On Friday the 4th of July I finally had a week off from work. We left right away towards north with Hanna. We had a tight schedule as I didn’t want to miss a WC football match, so we drove straight to Pudasjärvi Syöte to my brother Rikus summer-cottage. Riku had left the key for us so 15 minutes before the first match of the evening started, we were ready there.
On the 5th of July we slept long and during late morning we went to walk to Vattukuru, but it was quiet. Only a goshawk with a prey was seen. During the day we slept again until Riku arrived with his daughters. In the evening we were eating, chatting and of course watching football again.
On the 6th of July we left early towards Kemijärvi and one the way in Taivalkoski we saw a couple of female Capercaillies and in Posio a Short-eared Owl. During the day we celebrated my other brother Pirkkas son, our god-children Tuukkas confirmation. There were only most of the closest relatives so the day was very nice. In the evening we put up a tent outside and went to sleep.
On the 7th of July we slept long again and didn’t hurry at all as we hadn’t been together with Pirkkas family for too long time. But finally we did some plans and after 10 a.m. left towards Finland’s arm. It was a long drive but finally in Muonio we turned to Pallas. We drove up to the hotel and soon we found a couple of Grey Wagtails! They were probably breeding on the hotel roof?
We ate very well on the restaurant and celebrated our 14th anniversary which was on the next day. The food was really excellent! Hanna had Reindeer and I had a Pallas-steak. Then we left to walk 8 kilometers long track up to Taivaskero. There were surprisingly many insects but we managed to find 4 families of Dotterels, 4 Snow Buntings, 6 Northern Wheatears and 2 Bluethroats. There were also many Reindeers on the top of Taivaskero where was more wind to keep insects away.
After that we still walked a little bit in a forest along Pallas-river but found nothing special; only a couple of orchids were found. We still went to see Pallas-lake but didn’t find a good place to overnight so we continued towards north.
In Muonio Kätkäsuvanto we stopped to twitch a Little Bunting that had been heard a couple of days earlier. Surprisingly the bird started to sing right at midnight and we even managed to see it shortly. We still drove a long way and then finally stopped to a place where we found a good place to put up the tent. Hanna saw a couple of Ring Ouzels briefly but they vanished too soon. But when we were going to sleep a Ring Ouzel started to sing and soon there were 3 of them singing nearby! But there were so many mosquitoes outside our tent that we stayed in and started to sleep.
Twite and Ptarmigan
On the 8th of July we woke up when it started to be too hot inside the tent. We still had some driving to Kilpisjärvi but most of the drive we had something to do as our car was full of mosquitos, even though we tried to get in very quickly. Finally we turned to biologic station and there we soon found the famous feeder where has been a couple of Twites visiting in previous summers and also this summer. We met a worker who told that some birders have been trying to see the Twites for a couple of days and sometimes they have been lucky sometimes not. But only after 30 minutes or so first a couple of Redpolls arrived to the feeder and soon after them one Twite came too!
So soon we were ready to go to try to find an accommodation for the next 2 days as I wanted to see the semi-finals. Luckily we found a nice enough cottage from Arctic Polar.
We slept a couple of hours and then went to walk to Saana. First we walked on the willow-forest on under the cliffs but found nothing interesting. Then we started climbing up to Saana. On the way we heard a couple of Ring Ouzels. Hanna of course photographed also some flowers.
Once we got high enough, we walked to the rocky plateau which looked perfect for Ptarmigan. We had to walk quite a lot before we finally found one. When Hanna arrived to take pictures of it, she flushed 4 tiny chicks that probably left from the nest. So we just took a couple of pictures and let the mom collect her babies that luckily had stopped only 1 meter from us.
Once we were back in our cottage I watched the beginning of the first semi-final but there was no need to stay up for too long as Germany really beat Brazil bad.
On the 9th of July we slept long and then did a short morning trip and saw a Merlin, a Rough-legged Buzzard and heard one more Ring Ouzel. After we had eaten, we left to walk to Malla. We walked 12 kilometers in very hot weather until Kitsi water-fall. The landscape was beautiful but not many birds were found; a Rough-legged Buzzard, a Merlin, a Ring Ouzel and some Bluethroats. In the evening I watched the second semi-final where Argentina won Holland in penalties.
On the 10th of July we slept only until 3:45 a.m. and at 5 a.m. we were on the parking place of Halti hiking tracks. We had packed everything with us and soon started a long walk towards the wilderness. Right away we heard some birds calling from the birches and realized that there was a flock of Two-barred Crossbills – 10 birds. Also lots of Redpolls, Bramblings and some Bluethroates were heard while we started to walk in a hard rocky path. Once we were walking pass the first small lakes we found 2 Redshanks, 2 Greenshanks and heard a Wood Sandpiper. After 2 hours walking we found the first Lapland Buntings and soon there were quite a few of them around. After one more hour we found a couple of small pools and found a Red-necked Phalarope and soon after that we found 3 Long-tailed Skuas which at least a couple seemed to be breeding.
After one more hour walking we started to follow very faint patches that were mostly made by Reindeers. Unfortunately we had chosen to go under one mountain and close to one lake which was a mistake. The ground was extremely wet from the water that was coming down the hillside where still was quite a lot of snow. After an hour we somehow managed to get through without getting our shoes completely wet.
Then we still climbed a little bit higher and finally after 7 hours and 15 kilometers walking we decided to put up our tent. We cooked and while eating we saw a Dotterel in flight. Soon we were ready to go to sleep.
We woke up about at 8 p.m. and ate again. Then we packed only something to eat and drink into our back-backs and left to another long walk to the mountains. We still had a long way to walk to our main destination.
After some walking we found a Dotterel that had nest very close to us. So we continued soon. After a couple of hours walking we had found a Ringed Plover, 2 Dunlins, a Temminck Stint and 7 Whooper Swans. Finally we climbed up to the top of mountain where we found 2 small lakes. We first checked the rockier one but there were only 3 Long-tailed Ducks swimming. Then we walked to the shore of another one and right away we heard some strange wader calls. There it was – a Purple Sandpiper! Not many birders have seen this species in its breeding grounds in Finland! It was clearly having its nest nearby so we just took some photographs and left it. We had planned to stay along the lake for some time, but there were so amazing numbers of mosquitos that we had to start walking back right away.
Soon we found a flock of 21 Long-tailed Skuas but then only 1 new Ringed Plover was seen later. Somehow we managed to walk the way back to our tent very fast, so about at 2 a.m. we were going to sleep again.
We had been sleeping only a few hours when we woke up to a thunder-storm that was coming straight over us. When the lightning was getting too close to our tent we had to rush out as we were afraid of the lightning hit the tent. Of course we were soaking wet soon but luckily the storm moved away soon and it stopped raining. Anyway we had no idea if there were more rains coming as there was no phone or internet connection. So we decided to eat just a little and then wait for some time to get our clothes and tent dry and then packed everything and started a long way back at 8:15 a.m.
We decided to climb up to the mountain tops to get the connection and to avoid the wet part. Luckily it seemed that there were no more rains coming soon so it was ok to go high to the open tops. We heard a Dotterel calling somewhere and then ate well before started to walk down to the valley. There we heard the same breeding Long-tailed Skuas again and later we saw 3 Ringed Plovers and a Dunlin. After a couple of hours walking our feet started to hurt a lot! Sols were really in pain! The ground was so hard and rocky all the time that we really suffered so we had to start having breaks after every walked kilometer and I also did put my feet to extremely cold streams.
So after all it took much longer to come back even though we were walking quite a lot downhill. We saw one Redshank again and then once we got to the birch-forest there were some Bluethroats again. Finally we were back to our car after 4 p.m.
We did some shopping and soon started to drive towards south. On the way it started to rain very hard so we stopped to sleep in a cooler car for a couple of hours. In Hietajänkä we saw a female Peregrine hunting and then in Vähäniva we saw a completely wet Hawk Owl on the electric-wire. We stopped in Sotkajärvi but it was still raining and all the ducks were so far that we couldn’t identify most of them. There were also so many mosquitos that we really wanted to keep on going soon.
We had great pizzas in Olos in Restaurant Kammari and after all we drove until Sodankylä where we stopped to the driest-looking forest to put up the tent. Anyway there were so many mosquitos that we had to be quick to get in and soon we were asleep.
On the 12th of July we continued driving at 7 a.m. and at 9 a.m. we met Pirkka in Kemijärvi. With Pirkkas car we continued to a bog-area where we saw a Black Woodpecker before we stopped. We walked for some time into the middle of the bog and soon had a Peregrine alarming over us. It really looked good that it was breeding! After some more walking we realized that there were even 3 adult Peregrines on the sky but one of them was chased away. After some searching we finally found the nest and there were even 4 white furry nestlings! Pirkka ringed them while we were helping him – what a great moment!
We were happy when we drove back to Kemijärvi where we ate, chatted for some time and then we had to start driving again. We drove to Kuusamo where Hanna realized that there might be some orchids flowering in Oulanka. So we drove there and managed to find several species! Of course we visited Kiutaköngäs rapid too and saw a Siberian Jay and a Short-eared Owl before continued towards south.
While listening to the bronze-medal match we drove until Sotkamo where we decided to drive to Losonvaara to sleep. There had been even 6 Red-flanked Bluetails in spring but still one singing one week earlier. So after some time we had the tent up in the middle of nice spruce-forests and were ready to sleep.
Back to home
On the 13th of July we woke up at 5 a.m. when a Red-flanked Bluetail started to sing just over us. Anyway we were too tired to get out so we continued sleeping until 10 a.m. when the forest was quiet already. We cooked some food and saw and heard a Rustic Bunting while eating. Soon we were ready to start the last drive of the trip.
In the afternoon we were finally back at home after 2700 driven kilometers and 75 hiking in the wilderness. We hadn’t got any plans when we had left from home but we had really had a quite amazing trip after all! Our only hope had been to experience something new but after all Purple Sandpipers and a Twite had been species that we had never seen in summer in Finland before and ringing the nestlings of Peregrine had been really nice too. And I must say that we had also seen a Gyr Falcon on its nest but I won’t tell you anything more about it.
On Saturday 7th of May in the afternoon we left with Hanna towards Lappeenranta. 4 Scottish birders were landing to Helsinki airport in the same time. One of them was my old friend Ken Shaw that I had met in Scillies. We had been in contact and planned that we would guide him and his 3 friends for a week. Their biggest target was a Wolverine, but also Great Grey Owl and Flying Squirrel had been mentioned to be in their wish-list. Then of course everything else was extra and of course I had thought to make them familiar with many Finnish song-birds that were not common or were very rare in Scotland. Anyway, once we got to Lappeenranta we started to check some of the places. First we managed to twitch a Caspian Gull in Joutseno Kivisaari which was a Finnish-tick for Hanna. Then in Kotasaari we saw 4 Slavonian Grebes and heard a Grey-headed Woodpecker and a Great Reed Warbler. Then we checked Vapo-pools where we saw 8 Barnacle Geese, 17 Spotted Redshanks, 5 Ruffs and a Red-necked Phalarope. But then we finally got a message that 2 of Scots hadn’t got their bags, so they were still in the airport and waiting for the next flight which might have their luggage. So we continued to Lappeenranta and as we already knew that we wouldn’t have time to visit many places, we went to check a field that had got lekking Great Snipes. Then we decided to sleep a little as we were extremely tired. Finally we got another message that the group was 50 kilometers from Lappeenranta, so we still made a short stop in Askola pools, before continued to Lauritsala ABC-service where we soon met the group Ken, Keith Morton, Stuart Benn and Chris Rollie.
