Quiet summer-time

On the 28th of May I had hurt my shoulder in a game and it was difficult to sleep at nights because of the pain. I had taken x-ray pictures but doctor didn’t see anything on them, so I was working and living normally.

I visited Booted Warbler and Great Snipes several times, mostly because I couldn’t sleep anyway. But other birding was a bit lazy because of the tiredness. Anyway I found 6 Broad-billed Sandpipers in Siiikalahti on the 6th of June, on the 8th day there was a couple of Slavonian Grebes after a long time, on the 9th day the first ever successful breeding of Nuthatches was finally confirmed when I saw 3 fledlings. On one more night-trip I didn’t hear anything new, but while I was listening a Nightjar about 30 meters away from our car, a Brown Bear walked across the road about 30 meters from me. On the 10th day a new Greenish Warbler was singing in Soininmäki and the first ever successful breeding of Grey Wagtail was confirmed when there were 3 fledlings in Simpele Kokkolanjoki.

On the 12th of June I saw a female Pintail in Siikalahti and on the next day I found a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker nest. Finally on the 14th day I had an Ultrasound examine for my shoulder and a clear fracture was found. Also new x-rays were taken and it wasn’t a surprise that the fracture was much worse than on the first pictures where I had seen it but unfortunately doctor hadn’t seen it. So I got 2 weeks sick leave and I wasn’t in a hurry anymore to go back to work. So I visited Joutseno where I saw a couple of Wood Larks along the main road.

I tried to walk a couple of times for 5 kilometers every day in the beginning of my sick leave, but all I saw were the same Canada Geese and some Gold Finches here and there, but in Likolampi we found also a young White-backed Woodpecker.

On the 17th of June we headed to a longer night-trip which we started by listening Great Snipes and the same Booted Warbler again. Then while driving towards Saari along the border-road, we stopped in Tyrjä and then Hanna noticed a strange light on the eastern sky – a rocket! Russians had launched a rocket in Plesets, more than 500 km from us but in perfect weather-conditions we managed to see it quite well and Hanna managed to get some pictures too! Later we found out that it had been Soyuz 2.1B rocket carrying navigation satellite Glonass-M. It was very rare to see something like this in Finland! During the night and early morning we heard 4 Golden Orioles, a Grasshopper Warbler, 3 Marsh Warblers, 2 Spotted Crakes, a Stock Dove and young Long-eared Owls and also saw a couple of adults.

On the 19th of June I heard the Booted Warbler last time. On the 20th day we ringed our only owls – 6 Pygmy Owls and also crossed border to Savo and checked that Red-throated Divers were on their usual pool. During the day we drove to Lappeenranta where we visited Askola and Kaislanen without anything to mention. In the evening we went to movies.

On the 24th of June we headed to Papinlahti to ring birds. Hanna had planned to start SSP-ringing project there which means that in the future there must be ringing in the future once every 2 weeks during the summer. This year we had planned to test this place as when the project begins nothing can be changed anymore to get right results. During the morning we caught 37 birds of 11 species which was more than we had expected as we had only 5 good mist-nets and 2 bad ones. Most common species were Great Tit and Sedge Warbler but some nice species were caught too like several Common Whitethroates, a Garden Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Blackbird, a Common Rosefinch and a Yellowhammer.

On the 25th of June Hanna still ringed nestlings of Kestrel in Tarvaslampi, there were 4 surprisingly big youngsters already in the nest-box.


Very hot beginning of summer

On the 21st of May it was hard to start a week at work after a weekend in Virolahti. The weather was very hot and calm, so it wasn’t a surprise that there was almost nothing migrating in Siikalahti on my lunch-hour. I was talking with Arttu Valonen when I noticed a goose flying towards us. It looked just another White-fronted Goose but for some reason I kept on following it with my scope and I noticed a big white patch on the forehead that continued quite long on the head. I also noticed that neck was getting darker towards the head so the bird started to look interesting. Luckily it turned around and flew back towards us and passed us again. Then we noticed also small bill, but because of the sun, we couldn’t see the color of the bill. When the bird turned once more towards us Arttu took his camera and managed to get a couple of pictures. When he was photographing I already saw also the yellow eye-ring and from the picture we could see also pink bill – it was a Lesser White-fronted Goose!

In the afternoon we visited a small pond in Punkaharju where are some Great Crested Newts. We saw only one newt briefly but saw also a White-backed Woodpecker close to the pond.

On the 22nd day I saw a flock of 3 Garganeys in Siikalahti and in the evening we checked that our only Ural Owl had still very small chicks. On the 23rd day I saw 2 Temminck Stints in Siikalahti and a Cormorant in Härskiinmutka. Also Pygmy Owl had tiny chicks but in Tarvalampi Starlings had already big chicks, so we ringed 13 youngsters from 3 nest-boxes.

