Monthly Archives: July 2003

Norway, Varanger 11.-19.7. 2003

And again to Varanger!

We relaxed only two days after our friend from Catalonia left. Then we loaned the same VW Golf again from Hanna’s father and started our next holiday trip to Inari Lapland and Varanger. My old friend from Oulu Juha Heimovirta joined us. Juha isn’t that much a birder but he is a photographed, and there is a lot of photographing in Varanger, at least birds!

On Friday 11th of July we got our car packed and begun our way to north again. Juha joined us in Kontiomäki, where he came by train.

I have been driving some too much to Rovaniemi in my life so we decided to drive now by different roads. So we drove through Kemijärvi to our first tenting place to Pelkosenniemi Saunavaara.

Some twitching on the way

So we weren’t in Saunavaara by accident: It was not just a good place for tenting, it was also good place to see a Pallid Harrier. There had been one male bird hunting whole summer. Somebody said there could be also female and perhaps a nest too. So after some sleeping (I slept very bad – the ground was too hard and Rustic Bunting family was calling too loud and some fucking Pirkka Aalto was making the beeper call all the time) I started to watch over field in 5 a.m. And soon I found first Short-eared Owl and after that a 3 c-y Pallid Harrier male flying over the field. I woke up Hanna and Juha but they weren’t fast enough. Next time I found the bird Hanna and Juha managed to see it too.

Hanna and Juha continued sleeping but I decided to digiscope the Harrier. And I was lucky, the bird landed to sit on a pole and I managed to get one some kind of picture. After one hour that P.Aalto with his friend Petri Piisilä and after some waiting we saw the Harrier again. There was also Little Bunting singing.

With Pirkka and Petri we went to wake up Hanna and Juha. Soon it came to rain very heavily but we could pack the tent somehow before it was totally wet. Pirkka and Petri continued to Kemijärvi to have some birding and we continued our way to north.

In Sodankylä we stops some times, and we saw some Common Scoter (one family too), Smews and from car we saw one Hobby and one Peregrine Falcon, I think the fist one was better bird in that north.

Our next more important stop was in Inari Kaamanen where we twitched two female Pine Crossbeaks which were staying in one restaurants feeding place. First summer record for me ever of this bird, which can be the most common bird in winter in some years in Oulu area.

Hiking on the top of Ailigas

We arrived to our first main place to Karigasniemi Ailigas in afternoon. We had to wait for an hour that rain went over mountains, but finally we could start hiking to the top of Ailigas mountain. Some Arctic Redpolls were flying around, but soon I saw a very good surprise: I saw a Gyrfalcon flying beautifully against the mountain. It was so hard wind that Hanna and Juha couldn’t hear what I was shouting so they both missed the bird they just saw me jumping and acting like a crazy. Soon we heard some voices of Long-tailed Skua from the sky but we couldn’t find the birds from the blue sky. But now Hanna and of course Juha got lifers. After some climbing we reached the top of the mountain. Juha sat down against the rocks when I said:” There is some Ptarmigans running three meters from you”. So that stopped our relaxing, of course we had to take photos of the birds. While photographing I started to wonder where Hanna was. So I called her:” Here is Ptarmigan came and photograph”. And Hanna answered:” Well here is a family of Dotterel. Should we change?” And that’s what we made. First we took some photos of Dotterels and then climbed back to the top, but Ptarmigans were gone. But now there was funny looking Snow Finch youngster running under the buildings.

Later we started our way back down and then we found the Ptarmigans again and also Hanna could take photos. We had our tent pretty high on the mountain and it was amazing to sleep while Whimblers and Golden Plovers were calling outside.

A BIG mistage

Next morning (13th of July) we walked some hours at Piesjänkä bogs. It was very hard and there were not a lot of birds: just some Arctic Redpolls, two Long-tailed Skuas, Spotted Redshanks, Red-necked Phalaropes, Rough-legged Buzzards…

But pretty early we decided to continue to north. At Nuvvus Ailigas we stopped to play some CD for Ring Ouzel. And soon we heard just similar calling from the bushes. I decided to take some photos of the bird but then I realized my telescope is missing! Soon I realized I had left it to Piesjänkä 70km back way against the small wooden toilet. I think this is the biggest mistake that birder can do! Leave his telescope, amazing!

Well I drove like Ari Vatanen and Juha and Hanna were sitting eyes shut and after one and half hour we were back in Nuvvus Ailigas trying to hear Ring Ouzel. At least I tried to be like nothing were happened but I don’t know how was others. It was now very windy so we couldn’t find the Ring Ouzel anymore so we decided to move on to Norway!

And real birding begins

After the Norwegian boarder we began to keep species list. Of course we had begun a list already when we took Juha from Kontiolahti, but now we were collecting Norway species. And this time the first one was Hooded Crow.

In Varangerbotn there was again a lot of birds! No mind fucker -feelings this time but again a lot of birds! Strange looking Eider male, Velvet Scoters, Common Scoters, Goldeneyes, Goosanders, Gulls with also some Kittiwakes, Arctic Skuas, some Black-throated Divers, male Scaup… Before Nesseby church we saw also hunting Short-eared Owl.

At Nesseby church it was already evening. It was also raining. So we were just sitting on car and waiting the weather getting better. On the beach there was 20 Shellducks, 13 Steller’s Eiders, Whimbrels and a flock of 94 Bar-tailed Godwit, Little Sandpiper, Pintail, Red-throated Divers and a flock of 10 Little Gulls. When the rain stopped we put our tent up to the island behind the church and went to our sleeping bags.

