Beginning of the year 2024

The year 2023 wasn’t the greatest birding year but I managed to 400th Finnish tick after a couple of amazing successful and a couple of unsuccessful twitching trip. I didn’t get any new self-found ticks but maybe the most amazing ticks were even 4 new Siikalahti-ticks as I had got only 9 ticks in last 12 years and the longest streaks without any had been 3 and 3.5 years. After all I got 261 year-ticks but I birded mostly near home so I got even 221 species in Parikkala and 195 in Siikalahti.

Usually we had done a long The first of January trip but as we had just did a long twitching trip and after all there were only the same Oriental Turtle Dove and Black-throated Thrush around, we decided to take a bit easier this year. So our targets were the Black-throated Thrush, a Nutcracker in Punkaharju and a Two-barred Crossbill in Imatra.

The year changes in very cold weather but at 5:15 a.m. we picked up Harri Hölttä and started driving towards Lieksa. It was a long drive but it went quickly. The coldest place was some 20 kilometers before Lieksa when it was even -31.5 degrees! Luckily it wasn’t that cold, only -21 degrees, when we parked in Lieksa and walked to the familiar street where we stopped to watch towards the feeder. Surprisingly we saw some familiar faces on the window as there were some top-twitchers inside the house watching towards the feeder.

The first bird of the year was surprisingly a Fieldfare that arrived to the feeder when it was still quite dark. Soon Great and Blue Tits and Yellowhammers started to wake up and then the second thrush of the morning arrived – a Blackbird.

Hooded Crows and Jackdaws were already flying on the sky when Jörgen Palmgren arrived and joined us and pretty soon also the star-bird arrived when the Black-throated Thrush flew close to the feeder. We still stayed there for some time as we hoped to see the thrush better and maybe get some pictures too but after some waiting we decided to give up as we had again a long driving in front of us. And of course it was pretty cold too…

While we were driving we saw a Black Grouse in Joensuu, a Goshawk in Kontiolahti, a Raven in Kitee and when we were getting closer to Parikkala, we realized that we hadn’t got time to turn to Punkaharju but decided to keep on driving towards Imatra. There was no news from Imatra but we heard that Nutcrackers hadn’t been seen during the morning either. And then we got news that Petri Kalmari had seen a Nutcracker in Imatra.

In Parikkala we saw a Grey-headed Woodpecker flying over the road in Kinnarsalmi and then we of course had to make a brief stop in Moskuunniemi where after some waiting we saw a Marsh Tit. We also saw a Nuthatch and Common Redpolls. But soon we were driving towards Imatra again.

In Ruokolahti we saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker and when we arrived to Imatra there were still no news about the Two-barred Crossbill. So we decided to try to twitch the Nutcracker first. The bird had been seen some 20 minutes earlier but the owner of the house and the feeder told that usually it wasn’t visiting the feeder after 1 p.m. We waited for some time but after all we had to give up. Only year-tick was a Jay.

In Vuoksi Itä-Siitola we saw Goldeneyes, a Cormorant, a male Smew and Mallards but then we continued to Neitsytniemi. Nobody had sent any message, but the crossbill but once we got to the feeder the bird was there! It was my second First of January tick of the day, number 155.

We also saw a couple of Nuthatches and a Treecreeper. When it was getting dark we still decided to make some stops along river Vuoksi. We still saw a Goosander in Imatrankoski and a Goldfinch in Mansikkala. And after we had eaten, we still tried to twich a Tawny Owl but the weather was getting worse and we had no luck.

Winter continued very cold so there was really not much to see in Parikkala. I did some birding every day on my lunch-hours and more at weekends. Mostly I visited Moskuunniemi and our feeders around Siikalahti. So I saw the same Marsh Tit, Nuthatches, Long-tailed Tits, Treecreepers, Grey-headed and White-backed Woodpeckers and so on almost every day. Some year-ticks I got were Common Crossbill, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Crested Tit.

On the 7th of January we visited Rautjärvi Simpele Kokkolanjoki with Harri Partanen but it was again a very cold day so we found only a few Dippers. Then in Siikalahti we saw a Goshawk that had just hunted a Black Woodpecker.

On the 9th day I went to check the condition of forest roads and found out that it was impossible to drive to see Siberian Jays. I did see a Hazel Hen in Kirpoavankivenmäki.

Siberian JayOn the 13th day I stopped briefly in Kokkolanjoki and saw Mallards and a male Goosander. Then on the 14th day we did a long skiing trip from Oronmylly to Soininmäki. On the way just before Oronmylly we saw a Pygmy Owl. In Soininmäki we found a couple of Siberian Jays after some waiting and searching. Otherwise it was extremely quiet in the forests. The cold weather had been fatal to many birds. For example a flock of Long-tailed Tits that was visiting our feeder had only 6 birds left from 11.

