leader support from the Suupohja Development Association. The work was also motivated by the Geopark project, which is a joint project between local authorities and Metsähallitus, which presents the unique characteristics of our nature to an international audience. Maybe we could support that too.

In spring 2019, the Kauhajoki tutuksi (“Get to know Kauhajoki”) website was completed at www.kauhajoki.net. At the heart of the website are the digitized local heritage books with featured photos and videos. The videos were considered important from the start of the digital project. The goal of creating about ten videos seemed to be very ambitious at first but as the enthusiasm of the participants grew, the efforts resulted in 11 videos. The videos were created by 20 active filmmakers, screenwriters, cinematographers, editors, narrators and recorders. Some of the music was written specifically for them. As the videos were starting to take shape, the filmmaking team got the idea to also create a movie that audiences could see on the large cinema screen.

It was time to return to the roots of local heritage work – volunteering. Compiling the videos into a film required an interesting beginning, narration leading from one subject to another, new video material, more music and an emotional ending. At the same time, it had to be accepted that there would be some repetition, as it was not in the plans to re-edit the independent videos. Pentti Kakkori, an expert in photography and film, took the responsibility for this work. The many creations of the previous cinematographers also helped add to the new imagery.  Pentti also received the support he needed for narrations and music from other friends of the region. All names appear in the end credits. Pentti says he’s very grateful to all of them.

So, what do movie audiences think after 70 minutes? It’s easy to sense that the region is dear to the audiences, and they were focused and interested when watching the movie based on the familiar landscapes. Even the repetitions were welcomed. Practice makes perfect, and so does repetition!

 

The article is written by Liisa Ruismäki, Chairperson of Kauhajoki-Seura (Kauhajoki Association) and Jussi Kleemola (in the photo), Chair of the admin group of the “Kauhajoki tutuksi” website (“Get to know Kauhajoki”)

Photos: Pentti Kakkori

Photo at the top: Mirja Koivisto

Photo beneath: Terttu Hermansson

"It’s easy to sense that the region is dear to the audiences."

Lapväärtin-Isojoki watershed and water vision

The Lapväärtin-Isojoki watershed originates from the springs and streams of Lauhanvuori National Park. The valuable river basin district has been been under restoration through the Freshabit LIFE IP project, and a strategic plan, a water vision, is being drawn up for the watershed.

Lapväärtin-Isojoki watershed

The Lapväärtin-Isojoki watershed is located in the provinces of Southern Ostrobothnia, Ostrobothnia and Satakunta, and the river flows in the area of six municipalities: Kauhajoki, Isojoki, Karijoki, Kristiinankaupunki, Teuva and Siikainen. A small part of the watershed is also located in the area of the city of Kankaanpää (Honkajoki). The watershed covers an area of 1,098 km2 and belongs to the Kokemäki-Archipelago Sea – Bothnian Sea water management area.

 

The Lapväärtin-Isojoki watershed originates from the springs and streams of Lauhanvuori National Park and flows into the Bothnian Sea south of Kristiinankaupunki. The estuary consists of several small islands and the water bodies and canals between them.

 

The main river basin and the main tributaries comprise seven parts: Isojoki, Pajuluoma (in the photo), Heikkilänjoki, Karijoki, Metsäjoki, the lower part of the Lapväärtinjoki and Kärjenjoki. The part above the main river is called the Isojoki River and the lower part is called Lapväärtinjoki. The Lapväärtin-Isojoki river changes its nature from narrow natural headwaters to meandering river estuaries and a wide estuary. The largest tributary of the Kärjenjoki is called Siiroonjoki at upper reaches and Lillå at downstream. The length of the main river is 75 km and the total length of the most significant tributaries is about 115 km. In addition, the water body includes a large number of small streams. The percentage of lakes in the watershed area is only 0.2 %, the largest lakes are Haapajärvi (52 ha) and Kangasjärvi (47 ha).

