November-race with some rarities

After a poor trip to Säppi I wasn’t expecting to see many birds in Parikkala either. I was almost ready to put my birding gear away for the winter which means about 5 months…

Anyway on the 30th of October I visited Tyrjä where I found a Bewick’s Swan and a Tundra Bean Goose in a big flock of Whooper Swans. I also tried to find a Dipper but it wasn’t there yet.

On the 31st day I visited Moskuunniemi and I was talking with Harri Partanen while we were watching his feeder when I noticed a Marsh Tit. It was visiting the feeder briefly but I managed to get some pictures which helped me to be sure about the identification. Then Harri remembered that he had seen a couple of Willow Tits on the previous day and another one had been browner. He went to pick up his camera and there were pictures of this Marsh Tit already from the previous day. While we were following this tit visiting the feeder, we saw also a Nuthatch.

On the 1st of November started the November bird-race that was in our Bird-club’s area in Parikkala and Rautjärvi. I started by visiting Moskuunniemi where Marsh Tit was soon seen. Usually I should have gone to Siikalahti but it had been frozen for some time already. So after I had seen Cormorants in Härskiinmutka, a Black Woodpecker in Kirkonkylä and a Common Scoter in Kirkkolahti I headed towards Varialahti. On the way I saw a Goshawk in Siikalahti and found probably the same Whooper Swan flock in Kaukola and both the Bewick’s Swan and Tundra Bean Goose were still on the flock. A Grey-headed Woodpecker flew over me and a couple of White-tailed Eagles were soaring on the sky. Then in Vartialahti I found 5 Barnacle Geese, a Wigeon, 4 Tufted Ducks, a Greater Scaup, a Common Scoter, Goldeneyes, a Great Crested Grebe and so on. The driving weather was awful as there was already lots of snow.

Then on my luch-hour I visited Rautalahti but saw only Goosanders and a flock of Black Grouses. After work I visited Vartialahti again but found nothing better.

On the 2nd of November there were Marsh Tit, Nuthatch and also a Blackbird in Moskuunniemi. In Särkisalmi I saw Fieldfare and some Rock Pigeons were in Kangaskylä. On my lunch-hour I went to check southern side of Lake Simpele but only Mallards, Goldcrests and some other common species were ticked.

On the 3rd day I found a Black-throated Diver and saw also Herring Gulls with Common Gulls in Härskiinmutka. On my lunch-hour I checked other parts of Lake Simpele but found only some Cormorants. Only ticks were Yellowhammer, Common Crossbill, Coal Tit and Treecreeper. In the afternoon I headed to Saari but all the bays were completely frozen and only a Wigeon and a couple of Great Grey Shrikes were seen.

On the 4th of November I did a twitching trip by plane to Inari Ivalo. I stood there in -20 degrees watching to one garden for several hours then ate pizza and flew back. Dusky Thrush that had been there for 3 weeks, wasn’t there anymore.

On the 5th day we tried to catch Nuthatches in Satumäki but soon continued to Moskuunniemi to catch tits. But neither Marsh Tit or Nuthatch weren’t caught. But we saw 3 Goldfinches flying over.

During the day we headed to Kaukola with Harri Partanen as there had been a Golden Eagle near the swan-flock already on the previous day. It had flight behind a forest just a minute before we arrived. We decided to try from Mantilanniemi and luckily saw the eagle flying over Siikalahti. We also found a Nuthatch there and then in Vartialahti we saw a Goshawk that had just killed one of the last Barnacle Geese and also 15 Scaups and so on.

Then we still continued to Tarvaslampi where we saw a Chaffinch and to Soininmäki but it was getting too late so we found only some tits and Goldcrests.

On the 6th day we were mist-netting again in Moskuunniemi and heard a Pygmy Owl calling. Maybe because of the owl many tits weren’t caught. Nuthatch did hit the net but didn’t get stuck. In Savikumpu we still twitched a Canada Goose before we had to hurry to work.

On my lunch-hour I found Smews in Kukkarolahti and saw 10 Long-tailed Tits in Kannas. In the evening I went to check fields with my thermal camera but found no snipes but a nice surprise was a Long-eared Owl!

