Photographing birds from hide hut

I had great photographing possibilities when there was still snow to reflect light and migrants started to arrive. In the end of the month birds clearly started to find more food from nature so I stopped photographing. During next summer I am planning to build shallow water pool in the front of the hide. Birds can drink and bath on it. This pond will hopefully bring more interesting species to the photographing area. I have also plans of totally rebuilding feeding area for next winter season.

Here you can see collection of the images taken from my hide.


Long end of winter

On the 4th of February we visited Siberian Jays. 3 birds were found and these beautiful birds were once again fed well. Other birds seen in the forests were a Treecreeper and a Long-tailed Tit.

On the next days I did some birding on my lunch-hours saw the Chaffinches in several feeders, some Brambling in Kirkonkylä, Coal Tits, Blackbirds and Fieldfares.

On the 7th day there were a couple of Great Grey Owls in Tetrisuo and it seemed that there were many of them everywhere around Parikkala. A couple of dead Ural Owls were found later and the rings told that these birds had been ringed in Mikkeli and Ruokolahti. Unfortunately also some too tame Greay Grey Owls and a couple of dead Tengmalm’s and one Tawny Owl were found, so owls didn’t have enough to eat. There was just too much snow.

I visited Simpele Kokkolanjoki a couple of times and saw wintering Whooper Swans, some Dippers and found a Great Grey Owl there too. In Konkapelto I saw a Sparrowhawk. In the afternoon I twitched a Tengmal’s Owl that Matti Lötjönen found in Siikalahti.

I was playing in Lappeenranta every weekend so I stopped in Imatra Vuoksi several times. There I saw the wintering Smews, a Scaup and of course Cormorants, Goosanders and Goldeneyes. While driving I saw some Great Grey Shrikes.


On the 10th of February we went to Joutseno with Hanna and her sister Elissa and brother Miika. We twitched Oriental Turtle Dove in Haukilahti which finally showed up after more than an hour waiting. In Hyvättilä we didnät find Collared Doves but surprisingly I found a Lapland Bunting visiting one feeder with Chaffinches and Yellowhammers. It was my first record in February ever.

I was in Lappeenranta also on the next day and birds seen there were a Teal in Reijola, a Great Crested Grebe, 4 Cormorants and a family of Whooper Swans in Luukkaansalmi.

On the 13th day I saw a Nuthatch in Kirkonkylä and on the next days I visited Siikalahti several times but found only some White-backed and Grey-headed Woodpeckers. On the 15th day there were a family of 11 Whooper Swans in Tyrjänjoki where a Black Woodpecker was also drumming.

On the 17th of February we left to Thailand where we birded with Mikko Ala-Kojola and Antti Peuna in Northern part of the country from 18th of February to 3rd of March. Trip report can be found here: North Thailand.

On the 4th of March we drove back to Parikkala and saw a Hawk Owl in Porvoo and a Great Grey Shrike in Loviisa. Once we were in Parikkala I wore lots of clothes and left to do winterbird-count. There weren’t many birds: 4 Whooper Swans flying over, 22 Rock Doves, Black Woodpecker, 8 Great Spotted Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Waxwing, 2 Fieldfares, only 9 Blue Tits, 55 Great Tits, Coal Tit, Crested Tit, not a single Willow Tit, Treecreeper, Jay, only 7 Magpies, 77 Jackdaws, 9 Hooded Crows, 2 Ravens, 7 Tree Sparrows, 11 Greenfinches, Common Redpoll, 12 Bullfinces and 12 Yellowhammers. I also saw a Least Weasel.

The spring was really not even close! During our trip to Thailand it had been the coldest time of whole winter and still it was snowing more and more. So I didn’t find many new birds and most of the wintering birds had also disappeared. On the 6th day I found 10 Mallards in Tyrjänjoki. They had probably overwintered there? On the 9th day I saw the first Herring Gull in Vuoksi. On the 10th day we went to find 2 Dippers in Peruspohjanjoki, in Kokkolanjoki we saw 2 Goosanders, in Kannas 2 Arctic Redpolls and in Tyrjä a new Great Grey Owl.

