Amazing weekend

On Friday the 8th of October I had planned to start driving towards Kirkkonummi and my parents and then to participate half-marathon in Vantaa on the next day. But I hadn’t paid the participation yet. There had been a Sandhill Crane in Tyrnävä for a few days so it was my other choice. When a Great Skua was found in Kuhmoinen, I left towards south-west. But I had also my running equipment with me.

It was a long drive and I had plans to go to the other side of Lake Päijänne to Sysmä to try if the skua was possible to see from there as it was more than half an hour shorter drive. Luckily after an hour driving I got information that skua had been seen in Sysmä. Finally I arrived at Kähäränsaari and after some U-turns, I finally found the right road. It was a narrow track and of course a car was coming. Luckily it was the owner of the last cottage and he knew about the bird and told me to drive to the end of the road to his cottage.

Teo Ylätalo and Antti Vänskä followed me and soo we were walking towards the rocky tip to the shore. There was only one birder, Timo Leppänen, but he had just seen the skua in flight and he had seen where it had landed far to the lake. So we started scanning the lake and pretty soon Timo found the bird. It was very far but it opened its wings a couple of times so we could tell it was the right bird! But of course we wanted to see it better.

A couple of flocks of gulls flew past the skua but it didn’t do anything. Finally a fishing boat was coming very close to it and passed it but still nothing happened. But then suddenly the bird flushed and followed the boat for some hundreds of meters and we could see it pretty well! I had then seen enough and decided to walk back to my car and so make some space to the small parking place as there were still birders coming.

There was no news about the Sandhill Crane for many hours but I made a couple of phone-calls to my friends in Oulu and found out that it had been raining all afternoon. So there probably hadn’t been many birders and for sure the crane hadn’t left anywhere in that weather. So I started to drive towards Oulu.

My brother Pirkka was also driving to Oulu so we were going to do birding together there. Again it was a long drive but I stopped only once to eat and finally late in the evening I parked to my brother Riku’s yard. Riku’s family was at their cottage for weekend but I was sleeping in their camper. After all also Pirkka came to sleep there as he came so late that he didn’t wasn’t to go to wake up his daughter.

On the 9th of October we woke up after 6 a.m. and soon were driving towards Tupos where I left my car. Then we continued to Liminka Savela fields where in 3 of 4 mornings the Sandhill Crane had been seen flying from the roost from Liminka Bay towards Tyrnävä Parras fields where it had been seen every day.

There were already a few birders and we joined Jyrki Normaja and started scanning the still dark skies. After some waiting we heard the first Common Cranes and soon flocks started to pass us. Most of the flocks were flying very low so some birds were very difficult to see as there was also some fog in the air. I already started to feel hopeless that how we could see one bird with hundreds and even some thousands of cranes but then I noticed a smaller crane with 4 Common Cranes. I turned my scope towards it and there it was – a Sandhill Crane! We all saw the bird well and even managed to get some pictures when it passed us. I did sent a message that the bird was coming towards Parras with 4 Common Cranes and soon we followed the bird towards Parras too.

There were at least 20 cars along the road in Parras but the Sandhill Crane hadn’t arrived there. There were no Common Cranes either, only some distant flocks were seen in flight far over big Tyrnävä fields. Some Taiga Bean Geese flocks were also flying around with some Pink-footed Geese. A white-tailed Eagle was perched on the roof of one barn which of course caused some panic amongst the birds.

After we had seen plenty of Pink-footed Geese more and a couple of leucistic Taiga Bean Goose, we decided to go to check other fields with Pirkka. We were hoping to find a Snow Goose or a family of Lesser White-fronted Geese that had also seen around.

We checked Jokisilta and Murto fields and found plenty of more Taiga Bean and Pink-footed Geese, a couple of Hen Harriers, a Merlin and lots of Common Cranes that were still mostly just flying around.

Then we got a message that Snow Goose had arrived at Parras and soon after that Jyrki had found also the Sandhill Crane there. So we decided to drive back there.

Sandhill Crane was behind some vegetation but still visible time to time. The family of Common Cranes was chasing it a little bit and after some time it lost it nerves and flew straight towards the crowd of twitchers. It then landed to a flock of Whooper Swans about 100 meters from the road! I walked with my camera closer along the road and soon I was taking pictures with many other photographers.

Sandhill Crane was feeding very actively so not very good pictures were got. And when it finally flushed again I somehow had focus wrong. But at least I had seen the bird extremely well now!

