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.

J.A.