More than 2 weeks in Säppi

Towards Pori

On the 9th of October we had packed our car and left driving toward Kouvola early in the morning. In Kouvola we met Teo in a place where I had been sleeping one day earlier. We left our car to the garden and packed everything in Teo’s car and started driving toward Pori.

Driving went quickly and finally we were in Pori where we still bought lots of food and I must say that our car was completely full when we were driving towards Kuuminainen.

In the harbor we met my brother Pirkka who had traveled from Kemijärvi to Helsinki by train, then picked up Arto Aaltonen from Kerava and also ”Jände” and Tom Nordblad had driven from Helsinki. Soon ”Fish-Tommi” arrived and we started to carry our stuff to the boat. And soon we were on the way to Säppi-island.

Finnish-tick right away

The ride was bumpy and we were soon wet and all our bags were wet too. After 30 minutes we finally arrived at harbor next to Prakala where we could see one birder, Jani Vastamäki, standing and watching to his feet. All birders were changing in the island so everyone else was on the harbor and Petteri Mäkelä told us that they can move all the stuff away and to the boat, so we can hurry to Prakala. So we were almost running towards Jani and there he had Asian Desert Warbler just two meters from him!

Asian Desert Warbler that had been in Prakala for a few days already was showing extremely well so we got some pictures right away so soon we left the photographers with the bird and went back to harbor to say thanks and goodbye to everyone, especially to Jani and Petteri. Soon the boat left and we still walked back to watch the warbler.

After some more photographing the warbler and a Tundra Bean Goose that was standing next to us too, we started to carry our luggage towards the bird-station. We had booked the family-part of the station for ourselves with Hanna, Pirkka and Teo, so Arto, Jände and Tom went to the station-side.

New ringing-species to the station

It was already getting late while we were settling down to the station and then we still had to put daily observations to Tiira even though we had seen only the warble rand the goose. After the log Teo went out with a headlamp and a hand net as he wanted to try to catch some snipes. It didn’t take long when he came back carrying a Tundra Bean Goose! It was a new ringing-species to the station and even though it was extremely tame it seemed to be alright.

Routines begin – well

On the 10th of October we started to run the routines. Hanna and Pirkka were the ringers so they left early to Peräkulma to put up the mist-nets and then ringed as long as there were birds coming, or at least Hanna stayed there so long. Then when sun was rising migrating birds were counted in Prakala for two hours. On a couple of mornings it was quite busy with birds in Peräkulma, so I was also helping ringers but then walked to the station when migration-watching was over. After a couple of days it was getting more quiet with ringing, so I stayed in Peräkulma only for an hour or so and then in the end of the week Hanna and Pirkka didn’t need me at all anymore, so I could sleep a little bit later. Unfortunately also migration was very quiet almost every morning. On the first morning we had one of the best mornings as a couple of small flocks of Brent Geese, Eiders, Common and Velvet Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, some Black and Red-throated Divers, a couple of Red-necked Grebes, 60 Razorbills, some Black Guillemots and one lucky had also a Common Guillemot. Also 4 Purple Sandpipers were seen, but in most mornings it was much more boring. Then after 2 hours we usually had so-called second breakfast and after that we left to walk around the whole island.

On the first morning Hanna was ringing alone as Pirkka wanted to join the island-walk too as he had never been in Säppi before. On the second year in a row there were almost no berries in sea-buckthorns which was the reason there were much less birds on the bushes. Also only one Skylark and 17 Meadow Pipits were seen and also thrushes and tits were only a few. But there were lots of Chiffchaffs and many of them were calling weirdly ”chiwy” calls and the rest were calling normally, this year there were no Siberian Chiffchaffs at all. 17 Chiffchaffs and 2 Willow Warblers were ringed on the first day. Mouflons were easier to see than ever – in best time we saw 19 in same time.

But the most common bird also here was Goldcrest. On the first morning 115 were ringed. Common Redpolls hadn’t arrived yet as only some were ringed and then of course Treecreepers, Robins, Wrens, Dunnocks, common tits and so on were ringed.

We had walked until Eteläkari when Hanna sent a Whats App message – picture of a Siberian Accentor hanging on the mist-net! BOOM! It is still an extremely rare bird at least if that one year (2016) is out of count. So we had to hurry to Peräkulma.

There had been tow boats full of twitchers because of the Asian Desert Warbler that was still in Prakala. Arto had been helping them to see the bird and even now there was one group in the island. So Tom sent a message to Lintutiedotus that the Siberian Accentor will be shown in the bird-station after ringing. It is 15 minutes walk from Peräkulma to the station and we weren’t even in Peräkulma yet, so there was plenty of time to every twitcher to get to the station.

