Summer-trip to Jurmo and Åland

First twitches

On the 26th of June I had again an x-ray and time for doctor with my shoulder. It wasn’t still in good shape enough, so I got 2 more weeks sick-leave. From Imatra we continued to Lappeenranta Pajarila where we managed to find a couple of Black Redstarts after some searching. Youngsters were close as the adults were alarming all the time, so soon we continued driving south.

We continued until Lohja where we started searching for a butterfly that we had always wanted to see. First we saw a Lesser Purple Emperor and after some walking on rocky area, we heard a Nutcracker. But the target wasn’t found so we continued to flowery meadows nearby. Soon Hanna managed to find lots of flowering Marsh Helleborine, which is very rare orchid inland. And finally also Apollo was found! It left right under our feet and landed only once before it continued to rocky area where we still managed to follow it for some time before it disappeared behind the trees. It was a good beginning for our holiday-trip, but of course we had hoped to get better pictures of this butterfly too.

We visited one orchid-place in Lohja too, but found only Common Tweyblade and Broad-leaved Helleborine.

Our next target was in Paimio where after some searching we managed to find some Sand Lizard. Unfortunately the only big male was too fast to photograph, but several smaller lizards were photographed. This place is the only one where this species can be found and nobody knows how they have arrived. Maybe someone had brought them? Several species of lizards and frogs have been found quite recently in Turku area that can’t be found anywhere else in Finland. We also tried to find Pool Frogs nearby but found only hundreds of tiny European Toads.

It was quite late when we finally arrived to Parainen where we still visited a couple of forest-places that Hanna hoped to have some orchids, but again we found just the same common species. Finally we drove to one small road and parked next to a small field, put up our tent, cooked and went to sleep.


On the 27th of June we visited two more forests in the morning but still didn’t find new orchids. Finally we headed towards Pärnäs. We did shopping in Nauvo and after we had seen a Grey-hedaed Woodpecker flying across the road, we were finally in Pärnäs a bit too early, so we had good time to arrange our luggage and so on.

Eivor-ferry left in time and we climbed to the sun-deck to enjoy hot summer-weather and scan the sea for any seabirds. Pretty soon we saw a Black Guillemot but next better birds were seen several hours later when we already saw Jurmo-island, when some Razorbills and an Arctic Skua were seen.

Once we were in Jurmo we packed our staff to a couple of milk-carts and headed towards the bird-station. There we met Kim Kuntze who had been on island already for a couple of days.

Soon we went to put up the mist-nets as Hanna planned to ring birds while our stay. Then we watched one more football WC-match before we left to count birds on the western side of the island.

There were quite a good number of birds even though it was mid-summer. But not many young birds were seen. Some better bird found on this protected area where in summer only the bird-station crew can go once in a day were 3 Common Shelducks, 4 Turnstones, 5 Little Terns and a male Black Grouse that was seen on the way to this daily routine counting.

In the evening we cooked and then had the log about the birds seen on the island during the day. It was very late when we finally were ready to sleep.

On the 28th of June after less than 4 hours sleeping we woke up to open the mist-nets. After a couple of empty rounds I climbed to the rock to start another daily routine which was morning seawatch.

From 4:15 a.m. we counted every migrating bird for 2 hours with Kim and saw a couple of Razorbills and Black Guillemots, a flock of Common Scoters, a Dunlin and so on. When the seawatch was ending Kim heard a strange bunting-like song from the bog where Hanna was on the mist-nets. I didn’t hear it at all. So Kim decided to go to listen to the song closer and I stayed on the rock for the last minutes of the seawatch. But soon Hanna called that they were listening a strange bunting-song – and I was running!

I still had some 100 meters to run when I heard the song – and it was a Little Bunting! It was really a strange time of the year and even stranger place to find this species. Little Bunting is extremely rare in South-Eastern Finland. Maybe very hot weather had made this bunting to move to wrong direction. Anyway now it was singing in perfect looking habitat on a bog.

We of course tried to tape-lure the bunting to mist-net but it came only once close to the net and then moved further to the bog to sing. And finally it sang there at least until mid-day.

With Kim we walked the eastern counting-route but saw nothing special. Then I went to help Hanna to close the mist-nets and during the day Hanna had ringed only 5 birds and got 2 old controls. Then we headed to the station to sleep.

In the evening we watched again some football and Germany lost! It was tough for Kim but luckily western count started so well that soon we were all again in good mood. From the lagoon we found a beautiful Sandering!

Other better birds were 6 Dunlins and the same Shelducks and Little Terns. We also ringed 4 small Lapwing-youngsters. While we were walking back to the station, we saw a Cuckoo.

In the evening it had started to wind very hard. When we were back in the station we met Mikko Ylitalo who had arrived in the evening. We ate well again and then kept the log and once again it was very late when we got to sleep.

On the 29th of June the wind was very strong so there was no possibility to put up any mist-nets. Also morning seawatch was very chilly! Kim probably wasn’t too much worried when he left after one hour to pack and towards the ferry.

We counted birds in east with Hanna and saw some more waders than on the previous days. During the day we slept well again and the in the evening headed west with Mikko. Again we found more waders. So it wasn’t a surprise that after counting good numbers of Redshanks and Greenshanks, we also saw some Wood Sandpipers and a Spotted Redshank. Then we saw a good-looking wader flying over us with a couple of Greenshanks, but it was a little bit too brief. But luckily we found the bird again and saw it very well after all – it was a Marsh Sandpiper! It was already the second very rare bird in South-Eastern Finland for us on this Jurmo-trip.It was only the 7th Marsh Sandpiper in Jurmo ever!

It was freezing cold walking in the wind, but finally we were back on the station. Hot food helped and after a long log we went to sleep even later than previous nights.

On the 30th of June the wind had calmed down and when I climbed to the rock to count migration, Hanna left to open the mist-nets. More Common Crossbills were now moving and we counted 281 birds and also the first Two-barred Crossbill of the autumn was seen and heard.