 

Lapväärtin-Isojoki is a very important watershed due to its natural state, fisheries and biodiversity. The most important natural values of the river valley are related to both the habitat and the species. The most valuable habitats are the natural river route, including natural streams and rapids, significant old natural forests along the river bank, and provincially valuable bogs. Based on their endangerment, the most valuable species are the pearl mussel and the sea trout. From the point of view of conservation value, threats in the area include erosion, flooding, embankment, drainage, dredging, surface water pollution, water dam, immigrant species and climate change.

Restoration activities with the Freshabit LIFE IP project

The Freshabit LIFE IP project aims to improve the condition and diversity of Natura 2000 river basins. The large-scale nature conservation project will restore inland waters, rivers and streams and improve the living conditions and environments of hundreds of species. Freshabit Life IP – Ostrobothnia’s rivers sub-project includes the Lapväärtin-Isojoki, Karvianjoki and Lapväärtin-Isojoki upper reaches and the Ähtäväjoki river.

During the project, several restoration and water and species protection measures have been implemented in Lapväärtin-Isojoki. The project has, for example, rehabilitated streams, revitalized declining river mussel stocks, built fishing routes, wetlands, surface drainage fields and various water protection structures to reduce the load on water bodies.

The project is scheduled for 2016–2022 and is coordinated by Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland. The project has received funding from the EU’s LIFE program. In the Ostrobothnia region, the actors are the Southern Ostrobothnia Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, Metsähallitus, the Finnish Forest Centre, the Finnish Environment Institute, the University of Oulu, the Natural Resources Institute Finland and the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation in Ostrobothnia.

Water vision of Lapväärtin-Isojoki watershed

A water vision for the Lapväärtin-Isojoki watershed will be developed in extensive co-operation with the support of the Freshabit LIFE IP project. The purpose of the water vision is to bring together the inhabitants of the area and the actors in various fields and to draw up a vision for the use and condition of the water system that extends into the future. The water vision has common objectives and measures aimed at coordinating, among other things, flood risk management, the use of water resources, water management, the protection of biodiversity and fisheries on the Lapväärtin-Isojoki river. In addition, efforts will be made to create regional commitment to activities and to raise awareness of water-related issues, taking into account the region’s nature tourism and business activities.

The Southern Ostrobothnia Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, the Lapväärtin-Isojoki River Basin Planning Working Group and a wide range of local stakeholders, for example from the economy, are involved in the implementation of the water vision. The water vision has been created in joint workshops, and a nature photo competition and library exhibition have also been organized. Water Vision has also hidden geocaches in the watershed.

More information about the water vision can be found on the vesivatten.org website. You can also check out the Story Map of the Lapväärtin-Isojoki water vision (ArcGIS Online), which presents the Lapväärtin-Isojoki watershed and its drainage basin plan as geographic information or images.

 

Text and river images of the article: Katja Vainionpää

Salmon photo: Matti Saarikoski

Main picture (from the roots of Siiroonjoki): Terttu Hermansson

Life Revives

Suvi Hämäläinen from the Southern Ostrobothnia Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment tells that in the autumn of 2021, the EU-funded LIFE Revives project has started in the area, where habitats for freshwater pearl mussels are being rehabilitated and farmed mussels are returned to the river. This project will revitalize freshwater pearl mussel stocks in three countries (Finland, Sweden and Estonia) and will run until 2027. The University of Jyväskylä coordinates the project, and other Finnish partners are Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland, Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd and the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment of Southern Ostrobothnia, Pirkanmaa and Southwest Finland.

4-H Forest Days for the youngsters

Schoolchildren have learned about the Geopark and the use and values of forests on 4-H Forest Days in Niiniharju, Hämeenkangas.

The Geopark Rangers have told young people about the Geopark and the excursion destination during the 4-H association’s Forest Days in Niiniharju in Jämi. The Forest Days have been organized by the 4-H of Satakunta area, and the Forestry Association Karhu and the Geopark have been involved in offering the program for the days. The Finnish Forest Foundation finances a considerable part of the transport costs of the schoolchildren.