After we had eaten and done some shopping we continued to Haapajärvi as we still had some time before the Great Snipes would begin. There we saw some common Finnish species, better ones were Little Gulls, 2 Icterine Warblers and a couple of Gadwalls. After 10 p.m. we continued to Lipiälä where we stayed for a couple of hours but only a couple of us heard Great Snipes and a couple of us saw one or two birds very briefly. Of course several Corn Crakes, Thrush Nightingales and Blyth’s Reed Warblers were heard. After all we had to give up and continue to Parikkala. Scots had been travelling more than 24 hours already!
So we drove straight to Pistonniemi where we had arranged a nice cottage along the Lake Simpele. A Long-eared Owl was seen on the garden and soon everyone was ready to go to sleep – we of course at home.
On the 8th of June we slept long and I met the group at 10 a.m. We had planned to start easy and get familiar with common song-birds and birding places nearby. We started in Argusjärvi where we already heard and saw some Blyth’s Reed Warblers and many other song-birds. Then we continued to Siikalahti where a Great Reed Warbler was showing well in dam-road. Many common species like Hobbies, Ospreys, Marsh Harriers and so on where seen and then Ken found a Black Tern flying with Little Gulls on the northern side – a very good bird, only the second this year in Siikalahti. Soon we continued to bird-tower where more common species like Red-necked Grebes were seen, a Garganey was the best one. On the way back some of us saw and heard a Long-tailed Tit.
At 1:30 p.m. I had to go home but Hanna continued with a group. After they had eaten they continued to Saari where many good birding places where visited. Best birds were Ortolan Buntings and a Hen Harrier in Akanvaara Tetrisuo. In the afternoon everyone was very tired again so we let the Scots to relax and enjoy the nice place they were staying.
A bit harder birding
On the 9th of June we met at 3 a.m. A Golden Oriole was singing in Pistonniemi, but soon we drove to Siikalahti. We heard 2 female Little Crakes and a Spotted Crake easily but Savi’s Warbler was quiet, or then we just couldn’t hear it behind numerous Sedge Warblers and a noisy Great Reed Warbler. In Liuharanta we stopped to listen to a Marsh Warbler before we continued to Melkoniemi forests. We walked in the best forests for a couple of hours and found 3 Greenish Warblers, a Red-breasted Flycatcher and many other more common forest-birds. A Black Woodpecker was heard drumming and a Goshawk were seen too. Then we continued to another forest where a female Capercaillie was seen briefly and checked a nest-box where 3 young Pygmy Owls were already so big that they would leave the nest soon. But Siberian Jays weren’t found. After 7 I had to go to work but Hanna still continued with the group and they went to see Black-throated and Red-throated Divers and orchid-bog with butterflies and dragonflies.
After work I had to wake up at 6 p.m. when the lost luggage finally arrived to a bus-station. We of course drove them to the cottage where we also warmed up sauna for Scots. They really enjoyed it!
At 11:30 p.m. we met again and left to a night-trip. Already in Pistonniemi we heard the first River Warbler and soon we were listening to a Tawny Owl family nearby in Kasuri. In Sammallampi we saw a Nightjar and soon we heard another one in Kolmikanta. In Kullinsuo we didn’t hear much but saw 8 Barnacle Geese, 3 Greenshanks, a Green Sandpiper and a Ringed Plover. In Kontiolampi we heard 2 River Warblers, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Marsh Warbler. Of course Blyth’s Reed Warblers, Thrush Nightingales and Corn Crakes had been heard in every place. Also 2 families of Long-eared Owls had been heard. Savi’s Warbler was singing only very shortly so only I heard it, but a Quail was heard in Ristiharju. But then it was time to go to sleep again.
To North Karelia
I was at work during the day but Hanna left with a group towards Lieksa. They drove along the border but hard wind made birding difficult. Anyway many nice places and of course some new common birds were seen. Once they finally arrived to Kitsi there was much to see on the garden and area nearby.
I had also taken the rest of the week off from work so after I had slept a few hours I still went jogging and then left towards Lieksa after 9 p.m. I drove straight to Patvinsuo where I saw a Brown Bear crossing the road! It even stopped to a road-side to watch me but when I opened the window to take a picture, it disappeared into the forest. Soon I stopped in Autiovaara and after I had waited for 30 minutes the sun started to rise and I went to walk around the trek. It was surprisingly quiet. I heard 3 Wrens and a Red-breasted Flycatcher but nothing really good. I had hoped to find a Red-flanked Bluetail. Soon I had to hurry to Kitsi where the others had woke up and at 3 a.m. we left to Hemminvaara for forest-birding. We stopped a couple of times on a good Rustic Bunting habitat, but only I managed to hear one bird ticking as I walked deepest into the bushes. But the bird disappeared too soon. Just a little bit before Hemminvaara we saw 2 Hazel Hens on the road which was very nice as it was a lifer for some of the group.
In Hemminvaara we walked a couple of hours along the roads and then one more hour in the forest and found 4 Greenish Warblers, 3 Red-breasted Buntings, heard at least 2 Black Woodpeckers but otherwise it was again very quiet. There were already lots of mosquitoes, but luckily we had right equipment for them.
We had breakfast in Kitsi at 8 a.m. but I was already sleeping then. We all woke up at mid-day to eat well and soon we were driving towards Erä-Eero which was the main target place of the whole trip. At 2 p.m. we met Eero and after some tea and bread and long chatting we left towards the hides at 4 p.m. We went into the bigger hide and 2 Italian photographers went into the small one.
After Eero had hidden lots of meat to the landscape in front of us we started waiting. In the beginning it was very quiet so we were photographing a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Common Gull, a Herring Gull, a Goldeneye and a strange Mallard family that had a very weird-looking mom and also 3 of the 7 ducklings were darker than normally. When it started to get dark we started to hope the Wolverine arrive soon so we could get some pictures. But then on the best time those stupid Italians started to speak in their hide! After 30 minutes I told them to shut up, but it didn’t help! So it wasn’t a surprise that we didn’t see any mammals when there was any light left.
Finally just before midnight a small Brown Bear arrived in front of us. It really run from the forest so that we could hear its footsteps well. But the Italians started to photograph too soon and the Bear escaped back into the forest. Luckily it soon came back and then it stayed visible for 20 minutes. Once we saw a bigger Bear, maybe its mom visiting it further in the woods but it never came closer. Once the Bears had left we soon saw a Wolverine coming towards us. But it probably got scared of the Bear that was still somewhere near and rushed back to the shadows. I think Italians newer saw the Wolverine at all. But we were delighted as our main target species had been seen!
But after that it came as dark as it gets and when nothing happened we started to sleep so that two of us were all the time awake. But nothing happened before morning when a Red-throated Diver was heard and a Jay and a Lesser Black-backed Gull came in front of us and were of course they were photographed. Finally at 7 a.m. we left towards the Erä-Eero.
After a breakfast we left to visit Patvinsuo bogs. We first checked one hole that unfortunately didn’t have any Tengmalm’s Owls inside anymore. Then we walked some kilometers along Susitaival and saw many bog-species like Whimbrels, Wood Sandpipers, Yellow Wagtails and a flock of geese that had 14 Taiga Bean, 1 Tundra Bean, 1 White-fronted and 2 Barnacle Geese. Also an adult White-tailed Eagle, many butterflies and dragonflies were seen. But soon we had to turn back as we had to get some more sleep as we were still going to stay in the hide for another night.
After some sleeping we ate again and at 4 p.m. left again to the hide. We had chosen to stay in the same hide but now it was only us there. So we knew that now we had better possibilities to get some pictures too. But we were still very tired so soon there was some snoring in our hide. Anyway in the evening we all woke up and tried to be as quiet as possible. So it wasn’t a surprise that at 9:40 p.m. a Wolverine came right in front of us and started to collect meat. And we got really good pictures! It first ate a couple of meats and then took 2 pieces with it and went to a hillside and into one of the holes – it probably took some meat to its family. Soon after that a Brown Bear arrived and really put up an amazing show! It stayed in front of us for almost an hour and it really checked every tree and hollow before it walked back into the forest.
I was absolutely knocked out so I had to start to sleep but anyway I woke up a couple of times when I realized that the Wolverine was back. It visited at least 4 times and we really saw it well! Scots were really happy! Then the morning was very quiet, a Red Fox visited once but after all we all managed to sleep pretty well. Of course at least one of us stayed up all the time. At 8 a.m. we left back to Erä-Eero.
Eero was happy that we had enjoyed our night and after breakfast we were ready to go birding again. After 9 o’clock we met Hannu Lehtoranta with whom we went to check some Great Grey Owl nests. Unfortunately Hannu had already told that in a last visit the nests had been empty. So we walked around in the forests and Hannu even climbed to another of them but no owls were found. Hannu still told us one more place where he had ringed a young Great Grey Owl on the previous day, but it was far in Juuka. Anyway we thought that we might visit the place later on our way back to Parikkala.
After we had said goodbye to Hannu we went to Erä-Eero to sleep some more. At 5 p.m. we said goodbye and thanks to Eero and drove to Lieksa to eat. At 7 p.m. we met Esa Muikku that I had heard first time 3 weeks earlier from my friend and Finnature-guide Antti Vierimaa and now we had managed to get in contact with him by help of Eero. He had found a nest-hole of Flying Squirrels on the previous summer and he had visited the place for many times and even with a couple of groups and he had seen the animals every time. But for some reason he hadn’t got enough groups so he had almost given up with going there. But now he was very happy to get another group and soon we were following him to an open area with a couple of big aspen-trees that had some holes. Soon we knew that the squirrels were living on the closer tree and on the lowest and highest holes. But then we still went to see a nest-box where the squirrels had been staying in winter and to see some droppings of them. Then Esa put up camouflage netting and a roof as it was raining a little. And then we started waiting again.
We hadn’t been there for a long time when I saw a strange looking bird on the sky. I watched it with my binoculars and realized that it was an adult Pomarine Skua! Unfortunately it disappeared behind the aspens before the rest of us saw it. It was migrating towards North-East. Then we waited and waited and waited until finally I saw something moving on the lowest hole. I checked it with my scope and there it was – a Flying Squirrel! It soon climbed out from the hole and disappeared behind the tree and climbed up to the top of the aspen. But soon there was another one coming out, then a third one and then even a fourth one! Two of the Flying Squirrels stopped to the trunk so we managed to get good pictures of them. And one of them was seen flying from the top of the tree into the forest! Amazing! After all we realized from our pictures that there had been a fifth squirrel watching from the highest hole.
Some more ticks in Parikkala
Esa still gave us something to eat and drink and then it was time to say goodbye and thanks and start a long drive. We drove around Lake Pielinen to Juuka and after more than an hour we followed the notes we had got from Hannu and parked to a forest-cut and started to walk to the forest behind it. We soon found the empty nest of a Great Grey Owl, but again there were no adults or young nearby. I walked 200 meters in the forest and finally saw an adult in flight. I called to the rest and soon we found the bird perched in front of us! It was a lifer to all Scots! We soon left the owl and started to drive towards Parikkala where we were finally in Oronmylly at 5 a.m. Group stayed in Myllytupa and we left to home to sleep.
We slept long and after all I met the group at 1 p.m. Hanna had left to Rantasalmi to collect her paintings from an exhibition. But the rest of us, we were soon ringing 8 nestlings of a Pygmy Owl! Then we continued to Melkoniemi forest where we again tried to find Siberian Jays without luck. Well we weren’t completely out of luck as we finally found a Tree-toed Woodpecker. We also put up a fire and had delicious sausages and just enjoyed our time in the forest where weren’t too many insects now as the weather was quite cold and windy.
After all we had to give up and we met Hanna who had managed to get some sleep after coming back from Rantasalmi. Then it was time to say goodbye to our new Scottish friends and they started a long drive to Helsinki. They had really enjoyed Finland and Finnish nature. We hadn’t been very lucky with birds as the summer was too long already and voles and mice had crashed in spring and there were not many owls. But I have always said that it is impossible to see everything in Finland in one or two trips. Anyway we had been extremely lucky with all the most important targets – especially with mammals! And what is most important we had really had fun!
