Making dreams come true

On Wednesday the 26th of July we started a long weekend holiday. We drove first towards Koli and made the first stop on an orchid-bog where we found Early Marsh-orchids, Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchids and of course common Heath-spotted Orchids. Unfortunately the weather was very cloudy so we couldn’t get very good pictures. The clouds also made us do a U-turn in Koli parking-place as the whole hill was behind the clouds. So we headed next to Juuka Tuopanjoki to twitch a Lanceolated Warbler. We were there far too early but surprisingly heard the bird almost immediately. We had planned to put up the tent somewhere nearby and visit the place later in the evening again, but as we heard the bird already, we decided to keep on driving.

We headed to another orchid-place to Pieni-Valkeinen where we put up the tent, ate well and went to sleep.

The 27th of July. We slept well and then went to search for orchids. Right away we found lots of Common Spotted Orchids and in a couple of hours walking in the woods and bogs we found also Common Twayblades, Lesser Butterfly-orchids, Early Marsh-orchids, Fragrant Orchids and the best one was a Dark-red Helleborine. We also found some birds; a Hazel Hen was seen briefly, some Common Crossbills were flying around, a Chiffchaff and some Wrens were still singing and the best bird was an alarming Greenish Warbler.

Then we headed towards Kuhmo. After we had seen a family of Black Grouses we parked along one lake to prepare lunch. After we had eaten we continued to Kuikkajärvi where was a lodge of Arctic Media. We were there exactly in time at 4:30 p.m.

We met Antti Selin, who told us all the instructions for the hide and at 5:15 p.m. we left towards the hides. Most of the people were going to different hides as there were hides in three places. So together with Hanna we got the most luxurious hide in Paradise which was along a big bog. To our neighbor single-hides we had 3 more photographers.

We organized all our things so that we could be as quiet as possible and soon Antti came with a pig that he tied up to a tree about 70 meters from us. When Antti left we started to wait for some action.

Soon the first Ravens, Common and Lesser Black-bagged Gulls arrived. There were even 55 Ravens in one time. One of the 7 Lesser Black-backed Gulls was quite pale but probably not a Heuglin’s Gull. After about a half an hour waiting the first Brown Bear arrived and this big bear had some scars, it had been fighting a lot. It missed almost half of its ear too. But it seemed to be hungry as it started eating the pig and after some time we started to fear that it was going to eat it all!

After another 30 minutes 2 smaller bears arrived but only one of them went to the carcass after the big bear had left. Another one seemed to be afraid of everything – even Ravens. And after these 2 bears came soon the 4th one but then the half-eared big one came back and all other bears ran away. But surprisingly the fifth bear that arrived made this big one move even though it was much smaller. Also this one had some scars and the biggest one was on its butt. Maybe it had won the half-ear recently?

From time to time the carcass was empty as all the bears had moved back to the forests. Of course some Ravens and gulls were there all the time. The 6th bear was the biggest of all but it just walked soon to the carcass, picked up a big meat and walked back to the forest.

About at 10 p.m. most of the birds had gone to sleep but still some Ravens and gulls stayed. It was already getting quite dark when a huge bear with a pale collar came but while I was watching it with my binoculars I saw something pale behind him moving – a Wolf! There were 2 wolves standing behind some trees and soon they started to walk across the bog from right to left. They were maybe 300 meters from us, but there was still some light to get some pictures and videos. We had been advised not to take too many pictures of the wolves at one time as they were extremely shy. So we took most of the pictures when they were moving and the only one at time when they had stopped. These animals were absolutely gorgeous! The pale older female was really beautiful and light-brown, thinner male looked somehow much wilder. Unfortunately they just crossed the bog and were seen only once later very briefly on the back of the bog disappearing to the forest.

Soon after the wolves one more big pale-shouldered bear arrived and then it came so dark that it came difficult to identify the bears anymore.

The 28th of July. Still some Common Gulls were staying around the feeder and also 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls payed a visit. After 1 a.m. a big bear visited the carcass and soon after that I heard a Willow Grouse calling a couple of times. Hanna was then sleeping. After this I still saw a couple of smaller bears but then the half-ear arrived again and chased them away.

Just before the sun was rising fog started to cover the whole bog. The view was like from a post-card but of course the bog made it more difficult to see to the carcass. Soon the first birds started to call; Magpie Hooded Crow, Raven, Willow Tit and at 5 a.m. it was morning when Wagtails arrived.

During the morning we still saw 2 bears behind the bog, but everything had been eaten from the carcass. I had slept a couple of hours and Hanna a little bit more. At 7 a.m. there were only White Wagtails, some Yellow Wagtails and surprisingly we saw also 2 Rustic Buntings. At 7:30 a.m. we had packed everything and left towards the car where we met the others. We drove to the lodge and it seemed that everyone was happy! On another hide people had seen a couple of Wolverines too, but not so many Brown Bears. But I had a feeling that I still had missed something, I really wanted to see Wolves better and maybe also some eagles – there had been a couple of White-tailed Eagles visiting the carcass in front of Paradise one day earlier. But luckily we had booked another night too – so we already told to Antti that we would stay in Paradise again.