Hanna spent a several days in a hide next to our feeder and got some nice pictures of tits and woodpeckers and so on. I also joined her in a couple of mornings when it wasn’t so cold.
In the end of January some days were warm and there were even some days with + degrees. Then it was very difficult to find any birds as they were feeding on the top of trees. I found out that the Marsh Tit was staying on Harri Partanen’s feeder only on cold days and on warmer days it changed to another feeder that was some hundreds of meters away.

On the 25th day I found one Goldcrest that had somehow still survived and also a Great Grey Shrike in Tetrisuo. On the 26th day I saw a Dipper in Tyrjä. At weekend we did Garden twitches first in Siikalahti feeder and then in Tarvaslampi hide-feeder. Nothing new was found. But in Tarvaslampi garden-feeder there was a big flock of Common Redpolls with at least 3 Arctic Redpolls and a single Lesser Redpoll.

J.A.
Lesser-spotted Woodpecker

Christmas magic

On the 23rd of December during the day I got a message that in North Botnia there had been one or even two Barn Owls in and outside a horse stable for at least 2 weeks! I still had to work until early afternoon but on my luch-hour I went to home to tell Hanna that our Christmas had been cancelled. We packed everything almost ready and when I still went to work for an hour, Hanna headed t o do some shopping. She managed to buy all Christmas-food to our fridge but an hour later we packed the rest of our stuff to our car and started driving.

While driving we discussed about different options how our “holiday” could go but after all we realized that there was no point as owls can be really difficult to twitch. We had prepared to try for the Barn Owl for at least 2 whole days and then do something else. There was a Pine Bunting in Kemi and an Oriental Turtle Dove in Kemijärvi and at leas the latter was a an option. I even called to my brother Pirkka that we might be in Kemijärvi on the Christmas Eve morning but he told that he as going to Ranua with his family so they weren’t there.

We started to check our phones if there was any message about the owl as there were first twitchers going after 2 p.m. I had guessed that probably nothing was going to happen begore 7 p.m. and we were going to be there at 8 p.m. Then we thought that there was no reason to worry if the bird was still missing at 10 o’clock or even at midnight. Barn Owls are real nocturnal birds after all.

Finally at 8 p.m. we parked next to horse-ranges and with my therma-camera we could see a big group of twitchers standing on the other side of the ranges. There were about 50 twitchers and most of them had been for several hours there already. It seemed that many had far too light clothes and they were really freezing. So they were moving a lot but also talking quite a lot. And soon some people started to walk to their cars to warm up and some left to eat or just spend time to somewhere. So people were really walking too much. Some even gave up already even though it was only 9 p.m.

It started to be so restless that we decided that someone should go to check the stable if the owl had managed to get in somehow without anyone noticing. But the owl wasn’t there but it was nice to talk with the owner of the stable and hear what she had seen and where and when. But soon we were back outside and standing still and waiting for something to happen.

After midnight many people left and some of them visited the stable. Later we agreed that the stable should be checked after every hour or so even though it was quite pointless. We would have seen if an owl had flight in.

There were less and less people and after all there were only me, Hanna, Mika I. Koskinen and Mika Bruun left. It was only about -5 degrees but when we started to feel extremely tired, we started to feel freezing cold too. Wind was quite heavy so every now and then we had to walk a little. After some hours we drove a couple of cars so that we could get inside to warm up in turns. I even managed to sleep for about 30 minutes.

About at 5 a.m. one group of twitchers that had been sleeping for a few hours in a hotel arrived and then also a couple of groups of new twitchers. Actually whole group of about 15 birders (except us) were top twitchers. Only twitchable Barn Owl had been in Lemland Lågskär in 1990 and only about 20 birders had seen it before it had died. It was strange that there was not a single local birder.

As we were now much smaller group we were pretty quiet – probably everyone was just too frozen to do anything? Some of us had to walk a little towards the forest edge and back to keep warm.

Most of the observations that locals had made had been made early in the morning about 6 a.m. when first worker had walked into the stable. Then the owl had flight out through the doors. No we were sure that there hadn’t been no owl flying inside so we started to feel disappointed.

But just a couple of minutes after 6 a.m. Mika Bruun said calmly that there is something coming. I didn’t hear exactly what he said but I also turned to watch towards the ranges and immediately saw a pale owl flying towards us – there it was! The Barn Owl flew beautifully against the lights of the ranges and showed really well. It continued towards the stable but then turned to the forest and disappeared. We could have taken pictures of the owl but we hadn’t got our cameras ready and those who had were just enjoying the owl and didn’t take pictures. After all the bird was seen only about 30 seconds or so. I did put the news out to Lintutiedotus and then it was time for some celebrations! It felt so good to see this magnificent owl after more than 10 hours waiting. I was already prepared to go somewhere to rest and sleep and come back for the second night.