Once we were in Peräkulma, Hanna had already ringed the bird and then we of course took lots of pictures. Then Teo and Hanna left towards the station with the bird, Pirkka stayed in Peräkulma and the rest of us kept on walking around the island. Siberian Accentor was freed next to the harbor where some twitchers still saw it very briefly. But only later we found out that one twitcher had probably panicked when the message about the accentor had been sent and she had got lost in a roundish island where sea can be heard everywhere and it is not long walk to the station which is in the middle of the island from anywhere. She had been walking around in the forest for a couple of hours and even the boat had to wait for 30 minutes before she was finally found. I never thought this to be possible in time when everyone has good maps in their phones.

Teo was waiting us already when we were getting to Kräveli and then we still walked around the rest of the island. The best birds we saw during the whole walk were a Barnacle Goose, a Peregrine, a Merlin, a couple of Golden Plovers, a Black Woodpecker, a few Great Grey Shrikes and some Parrot Crossbills. Hanna still had a possible Olive-backed Pipit calling in Peräkulma but it wasn’t seen at all.

In Prakala the Asian Desert Warbler was still around with the same Tundra Bean Goose and in the evening we heard a Pygmy Owl calling a couple of times with Arto, but it didn’t come to garden mist-net even though we played tape for it.

Hard work continues

On the 11th of October the weather was bad so ”standard” was shorter. Only migrants to mention were 18 Greylag Geese and a Merlin. Asian Desert Warbler was still around and again there were twitchers.

Surprisingly it was a busy morning in Peräkulma where 356 Goldcrests were ringed, also 34 Robins and a Lesser Redpoll was ringed.

Walk around the island produced a Grey Plover, 7 Common Ringed Plovers, a Dunlin and a couple of Short-eared Owls. Again Hanna and Pirkka had a possible Olive-backed Pipit and we went to search for it but when we found a good-looking pipit, it was a Tree Pipit. But while watching the Tree Pipit also another pipit was heard calling from the forest.

In the afternoon we walked half of the island again and in Lännennokka we had a good surprise when Pirkka found a Siberian Accentor! Unfortunately it had a bright ring so it was the same bird we had ringed on the previous day.

In the afternoon Tom and Jände left so there were only four of us left in the island. The Asian Desert Warbler wasn’t found in the afternoon even though we tried a couple of times. Luckily the last twitchers had still seen it, but after that either Great Grey Shrike or Short-eared Owl had probably found it too as they were moving also in Prakala. The bean goose was still around and we saw it flying a couple of times longer distances and it seemed to be shyer too.

On the 12th day Hanna and Pirkka headed to Peräkulma but the weather was so rainy and windy that the morning sea-watch wasn’t done at all. Anyway there seemed to be no birds either. It was very quiet also when we walked around the island, just a couple of Short-eared Owls, a Common Redstart and a Blackcap were seen. Anyway mist-nest were catching well between the rains and 190 Goldcrest and 30 Treecreepers and so on were caught. In the afternoon we opened the nets in the garden and so altogether 52 Great Tits were ringed. Siberian Accentor was still seen in the same place but Tundra Bean Goose had left.

On the 13th of October the morning sea-watch was done again but still it was very quiet. I was helping in Peräkulma because of the weather was perfect and we had expected to have a busy morning but after a couple of hours it was already very quiet. Altogether 175 Goldcrests were ringed.

During the walk we saw the same Siberian Accentor still in Lännennokka and once we reached Eteläkari we noticed that there were lots of Cranes migrating over the mainland. We counted altogether 1365 Cranes and also saw some flocks of Barnacle Geese. I also saw a Golden Eagle flying very distant somewhere over Pori but it had turned and started to glide when others found it. Also a distant Rough-legged Buzzard and pretty good crow-migration was seen – including a couple of Rooks. But nothing else to mention was found.

A little price

On the 14th day I was in Peräkulma again but it was very quiet. But while checking the nets I heard a promising ”tic” call and as I had already a Little Bunting playing next to one of the nets, I just kept on checking the mist-nets. So it wasn’t a big surprise that on the next round there was a Little Bunting hanging on one of the nets. When also an Arctic Redpoll was caught on the same round it meant that Teo and Arto also came to twitch these birds and once again the morning-watch was short.

We left to walk around the island only when we got new people as Anti Peuna, Nico Ordax and Miia Mannerla arrived. After we had carried their stuff to the station we left to twitch Siberian Accentor. But unfortunately it wasn’t found anymore. In Eteläkari we heard a Hume’s Leaf Warbler calling shortly but quite distant. Antti managed to started recording the call but a little bit too late as only the last call was recorded. And of course that call wasn’t very typical as it had probably been called in flight. Soon we found a Jack Snipe and then finally a Rock Pipit which was finally a year-tick. Also a couple of Short-eared Owls were seen again and then we found the same Little Bunting with a ring. It was about 500 meters from Peräkulma, so it tells something that we found the ringed birds later from the field too. It was good that everyone saw this Little Bunting.

