Winterbird count and summary of the year’s counts

In Christmas Eve we did a winterbird count again with Hanna’s brother Miika Soikkeli. The weather wasn’t that good, but it was still like in autumn, no snow at all and all lakes completely open!

We started a little bit too early but after some waiting we could see that there weren’t many bird in Lake Simpele, only some Whooper Swans and a flock of Goosanders.

When we started to walk it was absolutely quiet! Only birds were 100 Jackdaws and 30 Hooded Crows – all passerines were missing. It stayed very quiet until we crossed the main road 6. We had seen only 7 species until that! Only 4 Tree Sparrows and one single Green Finch had been seen. Once we continued towards Siikalahti we started to see more Great and Blue Tits but also some Jays and Willow Tits.

In Siikalahti we saw some Ravens, a few flocks of Bullfinches, more Jays and once we finally saw the bay, we saw some tens of Whooper Swans and 5 Mallards. A flock of 16 Black Grouses and a young male Goshawk were also seen and in the western side of the bay we saw 2 Hazel Hens.

But then it was very quiet again until we finally saw the only woodpecker of the day, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and heard the only Yellowhammer. In Tetrisuo we saw a Great Grey Shrike.

Once back in Kangaskylä, we saw a Sparrowhawk and on lake we now saw 23 Common Gulls, 5 Herring Gulls and 76 Goosanders.

Altogether we saw 24 species and 545 birds. Goosander, Common and Herring Gull were all new species to mid-winter count, but anyway it was pretty quiet count without all seed and berry-eaters.

Now it’s time to summarize my year-long project as I walked this winterbird count every month this year. It was nice to see what species it is possible to see in this walk in different times of the year. Maybe I will do this again after 5 years or something, to see if there are big differences between years.

Altogether I saw 144 species in these 12 walks, 14683 birds. Monthly numbers were: (1) 23/463, (2) 29/501, (3) 29/527, (4) 75/1281, (5) 94/1587, (6) 96/4147, (7) 79/1195, (8) 69/1036, (9) 66/1047, (10) 41/1689, (11) 35/665 ja (12) 24 species/545 birds.

The most numerous bird species was Barnacle Goose, with (only) 3188 birds. I could have seen 10 times more with a count in right day, but I made all the counts when I happened to have time to walk whole day. Maybe never it was the most ideal day to do it. More than 1000 Black-headed Gulls were counted, but of course they were same birds in several months, which is of course with many other species too. More than 800 birds were seen both Great Tit and Whooper Swan, around 600 Jackdaws and Hooded Crows and more than 300 Chaffinches, Siskins, Willow Warblers and surprisingly Common Terns.

Better observations were more almost 200 Common Tern in May, a couple of Gadwalls, a flock of 240 Common Scoters in mid-summer, a Little Crake, an Oystercatcher, a Woodcock in November, a Short-eared Owl, a Jack Snipe, a Bluethroat, a Grasshopper Warbler, 2 River Warblers, a Great Reed Warbler, a Brambling in June, a Twite in March and the flocks of Gold Finches and Common Crossbills in the beginning of the year.

Some species that were seen less than expected were all arctic migrants in autumn, many ducks like Pochards, Red-necked and Slavonian Grebes, many migrant waders and White-backed Woodpeckers that had disappeared somewhere in the end of the year even though it was supposed to be the best year ever in Finland. In autumn there were no seed or berry-eaters and then both Sparrows are really disappearing. In winter all House Sparrows have gone somewhere and only some Tree Sparrows are around.

Anyway I must say that this was really fun project even though it was difficult to have time to do the 18 kilometers long walk in the busiest time of the year as the weather must be at least ok to do it. The worst time to do it was in autumn when the vegetation is long and thick and usually also wet. But then both winters were perfect with snow in the beginning of the year so I could ski and then no snow at all in the end of the year, so it was easy to walk.

J.A.