On the 11th day I saw 11 Herring Gulls in Vuoksi, then with Sampsa Cairenius we managed to see the Collared Doves in Hyvättilä and Oriental Turtle Dove again in Haukilahti, even though it had been told to disappear already some time ago. But then it came colder again.

On the 17th of March we twitched a Ural Owl in Moskuunniemi and on the 18th day we put up some nest-boxes for Nuthatches. A couple of birds were seen on their territories and a Treecreeper was singing already. The first Lesser Spotted Woodpecker of the year was seen in Siikalahti. And in Kirjolankangas we photographed a Pygmy Owl that was hunting on a feeder.

On the next few days I visited Nuthatches a couple of times, but they weren’t visiting the nest-boxes yet. A flock of Long-tailed Tits was also seen.

On the 23rd of March I started to visit in Siikalahti on my lunch-hours, but saw only some Long-tailed Tits and 2 Common Crossbills.

On the 24rd of March was wilderness bird-race again. Our area was in the middle of Ruokolahti. The start was amazing, it was -22 degrees, but we soon heard a couple of Ural Owls in Ahjärvi and later altogether 7 Pygmy Owls in 10 minutes! But then the rest of the day was quite boring. It started to wind pretty hard and only better birds we found were a Grey-headed Woodpecker, a Dipper and an Arctic Redpoll. Other birds we got some points were a Hazel Hen, 35 Great spotted Woodpeckers, 4 Goldcrests, 2 Coal Tits, 20 Crested Tits, 39 Willow Tits, 5 Treecreepers, 11 Jays, a Common Crossbill and 57 Bullfinches. After all we got anyway 2nd most points while Harry Nyström, Jarkko Rutila and Ari Salminen had worked very hard in much better area and won clearly.

On the 25th day a family of Whooper Swans had arrived to Särkisalmi and finally on the 28th day I saw some migrants in Siikalahti when I saw 17 Herring Gulls, a Sparrowhawk and 2 White-tailed Eagles.

The end of March had been too cold and frustrating but luckily on last 2 days some birds were finally seen. Whooper Swans, Goshawks, Herring Gulls and woodpeckers were seen on both days and on the 30th day I saw 3 Common Buzzards, a Merlin, a Woodpigeon, a Starling, 2 Goldfinches and a Wood Lark which is quite rare here. And on the 31st day we saw a White-tailed Eagle, 2 Common Buzzards, 2 Stock Doves, 2 Woodpigeons, a Rook and 15 Snow Buntings. In the evening we still saw a new Great Grey Owl in Tarvassaari.

On the 1st of April we tried to ring this Great Grey Owl but without success. In Melkoniemi we saw 9 Black Grouses and in Särkisalmi 4 Snow Buntings before we drove to Siikalahti. There we saw 2 White-tailed Egles, 2 Sparrowhawks, 4 Common Buzzards, a Kestrel, a Goldfinch and so on, but it was still very quiet comparing what we have used to see this time of year.

There was still too much snow so only some new birds arrived. On the 4th day I saw a White-tailed Eagle, 15 Lapwings, a Stock Dove, 5 Woodpigeons and a Reed Bunting. On the 5th day only birds to mention were 44 Snow Buntings, but on the 6th day I saw a Marsh Harrier, a Kestrel, a Stock Dove, 47 Woodpigeons, 6 Starlings and finally the first Skylark and so on.

On the weekend we expected to see much more but still we were disappointed. It had been raining during the night so snow had been melting, but on Saturday the wind was northern and even though I was 6 hours in Siikalahti, I saw only 4 Cranes, 2 Marsh Harriers, 4 White-tailed Eagles, 2 Merlins, 2 Kestrels, 20 Blackbirds, a Mistle Thrush, a Redwing, 7 White Wagtails, 50 Snow Buntings, 2 Reed Buntings and do on. And on the 8th of April we saw 3 Canada Geese, 2 Mallards, a Black-headed Gull, a Stock Dove, 15 Skylarks, again a Wood Lark, 8 Meadow Pipit, 12 White Wagtails, 4 Fieldfares, 6 Mistle Thrushes, 45 Chaffinches, a Siskin, a Linnet, 50 Snow Buntings and a Great Bittern that was hiding between the vegetation on still completely frozen bay.

