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Northern Ecuador 9th to 19th of December 2022


We were in Joensuu at North Karelia Bird Association 50-parties and BirdLife meeting when I got a message from Mika Ohtonen where he asked if I could join him to a trip to Ecuador in a few weeks. I just couldn’t pass this possibility to get birding with keen World-lister and a good guide and a driver. Mika had visited Ecuador already 5 times so the goal was to find some very difficult birds.

Soon I had ordered a book of Birds og Ecuador and I already had a Birds of Northern South America App on my phone, but as there has been more than 1600 bird-species in Ecuador, I couldn’t learn enough. I also got a route-plan from Mika but it might change depending on how we managed to find the most important target-species. But the plan was to drive straight from Quito to the eastern side of Andes where we would stay 2 or 3 days and then move to western side to Choco forests and then drive along the coast north to Colombian border and then back to Quito in 9 days.

Finally my holiday started and on the 8th of December I drove to familiar Skyline hotel where parking place was absolutely full of snow. Somehow I managed to squeeze my car to one gap between other cars and snow and after I had eaten in the restaurant I was soon ready to go to sleep.

To Ecuador

On the 9th of December I woke up very early and soon took a bus to Helsinki-Vantaa airport. There I met Mika soon and at 7:00 a.m. our flight left to Amsterdam. Surprisingly there were some mutual birder-friends traveling to Spain on the same flight.

In Amsterdam we had only a short wait for our next flight to Quito. It was a really long flight – more than 10 hours. After I had watched a couple of (bad) movies, I managed to sleep a little.

Because of we were flying over many time-zones, we landed to Quito already in the afternoon at 4:15 p.m. Luckily we found our luggage soon and in the lobby we met our driver German who didn’t speak English almost at all. We took some money from ATM and soon were packing our stuff to German’s VW Golf and started driving up towards the top of Andes.

There was still some light so we managed to see some birds like Blue-and-white Swallows, Chestnut-collared Sparrows, Eared Doves, an American Kestrel and a White-tailed Kite.

Quite is situated even 2850m high but we were driving much higher until more than 4000 meters. But then we soon started to drive down an when we finally after an hour diving were in Baeza, we were in about 200 meters.

We parked to a motel parking place and soon carried our luggage to our small cottage. Our room smelled quite bad but the motels pizzeria was really good and at least I had one of the best pizzas that I have ever had. We ordered one extra-pizza which we could take with us next morning as we weren’t sure if there was any breakfast available anywhere as we were about to start birding very early.

Gayacamayos trails

On the 10th of December we met German and our guide Marcelo Quipo who had arrived from previous guiding trip late in the evening. Marcelo had been guiding Mika on a couple of previous trips. Soon we were driving towards South and when it was starting to get a little bit light, we stopped to have breakfast in a small cafeteria in Cosanga.

After the breakfast we still drove a little to Guacamayos where from a view-watching place a small path started to go down along a valley to the forest.

In the beginning it was very quiet and we hardly found any birds but soon we had to take our cameras from the bags as first a Rufous-headed Pygmy Tyrant and then a Chestnut-bellied Thrush were showing quite well. Marcelo was really a pro-birder and he knew all the songs and calls and he also was really good in imitating many species which made it easier to know we were listening to the right calls when he immediately imitated it.

Rufous-headed Pygmy TyrantChestnut-bellied Thrush

We weren’t concentrating too much to common birds which were mostly lifers for me but tried to find one special bird that Mika had already been trying to find in this place a couple of times. Marcelo was whistling and playing tape a lot but we couldn’t find any Greater Scythebills. There had been some records quite recently but Mika knew that many birders had also missed this very rare species.

Spillmann's Tapaculo

We were continuing lower and lower to the valley and then decided to climb back up and then again down. We walked for many kilometers and it was quite hard as we were in more than 2000 meters. It was also raining very hard for some time but anyway we managed to find some very nice species like Dusky Piha, Black-chested and Green-and-black Fruiteater, Montane Woodcreeper, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, several different tanagers and hummingbirds, a tiny bird that was running across the path like a mouse – a Spillmann’s Tapaculo and many other species that were seen very briefly or just heard. For example a Geoffroyi’s Daggerbill was calling very long time just under one cliff behind some bushed but never came visible. Other birds that were only heard were a White-throated Toucanet, a Chestnut-crowned and Slate-crowned Antpitta, an Emerald-bellied Puffleg, a Green-backed Hillstar and so on.

Luckily we had also some pizza with us as we really climbed up and down a lot! Finally we had climbed back to the parking lot where German was waiting for us. We continued a short way to the northern side of the mountain and on the way we saw some Southern Lapwings. And soon we were climbing next to a oil-pipe very steep hill up towards the top of the mountain. The path was extremely steep and slippery but somehow we managed not to fall down. It was already midday so there weren’t much bird-activity. But we managed to see some nice birds like a Sickle-winged Guan and a Powerful Woodpecker and again hear some more new species. But still we couldn’t find any Greater Scythebills.

Our ordinary plan was to drive to eat to Baeza but Mika was still keen to keep on searching so we decided to drive back to our ordinary path. We sent German to eat and started walking down along the path once again. We didn’t walk long until Mika saw a reddish bird in flight and soon we both heard and saw it on a tree – it was a Greater Scythebill! And soon also a second bird flew to the same tree and it stayed visible for quite some time and we managed to get some pretty good pictures of this super-rare bird!

Greater ScythebillGreater Scythebill

Green-and-black Fruiteater

Because of German had just left, we decided to keep on walking and walked even to lower to the valley than in the morning. We soon met a couple of British World-listers along the path and they had been walking along the path for whole day. They had been quite low in the valley. They had crazy numbers of world-ticks, more than 8000 and more than 9000! But they still needed Greater Scythebill. We of course gave good instructions how to find the birds and quite soon they started climbing up. But later we heard that they hadn’t managed to find them.

Lower down Mika managed to hear a few calls of a rare Peruvian Antpitta but even though we tried quite some time, it didn’t call anymore when we were all there. But many other nice birds were found. Now we could concentrate also to more common birds when the main target-bird of the day (or even the whole trip) was on the bag.

Rufous-banded Owl

It was already getting late when we were driving back towards Baeza. But we still had one target on the way and it was found quite easily. Marcelo played some tape and soon we had a Rufous-banded Owl perched above us on the top of a tree. I wasn’t prepared to this easy twitch and I hadn’t got my camera ready but I was carrying my thermal-camera, so I got only pictures with that as the bird didn’t stay on the tree long enough.

In the evening we decided to stay in a different motel as we didn’t want to make our lungs sick with bad air that as in our previous room. We had already climbed so much in thin air that our lungs really needed some rest too. My watch told that I had been moving 389% of my daily goal. Also this Hostal La Casa de Rodrigo had a good restaurant and this time we ate fish. There were several rapid-paddlers staying in the motel. There for sure were good places for their hobby around.

Cosanga area

Geoffroyi's Daggerbill

On the 11th of December Marcelo arrived with a new driver Byron and soon we were having a breakfast in Cosanga again. Once we were moving again, we stopped next to a rapid but unfortunately there were no Torrent Ducks or White-capped Dippers but some Torrent Tyrannulets and Black Phoebes. Soon we continued to Rio Bemejo valley. There we immediately found a Geoffroyi’s Daggerbill that we managed to see pretty well and get some pictures too. Then we started a serious search of a Semicollared Hawk.

The views were excellent but we checked many dead trees with Marcelo’s telescope and without finding the Semicollared Hawk. But many other nice birds were of course found like a White-throated Toucanet, a Streak-headed Antbird, a Crested and a Golden-headed Quetzal, a Yellow-browed Sparrow, a couple of Black-billed Peppershrikes, a nice Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, a very beautiful Inca Jay, Blackish and Long-tailed Tapaculos, a Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet, an Andean Solitaire and different kind of wrens, tanagers, warblers and so on.

Streak-headed AntbirdRufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher

Inca JayGolden-headed Quetzal

After mid-day we parked next to Guango Lodge and then walked a short trail on the hillside on the other side of the road. We hoped to find some Red-hooded Tanagers but we weren’t lucky with them. We didn’t see many other birds either just several hummingbirds very briefly. Anyway a few nice birds were found like a Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, a Smoke-colored Pewee, a Slaty-backed and a Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant and so on.

When we walked to the garden of the Lodge we saw an Andean Guan and a Masked Trogon immediately and in the garden I experienced my first hummingbird-feeders ever. So soon we were photographing hummingbirds like Tourmaline Sunangels, Buff-tailed Coronets, White-bellied Woodstars, Long-tailed Sylphs, Chestnut-breasted Coronets and also one Sword-billed Hummingbird. Also a Northern Mountain Cacique, a Turquoise Jay, a Capped Conebill, a Flammulated Treehunter and many other birds were seen.

Buff-tailed CoronetChestnut-breasted Coronet

Tourmaline SunangelLong-tailed Sylph

White-bellied WoodstarHooded Mountain Tanager

But soon we had to continued towards the top of Andes and soon we were searching for a Crestcent-faced Antpitta near Papallacta. But today we weren’t lucky with target-species and we could find only a few other birds like a Black-backed Bush Tanager and we also heard an Equatorial Antpitta and a Paramo Tapaculo. After some searching we had to give up and continue driving over the top.

Black-backed Bush TanagerPlumbeous Sierra Finch

Sun was already setting when we stopped on the highest top along the road and saw a Stout-billed Cincloides and a couple of Plumbeous Seirra Finches. It was freezing cold wind up there! We still made a short stop in an open area where Spectacled Bears are sometimes seen but again we had no luck.

Then we drove until Quito where we had accommodation in very nice Casa Magnolia. Wit would have been nice to stay there longer but now we had time for only a few hours sleep.


On the 12th of December we were very early awake and already at 3:30 a.m. driving to our next target-place. We drove smaller and smaller roads and climbed up to Yanacocha.

On the way we saw a Band-winged Nightjar that flushed from the road in front of us. Finally just before 5 a.m. we were on a locked gate that was supposed to get opened at 5 o’clock for us. After some waiting we saw a motorcycle’s lights and soon we could continue driving along very small track higher towards the top of a mountain in this private protection area.

Mika knew that our birds were beginning their display about at 5:15 a.m. and stop quite soon so we were really in a hurry! We drove as long as we could along the track but when it got too bad we took our bags and continued by feet.

Soon Marcelo heard the first Imperial Snipe but it was quite distant so we kept on running towards the top where should be more open area so we could possibly see these snipes displaying on the sky.

We were running a kilometer or so and finally got to an open area. Soon Marcelo saw a snipe in flight but it was still so dark that we missed it. Marcelo was using his torch and I was scanning the sky with my thermal-camera. And finally I also saw one bird flying against the sky. Marcelo played some tape too and then one bird flew right over us! We didn’t have our cameras ready yet as it was still quite dark, but now we had to prepare for the similar flight. Unfortunately all at least birds all stayed further so I couldn’t get any flight shots.

For some time we heard these birds displaying but soon they stopped. It was good that we had come so early!

We were walking along the path quite some time playing the tape but heard only a couple of distant answers from the snipes. It seemed that they were already calling from the ground or trees. We of course started to find other interesting birds too so I got quite a few lifers again. Some birds to mention were Undulated Antpittas, a White-browed Spinetail, a White-throated Tyrannulet, an Ocellated Tapaculo, a Superciliaried Hemiphingus, a Glossy Flowerpiercer and so on. Again most birds were just heard or seen very briefly.

Finally we started to walk back towards our car and still Marcelo kept on playing the tape here and there. Suddenly we heard an answer about 100 meters in front of us. Mika and Marcelo climbed down to along very steep hillside into the dense forest but I decided to stay on the track if I could see something from there as it was much more open there. It really seemed hopeless as the vegetation was extremely thick but after some time I heard a whistle – the bird had been found! I climbed down very carefully and there it was – an Imperial Snipe was perched on a branch! I didn’t want to go too close ao I took my pictures a little bit further which was good as quite soon the bird started to move and then flew to another branch a little bit further. Then we decided to climb back to the path and continue to our car.

Imperial SnipeImperial Snipe

We were extremely happy as we had got really good pictures of a bird that not many birders have ever seen. Along the path there was a couple of places where were very nice view to the mountains.

View on AndesCarunculated Caracara

We drove just a little bit lower and saw a couple of Carunculated Caracaras and a Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle flying on the sky. Then we parked our car again and walked a couple of kilometers along a path to a place where were several feeders. And here we could take pictures of different hummingbirds and also some other nice species.

While we were photographing hummingbirds we heard a White-throated Screech Owl calling nearby and soon found a couple of birds perched very close to each other on one tree. We of course took some pictures and soon were back to photograph Buff-winged Starfrontlets, Golden-breasted Pufflegs, Great Sapphirewings, Masked and Glossy Flowerpiercers, absolutely beautiful Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanagers, Yellow-breasted Brushfinches and after quite a lot of trying I finally managed to get some pictures of also a Sapphire-vented Puffleg and a Sword-billed Hummingbird too. We saw plenty of other birds too but soon we had to keep on going.

