Here we are on My Wild Path again! What’s the topic this time? Well, wildlife, wildlife and more wildlife! Why? Because this has been a year full of wildlife so far for me, and I couldn’t ask for anything better. Not much activity at the start of the year to be honest, but then I’ve definitely been busy with animals.

I would like to start with the big star. This year I visited Finland, a wonderful country in northern Europe. One of the countries I truly always wanted to visit. I was not disappointed and I literally fell in love with that place. It has around 168.000 lakes (yes, 168.000!) and more than 70% of its area is covered by forest. Could a place like this not be beautiful? Not to say it has a great biodiversity and it is home for plenty of wildlife. So, who’s the big star I was talking about? The brown bear!

Old dark brown bear in the forest

Here he is, in all his strength and magnificence. What a fascinating animal! You can feel all his strength and power just looking at him. It was such an emotion to be able to observe these beauties in their natural habitat. Observing their behaviors, observing them with the cubs, observing them as a mating couple, observing them climbing the trees; I had a lot of different situations I was lucky to experience and that was simply amazing. I will never forget those eyes!

And there’s something else I will never forget. Sometimes they actually got very close to my position. So close I had to use a wide angle lens to take photos. And in those moments, I could clearly hear their powerful, profound, vigorous breath. So impressive! It really came inside me and made me shiver. It was like they were right beside me and I could almost touch them. I felt so small in front of this majestic and strong creature. And that’s not all. There is another thing I will not forget, among the others. When I was literally surrounded by them!

Brown bear cub in the forest

Imagine the scene: you’re hiking in the forest, you’re following your trail and you’re climbing up a small hill which is hiding what’s there behind. Then you reach the top of this small hill, and you find two bear cubs climbing the trees right in front of you, around 20 meters from you. Then you turn your head right because you notice something and you see a big brown bear walking in the direction of your trail. Not enough, you look on the left and you see another big bear sitting under the tree to take some rest. And you slowly pass right in the middle, between all of them, following your trail. The emotion I felt there is just unexplainable. My heart was jumping, not for fear, but for astonishment. I was stuck for some seconds, I didn’t move at all because I was totally amazed.

Then I had to move but no words can make you feel the emotion I felt that moment! And as if emotions were not enough, watching the cubs playing together literally melt my heart. This has been the highlight of my trip for sure, but there’s been much more. Bears were the big stars indeed, but not the only ones. Moose, lots of birds, a great grey owl, squirrels, lots of reindeer of course. I also spotted a Saimaa ringed seal, the most endangered seals in the world, with a population of only about 400 individuals. This seal only lives in Lake Saimaa,  the largest lake in the country and the fourth largest natural freshwater lake in Europe. But when you talk about Finland, you can not avoid talking also about its landscape.

Sunset on a lake in Finland

As I wrote before, 70% of its area is covered by forest; this means there are forests literally everywhere! Trust me, I drove for almost 4.000 kms there and I can confirm that! I crossed the Artic Circle, went through Lapland and visited one of the largest wilderness area in Europe, Lemmenjoki. I hiked through some beautiful national parks, saw some wonderful sunsets, swam in the lake and experience the traditional Finnish sauna in a private cabin on a lake! There’s just too much to say, so I’m going to talk more about this in a dedicated post. Just visit Finland and you won’t regret!

The other big immersion in wildlife was during the rut season. Could I miss this chance? That’s actually my favorite part of the year! This time I went to Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park, the second oldest national park in Italy, after Gran Paradiso National Park which I visited two years ago. Well, I was literally surrounded by roaring deer. Everywhere I was going I could hear their loud voices trying to dominate on the other males. In the forest, while hiking on the mountains, while crossing the Sangro river. I saw them in many different environments. I spent a lot of time just observing them; during this period you really understand their social behavior and it’s really interesting. Nothing could make me happier!

Deer rut in the forest of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park

Of course, I didn’t miss my every year appointment with my favorite place, Acquerino Cantagallo Nature Reserve. I also went there during the rut and had some beautiful encounters. So, that’s a lot of emotions for me, and I’m ready for more and more! I hope you will be able to catch a glimpse of them through the photos I’m going to share soon on my social media profiles. What about you? Did you have any experience like this? What was your most beautiful encounter with an animal? Did you ever feel so amazed, astonished, with your heart jumping in your chest? I’m sure you had, so please let me know your stories in the comments.

Let’s share our love for wildlife. See you soon on My Wild Path!

Mirko Chianucci Written by:

I'm a nature and wildlife photographer based in Italy. With a great desire to explore the world, I'm deeply in love with nature and wildlife. My goal is to raise awareness on natural environment and wildlife conservation to help preserving the amazing wonders of our planet.

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