We prepared lunch and heard a Red-throated Diver calling while flying over us. Then we drove a little bit to a river where we put up our tent and went to sleep.

We slept long and before 4 p.m. we drove back to the lodge. We ate again and at 5:15 we left again towards the hides. There were more people now and also more of them were coming to Paradise. So we got a little bit smaller hide foe ourselves but anyway it was very comfortable. There were already 2 White-tailed Eagles, an adult and 3rd year bird, perched on the trees with Ravens when we arrived. Soon we had organized our things and then Antti came to drive a bigger pig-carcass to the bog with snowmobile. He tied it very well again and soon we started waiting again.

About after an hour waiting the first bear arrived. It was one of the big ones and it started to eat well immediately. Soon we saw also a second adult White-tailed Eagle arriving to the trees behind the bog.

Before 8 p.m. another big bear with pale neck arrived and then at 8:20 p.m. we saw a brown Wolf coming behind the bog. It was hiding behind the trees for some time but then walked in the middle of the bog and laid down there so only ears were visible! And soon the pale Wolf arrived too. It walked to the brown one and together they continued crossing the bog again.

When they had reached the left edge of the bog they attacked to a Brown Bear! Unfortunately they we behind some trees and bushes but it seemed that this bear had some meat with it and Wolves stole it.

Once the Wolves had continued behind the trees a big pale-necked bear took a big piece of meat and walked to the forest. We were afraid that Wolves would follow it and not come to visible anymore. These animals were so smart that they didn’t like to go to the middle of the bog. They didn’t want to get wet. So they were often just waiting in the woods that a Bear would come with a big piece of meat and then steal it. The tactic was that one Wolf was attacking and another one stole the meat once Bear dropped it.

At 9 p.m. the big bears were gone and there were 3 familiar smaller ones around. The shyest one wasn’t visiting the carcass but shouting from the distance. And the one with hole in its ass was doing whatever he wanted.

At 9:10 p.m. a pale wolf was surprisingly left from the carcass and cameras were clicking! Again we didn’t take too many pictures as we didn’t want to scare it away. But it seemed that there was too much traffic around the carcass and it turned back to the forest. But anyway we were now taking lots of pictures as both adult White-tailed Eagles were now feeding with bears and ravens.

But at 9:45 it finally happened! Both Wolves arrived from the forest and surprisingly the shyest bear was following them to the carcass! The brown Wolf didn’t go to the carcass but walked around it and marked its territory. But the pale beauty came to the carcass and took a big piece of meat and carried it just a little bit further to the bog and started eating!

After all brown Wolf was visible maybe 10 minutes but the pale stayed around the carcass for 40 minutes showing all the time! It visited the carcass a couple of times and after taking a big piece of meat with her, it either ate or just laid down watching other carcass-visitors. It was funny to see that White-tailed Eagles that were extremely shy to visit the carcass were afraid by Wolves and smaller bears, especially in flight.

Soon it came dark and once the pale Wolf had also disappeared to the forest there were only 2 smaller bears around. Then we saw a young 1 year old bear coming towards the carcass but it was too afraid of other ones and never made it to the meat.

At 10:40 p.m. we saw the pale Wolf crossing the bog carrying a huge meat. And 10 minutes later the brown one did the same and also it had managed to steal a big piece of meat from some bear. Meanwhile there were 4 smaller bears visiting the carcass which one of them was new.

At 11:30 p.m. it came so dark that we decided to start to sleep. I woke up a couple of times to see that a couple of smaller bears were still doing something further on the bog and also half-ear had arrived close to the carcass.

The 29th of July. At 1:30 a.m. a couple of bears were fighting in the middle of the bog, but it was too dark to see if they were playing or really fighting – anyway the noise was amazing! At 7:30 we had packed everything and met extremely happy people on the parking place! It had been the best night ever!

At the lodge we did some food again and heard a Parrot Crossbill flying over us. Then we said goodbye to everyone including Antti, a South-African photographer who had stayed there for a month already and a Norwegian man who had been visiting the place every summer for 30 years!

As we had been sleeping quite well, we decided to start driving. We stopped once along a bigger bog and heard a Golden Plover and a Whimbrel before we continued towards Juuka.

In Nurmes we turned towards Lake Suuri-Soramo where we twitched a Ruddy Shelduck that had been found a couple of days earlier. The bird was found easily and so we were soon driving again.

In Juuka we did some shopping and then continued to another orchid-place to Kusilampi (piss-pond). There we walked about 3 hours around the pond and found a couple of new orchid-species for the trip – Coralroot Orchid and Creeping Lady’s-tresses. The funnies observation was to find thousands and thousands of small Common Toads on the shore of the pond.

