Winter – or something like that

On the 1st of December we started winter-birding in Joutseno with Sampsa Cairenius. We headed first to Pätilä fields and almost the first bird we found was a Snow Bunting that was flying on the sky. But a Great Grey Shrike attacked it right away and chased it away. It’s not easy to be a rare bird in snowy Finland while everyone is trying to eat you… Other birds we found were some Chaffinches, a Goldfinch, a Black Grouse and in other places in Joutseno we still saw a White-backed Woodpecker, 4 Long-tailed Tits, a White-tailed Eagle and a young Common Gull.

In Lappeenranta we saw a Goshawk in Laihia and an Arctic Redpoll in Leiri. Then we headed to Toikansuo where we found a Robin on the famous ditch. We still saw a couple of Blackbirds before I had to go to play rinkball match.

On the 2nd of December there were still 23 Whooper Swans and 19 Mallards in Vartialahti and in Muttelinmäki I found a Pygmy Owl that was hunting in the middle of the day. On the 3rd day a White-tailed Eagle and a Blackbird were seen in Kangaskylä and a young Herring Gull was the only bird on the freezing lake. And on the next day there were also 4 Common Gulls.

On the Independence Day, 6th of December I went birding to forest and it started promising as I saw 3 Capercaillies on the way. A couple of Siberian Jays were found and also a Tree-toed Woodpecker, some Goldcrests, Coal and Willow Tits, a Treecreeper and an Arctic Redpoll that was in a Common Redpoll flock.

On the 8th day we visited Siberian Jays together with Hanna, Elissa and Miika and found 3 birds. We saw again 2 Capercaillies but also a couple of Crested Tits, a Coal Tit and 7 Common Crossbills. In Tarvaslampi I heard a Grey Woodpecker.

On the 9th day 10 Mallards and 42 Goosanders were in Vartialahti and the same Pygmy Owl was again in Muttelinmäki and on the 10th day “asiatica” Nuthatch was in the same place. In Kirkonkylä I saw 2 “europaea” Nuthatches and a Great Grey Shrike flew over me. On the 11th day a lonely White-tailed Eagle was on completely frozen lake and on the next day I saw a flock of Waxwings in Kangaskylä.

On the 20th day a couple of Mallards and a Gre-headed Woodpecker were seen in Tyrjä and 13 Black Grouses in Siikalahti.

On the 21st of December I did a winterbird count in windy weather, but it was the only day I could do it. I saw altogether 32 Black Grouses, 3 Rock Pigeons, 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 50 Blu, 60 Great and 2 Willow Tits, “asiatica” Nuthatch, 3 Jays, 7 Magpies, 10 Jackdaws, 18 Hooded Crows, 4 Ravens, 22 Tree Sparrows, 33 Greenfinches, 55 Redpolls, an Arctic Redpoll, 4 Bullfinches and 55 Yellowhammers and there was a whitish female-bird in the flock that looked like a Pine Bunting, but I really didn’t see it well enough and can’t say if it was a hybrid or just a pale Yellowhammer.

The winter-holiday was spent in Indonesia Bali..

On the 6th of January 2020 we landed to Helsinki-Vantaa airport to autumn-like landscape and weather. The first year-ticks were Hooded Crow and Rock Dove. On the parking place we saw a Mapie and a Great Spotted Woodpecker and then soon while driving Great Tits, Jackdaws and Fieldfares. In Porvoo I saw a family of Whooper Swans, in Kotka we saw a White-tailed Eagle,in Hamina some Ravens and in Luumäki a Jay. Only stop was made in Lappeenranta Toikansuo where we checked the ditch and found a Wren, a Robin, a Goldcrest and Mallards.

On the 7th of January I went to see Siberian Jays and saw also a Hazel Hen and a couple of Common Crossbills. In Moskuunniemi I saw Blue Tits, Redpolls and Siskins. On the 8th day the “asiatica” Nuthatch was still in Muttelinmäki and in Siikalahti I saw a Great Grey Shrike and in Kannas a White-backed Woodpecker and Tree Sparrows. On the 9th day in Kangaskylä I saw Greenfinches and House Sparrows and in Rautjärvi Simpele Kokkolanjoki a Dipper.

On the 10th day in Siikalahti I saw a Grey-headed Woodpecker and a White-backed Woodpecker was already drumming! Willow Tit was a year-tick and also a Great Grey Shrike was seen again. In Vartialahti I saw a Long-tailed Tit, in Kannas some Yellowhammers and in Tiviä another Pygmy Owl. In the evening I made a stop in Imatra Kupari where in almost complete darkness I still saw Cormorants and Goldeneyes.

On the 11th day we participated White-backed Woodpecker ringing-day but unfortunately in a place where were no White-backed Woodpeckers. We ringed a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Blue Tit, otherwise out place was boring, just some Bullfinches and Siskins were seen. So we stopped early and went to say hello to Siberian Jays and saw also a Black Woodpecker and a couple of new Great Grey Shrikes on the way.

On the 12th day while driving over Kokkolanjoki I saw 12 Whooper Swans. In Imatra Vuoksi Itä-Siitola I saw Goldeneyes, Goosanders and Cormorants and also a young Common Gull. In Imatrankoski I saw a female Smew in in Kyyrönkoski a Dipper. I continued to Joutseno along the border and saw a Great Grey Shrike in Kuurmanpohja and then surprisingly a male Pheasant in Suokumaa. In Ravattila I saw 20 Black Grouses and then I continued to Lappeenranta where in Luukkaansalmi I saw another young Common Gull, a Grey Heron and some Goosanders. In Tirilä I still saw 4 Waxwings before I had to go to play again. In the vening I still twitched an Eagle Owl in its ordinary place.