Photo: Annukka Pörsti

In the 4-H Forest Days, which are held every year all over Finland, young people get information about the forest, learn the skills of being in forest and together observe the forest nature. In addition, the information provided in the Forest Days include work in forest sector, fire handling, every man’s rights, recycling etc.

Photo: Pasi Talvitie

At the Forest Days in autumn 2021 in Niiniharju, Hämeenkangas, Geopark Ranger Kristiina Peltomaa told the schoolchildren about Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas UNESCO Global Geopark. UNESCO status indicates that the area is geologically valuable and unique.

Kristiina explained to the youngsters how certain events in history, such as the Ice Age, have affected the area and how its signs are visible around the feet and in local traditions. The stories told on the particular place made the events of history alive. Schoolchildren ran down and up the kettle hole. The exercise made the youngsters familiar with the landforms and the landscape of the area.

Photo: Annukka Pörsti

After the Geopark introduction, the images attached to the trees of the forests were searched. In the images, flora and fauna typical to the area were presented. The species in the images were identified and it was discussed together how the species relate to this particular environment and to each other and why this habitat is important to them.

Photo: Päivi Lindfors

Kristiina had also hidden buckets in the terrain, in which she had collected various samples for the participants to examine. There were various lichens in one bucket, mosses in another, cones in the third, and differnt kind of seeds in the fourth. Especially the characteristics and dispersal strategies of different seeds seemed to be a particularly interesting topic among young people as completely new things were learned about them.

Photo: Annukka Pörsti

During the Geopark session, the dry leaves of Tilia cordata were also examined. The name of the place, Niiniharju, refers to the tree species. Kristiina told about the Atlantic period, when deciduous forests were common further north in Finland. The effects of the warmer climate period are still visible in the tree species of Niiniharju. In the past, the locals made ropes out of Tilia cordata to pay taxes to the Kingdom of Sweden, in which the area of Finland was a part.

Photo: Pasi Talvitie

Of course, the highlights of the trip include lunch. Pupils enjoyed the snacks provided by their own schools. In addition to that, 4-H provided delicious sausages by a campfire.

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

During the 4-H Forest Days, numerous schoolchildren in the Geopark and surrounding areas have got information about the Geopark and about forests and their values and use. At the Forest Days, young people have learned important things during a happy time spent together in nature and through practical activities. The 4-H Forest Days are a great opportunity for Geopark to pass on valuable information to young people in collaboration with partner organisations.

Photo: Anna-Kaisa Valaja

The Geopark has piloted environmental education measures at the 4-H Forest Days as part of rural-funded projects. Parkanon Säästöpankkisäätiö Foundation has supported the Geopark’s participation in the Forest Days. We are grateful for the good cooperation!

#lhgeopark #unescoglobalgeoparks #geopark #globalgeoparks #europeangeoparks #finnishgeoparks #unesco #lauhanvuoriregion #outdoor #retkeily #luontomatkailu #hyvinvointialuonnosta #sdgs2030 #geoeducation

Text: Laura Koivumäki

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

Main photo: Pasi Talvitie, Hämeenkangas

Last photo: Terttu Hermansson 

In the 4-H Forest Days, young people learn by being and doing in nature

Nature experiences and exercise for upper secondary school students in Jämi

Before the summer vacation, the students of the upper secondary school of Kankaanpää spent a sporty day exploring the best natural attractions in the Jämi region.

By the unique springs of Hämeenkangas

The teachers of the upper secondary school of Kankaanpää organized a sporty nature day for their students in Jämi, in which the experts of Geopark also got to participate. The first destination of the day was the magnificent Kylmänmyllynlähde located next to Hämeenkangas, a gift of the ridges for the nature lovers. The charter buses brought the students to the springs in the morning, from where the journey continued on foot to other spectacular natural sites in the area.

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

With her stories, Geopark Ranger Kristiina Peltomaa took the students on a time travel to the past. The springs were ever-pulping water sources that run the mill. There have also been many beliefs associated with the springs.