But now it started to feel like spring and weather-forecasts look promising. I hope to see much more birds soon!


A hide for bird photographing

I have been long thinking building my own bird photographing hide. Now I have one! This hide has been built mostly of recycled or vintage materials. My father and brother, who are experienced builders, were great help.

The hide is 250cm wide and long. An opening in the front is 180cm x 70cm. Photographing is possible through a mirror surface glass (same that Bence Mate uses in his hides) or through openings in a fabric screen. The windows are 80 x 60cm. Birds won’t fly to the windows, because I have placed a strip of fence net hanging over the upper part of the window. From bird´s perspective mirrored image of the net is visible in the window. Photographer can easily see through the net what birds are approaching.

This hide is made for 2-3 photographers. Cameras should be held on tripods. A tilting front wall gives lots of space for photographer´s and tripod´s legs. Bag wall has a bed that can be also used as space for necessary photographing gear.

So far fogging or freezing of the windows has not been a problem. This hide has a high ceiling so moisture from breathing will rice up. Vents up in the wall take humid air out. This hide has not heating and wearing lots of clothing and provided blankets is necessary. Even if the hide is high, it will shadow photographing area only during couple of midwinter months. Hide´s indoor walls still need painting and furnishing.

During winter months I will keep a bird feeding station around the hide. Next summer there will built a shallow 2 x 2,5m pond where birds can drink and bath. Taking care of pond and feeding station hygiene is of course important. I will bring nice branches and trunks where birds can sit on. I will also make nest boxes and plant fruit bearing bushes to surrounding area.

Here are some test images taken from the new hide.


Oriental Turtle Dove

For years I had been working with birds that had been reported in Garden Watch in the end of January. There were always some impossible birds like Ortolan Buntings and then easy to misidentify birds like flocks of Linnets and of course plenty of Green Woodpeckers – which of course are always Grey-headed Woodpeckers. So mostly I have been deleting birds in Tiira, but sometimes I have been asking more information.

Now there was a report of a Turtle Dove in Joutseno, which had been reported several days after the watch. I immediately thought about an Oriental Turtle Dove but there is always a possibility that it could be a strange-looking Feral Dove, Fieldfare, or almost anything. But once again I asked more information in hope to get some response soon.

More than 24 hours later I got an email that the bird had still been seen in the garden and it was OK to go to check and identify it. With Pekka Punnonen we had planned to go to twitch an Oriental Turtle Dove to Hamina where one had been wintering, but after I got a couple of more responses to new emails that told that the bird had white tail-tip and brown head, I called to Pekka and told that we weren’t going to Hamina but to Joutseno which was much closer!

On the 3th of February early in the morning I drove to Joutseno Haukilahti where Pekka arrived also soon. We found the right garden and it looked good. There was a feeder close to a spruce-fence and there was a nice forest with pines, spruces and other trees nearby.

We soon met the lady that I had been in contact and after some talking I was quite sure there really was some kind of Turtle Dove. She stayed with us in the garden where we could see the feeder but also the surrounding well. There was a dog in the fence but luckily it got used to us soon and was quiet. We talked with the lady and the most surprising information was that the bird had been visiting the feeder since 30th of December! She also told that the bird arrived earliest at 9:30 but sometimes later about 11 a.m.

It was more that minus 10 degrees so soon we started to feel frozen. There were lots of birds visiting the feeder like tits, 5 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Blackbirds, Chaffinches (which seem to be everywhere this winter), several Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a White-backed Woodpecker. But the dove wasn’t seen.

Finally after 10 a.m. 2 Sparrowhawks flew over us and I saw a dove flushed from the pines next to us. But we saw the bird only through the trees, but anyway it looked very promising. It was big and quite narrow-winged. But it seemed to fly very far!

We were feeling very cold so Pekka did a couple of walks towards the direction where the dove had been flying but he found nothing. But then at 10:45 a.m. Pekka noticed that the dove had just landed to an apple-tree in front of us! And indeed it was a nice “meena” Oriental Turtle Dove!

