Owls, woodpeckers and other winter-birds

After trip to Oulu February continued like normal winter. Usually there are no bird-surprises this time of the year. In Tetrisuo I still saw a Hawk Owl almost every day and a Great Grey Shrike a couple of times. Only surprising observation was a flock of 20 Redpolls that the Great Grey Shrike tried to attack and after that they were gone.

I drove every day shortly in forests and tried to map forest tits and also Goldcrests that were still surviving. I of course saw also flocks of Black Grouses, some Hazel Hens and even a couple of times Capercaillies: on the 10th day a female and on the 22nd day a couple of males.

On the 11th of February I visited Simpele Kokkolanjoki briefly and saw a Little Grebe and 4 Whooper Swans in Lahnanen. On the 12th day we heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in Siikalahti and found surprisingly a flock of 10 Waxwings in Tarvaslampi. And in Tetrisuo we saw the same Hawk Owl watching a young Golden Eagle migrating towards north. On the 13th day in Lahnanen I saw a Little Grebe again, 5 Whooper Swans and in Härskiinmutka I saw a White-tailed Eagle waiting for winter-fishers to leave some fish.

On the 16th of February Merja Laari found a Great Grey Owl in Siikalahti and it was really showing well. This adult bird was hunting voles and a couple of times it flew very close to me. We of course didn’t try to get close to the bird so we didn’t disturb its hunting. The problem is that usually photographers think that the owl is tame and doesn’t matter but mise and voles do disappear if people are too close. But anyway this time I was lucky and the owl flew a couple of times very close to me and I managed to get some good pictures. We also saw a Black Woodpecker.

On the 17th day a couple of White-tailed Eagles were sitting together on ice and in Simpele I saw 6 Whooper Swans, Goldeneye and Goosander couples and a Great Grey Shrike. On the 18th day we went to try to see the wintering Collared Dove in Saari Selänne with Pekka Punnonen but in very bad weather we saw only a Sparrowhawk and a Pygmy Owl that came to see if there was a Yellowhammer, a Tree Sparrow or a tit to catch from the feeder.

On the 19th of February we were lucky when we arrived to Tarvaslampi – a Pygmy Owl had just attacked to a Yellowhammer and was killing it on the snow under the feeder. Soon it flew to a branch were it still finished the bunting. Luckily we both had cameras with us!

There were a good selection of woodpeckers visiting our feeders around Siikalahti and when Hanna had a week winter-holiday she was photographing there a lot. She even had 2 British protogrpahers with her for a few days. Hanna had built a new hide that was easy to put up anywhere. They also spent some time in a hide in Tarvaslampi and visited Kokkolanjoki and did some forest-birding and so on.

On the 24th and 25th day I saw both Hawk Owls – in Tetrisuo and in Järvenpää. In Tiviä we saw a Goshawk and also a couple of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers were found and of course also Grey-headed and White-backed Woodpeckers. A Couple of Nuthatches had arrived to their territory in Kannas.

On the 26th day we went skiing to Saari and of course we tried to see the Collared Dove in Selänne. It was cold and windy and we didn’t see the bird in the first visit but after skiing we went back and after some waiting the bird finally arrived. On the 27th day Hanna photographed nice aurora borealis!

On the first of March I visited Simpele and saw a Whooper Swan and a Goosander couple and in Siikalahti 4 species of Woodpeckers and a Nuthatch in Kannas. On the 3rd day the first Herring Gull of the “spring” was on the ice close to fishers.

On the 4th of March I did a winter-bird count and saw 2 Black Grouses, 4 Herring Gulls, 10 Rock Doves, a Grey-headed, a Black, 16 Greater Spotted and 2 White-backed Woodpeckers, 5 Goldcrests, 6 Long-tailed, 44 Blue, 76 Great, 2 Crested and 1 Willow Tit, 2 Treecreepers, a Great Grey Shrike, 9 Jays, 14 Magpies, 26 Jackdaws, 16 Hooded Crows, 2 Ravens, 20 Tree Sparrows, 7 Greenfinches, my first ever spring-time Pine Grosbeak in Parikkala, 17 Bullfinches and 3 Yellowhammers,

On the 7th day I saw already 8 Herring Gulls but then it came very cold again and it was sure that there were no more migrants coming. Tits and Greenfinches were already singing and even a couple of Siskin were seen in their territory so maybe spring is arriving some day? It was good to see that even it was more than -20 degrees some nights, I still found some Goldcrests but many didn’t survive these last very cold nights.


Photographing trip to Oulu-area

In the second half of January there weren’t many birds around. But I did some birding every day if the weather was OK. There were still some Goldcrests alive in the forests and also some forest-tits that are really getting rare nowadays. In Moskuunniemi I still saw the Brambling almost every time I tried to see it.

On the 21st of January we went to Imatra to do some shopping. On the way we stopped in Rautjärvi Simpele Lahnanen where we saw 10 adults and 1 young Whooper Swans, Mallards, a male Goldeneye and also a Little Grebe. Of course a couple of Dippers were also seen. In Imatra we saw of course Goldeneyes, Goosanders and Cormorants and then a female Teal that was with many Mallards in Mansikkala.

In the end of January the Hawk Owl had moved to Tetrisuo. I started to be sure that there was after all only one Hawk Owl that was moving in a huge area around Siikalahti and also along main-road 6 until Särkisalmi. On the 22nd day we saw the same owl when we were skiing around Siikalahti. We also saw a Pygmy Owl and a couple of flocks of Long-tailed Tits. On the 23rd day I saw a Nuthatch in Moskuunniemi.