Hanna caught again only a handful of birds but a young Thrush Nightingale was a good catch. And finally one Common Crossbill was caught too. Crossbills were landing to the bog to drink and stayed quite low on the trees but didn’t fly closer to the mist-nets. But we had noticed that bigger flocks were landing to the patch in the pine-forest, so after I had counted birds in east, we moved all the mist-nets there. Hanna also dug a couple of water-pools for the birds. And soon she started to catch more of these rarely caught birds!

I was watching to the sea from the southern shore for some time but quite soon I walked back to pine-forest to help Hanna. While we were ringing the last Common Crossbill of the morning, we saw a Honey Buzzard migrating over us.

After the lunch Hanna headed back to mist-nets and I left to count bird in west. It was much faster to count the birds alone, but there weren’t so many waders anymore. Sanderling was still there but unfortunately Marsh Sandpiper was gone. Only new bird on the count was a Green Sandpiper.

Once I was back in the pine-forest Hanna had just caught some more Crossbills but they were the last ones. During the day she had ringed 38 of them!

In the evening we were watching football and having the log and it went late again.

On the 1st of July I woke up first and climbed to watch to the sea. Soon arrived Mikko too and Hanna headed to open the mist-nets in pine-forest. There were still some flocks of Common Crossbills, but most of them left and the new flocks weren’t coming to drink to Hanna’s pools. So, only one Common Crossbill was ringed in the whole morning. Luckily some other birds were caught, so it wasn’t too boring for Hanna.

After the morning-watch we headed west with Mikko but saw nothing new there, except a Honey Buzzard that was soaring above us for some time while a noisy flock of Redshanks were following it. A couple of Cranes were seen on the way but they soon left to fly to the sea.

Once we had taken off all the mist-nets we slept a couple of hours, packed and cleaned our room and headed towards the harbor. Mikko had decided to stay one more day.

On the way back to Pärnäs we were mostly just sleeping in Eivor. We were finally in Pärnäs at 6:30 p.m. and after shopping in Nauvo, we continued to Parainen.

Turku area

In the evening we still managed to find some extremely rare Fly Orchids. Light was already quite bad, so soon we headed to put up the ferry to the same familiar place.

On the 2nd of July we slept long and after breakfast we went to photograph Fly Orchids again. We found quite a lot of them and Hanna was extremely happy seeing these strange orchids.

During the day we visited Kaarina Kuusistonlahti and Littoistenjärvi Järvelä and saw a couple of Moorhens, Grey Herons and Gadwalls and so on. Then we headed to Turku botanical garden where we heard a family of 6 Hawfinches and heard another Moorhen.

Later we also tried to find Alpine Salamander, but without luck. It was one more species that nobody knows why they were found in this place. Then we still visited Raisio Raisionlahti where the only interesting bird was a Lesser Redpoll. As we still had some time, we went shopping and I managed to watch one more football match before we headed to harbor.


After one hour Viking Grace -ferry left towards Åland. We had dinner in a fine restaurant and the rest of the time I was watching football again. Finally we were in Lumparland Långnäs at 1:05 a.m.

We still drove to Lemland and turned to a small forest-road where we put up the tent while a couple of Nightjars were singing.

On the 3rd of July we woke up late and the headed to Herröskatan where we immediately found Greater Butterfly-orchid, Common Spotted Orchids and Moorland Spotted Orchids, Bird’s-nest Orchids, CommonTwayblades and closer to the bird-tower also some already dry Elder-flowered Orchids. Bird-tower was in pretty bad shape and extremely difficult to climb up, but the view was stunning. We saw some Black Guillemots and while walking back to the parking place we found a Nuthatch and a Hawfinch.

After a good lunch we decided to walk another round in Herröskatan and soon we met a local lady who told us that she knew a place for Narrow-leaved Helleborine. So we followed her until the carpark and then quite a long way until the place where had been lots of Narrow-leaved Helleborines flowering earlier. But this year they had been flowering already in the end of May! After some searching we found some leafs but not a single flower anymore.

After we had twitched a Great White Egret in the border-bay of Mariehamn and Jomala, we continued to Hammarland where Hanna knew one more orchid-place. This area was fenced and inside the fence there were lots of Lady’s-slipper Orchids and Narrow-leaved Helleborines, but they were all already dried. Outside the fence we tried to find some flowers and surprisingly we found one Narrow-leaved Helleborine which had somehow stack to button. It was much better to take pictures than only leafs.

When we were back at our car, we noticed that our clothes were full of ticks! Only thing we could do was to strip down immediately and anyway we both had already 3 ticks in our skin! Tens of them were found climbing on our clothes so we had to change all clothes, before we could continue towards Eckerö.

We drove until Styrsingsudden where we planned to visit in the sea-watching place, but when we had walked 5 meters from the car, we noticed several ticks climbing on our trousers already! So we desided to just put up the tent in the middle of the road as far as possible from any plants and to go to sleep.

4.7. We had planned to sleep only for a couple of hours and then cook some food but after all we woke up only before 8 a.m. on the next morning. then we hurried to the shore and after picking up some ticks from our clothes, we started seawatching. In a couple of hours we saw 10 Razorbills, 4 Black Guillemots, some unidentified alcids and surprisingly 2 to 4 Common Guillemots. Also 2 Arctic Skuas, 3 Turnstones, a Hobby and so on were seen.

Then we headed to bogs to search for new orchids, but we couldn’t find any. The most interesting observation was a brownish snake that I almost step on. It was most probably a Smooth Snake, but unfortunately I couldn’t see the spots on its back well enough to be sure. Some Treecreepers, Coal Tits, Wrens and a Goshawk were the only better birds and while we were walking towards the next bog Jyrki Normaja called and told that he was visiting one orchid-place soon. We had planned to visit the same place so it was of course clever to join him and have several pairs of eyes searching our target-species.

So after some driving we met Jyrki and also Rami Lindroos who was living in Vårdö. We tried to find Fen Orchids for some time but couldn’t find any of these extremely rare orchids. It is normal that some orchids aren’t flowering every year at all.