After the inner-ear surgery that was made in Wednesday evening on the 26th of June, I stayed in the hospital for the next night. And the next day I was mostly sleeping in my parents’ house. The rest of the time I was getting familiar with my new Nokia phone and Samsung tabloid.
On the 28th day I left towards Parikkala even though I still didn’t feel so good. Anyway I did a short stop in Espoo Laajalahti where I saw some common waders, 5 Dunlins were the best as it was a new year-tick.
The next day I was still taking easy. Hanna was preparing to leave to Georgia where she was leading a tour again. When I started to feel better I started to plan what I could do during my sick-leave. I had been calling earlier to my brother Pirkka and also to my friend “Potu” Suojarinne and as there were a couple of lifers for Potu in Bothnia, we had decided to go twitching there at least.
So on the 30th of June I woke up at 4 a.m. but it was raining so hard that I left towards Mikkeli when the rain stopped at 6 a.m. 2 hours later I parked to Potu’s parking place and soon we were continuing with Potu’s van. In Laukaa we saw a Merlin and in Perho 10 Whimbrels. Then we decided to turn towards Evijärvi, where were the only breeding lakes for Black Terns in Finland. I had never been there so it was interesting to see these places. First we went to Jokisuunlahti bird-tower where we saw Red-throated Divers dance, which was something I had never seen before. After some waiting we saw only 2 Black Terns that were clearly breeding somewhere further. So we continued to Haapajärvi Vasikkaniemi where we saw 10 Black Terns but also they were very far on the other side of the lake. So we didn’t see them very well either.
So finally we continued towards Kokkola where we parked to Lohtaja Lahdenkrooppi tower. We first checked the nearby area from the tower but soon left to walk to huge Vattajanniemi sand beach.
The beach was very long so after all we had to walk several kilometers to find the Kentish Plover, but finally we found it. It was extremely shy and first we saw it only very far. There were also some other twitchers and we helped them to see the bird too.
After some time we started walking back towards our car. The plover was running in front of us and even though we really tried we didn’t manage to go around it. So after all it was going at least 2 kilometers in front of us. Once we thought we had managed to leave it behind but again it was just in front of us. Then I managed to get some better pictures of it. Other birds we saw in Vattajanniemi were 8 Dunlins, a Turn Stone, 4 Whimbrels, 2 Arctic Skuas and a couple of Redpolls.
We still went to see Halkokari which was too crowded so soon we continued towards north. In Kalajoki we turned to Letto and somehow we managed to find Letto bird-tower even though the path to the tower was almost impossible to walk. From the tower we saw a White-tailed Eagle, thousands of Black-headed Gulls and I managed to see a Little Tern briefly. It was already getting late when we continued towards Oulu.
In Oulu we drove to my brother Riku. Potu hadn’t been sleeping well on the previous night so he went soon to sleep. My brother Pirkka came also there and together with my brothers and Riku’s son Eetu we waited until very late night when the Confederations Cup football final Brazil – Spain started. Luckily Brazil crushed Spain and we could go to sleep before the match ended about at 2:30 a.m. And after a couple of hours we were driving towards Lumijoki with Potu and Pirkka.
We had some breakfast in Tupos and once we continued it was raining pretty hard. Anyway we saw 3 Short-eared Owls and soon we turned towards Sannanlahti.
The weather was changing a little bit better and when we parked our car we saw there were already plenty of twitchers. It was the 1st of July and not a single birder had ever seen a Gull-billed Tern in July in Finland. It had been seen still on the previous day, so now there were all serious month-tick listers already in the tower.
But the weather was far from the last week’s weather. It was cold and rainy now. We managed to get good places from the full tower and started to scan the bay and to the sea. The visibility was excellent and we could see the island Lamukari where the terns probably was when it was not catching insects. Anyway the island was too far so we couldn’t identify the gulls and terns that were perched there. So we had to wait and see the tern when it goes hunting. But due the rainy and quite windy weather there were no insects in the air. Dunlins were on the move and during the day I counted 312 of them, I also counted 120 Greylag Geese that were swimming on the sea. 3 White-tailed Eagles, 6 Black-tailed Godwits, 3 Arctic Skuas, 4 Caspian Terns, a Bittern, a Red-necked Phalarope and a female Red-backed Shrike were also seen.
In the afternoon it started to rain very hard and the rest of the birders decided to leave to Kokkola to twitch the Kentish Plover. We went to eat to our car and once we had eaten the sky surprisingly cleared so we quickly walked back to the tower. Little Gulls starts hunting insects soon and it really looked promising. A Peregrine, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits and 5 more Red-necked Phalaropes were seen but the Gull-billed Tern wasn’t. At 4 p.m. it started to rain again constantly so we decided to leave to Oulu.
Pirkka left to Kemijärvi and we went to sleep with Potu. In the evening we watched a movie with Riku and ate well before went to sleep again. The weather forecast wasn’t good for the next day either so we had no other plans than to go again to Sannanlahti to try to see this bloody tern.
On the 2nd of July we woke up at 6 a.m. and at 7 we had again had some breakfast in Tupos and seen a Short-eared Owl and were parking to Sannanlahti parking place. The most serious month-listers were back from Kokkola and they had started already at 4 a.m. again. The weather was not rainy but quite windy now. There were less birds around so nothing new was really seen. A couple of Ospreys, the same Peregrine which was seen much better now and was an adult male, about 30 Greenshanks and so on. Siskins were on the move and also some Chaffinches and even some Bramblings and 3 Parrot Crossbills were seen too. Finally at 10:37 a.m. Mika I. Koskinen found a good looking tern was from the east. It took some time to find it but when I found it I was soon sure that it was the right bird! The wind was pushing the tern towards Lamukari but it was catching something from the water. Luckily everyone managed to find it and all got different kind of ticks – Potu even a lifer! Finally Gull-billed Tern landed to Lamukari and soon after that it started to rain again. So everyone decided to leave.
I had go a phone call from the South-Karelia hospital earlier that I was supposed to go there on the next day’s afternoon, but as the weather forecast was still bad, it didn’t really matter. We still had something to do but we could do it right away. So we continued to Pitkänokka together with some other twitchers. After some walking we managed to find a Lesser Grey Shrike that had stayed there some days. We also saw the same Peregrine again and also a Stock Dove that was breeding in a nest-box there. Then we continued to Liminka Virkkula with Potu but once we got to the tower it started to rain again. So we went to eat into the information center where we met some friends too. When the rain stopped we walked to the tower again and it didn’t take long once we saw a male Pallid Harrier that was chasing a flock of 300 Wood Sandpipers.
We still visited Tyrnävä briefly but saw only a Hen Harrier before it started to rain hard again. So we decided to start a long way back to south-east. We were in Kuopio when we got a message that a Stilt Sandpiper had been found in Pori. We turned towards Suonenjoki which was still towards Mikkeli but also towards Pori. Once we got there the sandpiper had left already so we could continue towards Mikkeli again. We stopped in Haukivuori Hirviniemi where we saw a family of Slavonian Grebes but soon we got a message that the the sandpiper had come back, so once we were in Mikkeli we started to drive towards Pori which was about 450 km away. But after a half an hour the bird had left again. I had been sure it would stay as it was almost midnight already but now when it had left again we decided to give up and turned back to Mikkeli again. We stopped near the airport where we heard some Corn Crakes and 2 River Warblers but soon we continued to Potu to sleep.
On the 3rd of July we had late breakfast in Mikkeli and then I started to drive towards Lappeenranta. In the hospital I did some work things in x-ray department and before 3 p.m. I had a control for the ear-specialist. About a half an hour later I was driving towards Parikkala.
Already on the way I tried to find out the weather forecast for the next week and it looked pretty good. So I called to Potu again. We had been talking that it would be nice to do a trip to Lapland and as I still had 6 days free and I really thought that it was the best way to spend the rest of my sick-leave, we decided to go. So already before I was in Parikkala Potu started to drive to there too. At home I had plenty of things to do and when Potu arrived we still did some planning before we left.
The first stop we made pretty soon to a field where a couple of Booted Warblers had been seen about a month earlier. We walked around the bushes and managed to see one Booted Warbler very briefly. But we couldn’t find out if it had been breeding or not.
Then we continued towards Joensuu and turned to Kontiolahti and soon parked to Kylmäsuo. There we met some birders and soon found the right place where we could se 3 Ruddy Shelducks that had stayed there for a couple of days.
We still saw a couple of Short-eared Owls in Kontiolahti but then continued until Sotkame where we managed to twitch a Quail in Vaarankylä. Then we continued to Ristijärvi Saukkovaara where we were about at 3:30 a.m. We were extremely tired but as the timing was perfect we still decided to walk a little bit. The best forests had been cut down but anyway we managed to find 2 singing Red-flanked Bluetails. It was almost 5 a.m. when we finally went to sleep into Potu’s van.
We slept until 11 a.m. and then we woke up as it was absolutely too hot in the car. We still saw a Hen Harrier before we continued towards north. In Hyrynsalmi we visited Komulanköngäs where we tried to find a Grey Wagtail but there was none. Then we decided to turn towards Puolanka where had been one Grey Wagtail in Hepoköngäs. But we couldn’t find it there either and after all we realized that it had been seen pretty far from the waterfall. So we gave up and continued our way.
In Taivalkoski we saw a Honey Buzzard abd in Suomussalmi we took pictures of the Quiet People. Once we got to Kuusamo we saw an Osprey and in the city we did some shopping. In the rubbish tip of Kuusamo we saw 2 Black Kites but in Peurasuo we didn’t find a Siberian Stonechat nor an Arctic Warbler in Matolampi where only 2 Smews were seen. So pretty soon we were drivig towards Kemijärvi. In Kemijärvi we visited my brother Pirkka’s family. After a relaxed hour we still had to continue as we really wanted to get as north as possible during the night.
After all we managed to drive until Inari Saariselkä where we parked to a parking place to sleep. We woke up after 3 hours and left to walk to a trail to Iisakkipää. There had been reported 3 singing Arctic Warblers along the trail so wanted to be there early. After some walking we heard and saw a Two-barred Crossbill flying over us and soon after that we heard promising tit calls. I whistled a couple of times and soon we were surrounded by Siberian Tits. Later we found some more Siberian and Willow Tits but nothing else was found along the 6 kilometers trail.
We continued to Kaunispää where we met a couple of other birders. Soon Potu found a Dotterel far from the hillside and we walked closer to get some pictures. This beautiful male had 2 youngsters with him so we managed to get pretty good shots. But soon we left the birds and continued towards north.
On Kaamanen we stopped in 4 tuulen tupa where we ate while watching 2 male and 1 female Pine Grosbeaks visiting the feeder just outside the window.
Once we got to Utsjoki the first better bird was a Smew in Basijávre. Finally we got to Karigasniemi where we took a familiar track up towards Ailikas. We drove as long as it was possible and parked our car. We were ready to a good mountain walk. While I was packing my staff Potu found a 2nd calendar year Golden Eagle soaring on the sky. While a family of Bluethroats was feeding next to our car we left to climb towards the top of Ailikas.
First we were walking along the road and saw some Golden Plovers and a couple of Lapland Buntings and soon Potu found a Long-tailed Skua that I managed to see only briefly before it disappeared behind the mountain. Luckily it soon came back and started to attack to another one. They were chasing each other and came shortly right over us – nice!
Later we got out from the road and started to climb straight towards the top along the rocky hillside. We met a couple of butterfly collectors, but they told that the windy weather hadn’t been good for them. They hadn’t seen any Ptarmigans either.
When we were almost on the top we found the first families of Snow Buntings. Altogether we saw at least 10 birds. We also found 3 Dotterels, later one alarming bird and also a flock of 2 more birds. But even though we walked the whole top and around the top once we couldn’t find any Ptarmigans until we were just going to start climbing back down towards our car we flushed one! We had also found the Long-tailed Skua feeding on the groun and we had managed to get some good pictures of it so we had once again had great time in Ailikas!
