Hardcore start for the year

We slept over the year change and woke up at 1 a.m. Pirkka had driven whole day from Kemijärvi and now we had slept only a few hours and continued towards south. It was time for a traditional The first of January trip, which we had missed on last 2 years because we had been abroad.

The first stop was made in Lappeenranta where we saw and also heard 2 Eagle Owls and also heard a couple of wintering Teals that were with Mallards.

Then we continued a long way to Salo where we met our old friends Kalle Larsson and Mika Kaukinen. Together we tried to find Jack and Common Snipes that they had seen earlier but we weren’t lucky. I only got my boot wet as I dropped to one ditch.

It was still dark when we followed Marko towards Naantali and finally parked next to Luolalanjärvi bird-tower that was on the N-E corner of the lake. There were already some birders and they told us where they had just found the bird that we were searching for – and soon we also saw a Great Egret that was hiding behind some reeds. We saw also Grey Herons, Goosanders, Goldeneys and heard Great Tits and a distant Wren but Gadwall was missing.

More birders were arriving and also the another tower on the opposite side of the lake was full. One man had probably missed whole Covid as he was coughing all the time. It was continuous and he did nothing to protect other people so after we had seen or heard only Jackdaws, Hooded Crows, Greenfinches, Yellowhammers and a Siskin, we decided to move on.

We followed on kind birder to Karvetti where we tried to find a Nutcracker without luck. Only a Blackbird, Magpies and Tree Sparrows were observed. So soon we continued to Raisio Raisionlahti, seeing a Goshawk on the way, where the same birder was again helping us and told us where to find 2 male Gadwalls. We also saw a Tufted Duck, a Mute Swan, a couple of Whooper Swans and heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Then we tried again just briefly to see the Nutcracker but soon continued to Kaarina Piikkiö Viukkala where we found some White Wagtails easily. After some searching we found a rare Pied Wagtail too that had been with the flock for some time. Also a flock of 3 Common Redpolls were seen and soon we were driving again past some Rock Doves in Piikkiö.

In Salo Jaakola we noticed a Merlin that was perched on the wire and soon stopped in Kinnarpyöli fields where a Hen Harrier had been seen. A Black Grouse was “singing” and a flock of Gold Finched and a flock of Starling were seen. After some time we noticed a raptor perched on the top of a pine behind a bigger perch but could identify the bird as a Hen Harrier. We also saw another Merlin.

Soon we passed a flock of 8 Whooper Swans and 3 Greater White-fronted Geese and saw a Common Kestrel and a Black-headed Gull before we arrived to Halikonlahti where we soon saw some Common Pheasants. We tried to see Wigeons that had been present on the bay but had no luck. Only some more Pheasants and a couple of Black-headed Gulls were seen. We found out that they had been seen on a different place that wasn’t easy to reach, so we soon kept on driving.

We had a longer drive to Raasepori Pohja where we saw a Common Gull and a Common Buzzard before got to Brödtorp where a Common Crane was found very easily. So soon we were driving towards Helsinki and still saw a Great Grey Shrike on the way.

Finally we were in Helsinki Viikki where we walked towards the bay through Etu-Viikki fields that had some Canada Geese. In Hakalanniemi we heard some Goldcrests and Blue Tits before we climbed to the tower where we met some friends. Luckily they showed us a Lapwing right away as it was hiding so well that we couldn’t have found it by ourselves in darkening evening. Also a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls were seen.

Soon we continued to Purolahti tower nearby where we met some friends again and there had been both a Jack and a Common Snipe seen during the day. We counted 330 Canada Geese going to roost and I saw a lonely Herring Gull. With Hanna we heard a Water Rail calling a good series of calls but others missed it. It was already getting dark when an Eagle Owl was found perching on the nest of White-tailed Eagles.

We still hurried back to our car and drove to one forest where we had got information about a Woodcock. After about 30 minuted waiting we heard a shout “Janne!”. Kalle and Marko were about 150 meters from us but they had identified us as we were standing under lights. A Woodcock was flying towards us! It was calling like in summer-night and flew right over us! I had never thought to see this to happen in January!