In the evening we went to take pictures of a comet that was showing on the night-sky.

On the 28th of January was the Garden Twitch. We participated at our feeder in Tiviä where we saw a White-backed and a Grey-headed Woodpecker and Long-tailed Tits and so on. Then we spent another hour in Tarvaslampi in our hide but there weren’t any better birds.

On the 29th day we visited Simpele again and in Lahnanen we saw a Little Grebe, 4 Whooper Swans and a female Goldeneye. On a short trip we observed 3 Grey-headed Woodpeckers and the same Hawk Owl again in Tetrisuo where on the next day I saw also a Great Grey Shrikecwhich was showing also later.

To Oulu area

On Wednesday the 1st of February after work we started a short holiday. I packed our car full and at 3:30 p.m. went to pick up Hanna from work and then we started a long drive to Oulu. We stopped only once on the way and were finally in Oulu after 9 p.m. We stayed night in my brother Riku’s camper.

On the 2nd of February we did some shopping and then went to eat with Riku and his son Eetu. Then we drove to Liminka Virkkula information center where we did some organizing and soon our guide arrived and we followed him a short way to a parking place that was in the middle of a forest. When we parked our car we saw a couple of caravans that had been made as photographing hides. And in front of them there was a carcass and an adult White-tailed Eagle just left from the carcass because of us. There had been a photographer inside another caravan from early morning and for sure he wasn’t happy but what we could do?

Soon we were inside our camper and had the heating on. And in a few minutes we had everything ready for taking pictures. But we had to wait for a long time before anything happened but finally a young Northern Goshawk arrived to the carcass and we could take some pictures. This hawk was eating so much that we were afraid that there was nothing left for our main-targets.

This Goshawk ate for a long time but then suddenly froze still and opened its wings. And immediately another young Goshawk attacked it. They both dropped down to snow where they had a short fight before flying to the forest. Unfortunately I had just taken video and didn’t manage to get any pictures of this fight.

It was soon getting dark and we stayed still and waited for something more to happen. Our caravan was finally getting warmer and after 5 p.m. we heard an Eagle Owl calling behind us. Soon it called again and then also a female started calling a little bit more distant on the other side of a small open area. Then it continued like this whole night! A male was calling about every 40 minutes and almost every time female was answering. They always called about 10 minutes and then it was again quiet – only trees were banging in freezing night.

It was a long wait! Hanna was sleeping a couple of times at midnight and early in the morning we both slept shortly in turns. Finally at 6 a.m. we heard an Eagle Owl calling closer than ever and soon Hanna whispered that the bird had arrived to the carcass. I had to slowly sneak to my seat and camera that were as far as possible from the bed.

Luckily the owl started to eat immediately and we started to take pictures! There were 2 lights pointing to the carcass so there was pretty good light to take pictures even though it was still completely dark outside.

After the owl had eaten a long time it rose its “ears” up and called shortly and then a female Eagle Owl arrived to the carcass. Unfortunately there was no room for both birds, so male had to fly away.

The female wasn’t eating too long but after a half an hour it came back to eat some more. When the sun was already setting we still heard these owls a couple of times but then it was time to start waiting for the day-birds to arrive.

Before 10 a.m. the same young Goshawk arrived again and at least a couple of other Goshawks were calling nearby. After at least 2 young birds had been on the feeder a couple of times also an adult male Goshawk arrived. But it could eat only shortly as an adult White-tailed Eagle that had arrived to the top of a spruce a little bit earlier didn’t let it eat but chase it away. But then this White-tailed Eagle arrived to eat which was very nice!

The eagle stayed there for some time until it flew to top of a tree again. Then it was quiet for some time until the adult Goshawk arrived but again the eagle chase it away even though it didn’t come to eat at all.

Just before mid-day a Grey-headed Woodpecker was seen and it was a new Liminka-tick for me. There were no Grey-headed Woodpeckers around in last century.

Then at 12 o’clock we packed and left to Oulu. We slept an hour in Riku’s camper again and then in the afternoon left to eat with Riku and his wife Pirjo. We searched for a restaurant that wasn’t full for some time and finally found room in Rooster. There we met also my another brother Pirkka and his daughter Iina. And after we had eaten we left toward ice-hall with Hanna and my brothers. There was soon Dream Theater playing.

We found a parking place surprisingly easily and walked to the doors which were still closed! There were not many people either! Then we noticed a sign on the door that told that the concert had been cancelled! Only then I got a text-message that told the same thing! It was only 10 minutes to the beginning of the concert!

Later I noticed that I had got an email that told that the concert had been delayed by an hour. That is the reason why there weren’t so many people yet but the final cancelling was really made only 10 minutes before the doors were about to be opened in the changed schedule. On the next day we heard that there had been too weak stage for the band to play safely or roadies to work or even for the audience. Somebody had really messed up badly! Luckily we hadn’t been driving 500 kilometers just only because of this concert but we still had a lot to do!

Of course it was a disappointment that the concert had been cancelled but at least moneys were supposed to be paid back. We decided to do something else and went to movies to watch Finnish Sisu-movie which wasn’t very good. But the Premium-hall of Plaza-movie theater was an experience with its crazy soft seats.

On the 4th of February we woke up early at 4 a.m. and left towards Utajärvi. Before 5 a.m. we parked to Utanen where we were supposed to meet our guide. But when we saw nobody we started to eat some breakfast and meanwhile I checked my email if there was something new about the canceled concert. But I found a message that told that the meeting in Utanen had been delayed by 30 minutes.