Some seawatching

At morning we woke up to have some seawatching and some photographing. Soon I found a flying Great Skua (a lifer!). Others were as far as possible photographing but they ran to see the bird against the fells very far. Now there was 19 Steller’s Eiders, there was also easy Oystercatchers and Dunlin to photograph. And of course the breeding pair of Arctic Skuas were very brave (nice pale and dark birds). But we couldn’t find the Sabine Gull which our friend Jari Kontiokorpi had seen less than week earlier. Kittiwakes were mostly too far on the sea.

Next we stopped in Vadsö, where the closest swimming bird was a Fulmar! I got it digiscoped when swimming less than 100 metres from us and Hanna got a flying photo. There was also funny young Hooded Crow and Raven which made everything to get photographed. In Vadsö islands small water place there was 60 Red-necked Phalaropes, Tufted Ducks, Ruffs, Little Stints and on the beach amazing amount of Arctic Terns. Soon were again in car and were driving on.

In Eckerö we were wondering again the amount of Kittiwakes. We took some photos too, but there was nothing more interesting. In Krampenes there was an old White-tailed Eagle sitting on the shore and in Skallelv a Shore Lark flew over the road. We parked the car and tried to find the Lark where I saw it landing. We took only few steps from the road when Hanna found a fledling of Shore Lark. Very nice bird! Of course we took a lot of pictures and soon mother came there too to call us. When mother realized we are not going to eat its child it started to eat calm. It was very windy but I managed to get some pictures of the adult bird too.

In the evening we found from Vardö a nice place to tent. It was nice to watch to bird islands from the door of the tent. It was very windy but I managed to recognize even Brunnich’s Guillemot to a tent tick. We also had a shover in Vardö hotell (of course it cost a little) and bought the tickets to Hornöya bird island for the whole next day.

To Hornöya bird island

It was 9 a.m. in Norwegian time (10 in Finnish) when we jumped on the boat in Vardö harbour. This time we were going to the island. And this was why we were there in Varanger, in Eastern we couldn’t get there and then we decide we have to come back!

There were also one Norwegian and couple from South Africa (which came there by their own car!). When we came closer the islands we realized how different it was this time: Hundreds of Guillemots, Puffins and Razorbills. Cliffs were black of them – thousands! Swimming birds were very close. When we jumped from boat to island there were some Common Guillemots sitting on the stones and we begun to photograph.

We took a lot of pictures! First there were Black Guillemots on the rocks, Common Guillemots swimming on the shore, Shags were calling on the cliffs. After some climbing there were a lot of Puffins sitting on the cliffs very close the track. They were very easy to photograph. They were always too close to digiscope! There were also Razorbills only a little further. Common Guillemots were hundreds pretty far on the cliffs and first we couldn’t find Brunnich’s Guillemots at all. And of course thousands and thousands of Kittiwakes!

Soon we saw an surprise when we saw a Common Guillemot dropping own to rocks. It just lost air under wings. But it didn’t hurt at least badly, but jumped to the sea from next edge.

Another boat took Dick Forsman and his group to island. We had met Dick already earlier in Vardö hotel. He told us that there was somewhere on the cliffs a breeding Fulmar. But he didn’t know the exact place and there was some 10000 other white bird (Kittiwakes) breeding. But we thought we do can find it if we just try.

And more photos

After two hours photographing we realized, that it was amazing hot! Last evening it was really cold so we had two trousers and three jackets. And now it was amazingly hot and could be in just t-skirts. We continued climbing up to watch views and more birds.

When back down we had some breakfast and photographed three species of Pipits: Meadow, Rock and Red-throated Pipits. While doing dishes we got attacked by Black-backed Gull which had a small youngster on the shore.

Soon we went back to photograph some Guillemots. Now we found quite many Brunnich’s Guillemots and I digiscope them. There was also Common Guillemots with (ringvia) and without eye ring. Puffins were flying very close of us and sometimes they almost hit us. All those birds had different kind of voices: Shags and Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins were pretty easy to recognize from voice. Kittiwakes were crying like babies and calling more like other gulls too.

Fulmar on its nest!

After some more digiscoping and photographing I and Hanna decided to find the breeding Fulmar. And amazing or what in 15 minutes Hanna found it! It was breeding very high on the cliff above many Common Guillemots between many Kittiwakes. I took of course photos of it and soon we spread to different directions to continue photographing.

At afternoon we noticed there was a ringer climbing on the cliff! Soon the ringer came down and we could change some words with him. We told him about the Fulmar, which he said that it is maybe not breeding. Fulmar can be just sitting on a cliff for years just practising breeding. Ringer told nobody has seen another bird.

When the ringer left the island I went to have another check of the Fulmar and surprise another bird flew to nest. The first bird which was sitting on a cliff checked few times underneath itself if there is all okay. The pair was also acting like lovers (more than any bird I have ever seen and I don’t mean anything just action). Soon male shouted twice and left back to sea. I think they were really breeding.

Later I was digiscoping Brunnich’s Guillemots again it happened again, one of the birds drop just to my legs and I caught it. And I was happy because it was a ringvia bird. Now every one of us got very close views of this bird. The bird has very sharp bill it really hurt when it bit. Soon we let it free again.