Golden-breasted PufflegWhite-throated Screech Owl

Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager and Masked FlowerpiercerSapphire-vented Puffleg

Buff-winged StarfrontletSword-billed Hummingbird

Shining Sunbeam

A little bit lower we ate on a small restaurant that had been opened only for us. It was very foggy so there wasn’t much activity on the feeders but luckily we found a couple of Shining Sunbeams which I managet to photograph too. It was really so foggy that my camera suffered to find the bird at all.

Bellavista area

We continued driving through Tandayapa Valley and from the moving car and a couple of short stops we could find some new birds. For example a Cloud-forest Pygmy Owl, a Broad-winged Hawk, a Flammulated Treehunter, a Narino Tapaculo, a Choco Brushfinch and so on were observed.

From Bellavista Lodge feeders we found again new hummingbirds and there we could photograph Buff-tailed Coronets, Fawn-breasted Brilliants, Speckled Hummingbirds, Collared Incas, Gorgeted Sunangels and Violet-tailed Sylphs and so on. Unfortunately light wasn’t very good for photographing.

Collared IncaGorgeted SunangelFawn-breasted BrilliantViolet-tailed Sylph

But soon we had to hurry again and on the way we saw a Plate-billed Mountain Toucan before sun started to set. We were closing places where Tanager Finches had been seen in the past and also quite recently. After one turn Mika told that: “This looks like the place where we had them last time”. We stopped and right away we found 3 Tanager Finches feeding along the road. One bird was young and they all were showing extremely well. Light was already bad but we managed to get some good pictures of this extremely rare species.

Tanager FinchTanager Finch

It was completely dark when we continued to Mindo where we still went to search for a Black-and-white Owl. Marcelo had recently seen 3 birds in same place but now we tried a long time there but heard only a funny-sounding Common Potoo. We were also walking a lot along the road and I was scanning every tree with my thermal-camera but all I found was a Sloth and an Ocelot and many sleeping passerines.

Black-and-white Owl
After long trying we still decided to drive a little and stop in one more place just a little bit further along the road. Marcelo played the tape once again and immediately we heard a response! And soon we found a nice Black-and-white Owl perching on a top of one tree. It had really been a very long day and finally we were in San Sebastian de Los Blancos where we had an accommodation.

To Rio Canande

On the 13th of December we slept a little bit longer and so when we were packing our car, we managed to see some bird in the motel-garden. Some species I was familiar with from French Guiana but of course there were some lifers too like Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Andean Emerald, Ecuadorian Thrush, Black-winged Saltator, Pacific Hornero and Choco Tyrannulet.

We had a long drive to Rio Canande. Along the way we didn’t see much but a couple of common birds that were new for me. The most surprising part of the trip was a short ferry-trip over a river. The ferry was moving by an outboard motor but anyway it took several cars in.

Little Cuckoo

After the river crossing we started to see more birds, several different tangaras, a Little Cuckoo that was a new bird for Mika and for example a Blue-chested Hummingbird, a Snail Kite Southern Rough-winged and White-thighed Swallows and so on.

Finally we arrived to Rio Canande and parked to Choco Lodge that was together with a forest research institute. We got an own cabin that was under long stairs. There we had a room with Mika and Marcelo and Byron had their own.

Right away we started to see some nice birds like a Barred Puffbird, a Purple-chested Hummingbird, Yellow-throated Toucans with a single Choco Toucan, Rose-faced Parrots and so on.

Barred PuffbirdYellow-throated Toucan

Pretty soon we were ready to go birding. The path started just behind our cottage and soon we were climbing hills in the middle of rainforest. The paths were named after birds and first we were walking along Choco Tapaculo trail and when we got higher we continued to Banded Bay Cuckoo trail.

It seemed that all birds were again new to me so I got lifers all the time. It was hard to keep track of them. We found a Spot-crowned Antvireo, Speckled Mourner, a Brown-capped Tyrannulet, a Song Wren, a Tawny-faced Gnatwren, a Band-tailed Barbthroat, a Choco Manakin, a Western Woodhaunter, different kind of flycatcher and antbird kind of birds and so on.

Speckled MournerBand-tailed Barbthroat

After some more climbing along slippery trail we found also a singing Blue-black Grosbeak, a Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, a Lita and a Cinnamon Woodpecker, a Yellow-margined Flatbill, a Rufous Piha, a couple of different woodcreepers, tanagers, wrens and then heard the first Great Tinamou too. But seeing any birds in this dark forest was very difficult especially when most of the birds were moving on the top of trees.


After one more hill that we had climbed up we found a funny-looking Armadillo that was digging something from the side of the path. It was in a very dark place but somehow I managed to get one decent picture of it even though I was walking last and I had to find a clear view behind a couple of photographers equipments and backs.

When we were climbing the longest uphill we heard calls of Baudo Guans. We tried to get closer and Marcelo managed to see one bird on a branch but then an unlucky slip of one of us scared both us and the bird that flew away.

It was getting dark when we hurried back towards the lodge. When it was completely dark we heard the first Choco Screech Owl calling and soon heard another one very close. This bird was found easily and we managed to get very good pictures of it. Meanwhile there was also a Mottle Owl calling nearby.

Choco Screech OwlSpectacled Owl

Finally we were at the lodge and went straight to eat to a restaurant building that was very close to our cottage. After the dinner we still did a short drive and tried to find Choco Poorwills but it was probably too late evening already. I was scanning the surrounding with my thermal-camera again and luckily found a Spectacled Owl perched very close to us. It flew a little bit further but we still got some pictures of this beautiful owl. Finally we drove back to the lodge and at least I was completely tired! I just went to sleep right away.

Botrosa road

On the 14th of December we woke up very early again as we wanted to drive far along the Botrosa road to start birding there when the sun rises. We had both breakfast and lunch packed well with us.

We didn’t need to make many stops until we heard the first Choco Poorwill and soon we found one bird perched on a branch. Unfortunately it was a little bit too far to get enough light to it to get any pictures.

Other early morning observations were a couple of Crested Guans, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, a Zeledon’s Antbird, Choco Trogons, and then first only heard Long-wattled Umbrellabirds that were first seen just distantly but then they flew almost right over us. Male umbrellabird was really amazing-looking! Also a couple of Chestnut-fronted Macaws, a Guayaquil Woodpecker, beautiful Swallow-tailed Kites, a couple of Lanceolated Monklets and a Dagua Thrush were also found.

Crested GuanLong-wattled Umbrellawing

We were doing so called roadside birding so that we were walking a lot along the road and Byron was following us with car. Then we drove a little bit and soon started to walk again.

Marcelo was all the time playing tape for a few target-species. Especially Central American Pygmy Owl and Plumbeous Forest Falcon were playing so much that our ears were almost bleeding, but unfortunately neither of them was calling back. But we did hear a Berlepsch’s Tinamou and saw Tawny-crested Tanagers and a Red-rumped Woodpecker before we finally heard an answer to one of the calls that Marcelo had been playing. We walked inside the forest to get closer to the caller and after some searching I managed to find a chicken-like shape with my thermal-camera. And then this Tawny-faced Quail was possible to find also with binoculars and even with camera. I managed to get a couple of pictures of this very difficult to find bird through branches and leaves.

Lanceolated MonkletTawny-faced Quail

While searching for the quail we managed to find also a Spotted Antbird and a Plain Xenops and to listen to a Song Wren’s strange song.

It was good to find out that some species that I was familiar with from French Guiana were easy to pick up even only from the calls. But then some new species had extremely similar calls and many times I thought I had found a familiar bird but was lucky to find out that it was one more lifer. One bird I was already familiar was a King Vulture and it was nice to see 4 birds soaring together on the sky.

Grey-backed Hawk, Greenish Elaenia, Moustached Antwren, Red-capped Manakin, One-colored Becard and after a long search briefly seen Choco Woodpecker were all new birds like also White-necked Puffbird, Scarlet-browed Tanager, Orange-fronted Barbet, Purple-crowned Fairy, Snowy-throated Kingbird, Swallow Tanager and a beautiful couple of Scarlet-breasted Dacnises that we found later.

White-necked PuffbirdScarlet-breasted Dacnis

Black-tipped Cotinga

On one stop we had a nice view over the cloud-forests and with Marcelo’s scope we managed to find a couple of snowy-white Black-tipped Cotingas. Male cotingas aren’t calling at all but on their display they just perch on the top of trees and are showy.

We still stopped and walked for many times and played tape a lot but couldn’t find more target-species. Finally it was getting late and we drove quite fast back to the lodge where at least I had no difficulties to fall asleep.

Same places again

On the 15th of December we slept a little bit longer and aftre breakfast we went to walk along the same tracks on the first afternoon in Rio Canande.
We found mostly the same species as on our first walk but of course also something new. Already to our terrace we heard a funny-sounding Wattled Guan and soon we had found also a Rufous Mourner and Rufous Piha, heard a Buff-rumped Warbler, a Checker-throated Stipplethroat and seen briefly a Velvety Manakin.

Crested Guan

Weather was rainy and higher there was very thick fog so we had to keep our cameras in waterproof bags. Because of the fog we couldn’t see the flock of Blue-fronted Parrotlets that flew over us a couple of times. At the top we found a mobile flock of noisy Bicolored and Ocellated Antbirds. They probably had a swarm of army-ants to follow inside the forest. We also heard a White-ringed Flycatcher.

Because of the bad weather we were walking back down sooner than we had planned. Then we found a flock of 5 guans that at least 2 of them were Baudo Guans but they disappeared to the forest too quickly – only one Crested Guan stayed photographable.

Black Howler

A little bit lower along the path we finally heard the first Choco Tapaculo and managed to see it briefly but then one big Black Howler monkey started to make some attacks towards us on the top of tree. It didn’t come too close but it was extremely aggressive, noisy and even threw us with a meter long branch. So we started to feel quite uncomfortable and decided not to try to photograph the tapaculo but move slowly further from the monkey.

Once we were back at the lodge we had once again really good food and even relaxed a little. Byron surprised us and found a Great Jacamar perched on a tree next to our cottage.

Great JacamarPale-mandibled Aracari

Rose-faced Parrot

We also went to see the research laboratories with the young manager of the place. The lab was on the top floor and there were big windows from where it was nice view to surrounding forest. From the windows we noticed that there was a huge mixed flock on a tree next to our cottage. We hadn’t got a scope with us so we soon hurried to see the flock better and could see at least 22 species visiting the tree. There was probably a snake or some other predator hiding in the tree-top. For example Rose-faced Parrots, a couple of Violet-bellied Hummingbirds, a Blue-whiskered and a Guira Tanager were seen amongst many other colorful species. There was a sign just next to the stairs that told to be careful with snakes but we saw only one snake on the whole trip but it was exactly on those stairs.

In the afternoon we were roadside-birding again along Botrosa road but for some reason we couldn’t find many birds. When we were already driving back towards the lodge, we stopped next to a small village where was a nice view and some flowering trees. Mika saw an interesting-looking hummingbird very briefly so we decided to stay there longer. And after a long wait it come back and we immediately took pictures of it and from the pictures we could tell that it was an Esmeralda’s Woodstar – a very rare and local hummingbird that was usually seen in Southern Ecuador! I also got pictures of a Golden-hooded Tanager that visited the same bush.

Golden-hooded TanagerEsmeralda's Woodstar

On the 16th of December we went once more early to Botrosa road and drove a long way to the places for Central American Pygmy Owl and Plumbeous Forest Falcon. We were playing tape and walking, stopping, driving and so on for the whole morning but these birds weren’t found. But already early in the morning we found a Choco Sirystes which was showing well and we got some pictures too but it never came very close. On the next tree-top we saw a Snowy-throated Kingbird which also was a bit too far for good pictures.

Choco SirystesSnowy-throated Kingbird

Along Botrosa road there were forest-cuts going on as en electricity was being made to the village somewhere further in the middle of the rain-forest. Because of wee had tried everything else already we decided to walk a small path into the forest if our target-birds had moved further from the road because of the disturbance. We found a calling Berlepsch’s Tinamou but it didn’t come visible even though we tried. Then we found a couple of raptors building their nest on the top of one tree but even though they first looked quite promising, we identified them as Tiny Hawks which was of course a nice observation too but we had really worked hard to find forest falcon…

Tiny HawkSouthern Mealy Amazon

Otherwise the observations were pretty much the same as on our previous drive in the area. Of course all the new species were again lifers for me like Semiplumbeous Hawk, Choco Elaenia, Yellow-bellied Siskin and so on. We didn’t get many photographing opportunities either but of course we managed to get some pictures.