Next we continued to one more bog in Jomala where we walked a couple of hours and finally found some Early Marsh-orchids and Flecked Marsh-orchids Then Jyrki called and told that he had found one single Bog Orchid in one more bog in Eckerö. We thought that we had already spent enough time on our bog, so Hanna asked if Jyrki could somehow give us coordinates how to find that Bog Orchid. Luckily phones can give exact coordinates and then the rest of the instructions were given like: “There is one more reddish tussock than others with a small birch-tree. 10 meters east from the tussock there is a rock. In the middle of this line and one meter left is the orchid.

Once we had driven to this place it was still quite a walk into the middle of the bog where we finally found the right tussock. And then Hanna found the tiny Bog Orchid immediately. It was an orchid that Hanna had hoped to see for a long time. While Hanna was photographing the orchid I managed to find some more of them nearby.

We still visited Storby Postbryggan and Sandviken in the evening and saw some Shelducks, Slavonian Grebes and Little Ringed Plovers. Then we headed to Styrsingsudden where we put up the tent to exactly same spot and after dinner we were ready to sleep.

On the 5th of July I woke up to seawatch at 5 a.m. Hanna joined me soon after she had collected some ticks from our tent – both outside and inside. These bloody bastards were following us to the road in the middle of the night!

There were birds moving so we seawatched until 10 a.m. and counted 15 Common Eiders, 42 Common Scoters, 20 Velvet Scoters, 35 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Great Crested Grebes, a Red-necked Grebem 6 Cormorants, 3 Lapwings, a Turnstone, an Arctic Skua, 14 Black Guillemots, 58 Razorbills, again 2 Common Guillemots, a Caspian Tern, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 12 Starlings.

We visited again Postbryggan and Sandviken briefly before continued to Jomala Torpfjärden. Also this tower was in bad shape and extremely dangerous to climb up. We counted 185 Mute Swans, 7 Common Shelducks, 13 Lapwings, 28 Common Ringed Plovers, 13 Ruffs, 12 Greenshanks, 10 Wood Sandpipers, a Spotted Redshank and a Temminck Stint.

After all these ticks, dangerous bird-towers and numerous deers along the roads we had started to think that this must be our most dangerous summer-trip ever!

Next we continued to Ramsholmen where cows had eaten all the orchids already but we found 3 Nuthatches and from the reed-bed we found a couple of young Bearded Reedlings.

After shopping we continued a longer way to Finström Bomarsund castle, where Hanna had been 29 years earlier. After some walking around the castle, we continued to Vårdö ferry-harbor, but decided to turn back and towards Geta.

We stopped briefly in Saltvik Haga fields where we saw a huge flock of 1500 Jackdaws. Finally we were in Getaberget where we decided to sleep in a car for an hour or two.

Once we woke up most of the tourists had left and the parking place was almost empty. So we climbed to watch views from the tower and then walked a long way to visit a couple of caves.

A couple of hours later we climbed back to the parking place and luckily the weather had changed and the sun was shining again. So we decided to try to find Smooth Snakes from the rocky and heathery terrain. No snakes were found so once we were back, we decided to ask, if we could go to shower in the camping area. We paid 5 € for the shower and after all we could have paid much more – it was so refreshing!

In the evening we still drove to the border of Saltvik and Finström to put up the tent. And after a good meal we were ready to sleep.

On the 6th of July after slowly start we headed to Lemland Nåtö hazel-grove. Cattle had eaten all the flowers, but on the shore we saw some Slavonian Grebes also found a nest of a Velvet Scoter. We also photographed tame young Bullfinches before walking back to our car.

Then we still went to eat in Mariehamn and checked that Great White Egret was still on its ordinary place, before we headed to harbor. And an hour later Viking Grace left towards Turku.

We were first on the sundeck but the rest of the trip went watching football and shopping. Once we were in Turku, we drove to Kaarina Järvelä again and tried to find European Green Toads but without luck. We also visited bird-tower on the other side of the pool which was in Lieto. Then we drove once again to Parainen to put up the tent.

Last twitching

On the 7th of July we woke up late and while having breakfast butterflies started to fly. We saw several Fritillary-butterflies and a single Silver-washed Fritillarythat was having territory around our tent. We also met a local butterfly-watcher who asked if we had found any Apollos yet. And almost immediately we saw one flying over us high on the sky.

Soon we drove tha last kilometers to the butterfly-place that we had been told. There we met Tom and Kaija Lindroos and some other butterfly-photographers. Immediately we found some Apollos and also Lesser Purple Emperors. Finally we managed to get good pictures of Apollo too! So pretty soon we were happy enough to start a long drive towards east.

In Salo we felt so tired that we stopped at Halikonlahti, where Hanna slept a little and I visited a couple of bird-towers. Only some Dunlins, Spotted Redshanks and Gadwalls were seen and soon we hit the road again.

Finally we stopped in Lappeenranta where we visited one orchid-place but found nothing interesting. Then we visited Kaislanen, where I managed to see a Black-tailed Godwit briefly. Then we drove to Joutseno to one more butterfly-place to out up the tent. After one more long football match I finally was ready to go to sleep.

On the 8th of July we weren’t in a hurry as it was raining. Luckily the rain stopped and it soon got hotter. But still butterflies weren’t flying. So we visited Kotasaari where we saw 2 Dunlins and Kukkuroinmäki where we surprisingly found a family of Great Grey Shrikes.

We still drove back to butterfly-place but saw nothing interesting, so we started to head towards home. Next we stopped in Imatra where we checked one place that could be the right one to find one more extremely rare orchid, but maybe it wasn’t the right place at all. Then the last stop was made in Simpele Kokkolanjoki where we saw a Grey Wagtail in a couple of minutes.

Finally we were home and it was good to know that I still had one week sick-leave and could rest well after a hard but successful trip.


Quiet summer-time

On the 28th of May I had hurt my shoulder in a game and it was difficult to sleep at nights because of the pain. I had taken x-ray pictures but doctor didn’t see anything on them, so I was working and living normally.

