Week in Jurmo

We had traditionally been abroad on our autumn holidays. I had been last 9 autumns birding mostly on different islands around Europe. Now we had just used too much money to a better car, so we had planned to go to some island in Finland. There are several islands with ringing-stations that we had never visited. Luckily we saw a message that Jurmo ringing-station needed a ringer and other observers to Hanna’s autumn-holiday week, so we booked ourselves to Jurmo.

On the 14th of October we started to drive towards Turku. We had planned to drive there via Sastamala, but the first Turkestan Shrike wasn’t seen during the whole day, so we drove straight to Naantali instead. We put up our tent a couple of kilometers from Sokerinmäki where had been one of the many Siberian Accentors of Finland for a couple of days.

On the 15th of October we woke up early and soon headed to Sokerinmäki. We were birding there for a couple of hours and there were more and more twitchers coming all the time but the Siberian Accentor wasn’t seen. We saw 140 Redpolls, 2 Arctic Redpolls, a Grey-headed Woodpecker, a Nutcracker, 22 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Chiffchaffs, 3 Wrens and 10 Dunnocks.

After all we gave up and continued to Raisio Raisionlahti, where with help of a local birder, we managed to see a late Spotted Crake. Also Gadwalls, Shovelers, Pochards, Grey Herons, Coots, Lapwings and so on were seen.

Then we headed to a big shopping center nearby and did all the rest shopping for the next week. And soon we were driving along Saaristotie. In a ferry-harbor to Nauvo we saw 2 Barn Swallows and finally we were in Pärnäinen harbor where we soon carried our stuff to Eivor boat. We also saw 2 Barn Swallows in Pärnäinen.

Eivor left at 4 p.m. and after watching empty sea from the deck for some time we headed inside and slept a little bit. We still visited the deck later a couple of times and saw a Long-tailed Duck, a Common Eider and a White-tailed Eagle.

Finally we were in Jurmo when the sun had already set. From the harbour we found old milk-trolleys where we packed most of our stuff and the rest we had to carry for the 1.5 kilometers to the bird-station. It was a long walk in the dark, but luckily there was only one road, so we managed to find the station easily. It was the only building in the small village with several tripods in the garden.

Inside there were 7 birders who had just started to count which species and how many they had seen during the day. So we just went to say hello to Petri Vainio, Timo K. Palomäki, Mikko Niemi, Kai Piikkilä, Soili Leveelahti, Lotta Lindholm and Jyrki Normaja. Then we went to put our tent up to the garden as the station would still be full for the next night. Once we were ready the others were still counting their birds, so soon we were ready to go to sleep.

On the 16th of October we woke up before 7 a.m. and there was a rush-hour in the kitchen. Luckily we had bought breakfast that we could eat in the tent.

Jyrki and Lotta had already opened the mist-nets near the bog and at 7:30 a.m. we were all ready to go out. Jyrki, Lotta and Hanna headed to the mist-nets, Mikko and Timo to the western side of the island and the rest of us to watch morning migration.

Only now when there was already a little bit light, I could see the surroundings of the station. There were quite a few building in the small village, one of them was an old wind-mill and there was a old, in 1846 built chapel with a small cemetery close to the pine-forest.

The daily routines for the birders staying in the station included 2 hours migration watching from the high rock in the middle of the island. It started from the sunrise and all migrating birds were counted. Ringers were supposed to catch birds 5 hours from the sunrise and if there were more ringers there were 13 mist-nets in 2 places, near the bog and in the pine-forest. Hanna was going to be a ringer during the week, but it was good to start getting familiar with the habits in this station with Jyrki on the first day. Then there were still walking route in the western side of the island that was supposed to walk every day and count all the local birds seen in the marked area and another one in the eastern side of the island that was supposed to count if possible. After these routines birding was free, in this time of the year it was possible to go to protected areas too. And all the birds around the island were counted outside the routines too.

The morning migrations was surprisingly good and we saw 150 unidentified and 36 grey geese that were too distant, 67 Brent Geese, 2 Scaups, 77 Long-tailed ducks, 37 Common Scoters, 6 Velvet Scoters, a Red-necked Grebe, a Black Guillemot, thrushes and different kind of passerines etc.