After a long and hard walk we cooked again and soon were ready to go to sleep to the tent.

On the 30th of July we woke up when a Two-barred Crossbill was calling nearby. It was calling a bit strangely, quite short “tyy-tyy, tyy-tyy-tyy” calls but was easy to identify from the flight call.
After we had eaten again we drove to Hepolampi to search more orchids again. This place was completely different and we had to climb up and down on the limestone-hill. Not many orchids were found but a family of Hazel Hens was heard alarming.

Our last target-place was Merilampi where we walked in bog and forest for some time but then it started to get too hot to continue. We still found a Lesser Twayblade which was the 13th species of orchid during the trip. One not mentioned earlier had been Lady’s-slipper-Orchid which we can’t tell the place where it was found. Some more species would have been possible to find, but as we had no instructions to find any orchids, we were quite happy how many we had found! Some of the flowers must be still identified from the pictures as especially all the red orchids are hybridizing a lot.
About at noon we headed again to Koli and on the way we took better pictures of Early Marsh-orchids and Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchids. The weather was now perfect and we really enjoyed visiting beautiful hills of Koli – Ukko, Akka and Paha-Koli where the scenery is one of the most beautiful in Finland!

Then we still had to drive back to Parikkala where we were in the early evening. We had really enjoyed our trip!


Some action in Joroinen

It started to feel like autumn even though there really hadn’t been many summer days at all. So when I had been in Lappeenranta on the 11th of July, I decided to make a visit in Joutseno Kotasaari pools. It had been raining and I hoped to find some waders, but found only a Temminck Stint, a Little Stint, 3 Barnacle Geese and 3 Slavonian Grebes.

On the 12th day I saw a Cormorant in Härskiinmutka and when it finally stopped raining in the afternoon, I visited Saari Pohjanranta and found exactly what I went to look for – 4 Curlew Sandpipers. There were also 2 Grey Herons, a Spotted Redshank, a Greenshank, a Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpipers, 5 Ruffs and 50 Lapwings. Also in Rautalahti I saw a flock of 70 Lapwings but there was nothing better with them.

On Friday the 13th we visited Pohjanranta with Miika Soikkeli and surprisingly the Curlew Sandpipers were still there. All other birds were gone but there was now a young White-tailed Eagle.

During the day I got a message that there was a pratincole-species in Joroinen Pasala fields, but I still had to stay a couple of hours at work. Luckily at 2 p.m. when I was leaving a new message told that it wasn’t a Black-winged which was the only species that I had seen in Finland, so I left twitching! Some id-marks that had been told about the bird fitted actually better for Oriental than Collared Pratincole, so there was a possibility for a WP-tick!

It was a long drive but luckily new messages told that the bird was still there. But then when I had only 7 kilometers to go, my friend “Potu” Suojarinne called me and told the bad news – the bird had left – it had disappeared very high on the sky as disappeared very far. And only after some 5 minutes I was in the place where all other twitchers were smiling and watching their pictures. But still there was no identification.

All I could do was to get my scope and binoculars and start scanning the sky. Potu joined me while almost everyone else, even those who arrived after us were just chatting and wondering what they had seen or missed. After an hour I found a promising looking bird flying strangely, but after all it was just a Kestrel. I also heard that there had been a flock of 170 Lapwings that had disappeared and it seemed that the praticole had left after a couple of Wood Sandpipers. The weather was also perfect for migration – NW wind and getting sunnier all the time. So I started to lose my hope. But then suddenly a flock of at least 150 Lapwings flushed behind some bushes with some Ruffs. At least these birds were still around! And soon after that I found really good looking bird in distance flying quite low towards us! There it was!

I had seen all 3 similar species of pratincoles this year on my trips abroad, but this bird was flying very low and soon landed behind some bushes. Most of the other twitchers had also found it because of my instructions that I had been shouting, but nobody saw where the bird landed. So we had to walk along the road so we could see to the other side of the bushes and it seemed that there was a small patch of lower field behind some higher vegetation. Other twitchers started shouting when they found some Lapwings from the field, but all we could see were the heads of the birds. So with Potu we followed the road until we got a little bit higher and got much better visibility to the field. And soon Potu found the bird! But soon Lapwings flushed the bird again, but at least now everyone saw the bird!

After all the bird was visible most of the evening but never showed really well. I flew a couple of times further to the other side of the field-area and disappeared but always came back pretty soon. Most of the twitcher that had arrived after me were on the other road where the bird could be seen too, so I could only hope that someone could get very good pictures. A couple of timed the bird flew over us and once it was calling quite low and little bit like a Little Gull – “kyik, kyik”. The bird was missing it another long tail feather which made the identification difficult. But it was quite thick, very short-tailed, short and thick-billed and the bill had only quite little red. The upper-stomach had some orange and I couldn’t see any white on the tips of secondaries. So it really looked good for an Oriental Pratincole!