It was -24,5 C degrees cold but of course it was warm in our car. We had just finished our breakfast when other cars started to arrive and soon our guide arrived too. We followed his car for about 10 kilometers along small roads to parking place from where we still had 300 meters walk to hides.

We pulled our stuff with a ledge to the hides and we got a hide that was in the middle. Soon the heater was on and candles burning under small icy windows so they might melt a little and give us some visibility outside.

The hide was soon very warm so it was really big temperature difference between inside and outside. And of course our cameras were in but part of objectives outside. We had done everything possible with my 100-500mm lens to avoid moisture to get inside but when the sun was setting and I was taking some pictures of a distant Grey-headed Woodpecker I noticed that the picture was completely grey! My lens was completely foggy and I found out that unfortunately there was already some moisture inside the lens too! Maybe it had got some moist in already in Ecuador and now it had frozen inside the lens? Luckily Hanna was using her RF400mm and had also similar zoom with her. And as there was still nothing happening outside I was able to change the lens. Otherwise I wouldn’t have taken any pictures during the day!

On both sides of our hide there were some feeders for passerines and nice branches and sticks where to photograph them but they were in too sharp angle from our hide so we couldn’t turn our cameras there. There were only a couple of branches in front of our hide and even though we had put some bird-food next to them, there were almost no birds at all visiting these branches.

I had been following the visitors of the left side feeder for a long time through the only open-melted tiny glass that we got before I finally saw a Siberian Tit shortly. But it visited so briefly and in a place that wasn’t visible for Hanna at all.

So after all we didn’t take any pictures at all until at 1:35 p.m. when an adult Golden Eagle finally arrived to the top of spruce quite far behind the open area.

Soon the eagle flew straight towards us and landed to a Red Squirrel that had been put to a branch as a carcass. But the squirrel was so frozen that eagle managed only to cut half of its tail. So soon the eagle flew to a snowy hill where was a hare to eat. Here the eagle started to eat well.

A couple of times the eagle was moving from carcass to another one but I didn’t manage to get any really good flight-pictures even though the weather and light were perfect. Maybe the holes for the lens were a little bit too small for flight-photographing – for sure for Hanna’s lens they were. But I had also taped my lens well to the fabric that was also very hard because of the extremely cold weather. But here it is good to mention that Finnature is building new hides to this place already in this winter so they probably will have a bigger photographing-holes that are planned for lenses that are getting bigger and bigger.

After an hour or so also a female eagle arrived and together these eagles were feeding on a hare. It was clear that they had been practicing a lot as they really know how to shred the carcass together. The light was already getting worse for photographing and quite soon the male flew to the top of a spruce and then left. The female stayed until 3:23 p.m. until it flushed and disappeared behind the tree-tops.

At 4 p.m. we packed our things and left towards our car. Soon everyone else was there too. We drove to Muhos to eat and then continued to Villa Finnature to stay over night,

Villa Finnature was really nice and it must be a perfect place for Finnature to stay with their clients. It must be really good place to stay for every birder and photographer group that comes to Oulu area. We can highly recommend it!

On the 5th of February we woke up at 5 a.m. and soon we were ready to leave to the hides again. Our guide came to get new carcass from the freezer and together with another group that was again coming to the hides we followed her to Utanen. There was one more car soon and then we drove to the parking place and walked to the hides again.

We were staying in the same hide again and we put some more food for tits as we still hoped to get some pictures of a Siberian Tit too. The weather was more cloudy and for some reason much more quiet. There were only some Great, Blue and Willow Tits visiting the feeders. I decided to sleep a couple of hours and didn’t miss a thing.

After 11 a.m. Siberian Tit finally visited the branches in front of the hide right from us. And soon it came to visit the couple of branches where we could photograph it. It was very mobile but after an hour trying I had managed to get some pictures.

The bird visited the stick that Hanna could photograph only twice but she also got some pictures. We also photographed other tits and Jays and then a Grey-headed Woodpecker came to the right branch – it seems they are everywhere nowadays.

The Golden Eagle arrived about same time than on the previous day. It stopped only briefly on a top of a spruce and then flew straight to the hare. I managed to get good pictures of the bird arriving.

I had some setting a little bit wrong as I had expected the bird to fly a little bit higher against the forest but luckily I managed to fix them somehow.

Now the eagle was just eating. It didn’t change place at all. And it stayed shorter time and female was seen only once in flight behind the trees – it didn’t come to eat at all. After an hour or so the male also left and never came back even though we waited until 4 p.m. again.

In the evening we had a long drive back to Parikkala. We drove via Kainuu and nothing happened on the way really. In Liperi we stopped to eat and we were finally at home at 10 p.m. It had been a great trip even though there had been small misfortunes too.

Thanks to Finnature’s Jari Peltomäki, our guides Jukka, Janne and Tanja and Irene who helped us to book the hides and give all instructions. We will come back!

- J.A.

Christmas, winter-bird count and beginning of January

After a trip to Ecuador I had to work a couple of days before a short Christmas break. On the 22nd of December I went to put more food to our feeder in Tiviä and surprisingly heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker calling there. I also saw a small flock of Black Grouses and on the next day there was a Nuthatch visiting the feeder.

On Christmas Eve we went to Saari to twitch. On the way we saw a flock of Black Grouses and while we were driving towards Selänne we saw a White-tailed Eagle flying on the sky. In Selänne we found lots of Yellowhammers and also a female Chaffinch. While we were talking with the person who was living there and having the feeder, the Collared Dove arrived to a spruce to the garden. But soon it flew towards the biggest farm that was on the neighbor.