On the 7th of November I had to rush to Tarvaspohja Kirpunranta when Jouko Rantanen called that he had some rare “phylloscopus” warbler there. The bird was gone but Jouko had pictures and it really looked like a Hume’s Leaf Warbler. I played some tits alarm-calls from my phone and tits started to arrive and after them the warbler finally showed up to a top of tree. I managed to get some pretty good pictures of it and it indeed was the first Hume’s Leaf Warbler for Parikkala and the second for South-Karelia ever!

When the flock was gone I waited for some twitchers to arrive but only Harri Partanen and Merja Laari showed up. After some waiting I played the call again and the same happened again. This time Hume’s Leaf Warbler stayed a bit further but we all saw it well and I got some more pictures. Then I had to hurry back to work (I saw a couple of Waxwings on the way) and even though there were people searching for Hume’s it wasn’t seen again. Until next day one birder saw it or at least something like it but for sure it wasn’t 100% sure observation. But another surprise was seen by twitchers – the saw the latest Chiffchaff ever in Parikkala.

On the 8th day I saw an Arctic Redpoll, 13 Long-tailed ducks, 3 Black-throated Divers and a couple of Velvet Scoters in Rautalahti- After worj I hurried to Saari to twitch a Red-throated Diver in Saarenkylä and a Hawk Owl in Akanvaara Tetrisuo.

On the 9th day I saw 2 Black-throated Divers and 15 local and 30 migrating Long-tailed Ducks in Härskiinmutka. While I was trying to see the last House Sparrow of the village, I saw a Siskin and a Goldfinch. In Lahdensuo I still saw a Sparrowhawk.

On the 10th day I visited Rautjärvi Simpele Kokkolanjoki but only tick was a Dipper. In Kivijärvi I saw some Common Scoters and Scaups that both seemed to be more common than ever. In Tähtiniemi I found 25 Red-throated and 2 Black-throated Diver and a young Greater Black-backed Gull so it was really a good visit there!

On the 11th day there was thick fog but I had to do winterbird-count as it was the last possible day for me. Siikalahti had melted again and it was extremely wet everywhere. I took my scope and walked 18 kilometers without using it at all because of the bad visibility. There were tits more than ever – at least Great Tits. Altogether I found 3 Mallards, a Common Scoter, 8 Goosanders, 2 Cormorants, a Hazel Hen, 31 Black Grouses, a White-tailed Eagle, a Goshawk, 10 Common and 2 Herring Gulls, 8 Rock Doves, a Grey-headed and a White-backed Woodpecker, 10 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 17 Goldcrests, 8 Long-tailed, 76 Blue, 269 Great, 5 Coal and 2 Crested Tits, even 7 Nuthatches, 7 Treecreepers, 12 Jays, 10 Magpies, 370 Jackdaws, 33 Hooded Crows, 7 Ravens, 33 Tree Sparrows, 4 Bramblings, 60 Greenfinches, 53 Common Redpolls, am Arctic Redpoll, 10 Common Crossbills and 15 Bullfinches. Strange that I didn’t even hear any Whooper Swans even though the flock was still in a field in Kaukola and I passed them only from a couple of hundreds of meters, but there is a forest between. Unfortunately a Bewick’s Swan, a Canada Goose or a Golden Eagle wasn’t seen either.

On the 12th of November we had given up mist-netting the Marsh Tit and tried to catch it with a Nuthatch-trap – and it worked in 10 minutes. It was nice to get this bird ringed and it is interesting to see if it is going to stay for the whole winter – and maybe find out where it goes after that?

We still got to Kaukola to see the Bewick’s Swan when my phone beeped and ringed at the same time – Veikka Kosonen had found a Gannet in Punkasalmi! We hurried there and luckily Veikka was still there and he knew where the bird had landed to swim. And immediately it was flying again and soon we could follow this young bird fishing on on the lake!

Weather-forecast had told that it was going to rain most of the day but luckily Veikka had decided to come to check Punkasalmi. He had already been about to leave when he had seen the Gannet. Now the weather was just cold and the freezing wind was straight from north but because of that there were birds migrating! We saw altogether 208 Velvet Scoters, 29 Red and 10 Black-throated Divers, 10 unidentified divers, 4 Long-tailed Ducks and a White-tailed Eagle.

