Some rarities and Bird-tower competition

After Eastern during the week some spring-birds were seen: On the 23rd of April in Särkisalmi I saw 11 Black-throated Divers, 32 Great Crested Grebes, a Red-breasted Merganser and a singing Chiffchaff. In Siikalahti I saw a couple of White-tailed Eagles and a Merlin. On the 24th day in Särkisalmi I counted 28 Black-throated Divers, 48 Great Crested Grebes, a Slavonian Grebe and a Common Sandpiper. In Siikalahti I saw 5 Rough-legged Buzzards and an early Hobby. In the evening we visited Siikalahti again and saw 3 Garganeys, 6 Slavonian Grebes, heard 7 Water Rails and a Long-eared Owl. On the 25th day in Särkisalmi was 52 Great Crested and 2 Slavonian Grebes, in Siikalahti 5 Rough-legged Buzzards a couple of Common Crossbills and in the evening I saw a Ruff in Kinnaniemi. On the 26th day a Willow Warbler was singing in Särkisalmi and in Siikalahti I saw 4 Cormorants, a Black Kite, 39 Golden Plovers and a Whimbrel. In Moskuunniemi I heard a Dunnock and in the evening 2 Spotted Crakes were calling in Siikalahti.

On Saturday the 27th of April we were birding whole day. We first were in Siikalahti from 7 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. We saw 41 Barnacle Geese, 5 Red-breasted Mergansers, 45 Black and a Red-throated Diver, 4 White-tailed Eagles, 2 Hobbies, 104 Golden Plovers, a Whimbrel, 15 Greenshanks, 2 Wood Sandpipers, 6 Common Terns, 12 Little Gulls, a Heuglin’s Gull, a White-backed Woodpecker, a Barn Swallow, a Tree Pipit, 18 Waxwings, 2 Willow Warblers and lots of Bramblings. In the afternoon we headed to Saari and in Kinnarniemi and Jyrkilä we saw single Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Bitterns visible in Akonpohja, a couple of Linnets in Pohjanranta, 3 Bewick’s Swans in Suurenjärvenliete, and a Merlin in Karinmäki. On the way back we checked one Ural Owl nest-box and there was a female! During the day all Lake Simpele had melted!

On the 28th day we were in Siikalahti again whole morning. A Greylag Goose, a Black Kite, a Redshank, 2 fighting male Black Woodpeckers, a Sand Martin, even 16 House Martins, a Yellow Wagtail and a Nuthatch were the best observations.

On the 29th of April I saw almost nothing but on the last day of April I saw one more Black Kite, 4 Hobbies, a Whimbrel and a Redshank in Siikalahti and a Pied Flycatcher was singing in Muttelinmäki. In the evening we headed to listen some night-birds and in Siikalahti we heard 7 Water Rails and a Whinchat and saw a migrating Short-eared Owl, in Kontiolampi we heard a migrating Grey Heron and saw a Ural Owl and in Kullinsuo we heard very well displayed Jack Snipe. Then in Kolmikanta we heard a Tengmalm’s Owl and another one in Tiviä where also a couple of migrating flocks of Common Scoters were heard. So we had really good 2.5 hours!

On the 1st of May we headed to Saari early in the morning. We stopped in Härskiinmutka where we saw 3 Long-tailed Ducks. In Akonpohja we counted 500 Black-headed Gulls and saw a Slavonian Grebe and some Smews. When we were again driving along the main road, we saw a flock of 200 Barnacle Geese flying over us. We stopped and scanned the flock with binoculars and found a single Red-breasted Goose! While watching the goose we heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker calling and a Goldfinch singing.

In Pohjanranta we saw a couple of Graylag Geese and White-tailed Eagles, but in Suurenjärvenliete we were lucky again! First we counted 38 Greenshanks and 4 Ruffs but then I noticed a lark in strange place in wet field, maybe it looked little pale too. I took my scope and found out that it was a Greater Short-toed Lark! A new species to Parikkala! Hanna soon had her scope too and I decided to get some pictures of it through my scope. But I realized that my phone was in our car. When I was back with my phone, a Lapwing attacked the lark and chased it to the other side of the flood and after that we still heard it a couple of times but finally I saw it landing to the other side of bigger flood where it was impossible to follow.

