Autumn-holiday in Säppi again

On Friday the 18th of October after midday we started a long drive towards Pori. In Kouvola we picked up Hanna’s sister Elissa and then after only one stop to fill the tank, we were in Kuuminainen at 18:15 p.m. Also Teo Ylätalo parked to the harbor in the same time. The boat was already waiting for us with Pekka and Anja Rintamäki on board. Soon we had carried our stuff to the boat and 30 minutes later we were in Eurajoki Luvia Säppi.

Paavo Sallinen and his 2 sons were leaving the island so after we had managed to get our stuff away from the boat we still helped him with his stuff. Arto Aaltonen and Tomas Swahn were also helping us, Arto had been there for a week and Tomas several weeks already.

We carried our stuff to the bird-station and after we were ready we still participated to evening-log. Then we met also Kari Mäntylä who had been ringing on the island for a week. After the log we were soon ready to go to sleep.

The 19th of October. I slept bad as there were several people snoring in our room. So I woke up early and found out that the weather was better than it had been on the forecasts. So I woke up Hanna and Elissa who were supposed to start their ringing week. They were a little bit late, so I went to open the mist-nets to Peräkulma which is a long way from the station. Once I was ready Hanna and Elissa were arriving there and I walked back to the station where others had also woken up.

When the sun was rising we were in Prakala starting the morning sea-watch which is done every morning. On 2 hours every migrating bird is counted. It was pretty quiet but some Razorbills, Black Guillemots and Common Eiders were nice for us inlanders.

Right when the seawatch was over it started to rain. So also Hanna and Elissa, who had caught only small amount of birds but a late Common Redstart as the best bird, came to the station- Luckily the rain stopped soon so we headed to walk around the whole island.

We started from Luotsitupa and headed towards Eteläkari and soon Tomas found a good-looking gull perched on Präälä-islet. It really looked like a Caspian Gull but the distance was too long and hard wind made it even more difficult to see exact identification-marks. We tried to walk closer along the shore but then the bird walked behind the island and wan’t visible anymore. Then it started to rain and after we came back from the cover most of the gulls were gone and this bird wasn’t seen anymore.

We also flushed 2 Jack Snipes and saw a young Lesser Black-backed Gull on our walk and after we had completed the whole round, we still did some sea-watching in Prakala. Then Tomas found 5 Purple Sandpipers on Präälä.

On the 20th of October we headed to Peräkulma and mistnets with Hanna, Elissa and Teo. On the way we flushed a couple of Tengmalm’s Owls on the forest. We managed to put up the mistnets well before the sunrise. But it was again very quiet morning. We caught some Goldcrests, Treecreepers and Bullfinches but almost nothing else. Meanwhile also the morning sea-watch was quiet but during the morning we saw altogether 8 migrating Merlins! During the day it started to rain again so we closed the mistnets and headed to the station to sleep. And again there was too noisy in our room.

Once we woke up Arto, Anja and Pekka had helped Kari to get his stuff to the harbor as he was leaving. I went to help Petteri Matti and Mimosa Mäkelä to bring their stuff to the station but it seemed that they didn’t need more help.

After the log we were soon ready to go to sleep, but first I carried my bed to the kitchen as I wanted to sleep well the rest of the trip.

On the 21st of October the best birds on the seawatch were 333 grey geese and 60 even more unidentified geese. We continued also after the time was full and saw altogether 3 Rough-legged Buzzards and 3 too distant skuas. It was still quiet on mistnets but a Siberian Chiffchaff was caught.

During the day we headed to walk around the island again and it started well as a White-backed Woodpecker was found almost immediately. But then it started to go worse: First I missed a Rock Pipit that flew over us. Then we got a message that a Gyr Falcom had been seen in flying towards south. We started to seawatch but after 10 minutes I found a huge falcon coming towards us over the island. It came exactly towards us and I shouted ”Gyr!”. It flew over is less than 15 meters high and we did the mistake and just watched with bare eyes this majestic bird flying over us. I sent the message about the bird but then we checked pictures that Petteri had managed to get – it was actually just a huge young Peregrine Falcon. Soon Petteri noticed a small bird flying behind us and all he saw was a clear eye-brow. I also saw the bird and for sure it was a phyllosc-warbler. But it flew far to the forest and wasn’t found again.

Luckily we soon found a Twite that was even singing shortly and then saw another Twite so at least I got one year-tick.

Once we reached Lepistö we flushed a pipit that sounded first like a Tree but then like an Olive-backed Pipit. Luckily some of us saw it on the tree-tops and I saw it maybe best and identified it as an Olive-backed Pipit! We sent the message to the others and left the bird to the top of the trees.

