June 2008

June birding

On the 1st of June I drove right after midnight to Joutseno to twitch a Turtle Dove. On the way I heard 2 Grasshopper Warblers and Corn Crakes in Koitsanlahti. The Turtle Dove was found easily and also a flock of 70 Brent Geese were seen. Later we continued birding in Joutseno together with Pekka Punnonen and Jari Kiljunen and we saw several flocks of Brent Geese, a Common Crossbill and a Bean Goose. In the evening in Myllymäki together with Veli-Pekka Lehtonen we saw 2 migrating cormorants and another bird was much smaller. It was too far to identify but it might have been a Shag! We still went to Laaksola forest where we found a Red-breasted Flycatcher. Also a Three-toed Woodpecker and a Coal Tit were found.

Kuusamo bird race

On the 4th day I started a long drive to Kuusamo. I had got a good offer to join to Kuusamo bird race in team Takaveto together with Andreas Lindén, Vesa Jouhki, Jukka Salokangas and Jaakko Aarniala. The rest of the team had been preparing the race for a week or even more. I drove directly to Kuusamo where I birded a whole night but I couldn’t find anything really special. At early morning of 5th day I went directly to sleep to our cottage where the rest of our team was already sleeping. And in the evening we all woke up and made the last plan for the race.

A couple of hours before the race we packed our rental-Pajero and went to check that a couple of good species were still where they were supposed to be – a Capercaillie and the last nestling of a Tengmalm’s Owl were seen.

At midnight of 6th day the race started. We had a good start with 5 Cormorants and 2 Woodcocks. The Capercaillie was still on its place but the nest of Tengmalm’s Owl seemed to be empty! Luckily 2 young birds started to call and beg for food soon. And soon we found a good surprise species when a Bluethroat was heard singing.

Soon we had a Red-throated Diver, Common Scoters, a Rustic Bunting, a female Pygmy Owl calling, a Three-toed Woodpecker drumming and a Kestrel before we continued to a good bog-area where a Jack Snipe was found immediately. 6 Red-throated Phalaropes, a Spotted Redshank, a Black Woodpecker and finally a Broad-billed Sandpiper were found too.

Along the small roads we heard another Rustic Bunting and saw 2 Willow Grouses. 2 calling Pine Grosbeaks were also found and a Two-barred Crossbill flew over us in the same forest-place. While driving along the main roads we were again lucky when we first found a Rough-legged Buzzard and soon also a Common Buzzard.

The morning was late when we headed to Iivaara where we had to spend almost 2 hours to find several Red-flanked Bluetails, 2 Hazel Hens and a flock of Parrot Crossbills.

Then we had to hurry to Toranki where we luckily saw a Marsh Harrier. The next hour was really good – a Honey Buzzard, a White-tailed Eagle, a Lesser Ringed Plover, a Garden Warbler, a Tree Sparrow and Rock Doves were found. But then we had a flat tire! Luckily we were on the centre of the city so we decided that Jukka tries to get the tire changed and the rest of us took a taxi and kept on going. We twitched a Siberian Tit, Lapwings and Skylarks before heading to Ruka where we tried to find a Grey Wagtail. The wagtail wasn’t found but soon Jukka came with the car and we headed to Vuotunki which was amazing! A Sparrowhawk, a Temminck’s Stint, a Dunlin, Ruffs, a Redshank, a couple of Gadwalls and a Jackdaw were much more than we had expected. Next we had planned to find Bean Geese but when we found a flock of geese there weren’t only Bean Geese but also a Pink-footed Goose with them! A new species for the race ever!

On the rubbish tip we found a Great Black-backed Gull, several Heuglin’s Gulls and a strange pale gull which might have been a hybrid between Glauscous and Herring Gull. After a long drive we found a Little Bunting and a Dipper and 2 Grey Wagtails in Ruka.