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

By the spring, Kristiina told the students about the valuable biota of the area, such as the diverse forest and birds, which benefit from the abundant mosquito population and even rarer insects in the surrounding area. The participants of the environmental education course were able to increase their digital herbarium with, among others, Myosotis scorpioides and Callitriche hermaphroditica. The springs, which are ice free even in winter, are a fascinating and popular place to visit in all seasons.

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

In Koivistonvati information about hiking facilities and instructions

From the springs the students hiked to Koivistonvati which is the largest kettle hole of the area. By the kettle hole Tero Lähteenmäki, the entrepreneur responsible for the maintenance of the camping services, told about his work. Hämeenkangas has a dozen resting places of Metsähallitus Parks and Wildlife Finland, all of which are commonly used. Resting places are repaired and developed, for example, from the point of view of accessibility. Routes in the area are also being developed and re-marked.

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

Tero visits the resting places weekly and makes sure there is firewood in the sheds and the surroundings of the resting places stay clean. Visitors get to chop firewood from long trunks themselves, as ready-made firewood would be burned much more. Although the use of rest areas has increased in recent years, littering is fortunately no longer common in most sites.

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

The biggest problem in Hämeenkangas is illegal off-road traffic. The area’s dense network of trails and easy-to-reach terrain can attract, for example, moped or quad riders. However, in accordance with the Road Traffic Act, driving motor vehicles outside the public roads crossing the area is strictly prohibited. Wilderness police and police officers patrolling Hämeenkangas intervene in unauthorized off-road traffic.

Photo: Pasi Talvitie

Beach volley and a dive into a groundwater pond

From Koivistonvati, the students walked along the needle paths on the ridge to the Niiniharju tepee, where a camp lunch was served. From Niiniharju, they continued to Perhepuisto, where the hot day of the excursion was crowned by the beach volley match on the hot ridge sand and a refreshing dip in the groundwater pond.

Photo: Kankaanpää upper secondary school

Text: Laura Koivumäki

Photo: Kankaanpään Upper Secondary School 

Main photo: Terttu Hermansson

Last photo: Terttu Hermansson

Hämeenkangas offers diverse opportunities for sports in nature and learning outdoors

Inspiring school trips in the Geopark

The Geopark offers diverse and inspiring opportunities for schoolchildren’s excursion days and longer camp schools. At the end of May, schoolchildren from Kihniö spent a nice spring day in Jämi, Hämeenkangas.

Get to know the Gepark on an excursion

At Geopark excursions you get to know the Geopark’s natural and cultural attractions and at the same time learn to be in nature. In the Geopark you can make a day trip to one destination or organize a longer camp school and visit several places. The companies in the area offer school groups quality services from equipment rental to guided tours and from meals to accommodation. Read more about excursion tips by destination.

Photo: Sofia Sillanpää

Schoolchildren on a Geopark excursion in Jämi

As part of the European Geopark Week, schoolchildren from the municipality of Kihniö made a spring day trip to Jämi located in Hämeenkangas. Pupils were introduced in advance to the diverse range of activities in the area, from which they selected their favorite ones together. The excursion day was based on sporty activities. At the same time, the aim was to learn about the Geopark and the unique nature of the area.

Photo: Pasi Talvitie

By mountain bikes to number one nature attractions

Mountain biking was chosen as the activity before noon. The electric fat bikes were rented by Jämi Maat. The kids were surprised how funny the bikes are, and the cycling aroused great enthusiasm already in the testing phase of the bikes before the actual bicycling. The easy-going and comfortable trail network of Hämeenkangas enables successful mountain bike trips even for first-timers.

Photo: Pasi Talvitie

The inspiring cycling guide of Jämi Maat led the group to the top of Soininharju, where they admired the scenery that opened from above the high ridge. The queue of bicyclers then headed along the needle trails to the most popular natural attractions in the area. The group passed the valuable forest area of Niiniharju towards Koivistonvati, the largest kettle hole in Hämeenkangas.