We climbed down and walked a little bit on the tree-line but found nothing else. After that we put up a fire, had some sausage and talked until we were too tired to continue and went to sleep.
On the 6th of July we woke up early again and drove to Piesjänkä which is very close to Ailikas. There we start walking in a wet bog and saw Bluethroats and a Spotted Redshank right away and Red-necked Phalaropes, Temminck’s Stints, Wood Sandpipers and Ruffs on the first pool and soon also Ringed Plovers, Golden Plovers, Lapland Buntings and after some walk also a Broad-billed Sandpiper that was calling and flying around actively. We walked around there for 3.5 hours and still found an Arctic Redpoll, a Red-throated Diver, Yellow Wagtails and heard a couple of Cranes. Once we were back on the parking place, we found another Arctic Redpoll that was with a flock of Common Redpolls.
Then we start driving again and drove west until Nuvvus where we parked our car next to another Ailikas mountain. It was time for the hardest walk of the trip – maybe too hard for me as I was still on a sick-leave but it’s not a real trip to Lapland without some serious climbing – is it? So we followed the valley and started climbing. First it was a little bit wet in a mountain birch forest but soon it was just rocks. It was very hot so I was really sweating – and it was not allowed to me. So we had to stop many times. After some climbing we heard promising calls in front of us and soon saw a female Ring Ouzel flying over the valley. Soon we saw also a male and it had its bill full of food. So the nest was close. We sat down and waited if the birds would come sp we could get some pictures, but they were very shy. So after some time we decided to continue climbing.
When we were on the steepest place which was only loose rocks a family of three Ptarmigans ran into sight in front of us. So I managed to get pictures of these birds.
Soon we climbed to the highest top where we surprisingly had more mosquitos around us than anywhere during the trip before. Far on the top of the closest mountain we saw a lake and managed to identify 5 Long-tailed and 5 Tufted ducks and a male Scaup from there. But soon the insects forced us to start climbing back down. The Ring Ouzels were still there and now I managed to get some better pictures of them. Once we were down we ate a little bit and enjoyed the beautiful Teno River in beautiful weather.
Soon we continued towards Utsjoki and saw a Great Black-backed Gull in Yläjalve and a Merlin in Kuoppilasvaara. After some shopping in Utsjoki, we turned towards south and soon turned towards Skalluvaara reindeer round-up place. On the pools we saw 2 Little Gulls and a Red-necked Phalarope, but soon we drove a little bit back towards the main road and parked our car and put up a fire. Bluethroats were hiding on the closest bushes while we ate the rest of the sausages and soon we were ready to go to sleep again.
On the 7th of July we woke up at 5 a.m. and soon we were walking on the bog. Meadow Pipit and Yellow Wagtail were common and soon I managed to get some good pictures of a Lapland Bunting too. But we had to walk a long way to find anything better but when we did, we really had a good time: First we found a couple of Red-throated Pipits and while we were photographing them, a Red-necked Phalarope flew over us and a Jack Snipe was calling just over us a couple of times. Again we walked for 3 hours but found nothing else better.
Pretty soon we were driving towards south again. In Mieraslompola we saw a Great Grey Shrike perched on a dead tree and in Inari Lihavakalajärvet (fat fish lakes) we saw a couple of Red-throated Divers, Tufted Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers and 4 Velvet Scoters and soon after that in Sestjuvieggi we saw a male Pine Grosbeak flying over the road.
While we were driving we planned which way to drive back down to South-East. We decided to make a short Eastern Lapland journey as I had never really been there. After one crepes eating stop, we continued a long way until Pelkosenniemi Kairanaapa. Once we had parked there we heard aloud ticking calls – a family of Rustic Buntings were calling on the nearest bushes. From the bird-tower we saw only several families of Cranes, but nothing else really. On the way back we had to pick up the youngsters of Rustic Bunting safe from the road.
In Mullakkoaapa we tried to find Little Buntings along the main road but again found only some Rustic Buntings. Soon we turned to Sokanaapa where we walked along a really good track to the tower. The scenery was nice but we didn’t see anything special on the bog. We still went to walk a little bit to the other side of the bog but maybe because of it was already a late evening, we found only a family of Smews.
Finally we continued to Savukoski where we tried to see as many species as possible as I had never been there before so we stopped a couple of times but saw nothing interesting. Finally we were in Salla where we drove to Kotola and turned to a small road where we stopped and started to sleep. The last bird we saw there was a Short-eared Owl.
On the 8th of July we woke up very early, again after only about 4 hours sleeping. We went to walk along the main road where we knew some other birders had found plenty of Little Buntings some weeks earlier. Now nothing was singing anymore but we heard at least 4 of them but managed to see only one well.
Soon we continued to Kuusamo where we saw a young Dipper in Kitkajoki where we also heard a Chiffchaff singing. In Peurasuo we still didn’t see a Siberian Stonechat which had probably left, but found again 2 young Rustic Buntings. We started to feel extremely tired so we drove towards Konttainen. But on along the road we found a stunning Hawk Owl which gave us to get really good pictures of itself.
In konttainen we decided that it was far too windy to climb up so we drove down and turned to a small track and parked along it and went to sleep.
We woke up when it was getting too hot inside the van and soon continued towards south. We stopped to eat in the city but then kept on going. In Ristijärvi we saw a Hen Harrier but then in Juuka we turned towards Kaavi and there we turned to Outokumpu. In Outokumpu we drove to Vuonos pools where we found plenty of gulls right away from the first pool. We started scanning the gulls and in 30 seconds I found the bird we were twitching – a 2nd c-y Caspian Gull. My cameras battery died but I tried to use my new phone for phonescoping and after some practicing I managed to get some pretty good pictures and videos.
Once we had continued again we saw a strange looking bird flying across road. First we had no idea what it was, but when I saw it landing I realized it was a Quail! We went to walk to the place where I had seen it landing but it had probably ran to the next, much longer field.
We ate in Joensuu and soon continued to Tohmajärvi Värtsilä Tapiolantie where a Lanceolated Warbler had been heard for several nights. It was very cold, only 9 degrees so it wasn’t a surprise that we didn’t hear it even though we tried for several hours. A couple of Short-eared Owls were flying around the fields and calling. It was already 3:30 a.m. when we left to the last stage towards Parikkala.
We were in Parikkala finally just before 5 a.m. and after a shower we went to sleep. We slept as long as we just could and after some breakfast we visited Siikalahti where we still got some trip-ticks like a Pochard. Then it was time to say goodbye to Potu who had been driving all the time – He wanted to be my patient-driver – but he had also showed me almost every good bird of the trip!
Altogether we had seen 161 bird-species on these 2 trips (120 on the first and 127 on the second). We had got nice pictures, videos and memories! I had even managed to take pretty easy on my sick-leave – I had just been sitting – 4500 kilometers in a car…
On Tuesday the 4th of June I had started my holiday but we were still in Parikkala. We had still been birding on the previous night with my old friend Harri Orenius and heard Great Snipes and Savi’s Warbler. So we had slept late and then started to pack ready for the next 2 weeks.
Finally at 1 p.m. we left towards Helsinki and drove straight to Vihti Nummela car-service where I left my car and then my father drove us to Helsinki-Vantaa airport. But this time we weren’t going anywhere, we were there to meet our old friend Paul French and his friend Tim Sykes. We were about to start 8 days tour in Eastern Finland.
Paul and Tim came in time and soon we were on Sixt office where we got our rental car Toyota Prius hybrid soon. And soon we were ready to hit the road and start driving towards east. It was good to see Paul again, it was the second time we were birding with him in Finland, but Tim had never been in Scandinavia at all, but once in Estonia.
We ate on a service and then drove until Hamina Kirkkojärvi where we had planned to do some easy evening birding. On the first bushes there were a couple of Blyth’s Reed Warblers, Thrush Nightingales and Common Rosefinches were singing and a Red-backed Shrike was perched on the top of a tree. From the bird-tower we heard a 2 singing Great Reed Warblers and saw one more. When we were walking back towards the parking place we heard a couple of Pheasants, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker flew over us and next to the car we heard 2 Icterine Warblers singing.
We continued to Virolahti where we stopped at Lintulahti where a Spotted Crake was calling, 7 Spotted Redshanks were flying around (they were already on their autumn migration!) and also 4 Green Sandpipers were seen. We still drove to Hurppu where I told about how the arctic migration was usually seen there. Of course the season was already over but anyway even though it was very late evening we still saw a couple of flocks of Brent Geese migrating towards Vyborg. In Leerviikki we still stopped briefly to watch an island with a Caspian Tern colony – there were at least 30 birds present.
Finally we continued towards Lappeenranta and there we turned to Toikansuo where I had never tried to see an Eagle Owl in summer (it was usually seen in winter there) but surprisingly we found it perched on a tree pretty far from the road. The owl started calling too and even flew a little bit closer so we saw it pretty well after all. Tim got a lifer and it was his 50th owl-species in the world. We also heard lots of Blyth’s Reed Warblers and Thrush Nightingales, a Grasshopped Warbler and 2 Marsh Warblers. We also met a local birder Totti Toiskallio who told us the next place where to stop. So we drove a couple of kilometers towards Hanhijärvi, stopped along the road and soon heard a Common Quail calling from the field.
Then we continued to Joutseno. On Tuohimäki we heard some Black Grouses and a Spotted Crake calling from the canal and in Kivisaari we heard 2 River Warblers. From Konnunsuo bird-tower we heard again a River Warbler and along the field-road one more. It was wrong time for Booted Warblers so we didn’t really try to see them. This pair was already breeding so the male wasn’t singing either. So soon we continued along the smaller roads where we made a couple of stops to listen to owls but without luck and drove over the River Vuoksi in Imatra and continued towards Parikkala. We still heard one more River Warbler in Rautjärvi, Simpele Kankaanpellot, but finally we made the last stop in Parikkala Siikalahti dam-road where we heard a couple of Spotted Crakes and 3 Water Rails – but the Savi’s Warbler had disappeared. Then we dropped Paul and Tim to the information center where they were going to live for the next couple of days.
We slept long and finally in the mid-day left to pick up Paul and Tim from Siikalahti. We visited the bird-tower briefly but only a couple of Marsh Harriers and Ospreys were seen. A Golden Oriole was singing on the parking place when we packed our car again. We stopped in Parikkala for morning coffees and twitched a Brent Goose that was present in the harbor. Then we left to Melkoniemi forests.
We drove straight to one of the furthermost owl nest-boxes we have. There had been a Tengmalm’s Owl hatching a couple of weeks ago so there should have been nestlings ready to get ringed, but unfortunately for some reason the nest-box was completely empty. Maybe a Pine Marten had been visiting there?
We continued to famous Siberian Jay forests and walked straight to a Pygmy Owl nest-box. It looked promising as there was lots of shit outside the nest-box. And I heard weak bill clicking when I started to open the roof. I was expecting to find big nestlings but surprisingly there was still adult female in the nest-box. I saw some tiny nestling under it and of course I wanted to see if there were still many eggs as there had been even 9 eggs earlier. So I took the female out and saw 3 small nestling and 3 eggs. We took some photographs and then I released the female and it landed to a branch close to us. So of course we took some more pictures before we continued to walk into the forest. Pygmy Owl was a lifer to both Paul and Tim.
We knew that early afternoon wasn’t the best time to try to find Siberian Jays but the forest was perfect for many other species too. We heard 2 Greenish Warblers, 2 Winter Wrens, but didn’t find any grouses or Siberian Jays. But when we were already returning towards our car we found a male Three-toed Woodpecker which was a lifer for Tim.