Nine hours in the island went very fast. That was the right time to be there. I wouldn’t have left any earlier. Such a paradise it was at least for digiscoper! We had paid 50 krones more to be there extra three hours and it was worthy. There was even no one but us. Unfortunately we didn’t have more films and memory sticks, so they were almost full when we left. We left the island by some kind of rubber boat which wet really fast. We were back in Vardö harbour in some minutes.

At the end of the World

When back in Vardö we tried to find a place to buy dia film but we couldn’t find any. I also loaded my batteries in Vardö hotel. Then we continued to Hamningberg.
One White-tailed Eagle was sitting on the shore somewhere on the way and in Persfjorden we found one King Eider swimming with a huge flock of Eiders. At Hamningberg we tried to find first a good place for tenting without reindeer shit. It had been pretty good day again!

16th of July I woke up first as usually to have some seawatching. And there was a lot of sea to watch. It was very nice weather with no wind at all, but pretty bad light. I had watched only 20 minutes when there was something else but Fulmars and Gannets. I found a lifer when Shearwater was flying up and down between the small waves. But the light was so bad that I couldn’t be sure was it a Manx or something else. Soon I found two Shearwaters more but I again I couldn’t recognize them. Soon Hanna came also to have some seawatching and finally we found the first sure Manx Shearwater. Soon I walked a hard way to another place to continue sea watching and soon I saw another Manx much better. Somehow I think the first birds were different, Sooty Shearwaters maybe? There were also three big Divers but also too far and too bad light.

Later it started to wind again and air began to wave too. Wind made the weather also much cooler so when I couldn’t continue seawatching wearing just t-skirt I stopped doing it. When you are on holiday you can’t make any misery birdwatching!

Seabirds

Soon we decided to start our way as far back as possible. On the way we met Dick again, and with them we saw 2 male and two female King Eiders. We had been concentrating more to flying birds which explained also that we hadn’t seen any Yellow-billed or Great Northern Divers that Dick’s group has seen.

After a big work we found more film for Juha in Vadsö. Next better birds were in Nesseby. Of course we climbed over Nesseby too, but nothing else than Kittiwakes. At Nesseby it was very windy but a lot of Fulmars were flying all the time to the bottom of the fjord. But the light was again that bad that we decided to go around the bottom to the other side.

From the other side of bottom we could watch those Fulmars much better. They were also flying pretty close. There was about one hundred Fulmars, Gannets, one Shearwater (which seemed to be very dark), also three Slavonian Grebes were seen as a Norwegian ticks. But soon we had to continue to inner land.

From sandbeach to high fells

Of course we stopped again in Gyr Falcon edge, even we had heard some rumours that birds had already left their home. We hadn’t got our neck hurt yet when I found a young Gyr Falcon flying over the fell towards us. .The bird landed on the top of the cliff and we could get some views of it with scopes. I managed to get two pictures of it before it flew away again.

In Högholmen we concentrated only to photograph some of the craziest Arctic Terns. They were hitting even the car while driving. Juha tried to get a picture of the Tern when it is soaring against the big fell but he got only pictures without the fell. On the silt there were some Sandpipers walking: Dunlins, tens of Temminck’s Stints, eight Curlew Sandpipers, 27 Bar-tailed Godwits with one Knot, 18 Red-throated Phalaropes and a Ruff.

Our plans to stay overnight at Högholmen couldn’t be done because of the area was protected and there was only one tenting place pretty far. So we continued our way to high fells to find new places to stay.

Road to the fells was very beautiful it went very high to the fells. On the lakes there was some Long-tailed Ducks, a family of Black-throated Divers, Rough-legged Buzzards were flying in some places, all Skuas were amazingly still just Arctic Skuas. Finally we found a good tenting place pretty high fro fells where there was a small river and amazingly green. And first time there was also mosquitoes pretty much.

Hard walk

When woke up we continued our way to Syltefjorden. On the lakes there were again Long-tailed Ducks, Black-throated Divers, one mail Scaup, finally we found some Long-tailed Skuas too. We reached the bottom of Syltefjord about ten o’clock a.m. First we cooked some meal and then begun our 11 km hike towards the Gannet colony!

The hike was very tough! It was almost just round stones which were very hard and dangerous to walk. We had to climb up and down some fells too and they were pretty high and steep. First we climbed 400 metres up from the sea level over a high fell. Hanna and Juha were carrying backpacks, my packages were little smaller but I had to carry my Zeiss with tripod and I had also all drinks in my back. – And we had a lot of drinks with us.

Soon we saw a cliff on the other side of fjord which ad a Cormorant colony breeding. The cliff was almost whole white because of the birds shit. Other birds were very few. Main reason was of course that we were pretty high where is almost nothing growing, but another reason was because we had to watch all the time to our steps to that we are not falling.

After two hours hiking the route came down the fells to the valley. There we had to get over some small rivers by foots. There was one Ptarmigan drinking at the first river. It was funny to see a Ptarmigan only some twenty of meters from the sea level.

Soon we climbed again up the fells and later back down to a empty fishers village. There we relaxed a little before it started to get cold and we moved on again. There was one pair of Twites sitting on the rocky fence of the village. It was nice to see these birds in their breeding views.

On the way we had met one pair from somewhere South-Europe which told us to walk as high the fells as possible to reach the colony easiest. That’s what we made.

Gannet colony

Last four kilometres were vey hard climbing. The track was marked with stone piles. We hiked from pile to another hoping we finally would be there at colony, but always there was another hill with another stone pile to climb. Finally we reached the top which started a six kilometres long edge with amazing 150000 pairs of Kittiwakes. But right above us there was tens of Gannets flying and much more sitting on a rock bench where the colony was. The birds were sitting there and shouting.