Photo: Laura Koivumäki

Uhrilähde and Kylmänmyllynlähde springs, which are one of the finest springs in Finland, are located in Hämeenkangas. By the springs the kids heard stories related to the place and refreshed themselves by drinking the water. On the way back to Jämi, you can choose steep uphills to test how electrical assistance affects pedaling. The group considered mountain biking to be the best part of the day.

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

Climbing and golfing

After cycling the group had a tasty lunch at Lomahotelli Jämi. In the afternoon the kids climbed high among the canopies of the trees in the Jämi Maat Adventure Park. The park has five different levels of tracks, each of which you can choose the most suitable for you. The longest cable track in Finland is located in the Adventure Park. Schoolchildren loved climbing and tracks, too. In addition to climbing, the pupils played casually mini golf and frisbee golf. In the afternoon, an hour’s drive back home folded comfortably on a local charter ride.

Photo: Jämi Maat

The whole group, both the students and the teacher and the assistant, considered the trip very successful. In addition to the nice day, the kids learned about their own Geopark and its uniqueness.

The Geopark excursion day was piloted in a Leader-funded project. The project paid part of the cost of the excursion.

Text: Laura Koivumäki

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

Main photo: Terttu Hermansson

Last photo: Terttu Hermansson

The Geopark offers diverse trip opportunities for school groups

From Ice Age to the present – Learning outdoors

The students of Honkajoki upper secondary school have hiked in Lauhanvuori National Park and foreign destinations and made observations about the environment. The students tell about their experiences and what they learned.

Erratics in Finland and Poland

Erratics are large rocks that have traveled at least twice their own length. The ice carried and moved the soil even long distances. As the ice melted, the material fell to the ground and the erratics were generated during the ice age. The erratics are used for landscaping and as decorative stones.

There are relatively many large erratics in Finland. The Finnish erratics have become detached from the bedrock of the surrounding area. For example, the erratic of Honkajoki may have become detached from nearby Lauhanvuori or even the Vaasa area.

The erratics have come to Poland from afar, even from Finland. There are not many of them in Poland. In Poland, the erratics are not as large as in Finland. In Poland, many erratics are also underground because there are thick layers of soil in the lowlands.

Photo: Kalle Männistö, Lauhanvuori National Park

Ancient shorelines on Lauhanvuori

During the last ice age, the continental glacier pressed the crust downwards. At the end of the ice age, the ground level began to return to the pre-ice age stage. After the ice melted about 10,500 years ago, Lauhanvuori was an island surrounded by the ancient phase of the Baltic Sea, Lake Ancylus. As the ground rose, Lauhanvuori merged with the mainland.

Ancient shore banks can be seen at the slopes of Lauhavuori. The banks have emerged as the water level has stayed the same for some time during land uplift. Shore formations have been formed and washed by waves at these elevations. In Lauhankangas, the old seashore stands out as a small rocky ridge.

Kivijata is a remnant of an ancient shore cliff. It has formed as a result of the crumbling of rock. The rocks have been affected by the ice age and subsequent coastal forces and earthquakes.

Photo: Kalle Männistö, Lauhanvuori National Park

Formations made by coastal sea currents in the Baltic Sea

The formation of spits

Spits emerge as wind and sea currents carry bottom sediment and form a new shore from it. In the Baltic Sea, the wind blows mainly from the southwest, and therefore thin and long spits emerge on the shores of the Baltic Sea.

The Vistula Spit

The Vistula Spit is located on the Polish coast in the Gulf of Gdańsk, east of Gdańsk. It is about 70 kilometers long and 1.8 kilometers wide at its widest. The Vistula Spit began to form about 8500-3000 years ago. There is sand on the Baltic side and rocks on the mainland side of the spit.

The Curonian Spit

The Curonian Spit is located in the southern part of Lithuania and is isolated from the mainland. The northern part of the Curonian Spit belongs to Russia. The spit is about 98 kilometers long and its width varies from about 400 meters to 3.8 kilometers. The cape runs from south to north.