When the Gannet had once again dropped to swim and hadn’t been seen for an hour, we decided to leave as the migration had stopped and we were absolutely freezing. There were several twitchers still and luckily they soon saw the bird again. It stayed in Punkasalmi at least a couple of next days and it was seen a couple of days been chased by a White-tailed Eagle. So nobody knows if it continued its journey somewhere or was eaten by the eagle after all.

In the afternoon I still visited Vartialahti and saw 2 Wigeons, 15 Scaups, 13 Tufted Ducks, 3 Velvet Scoters, 2 Common Scoter and a Great Crested Grebe.

On the 13th day there were still 148 Whooper Swans, a Bewick’s Swan and a Canada Goose in Kaukola. In Tyrjä I saw my first ever in November Woodpigeon and after worjk I still twitcher a Redwing in Särkisalmi and also 3 Smews were seen there.

It started to get really cold again so lakes started to freeze again. So next days I saw mostly the same long-staying birds but most of the ducks and soon also swans had gone. On the 16th day I saw a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in Siikalahti and an Arctic Redpoll in Jantusensalo. I also checked some big flocks of Goosanders but found no Red-breasted Margansers at all – just one male Smew was still seen on the 17th day. Then I also twtiched a Golden Eagle in Kaukola and this was surprisingly a young bird. With Harri Partanen we managed to get some really good flight-shots of it. In the afternoon I still visited Soininmäki and finally saw 2 Siberian Jays there.

The 18th and 19th of November we were in Helsinki where BirdLife Finland celebrated its 50 years. On Sunday we had the meeting with assembly of delegates. It was good to see many friend and listen to some interesting presentations.

On the 20th day I finally saw the last House Sparrow and then Veijo Vilska found a very late Grey Heron in Särkisalmi. It stayed for some days but it was so freezing cold that I only photographed it on the first day. All lakes started to get completely frozen – and it was only November!

On the 25th day it was already -15 degrees. Anyway we were birding for the whole day with Arttu Valonen. Our goal was to get 200 Parikkala year-ticks for Arttu. It’s quite a good goal for a birder who lives 300 kilometers from Parikkala! Anyway we started well when we saw an Arctic Redpoll in Tönkinsuo and it was the species number 199. In Tarvasalmi we saw a Blackbird and then in Soinimäki we found 1 or 2 Three-toed Woodpeckers. Then we continued to Peruspohja where after time we finally found a Dipper which was Arttu’s species number 200. Then we drove through many forests trying to find Pine Grosbeaks or better crossbills but saw only Black Grouses, Hazel Hens and so on and headed to Akanvaara Tetrisuo where we saw a Hawk Owl. On the way back to Parikkala we heard calls of a Common Kingfisher but there was also an Otter along the river so we just couldn’t be sure if it had been whistling – Otters had really strange calls. But we coudn’t be disappointed as we found the latest Wren ever in Parikkala. And in the evening with Hanna we still heard a Ural Owl in Lahdensuo. And then a couple of later Arttu found the Kingfisher there and it was calling same calls than we had heard.

On the 26th day it was even -23 degreed but we headed to forests with Hanna and Arttu. We started well with 2 Capercaillies and a Pygmy Owl. The Marsh Tit was still on Harri’s feeder and then we saw the Grey Heron last time. We drove through many forests to Akanvaara where the Hawk Owl was still around. Then we continued until Uukuniemi but even Pyhäjärvi was frozen so badly that we couldn’t see any birds there. After all only birds to mention we saw in hours were a flock of Black Grouses and a female Mallard. In the afternoon we still continued to forests and found 2 Ural Owls but no Pine Grosbeaks or anything else new.

During the week it dark when I went to work and dark when I got away. So I did only short trips on my lunch-hours. I tried to get better observation of a Kingfisher without luck but Marsh Tit and Wren were still around. After all I managed to get 79 species in March and they were all in Parikkala – it was probably a new records to this competition? Unfortunately the end of October and the beginning of November had been so cold that some usual birds were not found. I also had too much other things to do at weekends but birding on lunch-hours and just close to where I live can be surprisingly good still in November.

J.A.