I was so frozen that after I had celebrated a little with happy friends I decided that we had to go to warm up to our car. I checked the time and then realized that it was still quite early. So I checked how many hours drive it was to Kemijärvi and then checked what time an Oriental Turtle Dove had showed up to the feeder in the morning. I realized that we might be able to see the bird already this morning if we would leave immediately.

The Oriental Turtle Dove had been seen only between 9:18 and 9:47 in every morning. As there was no point to try to find a place to get some sleep and actually we felt quite good because of the adrenaline from the owl-observation, we decided to hit the road.

After some driving we started to feel warm and even thought we heard that the owl had been seen again very shortly, we knew that we had made the right decision. And when we realized that there were able to drive a little bit faster than out GPS had told in some roads, we really had a possibility to get to Kemijärvi in time, and if not we could stay there until the next morning. After all it was our ordinary schedule.

finally we parked to Kemijärvi Särkikangas at 9:10 a.m. and as it was very dark morning we knew that we were in right time. Soon we found the right garden where were a couple of piles of seeds on the ground and at least 5 Red Squirrels already.

At 9:28 we heard wing-beats of a dove and at 9:32 we saw an Oriental Turtle Dove landing to the seeds. It was a sub-species lifer for us. It was feeding for 6 minutes and then left. It was good that the owners of the house had promised not to get out at all between 9 and 10 a.m. so the dove could feed and twitchers could twitch it successfully. This bird had never been seen in any other place or any other time!

So our twitching trip had been perfect! Next we went to eat to a local service, then did some shopping and then went to see Pirkka and his family. We were in Kemijärvi 24 hours earlier than ordinary plan so they were still around. We even managed to sleep for an hour before we had to give Pirkka’s family time to do their packing and so on and we started our long drive back towards home.

After all we drove until 6 p.m. when we parked to hotel in Vuokatti. There we got a nice room and then went to eat pizza. At 8 p.m. we were ready to go to sleep.

On Christmas Eve morning we woke up after 7 a.m. and soon were having good breakfast. Then we still relaxed a little bit before started driving again. The weather was quite bad for driving but luckily all roads had been ploughed clean.

Finally we stopped in Lieksa where we met Mikko Järvinen and Anu Sukanen that were already searching for our next bird. While discussing I noticed that the Black-throated Thrush had landed to a perch-tree behind us and soon it landed to feed berries to garden. There was too much traffic on the road and in the garden but it was nice to meet also the owners of the house.
Black-throated Thrush
We tried for some time to get some pictures of the thrush but after all we had to give up as because of the Christmas Eve there really was too much happening. We still went to see on Eurasian Nuthatch nearby and identified it as an asiatica-subspecies. Then we started driving towards Parikkala where we were finally after 4 p.m.

At home we luckily had Christmas-food that Hanna had bought and then it was time to drive to Tarvaslampi to spend Christmas Eve with Hanna’s family. We had sauna and changed presents so our Christmas hadn’t been cancelled after all!

Marsh titOn Christmas Day I did winter-bird count. I skied and walked 17 kilometers around Siikalahti and saw a Hazel Hen, 24 Black Grouses, 5 Rock Doves, 2 Grey-headed, 6 Great Spotted and 1 White-backed Woodpecker, a Blackbird, 4 Goldcrests, 70 Blue, 125 Great, 1 Coal and 4 Willow Tits, 2 Eurasian Nuthatches, 2 Treecreepers, 4 Jays, 11 Magpies, 18 Jackdaws, 7 Hooded Crows, a Raven, 19 Tree Sparrows, 66 Greenfinches, 40 Common Redpolls, 43 Bullfinches and 20 Yellowhammers. The weather was extremely tough as there was already so much snow. I was absolutely tired after the count but still headed to Moskuunniemi where I managed to see the Marsh Tit once again even though it hadn’t been visiting the feeder during the day at all before that 2:45 p.m. And on the next day it wasn’t seen at all. MAybe it had started to visit some other feeder or then it had started to eat stocks.

Great Grey ShrikeOn the Boxing Day we went to Siikalahti where we first color-ringed a Nuthatch with a trap. Then we out up a mist-net and ringed 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a surprise Great Grey Shrike, 5 Great, 10 Blue and 10 Long-tailed Tits.

Then it was time for normal work-days again. We were already planning out traditional the first of January trip – but we had no plans to go anywhere too far – 1625 kilometers Christmas trip had been such a success.

J.A.