There is a national park in the Curonian Spit and it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and a World Heritage Site in 2000. It is a joint Lithuanian-Russian site, protected for its natural and cultural values as an example of an area where man has influenced the landscape. The northern part of the Curonian Spit, ie the Lithuanian side, is an exclave, which can only be reached by land via Russia.

The Hel Spit

The Hel Spit is a sandy cape in the Baltic Sea in Gdańsk Bay in northern Poland. The peninsula separates the Gulf of Puck from the Baltic Sea and is about 35 kilometers long. The Puck Bay is a shallow northwestern part of Gdańsk Bay. The width of the Hel Spit varies from 200 meters to three kilometers. The Hel Spit has been a very significant battle site during wars.

Photo: Juho Peltoniemi, The Hel Spit

While visiting Poland, we went to the Hel Spit by bus. It was a great experience. It was remarkable that the strip of land on which we drove was very narrow, but the journey to the end of the cape was still very long.

Also it was interesting to see how different nature was on the different sides of the road. On one side there were forest while on the other side there was harsher, drier and shorter vegetation. The mainland side was drier and there was only a small pebble beach. The seaside, on the other hand, had vegetation and a very large sandy beach.

The Heli Spit, like other spits, still grows all the time, so the sea-side strip of the spit gets wider. The beach spreads as new soil comes to the beach along the waves. The trees of the Hel Spit grow obliquely because of the strong wind on the beach and the soft terrain made up of fine sand.

Photo: Juho Peltoniemi, The Hel Spit

Kettle holes

Kettle holes were created during the ice age as ice melted. Large blocks of ice detached from the ice sheet and buried in the sand. As the ice melted, the kettle holes emerged in gravel or sand. Kettle holes are located on ridges and often have a round shape. Kettle holes have been utilized, for example, as shelters against enemies in ancient times.

Photo: Kalle Männistö, Lauhanvuori National Park

The kettle holes in Bialowietsa National Park are not very deep or large. The vegetation in the kettle holes is more lush than in the Finnish kettle holes, as they are located in the deciduous forest zone. The kettle holes are covered by organic material which is mainly decayed. The ice blocks in Poland have been small and therefore the Polish kettle holes are smaller compared to the Finnish kettle holes.

Photo: Risto Majakangas, Bialowietsa National Park

The Finnish forest reindeer and the wisent

The wicent

The wicent is very much similar to the American bison. It is the largest land mammal in Europe. The wisent herds graze in deciduous forests and forest meadows, eating grasses and tree leaves.

There lived wicents in many areas in Central and Eastern Europe in the 19th century. However, the species became rare due to hunting. In the first decades of the 20th century the last wild wicents of the Caucasus and Poland disappeared. The last wild wicent was shot in Bialowieza, Poland in 1921.

Fortunately, there still lived wisents in the zoos and some individuals could be moved to its natural habitats. The species was saved by the zoos as the first pedigree was established for the planned reproduction of this species. The 50 individuals reproduced so well that the species could be restored to the wild as early as the 1950s.

Wisents of Korkeasaari zoo have also been exported to a protected area in Russia. The current natural stock of the wisents is a couple of thousand individuals and conservation work continues. The species is still a part of the European protection program, which aims to increase the viable stock of zoos.

Photo: Kalle Männistö, Bialowietsa National Park

The Finnish forest reindeer

The Finnish forest reindeer is a wild relative of the reindeer that has adapted to the snowy coniferous forest. Its hooves are larger and its legs higher than those of a reindeer. An accurate sense of smell helps them to find lichen under the snow. The horns are narrower and therefore better in forests. The hooves of the deer also make a clicking sound, which allows the herd to hear each other and not get lost.

Finnish forest reindeers, a total of about 4,500 individuals, live only in Finland and Russian Karelia. The species once lived throughout the wooded area of Finland and was an important game animal as early as at the Stone Age. At the beginning of the 20th century, the species became extinct in Finland due to hunting, but afterwards some deer migrated to Kainuu from Russia. In Russia, deer are still extensively hunted. The species has been returned to Suomenselä and Ähtäri.