On the 13th day a flock of 300 Yellowhammers was in Siikalahti but there was nothing with them. On the 14th I went to Haikanniemi where still was some open water! I saw a young Herring Gull but nothing else on the lake, just 2 Black Grouses we on the trees. A couple of laters I visited the place again as it was the latest day that there had ever been open water in Lake Simpele. The Herring Gull was still there.
On the 17th of January we drove to Oulu where I met both my brothers. So during the weekend we went to play rinkball with Riku and for the first time in maybe 20 years we were playing on the same side. We also went to Dream Theater concert to Teatria and then on Sunday the 19th we did some birding with Pirkka. Best birds were twitches – a Siberian Tit in Hietasaari and a couple of Glaucous Gulls in Pateniemi.

It was again very warm so almost all snow had melt, but still it was a surprise when I found 15 Whooper Swans in a field in Siikalahti on the 21st of January. A lonely swan was found in Tyrjä too. I also heard a possible Common Kingfisher there but I heard it only once so I couldn’t be sure – actually the only other possibility was an Otter. On the 22nd day there was a couple of Goosanders in the big open water area in Haikanniemi. In Joukio I saw a flock of 22 Goldfinches, probably they were migrants too? On the 23rd the same Whooper Swan was in Tyrjä but I also saw a Dipper there.

On the 25th day we saw a Goshawk in Kangaskylä, in Mustiinpohja I saw a flock of 28 Black Grouses and while driving to play again I stopped in Vuoksi where I counted 22 Cormorants, in Itä-Siitola I saw a young Herring Gull and in Kupari I saw a Little Grebe. On the Kupari feeder I saw 5 Chaffinches and an Arctic Redpoll.

On the 26th a Coal Tit was seen in Kirkonkylä and in our garden we saw a big mixed flock of Redpoll and Siskins. It is the first time that Siskin is common here in this time of year. On the 17th day the same Pygmy Owl was closer to Siikalahti and probably the same asiatica Nuthatch had moved to Siikalahti. On the 29th day the Pygmy Owl was again in its ordinary place. In Särkisalmi I saw a lonely Waxwing on one feeder. On the 30th a White-tailed Eagle was in frozen Kirkkoselkä and on the last day of January an adult Herring Gull flew over our house. Another spring-bird again.

1st of February we went again to see Siberian Jays and after some searching found a single bird. Also Crested Tits, a Treecreeper and Common Crossbills were seen and a couple of Hazel Hens heard. On the 2nd day we were in Tyrjä again and saw a Dipper, a Black Grouse, a Coal Tit and Common Crossbills, in Kannas we saw a Blackbird as a year-tick.

At least from 7th of February a family of Whooper Swans was staying in a field in Siikalahti and on some days there were also other adult birds, which are probably wintering the coldest time of winter in Kokkolanjoki, not further. A Hazel Hen was also seen and a Grey-headed Woodpecker was already calling. On the 8th we saw a couple of Great Grey Shrikes in Siikalahti and a Brambling in Kannas.

On the 9th a couple of Parrot Crossbills flew over me in Tarvaslampi and then we drove around Lake Simpele. A couple of Dippers were found in Peruspohjanjoki and in Kokkolanjoki we saw 14 Whooper Swans, 3 Goosanders, 3 Goldeneyes, 9 Mallards and a Dipper – some of these were again spring-records.

On the 11th the same Pygmy Owl was again in Siikalahti, a couple of White-backed Woodpeckers were also seen. And on the 12th there were 4 White-tailed Eagles with winter-fishers on the frozen Kirkkoselkä. There were also 6 adult Herring Gulls and on the next day I saw a flock of 8 Herring Gulls in Haikanniemi and 15 was flying over our house – spring is coming.

On the 15th day the Pygmy Owl was there again and in Siikalahti we saw the Nuthatch, a female White-backed Woodpecker and heard a Grey-headed Woodpecker. On the 16th of February I headed to Kouvola Valkeala Sydänmaa to twitch a Snowy Owl. It was already 20 years when I had seen the big white last time! I hoped to get some pictures of this beauty but it had flight to a willows just minutes before I arrived. So I saw only the shape of the bird. And I couldn’t wait for long it to move again as I realized that my game was an hour earlier than I had though, so soon I had to hurry to Lappeenranta.

On the next days there were Whooper Swans in Siikalahti, different number of birds every day. Also Nuthatch, White-backed and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, 2 Great Grey Shrikes and Black Grouses were seen. On the 17th of February I found a flock of about 50 Siskins in Kirkonkylä and on the 20th day I saw a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in Siikalahti. On the 21st day there were already 40 Herring Gulls and a White-tailed Eagle in Härskiinmutka and on the next day the same Nuthatch and a couple of White-tailed Eagles on the ice.

The first real bird-day was on the 23rd of February. We started trying to see eagles in Tyrjänmäki but the weather was worse than we had expected. Anyway we stayed there for a couple of hours without eagles but saw a Two-barred Crossbill flying over us. We continued to Siikalahti where we saw a very early Starling, a Long-tailed Tit, a Black Woodpecker and a flock of 50 Magpies before it started snowing. We almost gave up but luckily waited for the weather getting better and then in short time we saw a young White-tailed Eagle migrating and adult either migrating or then it was just one of the local birds flying North-East and then a Golden Eagle that was soaring shortly in south but unfortunately it continued towards south and didn’t come closer at all. On the way back home we still saw a couple of White-tailed Eagles standing on the frozen lake.

But then the weather changed much more like real winter. At nights it was more than -10 degrees so during the days I saw only the same birds again. The same Nuthatch and the same Pygmy Owl were the best birds during the week. Hanna was spending a holiday and spent time with her camera in Tarvaslampi in her hide and also in cold weather in Siikalahti.

J.A.