On the 24th day I saw only 2 migrating Little Ringed Plovers and on the 25th day we headed to Saari where in Kanavalampi we found a Broad-billed Sandpiper and heard a Golden Oriole. In Uukuniemi Suurenjärvenliete we saw 8 Temminck Stints and 3 Yellow Wagtails, in Jyrkilä 2 Stock Doves and in Pohjanranta 6 Ringed Plovers and 2 Temminck Stints.

On the 26th of May we headed early to Melkoniemi forests where we heard a couple of Greenish Warblers, a Red-breasted Flycatcher and a drumming Three-toed Woodpecker. Then I counted water-birds in Siikalahti and there were again only very few of them. In the late evening we did a good tour and managed to find 2 lekking Great Snipes from their ordinary field where also 2 Nightjars were singing on the forest. Then we managed to find one more Great Snipe on another field where also a Corn Crake was calling. After we had seen one and heard one Long-eared Owl, we headed to Siikalahti where we found a River Warbler and lots of Blyth’s Reed Warblers. From the dam-road we heard still some Spotted Crakes and Water Rails and after we had seen one more Long-eared Owl, it was time to go to sleep.

On the 27th day after we had finally woken up, we headed to Simpele Kokkolanjoki where we twitched a long-staying pair of Grey Wagtails. We soon found out that they were already feeding youngsters and we really hope this will be the first successful breeding of the species in South-Karelia. We also took the last owl nest-box away from Rautjärvi, so now all our boxes are in a smaller area which saves time every year in the future. We ended our morning-trip to a nest of a White-backed Woodpecker where we also saw a couple of Long-tailed Tits nearby.

On the 28th of May the only better bird on my lunch-hour was a Great Reed Warbler in Siikalahti. In the late evening I twitched a Grasshopper Warbler as a year-tick in Siikalahti. On the 29th day I saw a Grey-headed Woodpecker there on my lunch-hour and in the evening we did a tour in Saari and saw 3 Garganeys in Kanavalampi, 2 Stock Doves in Jyrkilä again, some 30 Barnacle Geese and an Icterine Warbler in Pohjanranta. On the 30th day only bird to mention was a Golden Oriole in Siikalahti – this species is really getting rare!

On the last day of May we visited Great Crested Newts again and saw again a couple of them briefly but several Smooth Newts were seen. We also heard a River Warbler and then went to check that Nuthatches were still actively feeding their youngsters on their nest-box.

I started birding in June again visiting Siikalahti on my lunch-hour but saw nothing. So I visited Nuthatches again. After I had been sleeping whole afternoon and evening, I left to birding by bike. First I heard a Grasshopper Warbler, a Great Reed Warbler and a Corn Crake and saw a couple of Tundra Bean Geese in Siikalahti. There were amazing number of mosquitoes but when I was listening to one field I heard a very distant song that I couldn’t be sure what I was. I had to walk closer and after some hundreds of meters walking I could easily identify the bird – it was exactly what I had been thinking – a Booted Warbler! It was finally my first self-found Booted Warbler in Parikkala and also South-Karelia! Hanna had been guiding an American birder early in the morning and again in the evening, so I called to Hanna and in 5 minutes they were also listening to Booted Warbler.

After I had twitched a couple of Great Snipes I continued back towards home. I still twitched a River Warbler in Siikalahti, but surprisingly I didn’t hear anything else except many Blyth’s Reed Warblers.

On the 2nd of June we visited again Grey Wagtails and also White-backed Woodpeckers. Woodpeckers had already left their nest but were still around. In the evening we were twitching the Booted Warbler with some twitchers and luckily we could hear also at least one Great Snipe too. We also stopped in Siikalahti but heard only a Corn Crake and a Spotted Crake.

On the 3rd day we went ringing some singers with Hanna. I had more than 10 years ago decided that once I find a Booted Warbler I’d love to also ring it. So once we had managed to locate the bird again, it took only a couple of minutes to catch it. After ringing and a couple of measures, we took some pictures and released the bird to its territory.

It had been fun to ring a song-bird after a long time, so we continued and ringed also a Grasshopper Warbler and a River Warbler in Siikalahti. We also heard a Golden Oriole and saw a couple of Long-tailed Tits and White-backed Woodpeckers there. On the dam-road we met the American birder again and visited northern end of Siikalahti where we had only an Icterine Warbler.

After I had slept a couple of hours, I noticed that an Eastern Imperial Eagle that had been in Pori on the previous day had been seen in Espoo. And usually these birds are flying away from Finland following the southern coast. So I started driving to Hamina which is usually the best spot to see these raptors. When I was in Lappeenranta-Luumäki border I saw a big raptor flying over the road and surprisingly this bird dropped down towards the road and almost hit the car that was driving in front of me! Then it moved towards my car and I saw this 2nd year Black Kite amazingly well through wind-screen in 100km/h speed.

