Photographing trip to Oulu-area

In the second half of January there weren’t many birds around. But I did some birding every day if the weather was OK. There were still some Goldcrests alive in the forests and also some forest-tits that are really getting rare nowadays. In Moskuunniemi I still saw the Brambling almost every time I tried to see it.

On the 21st of January we went to Imatra to do some shopping. On the way we stopped in Rautjärvi Simpele Lahnanen where we saw 10 adults and 1 young Whooper Swans, Mallards, a male Goldeneye and also a Little Grebe. Of course a couple of Dippers were also seen. In Imatra we saw of course Goldeneyes, Goosanders and Cormorants and then a female Teal that was with many Mallards in Mansikkala.

In the end of January the Hawk Owl had moved to Tetrisuo. I started to be sure that there was after all only one Hawk Owl that was moving in a huge area around Siikalahti and also along main-road 6 until Särkisalmi. On the 22nd day we saw the same owl when we were skiing around Siikalahti. We also saw a Pygmy Owl and a couple of flocks of Long-tailed Tits. On the 23rd day I saw a Nuthatch in Moskuunniemi.

In the evening we went to take pictures of a comet that was showing on the night-sky.

On the 28th of January was the Garden Twitch. We participated at our feeder in Tiviä where we saw a White-backed and a Grey-headed Woodpecker and Long-tailed Tits and so on. Then we spent another hour in Tarvaslampi in our hide but there weren’t any better birds.

On the 29th day we visited Simpele again and in Lahnanen we saw a Little Grebe, 4 Whooper Swans and a female Goldeneye. On a short trip we observed 3 Grey-headed Woodpeckers and the same Hawk Owl again in Tetrisuo where on the next day I saw also a Great Grey Shrikecwhich was showing also later.

To Oulu area

On Wednesday the 1st of February after work we started a short holiday. I packed our car full and at 3:30 p.m. went to pick up Hanna from work and then we started a long drive to Oulu. We stopped only once on the way and were finally in Oulu after 9 p.m. We stayed night in my brother Riku’s camper.

On the 2nd of February we did some shopping and then went to eat with Riku and his son Eetu. Then we drove to Liminka Virkkula information center where we did some organizing and soon our guide arrived and we followed him a short way to a parking place that was in the middle of a forest. When we parked our car we saw a couple of caravans that had been made as photographing hides. And in front of them there was a carcass and an adult White-tailed Eagle just left from the carcass because of us. There had been a photographer inside another caravan from early morning and for sure he wasn’t happy but what we could do?

Soon we were inside our camper and had the heating on. And in a few minutes we had everything ready for taking pictures. But we had to wait for a long time before anything happened but finally a young Northern Goshawk arrived to the carcass and we could take some pictures. This hawk was eating so much that we were afraid that there was nothing left for our main-targets.

This Goshawk ate for a long time but then suddenly froze still and opened its wings. And immediately another young Goshawk attacked it. They both dropped down to snow where they had a short fight before flying to the forest. Unfortunately I had just taken video and didn’t manage to get any pictures of this fight.

It was soon getting dark and we stayed still and waited for something more to happen. Our caravan was finally getting warmer and after 5 p.m. we heard an Eagle Owl calling behind us. Soon it called again and then also a female started calling a little bit more distant on the other side of a small open area. Then it continued like this whole night! A male was calling about every 40 minutes and almost every time female was answering. They always called about 10 minutes and then it was again quiet – only trees were banging in freezing night.

It was a long wait! Hanna was sleeping a couple of times at midnight and early in the morning we both slept shortly in turns. Finally at 6 a.m. we heard an Eagle Owl calling closer than ever and soon Hanna whispered that the bird had arrived to the carcass. I had to slowly sneak to my seat and camera that were as far as possible from the bed.

Luckily the owl started to eat immediately and we started to take pictures! There were 2 lights pointing to the carcass so there was pretty good light to take pictures even though it was still completely dark outside.

After the owl had eaten a long time it rose its “ears” up and called shortly and then a female Eagle Owl arrived to the carcass. Unfortunately there was no room for both birds, so male had to fly away.

The female wasn’t eating too long but after a half an hour it came back to eat some more. When the sun was already setting we still heard these owls a couple of times but then it was time to start waiting for the day-birds to arrive.

Before 10 a.m. the same young Goshawk arrived again and at least a couple of other Goshawks were calling nearby. After at least 2 young birds had been on the feeder a couple of times also an adult male Goshawk arrived. But it could eat only shortly as an adult White-tailed Eagle that had arrived to the top of a spruce a little bit earlier didn’t let it eat but chase it away. But then this White-tailed Eagle arrived to eat which was very nice!

The eagle stayed there for some time until it flew to top of a tree again. Then it was quiet for some time until the adult Goshawk arrived but again the eagle chase it away even though it didn’t come to eat at all.

Just before mid-day a Grey-headed Woodpecker was seen and it was a new Liminka-tick for me. There were no Grey-headed Woodpeckers around in last century.

Then at 12 o’clock we packed and left to Oulu. We slept an hour in Riku’s camper again and then in the afternoon left to eat with Riku and his wife Pirjo. We searched for a restaurant that wasn’t full for some time and finally found room in Rooster. There we met also my another brother Pirkka and his daughter Iina. And after we had eaten we left toward ice-hall with Hanna and my brothers. There was soon Dream Theater playing.

We found a parking place surprisingly easily and walked to the doors which were still closed! There were not many people either! Then we noticed a sign on the door that told that the concert had been cancelled! Only then I got a text-message that told the same thing! It was only 10 minutes to the beginning of the concert!