The weather was getting a little bit better and the wind was slowing down so we still decided to try to find some missing passerines even though it was already late. It was our 3rd try of Lesser Whitethroat when we finally managed to find it, but even bigger surprise was a Wood Warbler that was found on the same place than it had been on the previous year, not earlier on this year. Also 2 Chiffchaffs were finally heard but then it came too late so we couldn’t find a Lesser Woodpecker or a Wryneck even though we knew several birds.

Then we had our longest hour without any new species but finally a good surprise a Great Grey Shrike was found. Also a Goshawk was still seen on its nest before we continued to our last place to Oulanka.

Unfortunately a nest of a Merlin was empty but a Golden Eagle nestling was seen. During the last hour we were trying to find owls and we managed to find a Ural Owl.

After the race we drove directly to our cottage where we slept until the morning. At 9 a.m. we drove again back to Oulanka where we tried to watch for raptors but the weather was too bad. But surprisingly a flock of Knots were seen migrating. On the way back a Capercaillie and a Willow Grouse were seen.

In the evening the results f the race were told. It was the most exciting hours I have ever had and after all we won the race with 132 species. The second team McRallus had 130 species. The 3rd team was Paras A-ryhmä and 4th was a 24-hours eco-team, Doz-K-Hahn that had been bicycling all the time and they had amazing 118 species! But we had won the Kuusamo race!


The next couple of hours we were celebrating but then we decided to go to twitch with Andy. First we went to rubbish tip where 2 teams had had an Iceland Gull and the bird was found immediately. Then we drove 250 kilometres to Sodankylä to twitch an American Black Duck but we weren’t lucky even though we tried whole night. It was raining hard and we were extremely tired so it wasn’t that much fun.

When we were back to Kuusamo Vesa and Jaakko had already left and soon Andreas and Jukka left too. I decided to sleep for a couple of hours before I started my long way back home. Crazy as I am I decided to drive first to Oulu. I twitched Mute Swans as Oulu-tick and a Corn Bunting in Tyrnävä. Luckily also a Rose-coloured Starling was found in Oulu so I went to twitch that too. I still tried to twitch a Savi’s Warbler but it was probably gone. After all I was at Parikkala at morning and I had to go straight to work – and I was sooo tired!

On the 9th day I still couldn’t go to sleep because of a Bee-eater was found in Ristiina. So I still twitched it together with Anniina Tiainen and only at night I managed to go to sleep.

Hanna was also back at home from Georgia and Kuusamo guiding so the next day we were just resting. We were both extremely tired. But on the 11th day I had to go twitching again when a Lesser White-fronted Goose was found in Tohmajärvi Sääperi. We went to twitch together with Johannes Hänninen and Hanna Hyvönen and the bird was found right away. It was feeding on a field together with a 2nd c-y White-fronted Goose. On the way back we checked that the breeding of a Great Grey Owl in Parikkala was still ok. 2 nestling were watching us from the nest.

On the next day we went to ring these Great Grey Owl nestlings. Hanna wanted to climb to this 12 metres high nest and I was ringing them on the ground. The mama-owl was very kind and let us did our work in peace. In a same place there was also a White-backed Woodpecker.

On the 13th day at night I was birding together with Hannes and Pirjo Tiira. All the common night-singers were found but nothing special. Anyway even though Hannes is a famous recorder and night-listener it was again nice to hear many Spotted Crakes, Blyth’s Reed Warblers, Golden Orioles and other birds that are not so common in Western Finland. Later during the day we went with Hanna to try to ring other nestlings of Great Grey Owl in Rautjärvi but the nest was too high on the huge spruce so it was impossible to climb.

On the 15th day we had an eco-race. We biked with Hanna more than 60 kilometres in 10 hours in Parikkala and found 104 species. It was a horrible weather, raining almost all the time. The best birds we found were a nest of a Three-toed Woodpecker, a family of Siberian Jays, a Redshank, a Ruff, 2 Canada Geese, all the common night-singers including Reed and Great Reed Warbler and so on. It was nice to explore the nearest birding places this way for a while.