Chestnut-fronted MacawLong-tailed Tyrant

To the shore

We still ate in the lodge restaurant and then it was time to start driving first towards the civilization and then towards coast. Surprisingly soon we were on the ferry again and right away there were villages and towns. We had a long drive so we really didn’t have time to make any stops.

Once we reached the shore we saw a few trip-ticks from the moving car like an Osprey, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Brown Pelicans and some egret. But we still had a long way to go. When we finally made it to Las Peñas the first hotel that we tried to get was fully booked – or at least we were told so. Luckily the second one had room and we got a safe place to stay at night. We were now in the area where normal tourists are not coming because of it really is not very safe.

Las Peñas

On the 17th of December I woke up at too early morning when my bed and actually whole house was shaking! It took a few seconds to realize it was an earthquake! It lasted about 20 seconds but I was so tired that when it stopped I almost immediately fell asleep again. It was quite a surprise when we later in the afternoon found out that it had been the strongest earthquake of the whole year in Ecuador and only some tens of kilometers from ys but deep in the sea. It had been 5.3 magnitudes and then later another one had been 4.4 magnitudes but I didn’t wake up to that one.

In the morning we tried to find a place to eat breakfast but nothing was open so early. So we left birding. We didn’t drive long before we made the first stop and Marcelo started to play tape again and almost immediately a Dwarf Cuckoo flew to a tree next to us!

Dwarf CuckooGreen Kingfisher

We tried for some time to get good pictures of the Dwarf Cuckoo but at least I couldn’t get any good ones. We also saw and photographed Masked Water Tyrants, Mangrove Warblers, a female Vermilion Flycatcher, a Green Kingfisher and a flock of White Ibises that flew over us.

Masked Water TyrantAmerican White Ibis

Next we continued along the road past some pools to a bridge and in this river-area there were records of a rare Humboldt’s Sapphire. We were in this are for a long time but saw only a few other hummingbird-species briefly. There would have been another place for this species in San Andreas but it wasn’t safe place to go birding. Luckily we saw many other birds like a Slaty Becard, a Pacific Antwren, a White-browed Gnatcatcher and it was nice birding but first time during the trio it started to get very hot.

White-browed GnatcatcherPacific Antwren

Red-legged HoneycreeperTropical Parula
We drove back to Las Peñas to eat to a restaurant that was right next to the shore. Already in the parking place we managed to get pictures of a Croaking Ground Dove. And from the terrace we could see Royal Terns and Brown Pelicans flying over the sea and Magnificent Frigatebirds flying above the beach and a couple of times they came to soar right above us.

Croaking Ground DoveMagnificent Frigatebird

Neotropic Cormorant

Soon we passed the pools again and stopped by the same bridge again to search for hummingbirds. But still we couldn’t find the right one. A Neotropic Cormorant was swimming under the bridge and I managed to get some good pictures of it and a couple of Olivaceous Piculets were seen in a dense tree where they weren’t easy to see at all and almost impossible to get any pictures.

We also went to walk to a pathway that was in the middle of mangrove but we couldn’t find many birds there. But in the garden of this private protected area we saw a nice Gartered Trogon and heard a Blue Ground Dove. But still we found no Humboldt’s Sapprire.

Ecuadorian Ground DoveGartered Trogon

Finally we had to go to get our luggage from our hotel and now we stopped for a few seconds by the pools and managed to see some egrets, Blue-winged Teals and also a White-cheeked Pintail. For sure there would have been some trip-ticks and also lifers for me but we had a tight schedule and we had to keep on going.

Shorter stops

The next stop was made in forest area near San Francisco where we tried to find Blue Cotinga. We saw immediately some Scaled Pigeons flying and after some roadside-birding we had found also a Black-breasted Puffbird, a Five-colored Barbet and heard a Toucan Barbet and a Uniform Crake. On a couple of places there was a nice view over the rain-forest and with scope and binocula

Otherwise the observations were pretty much the same as on our previous drive in the area. Of course all the new species were again lifers for me like Semiplumbeous Hawk, Choco Elaenia, Yellow-bellied Siskin and so on. We didn’t get many photographing opportunities either but of course we manged to get some pictures.

rs we could find first a Masked Tityra and then Mika found a distant bright blue spot – a Blue Cotinga!

Five-colored BarbetBlue Cotinga

In the evening we drove to San Lorenzo which is famous drug-town. We went straight to eat so we wouldn’t have to move in the city more than necessary. I have never got so big portion of food before!

Then we drove straight to our hotel where was preparation for big parties going on. I asked for a room that was as far a s possible from the party-area and got a cheap room from a high-rise. While I was climbing the stairs up to my room I saw an American Barn Owl flying to a big tree nearby. After all I managed to sleep very well even though the parties continued until early morning.

On the 18th of December we woke up very early again. There were people sleeping here and there in the restaurant-area – the parties had been good. We soon drove to Carondelet where we soon found a Pearl Kite and a Bat Hawk.

We continued towards Awa road and still made a couple of stops on a steep hillside to play tapes. From the top we saw a steep cliff and soon we saw a falcon flying behind it. Luckily it came back visible soon and then landed to the cliff – and it was an Orange-breasted Falcon.
Pearl KiteOrange-breasted Falcon

Awa road

Because of there were nothing calling back to our tapes we soon continued to Awa road where after a couple of stops we were in a place where it was impossible to drive further as the road was so awful. So we had to keep on by feet. There were quite a few people walking towards us as they were going to work and school. We didn’t see many houses along the road so I have no idea where they all were coming from.

Soon we started to find some birds and a Crowned Woodnymph, a Stripe-billed Aracari, a Maroon-tailed Parakeet, a Stub-tailed Antbird, an Olive-crowned Yellowthroat and finally a few Yellow-green Tanagers were found. While we were photographing Yellow-green Tanagers we found also a couple of amazing Scarlet-and-white Tanagers and the beautiful male was showing quite well while the quite ordinary-looking female was hiding extremely well all the time.

Yellow-green TanagerScarlet-and-white Tanager

After some more kilometers walk we found also a few Golden-chested Tanagers and also they let us to take some pictures. And our tanager-walk came even more perfect when we were walking back all these birds were showing even better and then also an Emerald Tanager and a Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo were showing extremely well.

Golden-chested TanagerEmerald Tanager

We had really had good time but we still had interesting times ahead. Marcelo had got a message from Byron that Argentina was leading France in football World Cup final. When we were had walked to the car the game was still 2-0 but almost immediately France made a goal. So we stuck to watch the game from Byron’s phone. And soon France equalized!

On the last minute of the normal time France got a free-kick and then the connection stopped. We had to start driving along the road back and try to find a place with a connection. And once we found it an extra-time was beginning.

Byron was sitting in a car with a shadow and the rest of us were standing outside and watching from the window to his phone. Marcelo was too nervous to watch so he kept on playing tapes. Then Messi made it 3-2 but soon Mbabbe equalized. On the last seconds French player still get amazing opportunity but Argentina’s goalkeeper Emilio Martinez managed somehow to stop the ball. So soon it was time for penalties!

While penalties we had some disturbance as Marcelo managed to attract a nice Choco Woodpecker to pose to the closest tree so we had to take some pictures. We were always hurrying to see a penalty and then back to get more pictures. We all were hoping Argentina to win and we were all really happy when they did!

Slaty-capped Shrike-VireoChoco Woodpecker

After the game we still had a long drive until Hosteria San Geronimo where we got rooms. Luckily the restaurant was still open se we managed to eat too. And then I was ready get some shut-eye.

Chical road

On the 19th of December we were once again awake very early and soon we crossed the river and started driving along Chical road towards Colombian border. When the sun was rising we were already on the mountains and in plces where to find our target-birds.

Once again Marcelo was playing tape a lot but our main-target was missing. But we found for example a Yellow-breasted Antpitta, a White-crested Elaenia, a Uniform Treehunter, a Spotted Barbtail, a Blue-capped, a Rufous-throated and a Glistening-green Tanager and then a very good Star-chested Treerunner which we also got some pictures.

Star-chested TreerunnerBrown Inca

Also a Wahite-faced Nunbird was a really good find. It was calling on a distant tree but we saw it well. And luckily after a long search we finally found one Beautiful Jay too. It came to see us very shortly and I couldn’t get very good pictures of it.

White-faced NunbirdBeautiful Jay

We also saw another Plate-billed Mountain Toucan and also a beautiful Purplish-mantled Tanager was showing very well. But then our tight schedule meant that we had to start driving back. We were driving quite fast towards out hotel but still on the way Marcelo found a really good bird when a nice Ecuadorian Seedeater was perched next to the road.

Plate-billed Mountain ToucanPurplish-mantled Tanager

Cloud forests

Back to Quito

At the hotel I did my check-in which took a long time with bad internet connection. And then we started a long drive through mountains back to Quito. Luckily there weren’t too many surprises on the way, just one truck that had fallen to the road side. Luckily it was fell off the road.

We had planned to make at least one stop on the way either on Ibarra Yanacocha or near Otavalo in San Pablo but the driving was slowly and then we spent too much time trying to find an open restaurant. Luckily a restaurant was finally found but only one more new bird was found as a couple of Andean Coots were swimming on San Pablo. For sure there would have been many new species to me but I have to come back one day.

Finally we were in Quito and San Mariscal airport. It was time to say thanks and goodbye to Marcelo and Byron. We then had a really long traveling ahead.

Group photo

To home

The airport was extremely busy and after all we had to ask people to let us in front of the queues as 2 hours wasn’t enough to get through. Luckily people were friendly and we got to our gate just in time and just to find out that the boarding hadn’t even started.

Finally our flight left before 6 p.m. and surprisingly flew first to totally wrong direction and landed to Guayaquil. There we had to get out to the airport for more than 30 minutes before returning back to the same plane. And then we had an extremely long flight to Amsterdam – 11 hours!

I was sleeping like a baby most of the flight and finally we landed to Amsterdam on the 20th of December at 1:20 p.m. local time. Then we had a long 7 hours waiting for the next flight. Somehow we managed to spend time and finally our flight to Helsinki left at 8:20. We arrived to Helsinki-Vantaa at midnight and luckily our luggage arrived. Mika had his wife and son picking him up and it was time to say goodye.

I took a bus to Skyline Hotel where snow had melted so much that I managed to find my car and even drive it out. I had been sleeping so well that I decided to start driving to Parikkala. Finally I was at home about 5 a.m. and luckily I had one more day free before going to work.


French Guiana 16th of July to 5th of August


Covid had ruined all trips that we had planned to do together for last 2.5 years. I had managed to get to Tanzania in late winter but finally it started to look positive that we could do a trip together too. Still on last winter one planned trip had been cancelled because of the whole destination had been closed for tourists. But now we started to plan a trip to French Guiana which is one of the least known areas in European Union – a French department in South America.

We had already for some years talked that we should one day visit French Guiana because of it could be the easiest way to start birding in South America but also because there is ESA international space-center. Hanna has always wanted to see a rocket launching in live but it is not easy as the launch schedule changes and there are often delays because of bad weather or so on.

A French group of birders had visited French Guiana last winter and we knew one of the participants, Paul Duforney. We got some information and all their observation from ebird. They had got a local guide for most of their trip and we also contacted to same guide but soon we got information that he was going to be on holiday in France during our trip. We contacted a couple of other potential guides too but only one that answered (because was maybe only one speaking English) was also going to France. But anyway we got some more information from both locals too which helped to plan the trip. Then we also got possibility to use local bird-observation app and of course used also lots of ebird which was easier to use as it was in English.

We did quite a lot of shopping because of we needed new clothes and other stuff that were necessary in very hot and humid Amazonia. We started to pack about one week before the trip and finally a couple of days before the trip we had managed to book all the necessary accommodations and a couple of trips and finally locked the final tour-program. Hanna had made a huge work contacting many places by using google-translation because of we didn’t get almost any answers to English emails. Excitement was getting high also because of a rocket-launch that had supposed to be much earlier had been cancelled and moved now to happen only 2 days before our trip – we just needed one tiny delay more…

To French Guiana

Finally on Thursday the 14th of July we started driving towards Helsinki. We stopped a couple of times on the way and finally were in Skyline airport hotel where we had booked a room. Our ordinary parking place was gone by covid and now we had found out that cheapest and easiest way was to book a room and then leave car to hotel parking place.

In the evening we ate well in hotel restaurant and still packed some things better before we went to sleep early.

On the 15th of July we woke up before 4 a.m. and soon we took a free bus to the airport. Our luggage was almost too heavy and luckily our carry on back bags weren’t weighed. Corona certificates weren’t asked anymore and there were almost no queues at all, so soon we were on our gate.

At 9:25 a.m. our flight Paris to left. It was late for about half an hour. The flight went by watching movies and about at midday we were on Paris. It was a long way to another terminal. We walked a lot and took a bus too. But again we were early at the gate and then we found out that again our flight was delayed. About an hour late our flight finally left to Cayenne a bit after 4 p.m.