Next we continued towards Rautalahti area where we soon walked to a much bigger nest-box. I took ladders and climbed to open the roof while Hanna was under me giving instructions if the mom would attack. Paul and Tim stayed a little bit further just in case, but surprisingly we only once saw a big bird flying far behind the trunks and landing somewhere to the top of the trees. But in the nest-box there were 3 medium sized nestlings which I took out and down. Then we put rings for them and when the mom owl was still not attacking we told Paul and Tim to come to see the youngsters of Ural Owl too. We took some pictures and then I climbed the nestling back to their big apartment. But we really wanted to see the adult too. So we walked a little but in the forest around the nest-box but couldn’t find it at all. But when we were leaving we saw it flying closer to the nest-box and landing to a branch so it was visible. We got some pictures of it and were happy to eave soon. It was again a lifer owl for our friends.
Then we continued to Saari where we knew a nest for a White-backed Woodpecker. This nest had been easy to watch even straight from the car and we had still 2 days earlier checked that the nestlings were in, but now the nest was empty – the youngsters had left. And once White-backed Woodpeckers leave their nest they are usually impossible to find anymore. They are really difficult to see in summer. Luckily we knew another nest nearby and walked to see it. Once we found it we already saw a bill from the nest but this nestling was a Black Woodpecker. After some waiting we saw an adult visiting the nest and so we got some pictures of it.
It was already late afternoon when we were back in Siikalahti where we left Paul and Tim and soon we were sleeping at home.
After a short sleep we met again at 10:35 p.m. and after a brief stop on the dam-road we continued to Kullinsuo fields. We had hardly got out from the car when Hanna heard the first calls of a Great Snipe. Birds weren’t very active but after some searching we could see a bird displaying far on the field. We stayed there for some time even though there were plenty of mosquitos and heard at least 2 Great Snipes.
On the way to Lahdensuo fields we heard several Nightjars and even saw one of them pretty well. It was singing on a branch and making some attacks to catch some insects but returned to the same branch again. And even though it was midnight we heard 3 Hazel Hens calling from one spruce-forest but we couldn’t see them at all. We also saw an owl that flew across the road briefly – actually only I and Tim saw it – and even though I was sure it was a Tengmalm’s Owl, it wasn’t seen well enough to make it a lifer for Tim. We really needed to see it better later. In the middle of the fields we saw a Short-eared Owl well and of course heard Corn Crakes, Blyth’s Reed Warblers and Thrush Nightingales which were heard almost in every stop during the night.
We continued along the Russian border towards north and heard a Canada Goose calling from Lake Tyrjä. In Haukkavaara we heard again a couple of Nightjars. Then we tried to twitch a Tengmalm’s Owl that my friends had heard on the previous night but didn’t hear a thing. In Jyrkilä we heard a Grasshopper Warbler and saw a lek of 10 male Black Grouses. It was very quiet in Pohjanranta and in Pohjasuo we didn’t hear a Booted Warbler that had been singing there for a couple of nights – only a Marsh Warbler was heard. We were in Akavaara Tetrisuo when the sun was rising and there we heard 3 Ortolan Buntings which one of them we managed to see well but very briefly.
Then we hurried to Melkoniemi forests again and straight to Siberian Jay place. We walked around the forest for some time before the small family of three Siberian Jays came to see us. They followed us for some minutes and then disappeared back to the forest again. We also heard 4 Winter Wrens, a new Greenish Warbler, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Treecreeper. Soon we continued to the Punkaharju side of the border to a small pond where a Red-throated Diver was breeding, but the nest was so well hidden in the middle of the small artificial island that the bird was hardly visible at all. A couple of Long-tailed Tits were seen there too but soon we drove back to Parikkala.
We had morning coffees in Parikkala and then drove to Rautjärvi, Simpele and soon walked to a tree with a hole again. We waited for an hour and saw nothing. I was already sure that these woodpeckers had left their home too so I called to my friend who knew the woodpeckers better, but he told that the nestling should still be pretty small. So we thought that some predator might have eaten them, so I walked under the hole, scratched a little bit of the trunk and held my ear against the trunk to hear if there was anything calling. And surprisingly I heard some weak calling from the nest! They were still there! So we just had to wait more. Finally after another hour the adult male Grey-headed Woodpecker came and landed to the trunk but it was too shy to go to the nest-hole. We waited for a couple of minutes and then decided to leave so the nestling would finally get something to eat. But it had been another lifer for Tim. (I must say that both Tim and Paul had seen White-backed Woodpeckers earlier so we didn’t really try to see them. We would have found them but it could have taken much time.) We were absolutely knocked when we were back in Parikkala. Boys dropped us to our home and continued to Siikalahti. Soon we were all sleeping…
At 6 p.m. boys came to our home, we ate well and just relaxed until 9 p.m. when it was time to say goodbye to Hanna who was leaving to Britain and funnily to Paul’s home-town to Wolverhampton to participate a 4 days painting school. And we left to North Karelia.
We drove straight to Joensuu and stopped in Pilkonniityt where I knew we were in a wrong time again, so after we had listened for a couple of minutes and heard nothing we continued towards Polvijärvi. We would return to Joensuu anyway so we could make another stop in Pilkonniityt later and in better time. So we drove to Solanlahti and stopped to the northern end of the bay and walked to a small field where we could hear the reed-bed well. First it was quiet and all we saw were a couple of Hobbies chasing some night-insects over the bay. But soon we heard a familiar kverrr –call once the female Little Crake started calling.
We still were not in a hurry so we tried to find a bird-tower from the southern end of the bay but we couldn’t find it. But on the way we saw several Woodcocks that were perched either on the road or somewhere near it and Paul and Tim managed to get pretty good pictures of them even though it was the darkest hour of the night. Then we continued some 20 kilometers to a forest next to some bogs and managed to find a place where we were supposed to leave our car. We had got good instructions from one kind local ringer. It was still pretty dark but we decided to try to find the nest that was only some hundreds of meters from us. We walked to the forest but we had to walk a little bit more than we had expected to find an artificial nest made from branches from one tree. And there we saw 3 small grey Great Grey Owl nestling staring at us. And almost immediately an adult owl came to the nest with a prey and it was really spectacular way to get a lifer for Paul and Tim! We watched the adult dropping the prey to the youngsters and soon the adult flew to a branch to next tree and started staring us. We walked a bit further from the nest but the adult decided to stay there. The sun was rising so I gave one walkie-talkie to Paul and took another with me and left to complete a mission that the local ringer had given to us. Paul and Tim stayed with the nest and photographed the adult while I walked some hundreds of meters to a small bog where I soon found one more Great Grey Owl that was much more aggressive than the first one. This one was attacking and calling when I walked towards the tree where I could soon see another Great Grey Owl nest. But this nest was already empty and I could hear a fledling or a “climbling” begging for food from the trees behind the nest. Anyway I decided to stay there and try to find out if there was one or 2 birds visiting the youngsters while Paul and Tim were doing the same on the other nest. Soon a male owl came to see me and started calling! It was a dream come true to hear a Great Grey Owl calling so close! I managed to get recordings.of it too. Usually the female was first squeezing a little and then a male answered with seep calls. I stayed there for some time when finally Paul called me that they also had 2 owls there! So there were different males for the nests!
Soon we continued back to Joensuu and to Pilkonniityt where we were right on the best time for a Booted Warbler. We got out from the car and immediately heard a Booted Warbler singing. Soon we found it from a willow and managed to get some pictures and also recordings of it.
Then we continued to Joensuu, Kiihtelysvaara, Keskijärvi, where a local birder had seen a Tengmalm’s Owl that had been staring out from a nest-box next to his garden. I was thinking that it might be difficult to see the owl if it was inside the nest-box but once we parked to the parking place a king neighbor helped us to find the right place (even though it was 5:30 a.m.) and soon Tim found the right next-box and there was a Tengmalm’s Owl watching us from the hole. The owls looked very angry and tired – not just stupid as Tengmalm’s Owls usually do. We of course took some pictures and video of it but soon the owl backed inside the nest-box and we could continue to the next place. It had been the 4th and last possible lifer (all owl-lifers) for Paul. But we still had plenty to do, and we weren’t still done with owls either – we still had something for Tim!
So we drove to Joensuu, Tuupovaara where my good friend Jari ”Jassi” Kiljunen had been orienteering last day and he had called me that: “Do you have Hawk Owl on your target list?”. Of course we had, even though I had already before the trip told to Paul and Tim that this year was very bad for owls in almost every part of Finland but I might be able to find out places for all other owl except Hawk Owl which wasn’t breeding anywhere in the country this summer. (And of course a Snowy Owl is not breeding in Finland on most of the years so it wasn’t on the list either – I have never seen it on the breeding grounds.) But now we had a map where I got good instructions to a place where Jassi had seen very aggressive pair of Hawk Owls!
So even though the last small track was missing from the map and I had somehow managed to write the coordinates a little bit wrong, the instructions that Jassi had given were so good that soon we knew we had found the right place. We got out from the car and soon found an adult Hawk Owl perched from a dead tree on the almost clear open area. Soon we found another adult and then heard that the fledlings were calling nearer to that second adult. So we decided to get closer to the first one and walked around it to see it and photograph it on the better light. After some time this bird called a long very high series of calls and flew high to the sky and left as far as we could follow. It left to hunt and wanted his wife to know he’s leaving…
We had now seen 7 owl-species in a couple of days and of course our British friends didn’t need to see Tawny or Long-eared Owls that would have been the other possible owls to see. So we were really happy to start our long way towards north. We still stopped in Tuupovaara to coffee and in Eno we bought something to eat and drink for the next 2 days that we would stay in the middle of nowhere. Then we drove a few hours and saw lots of Arctic and European Hares (which we had seen a lot also earlier), a couple of Elks, a Red Fox, a Hedgehog, a Red Squirrel but almost no birds.
Finally we parked to Patvinsuo Natural Park camping place in Suomu and put up our tents and went to sleep a long day-sleep.
We slept long and woke up about at 6 p.m. to prepare something to eat which was easy because of there are good structure in Suomu. Then we packed our tents and at 9 p.m. we were driving to Teretti. We parked to the parking place and started to walk to the 3.6 kilometers long wooden path through the bogs towards the bird-tower. There weren’t many birds around but the landscape was beautiful as the whole bog was white of flowering tussock cottongrass. 8 Taiga Bean Geese, some Golden Plovers, Whimbrels and Yellow Wagtails were seen before we finally climbed to the high bird-tower. From the tower we had a good view to wet bog around us, but there weren’t many birds either. Just a Spotted Redshank, a Wood Sandpiper, a Greenshank, 2 pairs of Smews and a Short-eared Owl were seen. We were expecting to see and hear something more, but we weren’t lucky. Someone had seen even a Brown Bear only 2 days earlier. So after some time we started to feel cold and we decided to walk back and on the way back we didn’t see anything at all.
It was again the darkest hour of the short night so it wasn’t clever to go to Autiovaara yet. So we drove along the small roads for some time to find grouses but we only heard some distant Black Grouses. Finally we parked to Autiovaara parking place and decided to sleep a little. We woke up an hour or so later and went to walk around this short track, which took anyway more than 2 hours because of the forest is very beautiful and there is lots of climbing. I was expecting to find Hazel Hens but again we had no luck. Anyway 3 Red-breasted Flycatchers, 2 Treecreepers, a Crested Tit and a Goshawk were heard and I saw briefly a Three-toed Woodpecker.
Finally we hurried back to our car and drove 15 minutes to Kitsi where we had booked an old school apartment for us for the ”night”. Soon we were in deep sleep.
We woke up at mid-day and soon were having great meal that old housekeeper had prepared. Then we packed our luggage again and drove to Erä-Eero Wildlife Lodge. We met Eero and his relative boys and they offered us some coffee and pies. Soon, about at 4 p.m. we were driving towards the hide. Once we had walked the last hundreds of meters to the hide we managed to get an own room for us three. There were also 4 German photographers that got their own room. The Finnish tourists were going to the bigger hide which was for watching, not photographing the Wolverines. Then Eero hid meat to many places in front of the hide and soon he left and we started waiting something to happen.