Once the migration-watch was stopped when Jyrki called that he had a Bullfinch with white on its tail-feathers on his hand. We of course went to see this so called Trumpeter or Komi Bullfinch that are rarely seen but more often heard in Finland during some autumns.

After 2 hours migration-watch we headed to walk the eastern count with Petri and Kai. There weren’t many birds but a Smew, a Whooper Swan, 6 Goldfinches and 3 Wood Larks were something a little bit better. Along the route I saw some archaeological stone-rings that are not known what they had been. We really walked fast and I had difficulties to follow the others , but there was a reason as after the walk Petri and Kai had to hurry to catch Eivor as they were leaving.

After a short visit to the station, I went to see the ringers that had caught a little bit more than 100 birds and better ones had been 2 Song Thrushes and a Blackcap.

In the afternoon I went to walk around the eastern part of the island again. I walked around every spit but only better bird I found was a late Northern Wheatear. Other birds I saw during the day were a couple of Bean Geese, a couple of flocks of White-fronted, Brent and Barnacle Geese, a Red-throated Diver, a Woodpigeon and a couple of Golden Plovers.

About at 5 p.m. it started to get very quiet and also darkish, so everyone headed to the station. We got a room by ourselves with Hanna and soon we had made the room as our home and were ready to prepare something to eat. In the evening all the birds were counted to the station-papers again and it was clear that there were much more birds on the western side of the island! Timo and Mikko had seen really good numbers of ducks and also some waders. But from the next morning we were going to do ringing with Hanna so it wasn’t sure that we could get to that part of the island at all.
About at 9 p.m. we were ready to go to sleep.

On the 17th of October we woke up at 6:30 and were soon opening the mist-nets in the pine-forest. Jyrki and Lotta were still ringing near the bog, but they were about to leave with Soili in the afternoon.

After the breakfast we were going back to mist-nets and started the first round. It was soon clear that there were lots of birds coming! Treecreepers, Goldcrests and Robins were hanging in every net and in the beginning we hadn’t got enough bird-bags. Luckily a Belgian-Finnish Matthias Deschrywere who was spending his holiday on the island came to help us and he even had some bird-bags with him. So in the beginning we were just emptying nets with Matthias and carrying birds to Hanna to ring and then we got empty bags from Hanna. so we were almost running around the forest for the first hours.

When we had almost the busiest time of the morning Jyrki called that we should hurry to the station, he made it clear that we really wanted to be there… So soon we were running towards the station and soon everyone was there. Jyrki had a surprise in one bird-bag! He went inside to make sure that the bird wasn’t escaping and we tried to see through the window what he had in the bag. Of course he showed only the tail of the bird first and I was already guessing what he had caught. Then he showed it and indeed, it was a Siberian Accentor!

At least Hanna and Lotta got Finnish-ticks and what a nice bird it was! Soon Jyrki had ringed and measured the bird and it was time to get some pictures! Hanna had to hurry back to the mist-nets, but I stayed still for a while and took some pictures of this amazing bird! We had been hoping to find one of these sibes that had been popping out around the Baltic Sea, but still it was amazing it really did fly to a mist-net in Jurmo when we were there! After I had taken many pictures from different angles I soon had to hurry after Hanna.

And it was still busy on the mist-nets, there were now more and more tits. Luckily Matthias was still helping us and we managed pretty well even though Hanna hadn’t been ringing this many birds ever before. And then we got our present too; there was a Yellow-browed Warbler in one of the mist-nets. Jyrki and Lotta came to twitch this pretty late individual and Hanna was surprised to see them coming as I hadn’t told her anything about a rare bird. So when Hanna started to get the bird from the bird-bag she got surprised how small bird there was and unfortunately it was a surprise it was much more active than other so small birds. So it somehow managed to escape from Hanna’s hand! Maybe we should also have gone inside the station to ring this bird… Well there was no time to worry as mist-nets were again full of birds, so we had to hurry back to work.