Later I noticed that I had got an email that told that the concert had been delayed by an hour. That is the reason why there weren’t so many people yet but the final cancelling was really made only 10 minutes before the doors were about to be opened in the changed schedule. On the next day we heard that there had been too weak stage for the band to play safely or roadies to work or even for the audience. Somebody had really messed up badly! Luckily we hadn’t been driving 500 kilometers just only because of this concert but we still had a lot to do!

Of course it was a disappointment that the concert had been cancelled but at least moneys were supposed to be paid back. We decided to do something else and went to movies to watch Finnish Sisu-movie which wasn’t very good. But the Premium-hall of Plaza-movie theater was an experience with its crazy soft seats.

On the 4th of February we woke up early at 4 a.m. and left towards Utajärvi. Before 5 a.m. we parked to Utanen where we were supposed to meet our guide. But when we saw nobody we started to eat some breakfast and meanwhile I checked my email if there was something new about the canceled concert. But I found a message that told that the meeting in Utanen had been delayed by 30 minutes.

It was -24,5 C degrees cold but of course it was warm in our car. We had just finished our breakfast when other cars started to arrive and soon our guide arrived too. We followed his car for about 10 kilometers along small roads to parking place from where we still had 300 meters walk to hides.

We pulled our stuff with a ledge to the hides and we got a hide that was in the middle. Soon the heater was on and candles burning under small icy windows so they might melt a little and give us some visibility outside.

The hide was soon very warm so it was really big temperature difference between inside and outside. And of course our cameras were in but part of objectives outside. We had done everything possible with my 100-500mm lens to avoid moisture to get inside but when the sun was setting and I was taking some pictures of a distant Grey-headed Woodpecker I noticed that the picture was completely grey! My lens was completely foggy and I found out that unfortunately there was already some moisture inside the lens too! Maybe it had got some moist in already in Ecuador and now it had frozen inside the lens? Luckily Hanna was using her RF400mm and had also similar zoom with her. And as there was still nothing happening outside I was able to change the lens. Otherwise I wouldn’t have taken any pictures during the day!

On both sides of our hide there were some feeders for passerines and nice branches and sticks where to photograph them but they were in too sharp angle from our hide so we couldn’t turn our cameras there. There were only a couple of branches in front of our hide and even though we had put some bird-food next to them, there were almost no birds at all visiting these branches.

I had been following the visitors of the left side feeder for a long time through the only open-melted tiny glass that we got before I finally saw a Siberian Tit shortly. But it visited so briefly and in a place that wasn’t visible for Hanna at all.

So after all we didn’t take any pictures at all until at 1:35 p.m. when an adult Golden Eagle finally arrived to the top of spruce quite far behind the open area.

Soon the eagle flew straight towards us and landed to a Red Squirrel that had been put to a branch as a carcass. But the squirrel was so frozen that eagle managed only to cut half of its tail. So soon the eagle flew to a snowy hill where was a hare to eat. Here the eagle started to eat well.

A couple of times the eagle was moving from carcass to another one but I didn’t manage to get any really good flight-pictures even though the weather and light were perfect. Maybe the holes for the lens were a little bit too small for flight-photographing – for sure for Hanna’s lens they were. But I had also taped my lens well to the fabric that was also very hard because of the extremely cold weather. But here it is good to mention that Finnature is building new hides to this place already in this winter so they probably will have a bigger photographing-holes that are planned for lenses that are getting bigger and bigger.

After an hour or so also a female eagle arrived and together these eagles were feeding on a hare. It was clear that they had been practicing a lot as they really know how to shred the carcass together. The light was already getting worse for photographing and quite soon the male flew to the top of a spruce and then left. The female stayed until 3:23 p.m. until it flushed and disappeared behind the tree-tops.

At 4 p.m. we packed our things and left towards our car. Soon everyone else was there too. We drove to Muhos to eat and then continued to Villa Finnature to stay over night,

Villa Finnature was really nice and it must be a perfect place for Finnature to stay with their clients. It must be really good place to stay for every birder and photographer group that comes to Oulu area. We can highly recommend it!

On the 5th of February we woke up at 5 a.m. and soon we were ready to leave to the hides again. Our guide came to get new carcass from the freezer and together with another group that was again coming to the hides we followed her to Utanen. There was one more car soon and then we drove to the parking place and walked to the hides again.

We were staying in the same hide again and we put some more food for tits as we still hoped to get some pictures of a Siberian Tit too. The weather was more cloudy and for some reason much more quiet. There were only some Great, Blue and Willow Tits visiting the feeders. I decided to sleep a couple of hours and didn’t miss a thing.

After 11 a.m. Siberian Tit finally visited the branches in front of the hide right from us. And soon it came to visit the couple of branches where we could photograph it. It was very mobile but after an hour trying I had managed to get some pictures.

The bird visited the stick that Hanna could photograph only twice but she also got some pictures. We also photographed other tits and Jays and then a Grey-headed Woodpecker came to the right branch – it seems they are everywhere nowadays.

The Golden Eagle arrived about same time than on the previous day. It stopped only briefly on a top of a spruce and then flew straight to the hare. I managed to get good pictures of the bird arriving.

I had some setting a little bit wrong as I had expected the bird to fly a little bit higher against the forest but luckily I managed to fix them somehow.

Now the eagle was just eating. It didn’t change place at all. And it stayed shorter time and female was seen only once in flight behind the trees – it didn’t come to eat at all. After an hour or so the male also left and never came back even though we waited until 4 p.m. again.

In the evening we had a long drive back to Parikkala. We drove via Kainuu and nothing happened on the way really. In Liperi we stopped to eat and we were finally at home at 10 p.m. It had been a great trip even though there had been small misfortunes too.

Thanks to Finnature’s Jari Peltomäki, our guides Jukka, Janne and Tanja and Irene who helped us to book the hides and give all instructions. We will come back!

- J.A.