Ilkka Jarva had done a great work: he had managed to talk his parents caravan for our trip and done lots of preparations for our trip, so the rest of us – Janne and Hanna, Ilkka’s girlfriend Marisanna and our friends from Oulu, Juha Heimovirta and Paulus Tulppo – could just jump to this summers adventure to Norway Lofoten.
Ilkka had planned the schedule, ferries and also together with Janne an accommodation in our target place in Røst island. These two had also found out that we could join with a Swedish group to their Storm-Petrel trip, so everything was well planned.
Everything ready to go
Ilkka and Marisanna started their trip from Imatra already at 31st of July after midday, a lot of earlier than rest of us. The rest of us were already in Oulu, Janne and Hanna on their friends wedding. So Ilkka and Marisanna drove the whole Saturday up until Liminka, where they slept over night on the parking place of Virkkula information center.
On Sunday the 1st of August after Ilkka had visited the birdtower they drove to Oulu where they picked up Janne and Hanna. Next we picked up Juha and finally it was Pales turn. The clock was less than 6 a.m. when our journey really begun!
We bought gasoline in Ii and Ilkka who had been driven enough let Janne to continue. We crossed the Swedish border before the shops were opened and started to collect Sweden-ticks. We did see lots of birds. All bushes along the road were full of young passerines and many of them really tried to make suicide and fly under the car. The best species were a Marsh Harrier, a Red-backed Shrike and a Sparrowhawk. Little bit northern we saw also Cranes, Common Buzzards, couple of Short-eared Owls, Bluethroats, Common Crossbills and heard a Black Woodpecker.
We continued driving 89 km/h through the whole Sweden. Only longer stop was made in Kiruna, where we again bought gasoline. Marisanna and Ilkka even managed to visit Marisannas aunt. Little bit after Kiruna the landscape changed, the road climbed up to the mountains. We didn’t see lots of birds but some Waxwings, Black- and Red-throated Divers were seen. Otherwise the driving was easy because there wasn’t quiet moments in a car, all the time someone was joking or telling stories. So we really had fun.
Driving and driving
We crossed the Norwegian border of course celebrating. Norway, Norway -shouts would have scared any Norwegian nearby. Janne started to write down Norwegian-ticks.
Like always when we have crossed the Norwegian border we haven’t seen almost any birds before the view to the sea had opened. Now we reached the sea near Narvik and right away we saw some birds but much more interesting were the beautiful views! Mountains were rising straight from the azure-blue sea, and even the weather was really good – 25 degrees and no wind at all! We really started to think that winter jackets and hats and other winter clothes wouldn’t be so necessary on this trip.
The most common birds on these “fjords” were Oystercatchers, Redshanks, Herring, Common and Great Black-backed Gulls, Common and Arctic Terns, Cormorants, Eiders, Goosanders and Red-breasted Mergansers. Also Grey Herons were everywhere! Not so common species were Black-headed Gulls, Arctic Skuas, Black-throated Divers, Whimbrels, Curlews, Black Guillemots and Mallards. Also a Slavonian Grebe, White-tailed Eagle and Spotted Redshank were seen on pretty soon. The passerines were mostly Pied Wagtails, Fieldfares, Redwings, Redpolls, Meadow Pipits, Willow Warblers and Willow and Great Tits. Some Wheatears, Greenfinches, House Sparrows, Swallows, Sand and House Martins, Magpies, Feral and Wood Pigeons were seen.
We stopped couple of times because of the great views but we had to keep on going, we had still long way to drive. We waited 20 minutes for the ferry that crossed Hadselfjorden and then we finally were in Lofoten. This ferry from Melbu to Fiskeböl was right in a schedule and from the ferry we saw the first Porpoises.
It was already getting dark so we tried to find a place to stay for a night as quickly as possible. We managed to find a good place along one small road. Soon we all were trying to fell asleep.
There was only one problem. It was an unnamed person from Northern Oulu. I think none of us had ever heard so terrible snoring! Janne even thought to go to sleep outside, but there was so humid that his sleeping bag was wet in one minute. Even Willow Grouses were laughing for this situation.
Finally all of us managed to sleep at least a little. And after all we slept longer than we had planned. Outside there was a deep fog, so we didn’t have to hurry.
After the breakfast we continued to our first seawatching point to Henningsvær. When we reached the place we first tried to park to an old football pitch, but two local women came to tell us friendly that it wasn’t the right place to leave the car. They said that someone will kill us if we do so! Nice! Well we found a good parking place and walked to the shore.