We still visited our own feeder and saw a flock of Long-tailed Tits and a Nuthatch there. The the rest of the day we were in Tarvaslampi with Hanna’s family. There we saw a Pygmy Owl, a Grey-headed Woodpecker and had sauna and ate well.

On Christmas Day I did winter-bird count. I saw 12 Black Grouses, 3 Rock Doves, a Grey-headed Woodpecker, 5 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 3 Goldcrests, 62 Blue, 95 Great and 3 Willow Tits, 2 Treecreepers, a Great Grey Shrike, 6 Jays, 15 Magpies, 54 Jackdaws, 8 Hooded Crows, 7 Ravens, 4 Tree Sparrows, 17 Greenfinches, 35 Bullfinches and 14 Yellowhammers.

On Boxing Day we went to Rautjärvi Simpele Kokkolanjoki where we found a male Pochard in Uudensillankoski. We also saw 2 Whooper Swans, 11 Mallards, 3 Dippers and so on. And on the 28th day the Pochard was still there.


On the 31st of December we drove towards Helsinki. On the way we stopped in Kokkolanjoki and found no Pochard anymore but in Kangaskoski we found a male Long-tailed Duck. In Imatra Vuoksi we saw a Little Grebe and a couple of Tufted Ducks and a Goshawk. In the afternoon we were in familiar Skyline Hotel where we had booked a room. In the evening we went to movies and then went to sleep early. It was again good to sleep near the airport as there weren’t too many fireworks.

Little Grebe

The year was changing and there wasn’t many good birding moments during the year so it was good that the year was finally over. Of course I did three excellent trips to other countries and after all I had 1405 World year -ticks!

On the 1st of January 2023 we woke up early and soon were driving towards Hanko. We were there in Kalasatama about 8 a.m. and soon had seen a Blackbird, Mallards, Common and Herring Gulls, Goldeneyes, Hooded Crows and Jackdaws. Then we walked to Sunnantie where a group of twitchers were already standing.

We talked with some friends but soon some movement was seen under the bushes that were next to the feeder. Some were using thermal cameras and there was a bird or a mouse moving in the bush. After some waiting there was lighter and with our scopes it was possible to identify that it was indeed the bird we had been waiting – a Little Bunting,

On the same place we had also Great Tits, Bullfinches, Tree Sparrows, Long-tailed Ducks, Mute Swans and Siskin. Then from harbor we saw some Goosanders too. But soon we were driving towards Tallholmarna.

We saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker while driving but soon we were walking to the shore next to Neljän tuulen tupa. It was still quite dark but I started to scan the rocks and islets and after some searching found 3 Purple Sandpipers! We had got already 2 First of January –ticks before the sun had risen!

We made a decicion to concentrate only to ticks even though it might have been nice to just do birding in Hanko as the weather was excellent. But after we had seen a flying Velvet Scoter, we decided to start driving towards Espoo.

On a long drive we saw a Treecreeper flying across the road, a Great Grey Shrike on a top of a tree, Ravens, Rock Doves, Magpies, a Sparrowhawk and Yellowhammers before we parked to Soukka. While walking along slippery paths towards Kasavuori we heard some Goldcrests.

There were only handful of birders on the top and the weather was still too calm. Weather forecasts had promised much more wind and it was exactly what we needed to see eagles. Anyway soon we saw some White-tailed Eagles and also Great Black-backed Gulls, Greenfinches and a Goshawk but in a couple of hours we saw nothing else. We really had hoped to see a Greater Spotted Eagle or at least a Golden Eagle!

Finally we had to give up as there had been a couple of Razorbills local in Porkkala for whole day. So we drove a long drive to Luotsikärki where luckily Mika Bruun showed us the birds right away.

We still had time so we drove to Sunds tower and kept on searching for eagles. Again several White-tailed Eagles were seen and finally after an hour Jörgen Palmgren found an adult Golden Eagle perched on a top of one spruce. But Greater Spotted Eagle wasn’t flying at all during the day. Of course on the next day it was seen again. The last year-ticks we got were Parrot Crossbills, a Crested and a Blue Tit and a Black Woodpecker.

But anyway our First of January had been excellent and we had got 4 new ticks – my record is now 153 species.
In the evening we had a long drive back home. On the way we twitched once again the same Eagle Owl in Lappeenranta.

Hawk OwlIn Parikkala it was much more winter than in South. On the 3rd day I saw Jays, a Dipper in Tyrjä and a Grey-headed Woodpecker on our feeder and on the 4th day Black Grouses in Tiviä and the same Hawk Owl again next to main road 6.

On the 6th of January we visited Kokkolanjoki again. On the way we saw a Pygmy Owl flying across the road. But along the river we saw only 8 Dippers and a Great Grey Shrike.

On the 7th day we drove to Saari together with Arttu Valonen. We were there too early so we decided to try to drive through some fields if we could find a Great Grey Owl somewhere. Then in Jyrkilä we saw a Great Grey Owl in flight but unfortunately it flew to the forest and we got no pictures.

At 9 a.m. we were in Selänne and while we were talking to the feeder-keeper again we saw the Collared Dove flying towards the farm. Also the same Chaffinch was seen again, a Willow Tit was calling and a Coal Tit was visiting the feeder.

Next we decided to go to see Siberian Jays and as the forest-roads were too snowy, we had to walk several kilometers to get there. While walking we found some Crested Tits, a Goshawk and a couple of Hazel Hens. But Siberian Jays were missing, we walked in the forest for some time but found nothing.

