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The Ornithologist in Lapland1

Nature volume 70, pages 250251 (14 July 1904) | Download Citation



Russian Lapland, although it has its charms during the brief summer, cannot be described as a desirable country, either for residents or tourists, since, except in a few sheltered spots, it produces little fodder save reindeer moss, while the fishing and shooting are but indifferent, and in late seasons the ground may remain covered with snow until well into June. Moreover, almost as soon as summer has set in, mosquitoes of a particularly vicious kind make their appearance in swarms, and render life well-nigh intolerable in the marshy districts which form the greater part of the country. When to these drawbacks are added the difficulties of travel, both by sea and land, there is little wonder that northern Lapland attracts but few tourists. Nevertheless, to the ornithologist and the egg-collector it is little short of a paradise, birds of many kinds resorting to its inhospitable shores for the breeding season in vast numbers. The variety and abundance of bird-life are, indeed, testified by the statement of the author of the handsome and exquisitely illustrated volume before us, that during his first trip he encountered no less than seventy-six species, of forty-four of which he succeeded in obtaining the eggs. This exuberance of bird life the natives do their best to keep in check, and it must be confessed that a bird protection society would find plenty of scope in the country, as all birds large enough to be eaten are shot during the breeding season, while the eggs of many species are taken by the thousand. An excuse for these practices is to be found, as the author states, in the circumstance that birds only visit this part of Lapland in order to breed, and if they did not do so then, the natives would never have a chance of killing them at all. Loons, or divers, it appears, are often taken accidentally in fishing nets, but puffins, which swarm in the country and have been described in an official publication as “ducks,” are taken for food by stretching old nets across their holes.

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