Beginning of the year 2024

The year 2023 wasn’t the greatest birding year but I managed to 400th Finnish tick after a couple of amazing successful and a couple of unsuccessful twitching trip. I didn’t get any new self-found ticks but maybe the most amazing ticks were even 4 new Siikalahti-ticks as I had got only 9 ticks in last 12 years and the longest streaks without any had been 3 and 3.5 years. After all I got 261 year-ticks but I birded mostly near home so I got even 221 species in Parikkala and 195 in Siikalahti.

Usually we had done a long The first of January trip but as we had just did a long twitching trip and after all there were only the same Oriental Turtle Dove and Black-throated Thrush around, we decided to take a bit easier this year. So our targets were the Black-throated Thrush, a Nutcracker in Punkaharju and a Two-barred Crossbill in Imatra.

The year changes in very cold weather but at 5:15 a.m. we picked up Harri Hölttä and started driving towards Lieksa. It was a long drive but it went quickly. The coldest place was some 20 kilometers before Lieksa when it was even -31.5 degrees! Luckily it wasn’t that cold, only -21 degrees, when we parked in Lieksa and walked to the familiar street where we stopped to watch towards the feeder. Surprisingly we saw some familiar faces on the window as there were some top-twitchers inside the house watching towards the feeder.

The first bird of the year was surprisingly a Fieldfare that arrived to the feeder when it was still quite dark. Soon Great and Blue Tits and Yellowhammers started to wake up and then the second thrush of the morning arrived – a Blackbird.

Hooded Crows and Jackdaws were already flying on the sky when Jörgen Palmgren arrived and joined us and pretty soon also the star-bird arrived when the Black-throated Thrush flew close to the feeder. We still stayed there for some time as we hoped to see the thrush better and maybe get some pictures too but after some waiting we decided to give up as we had again a long driving in front of us. And of course it was pretty cold too…

While we were driving we saw a Black Grouse in Joensuu, a Goshawk in Kontiolahti, a Raven in Kitee and when we were getting closer to Parikkala, we realized that we hadn’t got time to turn to Punkaharju but decided to keep on driving towards Imatra. There was no news from Imatra but we heard that Nutcrackers hadn’t been seen during the morning either. And then we got news that Petri Kalmari had seen a Nutcracker in Imatra.

In Parikkala we saw a Grey-headed Woodpecker flying over the road in Kinnarsalmi and then we of course had to make a brief stop in Moskuunniemi where after some waiting we saw a Marsh Tit. We also saw a Nuthatch and Common Redpolls. But soon we were driving towards Imatra again.

In Ruokolahti we saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker and when we arrived to Imatra there were still no news about the Two-barred Crossbill. So we decided to try to twitch the Nutcracker first. The bird had been seen some 20 minutes earlier but the owner of the house and the feeder told that usually it wasn’t visiting the feeder after 1 p.m. We waited for some time but after all we had to give up. Only year-tick was a Jay.

In Vuoksi Itä-Siitola we saw Goldeneyes, a Cormorant, a male Smew and Mallards but then we continued to Neitsytniemi. Nobody had sent any message, but the crossbill but once we got to the feeder the bird was there! It was my second First of January tick of the day, number 155.

We also saw a couple of Nuthatches and a Treecreeper. When it was getting dark we still decided to make some stops along river Vuoksi. We still saw a Goosander in Imatrankoski and a Goldfinch in Mansikkala. And after we had eaten, we still tried to twich a Tawny Owl but the weather was getting worse and we had no luck.

Winter continued very cold so there was really not much to see in Parikkala. I did some birding every day on my lunch-hours and more at weekends. Mostly I visited Moskuunniemi and our feeders around Siikalahti. So I saw the same Marsh Tit, Nuthatches, Long-tailed Tits, Treecreepers, Grey-headed and White-backed Woodpeckers and so on almost every day. Some year-ticks I got were Common Crossbill, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Crested Tit.

On the 7th of January we visited Rautjärvi Simpele Kokkolanjoki with Harri Partanen but it was again a very cold day so we found only a few Dippers. Then in Siikalahti we saw a Goshawk that had just hunted a Black Woodpecker.

On the 9th day I went to check the condition of forest roads and found out that it was impossible to drive to see Siberian Jays. I did see a Hazel Hen in Kirpoavankivenmäki.

Siberian JayOn the 13th day I stopped briefly in Kokkolanjoki and saw Mallards and a male Goosander. Then on the 14th day we did a long skiing trip from Oronmylly to Soininmäki. On the way just before Oronmylly we saw a Pygmy Owl. In Soininmäki we found a couple of Siberian Jays after some waiting and searching. Otherwise it was extremely quiet in the forests. The cold weather had been fatal to many birds. For example a flock of Long-tailed Tits that was visiting our feeder had only 6 birds left from 11.

Hanna spent a several days in a hide next to our feeder and got some nice pictures of tits and woodpeckers and so on. I also joined her in a couple of mornings when it wasn’t so cold.
In the end of January some days were warm and there were even some days with + degrees. Then it was very difficult to find any birds as they were feeding on the top of trees. I found out that the Marsh Tit was staying on Harri Partanen’s feeder only on cold days and on warmer days it changed to another feeder that was some hundreds of meters away.

On the 25th day I found one Goldcrest that had somehow still survived and also a Great Grey Shrike in Tetrisuo. On the 26th day I saw a Dipper in Tyrjä. At weekend we did Garden twitches first in Siikalahti feeder and then in Tarvaslampi hide-feeder. Nothing new was found. But in Tarvaslampi garden-feeder there was a big flock of Common Redpolls with at least 3 Arctic Redpolls and a single Lesser Redpoll.

J.A.
Lesser-spotted Woodpecker