It was a long flight and again I had a child sitting behind me who was kicking the seat all the time. So I really didn’t sleep much. We flew over many time-zones so it was still the same evening when we landed to Cayenne before 8 p.m. local time. Luckily we found our luggage quickly.

We got our car-keys from Sixt and soon we were walking towards the parking place. We had a lot to carry and it was extremely hot and humid outside. In thick fog we managed to find our tiny Suzuki which was at least number smaller than it was supposed to be. But we were so tired of all traveling that we just packed our car full and left driving.

We had our navigator with us and it had South America maps. So driving was very easy. There was surprisingly much traffic but all laws, limits and signs were like in Europe – we were indeed in France and EU! Roads were quite bad and outside the main roads they were awful. There were huge holes everywhere! And our car had extremely low ground clearance.

We stopped a couple of times to listen to evening sounds but heard only insects. At least we didn’t identify any birds.

Finally we turned to Hotel Belova parking place which was almost full as the hotels restaurant was very popular. We got our room where we unpacked everything we were going to need in the morning and soon we were ready to go to sleep.

In Cayenne

Pale-breasted Thrush

On Saturday the 16th of July we woke up at 5:30 a.m. and at 6 we were driving towards Mont Rorota which we had planned to be our first destination. There we could start getting familiar with South American birds. Just before we turned to road that led to Rorota, we saw the first birds – a Pale-breasted Thrush and soon also a nice Blue-grey Tanager was seen. And while climbing up towards Rorota we saw the first Great Kiskadees and Rusty-margined Flycatchers.

When we got to the parking place the sun was just rising and from the pond that was nearby we found White-winged Swallow, Grey-breasted and Brown-chested Martins and one Barn Swallow too. On the bushes we saw some Silver-beaked Tanagers and on the sky we saw Short-tailed Swifts and a couple of Black Vultures. We heard plenty of strange voices and calls from the trees behind the pond but we had no idea if they were mostly insects, frogs or birds. Anyway I took my sound-recorder and recorded a couple of most interesting songs and calls and at least one song was identified – it was a Cinnamon Attila.

We also saw the first ever hummingbird on the bushes. It was bright green and tiny but we didn’t have our cameras ready yet as it was still very dark. The hummingbird also disappeared almost immediately so we didn’t see it well either. Anyway this observation gave us some idea how difficult everything will be with hummingbirds also later during the trip.

When we were ready, we started to climb uphill and started to walk around a 5.5 kilometers long Mt Rorota trail. The track was in the beginning in very bad shape but it was only because of the hill was so steep, all rain had made it a river too many times. The track was much better later.

Streaked Flycatcher

It was still long time dark on the hillside and also surprisingly quiet. It was difficult to find any birds! Finally we found the first bird and also managed to take first pictures of this Streaked Flycatcher.

After some more climbing we found the first Black-headed Parrots but then we walked again a long time without seeing anything at all. And we had no idea what most of the call we heard were. Again I took some recordings and at least a Guianan Trogon and a Black-banded Woodcreeper were identified.

Little Hermit

A Pale-breasted Spinetail was seen inside one dense bush but it disappeared immediately. Helmeted Pygmy Tyrants were calling almost like Great Spotted Woodpeckers so they were easy to identify but still this tiny bird was very difficult to see. In one tree we saw a Tropical Gnatcatcher and then we saw a Chivi Vireo very briefly. Along the trail we found some flowering bushes and it didn’t take long to find a hummingbird that was visiting them. The bird visited flowers one by one but stayed only for a couple of seconds in every flower. Then after about 10 to 15 seconds it disappeared and after 5 minutes waiting it came back again. So it was very difficult to see anything that could help with identifying and it was also very difficult to get any pictures of it. But after all we got some pictures and could tell that it was a Little Hermit.

Finally we reached Lac du Rorota where the view was more open and right away we could see some raptors. There were plenty of Black Vultures but also some Turkey and Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures were seen. Also Hook-billed Kites, Crane Hawks, a Zone-tailed and a Broad-winged Hawk were seen. Surprisingly we saw also 3 Magnificent Frigatebirds on the sky.

Crane HawkGrey-lined Hawk


A stunning Anhinga was perched quite close on the branches and we managed to get some good pictures. We also saw an American Pygmy Kingfisher flying fast over the water.

It started to get hot very early and we were suffering from dehydration so walking was quite hard. There were more and more other people passing us as they were walking much faster than us. Soon people were coming also towards us as they had started to walk the trail other way. One couple stopped to talk with us and they told that they had seen a Pale-throated Three-toed Sloth on the way. They kindly showed us the place from the phone-map and after a couple of kilometers walking we managed to find it. Luckily sloths are not moving too quickly! There were also some Guianan Squirrel Monkeys. But none of the animals were showing very well so after we had taken some pictures, we continued walking.

View from Rorota

Pale-throated Three-toed Sloth

The second sloth we found was showing even worse and it was easy to notice that there were almost no birds at all now. Only new birds we identified were a climbing Wedge-billed Woodcreeper and a calling Fasciated Antshrike. Once we were back on the parking lot, we met a kind lady who told that she had just seen a couple of sloths that were showing well. We followed her for a couple of hundreds of meters and found a mama and a baby sloths hanging right above the trail. These were really showing nicely.

On the parking place we still saw a Southern Beardless Tyrannulet and once we were driving downhill we stopped a couple of times and found Tropical Kingbirds, a Short-crested Flycatcher, a Ruddy Ground Dove and then we stopped again once we got down to the shore. There we put up our telescope and scanned the muddy area. Water-level was very low so there weren’t many birds and they were far but we found some Little Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets and a Laughing Gull and nearby we saw also some Blue-black Grassquits, Smooth-billed Anis and Carib Grackles.

Snowy EgretLittle Blue Heron

It was really getting hot and the sunshine was very biting. So we decided to visit a shop and buy something to drink and then visit our hotel briefly so we could just relax a little and drink well before heading back out. But soon we were driving towards Lagune du Larivot sewage water area.

Boat-billed Flycatcher

In Lagune du Larivot we started to see lots of birds immediately. There were lots of Wattled Jacanas but also a Little Cuckoo, a couple of Black-crested Antshrikes, Chestnut-bellied Seedeaters, Pied Water Tyrants, Yellow-chinned Spinetails, a Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Yellow-hooded Blackbirds, a Boat-billed Flycatcher, a Spectacled Thrush, a Buff-throated and a Straight-billed Woodcreeper and then also a familiar Osprey were seen. We also saw some birds we had already seen and then an Iguana that crossed the road quickly.

Little CuckooPied water Tyrant

Port du Larivot was a difficult place as it was surrounded by big fences and walls so we didn’t really know what to do there but we managed to twitch a Blackish-grey Antshrike that started calling actively. We also saw a couple of Bicolored Conebills and on the river we saw some Yellow-billed Terns.

Lesser Kiskadee

Our next place was Marais Le Blond which was another sewage water treatment plant but it was very good. Most of the species were same as one the previous places but we saw also some Striated Herons, Shiny Cowbirds, White-headed Marsh Tyrants, House Wrens, Lesser Kiskadees, a Black-capped Donacobius, a Yellow Oriole and noisy Yellow-rumped Caciques.

Yellow-hooded BlackbirdYellow-rumped Cacique

We still one quite boring stop in Poudriere fortress but saw only a White-tipped Pigeon and a Palm Tanager before we continued to Vieoux de Port harbor where tide was just rising.

From the dock we saw amazing numbers of birds and mostly we were interested of waders but there were also lots of egrets and herons, terns, Black Skimmers and so on! Soon we found the first amazingly pink Scarlet Ibises and then noticed two different subspecies of Cabot’s Terns which the local race “Cayenne Tern” has a yellow bill. Amongst numerous waders we found Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Willets, Hudsonian Whimbrels, Short-billed Dowitchers, Spotted Sandpipers and thousands of Semipalmated Sandpipers. Also a Grey Plover, Yellow-crowned Night Herons and a locally rare Little Egret were seen.

Black SkimmerBlack Vulture

Scarlet IbisStraight-billed Woodcreeper

The water-level was rising very fast so soon almost all birds had left. So we still continued to Sentier de Montabo where we still saw many of the same species but in much worse light and very distant. Only one Straight-billed Woodcreeper was seen well before it was too dark. It was then nice to get into our cool room.

But we still had a long evening as we had to keep the log and identify many birds from the pictures and I had planned to listen to some recordings too but I was just too tired. And the same problem was almost every evening later during the trip too…


On Sunday the 17yh of July we woke up early again and before the sunrise we drove out from Cayenne to nearby Montjoly to La Levee. We stopped a couple of times along La Levee road and finally parked along the river. There we found a dock that had a good view to the rived and forest on the other side and another good place was a couple of hundred meters before the parking place where was an open area with several big dead trees. There was a burned car and quite a lot of rubbish which made the place a little bit unattractive. And later we found out that there were burned cars quite a lot here and there, so it stealing cars was probably quite common here.

We started to find birds almost immediately and heard some Little Chachalacas, saw plenty of Orange-winged Amazons, some Short-tailed Parrots, a couple of Rufous Crab Hawks, a Hook-billed Kite, a Ringed Kingfisher, a Crested Oropendola, a Blue-tailed and a Glittering-throated Emerald, Lineated and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, both Yellow and Black-crowned Night Herons, a couple of Green Ibises, the first “toucans” Green Aracaris and so on. And still many only heard birds stayed unidentified.

Glittering-throated Emerald1Hook-billed Kite

Orange-winged AmazonRufous Crab Hawk

Harpy Eagle

When we kept on driving towards our next place on one open area we saw several Giant Cowbirds and a stunning White Hawk. Soon we continued along small roads to Paramana Sud where we had got coordinates to one of the most important species of the whole trip. On the small parking place we met older birdwatcher couple who were maybe more interested of spiders but luckily they pointed us to the exact place where we could see a huge young Harpy Eagle perched next to a massive nest on a big quite distant tree. I took our telescope so we could see the eagle much better!

Harpy EagleOrnate Hawk-Eagle

We walked in the area for some tie but didn’t find much else. White-eyes Parakeets and Wing-barred Seedeaters and an Ornate Hawk Eagle that flew over us were seen. Again we saw some hummingbirds too but they were flying quite high and extremely fast so we had no idea which species they were.

Next place was Station d’epuration Concorde, one more sewage water pool that we had to look outside and through the gate. Anyway we saw 6 Least Grebes and on the sky we saw a Greater Yellow-headed Vulture and a couple of Striped Cuckoos were singing. Other birds were the same that we had seen in other quite similar places. But when we were leaving we saw a big colorful monitor lizard and a two-meter long black and yellow Tiger Rat Snake crossing the road.

On the hottest time of the day we went shopping. We had to buy food and other stuff for several days. It was surprisingly difficult as there was almost nothing available that Hanna, who is very allergic to many things, could eat. Luckily we had brought lots of dried wood with us from Finland but we had planned to save most of these foods to the hardest parts of the trip. After lots of searching and translating we found something anyway and were able to start driving again.

We continued to our first savanna-area to Ancien Aerodrome du Galion. There we saw some Grey-headed Kites and Crane Hawks, a couple of Little and one Reddish Hermit, a Fork-tailed Woodnymph, funny-looking Green-tailed Jacamar, a Black-faced Tanager, a few Bananaquits, a Grassland Sparrow and a beautiful Violaceous Euphonia.

Green-tailed JacamarGrassland Sparrow

Towards Kaw

We made a brief stop in Roura harbor and on one pool that was completely overgrown but where we saw a Red-legged Honeycreeper to Kaw road that started behind Roura. The road was in really bad shape! Our too low car really wasn’t made for this kind of road so driving was very slow. Soon it also started to rain very hard so there was really no need to stop.

Collared Trogon

So in forests we didn’t see many birds even though we were driving in the middle of beautiful forests. One of the stops was still good as we found a beautiful Collared Trogon.

Guianan Warbling Antbird

Finally we had driven up to Mount Kaw where we parked to Tresor trail parking place. And almost right away the rain stopped. We did a short walk along the track but it had been raining so hard that the track was very wet and muddy. And of course birds were very quiet too. Anyway we managed to find a Coraya Wren, a Black-faced Antthrush, a Guianan Warbling and a Ferruginous-backed Antbird and once we were back at the parking place we saw a flock of Silver-beaked and Palm Tanagers with a couple of Fulvous-crested Tanagers.

Soon it started to rain again so we continued along Kaw road for a long time until it started to get dark. Then we found a suitable place for our camp. We put up tarps and hammocks over a small trail that left behind the place where we managed to park our car so that it was a little bit away from the road.

After we had eaten we still kept the log and then still went to try to find owls or nightjars. The weather was really good now but we made lots of listening stops without anything that sounded like a bird. Finally we stopped close to a track to Nature Lodge and met a young man who was searching for snakes. We talked for some time and when he left, I once again played some song of a Foothill Screech Owl and surprisingly a bird started to answer quite far. The owl called for some time so at least we got one owl and it was the rarest species too.