First visitors were 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Common, a Herring and a Lesser Black-backed Gull. Ravens were suspicious but they also visited a couple of times nearer. We tried to stay as quiet as possible and I am sure we were quiet enough even though Tim had got some cold and was coughing quite a lot. But anyway he managed to stay very quiet even though it must have been difficult. But nothing else really happened! At 7 p.m. I told that last time I had been there the Wolverines had arrived at this time, but not this time. At midnight we were still staring outside very keen but still nothing happened. Finally at 1:50 a.m. a Wolverine came from the bigger hide and walked for some 30 seconds in front of us but then ran to the forest and never came back. Then at 2:30 a.m. another Wolverine came and took a couple of pieces of meat and we could watch it for maybe 5 minutes altogether before it also disappeared to the forest. Of course it had been too dark to get any pictures. Then it was quiet again.
Only thing we heard were some male and female Cuckoos and at 4 a.m. I started to feel too tired to go on. So I went to sleep and Tim had been already sleeping for some time. Paul still tried to stay awake. Finally I woke up at 7:50 a.m. when I heard someone whispering and there were 2 Wolverines together very close to us. Finally there was light to get some pictures too and I also had Hanna’s old camera with me so I managed to get some pictures even though the light wasn’t very good. The worst thing was that we had only 10 minutes left before Eero was picking us up. Anyway we decided to photograph the animals as long as they stay, and they finally left to the forest at 8 a.m. Only 10 minutes later Eero came and we were ready to leave.
When we were walking back to our car one of the Germans told us that there had been a Capercaillie in front of the hide at 5 a.m. We had made the biggest mistake and we had all three been sleeping then. Anyway I got 4 more reasons to hate Germans as they hadn’t waken us up even though I was sleeping only a couple of meters from them. They had also seen a Red-throated Diver on the pond while we all had been sleeping for an hour. Anyway we were extremely happy that we had seen the main target Wolverines and even managed to get some good pictures of them! But I had never expected them to be so difficult! Every time we had been there earlier, we had seen them already in the afternoon.
So when we were back in Wildlife Lodge I asked Eero if we could sleep somewhere as we hadn’t been sleeping as much as I had thought we could sleep. I had been sure that we could all have been sleep more in the darkest hours but now we hadn’t seen the Wolverines at all before 1:50 so we really couldn’t have slept. Eero offered us coffee again and a tepee where to sleep as long as we needed and we got them very cheap so soon we were sleeping in a comfortable dark and cool tepee.
We really slept as long as we needed and once we woke up Eero was waiting for the next group to come. But some local hunters newer came – one more reason to hate hunters. Well we got some profit from hunters’ stupidity and had their coffee packed lunch to eat. We talked with Eero and his relatives for a long time before at 6 p.m. we really had to start our long way towards north again.
On the way north there were no plans to stop at all, but we did stop because of the first Reindeers. The weather changed dramatically cold and rainy so we continued straight towards Kuusamo. I called to my contact and tried to plan the next days. I was planning to book some kind of cottage for us because of the weather was going to be too bad for tenting but then I had a king-idea! I called to my good friend Kalle Larsson if their Kuusamo bird-race team was already in Kuusamo and if they had a big enough cottage for us too. And we were lucky – Kalle’s team had a row house apartment for 6 persons but only 2 members of their team were there yet. Kalle had also just arrived. He promised us to stay there if we help them on their preparations for the race – so no other payment! Well, actually I had already helped Kalle to get my good friend Harry Nyström into their team and I was sure he was going to help them a lot in the race. But now we had a place to stay in Kuusamo for the next days which h were actually going to be the last days of our trip.
We stopped to one service to eat but the kitchen had been closed 5 minutes earlier. But luckily we found something small to eat. Finally we were in Kuusamo about at midnight and we made one stop near Helilampi when I saw some branch that looked a little bit like a Willow Grouse. Anyway the stop wasn’t bad as Paul found a nice leucistic Black-headed Gull from the flock of gulls. Finally we parked to our apartment which was behind Kuusamo Tropiikki hotel and Kalle was there to take us in. We had planned to go to sleep but once we checked the weather forecast we realized that it was going to rain from early morning until the afternoon. It meant that we had to go birding at night! Luckily we had been sleeping enough but Kalle wasn’t and Mika Korkki who had already stayed in Kuusamo for a couple of days had been sleeping only for a couple of hours. Anyway Kalle woke Mika up and they decided to go birding too. Mika gave us some instructions how he wanted us to prepare Valtavaara which was the place where we were going to do birding anyway. So it was our time to pay our staying and we left towards north at 1:30 a.m.
I thought it was too early to go to Valtavaara, so we drove to Ruka downhill skiing resort where we twitched a 2nd calendar year male Black Redstart that was singing on the roofs of the hostels. The bird was singing very simply and we really needed to see the bird to make sure it was the right bird. Luckily it showed well. Then we drove to Konttainen parking place and started climbing up to Valtavaara.
We climbed up towards the first tops following the eastern border of the sanctuary. The birds were still very quiet but some Bramblings were singing their simply song from the tops of trees. Soon willow Warblers woke up and started to sing so we knew we weren’t too early. Many flocks of Common Crossbills were moving and we heard a lonely Two-barred Crossbill flying over us, Paul managed to see the bird too. Also some small flocks of Common Redpolls were heard. Once we were on the first top we heard the first Red-flanked Bluetail. We followed the song and soon managed to see the bird singing on the top of one spruce. It was a stunning adult male! Even I had never seen an adult male so well so soon we were taking pictures and videos.
Soon we heard a Three-toed Woodpecker drumming and as we were also preparing Kalle’s team’s bird-race, we tried to find the drummer but it stopped drumming and we never found it. Once we continued walking we soon heard 3 more Red-flanked Bluetails and again managed to see and photograph an adult male pretty well. Then we walked to the western ridge and turned walking back and soon came to Suolampi pool where we heard and soon saw a Greenish Warbler that was singing on the top of a tree there. We managed to get some pictures and videos of it too before we went to rest for some 15 minutes to the tepee to the shore of the pool. Then we started climbing down the steep western ridge which was very difficult because of the slippery ground. Anyway we managed to get closer to Lake Konttainen and continued towards the road but even though the place looked perfect for Hazel Hens, we couldn’t find any. Only better bird we saw was a Honey Buzzard. Finally we managed to get to the road and climbed up to the parking place. We were really tired and sweating like pigs when we got there.
At Konttainen parking place there were 6 other cars – many other bird-race teams had come to prepare there too. We met a couple of teams and another was my friends Jussi, Arttu and Perttu Valonen. We talked for some time and while talking we saw a Black Woodpecker, 2 Siberian Jays and a couple of other good species for the race. Jussi also gave us instructions for our next twitch.
So soon we were following Jussi’s instructions but somehow we managed to get to a completely wrong place. So I needed to find the instructions from the internet and after 20 minutes we finally found to the right place. There were a couple of other twitchers too but they hadn’t seen the bird yet. Soon we heard an interesting Whinchat-like song from the fields but we couldn’t find the singer. Then it came quiet again, but after some waiting we heard the song just over our head from the trees. We couldn’t see the singer but Paul was situated better and saw it was the bird we had been searching for – a Siberian Stonechat. Soon the bird flew to the back of the field and landed to a top of a perch to sing and we all could see it pretty well. Then after some time watching the Siberian Stonechat we started to feel extremely tires so even though the rain had never came and it was already 9 a.m., we decided to drive to our apartment to sleep.
We slept until the evening and finally we were planning some kind of short evening-trip, when my friend Antti Peuna, who is originally from Kuusamo and is leading Finnature groups every summer called me that he had joined to a bird-race team again and he was going to prepare the race on the next morning when we had planned to do some birding together. So we decided to meet now and soon we were picking him up. We drove first to twitch Siberian Tits that were breeding in a nest-box. It was already 7 p.m. but luckily the parents were still feeding their nestlings. These tits were just too fast to photograph and while Paul and Tim were trying to get some pictures, we were looking at Kuusamo map and planning a good trip for us for the next morning. Finally boys gave up and we continued to check a Three-toed Woodpecker nest that was nearby. There was no movement on the nest-hole but we heard a pair of goshawks that were breeding nearby. These Goshawks were the reason why we couldn’t tell to Kalle’s team about this woodpecker nest. Goshawks are very shy on their nests and it was better not too many people knew the place. Anyway we planned to visit the woodpeckers again on the next day in better time of the day.
We made one stop to see some couples of Velvet Scoters on one lake and then continued to search for urban willow Grouses. These grouses were really living close to people. But we couldn’t find any. Antti showed us a place for a Little Bunting too and we planned to visit these places again on the next morning. Finally we went to a local grill to get something to eat. Then we dropped Antti to his parents and drove to our apartment. Now I had got cold and I really needed to get some sleep.
On the 11th of June we woke up before 3 a.m. again and soon we were birding again. The weather was extremely cold – it was only 4 degrees! We tried to find the same Willow Grouses again but without luck. The Little Bunting was singing and we could see it well too but unfortunately briefly. In Säynäjäperä we couldn’t find any more buntings but a Short-eared Owl and Garden Warbler which is normally quite rare this north were observed.
Then we continued to the northern side of Kuusamo where Matolampi was almost empty and one good place for Hazel Hens wasn’t productive either even though we played the tape for some time there. From Antinperä bird-tower we saw mostly just Reindeers so soon we continued to Heikkilä where we met a couple of teams that were preparing their race (there was still 3 days to Kuusamo bird-race). One of the team members was biking and it really looked cold to do so! We heard a Little Bunting shortly and Paul saw a female Hen Harrier very briefly.
Then we drove a long way to a place where Antti had been with his groups almost every day to see a crazy Capercaillie. This bird had really been crazy, it had been tackling moving cars and tried once to get into the moving car from the open window!
So once we got there I finally had high hopes that my fame as the worst grouse finder in a World wasn’t going to grow any bigger. But when we got out from the car there was no-one attacking us! We walked around the road and then in the forest but couldn’t find anything. I called Antti and made sure that we were in the right place but nothing was found. Finally I heard something coughing in the forest and walked towards the voice and found a male Capercaillie displaying behind some trees. We all walked there and started photographing the bird. It was not at all aggressive until I went a little bit too close. It attacked me for a minute and I had to use a stick to keep some distance to it but when I got far enough from it, it started to display again. I called to Antti that the bird wasn’t that aggressive anymore so they knew about its changed behavior. And it wasn’t a surprise that I later heard that the next group hadn’t found the bird anymore.
We were happy when we started driving back to Kuusamo where we were an hour later. There we stopped in Kuusamo spoonbait shop to have a coffee (Paul and Tim) and a morning ice-cream (Janne). After all it was an expensive stop as I bought a very good polo-shirt. It had been raining all the time we were having coffee, but once we got out the weather was ok again (well extremely cold and windy but not rainy). So we drove to see the Siberian Tits again and finally we managed to get some kind of pictures of them too. Then we continued to see the Three-toed Woodpecker nest and there was a female watching out from the nest. We waited for some time it to come out or a male to show up, but after all we were happy to the head-pictures of a female. We were feeling very cold when we finally drove to our apartment to sleep.
We woke up at 6 p.m. again and soon walked to an Irish sport-bar to eat. There was a World cup qualification football game Belarus-Finland on TV, so it was good to watch it while eating. Soon we were back in our apartment where I watched the rest of the game until it sad end (a draw) before I went to sleep for an hour. Tim also slept about an hour and Paul a little bit longer, before we woke up again at midnight. We packed our car and started an extremely long drive towards Helsinki. We had hardly started when I got an idea to stop once more in the Willow Grouse places. The birds were still not there but when we left towards south again and we had been driving maybe 2 kilometers Tim saw a bird running over a walkway. Paul stopped the car and there it still was – finally a Willow Grouse!