Hanna and Juha came there after me and it was a disappointment for Juha to see how far down the colony was. The birds were far too long for photographing with normal camera. The colony was about 250 metres below us. They were just sitting on their nests and flying pretty low. They didn’t fly higher almost at all.

I do started to digiscope the Gannets and Hanna was almost Happy just seeing those amazing birds even without photographing. But Juha started to find a way down closer the colony. He really wanted to get photos, and I did understood him after 11 kilometres walking.

More than ten White-tailed Eagles were soaring up the sky, once eight together. Snow Finch was carrying food to its nestlings to a hole on a cliff. Even the wind wasn’t bordering us because it was behind a top of the fell. It was very nice!

Finally Juha came to tell us that it do is possible to get down there closer the colony. Just up the colony there was a canyon, about 45 degrees steep, and just small rocks, but we thought it really is a possible way to get down. Cameras with us (and I took of course the scope) we climbed very dangerous way down. We had to be sure all the tie there is no one underneath or up from us because of the rolling stones. When we on our halfway it started to rain and it came much more slippery and dangerous of course. It took about half an hour to get down to the colony. But it was really worth to get there! The colony was just 50 meters from us! They were now little higher than us but now we all could take some photographs. It could have been even better to photograph from another rock bench, but it was too slippery to climb over it and you should have to walk there using 40cm wide track.

Finally the rain stopped, and we could begun to photograph. The lighj was still pretty bad but the Gannets were now so close that Juha and Hanna could take nice flying pictures too and I had to climb little further to get the whole bird to picture. Some Gannets had nestlings, funny looking white hairy birds. All the time there was new birds coming from the sea, some birds were stretching their wings and some birds were fighting against their neighbours. Only two meters up from us there was Kittiwakes breeding and calling those funny voices.

We photographed the Gannets more than an hour and all our films and memory sticks begun to be full. Hanna was the only who still had room for some photos. I had only room for eight photos and Juha had room for only four photos. So we decided to climb back. It was much easier to climb up than it was to get down. Of course it was tougher but when going with “four-wheel”, it wasn’t even close as dangerous.

Finally we got up to our rest luggage. Soon we had our tent up only three meters from the cliff just up from the colony. While putting the tent up a Gyr Falcon flew over us. What a pity we hadn’t had our tent up, so I couldn’t get very good tent tick which you have to see or hear from tent. Snow Finch and Ermine were there watching us. Soon we were all sleeping (of course Juha as doing this and that at least half an hour like every night).

To the way back

Next morning we slept late. We had again a long walk back to our car. We had some seawatching if we could find some seabirds or whales because it was amazingly still, but we found only thousands of Guillemots and Razorbills and tens of thousand Kittiwakes and some White-tailed Eagles. Soon we had al our luggage packed and we started our way back. The hike back was pretty easy. Of course we had much less to carry because of food and drinks were destroyed. In four hours we were back at car. On the way we saw some Ptarmigans again and Hanna and Juha found Actic Skua with a young still non flying bird.

After a small lunch we packed the car again and were ready for a long way back home. When we found again a place where our mobiles were working, all our phones were calling a lot. At least 5-10 messages for all of us. I had to make some calls to Parikkala so I could be sure that I can start my work in Health Centre after two days.

On fells we saw again Long-tailed Ducks, Arctis Skuas and finally also pair of Long-tailed Skuas which were possibly to photograph. On our way to Syltefjord we had seen this same pair but now we found their nesting place, and we found also nestling. So now we had to take all pictures we had left. But this was a must to get photos.

At Högholmen it was much less birds than last time so we continued our way pretty fast. At Gyr Falcon place we didn’t even stop. So now we were driving pretty fast!
In Skippagurra we decided to drive to Utsjoki using Norwegian roads which were much faster than Finnish roads. There were also good shops to do some shopping. At least we needed much more to drink; it was so hot in the car.

Very tired driving

We drove pretty fast through North-Lapland and nothing interesting happened. In Saariselkä we had a shower in Riekonkieppi hotel of course no free). Late night we saw some birds: first in Sodankylä we saw Siberian Jay and then we twitched a calling Quail at Sattanen (we tried this also when we drove to north). Juha was driving until midnight, and I was driving the last 100 km. We slept again in Pelkosenniemi Saunavaara.

Early morning we woke up and continued our way without any bird records. In Rovaniemi county we twitched Grey Wagtail male and Dipper at Auttiköngäs. In Pudasjärvi we dropped Juha to bus station and we ate some lunch too. After that we drove directly to Parikkala. We bought of course some ice-cream on the way twice. After all we were home about 7 p.m. at Saturday evening. So we had still time to relax before our works at Monday.

We had had pretty good three weeks holiday! We drove in our both trips together 5555 kilometres. In this Lapland-Varanger trip we drove 3555 kilometres. With Catalans we sae 152 species and in this another trip we got 140 species (88 in Norway). Together in these trips we saw 204 species and in June-July – pretty well!

Eastern Finland 26.6.-8.7. 2003

Long time no see ;-)

It was the end of June 2003 and we had still few days to work in Siikalahti. Our good friend Oriol Clarabuch was coming from Catalonia with his friend Toni Alonso to have some birding with us. On the 25th of June they landed at Helsinki-Vantaa airport. We couldn’t be there because we had still a lot of bird counting to do in Siikalahti.