We climbed up to the hill with our equipments and soon we found out that there were nothing moving on the sea. Luckily there were some nice local birds like Shags and Twites, which both were new Western Palearctic year ticks for Janne and Hanna.
Our second seawatching point was in Eggum. While driving there we saw some Scaups on one small lake. There was one nice Scaup family too. At Eggum we found the first Rock Pipits and also one Kittiwake was seen. After all the fog made seawatching useless, so soon we continued driving.
We had still a long way to the Southern end of Lofoten, Å. We drove couple of hours in deep fog and we saw just some Ducks in one lake. During the evening we found out that the weather was getting much better on the Southern side of the mountains. So little bit before Måskenes we had couple of stops before we continued to the edge of Å to do seawatching until the dusk.
The most Southern edge of Lofoten had colonies of Kittiwakes. Some of them were breeding on the houses too. We also saw the first sub-adult Gannet and some Puffins. Black Guillemot was really common, but Razorbill and Common Guillemot weren’t found at all. After a beautiful sunset we drove to Måskenes harbour to sleep. On the next morning we would get on a ferry to Røst.
Finally some real seabirds
3rd of August we woke up about 7.50 a.m. While eating breakfast we heard a Chiffchaff, saw several flocks of Waxbills and a flock of Common Crossbills.
Soon we climbed to the ferry’s deck and started to do seawatching. Now we thought we could finally see something better too. We knew other birders had seen Storm-Petrels on this ferry trip. Soon we saw the first Puffins and little bit later first Storm-Petrels. First Janne saw a Storm-Petrel which might have been Leach’s, but the bird was too far. Next Storm Petrels we managed to identify as European Storm-Petrels.
Before the island of Værøy we saw the first Fulmars. First they were just flying or swimming far on the sea but soon some of them came to fly just next to the ferry. So our photographer unit got something to do. Near the Værøy we saw thousands of Puffins and also first Common Guillemots and Razorbills were seen. The ferry stopped shortly on Værøy but soon we were on the way to Røst.
We did see hundreds of Fulmars and Puffins, a Gannet, a Great Skua and some more European Storm-Petrels, but when we came close to Røst we saw only Black Guillemots and Kittiwakes anymore.
After 3.5 hours ferry trip it was nice to get hard ground under our feet. On the harbour there was one worker of Rorbukamping and by his boat we reached our hotel which was on own small island. This Rorbucamping was something amazing! Kittiwakes were breeding everywhere on the roofs and walls. We got two rooms: room for 4 and room for 2, so boys and girls had own rooms. The price was 125 crowns/night/person.
Birding on a island
After a short rest we were ready to go for a walk to the best birding areas of the island. So we rowed to the main island and started to walk towards the airfield. After couple of kilometres walk we climbed over a sheep fence and walked around the airfield to the shore. Rock Pipit and Arctic Skua were common. There were much less waders than we had excepted, anyway some Dunlins, Turnstones, Ruffs, couple of Sanderlings and one Little Stint Temminck’s Stint were found. We also met the Swedish bird group and they had been already searching the closest places. They hadn’t seen anything special, but one dead Sperm Whale. (This was the group that we would join in the evening.)
Pretty soon we were back in our rooms. And after a short rest and dinner we were ready to go for the Storm-Petrels. 9 p.m. there were 13 Swedes, Hanna, Janne and Ilkka ready for the highlight of the trip (rest of our group weren’t birdwatchers).
To the sea
The Swedes climbed to the roof of the boat, so we went to the back and started to use our Finn-sticks right away we were out of the coastline. Surprisingly Janne found a female Eider, which seemed to smile – also all other id-marks told that the bird was a King Eider.
When we reached the first islands south from Røst we saw amazing numbers of Puffins and Kittiwakes which were breeding on a huge cliffs. It was weird to find out that there were almost no Razorbills and Common Guillemots, almost just Puffins.
We continued and passed Trenyken which had at least 50 White-tailed Eagles! They were sitting on the rocks and flying high above the cliffs. We also saw couple of Purple Sandpipers, but soon we passed the last island and continued to the sea. That was the place for Storm-Petrels!
The crew started to fish which was the way to get the birds closer, and right away Fulmars came up. Soon there was tens of Fulmars. We climbed to the front where a Norwegian group leader was and started to search for Storm-Petrels. Soon we found the first ones, but they were again all European Storm-Petrels. Some of these tiny birds flew pretty close to us. It was wonderful to see these birds well!
