July 2005

July starts with Kesälahti rally

The month changed to July while we where birding in Tyrjä area with Potu. We found Long-eared Owls almost on every stop but we found only one Locustella Warbler and that River Warbler we ringed.

We woke up late in the evening and soon we were driving to Saari Mikkolanniemi with Hanna and Potu. There we met 3 other rally-groups and as the rally county came Kesälahti – the Northern neighbour of “new” Parikkala. This year’s birds in Finland were a Marsh Harrier and a Bittern, so we decided that teams would get extra-points of all Marsh Harriers and Bittern they could find. Soon we were all driving to Kesälahti.

It was nice to explore a totally new area. We had never been birding in Kesälahti before but now we did – for 17 rally-hours. Anyway everything started to go well. We started from the southern border of Kesälahti where we could see to Parikkala’s biggest fields in Tetrisuo and we saw for example Short-eared Owl, Hen Harrier, Red-backed Shrike and so on.

Next good stop was in Kuolemanlampi where we found a family of Whooper Swans, Hobbies and a Greenshank. It started to get dark when we checked the biggest lakes, but anyway we got Black-throated Diver, Red-necked Grebe and Goosander… Young Long-eared Owls were already calling in Sarvisalo and luckily we found a good small lake where were Slavonian Grebes. Also the first nightjar was not only heard but also seen very well.

The night singers were found in Mäntyniemi area: Corn Crakes, Marsh and Blyth’s Reed Warblers, more Nightjars and Long-eared Owls but also a Tawny Owl and a River Warbler. Luckily we heard a Bittern too.

On early morning we headed to Varmonniemi forests. And we got lots of species: Chiffchaff, Wren, Bullfinches, Jays, Common and Parrot Crossbills, Hazel Hen, Common and Honey Buzzard, Red-throated Diver, Crested Tits, Treecreepers, Kestrel and Black Woodpecker…

Then we had a short walk in the centre where we found Pheasants, Tree and House Sparrows and a Lesser Whitethroat before we continued to Poroniemi where we had luck again: A Smew and a Blackcap were both good ticks.

Our main target in this rally was to explore the whole Kesälahti. So we headed north and on the way we found Wood Larks in Särkivaara. But then the northern areas of Kesälahti were absolutely boring. We found only Red-breasted Merganser, Linnet and two Marsh Harriers. After a couple of hours we decided to drive back to south because we felt we could still find something new from these better places.

We had only 40 minutes left when we reached Pellavasniemi but we could get a few ticks: Osprey, Barnacle Goose and Pintail.

Finally we saw 105 species which was a good result in July from the places where we had never been before. Anyway two (maybe more experienced) teams got a couple of species more but we had had fun again. Together 4 teams could find 131 species and that’s a lot!

After the results we all had a good time in Mikkolanniemi, but when we all too tired we decided to drive home. On the way we twitched a Quail in Tyrjä and heard a Bear too.

Working, working, working

After the rally I continued working both in Siikalahti and in Heath centre. It was quiet in Siikalahti: first Grey Heron arrived, Bitterns were flying and sometimes when it was very hot they were climbing up to the reeds to the wind.

Duck-counts showed that Coots and Whooper Swans had had a good summer but rest of the species hadn’t. One night I saw an Eagle Owl but nothing special was found. So I twitched a flock of White Storks in Joutseno, only because there was nothing else around.

Course to North Lappland and Varanger

On 17th day we headed North with Hanna, Hanna’s mother and Marko Vauhkonen, We were going to lead a nature course to Northern Lapland and Varanger. Hanna had planned the course, I was a bird guide and Marko was a plant-specialist. Of course we all three knew the birds well, but I concentrated only birds.

Next day we met all 27 people in Rovaniemi railway station. After the breakfast we drove by bus north to Saariselkä to have lunch. About 6 p.m. we arrived at Kevo National Park where we had cottages. After a long travelling we just had a short look around (Red-throated Diver, Bluethroats and some interesting plants) and went to sleep.

On the 19th day we woke up early. We went by boats to the other side of Kevo Lake to have breakfast to the station and then we had a nice walk to Jesnalvaara hill. On the way we had a Pine Grosbeak, Willow Grouses, Golden Plovers, Siberian Tits and again lots of plants. The weather was beautiful – it was almost too hot to climb.