Around Siikalahti we found a Sparrowhawk in Kannas and I saw a Pygmy Owl briefly in flight but then nothing else was found.

On the 8th day we decided to try Siberian Jays again with Arttu. We managed to drive another road until the place but again jays were missing. Luckily we found a Three-toed Woodpecker.

Other birds we saw during the morning were a Great Grey Shrike in Koirniemi and a Blackbird and 2 Grey-headed Woodpeckers in Tarvaslampi. But the weather was really poor so nothing else was found.

White-backed woodpeckerOn the 11th of January I spent lunch-hour in Moskuunniemi and watched Harri Partanen’s feeder. It was busy and I saw Yellowhammers, Siskins, a Common Redpoll, Long-tailed Tits and a Brambling. Also a White-tailed Eagle flew over. Then in our own feeder in Tiviä I saw a female White-backed Woodpecker.

The rest of the week weather was getting worse and worse. But on Saturday the 14th we still went to ski 12 kilometers in Kinnarsalmi-Tönkivaara. We saw a female Capercaillie and a Goshawk and some forest-tits.

On the 15th day I decided to ski to Siberian Jay forests and even though the weather was awful I managed to find 4 Siberian Jays. I also saw a flock of Black Grouses, a Hazel Hen and a Crested Tit.


Independence day rally again in Kouvola

On the 5th of December we drove to Kouvola after my work-day. When we were finally at Hanna’s sister Elissa’s apartment we ate well and then I still went to some night-birding with Teo Ylätalo. While we were birding and saw a single Long-eared Owl sisters could plan their first independence-day rally.

On the 6th of December we woke up at 5:20 and at 6 o’clock Teo came to pick me up. We started from the owl-place but of course we couldn’t find it. We checked many fields but found absolutely nothing and finally at 8:15 we were picking up Antti Vänskä and then headed to Tanttari.

When sun was rising we heard the first birds – Bullfinches. And soon we started to find other common birds too but also a Wren, a Grey-headed Woodpecker, a Hazel Hen and a Pygmy Owl.

We continued to Kymi-river and found a Kingfisher and a Grey Heron easily and of course some Whooper Swans, Mallards, Goldeneyes and Goosanders. Abd after some more places along the river we had seen also a Common Scoter, a couple of Velvet Scoters and a Great Grey Shrike. Then a couple of Dippers were also seen easily.

But then neither Collared Doves or a Nutcracker were found. Only a flock of Common Crossbills were seen before we started to drive towards south. A Hawk Owl was found easily and we also saw a flock of Black Grouses before we continued to Raussila where we had got info about Stock Doves and Grey Partridges. They were both found surprisingly easily so we had time to drive until Tammijärvi where a Smew and a couple of Sparrowhawks were seen.

Collared Doves didn’t show up on the second try either but a Chaffinch was found while searching for them. Then another visit to Raussila area gave us a Common Kestrel and soon we had to hurry to see Pheasants. Then we finally made it to rubbish tip where all Jackdaws and Hooded Crows had already left but luckily we still saw a couple of Goshawks, a Common Buzzard and also surprisingly a couple of Linnets.

Then sun had already set and the last hour and a half we tried to find Long-eared Owls but without luck. At 4:30 p.m. the rally ended and at 5 o’clock we were in Anjalankoski ABC where we first had pizza and the the results were given. There had been only 5 teams in the race, 3 in Kouvola, biking in Kotka and one along the coast.

Surprisingly Team Gulls had got 54 species and won. We had also had a pretty good day but still missed some too easy birds like a Fieldfare, a Long-tailed Tit or some woodpeckers and so on. Anyway we had got 52 species and came second. Third team had some species less and then Hanna and Elissa had found 39 species in Kouvola. They also had a couple of “aces” and several species that we had missed. So they had managed quite well as the first-timers.

In the evening we had a long drive to Parikkala where everything is already covered with snow and ice so there won’t be much bird-news before spring…



On the 30th of October we checked some places near Siikalahti and Tyrjä and still saw a a flock of 40 Barnacle Geese, Wigeons, a White-tailed Eagle, a Great Grey Shrike and then a Dipperin Tyrjä-river,

We hadn’t planned any race for this November but when it seemed that a couple of birders started to keep their lists, I also decided to count species that I can find in Parikkala. On the 2nd of November I saw the first better species when Common and Velvet Scoters were seen in Vartialahti, a Great Crested Grebe, a White-tailed Eagle and Cormorants in Härskiinmutka and the same Dipper in Tyrjä. On the 3rd day there were still 77 Whooper Swans, 4 Wigeons and a Smew in Siikalahti and on the 4th I saw Black-headed Gulls in a a couple of places, a Great Grey Shrike in Rautalahti and a small flock of Waxwings in Kirkonkylä.

On the 5th of November I did winter-bird count and walked again 17 kilometers. I saw only 7 Whooper Swans, 2 Barnacle Geese, a Tufted Duck, 3 Goldeneyes, 193 Goosanders, even 75 Black Grouses, 5 Cormorants, 4 White-tailed Eagles, a Goshawk, 17 Common and 5 Herring Gulls, a Hawk Owl in Huhmarinen, 5 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a White Wagtail that was a big surprise in our own beach, a couple of Redwings in Mantilanniemi, even 15 Goldcrests, 79 Blue, 153 Great and only 2 Willow Tits, 6 Treecreepers, 20 Jays, 16 Magpies, 42 Jackdaws, 5 Hooded Crows, even 23 Ravens, 6 Tree Sparrows, 19 Greenfinches, 66 Siskins, 36 Common Redpolls and a single Arctic Redpoll, 20 Bullfinches and 40 Yellowhammers.