There was couple of darker morph of Fulmar amongst the others, couple of Gannets was also seen, but Leach’s Storm-Petrel was still missing. Swedes frustrated first, (but I think they wouldn’t have seen any Storm-Petrels without their guide or us). Some of them promised to buy a beer for the person who can find the first Leach’s. We were laughing because we knew that we will find it, and in a minute Ilkka saw first one promising looking bird and a little bit later Janne found a Leach’s Storm-Petrel flying towards the boat.
Everyone but the guide got a lifer, so the atmosphere rose quickly. We still had a last look to the Fulmars which were eating all the small fish that the crew had caught with only a hook. The biggest 12 kilos catfish they decided to give for the Hernyken bird stations crew.
On Hernyken bird island
We landed to Hernyken and met both 2 ringers of the station. Janne had contacted another ringer, Thomas Arvaak, before the trip. The ringers told about the history and projects of the station, but unfortunately on their own language. So the Swedes did understand but we understood only something. Tomas brought a young Puffin from a trap (couple of fences which were leading downhill to a box), so we had an opportunity to see this funny bird really close, some on hand.
Soon we walked to the shore to wait the Storm-Petrels to arrive. The ringers went to set up the mist nets and put the cd-player on. They had both Leach’s and European Storm-Petrels calls. We waited only couple of minutes before the Storm-Petrels arrived. First there were European Storm-Petrels which started to fly up to the mountains, and soon the first bird was caught. While Tomas was releasing the bird from the net, we found the first Leach’s Storm-Petrel flying with the Europeans. This one also came to fly really close to us so everyone saw it extremely well.
We did catch several European Storm-Petrel soon so we managed to get this bird also to hand. (Of course not all, but Tomas knew that we had had birds in our hands before.) We managed to get some kind of pictures too.
Totally we caught 15 European Storm-Petrels but we couldn’t catch any Leach’s. We did see them realy well and also heard them displaying, so we were more than happy.
The sun started to rise when we closed the mist nets and started our way back to Røst. We were all extremely tired but still the White-tailed Eagles and Puffins were nice to see again. But it was also nice to get to bed!
We woke up about midday. Of course Pale, Juha and Marisanna were already woken. Probably the reason why we woke up was that the smell in our room was something horrible! We had been travelling some days already, so it was nice to go to the shower! We were all so tired that we decided just to take it easy. So we were photographing the Kittiwakes. The funniest pictures were taken through the kitchen window. There were all the time couple of Kittiwakes watching through it.
During the day we really didn’t do anything important. Of course just going to shop wasn’t that easy. First we had to raw to the main island and then walk couple of kilometres to the other side of the harbour. After this the ice-cream was even better than normally in the heat.
In the evening we were again on the deck of the ferry. All the Swedes were also watching to the sea with us. We did see again some 15 European Storm-Petrels, Gannets, 3 Great Skuas, amazing numbers of Fulmars and as the best 3rd year Glauscous Gull.
When we were back on Lofoten we still drove couple of hours before we stopped to Flakstad to sleep next to the beautiful beaches. Our photographers Pale and Juha still went to do some photographing but soon we all were asleep.
On the 5th of August we all knew what we had for the day. We had a long drive to do again. Anyway our group was so great that the atmosphere stayed good all the time (even Janne was the only who had met everyone before).
Anyway we decided to do some seawatching in Eggum, because now there was no fog. The sun was shining and it was almost hot, so it was nice to watch to the sea with an English group which had our Norwegian friend as a guide. We saw 9 Gannets, about 20 Fulmars, a Great Skua and some young and local Peregrine Falcons.
When we continued our drive it was nice to see some places which had been in a fog last time. Fiskeböl – Melbu ferry trip was like a new experience. Now all of us managed to see Porpoises. Also the only Rough-legged Buzzard of the whole trip was seen.
Ilkka drove as long as the roads came little bit wider and then Janne started his turn. Janne drove more than 12 hours continuously while Pale was keeping him awake. All the rest were sleeping well. The last observation in Norway was a family of Willow Grouses and a family of Whooper Swans.
In Sweden the speed stayed similar. Janne drove through the whole country and saw 5 Short-eared Owls which 3 of them tried to get killed under the car. All 10 Willow Grouses and a big surprise on the mountains a Great Snipe passed the road earlier.
In Tornio Janne was already too tired to drive so Ilkka continued again. We arrived at Oulu already in the morning. Janne, Pale and Juha stayed left there. Marisanna continued driving until Paltamo where Ilkka and Hanna could also eat with Marisanna’s family before these too continued to South-Karelia.