In the evening the officers of the Kevo research station showed us the places and told about their works. We also had lessons of plants (Marko), birds (Janne) and glacial geology (Hanna).

On the next morning we headed to Karigasniemi Ailigas. The weather had changed radically and now it was windy, raining, foggy and cold. Anyway we climbed up to the top of the mountain to 620 metres and we saw some Ptarmigans, Snow Finches, Golden Plovers and some saw also a Dotterel. We were al a little bit disappointed because of the weather but we had to keep on going. Our next stop was in Utsjoki where we had lunch. After the lunch we had amazing luck – we saw a Gyrfalcon. On the way to Varanger we saw also a Rough-legged Buzzard.

Soon the Arctic sea opened in front of us and we could see lots of new species for the course. The first stop was in Nesseby church where were lots to see for everyone – birds, plants and geologic. Arctic Skuas, a flock of Long-tailed Skuas, Shelducks, Kittiwakes, Red-necked Phalaropes, Bar-tailed Godwits and even a female King Eider were seen before it started to get dark and we had to continue to Vadsö city to our hotel.

On the 21st day after the breakfast we had a short walk in Vadsö (100 Red-necked Phalaropes, 4 Long-tailed Skuas and so on) before we drove to Eckeröya Kittiwake colony. On the way we saw a couple of Shore Larks and in Eckeröya we had not only always so funny Kittiwakes but also a White-billed Diver. But soon we continued to Hamningberg where we had the most horrible salmon soup I have ever had (There was no salmon at all and almost nothing else either). But when we saw the landscape of “the end of the World” in Hamningberg a flock of 52 Beluga Whales and Gannets there was no reason to complain.

On the way back we had a stop in Persfjorden where we found a male King Eider, Long-tailed Ducks, Common Scoters and of course hundreds of Common Eiders. But we were hurry because we had to catch the boats to Hornöya bird island. Two boats had to make two trips before we all were in the island in the middle of thousands of Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins, Shags and Kittiwakes. We had amazing 3 hours in the island and again we found a Fulmar by its hole. I am sure that everyone fell in love with Puffins. We saw also some Red-throated and Rock Pipits.

In the evening we had a short walk in Vardö city before we were to tired. We slept in two different (not so good) hotels in Vardö.

Next morning we started our long way back, but of course we had something planned on the way. We saw a few White-tailed Eagles and had a short stop in Mårtensnes and in Varangerbotn but then we drove to Högholmen where we had a beautiful stop in the delta of Teno River. The landscape was gorgeous but surprisingly there were no new birds but some plants.

Then we had a long drive to Kevo again where we had good Finnish food and slept in same small cottages than before.

On 23rd day we stopped in Inari bear nest stone and in Kaunispää Mountain. The weather was bad again but anyway some managed to find Siberian Jays and Three-toed Woodpeckers. Then we had a short stop in Tankavaara and in Sodankylä Ilmakkiaapa bog. There we could find interesting bog plants but also a Hen Harrier, Smews and a family of Common Scoters. The rest of the trip to Rovaniemi we collected some easy species to the courses trip list and finally we had seen 109 bird species during the trip.

We said goodbyes to all in Rovaniemi railway station and continued to Ounasvaara where we had again a cottage.

Next morning we drove to Oulu where we dropped Hanna to make some studies. Then we continued with Marko and Helka to Liminganlahti where we stopped shortly. It was raining hard so we saw only a White-tailed Eagle and a Sanderling before we continued to Oulainen to see breeding Pallid Harriers. It took a couple of hours before we found a young Pallid Harrier, but we also found the first 5 Mute Swans ever in Oulainen – wow ;-) .

It was already late when we started our long way towards Parikkala. We saw some Long-eared Owls but also an Eagle Owl on the way and finally 2 a.m. the trip was over.

Marko stayed a couple of days with me because he had to do some plant works in Siikalahti, but I had to go working to the Health Centre in the next morning.

The end of July

In the end of July there were more Grey Herons in Siikalahti, but even though the southern South-Karelia was full of waders there were almost no waders in Parikkala area. So we went to watch them to Joutseno with Matti Lötjönen on 30th of July. But of course this was the only sunny day so we saw nothing better than a Red-necked Phalarope.

On the last day of July I did the last duck-counts before our holidays. Then it was time to leave Siikalahti for some weeks and go to do birding somewhere else, but I will tell more about those adventures in August picture diary story.