December

On the first of December on my lunch-hour I visited Moskuunniemi to see the same Marsh Tit. After work I hurried to Tyrjä where I had to wait for an hour and a half before I first saw a Dipper and then finally heard a Wren calling – it was a new winter-species to Parikkala ever.

On the 3rd of December we birded whole daylight with Hanna. First we headed to Siikalahti Tiviä to put feeder up. While we were walking towards our feeding place we found a Dipper on a ditch! It was a new Siikalahti-tick for both of us – my number 249! On the feeder we saw a Nuthatch, a White-backed Woodpecker and a Grey-headed Woodpecker. Then we went to Raikanniemi to put up another feeder and while driving along Raikantie we found a Capercaillie perched on a top of a big pine. It was my second ever Capercaillie in Siikalahti and another tick for Hanna! It was maybe the first time in 2000th century that Hanna got 2 Siikalahti-ticks in same day – or at least in an hour!

In the afternoon we still went to Rautjärvi Simpele Kokkolanjoki where we found a Velvet Scoter in Uudensillankoski.

On the 5th evening we drove to Kouvola with Hanna and Veikka Kosonen. Hanna and her sister Elissa started planning their race while with Veikka and Teo Ylätalo we went to eat and plan our next day.

On the 6th of December we had a traditional Independence Day bird-race. We started early but once again we found no birds before the sun started to rise. And then our first species were very common ones – Common Redpoll, Yellowhammer and Bullfinch.

First we were driving around in a big forest area where Teo had recently seen several good species but we weren’t very lucky. After all we heard a couple of Black Woodpeckers and heard one and saw a another Pygmy Owl. Of course some forest-tits and Black Grouses and so on were found but we could have done much better.

Once we got out from the forest we started to do well. We managed to twitch a Blackcap very quickly, saw a Velvet Scoter, a couple of White-backed Woodpeckers, a Nuthatch, Blackbirds, a Fieldfare, Siskins and so on and then the highlight were 3 Kingfishers in one place! We also found a Wren but Woodcock was one more disappointment as it wasn’t where Teo had seen it a couple of days earlier.

In Tolkkila fields we found a big flock of Common Redpolls with some Arctic Redpolls, Goldfinches and Linnets and after long trying we also found a single Twite.

It was already getting late when we got Starlings, a Dipper and a Grey-headed Woodpecker, but Pheasants were found even though we really tried. Then we had to still hurry to go to our last place where we still managed to see an Eagle Owl.

All best teams had been racing in Kouvola-area but still with our 47 species we were only third. Winners had found even 52 species! The second team had the same amount of species with us but they had a single ace-species (a species that was only on their team) and we had none.

On the 9th of December I drove to Imatra to photograph a female Two-barred Crossbill that was visiting a feeder. I got so good pictures that I still decided to continue to Lappeenranta to photograph Twites that were visiting a feeder too. They weren’t so easy but after all I got a couple of pictures. On the trip I also saw 4 Nuthatches, a White-backed Woodpecker and a Common Teal.

On the 10th day I surprisingly saw and heard a lonely Two-bared Crossbill flying over me in Siikalahti and it was my 221st species in Parikkala and 195 in Siikalahti this year. Only a couple of these species have been twitched so quite big numbers of birds can be seen in a year inland.

In mid December we were both sick, first Hanna and then I. So I did only short trips to see the same Marsh Tit, woodpeckers and so on.

J.A.

November-race with some rarities

After a poor trip to Säppi I wasn’t expecting to see many birds in Parikkala either. I was almost ready to put my birding gear away for the winter which means about 5 months…

Anyway on the 30th of October I visited Tyrjä where I found a Bewick’s Swan and a Tundra Bean Goose in a big flock of Whooper Swans. I also tried to find a Dipper but it wasn’t there yet.

On the 31st day I visited Moskuunniemi and I was talking with Harri Partanen while we were watching his feeder when I noticed a Marsh Tit. It was visiting the feeder briefly but I managed to get some pictures which helped me to be sure about the identification. Then Harri remembered that he had seen a couple of Willow Tits on the previous day and another one had been browner. He went to pick up his camera and there were pictures of this Marsh Tit already from the previous day. While we were following this tit visiting the feeder, we saw also a Nuthatch.

On the 1st of November started the November bird-race that was in our Bird-club’s area in Parikkala and Rautjärvi. I started by visiting Moskuunniemi where Marsh Tit was soon seen. Usually I should have gone to Siikalahti but it had been frozen for some time already. So after I had seen Cormorants in Härskiinmutka, a Black Woodpecker in Kirkonkylä and a Common Scoter in Kirkkolahti I headed towards Varialahti. On the way I saw a Goshawk in Siikalahti and found probably the same Whooper Swan flock in Kaukola and both the Bewick’s Swan and Tundra Bean Goose were still on the flock. A Grey-headed Woodpecker flew over me and a couple of White-tailed Eagles were soaring on the sky. Then in Vartialahti I found 5 Barnacle Geese, a Wigeon, 4 Tufted Ducks, a Greater Scaup, a Common Scoter, Goldeneyes, a Great Crested Grebe and so on. The driving weather was awful as there was already lots of snow.