When the bird had once again disappeared probably hunting, we decided to leave with Potu. I really hoped to see some good-quality pictures later.

The bird disappeared on the next morning and after all really good pictures were never got, but some pretty good ones and also some videos. And luckily at least on the video it was possible to see even the roundish nostril. Also some experts abroad were sure that the bird was indeed an Oriental Praticole which was a new species for Finland!

On the 15th of July I did the last duck-count in Siikalahti and didn’t see many ducklings. I saw the only young Black-headed and Common Gull, really only 1 per species, of the year. Only better bird was a Curlew Sandpiper that landed to the only spot where can be waders in Siikalahti.

In the evening we went to see that the closest Red-throated Diver, which is in Punkaharju side of the border, had managed to get one young. In the late evening we still visited Siikalahti where we heard a River Warbler singing.



On the 16th day we were driving around some places nearby with Hanna. Our goal was to see some better butterflies, but only 4 Poplar Admirals were seen. In Kullinsuo we saw a Goldfinch. On the 18th day I was again in Lappeenranta and on the way did a stop in Kotasaari where were some common waders with 2 Little Ringed Plovers and a Temminck Stint. Now there were 4 Slavonian Grebes. In Joukionsalmi I counted 140 adult and 25 young Barnacle Geese.

On the 19th of July we did a short trip to Saari where a Black Woodpecker was seen in Akanvaara, a Goldfinch in Pohjasuo and 2 Grey Herons, 2 Dunlins and 2 Red-backed Shrikes in Pohjanranta. In the afternoon I heard a Golden Oriole singing sub-song very beautifully in Siikalahti.

On the 22th day only bird to mention was a young Yellow Wagtail in Siikalahti and on the 23rd day we visited Punkaharju Laukansaari arboretum where we hoped to find some crossbills but found only Common Crossbills. Only 2 Nutcrackers were heard. We also visited Saari again and saw a Hen Harrier and 4 Red-backed Shrikes in Akanvaara Tetrisuo

On the 25th of July I had the last game in Lappeenranta and once again I visited Kotasaari but saw only 3 Green Sandpipers and 3 Ruffs.


Quite boring bird-summer

After a hard trip to bird-race in Oulu-area, I was extremely tired. Anyway I did some birding and on the 29th of May I saw 8 Broad-billed Sandpiper and a Velvet Scoter in Saari Pohjanranta and 19 Ringed Plovers and a Heuglin’s Gull in Skanvaara Tetrisuo. In Kangaskylä I saw 2 Gold Finches.

On the 30th day a Linnet flew over me in Siikalahti and 2 Icterine Warblers and 2 Great Reed Warblers were singing. On the 31st at night I visited Great Snipes again and 4 birds were heard. I also saw a Nightjar and a Long-eared Owl.

On the 1st of June I was birding together with Harri Orenius and Kirsi Viuhkonen and we visited Great Snipes again and heard altogether 7 Blyth’s Reed Warblers and 2 River Warblers in Raikanniemi. Along the dam-road there were now 3 Great Reed Warblers singing. Later we were accompanied with a couple of foreign birders too and we visited some of our owls and still managed to see a Ural Owl, only 2 young survived Tengmalm’s Owls and Pygmy Owls.

On the 2nd of June I saw 2 Dunlins in Siikalahti, 7 Dunlins and a Broad-billed Sandpiper in Saari Pohjanranta and a late Golden Plover in Akanvaara Tetrisuo. I also drove around some forests in Siikalahti and saw a White-backed Woodpecker and heard some Wood Warblers and 2 Red-breasted Flycatchers.

On the 5th of June we drove to Helsinki where I went straight birding. In Espoo Laajalahti I twitched 2 Great White Egrets and saw also 13 Broad-billed Sandpipers, 2 Little Stints and saw and heard 3 Reed Warblers. In Helsinki Vanhankaupunginlahti I heard 2 more Reed Warblers and saw 4 Bearded Reedlings and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

On the 6th day we visited Kirkkonummi where we twitched a singing Barred Warbler and saw then went to Porkkala where only a flock of 25 Velvet Scoters were seen. In Saltfjärden we still saw 2 Caspian Terns before we drove to Helsinki-Vantaa airport where we had our flight to West-Kazakhstan where we were birding the next 8 days.

Once we were back from Kazakhstan we were again very tired. The weather was still all the time very cold and rainy, so I wasn’t birding very much. We did ring the Pygmy Owls immediately and there were 6 and 7 youngsters. On the way back from the forest, we saw also a Ural Owl.

On the 15th of June we did a night-trip with Harri Partanen. And we had a great start as we saw a Brown Bear running in front of our car! But only better birds were 12 Corn Crakes in one field-area in Lahdensuo, a Long-eared Owl in Kontiolampi and a Grasshopper Warbler in Kukonkanta.

