Black winter days

The weather in December was very warm. In the end of the month almost all snow had melted and part of the Lake Simpele was open. So in Christmas the view was like in October – it was really dark!

There were lots of Hawk Owls in Parikkala and during the month I went to see some of them almost every day. I tried to keep count how many there were as some of them were in very small area. Also some Great Grey Shrikes were hunting numerous voles and shrews on the same fields.

On a couple of visits to Imatra I saw a Canada Goose and a leucistic white Mallard on Vuoksi. In Parikkala Joukio there was an adult Whooper Swan wintering. It probably wasn’t ok but luckily the stream kept the place open even on the colder days.

I visited Melkoniemi Siberian Jays a couple of times and saw the 4 birds on every visit. On the best visit I saw also Black Grouses, 2 Hazel Hens and a Capercaillie too.

On Christmas eve we visited Hanna’s relatives and saw a Nuthatch and a Treecreeper on Hanna’s grandmother’s feeder in Särkisalmi.

On a Christmas day we did a winter-bird count with Mikko Ala-Kojola. There was no snow at all and it was raining a little bit but anyway we managed to see a normal number of birds. But we didn’t see any woodpeckers, Bullfinches or House Sparrows – but they all had been rare this winter. We saw altogether 13 Great, 42 Blue, 10 Willow, 1 Coal, 1 Crested and 4 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Treecreepers, 22 Tree Sparrows, 20 Green Finches, 17 Redpolls, 88 Yellowhammers, 33 Magpies, 2 Ravens, 34 Hooded Crows, 4 Jays, 21 Black Grouses, 1 Hazel Hen and 2 Hawk Owls.

On the Boxing day we tried to ring that Nuthatch in Särkisalmi, but we caught only too many tits. There were too many birds for one ringer and one mist-netter. Later we still went to twitch a Hawk Owl with Hanna’s sister and brother. The weather was bad again so we visited 8 owl-places without seeing a single owl. But when the rain stopped we checked started another round and finally found an owl in Joukio. We also saw a male White-backed Woodpecker and a Great Grey Shrike in Siikalahti, 3 Gold Finches in Tetrisuo, a family of 6 Whooper Swans in Lahdenkylä fields and a flock of 6 Goosanders in Pistonniemi – so it really felt like in March!

On the next day Paavo Rantanen found a Great White Egret in Imatra Vuoksi. I had to go to twitch it as it was a year-tick – I had never seen one in winter either. Luckily the bird stayed there along the river and I managed to see it well even though it was far on the other side of the river and there wasn’t much light. Anyway it was my year-tick number 275 – this had been my best year-tick year ever.

On the 29th day I went to check the open parts of Lake Simpele but I didn’t find any ducks. 3 Herring Gulls had arrived and also 2 families of Whooper Swans were in Koitsanlahti. I also saw 3 Hawk Owls on the way.

J.A.