So we continued through Jyrkilä to Tarassiinlahti, then to Kanavalampi and Karinmäki and then through Poutasenryhmä back towards Parikkala. We still found a couple of Pink-footed Geese from the flocks of geese and a couple of Garganeys but nothing else to mention.

On the 2nd of May I was working in Imatra and it was raining whole day so I didnät get any birthday-ticks. In the evening the weather turned cold and it started snowing! My brother Pirkka drove from Kemijärvi in extremely bad weather and was in Parikkala at 1 a.m.

On the 3rd of May the ground was white! There was at least 5 cm snow! Wind was also very strong! We left to work with Hanna and Pirkka decided to sleep as it really wasn’t birding weather! On my lunch-hour we drove around Siikalahti and saw amazing numbers of Song Thrushes, other thrushes and Chaffinches along the roads and in every other place where wasn’t snow. Also some Pied Flycatchers, Lapland Bunting and a Northern Wheatear were seen. It was crazy! We also saw a couple of Garganeys in dam-road.

So in the afternoon we headed to Saari where was even more snow and more was dropping from the sky almost all the time. But we saw more Song Thrushes than I have ever seen and lots of other birds too like Tree Pipits on the roads. Chafflinches were trying to get killed under the cars, so we had to drive very slowly. First we stopped in Akonpohja where we found a flock of some thousands Barnacle Geese. Even though it was snowing heavily Pirkka managed to find a Red-breasted Goose! Luckily the flock soon flew closer and we saw the bird very well. From the tower we saw a Slavonian Grebe and some Smews again and in Pohjanranta the same 2 Greylag Geese and a Redstart. In Suurenjärvenliete there was about 20 cm snow and awful wind but anyway we soon heard a Short-toed Lark and it flew over us. We saw to which field it landed but never found it again. But we photographed Chaffinches and Lapland Bunting that were digging holes to the snow on the fields to get something to eat. If we kicked snow away from the field, immediately Chaffinches came to feed there! The floods were under snow too and almost only waders we found were a flock of 45 Common Snipes that looked very poor while they were sleeping on the snowy field.

In Ryhjä we saw a Pheasant which was the first one for me in Parikkala for a couple of years. In Kanavalampi we saw a Spotted Redshank and a Whinchat and when sun was already setting, we checked Pohjanranta again and saw 4 Velvet Scoters. Finally we were back at home and went to sleep early. The weather forecast didn’t look promising to our bird-tower competition.

We woke up before 4 a.m. and were in Siikalahti so early that we stopped first on the dam-road where we heard a Spotted Crake very well. Then we walked to bird-tower where our whole team was soon. Then we had to shovel snow away from the tower! At 5 a.m. the traditional bird-tower competition started. We started with 4 Whimbrels that were migrating south – they had realized that Finnish summer was too short and snowy.

We, Janne, Hanna and Pirkka Aalto, Mikka and Elissa Soikkeli, Matti Lötjönen and Ilpo Kuusisalo were trying to find birds from the tower for 8 hours. Ilpo came a little bit late but showed us a Redstart that was on the path close to the tower. Other better birds seen almost immediately were 5 female Smews, a lonely Black Grouse, a couple of White-backed Woodpeckers and a Bittern called one good series of calls.

The wind was awful and it was still very cold! We were freezing but anyway I was scanning the sky with Matti, Hanna and Ilpo were scanning the bushes and trees far behind the bay, Pirkka was mostly scanning local birds, Miika was listening to the wind and Elissa was keeping the list of birds we had observed.

Slowly the list was getting longer and Pintails, Common Terns, Little Gulls, some common waders with always difficult in Siikalahti a Common Sandpiper, a Chiffchaff, some Lapland Buntings and so on were seen. A couple that was living behind the bay had still a feeder in their garden and we got some species identified from the feeder. For example Starlings, a Blackbird, a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Bramblings, Greenfinches and Tree Sparrows were seen only close to the feeder.