Finally I was in Hamina Kirkkojärvi where were after all only 12 birders waiting for the eagle. There was no news about the bird but after half an hour it was reported in Loviisa and then later in Pyhtää! We estimated that it should be in Kirkkojärvi in about 30 minutes, so we were very excited! But we found only several White-tailed Eagles which some of them were especially high, so maybe we missed the bird or then it never came to Hamina. It was never seen again. When most of the birders had already given up, I found a Great Grey Shrike which is very strange bird in this south this time of the year. It had completely white rump and a bit bigger white patches on its wings, so it was something that was earlier called as “homeyeri”, but after all it they are nowadays just “excubitors” but probably somewhere from east.

In the evening I drove back home and Hanna had just been ringing a couple of Jackdaw nestlings.


Arctic-migration bird-race

On the 15th of May after I woke up early and headed to Siikalahti where I found a couple of Hazel Hens, a Great Reed Warbler, a Wryneck, an Icterine Warbler, some Wood Warblers and Garden Warbles. On my lunch-hour I still found a Common Rosefinch and a Reed Warbler.

On the next couple of days I saw mostly just migrating Barnacle Geese which I am quite bored to watch – I just check there are no white geese on the flocks. On the 17th day the first Swifts arrived and in the evening when we were checking empty owl nest-boxes, we got a message that a Black Tern had been found in Siikalahti. Luckily we managed to twitch it as it is a good year-tick. We also saw some flocks of Long-tailed Ducks and Common Scoters in Siikalahti.

On the 18th I woke up early and managed to find a Red-breasted Flycatcher in Siikalahti. On my lunch-hour I found out that there were even 5 Black Terns flying with Little Gulls! Finally the first Honey Buzzard was also seen.

In the afternoon I drove again to Virolahti as we were participating to Arctic-migration bird-race. But I drove straight to Kurkela, where a Booted Eagle had been found and it had been the first twitchable local bird ever. But it had started to rain in the afternoon and the bird had landed to a border-zone. I waited with many twitchers for it to start flying again for 4 hours but the weather was just too cold even after the rain. Finally I gave up and headed to Lakakallio.

In Lakakallio we planned our race a little bit with Miska Loippo and Esa-Matti Lampinen and after we had eaten well, we went to sleep.

After a couple of hours sleeping we woke up and headed to western part of Virolahti. We were in Klamila when the race started at 2 a.m. and soon we heard the first Corn Crake. In Sydänkylä we managed to find a female Long-eared Owl but other species we found were all just common ones.

Night was very cold, so bird-activity was very low, but anyway Nightjars and Thrush Nightingales were singing everywhere. We also heard a couple of distant Great Bitterns. When a Quai was reported in Kattilainen we drove there to twitch it as it was lifer for Esa-Matti and of course a good addition to our list.

In Ravijoki Harju we found a Marsh Warbler and after some waiting also a Tawny Owl. Then we drove a long way to Lintulahti of course stopping several times on the way. In Heinlahti we managed to see a Short-eared Owl.

In Lintulahti we heard a Water Rail and a Reed Warbler easily. Then we heard some dry creaking sound from the reed that sounded a bit like a Baillion’s Crake but unfortunately it was behind all the other singers and it stopped too soon. But while waiting we still heard a distant Spotted Crake.

While walking to the bird-tower we heard an Icterine Warbler and from the tower we saw a couple of Greenshanks but then only some common species. We had hoped to see more.

In Vilkkiläntura we heard a Wood Warbler and a Treecreeper and some other common song-birds. From the tower we saw some Ringed Plovers, a Little Ringed Plover, 7 Temminck’s Stints, but again there weren’t as many birds as we had hoped.

Then it was time for the arctic-migration and we headed to Leerviikinranta. On the road we had a couple of flocks of Parrot Crossbills and then on the shore where were lots of people. But it was soon clear that there was almost no migration. Just some Black-throated Diver flocks were migrating. After we had got some common seabirds, we luckily saw one migrating female Scaup and found a Red-necked Grebe swimming with a flock of Great Crested Grebes. But even though we still needed some ridiculously common migrants, we had to move on.

On the Nato-tower we found a Wood Lark easily and in Hurppu we had a couple of Canada Geese and a migrating Yellow Wagtail. Then we climbed to Kellovuori-bird-tower where we saw some Swifts, before a text-message told that the Booted Eagle was flying again and it wasn’t even 8 a.m.!

We were quite far from Kurkela and roads were small and curvy, but finally we saw the group of birders watching and photographing towards the sky. We stopped the car and rushed out and found a pale raptor just over the birders. I took my camera and started focusing towards the bird when Miska said: “What the %¤#&, it’s a Honey Buzzard”! I shouted to birders that: “Where is the right bird?” and got an answer that it had just disappeared behind the forest and we should follow it. So we turned our car and started chasing the bird. Soon we met another group of birders who had seen the bird going back to the direction where we had just been and when we got there the same had happened again!

So we decided that it was pointless to drive here and there and got out and started scanning the sky. After we had found a couple of Honey Buzzards, I finally found the right bird – a pale morph Booted Eagle was flying towards us quite far over the forest. Soon everyone had found it and there were quite a few getting Finnish-tick with me!