On the 6th day we visited Saari with Harri Partanen and saw still a flock of 50 Barnacle Geese with a young White-fronted Goose in Pohjanranta, some Scaups and Tufted Ducks, a Long-tailed Duck, White-tailed Eagles, a Great Grey Shrike, maybe the last House Sparrow of Parikkala and also a hybrid sparrow in Pohjasuo and 5 Bramblings in a flock of Greenfinches in Akanvaara Tetrisuo. But after this trip it really started to be dark and quiet!

On the 12th day we drove to Joensuu to celebrate PKLTY (North Karelia bird association) 50-year parties and BirdLife meeting. On the way we saw in Kitee a Capercaillie, a Goshawk and a Fieldfare. Weekend was nice. It was good to see many old friends.

On the 14th of November a Black-headed Gull was still in Särkisalmi and there was also a Grey-headed Woodpecker. But the bird of the day was a shrike that Harri Partanen had found on the previous day. In the evening he had sent a picture of a flying shrike to me and the bird really looked interesting. I asked for more pictures and it was clear that better pictures were needed. So on my lunch-hour I drove to Tiviä and found the bird immediately when it flew over the road. It was carrying a mole and landed to a bush quite far. But I managed to watch it with my scope and also get some bad pictures but the bird really looked good Northern Shrike candidate. Unfortunately I had to hurry back to work.

So I had to come back to Tyrjä on every lunch-hour and luckily I found the bird easily on most of my visits. Finally I managed to get better pictures even though the bird was extremely shy and always flew very far. On the 15th day I also saw the last Tufted Duck and a Velvet Scoter around. On the 17th day it was too windy for the shrike but Harri Hölttä found a Hawk Owl that I also managed to see while driving to Särkisalmi. It was next to main road 6. On the 18th day I saw the shrike again so on the next day, on Saturday, we came with Hanna to try to get more pictures and maybe even some DNA. Hanna managed to get pretty close to the bird and we also found a couple of pellets.

We continued to watch Siberian Jays and found the last 4 birds easily. We also found a Three-toed Woodpecker, a Crested Tit and a couple of Capercaillies. And in Kangaskylä we saw a Nuthatch that Hanna had found earlier.

On the 20nd day I visited the same forests again and saw a flock of Common Crossbills. Only other birds I saw was a White-tailed Eagle and the same Hawk Owl that had decided to stay around.

On the 26th I found a couple of White-backed Woodpeckers in Tiviä and on the next day we put up a feeder for them. Then we found also a Nuthatch couple there. So on the next morning on the 27th of November we were there with mist-net as we hoped to ring there Nuthatches with color-rings. We also saw a couple of White-backed Woodpeckers and 2 Willow and about 10 Long-tailed Tits and heard a Nuthatch but they weren’t visiting the feeder yet. So we ringed only about 10 Great and Blue Tits and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. One Blue Tit was wearing our old ring and then we also caught a Treecreeper that we had ringed already 3 years ago! Then we went to try to ring the Hawk Owl but it didn’t care about our fake-mouse as there were also real ones to catch.

On the next day the nuthatches were already visiting our feeder as were a White-backed and a Grey-headead Woodpecker, a Raven and a couple of Jays too. I couldn’t find any more November ticks so after all I saw only 58 species. But this was really bad November – which wasn’t a surprise as the whole year has been the poorest ever!

On the 3rd of December we checked the last open places in Simpelejärvi with Harri Hölttä but found only a Whooper Swan, Goosanders, 23 Mallards and some Common and Herring Gulls and a Great Grey Shrike. The same Hawk Owl was now in Kukonkanta and then in a visit to Tarvaslampi I saw a Blackbird – a species that I hadn’t seen in whole November at all.

On the 4th of December we went to ring the nuthatches and it was easy. The got color-rings so they will be easy to follow if they stay around. We also saw Long-tailed Tits, a Grey-headed Woodpecker and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but ringed only Great and Blue Tits.


Again autumn holiday in Säppi island

Twitching on the way

On the 13th of October I ended my work-day at 1 p.m. and at home I packed our car full of stuff. Just before 3 p.m. I drove to pick up Hanna and we still had to visit home briefly before we could start driving about 3:30 p.m.

I had been nervous in the afternoon as the same Pygmy Cormorant that I had already dipped in Espoo had been found in Kotka. It felt like Kotka was further away than ever and of course Pygmy Cormorant had disappeared but luckily it came back later and when we had only 15 minutes to drive Hanna’s brother Miika was there and promised to stay there until we arrive.

Our car had started to make strange noise but finally we parked to Kyminsuu and we met some friendly twitchers on the parking place who told us which way to go and showed us the bird already from the road. It was my Finnish-tick number 399. Pygmy Cormorant was pretty close so I hurried to get my camera too and soon we were on the beach with Miika and tried to get some pictures. And the bird really looked small while sitting next to Goosanders.

We were watching the Pygmy Cormorant for 15 minutes until it flew towards Hovinsaari and disappeared to the darkness. After we had walked back to our car, we tested that it was still working before we started a long drive – now towards right direction.

We drove until Tampere where we decided to take a room from Scandic Hotel. We got a comfy room and were sleeping soon.

In Pori

On the 14th of October we woke up early and were soon driving towards Pori with our noisy car. In Pori we had quick breakfast and then continued to Konepajanranta where we soon met Teo Ylätalo and Elissa Soikkeli who had left very early from Kouvola. It was 7:30 a.m. and still dark when we walked to the beach to watch gulls.