On the 17th day I did a waterbird-count in Siikalahti and the result was extremely bad! There are no Slavonian Grebes at all; only 1 female Pochard and 1 male Shoveler and 8 Coots were seen! It seems that Hooded Crows had destroyed every gull-colony and not many young birds were seen on common ducks either.

On the 18th of June my Pirkka was visiting with his family. At night we went birding and found some Blyth’s Reed Warblers, a Marsh Warbler, a River Warbler, 2 Long-eared Owls and then saw a Heuglin’s Gull in Härskiinmutka. The only Golden Oriole was found in Tarvaslampi and we found nothing better in Soinimäki forests. During the day I counted 41 adult and 12 young Barnacle Geese in Joukionsalmi and surprisingly there were also 3 Oystercatchers.

The next days I saw and heard mostly the same birds again, only on the 23rd day something new was found as we saw a Slavonian Grebe and heard a Marsh Warbler in Valkialampi. We also visited some forests and managed to find 2 nests of Three-toed Woodpecker. But later when Hanna went to ring another nest that was low enough, a huge Brown Bear had destroyed the tree completely and eaten the nestlings.

On the 24th of June we did a nightsinger count in Siikalahti and counted 17 Water Rails but heard no Spotted Crakes or Reed Warblers at all! Only 4 Bitterns were heard and only 2 Golden Orioles. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker had nestlings, some Common Crossbills were heard and the best bird of the trip was found in Eskola where a Greenish Warbler was singing.

On the 25th we did a night-trip again and heard a Great Reed Warbler in Tyrjä, ringed some young Curlews in Saari, where we also found a Black-tailed Godwit in Poutasenryhmä. In Pohjanranta we saw 5 Barnacle Geese and a couple of Red-backed Shrikes.

On the 26th day we drove to Ruokolahti to try to ring fledlings of Hawk Owl that our friend Mika Ohtonen had found. Unfortunately they were flying too well already, but at least these 2 adults and 3 youngsters were the first breeding record of this species for us in South-Karelia.

During the day I heard a Nuthatch in Likolampi where local birders had been seeing them for whole summer. Then later I went jogging to forest-tracks and saw a family of Hazel Hens and a Long-eared Owl.

On the 30th day I counted 60 adult and 30 younf Barnacle Geese in Joukionsalmi and in Moskuunniemi I saw a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Then in the evening I got a message that a Ruddy Shelduck had been found already during the day in Lappeenranta Askola. Luckily the bird stayed there and I managed to twitch my South-Karelia tick number 297!

I was driving back to Parikkala late so I went to listen to Great Snipes and they were still lekking. I also heard a couple of young Long-eared Owls and found 2 begging Ural Owl fledlings. In the morning I did waterbird-count again and saw none young gulls and very few other young birds either. The most interesting bird was a duck that really looked like a Lesser Scaup but after all was just a Tufted Duck hybrid with some other duck. It was easy to see that the wing-bar was wrong even from a distance.

On the 2nd of July we went to ring nestlings of Wryneck to Saari Akonpohja and there were 9 youngsters! And later during the day we ringed 5 nestlings of Kestrel in Tarvaslampi. In Joukionsalmi we saw a Canada Goose with Barnacle Geese.

On the 4th day I finally found my first ever really self-found Great White Egrets, when 2 birds were flying in Siikalahti and landing behind the reeds. I also saw a Bittern flying in the same scope-picture. In the evening I visited Lappeenranta again and saw the same Ruddy Shelduck there again. In Askola there were also 2 Caspian Terns.

On the 5th day I heard one Nuthatch again in Likolampi and on the 6th I saw one of the Great White Egrets in Siikalahti again. In the evening we went to try to ring some Barnacle Geese youngsters but managed to catch only 4 of them. And on the next day we caught 4 birds again but they were too small to ring.

On the 8th of July we visited Ruokolahti Kummakivi which was an amazing place! Not many birds were seen there, just 2 Crested Tits, but it was quite an experience! Later in the afternoon we went to see motorbike competition to Imatra.

On the 9th of July we were birding in different forest and saw a family of Hazel Hens, heard some Chiffchaffs and Wrens and so on. Then on Siikalahti fields I managed to catch a young Crane that we ringed. We also ringed one Lapwing in another field where we flushed a Great Snipe too!


Photographing waders

26.5. I decided to try again photographing waders in Pohjanranta. Weather was finally okay after long rainy and windy period. I have photographing tent that is modified of very cheap Lidl tent. I did set it up to good spot near muddy area favored by waders. In the evening birds were still a bit vary, but in the morning they had got used to my tent. In future, I would like to test photographing waders trough mirrored class. Then there would not be any revealing movement.

On the mudflat and shallow ponds were 6 Broad-billed sandpipers, 4 Dunlins, 4 Ringed Plovers, Red-necked Phalarope and few Ruffs, Greenshanks and Wood Sandpipers.
Sun was shining from blue sky. It made light conditions very tricky. Thin layer of clouds would have been great.