I visited Booted Warbler and Great Snipes several times, mostly because I couldn’t sleep anyway. But other birding was a bit lazy because of the tiredness. Anyway I found 6 Broad-billed Sandpipers in Siiikalahti on the 6th of June, on the 8th day there was a couple of Slavonian Grebes after a long time, on the 9th day the first ever successful breeding of Nuthatches was finally confirmed when I saw 3 fledlings. On one more night-trip I didn’t hear anything new, but while I was listening a Nightjar about 30 meters away from our car, a Brown Bear walked across the road about 30 meters from me. On the 10th day a new Greenish Warbler was singing in Soininmäki and the first ever successful breeding of Grey Wagtail was confirmed when there were 3 fledlings in Simpele Kokkolanjoki.

On the 12th of June I saw a female Pintail in Siikalahti and on the next day I found a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker nest. Finally on the 14th day I had an Ultrasound examine for my shoulder and a clear fracture was found. Also new x-rays were taken and it wasn’t a surprise that the fracture was much worse than on the first pictures where I had seen it but unfortunately doctor hadn’t seen it. So I got 2 weeks sick leave and I wasn’t in a hurry anymore to go back to work. So I visited Joutseno where I saw a couple of Wood Larks along the main road.

I tried to walk a couple of times for 5 kilometers every day in the beginning of my sick leave, but all I saw were the same Canada Geese and some Gold Finches here and there, but in Likolampi we found also a young White-backed Woodpecker.

On the 17th of June we headed to a longer night-trip which we started by listening Great Snipes and the same Booted Warbler again. Then while driving towards Saari along the border-road, we stopped in Tyrjä and then Hanna noticed a strange light on the eastern sky – a rocket! Russians had launched a rocket in Plesets, more than 500 km from us but in perfect weather-conditions we managed to see it quite well and Hanna managed to get some pictures too! Later we found out that it had been Soyuz 2.1B rocket carrying navigation satellite Glonass-M. It was very rare to see something like this in Finland! During the night and early morning we heard 4 Golden Orioles, a Grasshopper Warbler, 3 Marsh Warblers, 2 Spotted Crakes, a Stock Dove and young Long-eared Owls and also saw a couple of adults.

On the 19th of June I heard the Booted Warbler last time. On the 20th day we ringed our only owls – 6 Pygmy Owls and also crossed border to Savo and checked that Red-throated Divers were on their usual pool. During the day we drove to Lappeenranta where we visited Askola and Kaislanen without anything to mention. In the evening we went to movies.

On the 24th of June we headed to Papinlahti to ring birds. Hanna had planned to start SSP-ringing project there which means that in the future there must be ringing in the future once every 2 weeks during the summer. This year we had planned to test this place as when the project begins nothing can be changed anymore to get right results. During the morning we caught 37 birds of 11 species which was more than we had expected as we had only 5 good mist-nets and 2 bad ones. Most common species were Great Tit and Sedge Warbler but some nice species were caught too like several Common Whitethroates, a Garden Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Blackbird, a Common Rosefinch and a Yellowhammer.

On the 25th of June Hanna still ringed nestlings of Kestrel in Tarvaslampi, there were 4 surprisingly big youngsters already in the nest-box.


Very hot beginning of summer

On the 21st of May it was hard to start a week at work after a weekend in Virolahti. The weather was very hot and calm, so it wasn’t a surprise that there was almost nothing migrating in Siikalahti on my lunch-hour. I was talking with Arttu Valonen when I noticed a goose flying towards us. It looked just another White-fronted Goose but for some reason I kept on following it with my scope and I noticed a big white patch on the forehead that continued quite long on the head. I also noticed that neck was getting darker towards the head so the bird started to look interesting. Luckily it turned around and flew back towards us and passed us again. Then we noticed also small bill, but because of the sun, we couldn’t see the color of the bill. When the bird turned once more towards us Arttu took his camera and managed to get a couple of pictures. When he was photographing I already saw also the yellow eye-ring and from the picture we could see also pink bill – it was a Lesser White-fronted Goose!

In the afternoon we visited a small pond in Punkaharju where are some Great Crested Newts. We saw only one newt briefly but saw also a White-backed Woodpecker close to the pond.

On the 22nd day I saw a flock of 3 Garganeys in Siikalahti and in the evening we checked that our only Ural Owl had still very small chicks. On the 23rd day I saw 2 Temminck Stints in Siikalahti and a Cormorant in Härskiinmutka. Also Pygmy Owl had tiny chicks but in Tarvalampi Starlings had already big chicks, so we ringed 13 youngsters from 3 nest-boxes.

On the 24th day I saw only 2 migrating Little Ringed Plovers and on the 25th day we headed to Saari where in Kanavalampi we found a Broad-billed Sandpiper and heard a Golden Oriole. In Uukuniemi Suurenjärvenliete we saw 8 Temminck Stints and 3 Yellow Wagtails, in Jyrkilä 2 Stock Doves and in Pohjanranta 6 Ringed Plovers and 2 Temminck Stints.

On the 26th of May we headed early to Melkoniemi forests where we heard a couple of Greenish Warblers, a Red-breasted Flycatcher and a drumming Three-toed Woodpecker. Then I counted water-birds in Siikalahti and there were again only very few of them. In the late evening we did a good tour and managed to find 2 lekking Great Snipes from their ordinary field where also 2 Nightjars were singing on the forest. Then we managed to find one more Great Snipe on another field where also a Corn Crake was calling. After we had seen one and heard one Long-eared Owl, we headed to Siikalahti where we found a River Warbler and lots of Blyth’s Reed Warblers. From the dam-road we heard still some Spotted Crakes and Water Rails and after we had seen one more Long-eared Owl, it was time to go to sleep.

On the 27th day after we had finally woken up, we headed to Simpele Kokkolanjoki where we twitched a long-staying pair of Grey Wagtails. We soon found out that they were already feeding youngsters and we really hope this will be the first successful breeding of the species in South-Karelia. We also took the last owl nest-box away from Rautjärvi, so now all our boxes are in a smaller area which saves time every year in the future. We ended our morning-trip to a nest of a White-backed Woodpecker where we also saw a couple of Long-tailed Tits nearby.