When Jyrki and Lotta had already closed their mist-nets, we had still many tits hanging on our nets. So with help of them we finally got all the nets empty and closed and at 2 p.m. Hanna had finally ringed all the birds. During the day we had ringed altogether 305 birds which 2/3 had been in pine-forest. The most common species had been a Goldcrest 84, Treecreeper 72, Great Tit 49, Robin 28, Blue Tit 22 and Wren 21. 18 Long-tailed Tits were ringed and other better birds were 3 Coal Tits, 1 Brambling and 4 Bullfinches which 2 of them were again eastern Bullfinches with white spots on their tail.

In the afternoon we walked the eastern route with Hanna but saw nothing better. But Jyrki, Lotta and Soili who were leaving managed to relocate the Siberian Accentor near the village! And while they were waiting for Eivor, Jyrki managed to see a Pallas’s Leaf Warbler briefly, but the bird disappeared too soon son no-one else saw it. I also biked to the harbor to twitch this rarity and searched it for some time with Sami Kiema who had just arrived to the island, but without luck. We didn’t find the Siberian Accentor either.

In the evening it took again a long time to count all the birds we had seen, but the most memorable moment was when a Siberian Accentor was added to the list. It was the 311th species seen in Jurmo!

On the 18th of October Hanna wanted to move to ring near the bog as there were a little bit more species coming from the mist-nets there.
After the breakfast we headed to the mist-nets and it really seemed that it would be a busy morning again. But after a couple of hours it started to get quiet and we were walking around empty nets. It seemed that the island had really got empty as we caught only 6 Treecreepers, 5 Goldcrest, 4 Robins, 1 Wren and so on.

So when Matthias joined us and Mikko, Timo and Sami were ending their migration-watch, I decided to follow Mikko and Sami to the western route while Timo headed to east. Hanna and Matthias would easily handle the ringing.

It was only now when I realised how huge Jurmo Island really is! It was a long walk to west before we started the counting-route. Already on the moorland we saw a couple of Black Grouses and once we reached the southern bay, we found lots of ducks and some Golden Plovers. And surprisingly I found 3 Shore Larks too! And soon we saw a Peregrine flying over us and it was followed soon by a young Goshawk. So the count had really started well!

We walked around the southern bay towards the western reef and saw a Jack Snipe, 6 Barnacle Geese, 16 Golden Plovers, 5 Grey Plovers, 7 Dunlins, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and so on. And once we reached the reef, we saw good numbers of ducks. There were plenty of Mallard, Wigeons, Teals, Pintails, Shovelers, Tufted Ducks, some Scaups and amazing numbers of Goldeneyes on the sea. Most of the birds were outside the daily counting area but they were counted anyway.

We stopped the count to visit the end of the reef and Heinäsaari but found nothing better even it was a long walk again. Of course when we were as far as possible Hanna called and told that they had mist-nets full of birds! Mikko called Timo and luckily he had already finished in the east and hurried to help Hanna and Matthias.

Once we were back on the route, we saw nothing better either anymore. But while walking along the north-eastern coastline towards the station, we visited the harbor and saw a Black Redstart briefly.

Once we were back in the station Hanna had arrived a little bit earlier. They had caught a bit more than 100 birds but most of them had been on the mist-nets in the same time! She had ringed 50 Long-tailed Tits, 21 Great Tits and so on.

Even though no big rarities had been found, the atmosphere was good in the evening. I had also got 2 new year-ticks.

On the 19th of October the day was already going routinely. It was again more busy on the mist-nets in the morning, then quiet for a couple of hours and then more busy again. At 1 p.m. we started to close the nets and after all we had caught only 75 birds. 22 Goldcrests, 20 Robins and 10 Treecreepers were the most numerous birds and better species were 2 Chiffchaffs, a Blackbird and a Blackcap. During the day we walked the eastern route with Sami but saw only the familiar Wood Larks.

In the afternoon we still visited harbor with Hanna and Sami but found only a couple of Chiffchaffs. The day was after all pretty lame even though we had once again walked a lot!

