Hailuoto bird-race 2017

On Friday the 29th of September I managed to end my work-day early and soon after midday Jarkko Rutila and Jari Kiljunen picked me up and we headed towards North-West. We picked up Miska Loippo in Juva and Jani Varis in Kuopio and finally at 7:30 p.m. after shopping in Kempele, we were in Oulunsalo harbor. The ferry was just leaving and it was completely full. The rest of our friends had been queuing for hours to catch a ferry and my brother Pirkka was also missed this one. So we still had to wait one more hour before we continued towards Hailuoto.

After 9 p.m. we were finally all in our cottage in Vaski where Antti Vierimaa, Harry Nyström, Mikko Ala-Kojola and Antti Peuna were already warming up sauna and starting to eat huge pizzas.

We had fun, ate well and had sauna and in some point we decided our rally-teams. It was the first time we had people enough to make 3 teams! Anyway we didn’t plan the rally at all so it was easy to expect that our teams would meat several times on the race.

Finally after midnight we went to sleep. Luckily there was enough room to everyone.

On Saturday we woke up at 5 a.m. and at 6 o’clock we were all heading towards Riisinnokka which has been our traditional starting place. We were team with Pirkka and Miska, the other teams were Harry, “Jassi”, Jarkko and Jani and then Mikko with two Anttis.

On the way Miska saw a big bird that flushed from a sign and once we stopped we heard a Ural Owl calling but only once. Mikko’s team heard closer to Riisinnokka an Eagle Owl but it also stopped before the race started, but they didn’t manage to get to Riisinnokka so soon.

We managed to walk almost to Riisinnokka before the race started at 7 a.m. There were lots of thrushes, Bramblings and Redpolls migrating and once we reached the shore I found a Hawk Owl that perched far in Tömppä. There were lots of ducks too, but we really couldn’t find any waders. Some better species we managed to find were Whooper Swans, Smews, White-tailed Eagles, a Merlin, some Dunnocks, a Snipe, 4 Ringed Plovers and 2 too distant plover sp. There were soon 4 teams, all our teams and Juha Markkola’s team, but it really felt that Riisinnokka wasn’t as its best.

When we started to walk back towards the parking place, we still found a Great Grey Shrike and in Rautaletto shore we saw a Long-tailed Duck and heard a Wren and a Willow Warbler. When we were back in parking place we got a message that Harry’s team had found a Yellow-browed Warbler. We were there in a couple of minutes and even though Harry’s team had already left, “Jurtsi’s” team was still there and they pointed out where the bird had been. So finally I saw my first ever Yellow-browed Warbler in Hailuoto – after many, many autumn trips there. Also a Coal Tit was heard.

In Kirkkosalmi there were again other teams but not too many species. We found some Gadwalls, only one Shoveler, an Arctic Redpoll and a Lesser Whitethroat and on the bridge we heard a Water Rail calling actively.

Then it was time to try to get rid of other teams, so we headed to Ojakylänlahti. On the way we ticked both sparrows and a Greenfinch. In Kyrönperä we saw 2 Ruffs, a Red-necked Grebe and a very late Yellow Wagtail.

In Potinlahti we saw only a Goshawk and then in Huikku harbor some Cormorants, a Northern Wheatear and a very late Common Tern. Then it was time to head to Pökönnokka where we walk a lot and flushed a Jack Snipe, a Lapland Bunting and saw 9 Dunlins, 2 Golden Plovers and 2 Black-throated Divers, but not a single Skylark

A short stop in Vaski produced a Treecreeper and another stop in Ojakylänlahti, Lahdenperä was also worthy as we saw a flock of 9 Long-tailed Tits.

The next stop was made in Järventakusta where we hoped to find geese but found only Whooper Swans and Cranes that were everywhere. 3 teams had seen a flock of geese here earlier and there had been 3 or 4 species in the flock! Only new species for us was a Skylark.

In Ulkokarvo Petsamo we saw another Red-necked Grebe, 40 Ruffs, 18 Lapwings, a Golden Plover, 2 Grey Plovers and some Common Scoters. But we had hoped to find some more missing species.

While driving towards Pöllä we saw a Swallow, but in Pöllä we found nothing new. In Patelanselkä we had 10 Swallows, a Sparrowhawk and a Chiffchaff.

Marjaniemi was almost completely empty so we headed to our last place to Keskiniemi, even though there was news out that there was a possible Lesser Short-toed Lark in Pökönnokka. We had some difficulties to find the right track but after all managed to get there even though Pirkka’s car was hitting the bottom a couple of times. But we didn’t get any new species before the race ended at 6 p.m. More Grey and Golden Plovers, 2 Chiffchaffs, Common Scoters and a Ringed Plover could have been anything else…

The results were given in Hailuoto School and it was the tightest race ever! After very exciting log, we had won with 83 species, both our other teams had found 82 species, a first-timer team from Southern Finland had found 79, Jurtsiäs team 76 and the only team that we hadn’t met, which had really tried to do something new (Ville Suorsa, Kalle Hiekkanen and Tuomas Herva) had found 74 species.

Altogether 100 species had been found and even out three teams had seen 100 species even though we had after all visited almost the same places. Anyway there were lots of differences in our lists.

After group-pictures had been taken we did short stops to try to listen to an Eagle Owl in Patelanselkä and Pöllö but soon headed to our cottage to spend time with our friends. It was amazing that our teams had been in one single species in results! We ate well again, had sauna and the bravest or craziest of us tasted the hottest chili on Earth that Harry had with him. After midnight we went to sleep.

On Sunday the 1st of October the weather was worse but luckily the rain stopped when we were cleaning the cottage. Then we also heard a Yellow-browed Warbler moving towards West.

When the cottage was cleaned and everything packed, we headed to Pökönnokka to try to find the small lark. We hammered the whole area pretty well for 2 hours and found at least 5 Jack Snipes and 5 Skylarks which one of them was darker young with shorter tail and typical young bird’s call, but no other small larks were found.

When we were already walking back towards our cars, we heard a typical call of an Olive-backed Pipit and even found the bird flying for us, but it was a bit too high. Harry managed to get some pictures but they probably aren’t enough to make the identification positive.

We still visited Ojakylänlahti briefly and then in Huikku we saw an adult and a young Common Tern. The ferry left pretty soon and in Oulusalo it was time to say goodbye to the rest of the group. With Pirkka we still continued to Tupos ABC to eat.

But soon we started a long way towards South-East. Jani was dropped again in Kuopio and Miska in Juva then was my turn in Parikkala while Jassi still continued to Joutseno and Jarkko to Lappeenranta.

It had once again been a great weekend with best friends in Hailuoto! I had managed to get my 3rd victory in a raw after I had hunted the first win for about 15 years. Thanks to Harry who once again organized everything and to all good friends. I think we’ll see you all again next year!

J.A.