On the 28th of May the only better bird on my lunch-hour was a Great Reed Warbler in Siikalahti. In the late evening I twitched a Grasshopper Warbler as a year-tick in Siikalahti. On the 29th day I saw a Grey-headed Woodpecker there on my lunch-hour and in the evening we did a tour in Saari and saw 3 Garganeys in Kanavalampi, 2 Stock Doves in Jyrkilä again, some 30 Barnacle Geese and an Icterine Warbler in Pohjanranta. On the 30th day only bird to mention was a Golden Oriole in Siikalahti – this species is really getting rare!

On the last day of May we visited Great Crested Newts again and saw again a couple of them briefly but several Smooth Newts were seen. We also heard a River Warbler and then went to check that Nuthatches were still actively feeding their youngsters on their nest-box.

I started birding in June again visiting Siikalahti on my lunch-hour but saw nothing. So I visited Nuthatches again. After I had been sleeping whole afternoon and evening, I left to birding by bike. First I heard a Grasshopper Warbler, a Great Reed Warbler and a Corn Crake and saw a couple of Tundra Bean Geese in Siikalahti. There were amazing number of mosquitoes but when I was listening to one field I heard a very distant song that I couldn’t be sure what I was. I had to walk closer and after some hundreds of meters walking I could easily identify the bird – it was exactly what I had been thinking – a Booted Warbler! It was finally my first self-found Booted Warbler in Parikkala and also South-Karelia! Hanna had been guiding an American birder early in the morning and again in the evening, so I called to Hanna and in 5 minutes they were also listening to Booted Warbler.

After I had twitched a couple of Great Snipes I continued back towards home. I still twitched a River Warbler in Siikalahti, but surprisingly I didn’t hear anything else except many Blyth’s Reed Warblers.

On the 2nd of June we visited again Grey Wagtails and also White-backed Woodpeckers. Woodpeckers had already left their nest but were still around. In the evening we were twitching the Booted Warbler with some twitchers and luckily we could hear also at least one Great Snipe too. We also stopped in Siikalahti but heard only a Corn Crake and a Spotted Crake.

On the 3rd day we went ringing some singers with Hanna. I had more than 10 years ago decided that once I find a Booted Warbler I’d love to also ring it. So once we had managed to locate the bird again, it took only a couple of minutes to catch it. After ringing and a couple of measures, we took some pictures and released the bird to its territory.

It had been fun to ring a song-bird after a long time, so we continued and ringed also a Grasshopper Warbler and a River Warbler in Siikalahti. We also heard a Golden Oriole and saw a couple of Long-tailed Tits and White-backed Woodpeckers there. On the dam-road we met the American birder again and visited northern end of Siikalahti where we had only an Icterine Warbler.

After I had slept a couple of hours, I noticed that an Eastern Imperial Eagle that had been in Pori on the previous day had been seen in Espoo. And usually these birds are flying away from Finland following the southern coast. So I started driving to Hamina which is usually the best spot to see these raptors. When I was in Lappeenranta-Luumäki border I saw a big raptor flying over the road and surprisingly this bird dropped down towards the road and almost hit the car that was driving in front of me! Then it moved towards my car and I saw this 2nd year Black Kite amazingly well through wind-screen in 100km/h speed.

Finally I was in Hamina Kirkkojärvi where were after all only 12 birders waiting for the eagle. There was no news about the bird but after half an hour it was reported in Loviisa and then later in Pyhtää! We estimated that it should be in Kirkkojärvi in about 30 minutes, so we were very excited! But we found only several White-tailed Eagles which some of them were especially high, so maybe we missed the bird or then it never came to Hamina. It was never seen again. When most of the birders had already given up, I found a Great Grey Shrike which is very strange bird in this south this time of the year. It had completely white rump and a bit bigger white patches on its wings, so it was something that was earlier called as “homeyeri”, but after all it they are nowadays just “excubitors” but probably somewhere from east.

In the evening I drove back home and Hanna had just been ringing a couple of Jackdaw nestlings.


Arctic-migration bird-race

On the 15th of May after I woke up early and headed to Siikalahti where I found a couple of Hazel Hens, a Great Reed Warbler, a Wryneck, an Icterine Warbler, some Wood Warblers and Garden Warbles. On my lunch-hour I still found a Common Rosefinch and a Reed Warbler.

On the next couple of days I saw mostly just migrating Barnacle Geese which I am quite bored to watch – I just check there are no white geese on the flocks. On the 17th day the first Swifts arrived and in the evening when we were checking empty owl nest-boxes, we got a message that a Black Tern had been found in Siikalahti. Luckily we managed to twitch it as it is a good year-tick. We also saw some flocks of Long-tailed Ducks and Common Scoters in Siikalahti.

On the 18th I woke up early and managed to find a Red-breasted Flycatcher in Siikalahti. On my lunch-hour I found out that there were even 5 Black Terns flying with Little Gulls! Finally the first Honey Buzzard was also seen.

In the afternoon I drove again to Virolahti as we were participating to Arctic-migration bird-race. But I drove straight to Kurkela, where a Booted Eagle had been found and it had been the first twitchable local bird ever. But it had started to rain in the afternoon and the bird had landed to a border-zone. I waited with many twitchers for it to start flying again for 4 hours but the weather was just too cold even after the rain. Finally I gave up and headed to Lakakallio.

In Lakakallio we planned our race a little bit with Miska Loippo and Esa-Matti Lampinen and after we had eaten well, we went to sleep.

After a couple of hours sleeping we woke up and headed to western part of Virolahti. We were in Klamila when the race started at 2 a.m. and soon we heard the first Corn Crake. In Sydänkylä we managed to find a female Long-eared Owl but other species we found were all just common ones.

Night was very cold, so bird-activity was very low, but anyway Nightjars and Thrush Nightingales were singing everywhere. We also heard a couple of distant Great Bitterns. When a Quai was reported in Kattilainen we drove there to twitch it as it was lifer for Esa-Matti and of course a good addition to our list.