On the 20th of October it was again a bit better morning on the mist-nets. Robin 34, surprisingly Siskin 16, Great tit 14 and Goldcrest 12 were the most ringed species. Altogether 103 birds were ringed, which some of them Hanna ringed in the afternoon from the feeder of the station. During the morning we saw a couple of flocks of Stock Doves with some Woodpigeons and heard a Wood Lark and a Chiffchaff. During the ringing we visited alder forest but found no birds there, but it was nice to get some pictures there too.

After the ringing, I took a bike and cycled to the harbor from where I walked around the whole western side of the island! Mikko and Timo had been counting the counting-area already but I really tried to find something they had been missed. I did find a Ringed Plover and saw a single Purple Sandpiper from the end of Heinäsaari, but other birds were the same as counters had seen. Best ones were Golden and Grey Plovers, 3 Dunlins and a Lapland Bunting.

After all I had been walking 23 kilometers and I was exhausted once I biked back to the station. Anyway we still hadn’t found anything rare on the field…

On the morning of the 21st of October Mikko had left the island with Eivor very early. It was very windy so it wasn’t a surprise that the island was even quieter. 9 Bullfinches and 9 Long-tailed tits were caught, but altogether only 60 birds were ringed even though Hanna ringed again some tits in the garden too. But still there were some nice birds to study. Most of the small number of Redpolls we caught were clearly Lesser Redpolls, but some weren’t so easy to judge and one of the Long-tailed Tits had clearly genes from europaea -subspecies. We also still saw a couple of snakes along the mist-net path. During the stay we saw a couple of Vipers and a single Grass Snake.

During the morning we had some flocks of Parrot Crossbills and a couple of Common Crossbills and the first Snow Bunting of the season. After all we closed the mist-nets and started to walk towards the station. Then I saw a Peregrine flying over us and surprisingly it attacked towards a bigger raptor that was a young Golden Eagle! I called to Sami and luckily they managed to see the bird extremely well while they were counting the birds in the west.

During the day I walked the eastern route quickly and then headed also to west to see some more birds, but found nothing new. I walked again 22 kilometers during the day!

On the 22nd of October the weather was even stormier! So we didn’t put up the mist-nets at all. We were leaving after 11 a.m. anyway. Timo was going to stay on the island for a couple of days alone before the next group was arriving.

Sami was birding around the station while Timo left to make the routines. With Hanna we left early to the harbor with all our stuff. There we saw a Goshawk chasing a Woodcock over the sea! Then we headed to walk around the best parts of the western side as Hanna still hadn’t got possibility to see the area at all.

The wind was very hard but we managed to see Golden and Grey Plovers, lots of ducks, Common Snipes and so on. A flock of Barnacle Geese was seen on migration.

Finally Eivor left and together with Sami we stayed for some time on the deck but saw almost nothing. So after all I went to sleep inside.

In Pärnäinen we said goodbye to Sami and started to drive towards inland. We headed now to Sastamala where the Turkestan Shrike still was after all!

We ate in Huittinen and after a long drive put up the tent in some forest in Sastamala.

On the 23rd of October we wake up early and walked a little bit in the forest first and then drove to Vanerinranta. We met a local birder there and soon understood that the shrike was sleeping in a big pile of branches. Shrikes are not waking up very early so we just started to wait.

Another local birder arrived soon and he found a Hawk Owl from the wire behind us. It was my year-tick number 250.

Soon after that I found the Turkestan Shrike that was perching on the branches! It was showing extremely well for 5 minutes but then disappeared behind the pile. And of course after that many twitchers started to arrive!

We waited for an hour to bird to show up again but then decided to walk around the area a little bit with Hanna. And after a few minutes walk I found the shrike about 150 meters from the pile close to the lake. Luckily the bird stayed there and everyone managed to see it! Now we just hope that it will be confirmed as a Turkestan Shrike from the DNA-samples that were taken when the bird was ringed and it will be a split and a new species for the country soon.

It was again a long drive back to Parikkala where we finally were in the evening. But it had been a great week holiday in a new destination in Finland! I am sure this won’t be the last island we visit in Finland…

J.A.