We bought gas and soon started to drive towards Kajaani. Just before the Kuusamo border we saw a Capercaillie – I had a feeling that our luck with grouses had turned! In Paltamo we saw a Short-eared Owl and we continued towards Nurmes. In Juuka we bought gas again and in Joensuu we turned towards Liperi. In Liperi we turned to Lautasuo and there we parked to a small beach. On the parking place we met a group of twitchers that were already leaving. We met my good old friend Andreas Lindén which we had also met on our previous trip in Finland with Paul. Andy told us to hurry to the reedbed where a Paddyfield Warbler had been singing for a couple of nights already but it had been singing only shortly for the last half an hour. So we hurried there and of course heard nothing! I had been twitching 4 times this year to get a new Finnish tick and I had been unlucky every time. Anyway we decide to wait a little bit longer and finally after 20 minutes we heard a promising song from the reedbed on the other side of the small harbor. We almost ran there and luckily it was a Paddyfield Warbler! We listened to it for some time but it was in a thick reedbed where it was impossible to see. Anyway I managed to get some recording and luckily in Finland we can count a lifer from the calls and song too. The bird wasn’t active anymore even though it was still only 5:30 a.m., so soon we had to continue towards Helsinki.
We stopped to have some breakfast in Liperi and soon continued towards Varkaus. From Varkaus we continued towards Mikkeli and then I realized that we might have 30 minutes extra-time, so I made one phone call and managed to plan one more stop which was on the way. So after Mikkeli we turned towards Otava and soon I asked Paul (who was still driving) to park next to a red van. Miika “Potu” Suojarinne had been working at his home and he was more than happy to come to see us. He had been with me on my last Foula trip, so he and Paul were old friends. Soon we followed Potu to a beautiful Haanmäki forest where we had planned to make the last try to find Hazel Hens, which we still hadn’t seen – only heard (and it was a lifer species for Tim). So we walked around the forest in line for 30 minutes but all we found were a female Red-breasted Flycatcher, 2 Wood Warblers, a Treecreeper and a Crested Tit. Finally we had to give up and say goodbye to Potu and start the last 200 kilometers drive to Helsinki.
We were already a little bit late but the road was very fast now and Paul managed to drive even a little bit faster so after all we were in Helsinki-Vantaa airport and filling the tank an hour and 45 minutes before Paul and Tim’s flight. I carried my luggage to my father’s car, he was again helping me and then it was time to say goodbye to Paul and Tim. Boys continued to return the car we left towards Vihti to get my car from service. But soon I realized, in the same second that Paul called me, that I had still forgotten my tent, sleeping bag and mattress to our rental car. So we had to turn back and once we got there to garage, I still managed to say another goodbye to Paul and Tim who now had to hurry to catch their flight. Then we drove to Vihti where I got my car and we drove to Kirkkonummi where we had pizza and then I really had to go to sleep right away, I was absolutely knocked!
So a hard but successful trip was over! We had seen 163 bird-species, even though we had hardly seen sea at all – only at one midnight for some minutes. We hadn’t visited many good places to see many species but we had been mostly in forests and other habitats where weren’t that many species but the quality is good. And we had been birding almost only at nights and early mornings, so not many raptors had been seen. But our main target had been owls and we had managed to see all the important 7 species! Paul had got 4 and Tim 6 owl-lifers! The second most important target had been Wolverines and after all we had seen them well too. But then we had had some problems to find some extra-lifers for Tim, and especially grouses had proven to be extremely difficult in this time of the year. We had seen a Capercaillie, Willow Grouse and of course Black Grouses, but Hazel Hen had been only heard. Anyway we had seen Siberian Jays, Siberian Tits, Three-toed Woodpeckers, a Grey-headed Woodpecker and some other rare species like Red-flanked Bluetails, Greenish Warblers, a Siberian Stonechat, Little Buntings and a Black Redstart and heard many interesting singers like Red-breasted Flycatchers, River Warbler, a Paddyfield Warbler and many other night-singers and callers. We had also seen plenty of mammals: lots of Arctic and European Hares, 6 Elks, Reindeers, 2 Red Foxes, Musk Rats, a Red Squirrel, a Hedgehog and some smaller or unidentified animals too. But the most important thing was that we had really had good time and many my Finnish friends help had really made this trip unforgettable!
On the 23rd of May I started my way to Tampere at 6:00 a.m. and I drove straight until Hervanta where I left my car to a garage and then took a taxi to Pirkkala airport. After some waiting the British group, that I was about to guide for the next 8 days around “Southern” Finland, came with their luggage and after they had got their rental Opel Astra, we were ready to go.
The group was Sean Minns, who had contacted Hanna and then gathered a group from BirdForum users, David Bruce, Dave Bywater and Robert Ulph. The age of the group was from 39 to 64 years.
The weather was very bad, windy and rainy, so we after some shopping we started to drive straight to Oulu.
On the way we didn’t really see many birds: of course some Whooper Swans, Cranes and Black-throated Divers and so on, but the first stop was made only when it was necessary. So we stopped in Kärsämäki just for a leak, but it was a good stop as there was a Hazel Hen singing on the closest trees. I used my mp3-player and soon the Hazel Hen flew over us and landed to a tree where we could see it pretty well! It was already getting late so we hadn’t got any serious plans for the day except to get to Liminka. So we decided to try to twitch a Whiskered Tern in Utajärvi Ahmasjärvi as it would have been a Finnish lifer for me. But unfortunately the bird had disappeared once we got there. Anyway we saw some birds like a flock of Bean Geese and of course many birders that had also came there too late. Soon we continued to Oulu.
In Oulu we drove to Terek Sandpiper places where we met my old friend Antti Vierimaa who gave us a key to old information centre of Liminkabay. Antti was working as a guide in Virkkula, so he helped us to get a roof over us as the weather was still very bad. After some waiting the Terek Sandpiper started to call and soon we found it perched on a small hill. What a good bird! This species is so rare nowadays that you never know when it is the last time you see it! Soon we continued to Liminka where we went straight to sleep to the floor of the information centre. Of course we all had good mattresses and sleeping bags as the group had wanted to camp during the trip and so keep the costs down.
On the 24th of May part of the group had awaken early and they had seen some good birds like a Peregrine, Short-eared Owls, Common Rosefinch, Bluethroat, Bean Goose and so on. Luckily most of the species were found again with the rest of us too. A couple of Barnacle Geese, Black-tailed Godwits, 4 White-tailed Eagles, a Garganey, 2 Smews and so on were also seen before we continued our way.
On the way to Oulunsalo we found the first singing Ortolan Bunting and in Letto we tried to find a Hawk Owl that had been seen on the previous morning. But the wind was still extremely strong so it wasn’t a surprise that only a Sparrowhawk and a Common Rosefinch were found. In midday we met Pentti Hukkanen in Oulu and we continued with him to Kiiminki to see owls! Pentti is an old friend of my parents so he is always happy to help me with the owls that he and his son Markku really love!
On the way we saw a male Hen Harrier and surprisingly already our first Reindeers! After some walk in a deep spruce-forest we found the nest that we were looking for – a stunning Great Grey Owl female was looking at us from the nest! It was one of the main target-species of the trip!
After some time Pentti asked me to use mp3-player if the male would come to visible too and I carefully played a couple of tunes of a Great Grey Owl, first nothing happened, but then we noticed a raptor flying right over us – a male Pallid Harrier had came to see the owl! Amazing! And this wasn’t yet enough; soon we noticed that a male Great Grey Owl was also perched just on one of the closest trees! So after some photographing we were happy to leave these owls and walked back to the cars.
Then we walked some hundreds of metres to another direction where we checked a hole in the tree where a Pygmy Owl was breeding, but it was impossible to see to the nest and the male wasn’t found – we only heard female calling from the nest. So we had to continue to another nest of Pygmy Owl.
On the way we saw a Pheasant and checked one old Eagle Owl nest which unfortunately was empty this year but soon we were walking in a forest again. Now we had a Pygmy Owl nest-box and there was a female with 5 nestlings and still 2 eggs.
Soon we said thanks and goodbyes to Pentti and continued towards Kuusamo. We had planned to visit Ahmasjärvi and Whiskered Tern again as it had been again in the lake whole day but unfortunately soon it disappeared again so (luckily) we could stay on the main road on keep on driving. We stopped shortly in Ylikiiminki Hirvisuo where only a female Hen Harrier was seen before continued to Taivalkoski Lampilehto where a ringer I didn’t know had reported a family of Hawk Owls on the previous day. It was a long way but luckily we managed to find the right place with help of a GPS I had. The weather was still very windy but soon we found the first adult Hawk Owl and soon also another one and after some waiting we started to hear calls of youngsters too.
So we photographed these amazing birds and while we were photographing youngsters the adults were carrying food for the other youngsters. We found 3 youngsters from the trees and one was still in the nest-hole high on the tree. What amazing birds! But it was already getting late so we had to continue towards Kuusamo.
On the way we still saw an Elk and more Reindeers and in Kuusamo Ruka we found a couple of Willow Grouses along the road! It was already very late and it was again raining but still I decided that we should overnight in Valtavaara. On of us decided to sleep in a car but the rest of us climbed up to Valtavaara and camped there. Luckily it wasn’t raining too heavily so we managed to go to sleep dry. Even though the climbing was a little bit too hard, I was sure it was the right place to wake up next morning!
25th of May. The night was very wet but luckily it wasn’t raining at all when we woke up. And why we woke up – a Red-flanked Bluetail was singing just above our tent! Unfortunately the bird was very mobile and it stopped singing soon, so we didn’t manage to see it at all. With Sean and Dave we packed our tents soon while Rob decided to sleep a little bit more. David was up also when we were back in Konttainen parking place. He had managed to see Willow Grouses just in front of the car earlier. Soon we found a family of Siberian Jays and some Parrot Crossbills were heard too. I climbed back up to Valtavaara to help Rob with his packing. When we were again down Sean and Dave had seen a female Capercaillie and Dave and David had seen a Pygmy Owl! We still continued birding around the hills as the group had different interests and different styles of birding and we found a couple of more families of Siberian Jays, 3 Red-flanked Bluetails, but only David managed to see one female well, a Red-throated Diver flew over us and other birds were a Wren, a Chiffchaff, a Dunnock, Bullfinches, singing Hazel Hens and so on.
After some hours birding in Valtavaara and Konttainen we continued to Vuotunki bird-tower which is a good place for buntings and also many other birds. We found 23 Velvet Scoters which one of them looked amazingly just like a Steller’s Eider until it finally woke up and showed its wings! A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and an Osprey were seen and a Rustic Bunting heard “ticking” but then it started to rain very heavily, so we decided to continue towards Oulanka National Park.
On the way to Oulanka we saw a Dipper and in Oulanka we first walked to Kiutaköngäs rapid where a Grey Wagtail was heard once. Then we spent an hour in forest where we after some searching found beautiful Calypso Orchids. Sean saw a Ural Owl briefly but it wasn’t found again. A couple of Crested Tits were also heard before we continued back towards Kuusamo city.
In Ruka we saw a Waxwing perched on the top of a spruce and then we continued to a traditional area to search a nest-box of a Siberian Tit. We had met Pentti’s son Markku who was leading a Finnature group and he had his own Siberian Tit studies in Kuusamo so he could give us notes how to find the right nest-boxes and after some searching we finally found one where was a female Siberian Tit still incubating its eggs. We left the Siberian Tit soon and found a stunning Black Woodpecker while walking back to our car
In the evening we still checked Kuusamo rubbish tip where we found lots of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 6 Heuglin’s Gulls, a Great Black-backed Gull, a Temminck’s Stint and a young White-tailed Eagle flew over us.