Then on my luch-hour I visited Rautalahti but saw only Goosanders and a flock of Black Grouses. After work I visited Vartialahti again but found nothing better.

On the 2nd of November there were Marsh Tit, Nuthatch and also a Blackbird in Moskuunniemi. In Särkisalmi I saw Fieldfare and some Rock Pigeons were in Kangaskylä. On my lunch-hour I went to check southern side of Lake Simpele but only Mallards, Goldcrests and some other common species were ticked.

On the 3rd day I found a Black-throated Diver and saw also Herring Gulls with Common Gulls in Härskiinmutka. On my lunch-hour I checked other parts of Lake Simpele but found only some Cormorants. Only ticks were Yellowhammer, Common Crossbill, Coal Tit and Treecreeper. In the afternoon I headed to Saari but all the bays were completely frozen and only a Wigeon and a couple of Great Grey Shrikes were seen.

On the 4th of November I did a twitching trip by plane to Inari Ivalo. I stood there in -20 degrees watching to one garden for several hours then ate pizza and flew back. Dusky Thrush that had been there for 3 weeks, wasn’t there anymore.

On the 5th day we tried to catch Nuthatches in Satumäki but soon continued to Moskuunniemi to catch tits. But neither Marsh Tit or Nuthatch weren’t caught. But we saw 3 Goldfinches flying over.

During the day we headed to Kaukola with Harri Partanen as there had been a Golden Eagle near the swan-flock already on the previous day. It had flight behind a forest just a minute before we arrived. We decided to try from Mantilanniemi and luckily saw the eagle flying over Siikalahti. We also found a Nuthatch there and then in Vartialahti we saw a Goshawk that had just killed one of the last Barnacle Geese and also 15 Scaups and so on.

Then we still continued to Tarvaslampi where we saw a Chaffinch and to Soininmäki but it was getting too late so we found only some tits and Goldcrests.

On the 6th day we were mist-netting again in Moskuunniemi and heard a Pygmy Owl calling. Maybe because of the owl many tits weren’t caught. Nuthatch did hit the net but didn’t get stuck. In Savikumpu we still twitched a Canada Goose before we had to hurry to work.

On my lunch-hour I found Smews in Kukkarolahti and saw 10 Long-tailed Tits in Kannas. In the evening I went to check fields with my thermal camera but found no snipes but a nice surprise was a Long-eared Owl!

On the 7th of November I had to rush to Tarvaspohja Kirpunranta when Jouko Rantanen called that he had some rare “phylloscopus” warbler there. The bird was gone but Jouko had pictures and it really looked like a Hume’s Leaf Warbler. I played some tits alarm-calls from my phone and tits started to arrive and after them the warbler finally showed up to a top of tree. I managed to get some pretty good pictures of it and it indeed was the first Hume’s Leaf Warbler for Parikkala and the second for South-Karelia ever!

When the flock was gone I waited for some twitchers to arrive but only Harri Partanen and Merja Laari showed up. After some waiting I played the call again and the same happened again. This time Hume’s Leaf Warbler stayed a bit further but we all saw it well and I got some more pictures. Then I had to hurry back to work (I saw a couple of Waxwings on the way) and even though there were people searching for Hume’s it wasn’t seen again. Until next day one birder saw it or at least something like it but for sure it wasn’t 100% sure observation. But another surprise was seen by twitchers – the saw the latest Chiffchaff ever in Parikkala.

On the 8th day I saw an Arctic Redpoll, 13 Long-tailed ducks, 3 Black-throated Divers and a couple of Velvet Scoters in Rautalahti- After worj I hurried to Saari to twitch a Red-throated Diver in Saarenkylä and a Hawk Owl in Akanvaara Tetrisuo.

On the 9th day I saw 2 Black-throated Divers and 15 local and 30 migrating Long-tailed Ducks in Härskiinmutka. While I was trying to see the last House Sparrow of the village, I saw a Siskin and a Goldfinch. In Lahdensuo I still saw a Sparrowhawk.

On the 10th day I visited Rautjärvi Simpele Kokkolanjoki but only tick was a Dipper. In Kivijärvi I saw some Common Scoters and Scaups that both seemed to be more common than ever. In Tähtiniemi I found 25 Red-throated and 2 Black-throated Diver and a young Greater Black-backed Gull so it was really a good visit there!

