Oulu area bird-race time

Once I was back from Virolahti arctic migration watching weekend, I got the first year-tick from my back-yard where a Blyth’s Reed Warbler was singing in the morning of the 19th of May. In Siikalahti I heard a Garden Warbler and in the afternoon I heard 2 Golden Orioles and an Icterine Warbler in Moskuunniemi. I watched evening migration in Moskuunniemi but there was a huge thunder-storm coming so I managed to see only some Long-tailed Ducks, Velvet Scoters and Common Scoters and only one flock of 550 Barnacle Geese but there were a White-fronted Goose and very good-looking Lesser White-fronted Goose candidate on the flock. Then the wind started to blow too hard so I had to start biking back home. On the way I almost got hit by the lightning! It really was close! I have never got so scared before! I saw the flash breaking to sparks just over me.

On the 20th day I woke up early and saw 3 Scaups, 2 Velvet Scoters and 9 Common Crossbills from our own shore. Then I continued to Siikalahti where I still saw 2 Cormorant, a Black-tailed Godwit and 7 Common Crossbills, also Savi’s Warbler was still singing. The rest of the day I was at work and it was raining.

On the 21st day I saw a Pheasant in Keskusmaa and in the evening I went to twitch a Black Tern in Siikalahti. On the 22nd day we went to ring 2 Tengmalm’s Owl youngsters and we also checked that Pygmy Owls still had too small nestlings. At night I woke up when a flock of migrating Bewick’s Swans were calling and later I heard a Golden Oriole singing.

During the day I left to drive towards Oulu. I drove straight to Saarela to Mikko Ala-Kojola’s home where we soon met with the rest of the team, Antti Peuna and Harry Nyström. Also Antti Vierimaa came to give us some tips for the bird-race.

On the 24th of May we woke up at 7 and soon Harry was also there to pick us up. Before 9 a.m. we were in Hietasaari where we started to check all the places. We wanted to find so good species that we could begin the 24 hour’s race there between 10 and 12 o’clock. I found immediately a Greenish Warbler which was really good species! But even though I saw and heard twice a good-looking birds in flight, I couldn’t be sure if they had been Haw Finches or not. Anyway we found enough, so at 10:03 a.m. we started with Greenish Warbler that was singing very badly already. Luckily soon we found 2 Haw Finches so the start has been excellent. Then we got a Blackcap, a Garden Warbler, a Chiffchaff, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and even a Gold Finch before we moved to another part of the island where we got a Stock Dove and a Wood Warbler etc. Then we moved to Pitkämöljä where we saw 3 Velvet Scoters, a Sparrowhawk and 2 Little Terns.

Then we headed to Sanginjoki but it was already late so there weren’t many birds singing. Luckily we saw a Red-backed Shrike on the way, but then only 2 of us saw a female Capercaillie, but while searching for it we found a Hazel Hen. Pygmy Owl was easy as we knew the nest-box and luckily a Wren was singing shortly. Then we still saw Bullfinches, but we had lost too much time… We rushed to Iinatti, but there were no raptors in the air – only species we got was a Linnet.

Next we saw the famous Terek Sandpiper and a Common Whitethroat and the a Pheasant. In Vihiluoto we saw Shelducks and Gadwalls, but Teppola was quiet. In Liminka a Collared Dove was easy as was a Tree Sparrow too. Then in Rantakylä Harry noticed a stunning Pallid Harrier that flew across the road in front of us. Then Virkkula was good! I found immediately a Broad-billed Sandpiper and a Temminck’s Stint and soon Harry was talking about a Pallid Harrier again but Antti started to talk about a Montagu’s Harrier so we left Pallid alone and all started to watch a female Montagu’s Harrier that had lost it’s tail some time ago. Soon I heard a Citrine Wagtail but unfortunately all of us weren’t that familiar with the call, so we left it unidentified. A flock of Oystercatchers, a Caspian Tern and a White-tailed Eagle were still seen before we had to continue. And soon we had ticked Tengmalm’s Owl too.

Soon we were in Lumijoki Sannanahti which was full of birds but nothing special. Only 2 Barnacle Geese were found from Lamukari. In Säikkälänperä we saw 2 Bean Geese and soon we were heading towards Siikajoki Tauvo. But then we got a message that there was an Avocet in Sääri. So we changed our plans and hurried there. Luckily we got there just in time – Avocet was already in flight and it moved towards north calling on the way. Antti got a lifer and it was only second for the rest of us in Finland. We also found a Little Stint, a Dunlin and some Broad-billed Sandpipers there.