Booted Eagle was flying towards us but then disappeared behind the trees. Soon there were more twitchers coming and again another group reported that they had seen the bird, so some cars were driving again there. But after some waiting the bird got up in front of us again and started soaring and soon it was very high. Then it started to glide toward us and after I had sent one more message, it stayed just over us for several minutes and everyone saw it very well.

Then it was time to continue the race again. We headed to Kotola where we soon heard an Ortolan Bunting and we also found some House Sparrows there. Then we had no idea what to do next, so we headed to Huvisaari. It took a lot of time but luckily we got a Coot and finally saw also some Oystercatchers which we had somehow missed earlier.

Then we headed towards Virojoki and from the museum we got a Wryneck and from the village some Gold Finches and Green Finches. Then we headed to Kurkela again where we hoped to find any local geese. But after we had seen a Red-backed Shrike we saw plenty of twitchers that had missed the Booted Eagle which had gone missing soon after we had left – and it was never seen again. From the fields we still got a Linnet before we hurried to twitch a White Stork that was seen in Eastgate. Luckily one another team let us see the bird through their scopes, as it was very distant already.

White Stork was our last species even though we still visited Vilkkiläntura. At 2 p.m. we headed to Virojoki to eat. While eating we got a message that a Little Bustard had been found in Mikkeli and as Miska and Esa-Matti were missing the species and they were collecting Mikkeli-ticks they wanted to go to twitching. So we soon drove to Lakakallio to pack their things and then Miska and Esa-Matti left towards Mikkeli and I headed to Leerviiki.

The results were given in Leerviiki and we won the race quite clearly with our 127 species. The second had 122 and third 121. There were altogether 12 teams and even 164 species had been seen in Virolahti!

I the evening I still climbed to Lakakallio to watch migration and saw a couple of Arctic Skuas, some Brent Geese with many flocks of Barnacle Geese and a mixed flock of Whimbrels and Bar-tailed Godwits. At 10 p.m. I was too tired and went to sleep.

On the 20th of May I climbed to Lakakallio at 4:30 a.m. and soon there were Barnacle Geese flocks migrating. Also Black-throated Divers were seen but the flocks were flying very high, so they were very difficult to find. Also some flocks of Brent Geese were seen, but nothing better was found. Altogether I counted about 5999 divers, 390 Brent Geese, 2 Arctic Skuas, a Whimbrel, 4 Tundra Bean Geese, 11 White-fronted Geese and 3 Pintails. I didn’t count any Barnacle Geese but more than 100 000 were seen but mostly very distant.

During the day I was in Elokallio but no better raptors were seen. Geese were still on the move, but at 3 p.m. I decided to give up and started driving back home. I still stopped in Lappeenranta Askola, but saw nothing special. At home I was soon ready to go to sleep.


Arctic migration and lifer twitch

The 7th of May started well when I checked Härskiinmutka early in morning and found a flock of ducks which had at least some promising looking birds. I drove closer to Moskuunniemi and soon found the flock which was now much closer. Birds were mostly Long-tailed Ducks and Common Scoters but there were 3 male and 2 female Steller’s Eiders too! On my lunch-hour I heard only a Thrush Nightingale and a Common Whitethroat in Siikalahti. After my work-day I saw these 5 birds in Moskuunniemi again but they were flying low towards Särkisalmi. I drove there and found the birds again and finally also some other birders managed to twitch them.

On the 8th day I saw a couple of Black-tailed Godwits migrating in Siikalahti. On the 9th day in early morning visit to Siikalahti I found a Bluethroat, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Blackcap. In the afternoon I was running in Tarvaslampi and saw a female Capercaillie. After sauna we visited Siikalahti again and found out that Nightjar had arrived to Sounio.

On the 10th of May we did a good tour to Saari. On the way we saw a couple of Cormorants in Härskiinmutka. In Akanvaara Tetrisuo we didn’t hear any Ortolan Buntings but in Pohjanranta we found a couple of Slavonian Grebes, Garganeys and Smews, 6 Bewick’s Swans and a White-tailed Eagle.

In Suurenjärvenliete floods were already quite small and there weren’t many birds either. In Jyrkilä we saw a couple of Stock Doves and in Kanavalampi floods a Little Ringed Plover. In Kanavalampi I immediately found a Great White Egret which was hiding behind some willows and perches almost inside forest as the flood was quite high. I had forgotten my phone inside car, so I started walking towards it when Hanna shouted that there was a Red-breasted Goose swimming with a flock of Barnacle Geese. So I checked it first and only then went to get my phone. Then I had to send news out from 2 rarities. Only other birds to mention were a couple of Smews.

In Tarassiinlahti we heard a Bluethroat but soon we were driving to Siikalahti. We hoped to see some migrating raptors but the weather was too hot and there was no wind at all. But there was a acrocephalus-warbler singing on a bush next to us and first it was singing like a Paddyfield Warbler but after almost an hour trying I managed to see it very briefly and it looked more like a Blyth’s Reed Warbler. After all it also started to sing more like a Blyth’s so after all it was “only” the earliest Blyth’s Reed Warbler ever in South Karelia. In the evening we checked all out Nuthatch nest-boxes, but found none breeding in them. And the only pair that is breeding is in an old nest-box that is impossible to open.