We were happy but tired when we were driving back towards our camp. Then a Common Red-rumped Agouti crossed the road. In the camp we heard a distant owl that we sound-recorded and identified as a Mottle Owl. Then we still watched nice twinkling insects flying above the road and listened to many different insects and frogs that were calling. The day had been very long so soon we were sleeping.

Along Kaw road

On the 18th of July we woke up so early that it was still completely dark. We packed our camp and soon were birding. We made a couple of stops along the road for example next to a couple of camping areas that Hanna had sent emails but one was closed and another one was told to be full and the third hadn’t answered at all.

Anyway we started to see new birds like a couple of Bat and a single Orange-breasted Falcon. We also heard several different doves and pigeons which Plumbeous Pigeon was soon more familiar. But soon we parked to Sentier de coq de roche parking place and started to walk downhill along the path.

While walking we found no birds even though the weather was good and it was still early morning. Finally we arrived at a fence that had some watching holes from where we were supposed to watch an area where Guianan Cock-of-the-rocks were supposed to be. But we had already feared that they weren’t around this time of year as ebird had no observations at and also a French sign along the path had told that the birds were around from November to April.

Anyway we stayed behind the fence for a long time and it was strange that there were really no birds at all. After a long wait we saw an Epaulet Oriole and some Crested Oropendolas on a top of one tree. I played the call of the cock-of-the-rock few times and we got a response! After all we heard the bird calling four times but we couldn’t find it. I even managed to sound-record one of the calls.

While walking up back to the parking place we were sweating a lot. The path was quite steep and slippery as it was full of roots. We heard only plenty of cicadas and no birds at all.

Kaw road as its worst When we were driving again we stopped in good-looking places and on one open area we heard harsh croaking from the top of trees. Surprisingly we found four amazing beautiful Scarlet Macaws! Soon they flew over us and disappeared. Also Green-rumped Parrotlets, Ruddy Pigeons, a Grey-fronted Dove, many Band-rumped and a few Chapman’s Swifts, several heard Green-backed and som Guianan Trogons, a Fork-tailed Woodnymph, really funny-looking Golden-headed Manakins and a single White-throated Manakin, a Green Oropendola, a Greyish Mourner, two pairs of Blue Dacnis, Swallow-winged Puffbirds, a Dusky-chested Flycatcher, a Short-crested Flycatcher, a Variegated Flycatcher, a Spotted and a Smoky-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, very noisy Screaming Pihas and a Lemon-chested Greenlet were seen. We also heard and sound-recorded both a Barred and a Lined Forest Falcon, a Cinnamon Attila, Chivi Vireos and Mouse-colored Antshrikes. But of course many voices were still unidentified. We also saw plenty of big morpho-butterflies but they were always just flying very fast so they were impossible to photograph.

Green-backed TrogonScarlet Macaw

Blue DacnisGolden-headed Manakin

Kaw marshes

Finally we were in Kaw harbor and of course it started to rain again. We were cooking under a small shelter when a local nature park service man came to talk with us. He was speaking very good English so we got some information about the area and French Guiana. We also saw some birds and luckily the rain stopped before our booked boat-trip to Kaw marshes started at 2:30 p.m.

A company named Tigdilo organized this trip with a quite small and narrow boat which was almost full – 10 persons. Our guide didn’t speak any English but some of the participants were speaking very well. Anyway our guide was really good and once he noticed that we were very keen on seeing and photographing birds, he started to show all of them and I am sure the trip became more bird-trip than usually. But I think everyone enjoyed the trip even more now as we of course told every species to other people too and soon they were also pointing every bird for us. Of course we found most of the birds first but our guide and also a man that was sitting in front of the boat very good at finding birds.

Thunder comingKaw Marshes

We made the first stop of the trip soon when we stranded to Kaw village. It is one of the 13 villages in French Guiana that is not accessible by any roads. We were walking around the small village for about an hour and birds were especially tame and so easy to photograph. Already on the harbor we saw a couple of Common Gallinules and Spotted Sandpipers and in the village we saw many familiar species but also beautiful Red-breasted Blackbirds and a Cinereous Becard.

Red-breasted BlackbirdPalm Tanager

Ringed Kingfisher

When we were on the river we started to get good photographing opportunities as our guide was driving the boat very well and managed to get close to many birds even if they weren’t on the shore but a little bit further in the vegetation. The thin boat was good at going through some vegetation. So we managed to get pictures of Anhingas, Neotropic Cormorants, Striated Herons, Great Egrets, Cocoi Herons, Wattled Jacanas and Greater Anis and we also managed to see several species of kingfishers and so on. We were following the river that was getting narrower all the time and we were surrounded by amazing views. Also the weather was great so we were really enjoying!

Smooth-billed AniNeotropic Cormorant

A lonely Muscovy Duck, Giant Cowbirds, Green-tailed Jacamaris, White-headed Marsh Tyrants, Lesser Kiskadees, Black-capped Donacopiuses, several too quick hummingbirds and many other already familiar species were seen. The best bird was a Rufescent Tiger Heron that we managed to get very close. One short thunder-storm gave some real rain but we had prepared to get wet at some point.

Muscovy DuckRufescent Tiger Heron

Finally we stranded to a bottom of a narrow river-branch and walked to the woods to wait for the dusk.

A Variegated Tinamou started to call nearby and we also heard a Pauraque and a Buff-throated Woodcreeper. When it was dark we started to boat back but very slowly and everyone had headlight and we were scanning the river all the time. At least two kinds of nightjars – Spot-tailed Nightjars and Band-tailed Nighthawks – were flying above the river with many different sizes of bats. But it took quite long time before the first glimmering eye was spotted just above the water. Unfortunately this quite big Caiman was shy and dived too soon but soon we started to find more eyes and small Caimans were much easier to get very close. We managed to get just next to some of these animals that we could have touches them but of course we didn’t do that – even the smallest ones had very sharp teeth.


After all we found about 30 Caimans and many of them were seen well but maybe about every third dived early. Unfortunately we didn’t see any big ones well. We also found 11 very funny-looking Common Potoos which one of them we managed to get very close and got photographs too.

Common Potootropical screech owl

When we were very close to harbor we saw some white herons on the vegetation. We got closer and could identify them as Boat-billed Herons. Unfortunately it was completely dark and we couldn’t get close enough to get pictures of these strange-looking birds before they flew to the darkness.

Finally we were back at the harbor and there we said thanks and goodbye to our guide and the rest of the group and soon we were cooking some late dinner. While we were eating a Tropical Screech Owl came to call pretty close to us. We managed to find it with our headlights and got some pictures too. After we had finished eating, we climbed a little bit up to the hill and put up our hammocks next to the path. We were both pleased wiht our Eno Skylite hammocks that were supricingly pleasant to sleep in.

Second Kaw day

On the 19th of June the Tropical Screech Owl was still calling when we woke up and soon also Variegated Tinamou started to call. Once we had walked down to the parking, we found a Pauraque and heard a Marail Guan calling.

From the harbor we saw also a Slender-billed Kite, a couple of Barred Antshrikes and a Northern Slaty Antshrike, a Black-collared Hawk, a Black-eared Fairy, several kingfishers and finally a couple of Channel-billed Toucans.

Slender-billed KiteChannel-billed Toucan

Black-collared HawkNorthern Slaty Antshrike

In the morning we drove a little bit back and forth along Kaw road but the weather was again rainy so we didn’t see much. And again we ate in rain under a shelter in the harbor. Then it was time for a second boat-trip to Kaw. This time we got a bigger boat from Le Morpho. This boat was very slow and it couldn’t go close to the birds. Again we stopped in Kaw village where we also ate. We had tapir and it was excellent! Also the dessert was exotic as we had ice-cream made from local Yautia Madera fruits.

Birds in the village were the same as on the previous day and the same can be said about the whole day actually. The route of the trip was much worse as we were following the bigger river and then turned to a canal where a dredge was working. We even had a stop for swimming at the most boring place there. But maybe it was a safe place to swim – maybe there were no Caimans? The weather was also rainy but anyway we saw some new birds like a Northern Scrub Warbler and a Green-tailed Goldenthroat. Of course some birds were also photographed. But it is easy to say no that if we one day come back to Marais de Kaw, we will book a two-days boat-trip so we can go further to the river delta where Hoatzins and Agami Herons can be seen.

Cocoi HeronWhite-headed Marsh Tyrant

Finally it started to rain continuously and we headed back to harbor from where we also started to drive back along Kaw road. We stopped a few times again and saw a Channel-billed Toucan, Green and Black-necked Aracaris, a Black-faced Hawk, Swallow-tailed Kites, a Smoky-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, Black-headed and Red-fan Parrots, a White-throated Manakin, a Marbled Wood Quail crossing the road, a couple of Fulvous-crested Tanagers, a Buff-throated Saltator and we heard a Ferruginous-backed and a Black-chinned Antbirds and so on. Then it started to rain again and we drove as fast as it was possible to drive with our low car until Roura. There we went shopping as we had to buy food again for several days.

Our car had also extremely tiny tank which was problematic as there aren’t many gas-stations in French Guiana. There was a station in Roura but it was already closed. So we had to drive to Cayenne to fill the tank before there weren’t any stations on the next couple of days.

It was dark when we drove a long way inland and then turned to Belizon road. On the way we had seen Northern Black-eared Opossum, a Lowland Paca and a White-lipped Peccary crossing the road. Surprisingly we were stopped by a military as the road was closed to inland because of there were illegal gold-mines. We had just missed our turn to tiny and very bad road to Bonaventure Camp. Somehow we managed to drive the last 3 kilometers to the Camp and there we met a couple of men who told that the owner was somewhere but they could show us our accommodation. Our accommodation was big but after all only a simple hut (carbet) that had only low walls and a roof. But we had a toilet and shower with warm water even. But of course there were quite a few snails and other animals inside too. Other huts had group of young people drinking and smoking.

There were no beds in our carbet either but a large room for hammocks. Soon we had everything ready but we still needed to keep the log and also eat something. There were some youngsters partying in one of the sheds that luckily were so far that cicadas and frogs were much noisier anyway. From the distance we could hear a Crested Owl calling.


BonaventureOn the 20th of July we woke up early again and right away when there was some light we started to realize how beautiful place we were! Right from our own garden there were plenty of big trees and it was absolutely green everywhere around us. We were in a valley between some rain-forested hills and fruiting trees and flowering bushes were everywhere. Behind our hut there was a small river and there was bamboo thickets growing in some places along the river. Soon there were many different kind of birds calling around us. First bird we identified was a Little Tinamou but again most calls and songs were unidentified. Mealy Amazons were flying over us when it was still quite dark.

First we were walking only on the camp area which was quite big but then we went to walk along one path to the hillside for a couple of kilometers. It was absolutely difficult to see birds inside the rain forest. But we could find a Grey-fronted Dove, a Fasciated Antshrike, a Thrush-like Antpitta, Pygmy Antwrens, Wedge-billed Woodcreepers and a Plain-brown Woodcreeper and many other antbirds, antshrikes and and-so-on that seemed to all have very similar calls. We managed to identify Guianan Warbling and Guianan Streaked Antbird and a loud Coraya Wren. But as soon we had walked back to the camp we could find more birds visible much easier. But still some of these species were extremely difficult to identify like different kind of flycatchers and tyrannulets and so on.

Green AracariBlack-necked Aracari

Both aracaris, a Channel-billed Toucan, Dusky and Caica Parrots, White-bearded, White-crowned and Golden-headed Manakins, Lineated Woodcpecker, Screaming Pihas, Crested Oropendolas, Green Honeycreepers, Common Tody-Flycatchers, a Trilling Gnatwren, Chestnut-bellied and Wing-barred Seedeaters, Chestnut-belted Gnateater, a Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet and many familiar species were seen. There was one flowering bush in our neighbor and Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Reddish Hermit and Grey-breasted Sabrewing were visiting it. And a Long-tailed Hermit came to visit our porch and was collecting some insects under the roof.

Fork-tailed WoodnymphReddish Hermit

A nice surprise was to see a Marail Guans face through a dense bush but unfortunately it disappeared too soon to get pictures. But soon it was calling with its friends in the forest. Many other small birds were seen and photographed and some were identified only from the pictures, some in the evening, some later during the trip and some at home.

White-bearded ManakinShort-tailed Nighthawk

We also saw some raptors like Greater and Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures and Double-toothed Kites and once it was getting dark a group of about 25 Short-tailed Nighhawks came to catch insect to our garden. Slowly they moved further before they disappeared to the darkness. And after that we saw only plenty of different kind of bats.