In Säynäjäperä we stopped to check a traditional Little Bunting place and surprisingly saw a Tengmalm’s Owl flying to one of the Smew nest-boxes with a prey – it was breeding there! Also a Marsh Harrier and some Red-necked Grebes were seen.
It was again very late when we were heading to our camping place to Iivaara. On the way we saw 2 male Black Grouses but finally we were in Iivaara parking place where we made a camp to the forest and started to sleep.
26th of May. Some of the group had again awaken earlier and already seen and heard a Rustic Bunting on the Rajalampi river but luckily the bird stayed active and we all managed to see it well.
Soon we started to walk towards Iivaara hill. The forests were surprisingly quiet, only several big flocks of Common Crossbills with some odd Parrot Crossbill were heard. I was the first one to reach the top of Iivaara while the rest were resting a little bit lower along the track. And almost the first birds I found were a male and a female Two-barred Crossbill!
I whistled and shouted and luckily Rob managed to hear me and ran to see the birds and while Rob stayed there I went to find the rest of the group. Luckily the birds stayed there long enough that we all managed to see them well.
Later we found also the fledlings of Two-barred Crossbills and these sleepy birds let us photograph themselves from just some metres. While we were photographing them we heard a Pine Grosbeak singing and soon we were photographing a young male singing on the top of a spruce! What a visit to Iivaara again!
While we were walking back down to our camp a heavy hail-storm hit us! All but Rob managed to get tents and other stuff to a car before getting absolutely wet and luckily Rob had very good quality equipments so getting them wet didn’t really matter.
Then we had another long drive in front of us. We started do drive towards North Karelia and Lieksa Kitsi. The weather was again very rainy so we didn’t really have any opportunity to do any birding on the way. We did stop to watch a funny Silent people -artwork and of course did some shopping for the next 2 days as we knew there were no shops where we’re going.
Finally we parked to Loma-Kitsi where we had rooms in an old school building. From the garden we found a male Red-backed Shrike and a couple of Common Rosefinches before we had a good Elk-soup, good Finnish sauna and went to sleep.
On the 27th of May we woke up before 6 a.m. again. Just outside the building we found a couple of Wood Warblers, a Hazel Hen and a Blyth’s Reed Warbler which unfortunately left to continue its migration. Soon we were on our way to our next target Hemminvaara.
When we had parked our car and were taking all our equipments out, we already heard the first Greenish Warbler singing. This bird we also managed to attract closer to get photographed. We walked in the forests for a couple of hours and found 2 more Greenish Warblers, one more Red-flanked Bluetail that we didn’t manage to see, a nice singing adult male Red-breasted Flycatcher, several Three-toed Woodpeckers, a Honey Buzzard, a Goshawk, Wood Warbler and much more. So we got several important target species again!
Our next place was long Teretti path which lead to a bird-tower into the middle of big bogs, but as we didn’t have enough time we decided to walk just as far as we had time. Waders were surprisingly quiet so we heard only some Wood Sandpipers and Whimbrels, but some of us saw briefly an eagle flying low in a haze and disappearing soon – it might have been a Greater Spotted Eagle – for sure not a White-tailed Eagle but an Aquila. We also 3 Willow Grouses which one of them was defending its territory very aggressively! It was really attacking to us!
Its main targets were Rob’s shoes so we all managed to get good pictures and videos and of course good laugh before we let this poor bird to its territory. But soon we had to turn back, before we had reached to bird-tower, as we had to hurry to Erä-Eero where we were supposed to be at 3 p.m.
We were just in time in Erä-Eero cottage where we met Eero and another guide. After some coffee and Karelian pies we got information about the hide and how to act there. Eero luckily remembered me and it was ok that we didn’t need any other guide than me. So soon we drove to the hide following Eero who still had to come to hide all the meat for large beasts.
Just after 5 p.m. Eero left and we stayed in photographers hide and started to wait something to happen. First we practised our camera-settings with Common and Herring Gulls and a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers that were feeding with meat just in front of us.
But already before 7 p.m. a Wolverine came slowly visible to another side of the lake. It stopped to the shore and watched and sniffed to the air but soon it continued to a tree that lead over the river towards us! It came slowly closer and closer and finally started to search for food from the places it had used to find the meat that Eero had hidden. It didn’t take long when it found some meat and carried it back to where it had come from. But surprisingly it stopped under a spruce and started to eat the meat and after some time it came to get another piece of meat. Now it had to come even closer so we managed to get very good quality pictures of it!
I had given very strict instruction how we should act in a hide but anyway we were maybe a little bit too noisy so Ravens never came to get their pieces of meat. Maybe that was the reason that Brown Bears didn’t come either. David maybe saw one Bear briefly but too far in the forest to make sure what it really was. We had to also wait for Wolverines for several hours before the first visit but finally at 11 p.m. a Wolverine came to get its meat. This Wolverine was much smaller than the first one but it was already too dark to get any pictures.
28th of May. At 1:00 a.m. another Wolverine came to search for food but after that it was very quiet for a long time. Every one of us slept for some time – some longer and me only a couple of hours. There was a good snoring in a hide so it wasn’t anymore possible to see any bears. But Wolverine came still once at 4:30 but after that I also went to sleep again. Sean had still seen a Wolverine once at 6 a.m. so altogether we had seen a Wolverine 6 times – we weren’t sure if there had been 2 or 3 animals.
The group had been sleeping so well that I decided to change the plans as I was maybe the only almost too tired to continue, so we drove to Autiovaara. We walked around this 3 kilometres long path and finally found a 2nd calendar year Red-flanked Bluetail that we managed to see well. We also found 3 Red-breasted Flycatchers, 2 Wrens, a Hazel Hen and so on.
After finishing a breakfast in a parking place, we had a long drive to Tohmajärvi Värtsilä Sääperi. It was raining again very heavily but when we reached Sääperi it stopped. So we continued straight to a Great Snipe place as I had got information that they had been lekking during the day too. We were just walking along the field-road when 3 Great Snipes flushed some 30 metres from us and flew just over us and continued to different directions. Right after this it started to rain again, which was probably a reason why the birds had left – they probably wanted to get somewhere under a willow to escape the heavy rain or something. We still heard a Thrush Nightingale and a Grasshopper Warbler singing but the heavy rain forced us back to the car. We had seen the Great Snipes much easier than I had expected and the heavy rain was causing that they weren’t coming back to lek very soon, so we decided to start driving towards Parikkala right away and save some time for the rest of the trip.
Our group started to be extremely tired so I made a decision and called to Hanna that she’d ask a cottage for the next 2 nights we still had left. None of the group looked like that they’d like to be in a tent any more nights. So Hanna arranged a big cottage, or maybe more like a villa, from Loikonsaari. We managed to keep the costs down as we didn’t take any bed-clothes or towels. The villa was the biggest and best in whole Parikkala and it is the one where Russian politicians are staying when they visit Parikkala on their holidays. So it’d have been much more expensive than it now was, but we have good contacts to the owner.
On the way to Parikkala David wasn’t too tired yet as he found a perched Ural Owl while we were driving 100km/h. The bird stayed there long enough that we all managed to see it, but not enough to stay photographable.
We also stopped in Parikkala Saari Akanvaara Tetrisuo where we saw 29 Black Grouses, 2 Ortolan Buntings and 2 female Hen Harriers and in Pohjanranta bird-tower where we saw a flock of Barnacle Geese before we continued to Loikonsaari.
The owner Matti Kähkönen still showed us some things in a villa and then I left the group there and drove to home to sleep.
29th of May. We were back in Loikonsaari with Hanna at 6 a.m. and the group was already ready (which surprised me ;-)! Soon we were on our way to Siikalahti, but on the way we stopped in Särkisalmi where we heard several Thrush Nightingales and Blyth’s Reed Warblers and a Marsh Warbler. In Siikalahti dam-road we heard a couple of Spotted Crakes and surprisingly we even saw one bird flying from a reedbed to another. Also a Bittern flew over us. A Canada Goose, Slavonian Grebes and Pochards were of course seen and Water Rails heard too.
Soon we continued towards Sammallampi which is always a good place to find the first Corn Crakes of the year and the first Corn Crake was heard in a couple of minutes. A Golden Oriole was also heard. Unfortunately we couldn’t see a Corn Crake so we continued towards Suurisuo where we found another one but it also came quiet when we tried mp3-player and even more quiet when we tried to flush it.
Next we continued to a nest of a White-backed Woodpecker that Hanna had found a day earlier. Big nestlings were begging food from a couple there! We also saw and heard a Grey-headed Woodpecker very briefly in same place.
Next we continued to a Tengmalm’s Owl nest-box from where we had already ringed 3 bigger nestlings but there had been still one more, too small nestling to ring. But now the sisters had eaten the smallest one so there was nothing to ring anymore. In Tyrjä we checked a Ural Owl nest-box where surprisingly was a female still incubating an egg! The nesting must have been destroyed for some reason as there had been 2 eggs a month earlier.
Then we all started to feel too tired to continue so we drove to Loikonsaari and arranged to meet there again at 4 p.m. I must say that during the morning we had heard 25 Blyth’s Reed Warblers and 7 Thrush Nightingales and of course we had managed to see some of them well.
After some sleeping at 4 p.m. we were birding again. We headed again to Siikalahti where we had an Ortolan Bunting singing in a parking place and a Wryneck next to an information centre. But it was surprisingly quiet in a bird-tower. So soon we continued to ring some more Ural Owl nestlings. Our old crazy Ural Owl mama was as aggressive as always but I managed to get the nestlings to the car where we ringed them easily. I also managed to get the nestlings back to the nest-box easily but when I was closing the roof of the nest-box the mom-owl hit to my soft fireman-helmet very hard. Luckily we both were uninjured, but at least the group believed me as I had told that the most dangerous animal in Finland is a Ural Owl – not a Brown Bear! At least Ural Owl is the only animal I am afraid of…
In Rautalahti we counted 80 Whooper Swans and saw the first Long-eared Owl of the trip and also for the year. On the next Ural Owl nest the mom-owl was very shy so we hardly saw it at all. 2 nestlings were ringed but 2 were still too small to ring.
We still continued to Punkaharju to one small lake where a Red-throated Diver was again breeding. We didn’t go close at all as the breeding seemed not to be in the island it usually is. So maybe the nest was on the shore? So we just enjoyed good views of another adult swimming on the lake by telescope before we left back to Parikkala. We still twitched a pair of Long-tailed Tits that surprisingly was in the same place than a couple of months earlier when we had been checking the owl nest-boxes. After we had seen a couple of male Red-backed Shrikes we were ready go back to the villa. We warmed up the good wood-sauna for the group and left them to do packing and have sauna and sleep and drove to our home to sleep.
The end of tour
On the 30th of May we were ready to leave again towards Tampere at 6:15 a.m. We had planned only one stop on the way which was made in Lappeenranta Joutseno Kotasaari. After walking 1.5 kilometres from the main road to the pools, we found first 2 Little Ringed Plovers and after some searching also 11 Broad-billed Sandpipers! So David had got a lifer for each day of the trip!
At midday we were in Tampere where we got my car from the garage and continued towards Pirkkala airport. After seeing 167 species, including all target owls, woodpeckers, grouses, Red-flanked Bluetail, Siberian Tit, Siberian Jay, Great Snipes, Blyth’s Reed Warblers, Thrush Nightingales, Pallid Harrier and much more in a week it was time say goodbye to the group. Only target species that we had missed were Little Bunting, Arctic Warbler and Red-necked Phalarope – the 2 first ones hadn’t been seen in whole country yet and the last one I didn’t know any place where to see it easily without wellingtons – thanks to Ryan Air the group didn’t have them. So it wasn’t a surprise that at least some of the group said that this had been the best birding trip they had ever done – and these guys had been travelling a lot!
But after all, I had still a long holiday to do birding! And staying in Tampere wasn’t a part of my plan – so I hit the road again!