February 2009

Pretty good February

Normally February is the most boring month of the year, but again we’re having a Euro-winter so at least in the southern part of South Karelia we had much more birds than in normal winter. Unfortunately the border of the normal winter was in river Vuoksi so in Parikkala we’re having as small number of birds as always. Just the last days of January had been the coldest days in whole winter so it was interesting to see if the birds had survived.

On the 1st of February I twitched a Nuthatch in Likolampi and then drove to Imatra to twitch a Grey Wagtail again. That was the last time the bird was observed, I couldn’t see it, just heard it calling. Maybe the extremely cold days had been too much for this rare winterer? In Vuoksi I saw a Cormorant, a Canada Goose and a Tufted Duck, in Vallinkoski a Great Grey Shrike and in Korvenkanta a Goldfinch. In Lappeenranta I drove to Skinnarila where I tried to find a Song Thrush without luck. Only 20 Fieldfares were seen. I wasn’t lucky in Kukkuroinmäki either where I couldn’t find a White Wagtail. In Konnunsuo I saw another Great Grey Shrike and a Hawk Owl.

On the 4th days night I heard an Eagle Owl and a Ural Owl in Tyrjä. And on the 5th day I went by bike to lake Argus where I saw 2 White-backed Woodpeckers, a Grey-headed Woodpecker and a Black Woodpecker. Also a Nuthatch was seen again in Likolampi. Not bad eco-ticks!

Crazy twitch!

On the 6th day we left to a craziest twitch ever. With Sampsa Cairenius and Miika “potu” Suojarinne we left to Stockholm to twitch a Yellow-browed Warbler! So we drove first to Helsinki. On the way we saw a Kestrel in Kuusankoski, a flock of 8 Grey Partridges, a Common Buzzard and 2 Rough-legged Buzzards in Elimäki. In Helsinki we still got some year-ticks of gulls before we drove to a ferry that was full of ice-hockey fans that were going to Sweden hockey-games. Because of the fans it was difficult to get any sleep during the night.

On the 7th day we woke up early and soon we climbed up to the bridge of the ferry. But the fog was extremely thick, so it was impossible to see anything. At mid-day we finally had managed to drive to Järfalla Sjäbysjön where we easily found the right place. There were about 30 twitchers watching to a feeder and right away when we’re parking we’d see that there was something happening! The bird must have arrived. I took my scope and camera and almost ran to the other birders and pretty soon I managed to see the Yellow-browed Bunting hiding in the middle of the dense branches some 5 metres from the feeder. Also potu managed to see the bird soon but it took some time before Sampsa also saw it. It seemed that all the other birders had been waiting for the bird to arrive for the whole morning! We’re extremely lucky! We spent a couple of hours trying to get some good pictures of the bunting, but the weather was still so foggy and dark and the bird wasn’t present all the time. We could see the bird twice about 25 minutes altogether and finally we managed to get some good enough pictures. When the bird left again with a flock of Yellowhammers we decided to keep on birding. On the feeder we had seen also some Nuthatches, heard a Coal Tit and saw a Woodpigeon calling already.

We continued to Vallentuna to twitch and photograph a Black-throated Thrush. The bird was there already and even though the weather was getting even worse we managed to get some pretty good pictures. Pretty soon we had to start our way back to the harbour. We still checked a couple of open bays in Stockholm and saw Coots, Black-headed Gulls, Canada Geese and so on. On the ferry we went to eat the best but also the most expensive lunch I’ve ever had. But we had really something to celebrate!

On the 8th of February we were in Helsinki at 9 a.m. We started birding right away and twitched a wintering Barnacle Goose and 4 Wigeons very close to the harbour. Then we continued to Lauttasaari where we saw a Smew, 5 Tufted Ducks, 350 Goldeneyes, 700 Goosanders and surprisingly 4 Pine Grosbeaks. In Espoo Kaitalahti we heard a Wren calling and saw a big flock of Siskins. In Kirkkonummi Ämmässuo rubbish tip potu and Sampsa managed to see a Glauscous Gull but I couldn’t find them from the flock of 4600 Herring Gulls. It was still very foggy. In the afternoon we drove to Siuntio to twitch a White-fronted Goose and 2 Bean Geese. It was already late when we went to Kirkkonummi Saltfjärden where Bearded Reedlings were heard and a couple of Common and Rough-legged Buzzards seen. Then we still had a long way back home.