The end of May with a bird-race in Oulu area

On the 23rd of May the only year-tick was an Icterine Warbler in Moskuunniemi. In the evening I went to listen to Great Snipe again and heard only one Spotted Crake in Siikalahti.

On the 24th day I headed to Siikalahti again and found a Great Reed and a Marsh Warbler. During the day I went jogging and saw a Nuthatch in Likolampi. In the evening I met Mika Bruun with his group and we went to see owls. Ural Owl had already fledlings, or maybe climblings is a better name, then we ringed 5 nestlings of Tengmalm’s Owl and checked how Pygmy Owl family was doing. We ended the trip to lek of Great Snipes and found even 5 birds there! On the way back home I still saw a Long-eared Owl as a year-tick.

On the 25th day I had free from work and headed to Siikalahti. The Great Reed Warbler was still singing loudly but then I heard a familiar call and soon found a Penduline Tit male! I managed to get some very good pictures of this rarity before it continued further to the reeds.

I continued to Saari where I found a Marsh Sandpiper in Pohjanranta, but several other places were quiet. In Kanavalampi I found a couple of Grey-headed Woodpeckers, a Tundra Bean Goose and heard a Golden Oriole, a Blyth’s Reed Warbler and a Wryneck.

In the evening we went to twitch some reptiles! Unfortunately the weather was pretty bad but we managed to see plenty of Smooth Newts and a couple of extremely rare Great Crested Newts! We have to try to get back in better weather, if there will be any this “summer”.

On the 26th of May I met “Jassi” Kiljunen at 7 a.m. and soon we were driving towards Oulu. In Juva we picked up Miska Loippo and then we had a long drive to Siilijärvi Raasio, where we stopped to see the new bird-tower but unfortunately there weren’t many birds around. Then we drove to Liminka, where we saw a Collared Dove easily before continued to Virkkula where 4 Black-tailed Godwits, 5 White-tailed Eagles, 6 Broad-billed Sandipers and a White-fronted Goose were seen in extremely windy conditions. Then we drove to Kempele Vihiluoto where Jassi and Miska had booked a room. Unfortunately we didn’t see a Terek Sandpiper that had been seen on the hotel-beach and soon my brother Pirkka arrived and after some shopping we went to my another brother Riku to celebrate his son Eetu’s graduation.

On the 27th of May we met Jassi and Miska in Vihiluoto at 8 a.m. and soon we were on the ferry to Hailuoto. From the ferry we saw 2 pale morph Arctic Skuas and in Hailuoto we made the first stop in Potinlahti. Some waders were seen but much more waders were found in Ulkokarvo. Anyway nothing very good was seen before we had to head towards Riisinnokka where we had decided to begin the 24 hour bird-race.

In Rautaletto we heard a Wren and on the walk to Riisinnokka we saw a Bluethroat. Then it was 11 a.m. and the next hour we tried to find a good species to begin. But 6 Long-tailed Ducks with a Velvet Scoter weren’t good enough and after all nothing better was seen before 12 a.m. when we had to start. Our first species were an Arctic Skua with some flocks of Broad-billed Sandpipers and other more common birds. Luckily soon we saw a Knot, some Little Stints, a flock of Smews, Cormorants, Red-necked Grebes and then I found a ring-tailed harrier which was very distant but clearly it was either Montagu’s or Pallid Harrier.

After some time we had still seen a Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Grey Plovers, Caspian Terns and White-tailed Eagles but then we had to start walking towards Rautaletto again. Unfortunately only Bramblings and some other common species were got and even the Wren was quiet.

In Kirkkosalmi we had the normal Gadwalls, Coots, Shelducks and so on but a flock of Velvet Scoters, a couple of Garganeys, a Bittern and 2 Ospreys were only better species. Luckily in Järventakusta fields we were luckier when we saw 2 Short-eared Owls and a flock of 9 Dotterel. We also saw a couple of alarming Black-tailed Godwits. In Koivukylä we saw a Golden Plover and House Sparrows and in Marjaniemi 4 Turnstones and 6 Red-necked Grebes. When driving again we saw the first flock of Waxwings of the day.

In Ulkokarvo we had great time! We saw at least 350 Red-necked Phalaropes, but probably there were much more as most of them were swimming with Little Gulls and there were some waves so they were very difficult to count. But only other new species were Common Scoter and Scaup.

Then we headed to Pökönnokka where we spent some time but it was worthy! We found 2 Red-throated Pipits, 2 Sanderlings, 4 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Bluethroat and a Jack Snipe. A good record was also a couple of Douthern Dunlins. While driving towards the ferry we still saw a Wryneck and a Kestrel.