We also saw the Snow Goose that was with a flock of Taiga Bean Geese. Pretty soon we decided to go to check some more fields to Liminka and Lumijoki where we hoped to find Lesser White-fronted Geese.

We found nothing from the fields so we continued to Virkkula bird-tower and there were amazing numbers of ducks but also geese on the protected area. Some Barnacle Geese were with Taiga Bean Geese and 8 White-tailed Eagles were seen, but nothing better than that even though there were lots of stuff.

Se we continued to Lumijoki and until Varjakka where we found only a small flock of Waxwings. Then we drove to Sannanlahti where a big flock of 195 Pintails were counted. In Lamukari there were 300 Barnacle Geese, 2 Grey Plovers were seen in flight and some small waders were there too but too far to identify. While I was zooming the waders I found a Black Guillemot flying past Lamukari. Pirkka also found it and I think there can’t be many records in Liminka Bay!

After we had seen a Hen Harrier we continued to Virkkula to see cranes and geese coming to roost. We estimated 5000 to 7000 Common Cranes but didn’t see Sandhill Crane with them. A couple of thousands of Taiga Bean Geese arrived too but only better goose was a Greylag Goose. We also saw 130 Ruffs coming from Tyrnävä fields and 32 Common Snipes which most of them left to the sky. Also Starling flocks, a Peregrine, 2 Hen Harriers, a Goshawk and a Grey Heron were seen. But soon it was getting too dark and we left towards Oulu.

We still went to eat with Pirkka and his daughter Iina and then Pirkka left towards Kemijärvi but I went again to sleep in Riku’s camper.

1oth of October I woke up too early but soon left towards Oulunsalo. The ferry to Hailuoto left at 7:30 a.m. and it was still dark. It was raining a little but soon I found out that it was also very foggy. But in the evening I had agreed with Jouni Meski that we would do seawatching from his famous cottage. He had got the first Brown Shrike for Finland and and possible Eastern Yellow Wagtail in last month!

When in Hailuoto I kept on driving towards Marjaniemi and the weather was getting worse. So in Hannusranta I didn’t take my scope at all. Heikki Tuohimaa was also there with Jouni and the next hour we were just talking and enjoying the foggy view from the terrace. But after all I had to go birding as I had came this far. There was no visibility so only thing I could do was to go to try to find some waders. Jouni and Heikki had got some wafers in North-Western corner of the island so I decided to go to Keskiniemi where it was possible to go with ordinary car. I had already on the previous day said that I would find something rare in Hailuoto – at least a Pectoral Sandpiper…

Soon I parked to Keskiniemi and of course then it started to rain hard. Anyway I walked to the shore and surprisingly met 3 birders there – Mr. Hailuoto Juha “jurtsi Markkola, Minna Mikkola and Veli-Pekka Honkanen. Together we continued along the shore and soon started to see some waders. Some Dunlins and Golden and Ringed Plovers were found and after a long walk we also found 3 Sanderlings.
We walked some more and one other birders almost turned around but the rain finally got weaker and there still were some distant birds in front of us so we all kept on going.

Finally we were on the place where we could see that the last birds were in front of us, nothing was seen further on the shore. Then I saw a head of a good-looking wader behind some vegetation – it really fit for a Pectoral Sandpiper! Our optics was wet so the rest couldn’t find the bird at all so we walked closer. After all we had walked about 20 meters closer and then the bird started to show well. And of course I wanted to get some pictures too of this self-found tick!

After all I managed to get pretty close to Pectoral Sandpiper but of course I didn’t want to flush it. My camera was pretty wet which I unfortunately didn’t notice. So the pictures weren’t as good as I had hoped but OK anyway. We were very happy while we were walking back to Keskiniemi.

I still visited Hietaniemi and stopped in Potinlahti but there was only fog. So I decided to hurry to the ferry as I knew it was a busy weekend in Hailuoto and I didn’t want to spent time queuing. In Oulunsalo I still spotted briefly in a place where had been a Hoopoe in a couple of days but the weather was bad. So I started driving towards home. After many hours driving I was finally at home and in 5 minutes started the final of Nations League. I had really had amazing weekend – 2 lifers and one self-found tick!

Next week I saw 11th of October 5 migrating Greater Scaups and 41 Velvet Scoters, a Hen Harrier and a Kestrel in Siikalahti. On Wednesday and Thursday I did the duck-count in Saari and the best birds were a Pochard and a Gadwall in Akonpohja. There were geese only in a couple of places and about 1500 altogether. Other birds seen were Rough-legged Buzzards, Kestrels and Hen Harriers and so on.

J.A