Our goal was to find a possible Yellow-legged Gull that Petteri Mäkelä had found. I am not expert with gulls as I don’t see any big gulls in Parikkala so we hoped that there would be some local or any other “laridist” twitching but there were nobody else. So we started scanning the gulls and surprisingly easily found the right-looking gull. We compared it to the pictures that had been taken and once also Andreas Lindén and Jyri Strandberg had arrived and were with us, we could be sure that we had the right bird.

The light was still bad but we took lots of pictures before a White-tailed Eagle arrived and most gulls were gone – the Yellow-legged Gull candidate with them. We still found a young Lesser Black-backed Gull but when more twitchers arrived the right bird was still not found (only in the evening).

With Hanna we had to visit Police as we finally were in a city in work-day and we had to get new passports. We were extremely lucky to get everything done there in 15 minutes as normally it should take hours. Luckily they had some problems with their computers but they managed to make everything we needed. So we got first on the line even though we had no reservation.

So soon we met Teo and Elli again and continued to do some birding. We started in Kaarluoto where we saw 3 Great Egrets, 2 Greylag Geese and a Hen Harrier and heard a couple of Bearded Reedlings and then continued to Teemuluoto where a Great Grey Shrike and a flock of Bearded Reedlings were seen.

Then it was time to go shopping. We had to buy more food so we would have enough for more than 2 weeks. When both cars were absolutely full, we started driving towards Kuuminainen and Salokangas harbor.

On the harbor we met Veikka Kosonen and Oskari Saunisto who had left early from Savonlinna and soon also Petteri Mäkelä and Tomas Swahn arrived. Soon Tommi Salokangas arrived to his boat and we started to fill the bottom of the boat with our stuff. We were soon ready but one car was still missing. I called to my brother Pirkka and he told that they were still 15 minutes away from the harbor. Tommi wasn’t very happy for the delay but we couldn’t do anything but wait. Finally Pirkka arrived with Ahti Ihonen and Pyry Laurikka. Pirkka had picked them up from Helsinki after the night-train had arrived there from Kemijärvi. Finally we had packed everything and the trip to Säppi begun.

To Säppi

The sea was calm and we were soon in Säppi before 4 p.m. Boat was emptied quickly but it took some time to carry everything to the station.

As there had once again been several birders cancelling there was room in station side of the building so Pyry went there with Ahti, Petteri and Tomas so we had a little bit more room on the family-side too.

Once we were all ready and the first flock of Purple Sandpipers had been seen on Ulkolasku rock, the ringers and assistants left to put mist-nets ready to Peräkulma and the rest of us started to walk around the island – as there was still time to check most of the places.

The best birds we saw were a late Whinchat and a Greenshank and several Woodcocks. Once it was already dark a small team left to catch birds with nets, headlights and a couple of thermal cameras. And they managed to catch a couple of Jack Snipes, a Woodcock and a Purple Sandpiper! Then we still caught a Tengmalm’s Owl from mist-nets that were in the garden, so the beginning had been quite good.

Hard work

But if the trip had started well, it continued very average. The days were always the same: Ringers woke up very early and they were in Peräkulma with open mist-nets half an hour before sunrise, about then also their assistants started to walk towards the nets and about then the rest of us woke up so we were ready to watch migration in Prakala 2 hours from the sunrise. And then one person didn’t really wake up at all on the first days…

It was boring on the mist-nets. On some mornings there were quite a few birds but the selection of species was very ordinary. So once the morning seawatch was over some assistants and even another ringer, Pirkka, was ready to join the walk around the island.

The island was walked around with many birders every day and we really checked every bush, but sea-buckthorn bushes were very dense and full of berries this year so they made some parts very difficult.

Better observations were a Grey Plover, a couple of Ringed Plovers, Ruffs, different numbers of Purple Sandpipers and Dunlins every day, Jack Snipes, a Stock Dove, a couple of Short-eared Owls, a few Arctic Skuas , some Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a late Lesser Whitethroat, Parrot Crossbills and the same Whinchat and Greenshank still. On a couple of day we saw corvid-migration and it was nice to see more than 100 Rooks migrating one day.

Still there was nothing better on the mist-nets but on a couple of evenings we were again trying to catch waders and on one rainy evening we caught 7 Jack Snipes, a Common Snipe and a couple of Purple Sandpipers and on the another evening 4 Purple Sandpipers.

On the 18th of October I had a Common Guillemot on the morning seawatch but it turned to fly straight away so nobody else managed to identify it. We also saw an Arctic Skua and a Peregrine Falcon. Both a Whinchat and a Greenshank were seen the last time and on the mist-nets ringers caught a Siberian Chiffchaff which wasn’t good bird enough to go to twitch. During the day Petteri left to work so there was one birder less in the island.

Something rare finally

On the next day, 19th of October, island felt even emptier and while we were walking around it I said that “as long as there are no Snow Buntings, we still have some hope”. And after maybe 20 steps we flushed a small flock of Snow Buntings. But soon after that while we were walking in Hanhisto we flushed 3 birds which 2 of them were easy to identify as a Reed Buntings but one looked interesting. I tried to tell others to follow it so I could take pictures of it but for some reason nobody else really picked it up. And soon it landed behind some reeds.