From the ferry we saw only some Red-necked Phalaropes that were swimming in the middle of the sea. Vihiluoto was also quiet but in Kempele Teppola we saw a Stock Dove and a Barnacle Goose. It was already late when we headed to Oulu but luckily we found a Terek Sandpiper in an ordinary place. Rooks and Rock Doves weren’t easy that late but while searching for them we also found our first Lesser Black-backed Gull which was a nice 3rd calendar year Heuglin’s Gull. Our last target in Oulu was a Slavonian Grebe which was found easily.

After dipping Collared Doves we drove to Liminka Virkkula where a Spotted Crake was calling actively. Then Miska found a ring-tailed harrier which was soon identified as a Hen Harrier but while Jassi and Pirkka hadn’t found it yet, it flushed a Willow Grouse! Unfortunately only 2 of us saw the grouse as Pirkka found the Hen Harrier a couple of seconds too late when the grouse had already landed and disappeared.

Night was as dark as it gets this north when we continued to Siikajoki where we heard a Little Ringed Plover and a Mistle Thrush in Alhonmäki before continuing to Tauvo. We parked in Munahieta and started to walk towards Ulkonokka. Soon we heard 2 Bitterns and a Water Rail. But Ulkonokka was once again bigger than ever and completely empty! It took ages to find a couple of Little Terns and there were no waders at all! Luckily we still saw a Merlin while we were walking back.

In Raahe Aittalahti we had nothing but in Lapaluoto we finally saw 3 Black Guillemots that we had been trying to see there so many years! Now we were a couple of hours late from the schedule, so there was enough light to see these very distant birds.

In Pyhäjoki we had good time on the first light of the morning and heard a Garden Warbler, a Dunnock, a Black Woodpecker, a Common Whitethroat and we also saw plenty of flocks of Common Crossbills, 2 Green Sandpipers and a Starling. But then we had to hurry to Elävisluoto to seawatching.

In Elävisluoto we saw 4 Eiders and heard some Bullfinches but some strange things happened there so we didn’t stay there for long enough to see anything else new. My team-mates seemed to be very tired but anyway we continued back to Raahe where with Jassi we found a Pheasant and in Pitkäkari we heard a Spotted Redshank and saw a Goldfinch and a Canada Goose.

While some of us were sleeping again I continued towards Siikajoki and Vartti while the weather was changing much worse. It took almost a couple of hours to visit good forests of Vartti but only species we got was a Whimbrel. And when we finally got to Alhonmäki the weather was far too bad to see any raptors that we really were missing a lot. Luckily we heard a flock of Parrot Crossbills and a singing Wood Lark, which were the last species we got. We still drove to several places in Siikajoki, but the weather was too bad to see or hear anything new anymore.

We then dropped our species-list to Virkkula and said hello to some friends and sorry that we weren’t able to stay longer to hear the results and we all needed to start driving back to home. Most of us had to be at work on Monday. We knew that our 148 species wasn’t enough to be on the top 3 and after all we were 5th. The winner was a surprise as Ville Suorsa, Kalle and Eino Hiekkanen and Jukka Österberg who managed to get amazing 169 species and won clearly!

It was a long way to drive back home safely, but luckily I managed to sleep some time while Miska was driving. After all we were all home quite early and able to go to sleep.


Amazing lifer-twitch and summer-birding already

On the 19th of May while I was working I got a message that really hit hard – there was a Pied Stonechat in Utö. The species had been in Finland once before but then I had been in England and there was only a bit more than 10 records in WP, so I really had to start planning a big twitch. Utö is an island in south-western Finland so it is a long way from Parikkala. So I had to stop my work-day earlier and start driving towards Parainen.

I had planned to go to Utö by a ship that leaves at 6:15 p.m. and is there only late at night, then sleep in a tent and then try to twitch the bird early in the morning, but once I had been driving about 100km, I started to think that I had to try to see the bird already on the same evening! I knew there were already local birders going to Utö by a taxi-boat, so I called to a couple of twitchers to find out how long does it take to get to Utö by a boat and what it costs. Then I called to Ulf Nyström and organized a boat that was leaving from Parainen Nauvo at 17:45 p.m. Then I did put news out that there was room for 11 twitchers in my boat and almost immediately my phone started to ring. After 10 minutes the boat was full and then the cost was only 60€per person, which is not too much as it is 2 hours driving one way.

One couple of twitcher was coming from Virolahti so I met them in Hamina and we continued together in my car to save some fuel-money. Unfortunately I had to wait them for some 15 minutes so I really started to be afraid that we wouldn’t be in the harbor in time. I was sure there was lots of traffic in island-road as it was Friday evening and the weather was really beautiful – and there was even one ferry on the way.

