Hailuoto bird-race trip

It was once again time to get to Hailuoto bird-race. Last year we had been on Foula with potu but anyway our team had managed to get two groups to participate to the race. But now we had managed to get also friday free so already on thursday on the 29th of September we left towards Oulu with “potu” Suojarinne and “jassi” Kiljunen. We drove almost straight to Kiiminki to Harry Nyström where we stayed at night. We had a great evening there but already early on the 30th day we left towards Hailuoto and managed to get to 8:30 ferry.

On Hailuoto we first checked Huikku ferry-coast where we saw 2 Mute Swans and a Great Grey Shrike before we continued to Pökönnokka. We walked through the whole area and found a Peregrine, 5 Spotted Redshanks, a Snipe, 2 Mute Swans, a Golden Plover, a Great Grey Shrike which was surprisingly common also later and a flock of 12 small waders which disappeared somehow. Next we checked one spruce-forest and found a Treecreeper and then Lahdenperä where also Harry arrived as he had taken care of all the pizza and other food for the weekend and had taken another ferry. On Lahdenperä we saw 2 Scaups and a White-tailed Eagle.

Then we continued to the village where we met also Antti Vierimaa who came on the next ferry after Harry. We decided to split to two groups and me and Harry continued to Keskiniemi area while the rest stayed around the village and started to check all the fields there. On the way we saw 2 very good species in Hailuoto, 6 Jackdaws and a Rook in a flock of more than 50 Hooded Crows. When we got to Keskiniemi (which means a long drive along very bad sandy roads) we walked to the dynes. And right away Harry saw a bird landing behind the dynes. We flushed it and it was a big pipit which was calling “zi-spriu” – a Richard’s Pipit! A Lifer to Harry and I haven’t seen too many either! We called to the rest of our group, but before they arrived, we saw the bird flying south with a Meadow Pipit. Then we also heard the normal call “spriu” a couple of times. From the beach we found some Ringed Plovers and Grey Plovers but nothing else.

We also checked the next places where we thought the pipit could have landed but also Mantyniemi and Virpiniemi were empty. So we continued to Marjaniemi but the wind which had been very strong whole day was getting too strong. So again we split to two groups and we went to check some more fields but couldn’t find anything very good. The other group found something better but nothing very good. So before it was getting dark we continued to our hut and started to warm up the sauna and eat huge pizzas and have fun! Soon also Antti Peuna and Mikko Ala-Kojola arrived so the whole team was there and we really had a good time!

On the 1st of October we woke up after 5 a.m. and soon after pizza breakfast we split to two teams me, potu and Mikko to potu’s car and Harry, both Anttis and jassi to Harry’s car. Both teams had decided to start from the same place Riisinnokka, the southernmost tip of the island which was of course good as it was a northern wind.

There were several other teams too so we decided not to go to the tip and started the race at 7 a.m. on the forests along the parking place and the tip. We walked slowly towards the tip and in 40 minutes we had a Woodcock, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, an Arctic Redpoll, Waxwings, 3 Snipes and so on. Bullfinches, Redpolls, Bramblings, Chaffinches and tits were moving all the time towards south. There were only 2 teams anymore when we reached the tip and from the sea we found a Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Divers, 3 Merlins, a Common Scoter, Mute Swans and from the next spit we found 2 Black Grouses and from the flocks of passerines we found a Coal Tit. From the sky we also found a flock of a Dunlin and 3 Grey Plovers. When we left Harry’s team still stayed on the pit.

On the way back to the car we checked the Coast of Isomatala Island and found a Spotted Redshank and 4 Greenshanks! And from the coast next to the parking place we found a Smew and from the meadow nearby we saw 2 more Woodcocks.

We stopped a couple of times before Kirkkosalmi and saw 2 more Coal Tits, heard a Treecreeper and then in Louekari saw a migrating young Pallid Harrier! Harry’s team was driving past us so we stopped them to see this rarity too. Also a Great Grey Shrike and a flock of 4 Cranes were seen.

In Kirkkosalmi we saw lots of birds like always. Shovelers, Gadwalls, Coots, a Ruff, a Swallow, a Blackbird, 2 Goshawks and a Sparrowhawk and the best a flock of 8 Bearded Reedling.