And again something better

On the 15th day morning-watch was boring again – it was tough to stay awake. Also walk around the island was quiet but again Hanna stroke as she sent a message of a Pallas’s Leaf Warbler in hand! Of course we all went to see and photograph this one of the cutest birds. Anyway for me the observation of the day was when I finally flushed a Woodcock! I had somehow missed this bird in my every trip to Säppi even though it had been seen at least twenty times while I had been there – sometimes very close… Well of course Pallas’s Leaf Warbler was better…

But while walking we still found anything new – except a couple of Woodpigeons and Arctic Redpolls. The same Little Bunting was still there.

More people, better parties – but still not many birds

On the 16th of October it was still very quiet. Some tits had arrived to the island and we hoped that something better had come with them but nothing was found. The first Snow Bunting was heard which usually means that autumn is over – but we know that the rarest birds are coming very late… 150 Barnacle Geese, 10 Scaups, a Grey Plover, 8 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Woodcocks, 3 Rooks, a Goldfinch and a ringed Waxwing were birds to mention.

In the evening Petteri Mäkelä, Sebastian Andrejeff, Markus Lampinen, Pasi Alanko, Jan Lundgren and Elissa Soikkeli arrived and Pirkka, Arto and Miia had to leave. Elissa came to our side where Antti had also stayed and Petteri, ”Sepi” and Markus went to station-side with Nico while Pasi and ”Lunkka” had arranged a room from Säppi-foundation building where they stayed in small radio-room. Pasi is a radio-amateur and soon he had put up long antennas to the light-house and carried several boxes full of radio-equipment to their room.

On the 17th of October morning was as boring as ever even though there were more pairs of eyes watching. A few Wood Larks were flying around which one of them seemed to stay in the garden. At midday Matti and Mimosa Mäkelä and Mika Bruun arrived and it was Antti’s tour to leave. All newcomers stayed in station-side which was now very full. The island was walked around again but only better bird was the same Grey Plover.

After quiet days a nice hand-tick

The 18th of October was one more quiet day. The best bird in the morning was a young Lesser Black-backed Gull that was flying around the island. Anyway the most memorable happening was done in the garden. Hanna had put up a low mist-net next to a seed-trap that had been on the ground for Wood Lark. Once we came back from an empty walk around the island, we noticed that one Wood Lark was right next to the net. After some time I decided to make a run and managed to push the bird to the net! It was only the second ever ringed Wood Lark in Säppi!

On the 19th day there wasn’t much to mention: A Short-eared Owl was seen and the same Lesser Black-backed Gull again. Weather was bad so in morning sea-watch we were only with Teo. Quite a few better birds were seen during the day by others, the most interesting was seen in the garden where a possible Siberian Accentor was seen and heard briefly. Also a Purple Sandpiper, a Grey-headed Woodpecker, a Wood Lark, a Blackcap, a ”tic” bunting and a Twite was seen but I saw none of them… But the next day looked really promising, so it was going to be The day.

The day – or at least pretty good

On the 20th of October morning started in hurry as we found out that everyone from the station-side were going to do morning-watch to Eteläkari. And they were already leaving. It is quite far, so we were a bit late with Teo and so we had already missed a Rock Pipit. Migration wasn’t too good but the weather was excellent! The first better bird for us was a Twite the was flying over us. Soon Teo found a lonely diver flying high on the sky and it was very difficult to find with telescope. When I finally found it, it was a Great Northern Diver! I lost it again to blue sky but luckily after some searching everyone found it. Even Mika, who was walking towards us along the shore managed to see it.

Just a little bit later we heard a tit calling and I thought that it is the first Willow Tit of the trip but others were already hearing it better – a Siberian Tit! We played a little bit tape and soon it was flying around us and landing too close to photographers. It stayed so long that also Pasi and ”Lunkka” managed to come to see the bird. Hanna and ”Elli” put a tape to play for it in Peräkulma, but unfortunately it was never seen again.

When we still had a Grey-headed Woodpecker calling visible – another Säppi-tick, a flock of Parrot Crossbills and a Merlin, it is easy to say that the morning had been really good!

During the day Matti and Mimosa left and Tomas Swahn arrived and only then we left to walk around the island. It had been quiet on the mist-nets, so also Hanna and Elli were with us. We didn’t get far when Petteri found a Firecrest in Lännennokka! It was with a couple of tits and Goldcrests and they were very mobile. So not everyone saw it right away but luckily I relocated it a couple of hundreds of meters further and there it stayed in small area almost on the ground for so long that everyone managed to see it.

Other birds seen were a couple of Grey-headed Woodpeckers more, several Great Grey Shrikes, a Goshawk, at least a couple of Twites that were calling in a flock of Common Redpolls, a few Arctic Redpolls and more Snow Buntings, Waxwings. So colder weather had started to bring new birds but for some reason it didn’t show on the mist-nets.

