Amazing winter-trip

On Saturday the 12th of December we left with Hanna to twitch several birds to Southern Finland. On the previous evening we went to sleep very early and woke up after 3 a.m. in the morning. At 4 a.m. we were driving towards Imatra and there we crossed the border and bought cheaper Russian gasoline. Luckily there were no queues in that time.

Before 9 a.m. we parked to Tuusula Jokela Perttu and soon could hear a Siberian Lesser Whitethroat calling. It was giving both chak and trrrt calls very actively. It was still pretty dark but when we had met the owner of the house whose feeder the bird was visiting, we walked to see the feeder. And the whitethroat was already there.

We were looking at the bird for about an hour and there were quite a few other twitchers too as this was the first weekend day that this bird was twitched. And many other birders had similar plans with us for the rest of the day. But we stayed studying the Siberian Lesser Whitethorat for much longer so almost everyone else continued to the next place before us.

So when we finally, after a couple of U-turns, got to Helsinki and Tähtitorninmäki, there weren’t many birders. Pallas Leaf Warbler had been missing for about 10 minutes but luckily after 10 more it was found on the top of the trees. It was a WP-tick for Hanna but unfortunately it stayed too high for photographing. The bird was very active, but it was still about 10 degrees! A couple of days later it came cold and the bird disappeared.

Our next target was in Viikki Fastholma and after we had walked a kilometer or so and saw a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on the way, we found the feeder. The Azure Tit that had been extremely difficult to twitch on windy days had been now easier and once we got to the right place next to a reedbed it took only 5 minutes to see it. It came very close to the trees, but stayed pretty high but anyway we saw this bird extremely well!

Unfortunately there were too many birders chasing the bird with their cameras so I didn’t enjoy staying watching the Azure Tit very long, so we started to walk back towards our car. After 100 meters we saw a group of birders that were watching a Tawny Owl that was roosting on the chimney of a house! It was my first ever roosting Tawny Owl in Finland so I was very happy even though the bird soon dropped inside the chimney and invisible. We also saw a White-backed Woodpecker before continued to our car.

We continued towards east and saw a Hawk Owl in Porvoo and in Pyhtää Heinlahti we stopped to twitch a couple of Red-crested Pochards. There had been birders for whole day and a male had been seen only very briefly early in the morning. So we weren’t very hopeful and after talking shortly with some friends, we decided to keep on going. Anyway after 10 kilometers driving, I got a message that male Red-crested Pochard had just been found, so we made an U-turn and hurried back! It was getting foggy, but luckily we managed to see the bird! Also 26 Coots, 3 Smews, a Wigeon and lots of Mute Swans and Canada Geese were seen in Heinlahti.

In Kotka we saw a Sparrowhawk and in Virolahti a Goshawk before we managed to get to Ylämaa Hujakkala about 30 minutes after the sunset. But there was still some light and we managed to find a male Gadwall that was in a big flock of Mallards on a flooded field. It was a good winter tick to South Karelia.

I had planned that if everything goes extremely well, we could still visit Kaislanen in Lappeenranta, but it was too late. But anyway when we got home, we were very happy – it had been quite a day!

On Sunday the 13th day I then drove to Lappeenranta and together with Pekka Punnonen we birded a few hours there. We started in Kaislanen where we saw a Pochard which I now have seen in every month in Finland. Also 134 Whooper Swans and a Smew were found there. Otherwise we didn’t see much, a Nuthatch in Pappilanniemi as usual. On the way back to Parikkala I again filled my tank in Russia and then stopped in Kymälahti tower where I saw a few Scaups and Tufted Ducks and 3 Velvet Scoters. It had been amazing weekend with lots of different kind of strange winter-birds!

J.A.