The real MEGA

Once we were back at home I got a call from Hannes Tiira that they had found probably a real MEGA a Swinhoe’s Snipe in Tohmajärvi. He told to take recording equipment with me and also that the alert was already going to all other birders around the country. So we left immediately. On the way I was all the time solving out why on earth the alert-message hadn’t arrived, but only when we were already there in Niirala the message came. After 20 minutes waiting the bird was found on the sky and it started its amazing display with strange voice from its tail-feathers! I managed to get a Swinhoe’s Snipe recordings and sent it by email to put to the internet and soon all the birders in whole country were sure that there really was a Swinhoe’s Snipe in Tohmajärvi!

It took a long time before the real twitchers started to arrive from Helsinki and Tampere so meanwhile we twitched 2 displaying Great Snipes only a couple of kilometres from the Swinhoe’s Snipe. I got good recording of these amazing birds too and we also heard a Booted Warbler singing shortly before we went back to Niirala. The Swinhoe’s Snipe was quiet for a couple of hours but finally it started to display again and people were so happy! When the top twitchers had got their lifer we decided to drive back home because of I had to be at work soon.

The end of the June

On the 17th of June we found 2 Black Terns in Siikalahti and I twitched a White Stork in Rautjärvi Purnujärvi. I also went to record the nestlings of Three-toed Woodpecker.

On the 18th day a Red-footed Falcon was found in Siikalahti and in the evening we went to ring the Three-toed Woodpecker nestlings together with Hanna and Anniina. There were 4 nestlings that left their nest only the day after ringing.

On the 19th of June I was again birding whole night but nothing special was found – of course Blyth’s Reed, River and Grasshopper Warblers, Spotter and Corn Crakes, Water Rails, Golden Orioles and Nightjars and so on. On the 20th day we went to ring a young Ural Owl that Anniina had found in Uukuniemi. Unfortunately 2 other youngsters weren’t found. We did birding on the way back but the best bird was a twitched Red-breasted Flycatcher in Rautalahti and we managed to find one more Ural Owl in Syvälahti.

On the 21st day we were guiding Chris Batty and a British group. We still managed to find a fledling of Three-toed Woodpecker, a family of Siberian Jays, 2 families of Hazel Hens, a Red-backed Shrike and so on. A Red-footed Falcon was still in Siikalahti and then we still went to see the Great Grey Owls and surprisingly we found out that one youngster was already on the ground while another was still on the nest. So we ringed this stunning bird and the group really got something special! Hanna still continued with the group and they had for example White-backed Woodpeckers and all the night-singers. Hanna also told them how to find a Willow Grouse in Kontiolahti and they made it.

Meanwhile I drove to Lappeenranta where I picked up Pekka Punnonen and then in Lahti Miika Suojarinne was picked up. We continued a long way to Lempäälä where we were at 4 a.m. After 15 minutes we found what we were searching for – a Lesser Yellowlegs! It was just flying briefly over a grassy island before it landed invisible. We waited for 4 hours to see it again but we weren’t lucky. Anyway we all managed to see it well enough to get another lifer! After 8 a.m. we started our way back. With Pekka we still stopped in Iitti Mukulanlahti and twitched 3 Caspian Tern in Lappeenranta Askola. I still twitched a Quail in Joutseno Kilteinen before I was back home – tired again!

On the 23rd day my both brothers came to Parikkala with their families. On the first night we went to twitch Swinhoe’s Snipe with Pirkka. Luckily the bird was heard right away. We also twitched a Savi’s Warbler and Great Snipes that we managed to see very well while they were feeding on the field. On the way we still managed to find a Ural Owl fledling and see an adult Great Grey Owl and heard the youngsters calling.

The rest of the week went while watching football and playing with children. Also my parents arrived so after working I had no time for birding almost at all. At 26th day we did a short night-trip but nothing special was found. On the last days of June I was sick. Anyway I had a great weekend in Oulu with my old friends, but no birding was done. But after all I had got an amazing bird-month!