On the 21st of July we were again birding in Bonaventure Camp and we also walked the shortest about three kilometers long trail that was partly flooded. Most of the species we saw were the same that we had seen on the previous day but we also managed to find a Golden-spangled Piculet, a Chattering Gnatwren, Purple Honeycreepers, Amazonian and Mouse-colored Antshrikes, a Dot-winged and a Todd’s Antwren, Ferruginous-backed, Grey, Black-throated and Black-headed Antbirds, Grey Antwrens, a Thrush-like and a Spotted Antpitta, a couple of Musician Wrens. Also a White-throated Toucan was calling and an Amazonian Grosbeak was singing but we couldn’t see them.

Black-throated AntbirdGolden-spangled Piculet

At midday it started to rain which made leaving homely Camp Bonaventura easier. We could have easily spent a week there walking trails and just relaxing in the camp with amazing birds and nature. When we come back to French Guiana, we will for sure stay longer in Camp Bonaventure.

Along Belizon road we heard one more Thrush-like Antpitta and saw a couple of Red-fan Parrots. Then close to the crossroads we saw a tame Amazonian Grosbeak and in the crossing a stunning Red-necked Woodpecker, a Red-legged Honeycreeper and so on.

Red-fan ParrotAmazonian Grosbeak

Red-necked WoodpeckerCoraya Wren

We had a long drive and we didn’t make stops almost at all. So we didn’t see many birds either. Finally we parked to Botanique La Rosa garden where Hanna had found information that there was possible to sleep in hammock. We found the owner who was very old lady and she didn’t speak any English. Luckily there was a nurse visiting and he translated everything and soon we were showed a place where we could hang our hammocks. There really weren’t other places to go to sleep as the area was quite inhabited.

Green-and-rufous Kingfisher

There weren’t many flowering bushes in the garden so only one Little Hermit was seen in flight and then in a small pool that was next to our tiny shed we saw a couple of different kingfishers.

Other birds we saw in the evening were all familiar. In darkness a couple of Guianan White-eared Opossums were running around the carbet hut were we were staying. And once again we were asleep about at 9 p.m.

Savanna walking and zoo

Purple Gallinule

On the 22nd of July we didn’t find anything special from Botanical garden so soon we had packed everything and were driving again. Along the road we found a beautiful Cream-colored Woodpecker which unfortunately flew away too soon to get any pictures. And then another surprise was a Purple Gallinule that was found very close to the road.

We had to search for the right road to Savane Marivat for some time but finally we found to the right place. There we walked in wet swamp-like savanna for some time and found a couple of White-tailed Hawks, Plain-crested Elaenias, Grassland Sparrows, Wedge-tailed Grass Finches, a couple of Eastern Meadow Larks and Black-faced Tanagers, a big flock of White-eyed Parakeets, Fork-tailed Palm Swifts and a couple of Fork-tailed Flycatchers. We also heard a Bright-rumped Attila singing. We tried pretty hard to flush any snipes but couldn’t find any. Savane Marivat

White-tailed HawkWedge-tailed Grass Finch

Fork-tailed Palm SwiftFork-tailed Flycatcher

It was almost 9 a.m. when we started driving towards Zoo de Guiana. The biggest reason to visit the zoo was that there had been some recent reports of a Sun Bittern, but it was also nice to visit this zoo that had only local animals. It was also one of the only tourist-attractions in whole French Guiana.

We paid the tickets to the zoo and walked in. There were immediately some flowering bushes but only hummingbird we saw was just flying around very high and very fast. Otherwise there were only few birds around. There was a breakfast served to monkey-cages and also a couple of species of free wild monkeys, Brown Capuchins and Guianan Squirrel Monkeys came to get their part.

A Grey-lined Hawk, a Chestnut-rumped Woodcreeper, Boat-billed Flycatchers, a Forest Elaenia, a Brown-crested Flycatcher and a Glittering-throated Emerald were seen. We walked a longish track inside the forest too but couldn’t find the Sun Bittern.

Route de Guatemala

Next we drove towards the coast and turned to Guatemala road where was had got maybe most tips before the trip. We were birding the rest day in quite small area by mostly driving and stopping in good-looking places. In this area there were plenty of different habitats from bushy coastal forests, pastures, fields and savannas. After all we drove around the area for a couple of times.

Best observations were a rare Mangrove Cuckoo, a flock of 8 Wood Storks, a Laughing Falcon, a couple of Norhern and Yellow-headed Caracaras, Plain-breasted Ground Doves, a Plumbeous Seed Eater, a Blue-chinned Sapphire, a Plain-bellied Emerald, a Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, a Golden-collared Woodpecker, a nest of a Little Woodpecker, a Black-tailed Tityra, Mouse-colored, Barred and Black-crested Antshrikes, Black-headed Antbirds, a Spot-tailed and Todd’s Antwren, a Bran-colored Flycatcher, a White-winged Becard, a Turquoise Tanager, 3 flying Muscovy Ducks and a distant Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle. There were also plenty of waders, egrets and terns on the shore and so on.

Crested CaracaraRuby-topaz Hummingbird

Eastern Meadow LarkBlack-tailed Tityra

Sun was already setting when we drove to a place where we found big dead palm-trees. We didn’t have to wait for long before a small flock of Red-bellied Macaws arrived. It was already dark when we continued to another place that we had coordinates and we weren’t exactly there yet when we found a Great Horned Owl perched on the wire next to the road. A little bit further along the road there was a young owl calling and begging for food. To the same place we heard also funny calls of a Grey-cowled Wood Rail. But we couldn’t stay out for too long as first time during the trip there were too many mosquitoes and these little insects were much more bloodthirsty than Finnish ones. Because of these tiny animals we had taken yellow fever vaccinations that were actually necessary when travelling to French Guiana but nobody had asked to see the certificate anywhere.

Great Horned Owl

In the evening we continued to Roche Corail forests that we could found out were surprisingly inhabited. There were also some groups of people on camp-fire here and there so it was very difficult to find a place to put up a camp. It took some time but finally we found a small road the led to a construction site and we just parked in the middle of the road and put up the camp there. Whole night we could listen to a couple of distant young Spectacled Owl calling. Maybe they were still begging for food?

Roche Corail

Red-and-black Grosbeak

On the 23rd of July we woke up early and found out that there had been a camp of forest-loggers pretty close to us. They were already up and they were getting ready to cut the rainforest around us. In Goolgemaps the whole forest had still been completely uncut.

It was a little bit restless but anyway we started birding after we had packed our camp. Again some tinamou was calling distant and soon also other birds started to wake up. Different kinds of “ants” were again heard but still we felt like we hadn’t learned any calls. Luckily we soon started to see birds too and luckily some of them were easy to identify like two couples of Red-and-black Grosbeaks.

Roche Corail

We were driving along several roads in the road and stopping many times and almost everywhere we found forest-loggers. Anyway we birded there for whole morning and found Channel-billed and White-throated Toucans, many parrots like White-eyed, Dusky and Caica Parrots, Lilac-tailed Parrotlets, Sapphire-rumped Parrotlets and Orange-winged Amazons and some raptors like well showing Swallow-tailed Kites. We managed to identify some hummingbirds again: a Tufted Coquette, a Rufous-throated Sapphire and Grey-breasted Sabrewing and other species we found were for example a Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Guianan Warbling and Dusky Antbirds, Pygmy Antwrens, a Buff-cheeked Greenlet and so on. It was pretty sad to be birding in this beautiful forest while chainsaws were buzzing on the background. It made us think if we were the last birders or at least first and last Finnish birders in this place.

Plain-brown WoodcreeperSwallow-tailed Kite

We still went to walk behind a quarry where a small path was leading through a bushy area, but it was very overgrown and the weather was already getting hot so there were almost no birds at all. So soon we were driving again towards new places that were closer to Kourou city.

Around Kourou

Unfortunately our poor car was too low for some of the roads we tried but at least we were close to some places and after all it seemed that it didn’t make a big difference as there were quite a lot of birds everywhere around places that locals are calling PK11, Piste H and Piste U. We found some Striped Cuckoos, a Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, White-lined Tanagers, a Bran-colored Flycatcher, Savanna Hawks, a White-lored Tyrannulet, a Laughing Falcon etc. Midday was once again difficult time for birding as it was too hut and noisy – cicadas and other insects were too noisy!

White-lined TanagerBarred Antshrike

In Kourou we first checked a couple of small lakes and on the first one we only saw one Common Gallinule but on the second we saw both Common and Purple Gallinules. We also visited Pointe des Roches briefly but the visibility was really bad because of the haze and also water-level was too high, so we decided to continue to see other places.

KourouLaughing Falcon

We decided to go to see what was possible to see along the road that went to the rocket launching area. We first drove to ESA museum but didn’t go in but decided to drive on along the road as long as it was possible. We weren’t absolutely sure if we were allowed to drive there as all other cars were some guardian cars and so on. We managed to see some distant buildings in the horizon that Hanna was familiar with from internet but before we could get any closer the road was closed completely. We were not allowed to stop along the road at all but of course we had to photograph one of the funniest traffic sign that we have ever seen – an anteater warning sign. We saw only some birds like plenty of Swallow-winged Puffbirds, a Common Ground Dove, a Laughing Falcon, a Crane Hawk and an Ochre-bellied Flycatcher.
Semipalmated Sandpiper

In the evening we stayed at Pointe des Roches where amazing numbers of waders and egrets and so on were seen while waiting for one rarity to start calling. Especially Semipalmated Sandpipers were a lot but I counted also for example 160 Scarlet Ibises. Other birds were a Rufous Crab Hawk, a couple of Golden-winged Parakeets, a Ruddy Turnstone, Black-necked Stilts, a couple of Common Terns, a Royal Tern and some city-birds like Carib Grackles, Rock Doves, House Sparrows and Black Vultures.

Point des RochesCabot's (Cayenne) Tern

It was already dark when we finally heard a Little Wood Rail calling. Then we immediately decided to start driving towards Cayenne and familiar Hotel Belova.

Marais de Fouillee

On the 24th of July we were driving already in the darkness. Soon we parked to a big supermarket parking lot where a Lesser Nighthawk was flying around- Then we walked a couple of hundreds of meters to a bridge and then turned to follow a small canal that was between pastures in Marais de Fouillee. And right away there were lots of birds calling and also visible.

Wattled Jacanas, a Grey-breasted Crake, a Solitary Sandpiper, Pale-vented Pigeons and White-tipped Doves, Striped and Little Cuckoos, kingfishers, Barred and Amazonian Antshrikes, Buff-breasted and Coraya Wrens, Yellow-chinned Spinetails, a Green-tailed Jacamar, a Masked Yellowthroat and many other birds were seen and heard on a short walk back and forth along the canal.

Striped CuckooYellow-chinned Spinetail

Masked YellowthroatBlack-capped Donacobius

We still continued to the city and to Pointe Buzare where we saw a Blue-chinned Sapphire and then to Vieoux de Port where again lots of waders and egrets and so on were seen but nothing new.

After we had done all shopping and packing we left one bag behind to store in hotel Belova, it was time to drive to the airport. We returned our tiny car and soon we were waiting for a flight to Saül that was in the middle of rainforest!

To Saül

There was nothing really happening in the airport for a long time. And when finally something started to happen, it was very strange. Finally everything was weighted (even us) and of course we already knew that we had too much stuff with us as normally a person should have maximum 10 kilos bag and 5 kilos hand-luggage. We had to pay 30€ for overweight. It seemed that we weren’t the only ones with too much stuff because the local people had all food and other daily necessities with them too. Even though there are daily flights to Saül, these flights are usually full and if you are going to book an accommodation in Saül, they want to see a copy of your tickets.

Flight to SaülFinally our flight left towards Saül which is in the middle of French Guiana and in the middle of Amazonas. Small propeller plane flew over La Levee and Kaw marshes and then turned inland over Amazonas. Surprisingly we flew first south-west to Maripasoula where the landing was horrible! The plane did a very radical U-turn on the Suriname side of the river so that wings were almost touching the tree-tops. Then it landed to a small airport where it was raining very hard.


About half of the passengers left to Maripasoula and soon we continued to Saül. On the way it was nice to take pictures of almost intact rainforest. Only human touches we saw were a couple of gold-mines in the middle of nowhere.

Finally we landed to sandy airfield of Saül and in the airport we packed our luggage to a local all-terrain vehicle taxi and then jumped to the backseat. We could have walked a couple of kilometers to the village through a shortcut that went through some forests but it was afternoon, so we thought that it could be easier to find some birds in the village.

View from balconyWe drove along a bumpy road to Saül which has about 100 residents. We were dropped to A-Ke-Nou motel that we had booked beforehand. It was a cozy motel with a restaurant. There were so many other tourists this time of year that all other accomodation we had contacted had been full – or at least they had said so. This was maybe the most expensive place to stay too but we were here enjoying, so we didn’t care. And still our double was only 40€ per night. We got our room soon and once we managed to get in as the lock really wasn’t working, we unpacked everything and soon we were walking in the village and getting familiar with its birds.

