Long birding days

On the first of June it was Monday and once again I headed to Siikalahti on my lunch-hour. Lots of Swifts were flying on the sky and I saw a couple of Hobbies catching one of them as a prey. A Black Kite was seen once again but a Black-tailed Godwit was an unexpected surprise.

In the evening we made another try to see migrating waders in Moskuunniemi and the weather was perfect. In an hour we saw only a single Ruff but then Hanna found a flock of waders from the sky – they were Red Knots! And soon I found another flock and in these flocks were altogether 260 birds. On the way back home we stopped in Kukonkanta and heard a Marsh and a Reed Warbler.

On the 2nd of June my lunch-break was even better when I found a 2nd year Lesser Spotted Eagle. Later I heard that this bird had been flying around for whole morning. In the evening we were back in Siikalahti with a couple of eagle-twitchers and we saw an amazing flock of 660 Red Knots! Also a lonely Broad-billed Sandpiper and a White-fronted Goose were seen but only eagle we saw was seen too briefly – all we could say was that it wasn’t a White-tailed Eagle.

The next days I was seeing mostly the same birds – Black Kite and a Marsh Warbler that was singing very beautifully next to the dam-road. On the 4th day we did a short trip to Saari and heard a River Warbler in Akonpohja. In a couple of days Hanna was photographing in Siikalahti and the best she found were fledlings of Long-tailed tits. Then in the evening of 5th day we went to put up the mist-nets and found 2 small Common Snipe youngsters that we of course ringed.

Then on the 6th day we were ringing and caught maybe the biggest surprise ever in these sessions – a Crested Tit. What it was doing in the reeds? We also caught a male Red-backed Shrike, 3 Sedge Warblers, 1+1c Common Whitethroats, 1 Garden Warbler, 1c Willow Warbler, 1c Great Tit, 1 Chaffinch, 3 Greenfinches, 1 Bullfinch and 1+3c Reed Buntings. During the day I managed to see a White-tailed Eagle nestling for the first time in the nest that we had found earlier. In Siikalahti we saw 150 Swifts, a Black Kite again and a couple of Stock Doves.

On the 7th day we had counts again and we started at midnight. I was rowing more than 10 km during the night and morning around Siikalahti. 2 Garganeys, a couple of Smews, 4 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Marsh Warblers, a Red-backed Shrike, the family of Ural Owls and a couple of Black Kites were seen.

In the evening we went to check a couple of Great Snipe places and heard 2 + 1 birds before it started to rain.

Again mostly the same birds were seen until the 9th of June when we did counting again. Because of the rain we started late, so we did only the northernmost part of Siikalahti. Then we headed to Saari and saw a Black Kite in Rautalahti on the way. We tried to find Ortolan Buntings but didn’t find any – it is really going to extinct. In Pohjanranta we saw only one wader but it was a Marsh Sandpiper! Also a Grey Heron was seen there. Common Crossbills were on the move and flocks were heard and seen everywhere. In Jyrkilä we saw 2 White-fronted Geese, a Stock Dove and a couple of Short-eared Owls. In Karinmäki we still saw a Grey-headed Woodpecker and heard a Golden Oriole like also in Akonpohja.

On the 10th day I did the rest of the count in the northern part of Siikalahti. After the count we headed to Haukmäki and Soininmäki forests and found altogether 4 or 5 Red-breasted Flycathers, a couple of Crested Tits and a nest of a Coal Tit. But still we found no Greenish Warblers.

11th of June Hanna did the last counts and in the afternoon we went to ring the nestling of the first ever breeding pair of White-tailed Eagles in South Karelia. Pertti Koskimies did all the hard work while we were helping as much as we could, but he is so professional that after all there wasn’t much we could do.

On the 12th day I spent my lunch-hour in Siikalahti together with Aki Aintila and we saw 2 Black Kites. In the afternoon our friend Teo Ylätalo came to do birding with us for the weekend. In the evening we made everything ready for the next morning ringing and then visited a couple of places where we found some Great Snipes. We also saw a couple of adult and heard a few young Long-eared Owls.

On the 13th day we started early with ringing and there were also a couple of young birders from Kerimäki with us. It was pretty quiet morning so with Teo we also caught a Corn Crake that was calling nearby. During the morning we got a couple of Whinchats, 1r+1c Sedge Warblers, 3+2c Common Whitethroats, 4 Garden Warblers, 2+1c Willow Warblers, 1c Pied Flycatcher, 1 Siskin, 1 Common Rosefinch and 2+2c Reed Buntings.

But we had a couple of surprises during the morning. First we heard a loud sound like a fighter plane flying over us – it wasn’t a plane but a flock of 10 migrating Red-throated Divers that were rocketing down from the heights lower down. Then at 8:22 in the full sunshine a Nightjar was singing shortly.

After some sleep we went to see a couple of Parikkala-ticks for Teo and then headed to Siikalahti where a day-calling Spotted Crake wasn’t even a big surprise anymore. A Black Kite was seen and Hanna caught a Thrush Nightingale to ring nearby. Then we went to check one more place in Siikalahti where we found a Black-tailed Godwit and even more surprisingly a Caspian Tern! Also a couple of Golden Orioles were singing there.

In the evening we did a short drive in the forests but saw only a Red-throated Diver on its breeding pond in Savo-side of the border.

On the 14th of June we started at midnight and while driving we heard a River Warbler singing even though we had all windows closed. Then we surprisingly found 3 lekking Great Snipes in a new place!

After we had heard a couple of families of Long-eared Owls , a couple of Nightjars, some Corn Crakes, only a few Blyth’s Reed Warblers and one Grasshopper Warbler, we found some more Great Snipes. It seems this is a good year for this species that still some years ago was extinct in Finland.

We still heard a couple of Spotted Crakes, Golden Orioles and some species already mentioned and then in Akonpohja tried to catch some singers to ring but had no luck. But on the way back home we caught the same River Warbler that was singing next to the main road.

After some sleeping we still headed to Siikalahti where the same white-fronted Goose and also the same Black-tailed Godwit was seen again. A flock of 5 Brent Geese was seen migrating so I finally got a year-tick. Also a lonely Barnacle Goose and a Garganey were seen before Teo left towards Kouvola and I went to sleep again.

During the week I saw mostly the same birds every day. Only surprise was on the 15th day a male Hen Harrier in the middle of the night while listening to Great Snipes. Then on the 16th day I saw the first 6 Ruffs that are already on their way towards south.

On the next couple of days I saw only the same familiar birds. And finally on Thursday the 18th of June we started a holiday that we hadn’t really planned much. We headed towards north and Lapland.

J.A.