By text messages I told Oriol and Toni to take the buss to Helsinki railway station, where they could leave their luggage. From there they took the taxi to the best birding area near Helsinki city – to Viikki. They had the whole night time for birding because the next train to Parikkala was leaving just in the morning.

After some difficulties (taxi driver couldn’t find Pornaistenniemi – very amazing!) Oriol and Toni could have very good birding in Viikki Lammassaari. They got Citrine Wagtail, Marsh Warbler, River Warbler, Corn Crake, Gadwall, Thrush Nightingale… Oriol saw also Grey-headed Woodpecker flying fast in forest.
At morning Oriol and Toni took the train 1.20 p.m. so they arrived at Parikkala 5.35 p.m.

It was very nice to see Oriol again. Last time we had seen in Egypt one and half year before. We have also been with him in Estonia one week, in Catalonia 2 weeks, in Siikajoki Tauvo ringing station several times… First we had some kebab and did some shopping before we went to Siikalahti. Of course we visited the bird tower but soon we let the Catalans have some sleep to information centre, where we let them stay (which is not normal). Guys were pretty tired because of the trip and last nights birding.

To twitch right away

Next morning we had still some counting to do, so Oriol and Toni were almost the whole morning watching birds at the bird tower. Nothing very special to us but I think they were happy to see Red-necked Grebes, Slavonian Grebes, Goldeneyes, Smews and Bitterns…

At night 11 p.m. we left to do some twitching. We tried to twitch Lanceolated Warbler at Ruokolahti Äitsaari. While Antti (our third guide) was driving I got little nervous because I couldn’t get any more information about the bird. Another thing that made me nervous was that Toni told that he has to see the bird before he takes the lifer – Finnish nightsingers are usually pretty difficult to see, at least the rare ones which you are not aloud to disturb at all in first three days. But now we didn’t have to worry about seeing the bird. We tried to hear it for two hours but it was gone. We heard only Long-eared Owl fledlings shouting and two wrong kind of “Locustellas” River and Grasshopper Warblers.

Well I decided that we have to get at least one good lifer for our friends so we turned our way to Joutseno Konnunsuo.

So this bird was very easy: Booted Warbler was already singing loudly when we opened the doors. We also saw it very easily and very well. So the first very important bird was now seen! It was still too dark for digiscoping so we decided to try, if Barred Warbler should be in same place than week before.

Well, we couldn’t find the Barred Warbler, so we drove back to digiscope the Booted Warbler. The bird was very nice! I think it even tried to come as beautifully as possible photographed. It was always sitting on the top of the closest willow and it was singing all the time. I think nobody has that kind of pictures of Booted Warbler – at least in Catalonia! I also took some pictures of Ortolan Bunting which was singing there too.

On the way back we went to see some Blyth’s Reed Warblers which Antti had found a night earlier. Of course Blyth’s Reed Warblers are here everywhere but these birds were easier than normally. There was three birds singing loudly very close of each others and one was also visible all the time. So we started to do some digiscoping with Oriol again.

Siikalahti

After some hours sleeping we were again in Siikalahti. Some waders (Little Ringed Plover, Ruffs, Green Sandpipers) but nothing better. We were just waiting that a White-tailed Eagle, which Hanna had seen earlier in the morning, would show up. Finally we found the Eagle sitting on the trees.

On the 28th of June I went with Oriol and Toni to count some nightsingers by rowing boat. We were rowing around the southern water area of Siikalahti. (Remember normally it’s not aloud to move away from tracks, because Siikalahti is a protected area.)We had to put all nightsingers (mostly Crakes in this time of year) to the map. There were some Water Rails shouting but not any Spotted Crakes! Little Crake female was still shouting now in little different place than earlier. We heard also some Reed and Great Reed Warblers. Also White-tailed Eagle showed up much better than day before.

After counting we took the nets and rings with us and went to do some nightsinger ringing. Oriol and Toni are both ringers (Oriol is a professional) so it was important for them to get some birds also photographed in hand.

First we decided to try a River Warbler South from Siikalahti. When biking we finally found an Icterine Warbler which Toni saw! It wasn’t easy! Soon we had our nets up and a River Warbler CD playing, but we couldn’t find the bird. One Marsh Warbler was singing there but that wasn’t interested of its voice either. Suddenly we heard River Warbler 200 metres from the right place. It had moved from earlier place to much better looking place. When we got our net up, the bird was after 10 seconds hanging there. Ring to the leg and some photographing and we continued to try Blyth’s Reed Warbler.

So we went to the same Blyth’s Reed Warbler place, and it was easy. While photographing the first ringed bird there was already another one hanging on the net. So we got two more birds ringed and about 50 pictures to our memory sticks.

29th day we made duck counting together. There was very few birds! Only interesting birds were two beautiful Cranes which flew shouting very close of us. After counting we loaned Antti’s car again and went to see some birds to Särkisalmi. Just Goosanders, Red-breasted Mergansers, Whooper Swans and Goldeneyes, nothing very special was seen, but enough for our friends.

We decided to try still one more Marsh Warbler at Hanna’s parent’s home yard, but we didn’t find it. But Oriol and Toni were happy to see Black-throated Divers which were swimming there in Tarvaslampi. At afternoon we still emptied our memory sticks and burned the pictures to CD and had sauna before we went to sleep very early. At night we would begin our real birding trip!