And there were quite a lot of birds! A couple of Little Chachalacas and Chapman’s Swifts, lots of Short-tailed Swifts, a White-bearded Manakin, Green Honeycreepers, Epaulet Orioles with one Moriche Oriole –type of bird (nowadays a subspecies), a Southern Beardless Tyrant, a Common Tody-Flycatcher building nest just next to a road and so on.

Epaulet (Moriche) OrioleCommon Tody-Flycatcher

We walked a little bit around the village but quite soon came back to our motel as it seemed that there were most birds around there. And after all we realized that we could see most birds from our balcony, and least from there we got the best photographing opportunities! There was a dry tree right next to our balcony and it seemed that almost all birds were visiting it in the afternoon and early evening. Different kind of tanagers, Violaceous Euphonias, Chestnut-bellied Seedeaters, a Yellow-bellied Elaenia, a Bran-colored Flycatcher, a tame Black-throated Mango and a Fork-tailed Woodnymph and so on were visiting the tree. And next to a church there were a couple of big trees that had Yellow-rumped Caciques and we saw also one Golden-sided Euphonia too. Most of the birds went to sleep inside very large bamboo bush.

Yellow-bellied ElaeniaBran-colored Flycatcher

It was nice to follow what was happening in the village in the evening too. Younger people were very active and they were playing volleyball every evening and also football in some evenings. And it seemed that the whole village gathered to watch them play, in football matches the cheering was very loud! But this evening it started to rain so they had to stop early and so we also managed to go to sleep soon.

Birding around Saül village

On the 25th of July we started the morning walking through the forest to the airport. Path was muddy and quite slippery and finding birds was very difficult. Anyway we heard a Thrush-like Antpitta, Dusky, Grey Black-throated and Guianan Warbling Antbirds and Red-fan Parrots. We relaxed a little on the grass in front of the airport where we could watch Swallow-tailed Kites flying above us and tanagers visiting trees with a single Rufous-browed Peppershrike.

Then we walked a few kilometers along Roche Bateau trail and after we had heard only plenty of very noisy Screaming Pihas, we found a small group of Brown Capuchin monkeys. While I was watching the monkeys, I realized that Capuchinbird was named after these monkeys and maybe they were following these animals. I just told about this when I saw a crow-size orange bird on the top of one tree – there it was – a Capuchinbird! Luckily the bird stayed visible for long enough that Hanna also managed to see it before it disappeared.

We also found a flock of funnily called Purple-throated Fruitcrows, a couple of Spot-throated Woodcreepers, a Red-necked Woodpecker, a Double-toothed Kite, a Yellow-billed Jacamar, Dusky-throated and Cinereous Antbirds, a Spot-backed Antbird, a White-flanked Antwren and many already familiar birds. We also heard a Amazonian Motmot that really sounded like a Ural Owl and saw a group of 10 Collared Peccaries.

Yellow-billed JacamarWhite-flanked Antwren

It came again hot during the day and we walked back along the same track to the airport and then only Screaming Pihas were calling. They maybe are the only birds with so aloud call that cicadas and other insects are not so big problem?

While walking on the forest again I saw an Amazonian Motmot very briefly and the close to the village we saw a Cocoa and a White-necked Thrush hopping together on the path. Quite a few Plumbeous Kites were soaring on the sky and in the village we met a couple of snake-watchers and they told us that there was possible to see Red-and-green Macaws in the village near a tiny shop.

Screaming PihaWhite-necked Thrush

Red-and-green Macaw

After we had relaxed a little in our room and photographed some birds again from the balcony, we continued to walk to the village. We visited the tiny store where were only about 20 different product in sale. For example there was no cola but several different kinds of beers and other alcohol products. As everything comes to the village by plain, prices were about 2 or 3 times more expensive than in Cayanne. Usually tourists are bringing their own food and snacks or then stay in accommodation with a restaurant. There was a tame Guianan Red Howler monkey living in the store and it decided to follow us when we kept on walking around the village.

Near the store we found the couples of Red-and-green Macaws. Another bird was just walking on the ground as it had a broke wing. There it was calling to its “husband” very noisily. The husband was feeding on the tree-top nearby and it was flying well and free. We didn’t ask how these birds had come to the village. Had the injured bird been found somewhere and then brought to the village to heal and get well of was the explanation darker – had it been shot and then brought to the village to stay as a pet? After all both hunting and keeping cage-birds were very popular in French Guiana. Even in this small village many people had cage-birds, but it seemed these birds had been brought from somewhere else as the most common species wasn’t a local bird. Anyway it was good to watch this healthy bird close by and take some really nice pictures. But we really thought if it was OK to tick this species as a lifer or not? Luckily later in the afternoon we saw a couple of Red-and-green Macaws flying over the village, so we didn’t have to think about it for too long.

Other nice birds we saw were some White-bearded Manakins, a Buff-throated Saltator, Turquoise Tanagers, Yellow-throated Flycatcher and Scarlet Macaw couples that were seen flying over the village for a couple of times.

In the afternoon we still photographed birds that were visiting the tree next to our balcony and got pictures of a Black-throated Mango, a Black-tailed Tityra and an Ochre-bellied Flycatcher and so on. Then we packed our backbags well so that there was only everything necessary. And before the information center was closed, we carried the rest of our stuff there to an empty room. We had managed to contact them before the trip and this was OK for them. We also told to the officer about our next few days schedule and when we were supposed to back in the village. So they knew when to come resque us if we are not back. In the evening it started to rain so we managed to get our room cooler so we could soon sleep very well.

BananaquitBlue-grey Tanager

Yellow-crowned TyrannuletOchre-bellied Flycatcher

To rainforest

On the 26th of July we started walking when it was still quite dark. I was carrying a backbag that weighted about 20 kilos and Hanna had a full-packed camera-bag that was also very heavy. We were wearing wellingtons as we were expecting to walk along muddy and wet paths.

We started to walk along Cascades trail and our goal was to walk as long as possible during the first day. We were full of energy as we were beginning the most awaited part of our trip – a trail-walk to Mt Galbao.

Rufous-rumped Foliage-gleaner

In the morning we saw both Cocoa and White-necked Thrushes and a Southern White-fringed Antwren along the trail and some already familiar calls we heard were Pygmy Antwrens, Dusky Antbirds, Plumbeous Pigeons, Green-backed and Guianan Trogons etc. We also saw a Band-tailed Antshrike briefly. As we had more zeal than reason, we decided to walk around a small extra loop, but left our bags under a huge tree between the roots. Luckily this loop was good as we heard one of the most waited songs ever when a Capunchinbird was singing its beautiful song. We also found a small flock of birds that were moving on the very top of trees and all the time behind the branches and thus they were incredibly difficult to identify. But I took hundreds of pictures of them and on from some pictures they could be identified as Rufous-rumped Foliage-gleaners. A Fulvous Shrike Tanager was watching this flock while just perching on a branch and was difficult to find from the tree but once it was found it was much easier to identify.

Yellow-throated Woodpecker

Once we were again carrying our huge bags we found Bananaquits, a Black-throated Trogon, a few Yellow-throated Woodpeckers, a Golden-spangled Woodpecker, a Common Scale-backed Antbird, Dusky and Cinereous Antshrikes, a Todd’s Antbird, a Long-winged Antwren, a Painted Tody-Flycatcher, a Golden-crowned Spadebill, Olive-backed Foliage-gleaners and an Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper. Just before Camp Roche we saw a flock of amazing-looking White-plumed Antbirds and with them there were a couple of Rufous-throated Antbirds which were also singing.

It was again very hot and moist so birds weren’t active for a long. Morning was always surprisingly short. Later most of the birds became very quiet until in the evening they were again active for a little bit longer time. Often there were also rains during the day and or then in the evening and if not then it was most probably raining at night. Now when we arrived at Camp Roche the midday rain started. So we put up one tarp and then cooked food as now we were far enough from the village to get water from the small river. We rested a little bit but after all we decided not to let the rain disturb us but continued walking along the trail towards Cascades.

Our feet started to be very tired and the trail was getting smaller and smaller and soon it was just a tiny path that was hard to follow. In some places we hard to really search for the path and we were missing a machete. We were wearing rain-jackets and carrying huge bags so we were really getting tired but we just kept on going as we still had a long way to go.

Path on its bestPath on its worst

In the hot and extremely wet conditions we didn’t find many birds but an Amazonian Motmot, Amazonian and a Fasciated Antshrike were heard and a Grey-breasted Sabrewing was seen as it left just next to a path under some big leaves where it had been keeping the rain. Later we still saw a White-bearded Manakin couple and once again these birds were just staring at us from the bush while we passed them.

The last few kilometers to Camp Cascades were walked in horrible dense spiky bushes that were scratching our clothes and skin. We really got completely wet too. There was also at least one and half meters thick trunk crossing the path and it wasn’t easy to climb over with our bags. Then we still had to climb down to the riverside and there we lost the path completely. Somehow we managed to get down in one pieces and soon we found the place to put up our camp. And luckily soon the rain also stopped.

While we were cooking our dinner we could hear the waterfalls that were nearby but still some cicadas we easy to hear over that sound. Soon we thought that we heard the loudest bird in the World, a White Bellbird but unfortunately it was another cicada again – maybe the loudest in the World! A couple of funny-looking red crabs were living in our camp and were pointing their scissors to us while the sun was already setting. Soon we climbed to our hammocks to sleep.

Mt Galbao

On the 27th of July we woke up early again and then had a proper food as a breakfast. Then we packed only light bags and left everything else to the camp and started climbing up towards Mt Galbao.

Path Mont GalbaoTiny path started to climb steeply immediately behind our camp. It was actually a surprise that the path was still marked with red plastic strips but it was easy to tell that this path hadn’t been used regularly. Anyway in a couple of steepest places there was a rope attached to trees to make climbing easier. Here and there we lost the path completely and continued climbing by following our GPS and also that we had in our phones. W also saved marks so we could follow the same route when we were coming back.

Songs we heard were a Great Antshrike, Grey, Dusky and Black-chinned Antbirds, Northern Slaty Antshrikes, Green-backed Trogons, Purple-throated Fruitcrows, an Amazonian Motmot and so on. On one open area where we finally could see some tree-tops, we saw a colorful White-chinned Sapphire and a White-flanked Antwren and heard a sparrow-like Yellow-green Grosbeak.

Climbing was very difficult and hard. Our plan had been to climb up with all bags but we never could have done it in this tight schedule. But after all we were climbing the last steep hill that was the second highest top of Mt Galbao. It would have been still a couple of kilometers to the highest top but it was easy to decide that we couldn’t walk until there – maybe next time? After all we were already sure that White Bellbirds weren’t around or at least they weren’t active. Otherwise we would have at least heard seen this loudest bird in the World. We had already known that there were no records of this species in this time of year but we had hoped that there might be a bird or two to be found like Guianan Cock-of the-rock had been.

Once we reached the top there was a big three-top visible and immediately I found a huge Black Curassow perched there. Hanna still had a little bit to climb but luckily she managed to get to the top and see the curassow fly away from the tree. After a short rest we found another huge bird as a King Vulture was soaring on the sky above us. And surprisingly this big eagle decided to land to the very same tree-top. Soon also another King Vulture came to fly to the sky so atmosphere was really high!

Black CurassowKing Vulture

White-fronted Manakin

We still walked a little bit on the other side of the top and managed to find a well-showing White-fronted Manakin but soon we had to start walking back down towards our camp. We really wanted to get there before the afternoon rain that seemed to be coming. Going down hill whould have been very tricky if rain wets the soil. Mouse-colored Antshrikes, a White-browed Antbird, a Collared Trogon and a Buff-cheeked Greenlet were singing and a small flock of Rufous-rumped Foliage-gleaners were seen but otherwise we didn’t see much.

While we were walking own we heard some banging noise from a top of one tree-top. There were clearly some bigger monkeys and of course we tried to see them. Fruits were dropping down and soon some fruits were dropping closer and closer to us and soon some even hit at us. It really seemed that monkeys were throwing fruits towards us, but still we couldn’t find them! Soon we kept on walking and luckily the way down was much quicker than climbing up. So soon were after a couple of hours back in our camp. Surprisingly there were a couple of snake-watchers putting up their camp to the other side of the river.

In our campWe ate well again and then did a short walk on the hillside and found a couple of Chivi Vireos and a flock of Golden-winged Parakeets. In the evening we were still searching and watching for spiders and so on. Spiders were absolutely everywhere and some of them were huge. We couldn’t find any snakes. Our neighbors were still searching for snakes for some time and after all they had found a couple but they stayed up much longer than us. But when it started to rain, they also had to give up. There was thunder somewhere in the direction of Saül but luckily it didn’t hit us. In this humidity nothing dries and we had to go to sleep in wetter clothing than usual.

Back towards Saül

On the 28th of July after a big breakfast we packed our camp and started to walk back towards Saül. We planned to walk back in two days so we could do more birding on the way. At least my legs were really tired and even though we had eaten a lot, it seemed that y bag was still as heavy as everything was so moist.