In Ravijoki Harju we found a Marsh Warbler and after some waiting also a Tawny Owl. Then we drove a long way to Lintulahti of course stopping several times on the way. In Heinlahti we managed to see a Short-eared Owl.

In Lintulahti we heard a Water Rail and a Reed Warbler easily. Then we heard some dry creaking sound from the reed that sounded a bit like a Baillion’s Crake but unfortunately it was behind all the other singers and it stopped too soon. But while waiting we still heard a distant Spotted Crake.

While walking to the bird-tower we heard an Icterine Warbler and from the tower we saw a couple of Greenshanks but then only some common species. We had hoped to see more.

In Vilkkiläntura we heard a Wood Warbler and a Treecreeper and some other common song-birds. From the tower we saw some Ringed Plovers, a Little Ringed Plover, 7 Temminck’s Stints, but again there weren’t as many birds as we had hoped.

Then it was time for the arctic-migration and we headed to Leerviikinranta. On the road we had a couple of flocks of Parrot Crossbills and then on the shore where were lots of people. But it was soon clear that there was almost no migration. Just some Black-throated Diver flocks were migrating. After we had got some common seabirds, we luckily saw one migrating female Scaup and found a Red-necked Grebe swimming with a flock of Great Crested Grebes. But even though we still needed some ridiculously common migrants, we had to move on.

On the Nato-tower we found a Wood Lark easily and in Hurppu we had a couple of Canada Geese and a migrating Yellow Wagtail. Then we climbed to Kellovuori-bird-tower where we saw some Swifts, before a text-message told that the Booted Eagle was flying again and it wasn’t even 8 a.m.!

We were quite far from Kurkela and roads were small and curvy, but finally we saw the group of birders watching and photographing towards the sky. We stopped the car and rushed out and found a pale raptor just over the birders. I took my camera and started focusing towards the bird when Miska said: “What the %¤#&, it’s a Honey Buzzard”! I shouted to birders that: “Where is the right bird?” and got an answer that it had just disappeared behind the forest and we should follow it. So we turned our car and started chasing the bird. Soon we met another group of birders who had seen the bird going back to the direction where we had just been and when we got there the same had happened again!

So we decided that it was pointless to drive here and there and got out and started scanning the sky. After we had found a couple of Honey Buzzards, I finally found the right bird – a pale morph Booted Eagle was flying towards us quite far over the forest. Soon everyone had found it and there were quite a few getting Finnish-tick with me!

Booted Eagle was flying towards us but then disappeared behind the trees. Soon there were more twitchers coming and again another group reported that they had seen the bird, so some cars were driving again there. But after some waiting the bird got up in front of us again and started soaring and soon it was very high. Then it started to glide toward us and after I had sent one more message, it stayed just over us for several minutes and everyone saw it very well.

Then it was time to continue the race again. We headed to Kotola where we soon heard an Ortolan Bunting and we also found some House Sparrows there. Then we had no idea what to do next, so we headed to Huvisaari. It took a lot of time but luckily we got a Coot and finally saw also some Oystercatchers which we had somehow missed earlier.

Then we headed towards Virojoki and from the museum we got a Wryneck and from the village some Gold Finches and Green Finches. Then we headed to Kurkela again where we hoped to find any local geese. But after we had seen a Red-backed Shrike we saw plenty of twitchers that had missed the Booted Eagle which had gone missing soon after we had left – and it was never seen again. From the fields we still got a Linnet before we hurried to twitch a White Stork that was seen in Eastgate. Luckily one another team let us see the bird through their scopes, as it was very distant already.

White Stork was our last species even though we still visited Vilkkiläntura. At 2 p.m. we headed to Virojoki to eat. While eating we got a message that a Little Bustard had been found in Mikkeli and as Miska and Esa-Matti were missing the species and they were collecting Mikkeli-ticks they wanted to go to twitching. So we soon drove to Lakakallio to pack their things and then Miska and Esa-Matti left towards Mikkeli and I headed to Leerviiki.

The results were given in Leerviiki and we won the race quite clearly with our 127 species. The second had 122 and third 121. There were altogether 12 teams and even 164 species had been seen in Virolahti!

I the evening I still climbed to Lakakallio to watch migration and saw a couple of Arctic Skuas, some Brent Geese with many flocks of Barnacle Geese and a mixed flock of Whimbrels and Bar-tailed Godwits. At 10 p.m. I was too tired and went to sleep.

On the 20th of May I climbed to Lakakallio at 4:30 a.m. and soon there were Barnacle Geese flocks migrating. Also Black-throated Divers were seen but the flocks were flying very high, so they were very difficult to find. Also some flocks of Brent Geese were seen, but nothing better was found. Altogether I counted about 5999 divers, 390 Brent Geese, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Whimbrel, 4 Tundra Bean Geese, 11 White-fronted Geese and 3 Pintails. I didn’t count any Barnacle Geese but more than 100 000 were seen but mostly very distant.

During the day I was in Elokallio but no better raptors were seen. Geese were still on the move, but at 3 p.m. I decided to give up and started driving back home. I still stopped in Lappeenranta Askola, but saw nothing special. At home I was soon ready to go to sleep.


Arctic migration and lifer twitch

The 7th of May started well when I checked Härskiinmutka early in morning and found a flock of ducks which had at least some promising looking birds. I drove closer to Moskuunniemi and soon found the flock which was now much closer. Birds were mostly Long-tailed Ducks and Common Scoters but there were 3 male and 2 female Steller’s Eiders too! On my lunch-hour I heard only a Thrush Nightingale and a Common Whitethroat in Siikalahti. After my work-day I saw these 5 birds in Moskuunniemi again but they were flying low towards Särkisalmi. I drove there and found the birds again and finally also some other birders managed to twitch them.

On the 8th day I saw a couple of Black-tailed Godwits migrating in Siikalahti. On the 9th day in early morning visit to Siikalahti I found a Bluethroat, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Blackcap. In the afternoon I was running in Tarvaslampi and saw a female Capercaillie. After sauna we visited Siikalahti again and found out that Nightjar had arrived to Sounio.