Luckily after Helsinki we could drive pretty fast and when we still had an hour to go I got a message that the boat was a little bit late and we would leave only at 6:30 p.m. from Pärnäinen harbor. It was a little bit more to drive to Pärnäinen but also a shorter way by boat, so it was really good for us, at least we could be there in time. And luckily the Pied Stonechat was still there…

Luckily there were 3 ferries driving in Nauvo, so we made it in time to Pärnäinen and only after 15 minutes waiting our boat arrived with the first happy group of twitchers and soon our group Markku and Biti Ojala, Tom and Kaija Lindroos, Kari Laamanen and Tuula Suihko, Antti Vaalgamaa, Arto Laakso and Joonas Lainesalo, Erkki Valsta and Tapani Numminen and I were on the boat towards Utö.

The weather was perfect but anyway it was pretty cold on the boat. We had really a fun group so we were laughing most of the way but still saw some birds too – a couple of Arctic Skuas and Razorbills and several Arctic Skuas were seen. I had hoped to get Pied Stonechat as my 200th year-tick but those terns ruined my plans.

Finally we landed to Utö and on the harbor we met the grand old man of the island, Jorma Tenovuo, who told us to walk towards the cemetery where the bird was on a small pasture nearby. After a short walk we found a photographed who told that the bird was only 50 meters in front of him but hiding between some rocks. We slowly walked behind him and son the bird flew to the posts and we saw it extremely well! It was a beautiful bird! I had seen some Pied Stonechats in India but in this landscape it looked much more beautiful!

Pied Stonechat was pretty shy so we stayed pretty far while it was hunting insects from the posts and tops of bushes. It showed very well until it suddenly disappeared. While we were celebrating and planning what to do next, Markku Ojala shouted that he was watching a Subalpine Warbler through his scope! The bird had been seen on the island early in the morning by only one photographer but not since that even though about 20 birders had been searching for it. The notes weren’t very good so I saw the bird too late when it was disappearing behind one big juniper. But luckily we found the bird soon after we had walked closer. It was hiding extremely well but it was easy to identify even in flight. We did put the news out and soon there were every single birder that was on the island staring to one juniper were the bird had been seen the last. From this same bush we had flushed the Pied Stonechat too which had been missing for some time. But now there was nothing moving inside the bush. After some waiting Tenovuo and one another birder went to shake the bush but only one Common Whitethroat was flushed. When they had already given up, the Subalpine Warbler flushed still from the same bush and after that it was showing quite well.

I didn’t try to photograph the Subalpine Warbler as it looked as an eastern cantillans-subspecies anyway. But I still tried and managed to get some better pictures of the Pied Stonechat. Then it was time to start walking back to harbor as we had already been on the island a little bit more than 2 hours that we had agreed with our captain to stay there. Luckily there was still coffee for happy twitchers in the cafeteria so I had time to wear some more clothes as the way back would be even colder.

The way back went fast as we were all very happy after a very successful visit to Utö! We still saw a couple of Arctic Skuas but after a long drive we were finally back in Pärnäinen about at midnight. Luckily we had to wait only for 15 minutes for the ferry and soon we were driving back towards east.

I dropped Kari and Tuija to Hamina and continued towards Parikkala. Finally in Luumäki I was so tired that I had to sleep a couple of hours in my car. Then I did a brief stop in Imatra Kymälahti where a Garden Warbler was singing and then continued to Siikalahti to watch if there was any migration going on. I saw a Garganey, 2 White-tailed Eagles and 2 Honey Buzzards, but then I really had to go to get some sleep again.

In the afternoon we did a trip to Saari once again and saw 135 Yellow Wagtails in Akanvaara Tetrisuo, a Garganey, a Redshank and a flock of even 48 Ringed Plovers in Pohjanranta, 3 Ringed and 1 Little Ringed Plover in Suurenjärvenliete, 2 Stock Doves in Jyrkilä, 6 Ringed Plovers in Karinmäki and a Pink-footed Goose in Rautalahti.

On Sunday the 21st of May I did the duck-count again and there were fewer birds than ever in Siikalahti! But during the day I saw also a Temminck Stint, 2 Dunlins, a Heuglin’s Gull, 2 Golden Orioles, 2 Red-backed Shrikes, 2 Blackcaps and a Wood Warbler. In the afternoon we did a short trip to the fields with Miika Soikkeli and saw a Whimbrel, some flocks of Golden Plovers and Ruffs and heard a Grey-headed Woodpecker. At night I visited Siikalahti but there were almost nothing else than Water Rails and frogs calling, a couple of migrating Brent Geese flocks were heard from the dark sky.

On the 22nd of May the short trip was already like a boring summer-trip. After 9 p.m. once we had just finished sauna in Tarvaslampi, I got a message that Jarmo Pirhonen had found a female King Eider in Imatra Immalanjärvi. It was a new south-Karelia tick for me, so we had to go twitching. Luckily it is only 45 minutes driving to Rautio, where the bird was seen swimming with a flock od Long-tailed Ducks.

On the way back we stopped in Sammallampi where a Nightjar was singing and then in Kullinsuo where once again was a Great Snipe lekking already.