Soon we met Antti J. Lind who has a cottage on the island nowadays. He asked if Petteri and Tomas are not checking their phones for messages. He had seen a Firecrest in Parikivi, just behind the ringing place an hour earlier. Tomas had got the message but just missed it but Antti seemed to have a wrong number for Petteri.

But the Firecrest wasn’t found by us or Hanna and Elissa who were still ringing. But soon they closed the nets and left to Lepistö to try to twitch the Olive-backed Pipit with Pekka, Anja and Arto. They couldn’t relocate the pipit but the found a Nuthatch (asiatica) that Markus Lampinen had ringed on the previous week.

We continued our walk and still saw briefly a female-plumage Common Redstart and then another one that was calling exactly like a Red-flanked Bluetail. Actually we sent a message about a bluetail to the others before found out that it was actually a young male Redstart. But the call was high ”hiii” which fits better to Black Redstart, so maybe it was an eastern one? Unfortunately it was already getting dark and we didn’t see the bird very well. So after all the day had been very chaotic but anyway we had manged to make some good observations…

In the evening we tried to catch owls but only heard a Pygmy Owl calling back to the tape. Once we had closed the nets a Tengmalm’s Owl also called a couple of times on the garden.

On the 22nd of October seawatching was windy but some skuas were seen. 2 of them were identified as Pomarine Skuas, 1 as an Arctic Skua and 7 were unidentified. Luckily Pomarine Skuas were seen from Peräkulma too where Hanna and Elissa caught 3 Siberian Chiffchaffs which may be some kind of record? During seawatch also a Short-eared Owl was seen.

We started the walk from Peräkulma and while walking there we heard a Yellow-browed Warbler calling shortly. Otherwise there weren’t many birds around but we found a very late Tree Pipit in Hanhisto. After so much hassling on the previous day some may have thought that we had mistaken with our Olive-backed Pipit, but at least I had seen the bird so well that it was not really thought by us.

After the shorter walk I walked back to Peräkulma where after a couple of mistnet rounds we closed the nets.

On the 23rd day seawatching was again windy but again we saw a single Pomarine Skua and also a Common Guillemot landing to the waves behind Prakala. Razorbills, Black Guillemots and Common Eiders were seen more than in other mornings and a couple of Purple Sandpipers too.

It was still quiet on mistnets but finally some Long-tailed Tits were also caught. For some reason the whole island had almost no sea buckthorn berries so there were almost no tits and not a single sylvia-warbler. The first flocks of Redpolls were flying too high around the island like most of the Long-tailed Tits too.

Mäkelä-trio were leaving so Petteri also went to pack his stuff and Tomas had promised to sweep our neighbor’s chimney. So we walked around the island with Teo. In Luotsitupa we heard a couple of Parrot Crossbills and in Lepistö we flushed the Olive-backed Pipit again. The weather was calm in this part of the island and the bird landed also to the ground a couple of times, so we alarmed everyone else to see the bird. Even Hanna and Elissa closed the mistnets and took one net with them as it seemed to be possible to catch this bird. So we left this bird again and kept on walking with Teo.

Tree Pipit was found again in Hanhisto and also a Common Redpoll was seen again briefly. But when we got information that Olive-backed Pipit hadnt been found, we turned back to help searching this rarity. It didn’t take long when we found the bird again and after all everyone who was there managed to see the bird well. But it was again flying high on the top of trees so we didn’t manage to catch it. When the mistnet was taken away we found the same Nuthatch again.

During the evening we tried to catch some owls again and Teo took a hand net and left to Prakala with headlamp to try to catch snipes. Tengmalm’s Owl was only heard again but Teo managed to catch a couple of Jack Snipes and a Common Snipe which was very nice!

On the 24th of October Hanna and ”Elli” left early again and with Teo and Arto we were seawatching again from the sunrise. One Pomarine Skua was seen again and a Long-eared Owl came to the island again. From the mistnets the best bird was a late Willow Warbler.

With Teo and Tomas we walked around the island. Olive-backed Pipit wasn’t found in windy Lepistö but the same Common Redstart was once again seen very briefly. Then we received a message with a Pallas’s Warbler in Hanna’s hand! So we all were soon hurrying to Peräkulma to see this beautiful Siberian gem!

Altogether 8 Chiffchaffs were seen during the day so we were really expecting to find something else too, but not this day, yet.

On the 25th of October the weather was extremely foggy so we were almost sleeping during the seawatch. Anyway some birds were moving but most of them too far in the fog. Then we received a picture of another Siberian gem – a Yellow-browed Warbler in hand – so soon we all were again heading to Peräkulma.