On the 10th day I had to drive to Lappeenranta and on the way I saw the first migrant in South Karelia too – a Herring Gull was with Canada Goose, a Tufted Duck and a couple of Smews in Vuoksi. On the next evening I twitched a calling Tengmalm’s Owl in Rautjärvi Lahnanen.

On the 13th day I found a Goldeneye and 12 Mallards in Tyrjä but even though I was birding the whole day only other birds I found were a White-backed and a Black Woodpecker in Siikalahti. It was really a winter in Parikkala. In the afternoon of 14th of February I drove again to Lappenranta and saw a Rough-legged Buzzard, 9 Starling and a Rook in Kukkuroinmäki. At night we went to owl-trip with Pekka Punnonen but only an Eagle Owl was seen in Toikansuo and a middle-sized owl seen in Vihtola. Next day we were birding in Lappeeranta fields with Pekka and Jari Kiljunen and saw some Common Buzzards, a Great Grey Shrike, a Dipper, a flock of 30 Black Grouses and again the same birds in Kukkuroinmäki.

A week later on the 20th day I was back in Lappeenranta because of I had the get my car from the service. With jassi we saw a Wren in Toikansuo and in the evening I saw an Eagle Owl again. On the next day I had really nothing to do, so I drove to Savonlinna to twitch a Carrion Crow that had been staying in a rubbish tip. I managed to find from the flock of Hooded Crows, Ravens and Jackdaws and then I continued to see a Black-throated Thrush again. The thrush was now staying in the middle of the city in good bushes full of berries.

On the 22nd of February I did the winter bird count again. 472 birds of 22 species were found. The best birds were a couple of Grey-headed Woodpeckers, a drumming White-backed Woodpecker, a Great Grey Shrike, a Sparrowhawk and 2 Arctic Redpolls.

To Åland

On the 27th day I drove to Nastola where we met with potu again. We twitched a wintering Crane and continued to Lahti to twitch a Crested Lark. The lark was perched on a branch and it was singing very quiet but beautiful sub-song. I managed to get some good pictures of it. Soon we continued to Turku where we were in the evening. There we met my brother Pirkka and Mikko Ala-Kojola and soon we took a ferry to Åland. We were going to a bird race! At 1 a.m. we were in Åland and after an hour driving we’re finally in Torp in our hotel.

On the 28th of February after some three hours sleeping we woke up, had a breakfast and started to rally at 7 a.m. We started from Degersand where we had Red-breasted Mergansers, Black Guillemots and 2 migrating male Eiders. In Torp we heard a Coal Tit singing and in Storby we found a singing Wren and one of the only Rock Pigeons of the island. A Water Rail was found from a reedbed where we had found the same species 3 years earlier in a race too. On the harbour we saw a female Eider. In Käringsundby we were lucky to find an Arctic Redpoll in a flock of Redpolls and in one feeder we saw 2 Chaffinches, a Brambling and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Also a Black Woodpecker was heard drumming. In Hammarland we saw a Dipper and heard a Crested Tit and soon continued to Jomala Hammaruddan where Willow Tits were welcoming us. But then it started snowing very hard. We couldn’t see almost at all to the sea. After almost an hour waiting the weather turned better and we could see 10 White-tailed Eagles, 2 flocks of Purple Sandpipers, 16 Smews and so on but still the visibility wasn’t good enough to see more seabirds like Razorbills or scoters. Luckily a flock of Waxbills flew over us and a Treecreeper was calling. In Kungsöbatteri we saw a Great Grey Shrike but then we ran out of luck. Both Ramsholmen and Torpfjärden just spent our time with no new species. The next new species were found in Maarianhamina harbour when a Coot and a female Scaup were found. In Lemland Nåtö we saw 15 Grey Herons. We continued via Finström (where another Rock Pigeon was seen) to Sund Kasteholma where we managed to twitch a Kingfisher and saw also another Water Rail. Even though we did our best we couldn’t get any more species so our final number was 53. It wasn’t enough to be in top in this extremely good quality rally. In the evening we made plans how to start March in Åland on the next morning.