But soon we were heading to Tauvo but on the way we still heard an Ortolan Bunting and saw 2 Grey Partridges. But then Tauvo was extremely quiet! Only interesting animal was an Arctic Fox which was of course an escapee, but we really saw it well and it somehow fit t the landscape. But of course someone should shoot it before it destroys all the nests in Ulkonokka. Only Common Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks and 2 Arctic Skuas were seen and again we lost too much time.

While we were packing our car we still heard a Bittern and soon we were in Säikänlahti which was luckily much better with 2 Scaups, a Slavonian Grebe and a Water Rail. Unfortunately nothing else was found even though there were hundreds of Little Gulls and ducks.

After midnight we continued to our traditional forest-place but unfortunately only Willow Grouses were found. But luckily we saw a male Capercaillie from the car soon. Then in Raahe Aittalahti we saw a Pochard and a Coot and in Lapaluoto Mute Swans, Cormorants and a Turnstone. Then we hurried to Pyhäjoki but the first 2 places Heinikarinlampi and Hietakarinlahti were quiet. In Teerelänpuhto we saw only a Whimbrel but luckily along the river we heard 2 Blyth’s Reed Warblers and a Thrush Nightingale. But then we had to hurry again, it was already morning.

We walked to Elävisluoto spit after we had heard a Brambling and soon saw both common divers on migration. Soon I found 2 Sanderlings migrating with 2 Turnstones but not all of us were so familiar with the species in summer-plumage so Harry went to get a bird-book so we all could make the identification sure. Of course then I found a Razorbill that landed to a rough sea before 3 of us managed to see it. Luckily I still found a Hobby so after all the morning sea-watch had been quite good. But there were dark clouds getting closer and it really didn’t fit to our plan for the morning.

In Parhalahti we had nothing new and soon it started to blow very hard and soon also rain. We were in troubles – we had too many easy species missing on our list and usually morning was the best time but not this time… We had to change our plans completely but we really had no good plans. So we headed to Pattijoki Mikonkari but in a heavy rain we saw only some Canada Geese. Then we had to continue to Siikajoki Vartti which usually had been our most important place but now we didn’t expect much. Soon we had seen both Great Grey and Ural Owls on their nesting places. But then we got only a Jay and a Treecreeper even though we really needed more. So we still headed to the shore but finally we were in Kivikasanpelto at 10:02 when we ran out of time.

The results were given in Virkkula and it wasn’t a surprise that we didn’t take our 3rd victory in a row. We came 3rd with 151 species and the winner had got amazing 167 species. In the evening we drove to Mikko’s place, Harry continued home and soon we were all sleeping.

Antti woke up early and also I left before 8 a.m. while Mikko was still waking up. I checked that the Greenish Warbler was still singing in Hietasaari, visited Terek Sandpiper and then stopped in Vihiluoto where Antti Vierimaa had found the same Avocet in the previous day, but it wasn’t there anymore. Then I stopped in Virkkula but there weren’t much, only too many school-children. So after all I started a long way towards Lappeenranta. I stopped in Siilinjärvi Raasio where I saw a Dunlin and 3 Scaups and heard a Water Rail and a Reed Warbler. Then I stopped in Mikkeli Pynnönsaari where I twitched a male Little Crake that was surprisingly calling actively at 6 p.m.

Finally I was in Lappeenranta and I continued to Joutseno Konnunsuo where it was raining very hard. I checked Kotasaari and Kivisaari but soon I went to sleep to my back-seat. I woke up a couple of times during the night and heard some Corn Crakes and checked some pools again but heard only a Great Reed Warbler in Kotasaari. At morning I heard 3 Ortolan Buntings and finally also Booted Warbler started to sing. Then I continued to Askola where I found a nice flock of 14 Grey Plovers and 5 Dunlins which left to the sky soon. I still twitched a Marsh Warbler before I had to continue to hospital where a doctor checked my ear again and finally everything seems to be OK after 3 surgery and 17 months awful uncertainty! Anyway I am still not celebrating – I still want to wait 3 more months to be sure…

J.A.