I started to take pictures but soon the bird landed to the feeder where it was a bit behind snow all the time. I tried to get a little bit closer but still couldn’t get any better photos. But after some 10 minutes when also the lady had come to watch the bird with us, the bird flew back to the apple-tree right in front of me. So I managed to get really good pictures!

We put the news out and of course said many thanks to lady and of course we had told that there would be some twitchers coming soon. And in next 2 hours there were maybe 25 twitchers visiting the garden. The dove had flight back to the pine, but was well visible with scope, so everyone saw it. It was a new and 342th species to South-Karelia!

It was good to sees o many happy twitchers which some had been waiting for more than 20 years for this bird! When there was only one twitcher with us, we decided to go birding with “Potu” Suojarinne and Esa-Matti Lampinen who had also arrived.

We headed to Hyvättilä where we couldn’t find Collared Doves but heard a Grey-headed Woodpecker. Then we found nothing in Konnunsuo, so we headed to Lappeenranta. In Pappilanniemi we saw only a Black Woodpecker and in Luukkaansalmi a couple of Cormorants and a wintering Great Crested Grebe. Then it was already so late that I had to hurry to play a match once again.


Surprisingly good January

On Monday the 2nd of January it was time to start working again after a relaxing holiday. I was birding every day on my lunch-hour and it seemed that there were still quite a few birds in Parikkala. On the 2nd of January I saw a Whooper Swan family in Siikalahti, some coal Tits, 2 Goldfinches and a Brambling and in the afternoon I went to see the Great Grey Owl and surprisingly found out that there were 2 birds on the same field. Other birds seen during the week were the same wintering Blackcap in our back-yard and a Black Woodpecker in Särkisalmi. We also tried to catch the Great Grey Owls but it was too warm weather. Our fake mouse didn’t move smoothly enough on the snow. On Sunday the 7th of January we saw still 14 Fieldfares, some Blackbirds, 2 Bramblings and 2 Goldfinches in Kangaskylä, a White-backed Woodpecker, 9 Goldfinches and an Arctic Redpoll in Kannas, 2 Treecreepers and 2 Goldcrests in Tyrjänkoski, a flock of 12 Black Grouses in Siikalahti and a flock of 9 Pine Grosbeaks in Kangaskylä.

During the week I saw 2 Grey-headed Woodpeckers and Willow Tits in Siikalahti and a Dipper in Simpele Kokkolanjoki. On Saturday I saw even 35 Chaffinches in Kannas but other birds were the same as earlier. On Sunday the 14th of January I went playing to Lappeenranta and did a good birding on the way. In Imatra Vuoksi I saw a Little Grebe, Cormorants and 2 Smews, in Joutseno Hyvättilä I twitched a Collared Dove and in Konnunsuo a Hawk Owl, in Lappeenranta Kourulanmäki 25 Linnets with 2 Twites, in Reijola 3 Teals and in Pusupuisto a Ural Owl.

During the week it got colder againbut a lonely adult Whooper Swan was till in a small open water area in Siikalahti. Unfortunately the place is impossible for any rescue-attempts and on the next days I couldn’t find the bird anymore. In Muttelinmäki I saw a Hazel Hen, in Intsilä a Pygmy Owl and then the same Chaffinches, Blackbirds and Fieldfares. In Tyrjänkoski I saw 9 Mallards.

During the weekend I was playing in Joutseno and visited Vuoksi on both days. Little Grebe, Smews and Cormorants were seen again but I also saw a wintering Scaup on both days. On Sunday the 21st of January I also saw a Herring Gull flying along the river.

During the week the only surprise was that the wintering Stock Dove was still alive. It hadn’t been seen for a month but now I and Matti Lötjönen both saw it twice. It was only once with Feral Doves, so it seems to stay somewhere nearby alone. Only other year-tick was a Nuthatch in Kirkonkylä.

And again at weekend I had to drive to Lappeenranta on both days and in Luukkaansalmi I saw a Grey Heron on Saturday and a Great Crested Grebe on Sunday. Only other year-tick was an Eagle Owl in ordinary place.

On the 30th of January the best bird was a Haw Finch in Kannas where still were lots of Chaffinches too. In Muttelinmäki I heard a Common Crossbill and a Grey-headed Woodpecker. And on the next day there was a huge female Goshawk perched on a tree in the same place.