Next we continued towards east and before we had ticked Tree Sparrows we went to see the Scaups we had found on the previous day. Luckily one of the birds was till there on Lahdenperä. We had planned to go to Pökönnokka but we saw several teams walking there already as one team had found a Purple Sandpiper there. We didn’t want to go there as all the birds had probably been flushed already so we continued to Huikku ferry-coast. After we had seen some Cormorants we turned back and drove to Pökönnokka where we met Harry’s team again and heard that the Purple Sandpiper hadn’t been seen at all anymore.

Anyway we went to walk to the meadow as there had been several other species we needed on the previous day. We had to walk almost to the tip before we flushed a Skylark, a Snipe and a nice surprise a Jack Snipe. Also a tame Dunlin and a Ruff were seen before we saw only 4 Dunlins more. But then we saw a flock of 8 sandpipers flying and there the Purple Sandpiper was with 7 Dunlins. Also 2 Golden Plovers were found with 2 Grey Plovers so the walk had been much better than we had expected. Unfortunately the only raptor was a Goshawk. We of course put the news out that the Purple Sandpiper was back and Harry’s team came to twitch it as it was a lifer to jassi and Antti Peuna.

Next we drove to the fields close to the village and after the first White-tailed Eagle we continued to Ulkokarvo where only new bird was a Long-tailed Duck. We also stopped again in Kirkkosalmi but nothing new was found and in Järventakusta fields we saw only 5 more White-tailed Eagles.

In Pöllä we saw a migrating female Hen Harrier and in Sunikari we found a Red-necked Grebe. In Marjaniemi we heard a Snow Bunting and saw a Velvet Scoter and a Ringed Plover.

While we were driving towards Keskiniemi we got a message that Harry’s team had found a Black Guillemot in Marjaniemi, but we decided to keep on going towards Keskiniemi. There we flushed the Richard’s Pipit that had been found again in the morning together with Harry’s and another team, but the bird was seen only very briefly. Anyway our team saw it well enough – potu even got a lifer! Also 3 Snow Bunting and a Lapland Bunting were found. While Harry’s team still worked with the pipit as they still hadn’t seen it well, we saw 2 Br-tailed Godwits, a Knot and 2 migrating Purple Sandpipers. The Purple Sandpipers had landed next to one team and they saw that another of the birds had colour-ring – it had been ringed in Spitsbergen this summer!

We still had 17 minutes when we decided to drive to Marjaniemi to try to see the Black Guillemot. After some rally-driving we had 3 minutes left in Marjaniemi but we couldn’t find the bird. We still tried to find it after the rally but it was gone.

Only 30 minutes after the rally at 6:30 p.m. the results of the race were shouted in a school in the village. Soon it was clear that there were 3 teams that had seen a lot of bird – our team, Harry’s team and then Aappo Luukkonen, Juhani Karvonen and Sami Salonkoski. After all this “local” team won with 91 species, we were second with 88 and Harry, jassi and 2 Anttis 3rd with 86 species.

After the results were given we drove to the hut and had a great celebrations with sauna, pizza and drinks.

On the 2nd of October we woke up at 7 a.m. and after we had packed and cleaned the hut we left once again towards Keskiniemi. Some of us still hadn’t seen the Richard’s Pipit well enough to take a lifer as it hadn’t called either in the previous afternoon. So we walked through the meadows once more but there were only 3 Snow Buntings and a couple of other common birds. From the coast we found a Ringed Plover, 4 Grey Plovers, 4 Dunlins, a Merlin was migrating and 3 Cormorants and a flock of mainly Common Crossbills and at least one Two-barred Crossbill flew over us.

In Marjaniemi there was too hard wind, from south now. A Velvet Scoter was found again, but soon we were driving towards east. Of course we now saw a Jay crossing the road and also 2 Parrot Crossbill looking crossbills – on the race we hadn’t seen any crossbills at all!

In Pökönnokka we walked through the meadows again but the sea-level was very high so we really had walk on the sea to find 6 Snipes, 2 Jack Snipes and 4 Dunlins. Also 2 White-tailed Eagles, 12 Common Scoters and a flock of 9 Common Crossbills were seen. At 2 p.m. we were on the ferry towards Oulunsalo.

We said goodbyes to all our friends and with potu and jassi started a long drive. I was back at home after 9 p.m. What a great trip we had again had!

J.A.