Bird-tower competition week

May is always awaited month amongst birders because of it is the month when it is really possible to find some rarities. On the 1st of May we spent almost whole day in Siikalahti and saw once again a Black Kite and a Pallid Harrier almost in the same time. Other birds seen were a female Scaup, 2 White-tailed Eagles, 2 female Hen Harriers, a Goshawk, 3 Hobbies, an Oystercatcher, 72 Golden Plovers, a Heuglin’s Gull, 2 Sand Martins, a Yellow Wagtail and a Long-tailed Tit. In the afternoon we went to check owl nest-boxes in Tyrjä and saw a Capercaillie. Then in the evening we still went to find out that Nuthatches were really breeding in one nest-box in Kangaskylä. It is finally the first confirmed breeding of this species in Parikkala.

AdderOn the 2nd of May my birthday weather was awful. In Kaukola I saw a Greylag Goose, 10 Bewick’s and 200 Whooper Swans and while checking some nest-boxes I heard a Cuckoo and saw 3 Hazel Hens. But then it started to rain too bad.

On the 3rd day I got a couple of year.ticks – Willow Warbler and Whinchat and on the 4th day a Sedge Warbler. Almost nothing else was seen, but in the evening I found a Pygmy Owl breeding in one nest-box.

On the 5th of May was the Birdtower competition. Pirkka had arrived very late in at night and too soon we were heading to Siikalahti. We met Elissa and Miika Soikkeli, Pekka Punnonen, Jukka Savolainen and Matti Lötjönen soon and were at 4:45 a.m. in the tower.

We couldn’t find any good starting species, so at 5 a.m. we started to count just common species. The weather was much worse than it had been on forecasts so we were soon frozen! A Heuglin’s Gull was seen again but it is not a species yet, so we got only Lesser Black-backed Gull. A Bewick’s Swan was flying over us and other better species during the early morning were a couple of Canada Geese, Smews, a Black Grouse, a Hen Harrier, a couple of Grey-headed Woodpeckers, a Cuckoo, several Northern Wheatears, a Whinchat, a Sedge Warbler, a couple of small flocks of Lapland Buntings and a Chiffchaff that was singing all the time.

After we had got about 65 species the weather got even worse and it took a long time to get any new species. But finally the rain stopped and even sun was visible through clouds. A couple of Gadwalls, a Red-throated Diver in a flock of 32 Black-throated Divers, a couple of Woodcocks, a flock of Waxwings, Redpolls and Bramblings were seen. And finally we got some more raptors too when a Rough-legged and some Common Buzzards, a Hobby and a White-tailed Eagle were seen. Around mid-day we still saw a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers and a Jay before it was 1 p.m. and we counted that we had seen 90 species.

Then we hurried to Saari Tarassiinlahti where a team had seen 94 species including the best bird in whole Finland during the competition – a Bee-eater. But unfortunately twitchers had lost the bird just 15 minutes before we got there and it wasn’t found anymore.

We searched for the Bee-eater for an hour and a half but found only some species we had hoped to see in Siikalahti like a White-backed Woodpecker, a Green Sandpiper and a Black-tailed Godwit. Other birds we had missed in Siikalahti had been Water Rail, Slavonian Grebe, Pied Flycatcher, Green Finch and Yellowhammer…

In the afternoon we went to eat to Tarvaslampi and on the way back home we stopped in Särkisalmi. I started scanning waterfowl and almost the first bird was a female Red-crested Pochard! It was only the 7th observation of this species in South-Karelia and the first one in 13 years! But 5 observations have been made in Parikkala and this was already my 4th observation here and 2nd self-found after one male we found with Hanna at 2004.

In the evening we still went to check some fields with Pirkka but found nothing special. Then we headed to Siikalahti at night and heard a couple of Spotted Crakes, several Water Rails and a Jack Snipe very well. I also found an owl perched on one tree and a scope and head-lights of a car were needed to identify it as a Short-eared Owl.

Golden PloversOn the 6th of May we twitched Nuthatches for Pirkka and found out that they were already feeding their youngsters. Then we headed to Saari where in Akanvaara Tetrisuo we found altogether 880 Golden Plovers, but otherwise it was once again very quiet until we found a Shelduck in Tarassiinlahti. The duck soon left towards Kanavalampi where we soon found it sleeping. A Common Whitethroat was heard before we continued towards Siikalahti. The weather was now too sunny and hot so in a couple of hours we saw only a White-tailed Eagle and 2 female harriers that migrated too far but at least one of them was a Pallid or Montagu’s Harrier.

After we had eaten in ABC Pirkka started a long drive back to Kemijärvi. I soon headed to sleep as I hadn’t been sleeping enough for a long time.

J.A.