On the 11th day there was thick fog but I had to do winterbird-count as it was the last possible day for me. Siikalahti had melted again and it was extremely wet everywhere. I took my scope and walked 18 kilometers without using it at all because of the bad visibility. There were tits more than ever – at least Great Tits. Altogether I found 3 Mallards, a Common Scoter, 8 Goosanders, 2 Cormorants, a Hazel Hen, 31 Black Grouses, a White-tailed Eagle, a Goshawk, 10 Common and 2 Herring Gulls, 8 Rock Doves, a Grey-headed and a White-backed Woodpecker, 10 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 17 Goldcrests, 8 Long-tailed, 76 Blue, 269 Great, 5 Coal and 2 Crested Tits, even 7 Nuthatches, 7 Treecreepers, 12 Jays, 10 Magpies, 370 Jackdaws, 33 Hooded Crows, 7 Ravens, 33 Tree Sparrows, 4 Bramblings, 60 Greenfinches, 53 Common Redpolls, am Arctic Redpoll, 10 Common Crossbills and 15 Bullfinches. Strange that I didn’t even hear any Whooper Swans even though the flock was still in a field in Kaukola and I passed them only from a couple of hundreds of meters, but there is a forest between. Unfortunately a Bewick’s Swan, a Canada Goose or a Golden Eagle wasn’t seen either.

On the 12th of November we had given up mist-netting the Marsh Tit and tried to catch it with a Nuthatch-trap – and it worked in 10 minutes. It was nice to get this bird ringed and it is interesting to see if it is going to stay for the whole winter – and maybe find out where it goes after that?

We still got to Kaukola to see the Bewick’s Swan when my phone beeped and ringed at the same time – Veikka Kosonen had found a Gannet in Punkasalmi! We hurried there and luckily Veikka was still there and he knew where the bird had landed to swim. And immediately it was flying again and soon we could follow this young bird fishing on on the lake!

Weather-forecast had told that it was going to rain most of the day but luckily Veikka had decided to come to check Punkasalmi. He had already been about to leave when he had seen the Gannet. Now the weather was just cold and the freezing wind was straight from north but because of that there were birds migrating! We saw altogether 208 Velvet Scoters, 29 Red and 10 Black-throated Divers, 10 unidentified divers, 4 Long-tailed Ducks and a White-tailed Eagle.

When the Gannet had once again dropped to swim and hadn’t been seen for an hour, we decided to leave as the migration had stopped and we were absolutely freezing. There were several twitchers still and luckily they soon saw the bird again. It stayed in Punkasalmi at least a couple of next days and it was seen a couple of days been chased by a White-tailed Eagle. So nobody knows if it continued its journey somewhere or was eaten by the eagle after all.

In the afternoon I still visited Vartialahti and saw 2 Wigeons, 15 Scaups, 13 Tufted Ducks, 3 Velvet Scoters, 2 Common Scoter and a Great Crested Grebe.

On the 13th day there were still 148 Whooper Swans, a Bewick’s Swan and a Canada Goose in Kaukola. In Tyrjä I saw my first ever in November Woodpigeon and after worjk I still twitcher a Redwing in Särkisalmi and also 3 Smews were seen there.

It started to get really cold again so lakes started to freeze again. So next days I saw mostly the same long-staying birds but most of the ducks and soon also swans had gone. On the 16th day I saw a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in Siikalahti and an Arctic Redpoll in Jantusensalo. I also checked some big flocks of Goosanders but found no Red-breasted Margansers at all – just one male Smew was still seen on the 17th day. Then I also twtiched a Golden Eagle in Kaukola and this was surprisingly a young bird. With Harri Partanen we managed to get some really good flight-shots of it. In the afternoon I still visited Soininmäki and finally saw 2 Siberian Jays there.

The 18th and 19th of November we were in Helsinki where BirdLife Finland celebrated its 50 years. On Sunday we had the meeting with assembly of delegates. It was good to see many friend and listen to some interesting presentations.

On the 20th day I finally saw the last House Sparrow and then Veijo Vilska found a very late Grey Heron in Särkisalmi. It stayed for some days but it was so freezing cold that I only photographed it on the first day. All lakes started to get completely frozen – and it was only November!

