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!

J.A.

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.

H.A.

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.

J.A.

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.

J.A.

From back-winter to summer in one week

The weather had once again changed much colder so I wasn’t birding very much: on the 8th of May the best birds were a flock of 20 Oystercatchers in Härskiinmutka and on the 9th day I saw a migrating Peregrine in Siikalahti. And on the 10th day it was snowing again…

On the 11th of May I saw the first Pied Flycacther and a couple of Whinchats in Siikalahti. Other birds seen were a Common Redstart, a Gold Finch and a Rough-legged Buzzard. In Härskiinmutka I saw 52 Black-throated Divers. In the evening we went to check some empty owl nest-boxes and on the way we saw 2 Hazel Hens and finally the first Capercaillie of the year. On the way back home we saw a Nutcracker in Kangaskylä – I had never seen it before in Parikkala in May.

On the 12th day the best birding was made in the evening in Saari where with Miika Soikkeli we saw a Gadwall in Pohjanranta, a Redshank in Suurenjärvenliete and 5 or 6 Stock Doves in Jyrkilä.

On the 13th of May I did duck-counts in Siikalahti and during the 4 hours count and after that I saw 2 Greylag Geese, a Peregrine, a Hazel Hen, a Redshank, a Bluethroat, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Swift and a Red-breasted Flycatcher that Hanna found while she was photographing birds from her new hide. But the best bird of the day was a Marsh Sandpiper that I first heard and then found already landing just in front of us to a small island. It was hiding very well behind other waders and soon left with a flock of Wood Sandpipers. In the evening we did a visit to Saari again and in Pohjanranta we saw a flock of 20 Bar-tailed Godwits but almost nothing else.

On the 14th of May the day started with 7 Scaups in Härskiinmutka and then we headed to Siikalahti. During the morning and day we saw a flock of 11 Velvet Scoters, 2 Cormorants, a Black Kite, 6 White-tailed Eagles, a Hen Harrier, female Pallid Harrier, a really distant Golden Eagle, a Peregrine, 110 Golden Plovers, a Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Dunlins, 150 Wood Sandpipers, 18 Swifts, a Grey-headed Woodpecker, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a Red-throated Pipit, a Bluethroat, a Sedge Warbler and a Lesser Whitethroat – so it really was the best day of the whole spring!

On the 15th day there were 10 Scaups in Härskiinmutka and on my lucn-hour I saw a Spotted Flycatcher in Siikalahti. On the 16th day I saw a Honey Buzzard on my lunch-hour and in the evening we headed to Saari with Miika. In Pohjanranta we saw a Garganey and a Peregrine, in Pohjansuo there was a flock of 390 Golden Plovers, in Suurenjärvenliete 4 Brent Geese, a Temminck Stint, 3 Ringed Plovers, a Little Ringed Plover and a Lapland Bunting, in Jyrkilä we saw again some Stock Doves and in Kanavalampi 80 Wood Sandpiper and a Dunlin.

On the 17th of May I was watching migration on our own beach and saw 40 Brent Geese and 4 Velvet Scoters. In Moskuunniemi I still heard a Common Whitethroat before I had to go to work. On my lunch-hour I saw a Black Kite in Siikalahti and in the evening we went to check the situation of our breeding owls with Hanna and Miika. One of the Tengmalm’s Owl nests had been predated but one had 5 eggs and one 5 small nestlings. Both Pygmy Owls still had 7 eggs and both Ural Owls had 2 chicks which we ringed. Another mother-owl was very aggressive and it hit a few times really hard, but luckily we have really good equipment, so neither us or the owl was injured.

On the 18th of May 2 Bluethroats were singing in Siikalahti dam-road and a Dunlin was seen migrating. The 19th of May was the first very warm day so it really felt that the short spring was already gone. In Siikalahti a couple of Thrush Nightingales and Blackcaps were singing and surprisingly I heard also a Grasshopper Warbler and a Corn Crake. In Härskiinmutka I saw a Cormorant and 6 Scaups before I had to go to work.

J.A.

Birdtower competition 2017

On the 4th of May I visited Siikalahti a couple of times, first before my work and then on my lunch-hour. I saw 5-6 White-tailed Eagles, 5 Wood Sandpipers, a House Martin, 2 Yellow Wagtails and heard a Chiffchaff. In the afternoon we went to check owl-nestboxes and found and ringed a Pygmy Owl which had 7 eggs and a Tenmalm’s Owl with 5 eggs.

On the 5th of May I visited Siikalahti on my lunch-hour and again after work. A White-tailed Eagle, a Hen Harrier, both male and female Pallid Harriers, a Merlin, a Ruff, a Spotted Redshank, 28 Wood Sandpipers and 10 Lapland Buntings were seen. The male Pallid Harrier was flying high up on the sky with Marsh Harriers. A Grey-headed Woodpecker was still calling and Willow Warbler was singing – it really looked promising for the next day’s Birdtower competiton, but the weather forecast looked extremely bad – cold and northern wind.