In 2016, the MetsäpeuraLIFE project, which aims to restore the Finnish forest reindeer into the Finnish nature, was started. Also Korkeasaari zoo participates the project. During the project, the species will be returned to nature in Southern Ostrobothnia and Pirkanmaa, in the vicinity of Lauhanvuori and Seitseminen National Parks. On the Russian side, the species is also being bred for wildlife restoration. You can also support the return of the species to southern Finland.

Photo: Juho Peltoniemi, Lauhanvuori National Park

Similarities of the wisent and the Finnish forest reindeer 

The wisent and the Finnish forest reindeer have a similar history. Both species have been hunted to extinction at the same time in the early 20th century. The Finnish forest reindeer live in coniferous forests only in Finland and Russian Karelia. The wisent lives in deciduous forests in Eastern and Central Europe.

Both species have been protected and their population has begun to rise. Wisents are protected, for example, in Bialowieza, Poland, which is the last large deciduous forest area still remaining in Europe. The Finnish forest reindeer is protected in Finland and thanks to the protection measures the population increases. In Lauhanvuori National Park, for example, a Finnish forest deer enclosure has been established. The aim is to generate a vibrant population in the Lauhanvuori area.

Some of the costs of the excursions have been covered by the EU-funded Lauhanvuori Region to Geopark project, which was implemented in 2016−2018.

Original text: The students of the Honkajoki upper secondary school

Main photo: Pasi Talvitie, Lauhanvuori National Park

The last photo: Juho Peltoniemi, Lauhanvuori National Park

Further reading:

Koivisto M. 2004: Jääkaudet.

Strahler A. ja Strahler A. 1951: Physical Geography. 

http://www.geologia.fi/ 

http://www.gtk.fi/geologia/retkeily/lohkareet/ 

https://www.korkeasaari.fi/elain/metsapeura/ 

https://www.lauhanvuoriregion.fi/kohteet/

One can learn about nature and the environment while hiking outdoors.

Spring cleaning of the Geopark

We challenged the schools of our area to clean up the Geopark with us. Let’s pick up the rubbish together and make the Geopark tidy for summer.

Melting snow reveals the debris

In the spring, as the snow melts, debris from the roadsides, parking lots and elsewhere is exposed. Candy papers, beverage cans, cigarette butts, used face masks and a wide variety of other waste do not make the landscape more beautiful.

Schoolchildren collecting garbage

Together with the schoolchildren from Jämijärvi, we put the cleaning gloves in our hands and cleaned up the surroundings of the school for a while. The spring sun warmed up comfortably, and we were able to stay outdoors even without jackets.

The pickers were extremely efficient, and the garbage bags filled up quickly. At the end of the pick-up, we examined the catch in more detail. We also considered what harm the rubbish can make for the environment. The rubbish was thought to be dangerous for animals and garbage looks ugly as well.

We concluded that the best way to avoid the annoyances caused by garbage is to always put the garbage directly into the right kind of bin. Also, you should always try to avoid the formation of debris in advance.

UN International Mother Earth Day

Through the Geopark’s spring cleaning challenge (in Finnish), we celebrate the UN International Mother Earth Day on April 22nd. The day encourages us to live in harmony with nature so that future generations can do the same.

Let’s clean up the Geopark together!

Let’s go out together, collect garbage from nearby nature and welcome spring. Please also share your photos on social media.

#lhgeopark #unescoglobalgeoparks #geopark #globalgeoparks #europeangeoparks #unesco #lauhanvuoregion # sdgs2030 #geoeducation #roskatongeopark #litterfreegeopark #kansainvälinenäitimaanpäivä #internationalmotherearthday

Text: Laura Koivumäki

Main photo: Sofia Sillanpää, Soininharju, Hämeenkangas

The last photo: Sofia Sillanpää, Katikankanjoni, Kauhaneva-Pohjankangas National Park

Other photos: Laura Koivumäki, Pasi Talvitie

Let's make the Geopark litter free together!