Winterbirding here and there, Imatra winterbird count and Garden Twitch

On the 11th of January I visited Rautjärvi Simpele Kokkolanjoki where I saw in a half an hour a Dipper, 2 Whooper Swans, 9 Mallards, 2 Common Crossbills and then after some searching also a Little Grebe. On the 13th day we visited Siikalahti with Hanna. We even walked until the bird-tower even there was lots of snow. Of course there was almost no birds, but then along Raikantie we saw a White-backed and a Grey-headed Woodpecker. Later we tried to twitch a Great Grey Owl that Matti Lötjönen had deen but it was already gone.

On the 16th of January I drove once again to Kirkkonummi. On the next 2 days I was studying in Helsinki, but in the afternoons I had a couple of hours time for twitching. On the 17th day I went to Espoo Soukanlahti where I didn’t see gulls that I had hoped but 9 White-tailed Eagles and a Sparrowhawk. Then I still managed to twitch the same Black-throated Thrush that I had seen during Christmas in Eestinmalmi. It was now much more difficult but after an hour waiting it finally came to a tree next to a feeder. These 2 days were extremely cold but anyway on the 18th day I managed to twitch a Shore Lark in Helsinki Jätkäsaari.

On the 19th of January we had a traditional Imatra city bird-counting day. 9 teams had their own areas where they were counting every single land-bird. The rules were that a team got one point of each species and then the team who saw most of any species got 3 points, second 2 and third 1 point. Then teams who saw most species and most birds got also 3, 2 and 1 points.

With Kari Kärkkäinen we got a good area Imatra Meltola. I picked up Kari before 9 a.m. and on Kari’s feeders we saw a White-backed and a Grey-headed woodpecker. Then we drove to our area and the first bird we saw was a Sparrowhawk. We started on the best corner of our area and Kari started to walk along different roads than I did. It was freezing cold – almost -30 degrees! But luckily sun was shining so we could survive. There weren’t very many tits but lots of Redpolls, Bullfinches, Greenfinches and Great Spotted woodpeckers. I saw even 5 Great Spotted Woodpeckers fighting! Pretty soon we both saw a couple of Arctic Redpolls and I found a White-backed Woodpecker. So our start has been good!

When I had counted birds of the best area I decided to walk to a sewage works nearby but on the way I saw almost no birds at all. Luckily some Common Crossbills and a Pygmy Owl were good ones. And meanwhile Kari was having a good time – he saw 6 Fieldfares, a Blackbird, 15 Long-tailed Tits, a Grey-headed Woodpecker, 2 Waxwings and much more tits than I did.

After all we walked along almost every road in our area until 3 p.m. but nothing really good was found. Kari saw a Crested Tit and I saw a Dipper. After all we had seen a Sparrowhawk, a Pygmy Owl, 50 Great Spotted woodpeckers, a White-backed Woodpecker, a Grey-headed Woodpecker, 41 Rock Doves, a Dipper, 2 Waxwings, 6 Willow Tits, 7 Coal Tits, a Crested Tit, 117 Blue tits, 270 Great Tits, 15 Long-tailed tits, 6 Fieldfares, a Blackbird, 2 Chaffinches, 190 Greenfinches, 69 Siskins, 13 Goldfinches, 450 Redpolls, 5 Arctic Redpolls, 121 Bullfinches, 11 Common Crossbills, 6 Jays, 72 Magpies, 35 Hooded Crows, 6 Ravens, 193 Tree Sparrows and 195 Yellowhammers. We didn’t see a single House Sparrow or Jackdaw!

The results were given in the evening and it was not a big surprise that we had got clearly most points. We had also seen third most species and 2nd most birds. Then we watched lots of pictures and had fun until 11 p.m. We had once again had a great day and all the winterbirds in Imatra had been counted already 8th year in a raw.

Altogether all teams had seen record numbers of several species: 4082 Redpolls, 293 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 17 Arctic Redpolls, 446 Siskins, 590 Bullfinches and 94 Common Crossbills. Also 8 Nuthatches and 4 Merlins were records and a Nutcracker was seen first time ever. Maybe because of the cold morning the numbers of tits weren’t very big. And once again there weren’t many berry-eaters. Then Rock Dove numbers have been decreasing very fast – only 96 birds were seen. 45 land-bird species and 14081 birds were seen which also was a new record.

On the 25th of January I travelled to Kirkkonummi again. During the weekend I was prticipating to a Finnish Twitcher’s Association (Bongariliitto) weekend with the rest of the decicion-makers of the association. I travelled by train as I was too tired to drive a long way again.

On the 26th day Heikki Vasamies picked me up from Kirkkonummi and with him and Ina-Sabrina Tirri we drove to Tammisaari where we made some birding stops as we had still time before the meeting. We started in Ramsholmen where we saw a White-backed Woodpecker, a Pheasant, some Treecreepers and lots of already very active Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Next we continued by a small ferry to Torsö where we twitched a Little Grebe that was overwintering in a small canal.

At midday we were in Hanko Tvärminne where after a lunch we started the meeting. We had lots of decicions to make and even more to discuss but at 6 p.m. first women went to sauna and then an hour later we stopped the meeting and went to sauna. After all we had a great time until midnight when we finally went to sleep.

On the 27th day we woke up about at 8 a.m. and less than an hour later we all went out to participate to the biggest birdwatching event of Finland – Garden twitch! We started with Petteri Mäkelä from the garden but there were almost no birds at all. From sauna we saw some open water and some gulls and at least one duck but we had no scope with us. Luckily we found almost the rest of our group soon and together we walked even a little bit closer to watch to the open sea. There were lots of gulls moving all the time and after a couple of minutes Petteri noticed a Glauscous Gull flying almost over us – Great! After all we saw lots of Common and Herring Gulls, some Great Black-backed Gulls, a Whooper Swan, 7 Mallards and some Goldeneyes. Of course also some common passerines were seen. And then 3 minutes before the 1 hour time was ending a nice adult White-tailed Eagle flew over us.

Then it was time to continue our meeting again and we still had lots of things to do. After all we had to stop the meeting at midday even though there were still some things to talk. After a lunch we left birding again with Heikki and Ina-Sabrina. We drove to Hanko where we seawatched for some time in extremely hard wind but managed to see some Mute and Whooper Swans, 2 Long-tailed Ducks, a Velvet Scoter and a Black-headed Gull. We still stopped a couple of times in a city but after all we had to continue towards Kirkkonummi where Heikki dropped us to the railway-station and Ina-Sabrina continued to Turku and I started a long way back home. I was finally at home at 9:45 p.m.