October 2005

October – Finally some time to relax

In the beginning of October I still had to do duck-counts in Siikalahti twice a week and then counts in Saari once in 10 days, but in the end of the month there was no need to do the counts so often because most of the birds left. So I had time to do mapping and all the computer work.

A Couple of first counts in Siikalahti were still quite good: there were lots of ducks, even some Scaups and a late Gadwall, but also I saw a Three-toed Woodpecker and some Parrot Crossbills. Some flocks of Barnacle Geese were migrating even though it was a strong southern wind for weeks.

I tried to see some arctic migration in Tähtiniemi but nothing much were seen. Of course some flocks of Barnacle and Brent Geese and a Peregrine Falcon but there were much more to come.

Even the ducks in Siikalahti were waiting for the wind to turn to north. The old White-tailed Eagle was still there and a flock of Bewick’s Swans was seen to my 196th species in Siikalahti this year.

At last on 16th day the wind changed and all the birds that had been waiting started their migration. We went to Punkaharju Hirvikoski but it was a mistake. The wind was much stronger than we expected so it was really cold there.

The morning was quiet but then in mid-day we saw lots of flocks of geese but they were mostly really far. We were almost freezing when I got a message: There was a Red-breasted Goose in Saari Kuposenmäki! We were happy to leave the too arctic migration watching point and after a half an hour we were in Kuposenmäki.

Finding the Red-breasted Goose wasn’t easy. There was a feeding flock of 4000 Barnacle Geese and mostly they were behind the trees. But after a half an hour searching the whole flock did a short flight and we managed to see the Red-breasted shortly. It was a lifer!

During the next 2 hours the Geese were again feeding and nobody saw the Red-breasted, but there was amazing migration going above us all the time! Thousands and thousands of Barnacle and Brent Geese and some White-fronted and Bean Geese and some big flocks of Bewick’s Swans!

Then 4 o’clock all the local geese got afraid again something and some 400 geese decided to leave and the Red-breasted Goose was with them. So not all twitchers managed to see the bird.

The migration continued the whole day and even whole night! In the evening most of the geese were White-fronted Geese, but many Barnacle and Brent Geese were still migrating too.

After all we saw almost 50000 migrating geese, 168 Bewick’s Swans, a couple of White-tailed Eagles and then we had got a lifer – it had been a perfect day!

It felt like almost all migrating birds had gone in one day. Siikalahti was almost empty, so I could rest a couple of days before the next trip. In 19th day after I had counted the few ducks in Siikalahti I started my way to Helsinki. There I met Matti Lötjönen, Jari (Konza) Kontiokorpi and Esko Veijalainen and we continued to Lithuania.

First we took a ferry to Tallinn and then we drove all night to Lithuania. In early morning we arrived at Curonian Spit. Esko and Matti who had been driving went to sleep to a tent but I and Konza started to watch to the Baltic Sea and to the coast and wait for the morning migration to begin.

In early morning the migration was quite poor, so Konza slept for one hour so I was birding alone. But then in 10 o’clock the migration really started. The passerines (mostly Chaffinches, Bramblings, Redpolls, Siskins, Twites, Greenfinches and Starlings) were migrating all the time. I managed to see a Grey Wagtail (a big rarity) alone and a Serin with Esko. Also 2 Shore Larks, some Razorbills, Bewick’s Swans, Stock Doves, Sparrowhawks, a Pochard, a Hen Harrier and so on were seen.

About 1 p.m. we drove to Nida because of it was a better place to see raptor migration. It was interesting to notice that all Common and Rough-legged Buzzards and the only Hen Harrier were moving north while the Sparrowhawks were moving normally south.

In the evening we met the two other Finnish rally teams and we had a good time in local restaurant.

On 21st day we drove to the coast and started to explore the bird places because it was the day before the rally. Everything went perfect! We found a couple of good places, one good duck-place with Little Grebes and Pochards and even Bearded Tits and then a small but good forest with Middle and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a Wren and Marsh and Crested Tits. Then all the other known places were really good! There were huge numbers of birds almost everywhere! The Rusne and the Kintai pools were totally full of birds: 8 Great White Egrets, 100 Gadwalls, 800 Snipes, a couple of thousand Golden Plovers and hundreds of Lapwings – and then White-tailed Eagles. Other good observations were Black Redstarts, Serins and a Collared Dove and so on.

On the rally day everything went perfect – even the weather was really good. The morning was pretty misty and windy so the migration wasn’t that good. Bullfinches were on their way but Konza and Esko managed to see for example Hawfinches, a Shore Lark, a Wood Lark, a Peregrine Falcon while me and Matti found a Redshank, at least 60 Spotted Redshanks, Ringed Plovers, Dunlins, Grey Plovers and so on from Kintai pools. We also saw a White Wagtail, big flocks of Bewick’s Swans and a about 30 White-tailed Eagles there.

Then we went to see the Black Redstarts we had found the day before, and after finding one we had to hurry to Palanga where was a rally check point.

Palanga offered both divers, Long-tailed Ducks, Common Crossbills, Caspian Gull and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Next we hurried to Klaipeda rubbish tip where we found Grey Partridges, Dunnocks and then we went to the secret places. At the small pool we saw a Little Grebe and Pochards but no Bearded Tits, but we heard Crested Tits, then on the forest we found the both woodpeckers, Marsh Tits and a Nuthatch!

On the way south we saw again Collared Doves in same place than the day before. While we were driving a highway I saw a big raptor which just landed behind the small hill. We ran after it but only Konza managed to see it shortly. It was probably a Greater Spotted Eagle but the observations were too short. A pity we couldn’t get it as a rally tick.

But soon we got a good tick when we found a Moorhen. Then we drove quickly south to Rusne where split again to two. Esko and Konza managed to see Pintails and a Chiffchaff, we all saw Great White Storks, Smews, Goosanders and a Peregrine, but only me and Matti saw a very weird looking shrike! Even today I have no idea what it was! I managed to get some pictures of the shrike even it was already pretty dark. The bird was small, big-headed and short-tailed like a Lesser Grey Shrike. The underparts were darkish with some reddish colouration. There was a little white on the forehead but hardly any above the eyes. But then the upperparts were quite pale grey and there was even paler in rump. So it couldn’t have been a Southern Grey Shrike even though I really think it never was a Great Grey Shrike either.

Well anyway we had to hurry to Ventai where all the teams had to be on 6.30 p.m. when the rally ended. On last minute we managed to find a flock of Slavonian Grebes behind the big flocks of Scaups on the hotel beach.

The results of the rally weren’t a surprise: we won clearly! We had seen 110 species while the second had got 99 and third 93 species. We celebrated our victory late in the night but 1 a.m. we really had to go to sleep even though it was nice to talk with all the other rally teams.

On 23rd of October we had to start out way back to Finland early. We drove straight to Latvia Saulkrasti where we did some sea watching and again with luck – we saw a Pomarine Skua! After only a half an hour seawatching we had to continue to Estonia and to Tallinn.

At 7.30 p.m. we took a ferry to Helsinki and I was at home 2 a.m. at night. The trip to Lithuania had been a perfect end for the autumn!

While our trip almost whole Siikalahti had frozen and there were no many birds left! There was snow on the ground – it was a winter!

During the last days of October we had to start a huge work! We had almost 100 nest boxes for owls that we had to get to the forests. But because there was nothing much to do anymore we would have time for whole November!