I was sure it had looked like a small lark but of course it had looked weird because of it had been flying with buntings and therefore like buntings – here and there. But I had seen pale stomach and the shape of the bird quite well. So the rest of us walked to the other side of the birds landing place and me and Veikka stayed with our cameras ready. Surprisingly the bird flushed from very different place than we expected so we weren’t ready yet to get pictures. But luckily the bird was in flight again and flew back to the place where it had been flushed and this time I managed to get some pretty good shots. And the bird was easy to identify as a Short-toed Lark which I had already in the first situation said that it could be.

Short-toed Lark was seen much better on soon and we got pretty good pictures even though it was already getting very dark. And everyone who came to try managed to see it,

When we were still watching the pictures Veikka came to tell that on the previous day they had together with Oskari seen a bird on the shore that they hadn’t identified. They had digiscoped a video and shown it to the ringer but in bright daylight and bad video it had been identified as a Skylark, but now it was easy to see that Short-toed Lark had been present already then.

Little something

On the 20th day we had some geese migration and the best bird was easy to tell as a young Pomarine Skua flew in front of us and landed to the sea. It stayed for so long that even a couple of us managed to walk from Peräkulma to see it. Luckily it was again then in flight and then after all landed further to the sea and was never seen again.

The Short-toed Lark was still present and we managed to get some more pictures of this very shy bird. Purple sandpipers feeding on algae piles were on the contrary very photogenic.

Hard work continues

On the 21st day Jani Vastamäki came to a daytrip with his own boat. But even though the weather was once again excellent, we saw almost nothing. It was so warm that gloves weren’t needs at all on the morning seawatch and while walking around the island we all had too much clothes. Dragonflies and butterflies were still flying and the best identifies species were Siberian Winter Damsel and Queen of Spain Fritillary. But all better birds were missing. We saw again a strange-looking Chiffchaff that was partly leucistic.

On the 22nd day Pirkka and Ahti left and two ringer-students arrived: Joonatan Toivanen and Riku Kangasniemi. 3 more students were supposed to arrive too but they were coming later.
If some birds have to be mentioned from these boring days – a Pink-footed Goose was seen in a flock of Bean Geese, a Shoveler was also seen migrating, some Grey Herons were seen and again a Siberian Chiffchaff was caught but still nobody was interested to go to see it as far as Peräkulma.

On the 24th day we found an unringed Siberian Chiffchaff in Kräveli and soon after that a very late Common Whitethroat in Takalahti. They both cheered us a little and in the evening we caught one more Tengmalm’s Owl and while I was taking it away from the mist-net I saw a Long-eared Owl flying above me.

On the 25th I got one more Säppi-tick when a Pine Grosbeak was seen on morning watch. Also a Short-eared Owl and a late adult Dunlin were seen. I got pretty good pictures of both Dunlin and Purple Sandpipers in Kräveli.

Still a small price

On the 26th day the same Dunlin was seen again and we counted 114 Razorbills and 9 Black Guillemots. So there was some movements on the sea in some mornings. Already the 3rd observation of a calling Tree or Olive-backed Pipit of the trip was made but this time it was finally found visible in Peräkulma and some pictures were got and it looked good for an Olive-backed Pipit. I was still wearing far too much clothes but luckily youngsters waited for me as I changed and then I followed these lifer-twitchers by running to Peräkulma. The bird had been seen flying close to the reed but after that several unidentified birds had been seen flying here and there. So we waited also Teo to join us before we walked through the meadow and flushed the bird to the trees where it stayed visible for some time moving from tree top to another. We managed to see it quite well and get some pictures too and it was a lifer for all the youngsters.

When the last birders arrived, we still managed to see the Olive-backed Pipit and later saw it once briefly on the round too.

In the evening Petteri, Juho Tirkkonen and the rest 3 ringer-trainers arrived and they went immediately to twitch the pipit but they couldn’t find it anymore.

Last days

On the 27th day Petteri still found the Olive-backed Pipit but again it disappeared before others saw it. The rest of the day was again boring even though there were maybe more birders in the island than ever on our visits. In the evening we found out that the forecast for the weekend was so awful that we had to leave already on the next day – 2 days earlier than we had planned.

On the 28th of October I had packed everything ready very early and went to seawatch one more time. With only a couple of other birders we saw a Common Guillemot and a Twite but also quite good number of Razorbills again. Soon after the watch Tommi’s boat arrived and we had to pack everything to the bottom again. Only Juho and the ringer-students were left to Säppi.

Soon we were in Kuuminainen and we packed our cars and then drove to Pori to eat pizza together. Then it was time to say goodbye and Petteri still went to help Veikka and Oskari to get a Caspian Gull as a lifer.

Again twitch on the way

With Hanna, Teo, Elissa, Pyry and Tomas we started to drive towards Helsinki. Our car was again noisy but now it had even more serious problem – it was losing power on uphills and in higher speed. So we had to drive slowly. So we told Teo to keep on driving – we were coming as soon behind as possible.

After all we managed to get to Helsinki Töölönlahti same time with the others as they had dropped Tomas to Espoo. We walked to Tokoinranta but there were almost no gulls. While Pyry was leading us, we continued towards Töölönlahti and saw plenty of birders on the other side of the bay and there were lots of gulls in front of them and with them was a young Mediterranean Gull too – a lifer to everyone else except me.

We decided to drive to the other side of the bay but all the birders and also gulls were gone. But we found a Little Grebe there which nobody had seen earlier. But I would have preferred pictures of Mediterranean Gull but we were all happy that we had at least seen it.

Slowly we drove the long way to Parikkala where we were in the evening. And the weekend went by resting. It had been hard holiday but not as good as we had hoped. Let’s see what we will do next year in the same time? Luckily our car wasn’t completely broken but it was fixed on Monday and is working again.

- J.A.