Finnish BirdFair, searching for falcons and ringing buntings

On Friday the 23rd of August we headed to Kirkkonummi and on Saturday we participated to Finnish BirdFair in Helsinki Viikki. Hanna was working there but I was only meeting many friends and of course I had to also buy some books and so on. Also Elissa and Miika came to test telescopes and about at midday my father also arrived and soon we headed together to do some birding.

First we drove to Espoo Laajalahti where always is some waders in this time of year. We soon found a Broad-billed and a Curlew Sandpiper, a Little Stint, Dunlins, Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Common, Green and Wood Sandpipers, Common Ringed Plovers, Caspian Terns, Gadwalls, Grey Herons and Red-backed Shrikes and so on.

Next we headed to Finno where after some searching we found 4 Moorhens and also Gadwalls, a Common Pochard and a Slavonian Grebe. Then we still drove to Ämmässuo rubbish tip as I thought it might be the best possibility ever for Elissa and Miika to see a Caspian Gull. But the wind was straight from the smelly compost and it really wasn’t nice birding. Anyway we were checking gulls for more than 30 minutes and once I saw a good candidate but it disappeared too soon. But anyway I could show how difficult even Herring and Greater Black-backed Gulls are.

In the evening I still went to Kirkkonummi Saltfjärden where I saw 675 Common Cranes, 223 Greylag Geese and a couple of Great White Egrets.

On Sunday I headed to Laajalahti again and together with many familiar birders we counted 199 migrating Sparrowhawks. The same Little Stint was still there but other better waders were gone. The best birds we saw was a Spotted Eagle that we found a little bit too late and it was seen only gliding slowly away. It looked like a Greater Spotted Eagle in my opinion. Then a plover-looking bird was found high up from the sky and luckily I managed to get it to my scope and identify it as a young Dotterel.

during the day I picked up Hnna from Helsinki where she had been in BirdLife meeting. On the way back home we still stopped in Lappeenranta Kourulanmäki where we managed to twitch a young Black Redstart. We also saw plenty of Linnets there.

During the week and last days of August I visited Siikalahti many times and saw Great White Egrets (at least 3), Grey Herons (maximun 5) and Great Bitterns (2), at least 2 Hen Harriers, Lapwings and a Grey-headed Woodpecker and on evening visit we heard several Water Rails and counted 617 Common Cranes. On the 29th day I saw a young Pallid Harrier migrating together with a young Hen Harrier and in the afternoon we did a short trip to Saati where we saw 3 Hen Harriers in Pohjasuo, a Bluethroat and a Common Rosefinch in Suurenjärvenliete and a Hawfinch in Ryhjä. On the last light we were in Siikalahti and counted 734 Common Cranes. On the next day we headed to Saari again as we hoped to find some Red-footed Falcon which had been seen all around Southern Finland. But we found only the long-staying Great White Egret in Pohjanranta, a couple of Hen Harriers and one too briefly seen small falcon.

On the 31st day we tried bunting-ringing in Siikalahti. All around Finland ringers had been trying to catch Rustic Buntings with tape and north from us the results had been amazing. It seemed that there were more Rustic Buntings than decades! But we caught no buntings at all, just a couple of Garden Warblers, a Blackcap, 2 Sedge Warblers, 3 Robins, 2 Chaffinches, a Blue Tit and 5 Great Tits. We did hear a Rustic Bunting calling a couple of times but never saw any. While ringing we were also scanning the sky on the dam-road and saw 11 species of raptors, which a migrating Peregrine, a Goshawk, a Hen Harrier and a White-tailed Eagle were the best ones – we still had no Red-footed Falcons. In the afternoon we again went to Saari but had nothing new. In Härskiinmutka we counted 12 Cormorants.

On the 1st of September we had the last SSP-ringing. We caught 1r+1c Robins, a Bluethroat, a late Blyth’s Reed Warblers, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Willow Warblers, a Blue Tit, a Yellowhammer and 12 Reed Buntings. The best bird of the morning was a very late River Warbler that was singing shortly close to our mist-nets but we didn’t manage to push it to the nets. We also heard about 10 Dunnocks migrating, finally the first Red-throated Pipit, a Black Grouse was heard lekking, Grey-headed Woodpecker calling, Coal Tit singing and also a Nuthatch was calling shortly nearby. During the day I did a long run and saw a flock of 35 Goldfinches in Liuharanta. In the evening we counted 419 Cranes and saw 7 Great White Egrets in Siikalahti.

On the 2nd day a short visit in Siikalahti producted a Gadwall and I continued to Kullinsuo where I finally found a young Red-footed Falcon. It was perched on the wire but almost immediately flew up to the blue sky and disappeared. In Härskiinmutka I saw later a flock of 30 Canada Geese.

Other birding during the week was quite boring. The same Gadwall was seen again and 15 Lapwings were still counted. On the 5th day evening we counted 620 Cranes and saw again 7 Great White Egrets and a single Bittern. One evening we went to sheck if the Red-footed Falcon had stayed in Kullinsuo after all. No birds were seen on the fields but in Kontiolampi we saw a big male Lynx running in front of our car for more than a hundred meters!

On the 8th of September we tried to catch Rustic Buntings again and after we had seen a couple of Rustic Buntings migrating, we finally caught one. We also ringed 11 Robins, a Sedge Warbler, a Chiffchaff, 2 Blue Tits, 6 Great Tits, a Treecreeper, 3 Yellowhammers and a Reed Bunting. From the bushes we also heard a Wren and a Red-breasted Flycatcher, saw a Lesser Whitethroat, Goldcrests and briefly a chiffchaff that was calling like a Siberian Chiffchaff. From the dam-road we saw a young Red-footed Falcon migrating, a Grey Heron, 5 Great White Egrets, 3 Honey Buzzards, a Hen Harrier, a Golden Plover, a Ruff, 5 Black, a Grey-headed, a White-backed, a Lesser Spotted and even a Three-toed Woodpecker, more than 200 Tree Pipits, Dunnocks, a Coal Tit, a Spotted Flycatcher and 2 Lapland Buntings.

On the 9th day I saw a Smew from the bird-tower and during the afternoon the weather warmed up to 26 degrees. I spent a nice summer-evening in dam-road and counted 734 Cranes and surprisingly saw a Wild Boar! It was coming straight towards me but then heard a car coming a disappeared to the bushes where it had came from. I also saw 7 Great White Egrets, a Bittern and 4 Wood Sandpipers.

Then the weather turned like in autumn. It was still southern wind, but much colder. On the 12th of September I saw 6 Bean Geese and 5 Dunlins.

J.A.