To North-Karelia

At 11 p.m. we started out first summer holiday trip. I was planned a week trip to North-Karelia, Kainuu and Kuusamo. And now it was just the right time for the eastern rarities. That was the reason why Oriol and Toni were here in this time of year. Some other time here is much more birds in Finland but not so good ones.

Now we had the best possible timing because night earlier there was a Lanceolated Warbler found in Kitee Ruppovaara. So we started our trip there. Now I had better feeling while driving, because I got information that the bird was still there. On the way we saw Short-eared Owl and Nightjar, but the information how to find the Lanceolated place were badly wrong. Luckily Jari “Putte” Nummelin saw us driving to wrong direction and he told us the right way for the bird. And the Lanceolated Warbler was singing there all the time. Because there were no more twitchers coming we decided to get closer to see the bird.

I don’t understand how we were so lucky, but we found the bird easily. (Second time I saw Lanceolated Warbler even I have heard about 10.) And this was the second really important bird already! (Of course Toni had got about dozen of lifers already!)

We hadn`t got more plans for the night, because I had thought that it can take time to see the Warbler. So we decided to continue to Värtsilä if we could find something interesting by our own. In Tohmajärvi I noticed a familiar sign; I thought there has been some bird in Musko. I checked my phone and there was a message about Booted Warblers in Musko. We drove the road with opened windows and after three kilometres there was a perfect kind of field. Soon we found two Booted Warblers singing. Other birds we found at night were Corn Crake, Grasshopper Warbler, Blyth’s Reed Warblers and some Short- and Long-eared Owls. Finally we went to Tohmajärvi to Peijonniemenlahti bird tower to sleep (Yes we slept in the tower)!

Owls!

We woke up because it started to rain. Actually we couldn’t have slept any longer. We checked the local birds (nothing special), and started our way to new places and new birds.

We had arranged an appointment with Ari Latja to Joensuu at 10 a.m. but we were in Joensuu already 8 a.m. So we visited Höytyäinen bird tower. Ten o’clock we were in Anttila shop with a lot of film bought.

Ari jumped in to our space car (VW Golf- very small), and our meaning was to twitch some local birds with a local guide. The first stop was in Kontiolahti (I promised I won’t tell the exact places). We didn’t tell the Catalans what we were searching for and it was funny to watch guys when we started to watch up to the trees. They didn’t know what to search a Wren or an Eagle. So the surprise was really big when we saw Great Grey Owl flying 50 meters from us! Owl landed to a tree directly.
After some celebrating we started to digiscope the Owl with Oriol. Even the bird was little far and we didn’t want to disturb it, we managed to get some pretty good pictures. When we walked back to car we heard Greenish Warbler singing other side the road.

Our next target was in same county and this time Ari told to Catalans that this time we had a little smaller bird. Soon we heard first scary low voices from the forest and Ural Owl flew a little and landed to a spruce. While digiscoping we heard some Wrens and Wood Warblers, but also Greenish Warbler again and shortly few tunes of Red-breasted Flycatcher. But all the birds were too close the Owl so we weren’t able to see them. We didn’t want to disturb the Owl and get its nails to our face.
When walking back to car a Hazel Hen flew in front of us, but unfortunately Toni couldn’t see it. So next lifer didn’t come – yet.

Thank to Ari we had seen two incredible birds for Catalans. So next we went to eat to a restaurant with Ari. I have to thank Ari one more time; he was the first pro birder who understood that if you help another birder he will help you later! So welcome to Siikalahti with groups Ari!

Some walking in Kolvananuuro

At evening we found ourselves from Koli and our friend Pekka Piironen’s cottage. The cottage was not a cottage anymore but it was twice as big as last summer. Pekka joined us and we continued to watch some views to Koli. Not a lot birds (some Chiffchaffs) but beautiful views and of course a possibility to Greenish Warblers and even Red-flanked Bluetail (we found both last summer). When back at cottage Pekka offered us A LOT of crisps, ice-cream and berries. Then we had sauna and went to sleep.

First of July: Alarm was before 3 a.m. We packed all important equipments to our car with us and again to Kontiolahti, this time to Kolvananuuro. On the way we didn’t again tell where we were going, so we continued all the time smaller and smaller tracks. And when we finally stopped there was an Arctic Warbler singing in a place called Kiimasäikkä. We used a little CD and we managed to take some pictures of the bird. 4/5 of us got a lifer (Not for me :-( )!

At Kolvananuuro we walked the rest of the morning. Views were beautiful! Wrens, Chiffchaffs, Green Warblers but no Greenish Warblers this time. (Last summer we found the nest.) We heard also some Hazel Hens but we couldn’t see any! On the halfway there was funny small salmon kind of fishes (hundred maybe) which liked to eat our chips. End of our walk we found first one Treecreeper, and then I heard some promising calls: Red-breasted Flycatchers, two of them. But only Oriol could see another of the birds.

From Hyrynsalmi to Suomussalmi

When back in Pekka’s cottage we took rest of our luggage and said goodbye to Pekka and continued towards North. In Nurmes we tried to twitch a Carrion Crow, a “lifer” to Hanna, but no. In Kuhmo Rastivaara we had to test our brakes because of Hazel Hen family – finally a lifer for Toni! In Hyrynsalmi Komulanköngäs we managed to get another lifer for Hanna – Grey Wagtail. Of course this was for Catalans something like Thrush Nightingale is for us. But it was nice to find out that there was a couple of Grey Wagtails and they were for sure breeding!

Finally we decided to go tenting to Suomussalmi Säynäjäsuo, which Ari Rajasärkkä told to be nice place on the phone – and it was.