On the 10th of May we did a good tour to Saari. On the way we saw a couple of Cormorants in Härskiinmutka. In Akanvaara Tetrisuo we didn’t hear any Ortolan Buntings but in Pohjanranta we found a couple of Slavonian Grebes, Garganeys and Smews, 6 Bewick’s Swans and a White-tailed Eagle.

In Suurenjärvenliete floods were already quite small and there weren’t many birds either. In Jyrkilä we saw a couple of Stock Doves and in Kanavalampi floods a Little Ringed Plover. In Kanavalampi I immediately found a Great White Egret which was hiding behind some willows and perches almost inside forest as the flood was quite high. I had forgotten my phone inside car, so I started walking towards it when Hanna shouted that there was a Red-breasted Goose swimming with a flock of Barnacle Geese. So I checked it first and only then went to get my phone. Then I had to send news out from 2 rarities. Only other birds to mention were a couple of Smews.

In Tarassiinlahti we heard a Bluethroat but soon we were driving to Siikalahti. We hoped to see some migrating raptors but the weather was too hot and there was no wind at all. But there was a acrocephalus-warbler singing on a bush next to us and first it was singing like a Paddyfield Warbler but after almost an hour trying I managed to see it very briefly and it looked more like a Blyth’s Reed Warbler. After all it also started to sing more like a Blyth’s so after all it was “only” the earliest Blyth’s Reed Warbler ever in South Karelia. In the evening we checked all out Nuthatch nest-boxes, but found none breeding in them. And the only pair that is breeding is in an old nest-box that is impossible to open.

On the 11th day I did a quick water-bird count in Siikalahti and there were fewer birds than ever! Before I had to hurry to work I still checked Härskiinmutka and found 38 Scaups.

In the evening we drove to Virolahti for arctic-migration weekend. In Leerviikinniemi we saw nice duck-migration – Long-tailed Ducks and Common Scoters but also about 1000 Velvet Scoters. Other year-ticks were Eider, Caspian Tern, Arctic Tern and Arctic Skua which 3 of them were seen migrating. We put up our tent to Lakakallio and went to sleep when Nightjar was starting its continuous song.

On the 12th of May I climbed to Lakakallio already at 4:30 a.m. and after I had seen some Black-throated Divers Hanna and also Markus Öst arrived. Migration wasn’t very good but we counted 180 Black-throated Divers. The best bird of the morning was a White-billed Diver that I found migrating over inland with a couple of Black-throated Divers.

Geese were also migrating but I really don’t do geese anymore. But suddenly also Velvet Scoters started to move, but pretty soon the route changed too far to the sea. Anyway at least 2000 of altogether 4000 ducks were identified as Velvet Scoters. Also 650 aythya-ducks were seen but too distant.

Some other birds observed were a Bar-tailed Godwit that we only heard, a Swift, a couple of late Waxwings, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Parrot Crossbill.

Hanna’s sister Elissa arrived to Lakakallio too but then most of the migration was already gone. So pretty soon we left to check some other places nearby. In Vilkkiläntura we heard a Wood Warbler, a couple of Wrens and saw a White-backed Woodpecker, 120 Little Gulls, Ringed Plovers and a Little Ringed Plover. In Lintulahti we saw only a White-tailed Eagle but heard an Icterine Warbler.

In Elokallio we did a couple of hours raptor-watch but saw none migrating raptors. We saw only at least 5 White-tailed Eagles which was a disappointment as on the previous day there had been several rare raptors seen.

After some shopping we went to sleep to Lakakallio into our tents and then again to Leerviikinniemi to watch evening-migration. Weather was almost too good to watch tens of thousands of Common Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks migrating right over us! I was wearing T-shirt until the sunset!

On the 13th day I was again in Lakakallio at 4:30 and right away I heard a Serin singing! It was a bit behind a couple of Robins, so I tried to get closer, but either it moved or then I once again heard the direction wrong, so I couldn’t get any closer. But I heard it at least 5 times and after all it can’t really be misidentified. So it was a new self-found tick!

When the others had arrived too we saw some bigger flocks of Black-throated Divers, so altogether a little bit more than a hundred were counted. Geese were migrating inland and some birds heard were a Bluethroat and a Sylvia-warbler that sounded like a Barred Warbler but it sang only twice and never rattled and we didn’t see it at all. But luckily soon after we had agreed that we couldn’t really identify this warbler, we saw a male Golden Oriole migrating over us. It also landed shortly to top of trees, so at least we had seen something better again.

The migration stopped completely so after 8 a.m. we walked down and I was just thinking what we should do next when I got an SMS that told there had been a White-winged Lark found in Loviisa Hamnskär. All I knew that Hamnskär was an island, so I hoped to get some more information how to get there. I didn’t want to start planning a trip myself.

We packed our tents and soon drove to Hanskinranta where we saw nothing species. But then I decided that we should drive towards west and do birding somewhere on the way like in Hamina if there was any information coming about the twitch. I really didn’t want to repeat previous days birdless raptor-watch. The calm sea and warm day were perfect for an island-twitch!

We stopped in Hamina Lupinlahti and then I decided to call to my friend Juha Tuomaala if he knew any boats going to Hamnskär. He called soon back and told that he hadn’t got any good information except that one group from Helsinki was already going. Then I called to one of these twitchers and found out that my friend Mika I. Koskinen had started driving from other side of the country. I called him and found out that he was going to a boat that was leaving from Kotka at 1 p.m. He gave me one more number to call and I managed to book 3 places!
We still had some time so we drove to Kirkkojärvi where we first ate well and then heard a Garden Warbler, a Pheasant and a Great Reed Warbler. We still tried 5 minutes to hear a Savi’s Warbler but it wasn’t singing in the heat of the mid-day.

Then we headed to Kotka Sapokka where we soon met the rest of the twitchers. At 13:15 all 12 of us were in the boat and a long trip to Loviisa Hamnskär started. The boat was really good and we were soon driving very fast, so we had to wear more clothes.

Once we were out on the sea we saw the first Black Guillemot and soon also some Razorbills. Then after more driving we passed famous Aspskär and saw more Razorbills and later also one Common Guillemot.