Matti had arrived from Italy at night and started to feel tired and cold in the wind and gave up so I kept on scanning the sky mostly alone, but I found a migrating Grey Heron , 4 Hobbies and a Rook in the morning and later during the day when it was getting a couple of degrees warmer (even the rest of the snow melt from the tower at midday) I still found a Black Kite, a Stock Dove, a few White-tailed Eagles, 2 Rough-legged Buzzards and Elissa noticed a Heuglin’s Gull flying over us – the last one isn’t a full species, but nice anyway. Also some Yellow Wagtails, Swallows, House Martins and a couple of Sand Martins were seen and even a Northern Wheatear and a Whinchat were found only from the sky. Finally Pirkka managed to find a couple of Garganeys hiding with other distant ducks and Ilpo noticed a couple of Gadwalls flying over us. And finally we heard a Tree Pipit too from the sky.

8 minutes before the end I found a Black-tailed Godwit from the sky and luckily Hanna and Pirkka manged to see it before it dropped behind the forest. It was our last and 88th species. We didn’t see some very common birds like Willow Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Robin, Jay, Black Woodpecker and so on, but I had never thought we could get this good list in this weather! But once again Saari Tarassiinlahti had managed to beat us with one single more species and they were the best inland tower in whole country. Anyway the day had been memorable! It had been the coldest bird-tower competition ever!

After a visit at home we left to Lappeenranta Haapajärvi with Pirkka. There we managed to twitch a Black-necked Grebe with help of some birders that were in the tower. The bird was hiding extremely well, but luckily these people had seen it already. It was a new lifer for Pirkka. On the way back we stopped in Imatra Immalanjärvi without any better records and in Rautjärvi Lamminkylä where we luckily saw 2 Wood Larks easily.

On the 5th of May we went to Saari onece again and it felt and it looked like spring again. On the way we ringed the Ural Owl female and checked that it had one small chick and 2 eggs. In Akonpohja we saw 4 Common Scoters, in Ansunmäki 16 Whimbrels, in Pohjanranta 2 Little Ringed Plovers and a couple of Linnets and in Suurenjärvenliete a beautiful adult female Peregrine. We also heard Short-toed Lark calls from the sky but couldn’t locate the bird at all so we didn’t count it. In Kanavalampi we counted 41 Pintails, 2 Gadwalls and 2 Bewick’s Swans. In Karinmäki we found a big flock of Barnacle Geese but found nothing interesting from the flock. On the way back we stopped again in Pohjanranta and there was another flock of geese and after some scanning Elissa found a Red-breasted Goose. Also 2 Gadwalls were seen and 2 Common Crossbills flew over us. Then Pirkka had to start his long drive back to Kemijärvi.

With Hanna we still drove to Siikalahti where together with Arttu Valonen and Mika Teivonen we heard a Garganey and a Sedge Warbler and saw 3 migrating Sand Martins and 2 White-tailed Eagles.

During the week I wasn’t birding much but on the 6th day I twitched a Great White Egret that Arttu had found in Rautalahti. In Simpelejärvi I saw some flocks of Tufted Ducks, Long-tailed Ducks and Common Scoters with 4 Velvet Scoters and 11 Scaups. In the evening we went to check some owl nest-boxes with Arttu but they were empty. Only a Cuckoo and a Haze Hen were heard. On the 7th day it was raining almost whole day. I tried to rest, so I’d have strength to keep on birding on better days.

On the 7th of May I checked some empty nest-boxes and saw nothing either, but on the 8th fay we checked more nest-boxes with Hanna and found one Pygmy Owl which got a ring. We also saw 3 Hazel Hens. In the late evening we visited Siikalahti and heard 2 Spotted Crakes, a flock of Common Scoters and then in Tiviä a Tengmalm’s Owl was still active. On the 9th day only birds to mention were 2 Velvet Scoters that were with Common Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks in Härskiinmutka