On the 11th day I did a quick water-bird count in Siikalahti and there were fewer birds than ever! Before I had to hurry to work I still checked Härskiinmutka and found 38 Scaups.

In the evening we drove to Virolahti for arctic-migration weekend. In Leerviikinniemi we saw nice duck-migration – Long-tailed Ducks and Common Scoters but also about 1000 Velvet Scoters. Other year-ticks were Eider, Caspian Tern, Arctic Tern and Arctic Skua which 3 of them were seen migrating. We put up our tent to Lakakallio and went to sleep when Nightjar was starting its continuous song.

On the 12th of May I climbed to Lakakallio already at 4:30 a.m. and after I had seen some Black-throated Divers Hanna and also Markus Öst arrived. Migration wasn’t very good but we counted 180 Black-throated Divers. The best bird of the morning was a White-billed Diver that I found migrating over inland with a couple of Black-throated Divers.

Geese were also migrating but I really don’t do geese anymore. But suddenly also Velvet Scoters started to move, but pretty soon the route changed too far to the sea. Anyway at least 2000 of altogether 4000 ducks were identified as Velvet Scoters. Also 650 aythya-ducks were seen but too distant.

Some other birds observed were a Bar-tailed Godwit that we only heard, a Swift, a couple of late Waxwings, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Parrot Crossbill.

Hanna’s sister Elissa arrived to Lakakallio too but then most of the migration was already gone. So pretty soon we left to check some other places nearby. In Vilkkiläntura we heard a Wood Warbler, a couple of Wrens and saw a White-backed Woodpecker, 120 Little Gulls, Ringed Plovers and a Little Ringed Plover. In Lintulahti we saw only a White-tailed Eagle but heard an Icterine Warbler.

In Elokallio we did a couple of hours raptor-watch but saw none migrating raptors. We saw only at least 5 White-tailed Eagles which was a disappointment as on the previous day there had been several rare raptors seen.

After some shopping we went to sleep to Lakakallio into our tents and then again to Leerviikinniemi to watch evening-migration. Weather was almost too good to watch tens of thousands of Common Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks migrating right over us! I was wearing T-shirt until the sunset!

On the 13th day I was again in Lakakallio at 4:30 and right away I heard a Serin singing! It was a bit behind a couple of Robins, so I tried to get closer, but either it moved or then I once again heard the direction wrong, so I couldn’t get any closer. But I heard it at least 5 times and after all it can’t really be misidentified. So it was a new self-found tick!

When the others had arrived too we saw some bigger flocks of Black-throated Divers, so altogether a little bit more than a hundred were counted. Geese were migrating inland and some birds heard were a Bluethroat and a Sylvia-warbler that sounded like a Barred Warbler but it sang only twice and never rattled and we didn’t see it at all. But luckily soon after we had agreed that we couldn’t really identify this warbler, we saw a male Golden Oriole migrating over us. It also landed shortly to top of trees, so at least we had seen something better again.

The migration stopped completely so after 8 a.m. we walked down and I was just thinking what we should do next when I got an SMS that told there had been a White-winged Lark found in Loviisa Hamnskär. All I knew that Hamnskär was an island, so I hoped to get some more information how to get there. I didn’t want to start planning a trip myself.

We packed our tents and soon drove to Hanskinranta where we saw nothing species. But then I decided that we should drive towards west and do birding somewhere on the way like in Hamina if there was any information coming about the twitch. I really didn’t want to repeat previous days birdless raptor-watch. The calm sea and warm day were perfect for an island-twitch!

We stopped in Hamina Lupinlahti and then I decided to call to my friend Juha Tuomaala if he knew any boats going to Hamnskär. He called soon back and told that he hadn’t got any good information except that one group from Helsinki was already going. Then I called to one of these twitchers and found out that my friend Mika I. Koskinen had started driving from other side of the country. I called him and found out that he was going to a boat that was leaving from Kotka at 1 p.m. He gave me one more number to call and I managed to book 3 places!
We still had some time so we drove to Kirkkojärvi where we first ate well and then heard a Garden Warbler, a Pheasant and a Great Reed Warbler. We still tried 5 minutes to hear a Savi’s Warbler but it wasn’t singing in the heat of the mid-day.

Then we headed to Kotka Sapokka where we soon met the rest of the twitchers. At 13:15 all 12 of us were in the boat and a long trip to Loviisa Hamnskär started. The boat was really good and we were soon driving very fast, so we had to wear more clothes.

Once we were out on the sea we saw the first Black Guillemot and soon also some Razorbills. Then after more driving we passed famous Aspskär and saw more Razorbills and later also one Common Guillemot.