After a quick breakfast we headed once again to Peräkulma with Teo. On the way we heard strange high-calling bird that I had no idea what it was. Unfortunately it was moving inside a dense forest and too fast. In Peräkulma one more Siberian Chiffchaff had been caught and it was a ”lifer” for Teo, so we had to twitch this sub-species too. This bird was calling actively on hand so we got a nice video of it.

While walking in Hanhisto we heard Goldcrests from the forest and went to see the flock. Then we heard a Hume’s Warbler calling several times but saw this bird only too briefly while a Goldcrest was chasing it. So it wasn’t observed well enough for Rarity Committee.

When back in Peräkulma we saw the same ringed Willow Warbler and then Teo heard one more Goldcrets flock from the forest. There were quite a few of them on the top of spruces but some were also on leafless birch. And from there I found a very beautiful Firecrest! Teo found the bird soon and he stayed following the bird while I ran to tell Hanna and Elissa to come to see it. Unfortunately the bird had gone missing just before we were back an it wasn’t found anymore.

Meanwhile in Hanhisto Tomas had heard a high-calling bird and after 5 minutes searching managed to find it visible and it was a Hawfinch. He recorded the call and it was clearly the same call we had heard earlier with Teo.

It was still quiet in Kräveli which is often the best are but not this year as there were no berries. We concentrated on Goldcrest and after all stayed in pretty small area the rest of the day. While we were walking back towards the station we found one more flock and Hanna and Elissa were chasing the same flock too. we found a small warbler with shiny ring on its leg but it was on the top of the tree against the sun. After all we saw enough to identify it as a Yellow-browed Warbler.

After a short break we still walked to Hanhisto with Teo and from the forest we found a flock of Long-tailed Tits and then a greyish wing-barred warbler following them. They were going too fast so we didnät see the bird well but it could have been a Humes’s Warbler… Meanwhile Tomas saw a Short-eared Owl in Lännennokka and we still saw the same Tree Pipit in Peräkulma – it looked pretty weak.

In the evening we had sauna and the log was done quite late.

On the 26th day we headed to mistnets with Hanna and Elissa. But it was once again too quiet. I was seawatching most of the time and saw a Common Guillemot pretty well and 55 Whooper Swans migrating over the mainland, 55 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Purple Sandpiper. Also several White-tailed Eagles and a Hen Harrier were seen far. We also did a couple of short walks nearby and saw the same Willow Warbler again.

On morning seawatch a couple of Pomarine Skuas and an Arctic Skua had been seen but when Teo and Tomas left to walk around the island they almost immediately found a Firecrest again! Elissa also left to twitch it and saw A White-backed Woodpecker on the way but the Firecrest was gone missing too soon. From the mistnets we still caught one more Siberian Chiffchaff and finally the first Redpoll, which has been the most numerous bird on the previous autumns.

When Teo and Tomas came to Peräkulma, a Peregrine flew over us. Then I followed them to check the rest of the island. Hanna stil stayed on the mistnets for a couple of hours. We still saw the same Common Redstart, finally a little bit better and it maybe didn’t look so common as it had a clear pale panel on its wings. Maybe some eastern – samamisicus? Also the same Nuthatch was seen again in Lepistö.

Pekka and Anja had left the island in the afternoon so there weren’t too many birders anymore. In the evening we were packing and cleaning the house and so on.

On the 27th day the weather was cooler so we were freezing on the seawatch. Only better observation was a flock of 49 Snow Buntings and also a Rough-legged Buzzard was seen.

It was a bit more busy on the mistnets and Hanna ringed about 50 birds altogether with some new ringed species for the trip like a Redwing, a Willow Tit, a Greenfinch and 2 Siskins, but nothing better.

After the seawatch Tomas saw a redstart-species on the garden and it was probably a Black Redstart as it flushed from the roof of one building. But unfortunately it disappeared. We walke from Peräkulma to Eteläkari with Tomas and Teo but saw only the same Willow Warbler. Then we had to hurry to carry our stuff from the station to the harbor. Tomas stayed in Eteläkari and soon saw a flock of 5 Two-barred Crossbills coming our way and luckily we managed to see them with Teo. Then Tomas also found a Black Redstart but we were already packing our stuff to the boat with Hanna, Elisssa, Teo and Arto. Tomas was leaving alone to the island.

In Kuuminainen we packed our cars and said goodbye to Teo and Arto and stlil saw a Woodpigeon before left towards home. Once again winter arrived and the driving conditions were really bad! Luckily we managed to get to Parikkala late in the evening safe.

J.A.