After 10 p.m. my brother Pirkka arrived and of course we met in Siikalahti where Water Rails were calling and after some waiting we heard also a Jack Snipe extremely well.

On the 6th of May we woke up at 3:30 a.m. and soon I was biking towards Siikalahti while others were driving by car. I wanted to get some eco-ticks as we have a competition with some friends. At the parking place we met Matti Lötjönen and while walking to the tower we saw and heard a White-backed Woodpecker and a Wren was singing behind the tower. Soon also Ilpo Kuusisalo and Miika Soikkeli arrived and at 5 a.m. the competition started.

The beginning was pretty quiet but some very good species were got like a Wren and a Grey-headed Woodpecker which both were new species in our birdtower competition 18 years history. We also got White-backed Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Smew, Shoveler, Pintail, Kestrel, Black Grouse, Water Rail and so on soon. The first surprising species was a Cormorant that landed to the bay and stayed there for whole day! Soon we had seen 3 species of geese but unfortunately we didn’t see more at all.

A lot of passerines were migrating and especially thrushes, Redpolls and Siskins were numerous. And because of the northern wind the flocks stayed low and some of them were flying close enough to the tower. So soon we had seen all the common thrushes, but also Tree and Meadow Pipit, Lapland Bunting, Waxwing, Yellow Wagtail, Jay and also Red-breasted Merganser, Black and Red-throated Diver, Golden Plover, Wood and Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and Ruff but we really hoped to see more migrating waders, but we weren’t lucky. On funny observation was a Willow Warbler that was found extremely far but because of the cold weather the visibility was extremely good and it was easy to identify even from that distant.

Before 7 a.m. we had already more than 80 species and eve after that we got species very well. But nothing better was found until Matti said: “There is a Grey Heron or GREAT WHITE EGRET COMING!” and a Great White Egret came from north and flew almost straight over us and landed to the shore of the bay.

But soon after the egret it went quiet. Even though lots of migration was still going on, we couldn’t get any new species. Common local raptors were seen which a Hobby and 3 Hen Harriers were the best ones but even White-tailed Eagles were missing. Only other better species was a Great Grey Shrike. And then we had even 1.5 hours without any new species! But finally a 2 Goldfinches flew over us. The last 2 hours went again a little bit better and we still got Northern Wheatear, Dunnock, White-tailed Eagle and the last species was Merlin. But we still had hoped to find a Sand Martin as there were altogether more than 100 Swallows and House Martins, or the Pallid Harriers that were now completely missing or any other better species at all… So when we counted our species it was a surprise that we had made the new inland record with 99 species! Our own old record was 97 species but in Saari Tarassiinlahti our friends had got 98 species even twice.

After we had eaten and rest a little bit, we headed to Saari with Pirkka. On the way we saw nothing but in Akonpohja we saw 3 Little Ringed Plovers. Then in Pohjanranta we had 2 Oystercatchers, a Greylag Goose, 7 Canada Geese, 2 Bewick’s Swans, a Common Sandpiper and a Pink-footed Goose-looking bird flying over us. The goose was found on the field nearby and it indeed was a Pink-footed Goose. In Jyrkilä we saw 2 Stock Doves and a Great Grey Shrike and in Kanavalampi we found a female Redstart. The best bird of the trip was a Great Grey Owl in place Y. After all we had seen 111 species during the day in Parikkala, and we didn’t try to find any common birds. I think this is very good number if you think that most of the passerines haven’t arrived yet.

On Sunday we started in Härskiinmutka where we saw single flocks of Long-tailed Ducks and Common Scoters. Then we headed to Siikalahti to count ducks. There were much less ducks than one week earlier and it really seems that we are losing some species soon. We saw only 2 Slavonian Grebes, 20 Pochards and 31 Black-headed Gulls! And I still haven’t seen any Garganeys in Parikkala!

While doing the count we saw 2 White-backed Woodpeckers, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, heard a Black and a Grey-headed Woodpecker and a Cuckoo, and saw also 2 Sand Martins, a male Redstart and 2 Long-tailed Tits and so on. The “funniest” accident happened to me – I was trying to get to one counting-tower and the water level was a bit higher than I expected as the Lake Simpele had opened during the previous day. I also expected that the bottom would still be frozen but it was only on my first 2 steps. So after all I had to swim to that tower… The water was probably +4 degrees but after very cold night the 30 meters path to the tower was much colder, so my walk to the tower and back with my bare feet was horrible! After I had managed to get back to my car, I drove to home to get dry clothes and continued to the next place to continue counts.

After the count the weather turned very cold again and it started snowing. And the weather forecast looked awful for the next week again! This is really the worst spring ever, or actually it feels that spring still hasn’t arrived at all…

J.A.