Finally after more than an hour driving we were at Hamnskär which was a small and rocky island. We had to get to the island by a rubber-boat so after 4 rowing trips we were all on the island. Then we started to walk towards the western tip of the island where the bird had been found and where the first twitchers had seen it leaving too.

Once we got to the tip, we started to plan how to walk around the island, but first I told that we should check the spit behind us. There was some yellow hay growing that really looked like steppe. So it wasn’t a surprise that we almost immediately flushed the White-winged Lark! It landed to the next spit and we could watch it feeding with our scopes. It was only the 4th White-winged Lark in Finland ever!

After some watching we decided to walk around the island. Once we had walked to the base of the spit where the lark was it flew back to its favorite place. We didn’t find anything else so soon we were back on our rubber-boat again. Then I noticed an Arctic Skua flying over us.

Soon we were driving back towards Kotka again. Luckily someone had asked the captain to stop next to Aspskär, so we had an opportunity to see and also photograph Razorbills, but also Common Guillemots which at least 36 were seen. We also saw a Rock Pipit perched on one big stone.

The way back was soon over and there was already next group of twitchers ready to get onto the boat. The captain seemed happy that he had got some extra-customers. I think birders must be one of the easiest customers.

We still had a long drive back to Parikkala and once we were there we were very tired but also happy – our weekend had been very good!


Bird-tower competition week

May is always awaited month amongst birders because of it is the month when it is really possible to find some rarities. On the 1st of May we spent almost whole day in Siikalahti and saw once again a Black Kite and a Pallid Harrier almost in the same time. Other birds seen were a female Scaup, 2 White-tailed Eagles, 2 female Hen Harriers, a Goshawk, 3 Hobbies, an Oystercatcher, 72 Golden Plovers, a Heuglin’s Gull, 2 Sand Martins, a Yellow Wagtail and a Long-tailed Tit. In the afternoon we went to check owl nest-boxes in Tyrjä and saw a Capercaillie. Then in the evening we still went to find out that Nuthatches were really breeding in one nest-box in Kangaskylä. It is finally the first confirmed breeding of this species in Parikkala.

AdderOn the 2nd of May my birthday weather was awful. In Kaukola I saw a Greylag Goose, 10 Bewick’s and 200 Whooper Swans and while checking some nest-boxes I heard a Cuckoo and saw 3 Hazel Hens. But then it started to rain too bad.

On the 3rd day I got a couple of year.ticks – Willow Warbler and Whinchat and on the 4th day a Sedge Warbler. Almost nothing else was seen, but in the evening I found a Pygmy Owl breeding in one nest-box.

On the 5th of May was the Birdtower competition. Pirkka had arrived very late in at night and too soon we were heading to Siikalahti. We met Elissa and Miika Soikkeli, Pekka Punnonen, Jukka Savolainen and Matti Lötjönen soon and were at 4:45 a.m. in the tower.

We couldn’t find any good starting species, so at 5 a.m. we started to count just common species. The weather was much worse than it had been on forecasts so we were soon frozen! A Heuglin’s Gull was seen again but it is not a species yet, so we got only Lesser Black-backed Gull. A Bewick’s Swan was flying over us and other better species during the early morning were a couple of Canada Geese, Smews, a Black Grouse, a Hen Harrier, a couple of Grey-headed Woodpeckers, a Cuckoo, several Northern Wheatears, a Whinchat, a Sedge Warbler, a couple of small flocks of Lapland Buntings and a Chiffchaff that was singing all the time.

After we had got about 65 species the weather got even worse and it took a long time to get any new species. But finally the rain stopped and even sun was visible through clouds. A couple of Gadwalls, a Red-throated Diver in a flock of 32 Black-throated Divers, a couple of Woodcocks, a flock of Waxwings, Redpolls and Bramblings were seen. And finally we got some more raptors too when a Rough-legged and some Common Buzzards, a Hobby and a White-tailed Eagle were seen. Around mid-day we still saw a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers and a Jay before it was 1 p.m. and we counted that we had seen 90 species.

Then we hurried to Saari Tarassiinlahti where a team had seen 94 species including the best bird in whole Finland during the competition – a Bee-eater. But unfortunately twitchers had lost the bird just 15 minutes before we got there and it wasn’t found anymore.

We searched for the Bee-eater for an hour and a half but found only some species we had hoped to see in Siikalahti like a White-backed Woodpecker, a Green Sandpiper and a Black-tailed Godwit. Other birds we had missed in Siikalahti had been Water Rail, Slavonian Grebe, Pied Flycatcher, Green Finch and Yellowhammer…

In the afternoon we went to eat to Tarvaslampi and on the way back home we stopped in Särkisalmi. I started scanning waterfowl and almost the first bird was a female Red-crested Pochard! It was only the 7th observation of this species in South-Karelia and the first one in 13 years! But 5 observations have been made in Parikkala and this was already my 4th observation here and 2nd self-found after one male we found with Hanna at 2004.