It had been a long day so we decided to book a night from airport-hotel. As Pirkka had arrived from Lapland we had decided to stay at least for another day in Southern Finland. In a hotel we ate well in restaurant where were only a couple of customers. Our plan to avoid corona had been great.

During the day I had got 7 The first of January ticks, 5 month-ticks which Crane and Lapwing I had now seen in every month in Finland. We had seen altogether 50 species which only Pirkka had seen a Sparrowhawk and Hanna had heard a Black Woodpecker. Next year, if we are in Finland, I have a possibility to reach 150 The first of January ticks – which is quite a big number.

On the 2nd of January we had slept well and woke up before 7 a.m. and soon headed towards Hanko. On the way we saw a Pygmy Owl flying across the road in Karjaa. Finally we parked in Långören where a Grey Wagtail had been present for some time. We met Ossi Tahvonen and together scanned the sea first. We saw Long-tailed Ducks, some Greater Scaups, a couple of White-tailed Eagles and a Cormorant before checked the shores by walking around. We found no Grey Wagtail but a Wood Lark which had been also around for some days but we had somehow missed messages about this bird so it was a nice surprise.

We were already driving when we got a message that a Kittiwake that had been seen almost daily in different shores of Hanko was still on the same place as on the previous afternoon in Gåsörsbukten. Our got lost on the way and saw only a couple of House Sparrows but finally got to Gåsörsbukten where lots of Common Gulls were flying over the sea. After 5 minutes scanning I found the Kittiwake which was flying quite far but luckily turned towards us and after all we saw it very well.

In Varisniemi I saw a Crested Tit briefly and in Kalasatama we saw some Black-headed Gulls and 2 female Common Eiders. Soon we continued to Tallholmarna where the visibility was great and quite a lot od same birds had seen but only new bird was a Great Crested Grebe,

In Täktbukten we saw a big flock of ducks and I counted even 68 Greater Scaups from the flock. We scanned the sea too but saw nothing new. As a couple of other birders were heading to Vedagrundet, we decided to go to Högholmen. 5 Velvet Scoters and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers were seen there.

It was getting late so we headed to Raasepori Tammisaari Stadsfjärden but it had started to snow and also wind was very strong. We still counted 120 Common Coots but found nothing else new there.

It had been another long day and we still had plenty of places to visit, so we took a room from the same hotel again. In the evening we did a short run in heavy snowfall with Pirkka before we went to eat well again.

On the 3rd of January we had breakfast and then headed towards Kirkkonummi Porkkala. It was still snowing and too hard as the visibility was poor. So we saw only a couple of flocks of Velvet Scoters and a couple of White-tailed Eagles. We waited for some time for the snowing to stop but also haze was bad so there was no point to try to see Purple Sandpipers from distant rocks. So pretty soon we started driving inland.

In border of Kirkkonummi and Espoo we saw a Goshawk and a Common Buzzard and after a long drive we were in Riihimäki. Behind a small K-Market there was a feeder and under that there was a Crested Lark. But soon a stupid man tried to get pictures of the bird with his cell-phone and bird flew to a worse place behind the bushes. So we decided to keep on going.

In Lahti we found to Ala-Juhakkala small pool where were some birders already. With help of Arto Laakso and Antti Vaalgamaa we saw a Grey Wagtail immediately and after some waiting we found also one Little Grebe. Then we headed towards Vesijärvi Ankkuri.

We soon found a Common Scoter and then headed to twitch a Collared Dove that Arto and Antti had just also twitched. We got really good instructions how to find the bird so it was seen immediately. Then we walked only about 200 meters to see a couple of long-staying Barnacle Geese. We also saw a Velvet Scoter, a family of Mute Swans and some Herring Gulls.

We still had time to drive to Polttimo where we found a couple of Wigeons in flocks of Mallards. We then realized that these Wigeons could have been seen from Common Scoter place too, but at least we now saw them better.

Then we started a long drive to Parikkala. We ate in Lappeenranta and were finally at home about 7 p.m.In the evening we ran 10 kilometers just because of we had been sitting too much in car. And Pirkka still had a long drive back to Kemijärvi on the next day.

J.A.