Early morning we walked some kilometres on the bog. There were nice tracks so it was easy to walk. Red-throated Diver flew over us. Black-throated Diver and Whooper Swan families were swimming on the lake and Golden Plover, Whimbrel, Greenshank and Spotted Redshank were easy to digiscope.

Our way continued next more North and close to eastern border. First Waxwing was found on the way, but in midday we reached maybe the most interesting place on our whole trip! At least it was the most awaited for me – Suomussalmi Martinselkonen bear hide.

We slept an hour in a information centres small cottage, outside there was too many insects. About three o’clock we started our way to bear hide with a guide, two Swedish and two Finnish photographers.

Bears!

When we had walked to the hide there was already one bear eating. So our guide had to scare it away. We managed to see that bear running to the forest to wait us get in.

After we went in to the hide and managed to take our seats, we didn`t have to wait long for the first really big bear. It just took some fishes to its mouth and ran back to the forest. None of us could take a picture. After that we had to wait an hour the next bear but soon after that it started! First there came only biggest bears one by one but soon there came more and more bears to eat salmon very close the hide. The biggest bear (Bodybuilder) was badly hurt. It was walking just using its elbows. I think the second biggest bear (Black Panther) was the one who had been fighting against it. Anyway Bodybuilder was the king. When it came to eat others were scared and moved away from its way.

The bears were interestingly different looking; there were different sizes and colours but also other ways very different kind of bears. Mostly smaller ones (females) visited there very quickly. Bigger bears were just lying down and eating all the time! Before the evening there was once six bears together.

I was already wondering where our bird was, when it arrived: Black Kite landed just 12 meters from us to sit on the top of tree. Bird was almost too close and too high to digiscope! It was very difficult to scope the bird so high from the hole on the wall. Black Kite tried once to hit its nails to one bears back and it disappeared once, but luckily it came back and I could take very good pictures of it!

Later Black Kite moved to watch bears little further to the forest and before it came dark it disappeared hopefully to the nest. When it came dark there came even more bears all the time. It was dark for digiscoping but closest bears were so close that the light was enough. I got some beautiful face pictures. I tried also to photograph them through my binoculars but it was pretty difficult. Of course I took some pictures without anything, just with four times zoom and then I could get many bears to one picture. Oriol and Hanna had normal cameras and they could take amazing pictures!

Soon it came too dark for photographing so we just watched the bears! It was amazing! We weren’t waiting anything like this! Bears were so close – the closest one in ten meters. There was totally at least 14 bears! Nine in one time! In the hide it was like sauna. Weather was very hot, which made also bears act quite easily. So we saw only some bears hugging each others – not good fights like normally. At midnight there was a Merlin shouting some minutes so loud that all of us scared! All of us were sleeping at least an hour (maybe not Oriol, and Toni some more) but when sun started to rise we were again watching the bears very keen.

At morning bears had their stomachs full. They had eaten 200kg salmon! Only one (pretty ugly) bear stayed longer. I think it licked all the stones which were even smelling fish to get more to eat. Finally it understood there was nothing more to eat and walked to the forest and disappeared like other bears more than an hour earlier and we were finally able to walk out of the “sauna”. One of the most amazing nights ever was over!

To the famous birding area – Kuusamo

At the information centre we loaded our batteries and after that continued driving North. This time we were going to Kuusamo. On the way we saw some Waxwings and one Hazel Hen.

After long drive we were pretty tired when we made our first stop at Kuusamo Junttila. After some phone calls we found the right place and almost right away the right bird too – Little Bunting was singing on the top of pine. We rushed too fast so the bird scared of us and flew to hide.

Our next bird was in Saapunki. There had been a “maurus” Stonechat female breeding with Whinchat male. We couldn’t find the birds first, we found even the nest but not birds. But we knew there had been one nestling still three days earlier so the birds couldn’t be far. Soon we found maurus female calling. The fledling were somewhere very close of us so we took quickly some pictures and passed away.

The weather changed rainy but we had to move on. In the evening we parked our car to Iivaara hill. We carried our luggage for about one kilometre to our next tenting place. Already when carrying we saw one pair of Little Buntings. Finally we found a good place to stay and we started to cook some “makkara” (sausage). I had only another makkara ready when it happened: Red-flanked Bluetail started to sing. It was only 6 p.m. but the bird started to sing continuously. Well I left another sausage there and we went to try to see the bird. The hill was amazingly steep and we heard the sing all the time very close, but we had to climb a lot before we found the bird singing almost the top of high spruce. Catalans were extremely happy! We all hugged each others and only after good celebrations we started to digiscope the bird. The bird wasn’t old but even then it was very beautiful and we got many very good photos while it was singing all the on the same branch. This was the most important bird for Oriol on the whole trip! And I had been thinking that there is three important species for the trip and now we got them all: Booted and Lanceolated Warblers and Red-flanked Bluetail! Soon we all had enough pictures and after I ate another makkara I was soon enjoying my dreams about next days birds. The rain was testing our new tent whole night.

Some hiking over Iivaara

At morning (4th of July.) we woke because Red-flanked Bluetails was singing so loud! Amazing feeling! Soon we were already hiking on the top of Iivaara hill, but we couldn’t find any of those interesting Lapland species that other birders had seen there earlier. On the top there was “just” another Red-flanked Bluetail singing.