On the 25th day it was already -15 degrees. Anyway we were birding for the whole day with Arttu Valonen. Our goal was to get 200 Parikkala year-ticks for Arttu. It’s quite a good goal for a birder who lives 300 kilometers from Parikkala! Anyway we started well when we saw an Arctic Redpoll in Tönkinsuo and it was the species number 199. In Tarvasalmi we saw a Blackbird and then in Soinimäki we found 1 or 2 Three-toed Woodpeckers. Then we continued to Peruspohja where after time we finally found a Dipper which was Arttu’s species number 200. Then we drove through many forests trying to find Pine Grosbeaks or better crossbills but saw only Black Grouses, Hazel Hens and so on and headed to Akanvaara Tetrisuo where we saw a Hawk Owl. On the way back to Parikkala we heard calls of a Common Kingfisher but there was also an Otter along the river so we just couldn’t be sure if it had been whistling – Otters had really strange calls. But we coudn’t be disappointed as we found the latest Wren ever in Parikkala. And in the evening with Hanna we still heard a Ural Owl in Lahdensuo. And then a couple of later Arttu found the Kingfisher there and it was calling same calls than we had heard.

On the 26th day it was even -23 degreed but we headed to forests with Hanna and Arttu. We started well with 2 Capercaillies and a Pygmy Owl. The Marsh Tit was still on Harri’s feeder and then we saw the Grey Heron last time. We drove through many forests to Akanvaara where the Hawk Owl was still around. Then we continued until Uukuniemi but even Pyhäjärvi was frozen so badly that we couldn’t see any birds there. After all only birds to mention we saw in hours were a flock of Black Grouses and a female Mallard. In the afternoon we still continued to forests and found 2 Ural Owls but no Pine Grosbeaks or anything else new.

During the week it dark when I went to work and dark when I got away. So I did only short trips on my lunch-hours. I tried to get better observation of a Kingfisher without luck but Marsh Tit and Wren were still around. After all I managed to get 79 species in March and they were all in Parikkala – it was probably a new records to this competition? Unfortunately the end of October and the beginning of November had been so cold that some usual birds were not found. I also had too much other things to do at weekends but birding on lunch-hours and just close to where I live can be surprisingly good still in November.

J.A.

On Säppi island once again

On Thursday the 19th of October Hanna had to be at work until midnight. But then she had the next day free so she could start her autumn-holiday early. I had also taken holiday for the Friday already so we were ready start our journey already at night.

We tried to sleep a couple of hours but I wasn’t able to get any sleep, so at 2 a.m. we packed our car and started driving through Finland towards west.

We stopped only once and finally we were in Pori before the sun was rising. We parked to Konepajanranta where we waited for some time and when it was getting lighter outside, we started to check all gulls that were arriving to the river and roof-tops.

We saw one good looking Caspian Gull-candidate but too briefly. It flew too soon behind the buildings. Then we saw only Herring and Greater Black-backed Gulls. But we heard calls of a Common Kingfisher and I saw a single White Wagtail before we decided to leave.

Next we continued to Maaviiki to check swans and geese that were feeding in thick flock on one field. There were about 800 Taiga Bean Geese, some White-fronted Geese and a few Pink-footed, Greylag and Barnacle Geese and lots of Whooper Swans. In Viikinäinen we saw a single young Moorhen and then we drove to Kallo where we walked around the island but saw only a couple of Arctic Redpolls, a Snow Bunting and a Parrot Crossbill.

Then it was ime to go to eat. We drove to a local pizzeria where we met also Teo Ylätalo and Elissa Soikkeli who had driven all morning from Kouvola. After we had eaten we went to do shopping and then it was time to head to Kuuminainen harbor.

We were in the harbor too early but we started to carry our stuff to the boat already. Then we had to wait for some time to Teppo Lehtola and Tomas Swahn to arrive but right on time at 3 p.m. we were ready to leave towards Säppi island.

A half an hour later we were in Säppi harbor where we loaded our stuff to the dock and then helped some friends of ours that were leaving to get their stuff to the boat. And soon with help of a couple of friends that had already arrived earlier we were carrying our stuff towards the station.

Veikka Kosonen and Riku Kangasniemi had arrived a few days earlier and Paul Boijer had stayed longer but visited home for a few days at some point while Ahti Ihonen and Pyry Laurukka had been on the island for almost 2 weeks already.

We just carried our stuff to the station and soon most of us left to walk around that part of the island that hadn’t been checked in the morning. We found a late Grenshank, a Grey-headed Woodpecker and a Nutcracker that was a new Säppi-tick for me. When we had just finished and were back at the station we got a message that Teppo and Tomas had managed to catch a Lesser Whitethroat that had been found a day earlier. And it looked like an eastern subspecies – maybe blythii.

valkoviklohernekerttu

In the evening we organized our stuff and then participated to a log and found out that there weren’t too many birds seen before we had arrived.

On the 21st of October Hanna headed to mist-nets with Teppo very early and the rest of us woke up later but so that we were ready to start the morning seawatch exactly when the sun was rising. This time we were doing the seawatch in Eteläkari as there had been a bad visibility to the sea because of haze from Prakala recently. There wasn’t much moving on the sea but a couple of Merlins were seen and one more later. Common Crossbills were seen a lot and during the day we had counted 426 individuals.

