Alam-Pedja tales: Early spring at Sellisaare

Text and photos Arne Ader and Margit Mõttus
Translation Liis
We had come to Sellisaare to look for the first signs of the arriving spring. Selli is the domaine of thousands of pines:  light-filled dry heath pine forests grow on the sandy areas here, on the low bog edges there are Labrador tea-smelling bog pine stands. In ancient times this place was a Suur-Võrtsjärve lake island. Now however it is a bog islet, with wide views opening from the north towards the Sillaotsa and the Heinamaa bogs, and in the south towards  Laanepera and Tori bogs.
The forest road in the heath pine forest has been thoroughly dug up by wild boars
When we started the trip at the Selli farmstead we heard shrill calls. The high-pitched and loud sequence of notes belonged to the black woodpecker, the character bird of this place. Soon it became clear that the callers were in fact two, one of whom did not really seem to be in the forest, in any case the loud  noise broke off at once when one of the woodpeckers flew to the neighbouring pine stand.
The slender pines stood in a rare moment of no wind. Among them  there are pine giants with crocodile-patterned bark and an age many times a human generation.
Old pine near Selli farmstead
The sun was shining, casting long shadows on the moss carpet. The black woodpeckers had carefully concealed themselves from our eyes and ears and the silence that arrived was only interrupted by the siskins busy in the high tree tops. There was a particular freshness and a quiet anticipation in the silence of the forest.

The weary remnants of the departing winter had hidden themselves in the shadiest spots in the pine stand. The elks had left marks of their presence on the last remains of snow. The elk standing there in winter seemed still to be glimpsed from them ...

Elk droppings on snow
On a patch of snow we also found the first harbinger of spring. A fox moth caterpillar lay beneath the cowberry and blueberry stems. The strength of the  hairy little creature, clumsy from the cold, had abated for the moment. But hopefully it would soon move on from here when it got some additional heat from the sun. Further away some lonely lingonberries that had wintered gleamed red between the turfs.
Fox moth caterpillar on the snow beneath lingonberry and blueberry stems
The black woodpecker again announced the arrival of evening. But its livelyness was brief this time. The great spotted woodpecker who had been quietly tapping at spruce cones in its smithy had finished its day’s work too. Before sunset and moonrise a slight breeze arrived and set the pine tips swishing. It was a soft friendly caressing sighing!
The Selli farmyard without the farmhouse exudes sadness but at the same time here is also a mysterious warmth – maybe the same as in the days when Elmar, the last master of the farm, was busy here, when children were on the swing and the old gramophone played ...
The site of the former Selli farmhouse. The farm was founded by Mihkel Sell in the 1660ies. He received a piece of land here as reward for serving the Crown. Selli farmstead is the first of 13 households in Sooküla’s history.
After sunset we finally also met the creature whose presence had been indicated by the numerous droppings that we had found during the day.
Elk at salt pole
More photos: LINK
Looduskalender’s Alam-Pedja tales are sponsored by the Keskkonnainvesteeringute Keskus (Environmental Investment Centre).




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