When carrying our luggage back to parking place those Little Buntings came to call us again. Now we decided to get some pictures. But it wasn’t easy. Finally I found the tree where another of the birds used to call, and soon I found the reason. One and half meter from the tree there was a nest with only one nestling. Now I got the pictures, because another of adults was warning all the time in same tree. But still it was too fast, so Oriol couldn’t get any pictures. While I was scoping Buntings with Oriol, Hanna and Toni saw three Siberian Jays at the parking place.

Now we had been in the most northern place of our trip and we started our way back south. Soon we saw one more Siberian Jay, later one family of Black Grouses and Capercaillies. In the evening we arrived at Lieksa Patvinsuo bog area. After some swimming we put the tent up and went to sleep.

Patvinsuo

At very early morning we hiked 4 km through huge bogs to the bird tower where was a great wet bog view. Soon we found first Crane families and also what we were searching for – Bean Goose pair. Wader species were Wood Sandpipers. Greenshanks. Green Sandpiper, Whimbrels, Golden Plovers, Ruff and finally a mating Jack Snipe. While walking back we saw a nice Black Grouse male.

After packing our tent we continued to drive south but only some kilometres, we had to have a little hike in Autiovaara forests. So we walked again four kilometres. (First Toni didn’t want to walk anymore, but when we told what birds do we had a possibility he was walking first).

We took our CD-player with us and played some Red-breasted Flycatcher on the way. There was a lot of Three-toed Woodpeckers marks on the trees but we couldn’t find any birds. Wrens, Goldcrests, Crestet Tits and so on and finally we heard a promising call. CD on and there it was: Red-breasted Flycatcher came very close us to call, and soon there was two more and totally one old male and two females/young males. Finally also Toni got lifer. These were the first birds that he saw. This bird was the most difficult bird to digiscope ever. But after half an hour trying I got three photos. Soon we realized that we were only 300 metres from the car so this really was the last opportunity to get this bird for Toni.

Some twitching on the way back

Catalans were switched of very quickly. It was difficult to wake them up when Hanna got a lifer in Nurmes. There was a Carrion Crow feeding its two hybrid fledlings. Of course I digiscoped these hybrids and their rare mother. Their father was much rarer for Oriol and Toni.

Our last stop was again in Kitee Ruppovaara. We tried to get some photos of Lanceolated Warbler. It was almost midday but I thought it is possible to find the bird when playing some CD. We got also a permit to ring the bird but North Karelian birders told us not to ring the bird. They were still fighting for two years old birds. Amazing! Well we hope someone ringed this bird after all. And hopefully he enjoyed it as much as these Catalans could have been enjoying.

Well after some CD-playing we found the bird easily. It was almost sitting over our player! It was moving very fast but I got some pictures of it. Soon we stopped bordering the bird. Oriol couldn’t get any pictures but I had promised to give him some of mine pictures later.

On the last 50km we saw only one female Hen Harrier. Finally we arrived at Parikkala. We were totally tired! After some fast-food we were able to go to sleep. And we slept long! On the North-Karelia, Kainuu and Kuusamo trip we drove 2000 km.

Some birding near Parikkala and goodbyes

6th of July we were almost just relaxing. Oriol and Toni were in Siikalahti and they saw White-backed Woodpecker which is very difficult to see in mid summer (very easy in spring). Later we tried again to caugh some Marsh Warblers but we had no luck. It was too late for this species. They were already breeding and then they are silent. At afternoon we burned our pictures, watched some Formula, rare birds in Finland 2002 -video, and Hanna’s slides from our trip to Egypt. At late evening we moved to Hanna’s parents home to have some crisps, digiscope Black-throated Divers and to sleep.

Early morning we met Hannu Siitonen (Olympic silver medallist in javelin) and he guided us to see the only Siberian Jays in Parikkala. We found the birds soon and Oriol and Toni could feed the birds from their hand. We visited also at Goshawks breeding place and we saw also a nest of Treecreeper.

On the way back to Tarvaslampi we tried to twitch Grey-headed Woodpeckers which Hannu had seen day earlier. Finally we had an answer to my whistling and we found a family of Woodpeckers from the top of a big hill. Birds were moving very fast but finally also Toni managed to see one of the birds.

Our next twitching was in Punkaharju. In Tree Park we turned the CD on and played some awful screeching. No it wasn’t heavy music; it was a call of Nutcracker. In a minute there were first Nutcrackers screeching back to us ands soon there were more than ten birds sitting on the top of Siberian Pines. Totally we saw about 20 birds and we got some pictures too even it was raining all the time.

8th of July was a digiscoping day. We had only one place to go but it was that good place that you could stay there for whole day. Of course we didn’t tell for Catalans where we were going. Only when we could see the birds Oriol and Toni knew what we were digiscping – Red-necked Divers. So we took about 200 pictures of Divers. Mother and young came to 10 metres and they didn’t care us at all – of course we were behind a hide. Father took once a big fish to its child. Oriol photographed also a family of Goldeneys. Divers didn’t like Goldeneyes at all.

At our last morning together we were again in Siikalahti. Oriol got good pictures of Thrush Nightingale. Later it started to rain very hard so we all relaxed. At midday we had sauna and we watched the rest of rare birds -video and we were talking a lot. We were all happy but also pretty tired. Soon we had to say goodbye for these friends of ours and they started their way to Helsinki by train. Oriol and Toni got 152 species in this Eastern Finland trip which is a lot in mid summer! Also they saw some other animals like mammals too. Lets see where we will meet these good friends of us next time – In Marokko, Turkey or China, let’s see?