After the breakfast we headed to walk around the whole island and found a Purple Sandpiper, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and then in the end we found a Hawk Owl in Prakala.

härkälintuhiiripöllö

Next days had the same schedule and on the 22nd day Teppo, Riku, Paul and Ahti left the island. The best birds of the day had been 23 Purple Sandpipers, very photogenic Tengmalm’s Owl, 1637 Common Redpolls and so on. Also the Nutcracker was posing nicely on a very different places than usually – on rocks and seabuckthron-bushes.

helmipöllöpähkinähakki

We really worked hard but there were no presents for us even though the island was really hammered every day and on mist-nets there were also taped playing. But after all the highlights of the days were the breakfast after morning seawatch and the dinner in the evening and of course sauna that was heated up every second evening.

On the 23rd of October Elissa still saw the same Greenshank for the last time and Hanna heard a Nuthatch in Peräkulma but otherwise it was just common autumn birds around. On the 25th day we saw a Brent Goose and a Rock Pipit and the numbers of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Treecreepers that were extraordinary numerous were at the top – 53 and 42 birds. And then finally – first time for a very long time – we had to rush to mist-nets where Hanna had caught a beautiful male Firecrest. Of course we had to go to see and photograph this bird even though it wasn’t even a year-tick. After all we saw altogether 75 species this day.

luotokirvinentulipäähippiäinen

On the 26th of October a Shore Lark flew over us when we were seawatching in the morning. It was calling differently than usually but when Hanna heard the same bird in Peräkulma, it was already calling normally.

We kept on working hard but no more prices were got. Weather was very nice all the time so it could have been worse but of course we had hoped to find something – anything – rare. In the end of the week only birds that made me smile were Common Snipes, Jack Snipes and Woodcocks that were still found here and there and then on the 28th day some spontaneous celebrations were seen when we saw a female Black Grouse arriving to the island – it was the second Säppi-tick for me during the trip.

pulmunenjänkäkurppa

On the last day, on the 29th of October, we still saw a Short-eared Owl arriving to Kräveli and the same Lesser Whitethroat was still around /even though we hadn’t seen it every day as it had been very sneaky). We still walked on the different parts of the island briefly and found still some snipes and woodcocks but after all we had to give up.

Finally we had cleared up the places and packed everything and carried our stuff to the harbor. And then Tommi arrived to pick us up and it was once again time to say goodbye to Säppi. I had never thought that I could stay in this island for 9 days without getting a single year-tick! Maybe next time I have to visit the island in any other time of the year than in October. I have been in this island for 90 days but only in October and I have seen 151 species of birds. There are lots of common spring and summer birds missing on my list.

J.A.

Winter is coming…

Autumn started really and finally the wind changed and arctic migration started – but I was at work and during my lunch-hours I didn’t see much. On the 5th of October there were couple of Pink-footed Geese again in Siikalahti. On the 6th day the Bar-headed Goose was still in Kullinsuo and a couple of late Dunlins in Pohjanranta and Bewick’s Swans were here and there.

On the 8th of October when the weather was stormy. But finally the wind was from almost right direction, so we had to go birding. After the rain stopped we headed to Savonlinna Punkaharju Punkasalmi where Veikka Kosonen and Elissa Soikkeli also soon arrived. We stayed there from 8 a.m. to 12 o’clock when the migration was over. We saw altogether almost 40 000 migrating geese but they all were very distant so most of them were unidentified. Ducks were migrating straight over us but the wind was so hard that even they were difficult to identify. The wind was so strong that Hanna’s telescope fell done once but luckily Zeiss is tough!

The best birds of the morning were both adult Pomarine Skuas. There is a slight possibility that it was the same bird twice but at least the second bird was so clearly on migration that we decided that they were different birds.

leveäpyrstökihuleveäpyrstökihu

Once the migration stopped we continued to Saari where in Pohjanranta we still saw an adult and a young Dunlins but otherwise we didn’t see much.

On the 10th of October I saw a Gadwall and a couple of Scaups in Siikalahti and from 12th day there was a tame Great Egret in Särkisalmi. It was perching on docks and walking on the grass there.

At the weekend the trips were made to Saari again but on the 14th day there was only a Great Egret and a Grey-headed Woodpecker in Pohjanranta and a Brent Goose in Jyrkilä and on the 15th day a Merlin and a Common Kestrel in Karinmäki.

On the 16th of October there were 3 Gadwalls and 3 Scaups in Siikalahti with other ducks but during the rest of the week the weather was so cold and bad that I didn’t do much birding. And again it started to be so dark after work that there wasn’t much time either…

sepelhanhijalohaikara

J.A.