In the evening we still went to check some fields with Pirkka but found nothing special. Then we headed to Siikalahti at night and heard a couple of Spotted Crakes, several Water Rails and a Jack Snipe very well. I also found an owl perched on one tree and a scope and head-lights of a car were needed to identify it as a Short-eared Owl.

Golden PloversOn the 6th of May we twitched Nuthatches for Pirkka and found out that they were already feeding their youngsters. Then we headed to Saari where in Akanvaara Tetrisuo we found altogether 880 Golden Plovers, but otherwise it was once again very quiet until we found a Shelduck in Tarassiinlahti. The duck soon left towards Kanavalampi where we soon found it sleeping. A Common Whitethroat was heard before we continued towards Siikalahti. The weather was now too sunny and hot so in a couple of hours we saw only a White-tailed Eagle and 2 female harriers that migrated too far but at least one of them was a Pallid or Montagu’s Harrier.

After we had eaten in ABC Pirkka started a long drive back to Kemijärvi. I soon headed to sleep as I hadn’t been sleeping enough for a long time.


Spring year-ticks

The weather was finally changing warmer but still it was minus degrees at nights. Snow was melting quickly anyway when sun was shining and there were some days with almost no wind at all and of course some warm rains too.

On the 9th of April I saw already a flock of 45 White Wagtails and 20 Meadow Pipits and finally first flock of 6 Tundra Bean Geese, a Greylag Goose, a Common Redshank, 3 Golden Plovers and the best bird – a Shore Lark that was flying towards south. Also 8 Black-headed Gulls, Goshawk, Kestrel, White-backed and Grey-headed Woodpecker and a Linnet were seen. In the afternoon I visited Särkisalmi where I saw 6 Mallards, 6 Goldeneyes and a Goosander.

But then it came a couple of quieter days again and on the 10th day I saw only a White-tailed Eagle, a Rough-legged Buzzard, a Great Grey Shrike, a couple of Marsh Harriers, a Long-tailed Tit and 5 Common Crossbills and on the 11th day a White-tailed Eagle, a Merlin and heard a Great Bittern.

The 12th day was a bit better again so I visited Siikalahti a couple of times. I saw 3 Hen Harriers, 3 Song Thrushes, 4 Ospreys, a Wood Lark, 65 White Wagtails and 45 Snow Buntings. In Särkisalmi I saw a Bittern standing on the reeds and when a couple of Whooper Swans came to look at it, it opened it wings and looked even more stupid than normally.

Black Kite

On the 13th day I heard the first Robins and a Dunnock and on a couple of visits to Siikalahti I saw 43 Tundra Bean Geese, 3 Kestrels, 2 Goshawks, 8 Sparrowhawks, 2 White-tailed Eagles, 4 Linnets and then in 5 minutes I saw a Black Kite and a male Pallid Harrier. Later I still saw a possible female Pallid Harrier but it was too distant.

On the 14th day I went to Lappeenranta to play rinkbandy Finnish Championship tournament. It was funny to play on the highest level first time since 1999. We lost 2 games but managed to play a draw against a team which came second after all. And even I managed to make a couple of goals and give an assist which wasn’t too bad as we did only 8 goals altogether. Between the matches I did some birding and visited Joutseno Konnunsuo where I saw a Peregrine, 3 Green Sandpipers, Common Gulls, 5 Rough-legged Buzzards and so on. In Kivisaari I saw 3 Curlews and in Luukkaansalmi 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

On the 15th of April we were in Siikalahti for a long time and saw 20 Tundra Bean Geese, a Greylag Goose, a Teal, 18 Mallards, 4 Goldeneyes, 5 White-tailed Eagles, again a Pallid Harrier and a Black Kite migrating in 5 minutes, 2 Hen Harriers, 2 Rough-legged Buzzards, 4 Coots, 7 Curlews, 3 Green Sandpipers, 13 Common Snipes, 70 Black-headed, 4 Common and 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a Stock Dove, a Northern Wheatear, a Great Grey Shrike, a Brambling, a Gold Finch and a flock of 25 Common Crossbills.

On Monday the 16th of April I was in Siikalahti on my lunch-hour and I was talking with Esa Sojamo and Pertti Koskimies when I noticed an eagle on the north-eastern sky – it was a beautiful adult Greater Spotted Eagle! It was soaring a couple of minutes and then continued towards north-west. A Water Rail was heard when a Marsh Harrier tried to catch it from the reeds.

Then then next days were quiet again. First there was no wind at all and then it turned northern. Anyway it was quite warm, but only migrating birds were Curlews. There were already a couple of hundreds of geese, mostly Tundra Bean and White-fronted but also some Barnacle and Canada Geese and also some Taiga Bean and almost every day also at least one Greylag Goose. Only year-ticks were a Chiffchaffs and a couple of Wood Cocks that I saw in the evening.