The weather forecast was awful for the next days so The day was celebrated in station-side. Even the log was long and frustrating as some were already so drunk. It was really good that we had own side for us who wanted to sleep.

Rain and misery

On the 21st day we could all sleep longer and relax. It was good as with Teo we had been working hard for several weeks every day! Part of the island was checked by some of us but some were sleeping almost whole day. Luckiest birders had seen a late Greenshank and a Purple Sandpiper but I saw only 3 Jack Snipes. Garden mist-nets were opened a couple of times so some Great Tits were ringed between the rains.

On the 22nd of October the weather was even worse. I decided to walk around the island anyway. There was no wind at all and visibility was great even though it was raining almost all the time. So I managed to see more grebes including a Slavonian Grebe too, 4 Purple Sandpipers and 2 Jack Snipes. The biggest surprise of the day was that when a boat visited the island for some other reason, Petteri, Mika and Lunkka decided to leave.

In the evening Teo cheered us up and managed to finally catch a Woodcock that he had been trying in several evenings. I finally got a hand-tick of this species.

Hanna strikes again

On the 23rd of October the weather was finally better but still we were on the sea-watch with Teo and Pasi only. The same Lesser Black-backed Gull was seen again after a couple of days. In the end we were just waiting for the 2 hours to end as we wanted to hit the bushes. But only a migration Short-eared Owl that landed to the island was seen. About at 11 a.m. Hanna sent a message about a silent Hume’s or Yellow-browed Warbler that had been seen briefly in Peräkulma. We of course messaged back that: “Catch it!”.

And after an hour or so Hanna sent a message that she had a Hume’s Warbler in her hand! We hurried again to Peräkulma and almost ran through Hanhisto, but of course later walked back to check it well. Hume’s Leaf Warbler was one more price for our patient ringing-team that always stayed in Peräkulma late even though it was quiet. Every rare bird we have ever caught in Säppi has been in the afternoon. It was great to have another cute rarity in hand and of course lots of pictures were taken. When we released the bird it stayed on the top of the closest tree for some time and we could see it well but it wasn’t calling.

One more day

The 24th day was quiet in the ground, on the sea and in the air. I managed to dip one more Rock Pipit, which seems to be a habit. Nothing else to mention happened even though we were really trying…

Last day’s hurry”

On the 25th of October we had the last day of our long trip. Luckily winter-time had stated at night so we had an extra hour for us. Hanna ja Elissa still left to Peräkulma and the rest of us to morning-watch. It was quiet but good selection of species were seen, but anyway after an hour we decided to leave and walk around the island with Teo.

In Lännennokka Teo flushed a warbler that he thought was a Chiffchaff. There had been a Chiffchaff in the same bush on the previous day. I saw the bird in flight but I saw some color on its vent. It landed to a tree straight against the sun where it of course looked dark, before it dropped inside the bushes. Soon we heard a Chiffchaff calling and we thought that it had been the same bird again. Anyway I played Radde’s Warbler tape for some time and tried to see the bird again but it had disappered into the junipers. I even said that: ”Maybe there were two birds and something will be found here after we had left”. But soon we continued walking as we didn’t have too much time.

Later we saw a Chiffchaff and we had a feeling that there were quite a few new birds on the island. Nothing better was found anyway and finally we were back on the station about an hour before our boat. Luckily we had packed and cleaned our side on the previous evening as a half an hour before our boat we got a message that Tomas and Sebastian had found a Dusky Warbler – in Lännennokka! Immediately I was sure that it was the same bird we had seen…

We ran to Lännennokka and luckily heard the Dusky Warbler ”tacking” immediately! The bird was also seen briefly before also Hanna and Elissa managed to get there. After some waiting we heard the bird again and then it flew to the Siberian Accentor bush where we saw it extremely well! Luckily the bird had been found early enough for us! It was a WP-tick for Hanna, so after all it was the best bird of the whole trip!

Soon we had to hurry back to the station, carry our stuff to the harbor where Tommi’s boat had just arrived. Soon we were on the way back to Kuuminainen and luckily the ride wasn’t wet this time. In the harbor Petteri was picking up Nico to the railway-station and soon we had packed our cars and left towards Kouvola, Elissa was following us.

Our car stopped once to eat on the way but after a long drive we were in Kouvola where we moved our stuff to our car, said goodbye to Teo and continued to Parikkala.

A long, more than 5 weeks, holiday was finally over. Altogether 175 species had been observed but it seemed that all the best birds had been in Säppi. An Asian Desert Warbler, a Siberian Accentor, a Pallas Leaf, a Hume’s Leaf and a Dusky Warbler had made our trip! Many good birds had been seen also in Oulu-area and Jurmo too, but I think if World is still the same next year, other destinations will change but Säppi stays in program.