First of January ticking

We landed to Helsinki-Vantaa after a week in Fuerteventura on New Year, just some 40 minutes after midnight. After we had managed to get back to our car, we drove to a hotel nearby where we had booked a room. It was almost 2 a.m. when we were ready to sleep.

Too soon, at 6 a.m. we woke up and before 7 a.m. started driving toward Helsinki Vanhankaupunginlahti. It was surprisingly only less than 10 km to Pornaistenniemi where were already a couple of twitchers. Soon there were more twitchers coming and after an hour waiting the bird we had been waiting showed up – an Eastern Black Redstart! It was still dark, but this early had always showed up under the lights before it moves to feed to much more difficult places. Because of the darkness we didn’t get any better pictures either.

Eastern Black Redstar

When we left the bird with growing number of twitchers it was still quite dark and only other birds we had observed had been Great tit, Blackbird, Common Redpoll and Blue Tit.

Soon we had driven to Espoo Kaitalahti where were also quite a lot of twitchers already and more following us from Vanhankaupunginlahti. Soon the morning start light up so also birds started to wake up. Hooded Crow, Raven, Brambling, Mallard and some better birds like Wren and Bearded Reedlings were observed before we got information that the bird we were waiting had been found and it was a bit further close to the bird-tower. There were too many birders to fit to the tower so we stayed on a rock nearby. Twitchers could see the bird from the tower but the just couldn’t give us good instructions where it really was. So I decided to move a little bit from the noisy crowd and soon I heard clearly a Pallas’s Leaf Warbler calling on the reeds in front of us. Not many of us heard it and again people were moving noisily. Luckily the bird soon called again a couple of times so we were happy with this observation and left towards the next ticks. Other birds we had seen and heard while chasing the warbler had been Reed Bunting, Mute Swan, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Herring Gull, Bullfinch, Great Black-backed Gull, Siskin, Magpie, Goosander and Coal Tit.

We headed to Helsinki Lauttasaari and saw a Sparrowhawk and Goldeneyes on the way. After some searching in Särkiniemi we managed to find an extremely tame Song Thrush which was very well hidden just 1 meter from the walking street. It was just so easy to miss that we had passed it a couple of times before noticing it.

Then we started a longer drive towards North-East. Waxwings were still seen in Lauttasaari, but the next new year-tick was seen only in Sipoo when we saw the first Jackdaws. Somehow we had missed this species earlier. We also realized that we hadn’t seen any Rock Pigeons anywhere!

In Porvoo we saw a Common Buzzard perched over the main-road and finally we turned towards Lapinjärvi. Our target was Bewick’s Swan but before we reached the place, we got information that the bird hadn’t been found anymore. So we decided to try if it was in Liljendal Sävträsket where we saw some Whooper Swans. But neither Bewick’s Swan or a Pochard that had been there earlier were found.

In Loviisa we saw 4 Black Grouses and a Great Grey Shrike and finally we parked to Kotka Marttila. I noticed a Starling on a top of one tree and soon we found again some twitchers looking towards a feeder I one garden. There were lots of birds, so we ticked 4 Arctic Redpolls, Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer and Greenfinch before our target Lesser Whitethroat arrived. It was quite dark-looking bird so I hope someone will catch it soon and examine which sub-species or species it really is…

While walking back to our car, we heard a Goldfinch and then we follow a couple of twitchers from Kouvola to see a Pochard that was in Jumalniemi nearby. It was only a year-tick for us like was a Cormorant too.

As there were nothing more to twitch as First of January –ticks, we decided to start driving towards Parikkala. We had planned to try to find a Ural Owl in Parikkala, but we were lucky and just accidently found one on the way in Luumäki Heimala. It was our 5th First of January -tick and altogether I have seen now 141 species in this day in Finland. Ii is a crazy sport to collect these ticks, but so much fun!

Finally we were in Parikkala where we still decided to drive around Siikalahti as there had been a Great Grey Owlin Huhmarinen fields. It was completely dark, but we found the bird perched just next to the road on an electric-pole. Last year I had seen 196 species in Siikalahti, not a Great Grey Owl…