On the 19th day I saw a Grey Heron, 8 Wigeons, a White-tailed Eagle and 12 Waxwings on my lunch-hour but surprisingly my evening visit was much better when I found immediately a Black Kite, then soon saw a Mute Swan landing to a field with some geese and then Matti Lötjönen called that he had found a Great Grey Owl nearby. I saw a southern, eastern and northern species in 30 minutes. Later I still found that there was also a Bewick’s Swan on the field with Whooper Swans and the Mute Swan. So it was nice to see all species of swans on the same field.

On the 18th day I saw a flock of 14 Barnacle Geese and a couple of Great Crested Grebes in Särkisalmi and the first Tufted Ducks and Pochards, 4 Greylag Geese, a Peregrine, a Cormorant and heard a Greenshank in Siikalahti

At weekend the weather was very bad as usual. On Saturday we did a good tour in Saari but found almost nothing. 3 Greylag Geese, a couple of Shovelers, Merlins and Golden Plovers. Boring…

On Sunday we were almost whole day in Siikalahti with several visiting friends. Migration was quiet but at least some Rough-legged Buzzards were moving and we counted 34 birds. But we got some goodies too as a female Pallid Harrier was seen a couple of times pretty well, a younger Golden Eagle migrated quite distant and a Black Kite was seen late in the afternoon. Also 6 Bewick’s Swans, 3 Greylag Geese, 18 Pochards, 2 White-tailed Eagles, 61 Cranes, 67 Curlews, a Whimbrel and a Snow Bunting were seen.

Week started quietly and on Tuesday the 24th day I saw a couple of Black-throated Divers, an early Spotted Redshank, a couple of White-tailed Eagles, a Greylag goose, a Whimbrel and 20 Lapland Buntings in Siikalahti. After my work I had to drive to Uukuniemi Suurenjärvenliete to twitch a Mandarin Duck that was a new species and maybe the 300th species for Parikkala. The flood was huge and there were lots of ducks but I couldn’t find the Mandarin Duck. I counted 35 Green Sandpipers and at least 70 Song Thrushes were seen in huge flocks of Fieldfares and Redwings. I checked all best places in Saari too but found only a couple of Bewick’s Swans, a Whimbrel and several flocks of about 40 Curlews but I expected to find much more…

On the 25th of April there were 3 Oystercatchers and 2 Black-throated Divers in Särkisalmi and in Siikalahti I saw a flock of 22 Greenshanks. In the evening we had Parikkala and Rautjrävi Bird-club meeting where nice pictures were shown. On the 26th day a flock of 11 Common Scoters and a Common Sandpiper were in Särkisalmi and in Siikalahti I saw a Garganey, a couple of Shovelers, a Whimbrel and heard a Ringed Plover migrating. After work I went back and managed to relocate a 3rd c-y Greater Spotted Eagle which was showing well a few times. But crows were chasing it all the time, so it didn’t come very close. Other birds seen were a female Hen Harrier and the first Barn Swallow. In the evening I went to check one owl nest-box and there was a Ural Owl.

On the 27th of April I saw in Särkisalmi 72 Great Crested Grebes, 24 Black-throated Divers, 2 Red-necked Grebes, 2 Slavonian Grebes, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 14 Smews and so on. In Siikalahti I saw a Greylag Goose, 4 Cormorants, a White-tailed Eagle, 3 Little Gulls and heard a Tree Pipit. In the evening a group of 4 Catalan birders came and we still saw a Long-tailed Tit, a Grey-headed Woodpecker, a couple of Bewick’s Swans, a Black Grouse and then of course went to see a Ural Owl too.

On the 28th day I was again in Siikalahti and there was a nice group of birders it was quite enjoyable even though migration was still quiet. We saw a couple of Gadwalls, a Slavonian Grebe, 3 White-tailed Eagles, 23 Rough-legged Buzzards, 2 Hen Harriers, 3 Common Terns and a flock of 10 Parrot Crossbills. I was away from the dam-road for 15 minutes and missed the same Greater Spotted Eagle but luckily Catalans saw it. In the afternoon we did a tour to Saari but saw only a couple of Grey Herons and of course some, but only some flocks of geese. In the evening we still heard a White-backed Woodpecker drumming in Siikalahti, but didn’t see it.

On the 29th day we went to try to see Siberian Jays but the birds didn’t show up. Luckily we saw a Three-toed Woodpecker drumming. In Särkisalmi we saw an Oystercatcher and the rest of the day I was again in Siikalahti where a couple of Bewick’s Swans, 9 Cormorants, a male Pallid Harrier, a Hobby, a couple of Whimbrels, a flock of 10 Ruffs and 2 Black-tailed Godwits, a couple of Wood Sandpipers and a House Martin were seen.

On the last day of April a Common Redstart was singing in our garden. During my lunch-hour I saw almost nothing in Siikalahti, but in the evening I went jogging in Tarvaslampi and finally saw the first Capercaillie of the year. After sauna we still went to Siikalahti and heard a Spotted Crake and a distant Jack Snipe as year-ticks.

Next 2 weeks should be really good time to find something better so I hope to find something better than “every spring rarities”…