Finally after more than an hour driving we were at Hamnskär which was a small and rocky island. We had to get to the island by a rubber-boat so after 4 rowing trips we were all on the island. Then we started to walk towards the western tip of the island where the bird had been found and where the first twitchers had seen it leaving too.

Once we got to the tip, we started to plan how to walk around the island, but first I told that we should check the spit behind us. There was some yellow hay growing that really looked like steppe. So it wasn’t a surprise that we almost immediately flushed the White-winged Lark! It landed to the next spit and we could watch it feeding with our scopes. It was only the 4th White-winged Lark in Finland ever!

After some watching we decided to walk around the island. Once we had walked to the base of the spit where the lark was it flew back to its favorite place. We didn’t find anything else so soon we were back on our rubber-boat again. Then I noticed an Arctic Skua flying over us.

Soon we were driving back towards Kotka again. Luckily someone had asked the captain to stop next to Aspskär, so we had an opportunity to see and also photograph Razorbills, but also Common Guillemots which at least 36 were seen. We also saw a Rock Pipit perched on one big stone.

The way back was soon over and there was already next group of twitchers ready to get onto the boat. The captain seemed happy that he had got some extra-customers. I think birders must be one of the easiest customers.

We still had a long drive back to Parikkala and once we were there we were very tired but also happy – our weekend had been very good!


Bird-tower competition week

May is always awaited month amongst birders because of it is the month when it is really possible to find some rarities. On the 1st of May we spent almost whole day in Siikalahti and saw once again a Black Kite and a Pallid Harrier almost in the same time. Other birds seen were a female Scaup, 2 White-tailed Eagles, 2 female Hen Harriers, a Goshawk, 3 Hobbies, an Oystercatcher, 72 Golden Plovers, a Heuglin’s Gull, 2 Sand Martins, a Yellow Wagtail and a Long-tailed Tit. In the afternoon we went to check owl nest-boxes in Tyrjä and saw a Capercaillie. Then in the evening we still went to find out that Nuthatches were really breeding in one nest-box in Kangaskylä. It is finally the first confirmed breeding of this species in Parikkala.

AdderOn the 2nd of May my birthday weather was awful. In Kaukola I saw a Greylag Goose, 10 Bewick’s and 200 Whooper Swans and while checking some nest-boxes I heard a Cuckoo and saw 3 Hazel Hens. But then it started to rain too bad.

On the 3rd day I got a couple of year.ticks – Willow Warbler and Whinchat and on the 4th day a Sedge Warbler. Almost nothing else was seen, but in the evening I found a Pygmy Owl breeding in one nest-box.

On the 5th of May was the Birdtower competition. Pirkka had arrived very late in at night and too soon we were heading to Siikalahti. We met Elissa and Miika Soikkeli, Pekka Punnonen, Jukka Savolainen and Matti Lötjönen soon and were at 4:45 a.m. in the tower.

We couldn’t find any good starting species, so at 5 a.m. we started to count just common species. The weather was much worse than it had been on forecasts so we were soon frozen! A Heuglin’s Gull was seen again but it is not a species yet, so we got only Lesser Black-backed Gull. A Bewick’s Swan was flying over us and other better species during the early morning were a couple of Canada Geese, Smews, a Black Grouse, a Hen Harrier, a couple of Grey-headed Woodpeckers, a Cuckoo, several Northern Wheatears, a Whinchat, a Sedge Warbler, a couple of small flocks of Lapland Buntings and a Chiffchaff that was singing all the time.

After we had got about 65 species the weather got even worse and it took a long time to get any new species. But finally the rain stopped and even sun was visible through clouds. A couple of Gadwalls, a Red-throated Diver in a flock of 32 Black-throated Divers, a couple of Woodcocks, a flock of Waxwings, Redpolls and Bramblings were seen. And finally we got some more raptors too when a Rough-legged and some Common Buzzards, a Hobby and a White-tailed Eagle were seen. Around mid-day we still saw a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers and a Jay before it was 1 p.m. and we counted that we had seen 90 species.

Then we hurried to Saari Tarassiinlahti where a team had seen 94 species including the best bird in whole Finland during the competition – a Bee-eater. But unfortunately twitchers had lost the bird just 15 minutes before we got there and it wasn’t found anymore.

We searched for the Bee-eater for an hour and a half but found only some species we had hoped to see in Siikalahti like a White-backed Woodpecker, a Green Sandpiper and a Black-tailed Godwit. Other birds we had missed in Siikalahti had been Water Rail, Slavonian Grebe, Pied Flycatcher, Green Finch and Yellowhammer…

In the afternoon we went to eat to Tarvaslampi and on the way back home we stopped in Särkisalmi. I started scanning waterfowl and almost the first bird was a female Red-crested Pochard! It was only the 7th observation of this species in South-Karelia and the first one in 13 years! But 5 observations have been made in Parikkala and this was already my 4th observation here and 2nd self-found after one male we found with Hanna at 2004.

In the evening we still went to check some fields with Pirkka but found nothing special. Then we headed to Siikalahti at night and heard a couple of Spotted Crakes, several Water Rails and a Jack Snipe very well. I also found an owl perched on one tree and a scope and head-lights of a car were needed to identify it as a Short-eared Owl.

Golden PloversOn the 6th of May we twitched Nuthatches for Pirkka and found out that they were already feeding their youngsters. Then we headed to Saari where in Akanvaara Tetrisuo we found altogether 880 Golden Plovers, but otherwise it was once again very quiet until we found a Shelduck in Tarassiinlahti. The duck soon left towards Kanavalampi where we soon found it sleeping. A Common Whitethroat was heard before we continued towards Siikalahti. The weather was now too sunny and hot so in a couple of hours we saw only a White-tailed Eagle and 2 female harriers that migrated too far but at least one of them was a Pallid or Montagu’s Harrier.

After we had eaten in ABC Pirkka started a long drive back to Kemijärvi. I soon headed to sleep as I hadn’t been sleeping enough for a long time.