Soon we heard a Guianan Streaked Antwren, Ferruginous-backed Antbirds, Pygmy Antwrens, a Thrush-like Antpitta, Plumbeous Pigeons and so on. At a couple of open areas we found lots of birds, we also saw the first bigger bird-wave with many species when they were moving from tree to tree and passed the area. Some better species we saw were a couple of Golden-spangled Woodcpeckers and a White-shouldered Tanager.

Walking was again hard but we found many interesting species like a White-browed Antbird and a Dot-winged Antwren were identified like also a Cinnamo-rumped Foliage-gleaner, a Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, a Lemon-chested Vireo, a couple of Yellow-throated Woodpeckers, a Waved Woodpecker, a Blue Dacnis, a Short-crested Flycatcher, a Long-tailed Hermit, an Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper, Fulvous Shrike-Tanager and so on.

Cinnamon-rumped Foliage-gleanerFulvous Shrike-tanager

We were absolutely tired when we got to Camp Roche where we immediately found lot of birds so there was no time to relax. But even while cooking food we managed to find lots of birds. On the top of huge fruiting trees there was a flock of noisy Painted Parakeets and we found also a couple of species of honeycreepers, Bananaquits and so on.

In the afternoon we made a short walk around the camp and finally found an amazing Grey-winged Trumpeter! Unfortunately it was very shy and we saw it only very briefly before it disappeared to the vegetation. Also a flock of White-plumed and Rufous-throated Antbirds were found and with them there was a very showy Common Scale-backed Antbird. Once we were back at the camp the sun was already setting. Then we heard a Variagated Tinamou, a Thrush-like Antpitta, a Spotted and a Variegated Antpitta and also a couple of Barred Forest Falcon were calling noisily nearby. Also at least a couple of Grey-winged Trumpeters were heard calling and when we were already lying in our hammocks we heard some mammal walking around our camp. We just hoped that it wasn’t a Leopard or a Cougar or both…

Grey-winged TrumpeterCommon Scale-backed Antbird

When we had almost fallen asleep everything around us started to hum and we realized that it was very soon going to rain hard. Hanna was still enough awake and hurried to pack everything into our bags and put everything so that they were well covered rain-proof.

Hanna managed just to pack everything before the thunder arrived. She had managed to hang our bags and cameras to a log so they weren’t touching to the ground at all. But if everything else seemed to be safe and well, we soon found out that we had been a little bit sloppy with hanging our hammocks. I had some plants growing under me and they were touching a little bit to my back and as they soon came very wet because of the heavy rain, also my back was soon wet. Finally I had to get up and cut these plants down, but I should have done it much earlier… Hanna got wet too when large plant leaves threw water under her tarp. So we both got quite wet. But after all we managed to fell asleep – at least for some time.

Hard walking

On the 29th of July it was raining hard whole night, rougly 100mm! Luckily the rain stopped when we were waking up. We were delighted to see that our bags had stayed dry. We still did some birding around the camp again and saw many same birds than in the afternoon and evening. But still a couple of new birds were found when a Spot-winged Antbird and Guayanan Schiffornis were heard. And after a heavy breakfast we were ready to start walking towards Saül again.

In the beginning walking was easy even though rivers were flooding. Soon we found the same flock of White-plumed and Rufous-throated Antbirds were found and again there was a well-showing bird with them but soon we realized that it was different bird than in the evening – this time there was a Rufous-bellied Antwren with the flock.

We had already realized that the wet forest was very dangerous place as we had heard some huge branches dropping down and some big trees had already fell down. Trees in rainforest had surprisingly small root systems and they fall down easily.

White-plumed AntbirdRufous-bellied Antwren

After some walking we started to be exhausted after already several days walking. In a dense and still wet forest there weren’t many birds. A step by step we kept on walking and heard Grey Anwrens, Dusky-throated Antshrikes and Spot-tailed Antwrens, a Bright-rumped Attila and some other already familiar birds. Funniest observation was a Southern Tamandua that was very close to the trail and then climbed up to one tree still right next to us. It really thought that it was hiding well while it was hanging in the middle of the branchless trunk and holding its paw in front of its eyes. It maybe thought that is it can’t see us, we can’t see her.

Trail marksSouthern Tamandua

I was completely exhausted when we walked the last extremely muddy track and then finally came back to the village. I just sat down to the steps of the information center when Hanna went to ask if there still was a possibility to get a room from A-Ke-Nou. Luckily we got a room and soon carried our stuff there. It was the next room just a little bit further from the dry tree. But it seemed that there hadn’t been as many birds after the first afternoon.

During the day we visited the information center and told to the officer there that we were back and also took our bag from there. During the day we were still birding in the village where we saw plenty of familiar bird. It was nice to see many birds well as while in the forest it had been extremely difficult to see any birds! Only new birds we found were a flock of Blue-headed Parrots. We dried our wet clothes on a grassy hill above the village while we were again cooking. It is always so moist and dark in rainforest that it is impossible to anything dry. Cotton-clothes were difficould to get dry. Full hot sunlight was necessary for them.

Black-throated Mango

In the early evening we were again photographing birds visiting the dry tree. While we were sting in our balcony we noticed that all birds were flying in the sky and coughing some insects. Many passerines and some raptors were seen before we found a flock of more than 10 raptors that were flying above the forest quite far. We hadn’t got telescope with us in Saül but we got some pictures and so managed identify them as Red-throated Caracaras.

In the evening Hanna noticed that she had got plenty of tiny ticks while we had been sitting on the grass. I had been wearing bug-poisoned clothes again so I had none. The night was very warm so we had to keep balcony-door open. So Hanna woke up several times to chase a bat away from our room.

Second walk

On the 30th of July we left early walking towards the airport. We had again only necessary things in our bags and the rest we had left into our room that we had booked for the rest of the trip. Of course this wasn’t the cheapest way but it really made everything easier.

This time we walked to the airport along the road and it was much easier to see birds on forest edge. During the trip we had sound-recorded and then played birds own song for very many times but here it worked better than in dense forest. Now several birds at least visited the roadside for a second or two so we managed to see them at least very briefly. Along the road we found Marbled Wood Quails, Dusky and Black-headed Antbirds, a Northern Slaty Antshrike, Little Chachalacas, Fan-tailed Parrots, Southern Mealy Amazons, a couple of Capuchinbirds which another one was also seen and then we finally found a few Chestnut-fronted Macaws. The best bird we saw was a Red-billed Woodcreeper but unfortunately it disappeared too soon so we couldn’t get any pictures.

Chestnut-fronted MacawDusky Antbird

From the airport we continued towards Roche Bateau and in the beginning walking was easy even though the trail was going uphill for a long time. But soon our feet started to feel tired as we had already been walking for several days with huge bags. Anyway it was nice as we found birds like a Fulvous Shrike-Tanager, a couple of Thrush-like Antpittas, Grey Antwrens and Rufous-rumped Foliage-gleaners.

This trail was popular and there were good bridges over the rivers. We had a lunch-break on one of the bridges that was far enough from the village to get water. Of course we were using filters to get water or then a bottle with a filter. While we were eating, we listened and sound-recorded a couple of Amazonian Antshrikes that were calling nearby.

At midday birds again disappeared even though the forest looked really good. Spot-breasted Antbirds, a Bright-rumped Attila, a Long-tailed Hermit, Fasciated Antshrikes, again a Thrush-like Antpitta and the on one fog-like open area a Variegated Antpitta and a Black-tailed Trogon, White-eyed Tody-Tyrant, an Olivaceous Flatbill and a Brown-bellied Stipplethroat we found before we were in Roche Bateau camp.

White-eyed Tody-tyrantOlivaceous Flatbill

Surprisingly there was a group of four Frenchmen in the camp and they had really lots of stuff. We knew that this camp for made for the local people but it was ok to use it if there was nobody else. Anyway this group kindly made room for us too and soon we also had our hammocks hanging under the roof. This group was about to begin a month trip in Amazon! They had been carrying their food for the first 15 or so kilometers and now they were going back to the village where 10 more participants were coming. They had really been struggling on the rainy night as they had been sleeping close to some river and the river had flooded so that they had even lost their shoes. Luckily they had found all shoes after a couple of hours searching. But still they had got everything wet and at least one camera was broken.

It was getting dark but we still managed to find a Long-winged Antwren, a Fasciated Antshrike, a Ruddy Quail Dove and then in the darkness a Little Tinamou started to call.

Ruddy Quail DoveAnchylometes

In the evening we were cooking and watching big spiders with our headlights. Ant there really was lots of these spiders even in the camp. Also several big frogs were found. Even a couple Frenchmen came to watch spiders and after they had realized how many and how big they were, they weren’t wondering anymore why we were wearing wellingtons even in the camp.

Riverside forest

Wonderful morning

On the 31st of July we woke up early and right away I had to sound-record Guianan Red Howlers morning-shout that carried through whole forest. Then we walked a little bit along the trail backwards and soon birds started to wake up. And soon we started to hear amazing noise of Capuchinbirds! There were at least 6 birds calling and I managed to get right under them to take recordings. Unfortunately they were too high up on the tree-tops to get pictures.

We found also Amazonian Motmots, all three species of antpittas, Cinereous Antshrikes and Spot-backed Antbirds, a few White-bearded Manakins, a Red-necked Woodpecker and so on. Once we were back in the camp, we did big breakfast and from the closest big tree we found a couple of Tufted Coquettes, several Purple Honeycreepers, Black-necked Aracaris, a Black Nunbird couple, a Cinereous Mourner and so on. Also a White-throated Toucan was calling nearby and a Coraya Wren and other familias “ants” were calling. We also saw a Capuchinbird that finally showed well and we could get good pictures of this amazing bird. There were really lots of birds around the riverside-forest.

Cinereous MournerCapuchinbird

Tufted CoquetteWedge-billed Woodcreeper

Muddy paths

Finally we were ready for the last hard walk and it was after all very muddy walk! Luckily there rivers weren’t so flooded anymore and we managed to survive quite easily with our boots. A couple of days earlier the trail had been flooded with knee high waters in many places.

I was tired so walking was very hard. I would say that I was almost counting steps so I wasn’t in condition to observe many birds because all concentration went to staying up with a heavy bag on muddy trail. Anyway we managed to find a Chestnut-rumped Woodcreeper, a Black-chinned Antbird, Scarlet Macaws and Spot-winged Antbirds and so on. While we were walking very slowly we managed to see also Guianan Squirrels and many interesting-looking insects and bugs. Even a couple of small snakes were seen along the trail. I almost stepped to both of them and Hanna noticed them when they were moving after that.

Finally we were at the airport where we rested a little before continued along the road to the village. WE still saw a Squirrel Cuckoo, a Double-toothed Kite, Blue-headed Parrots, a couple of Scarlet Macaws, an Amazonian Antshrike and Green Aracaris and so on.

Scarlet MacawChestnut-rumped Woodcreeper

In the village we stopped to drink cold tap-water at information center and once again we put a couple of Dexal-pills to make water to infiltrate better and give us some electrolytes and so on. Without these pills we probably wouldn’t have managed to walk this much in just 6 days. Then we walked to A-Ke-Nou where I slept a little while Hanna was photographing garden-birds.

In the afternoon we still walked around the village and saw all the common birds again but also a White-lined, a White-shouldered and a Turquoise Tanager, a Cocoa Thrush and a tame Guianan Tyrannulet and so on. Saul village is a supprizingly good birding area and birding in village would give a good selection of bird species.

Guianan TyrannuletTropical Kingbird

In the evening we had ordered food in A-Ke-Nou restaurant. Hanna also was made a good portion and we ate far too much. In Saül it is always necessary to order the food a day before or at least during the day so cook can get right ingredients and make the right amount of food.

At airports

On the 1st of August we had packed everything in the previous evening and early in the morning we left our bags outside A-Ke-Nou from where they would be brought to the airport. And we went first to walk to the village and then started walking towards the airport.

In the village we still visited Red-and-green Macaws and saw many other familiar birds. On the road to airport we saw again familiar species of parrots, a couple of Little Chachalacas, a Bat Falcon, several Plumbeous Pigeons, a Tiny Hawk, a Dot-winged Antwren, a couple of Black Nunbirds, a Golden-geaded Manakin, a Capuchinbird, a couple of Chestnut-fronted Macaws and so on. We also saw a small young Amazonian Brown Brocket that was hopping along the road and passed us very close.

Black NunbirdLittle Chachalaca

We were in the airport early but also our plane arrived very early. We were scanning the sky towards Mt Galbao and found quite a few raptors. We saw for example a couple of Black-and-white Hawk-Eagles that were soaring on the sky. But when we were about to take our cameras an officer told us to get into the plane – and then we realized that everyone else were already there!

Mount Galbao

Our plane left much too early and after all we landed to Cayenne 45 too early too. So we were at Sixt-office 40 minutes too early and of course there was nobody there. After 50 minutes waiting the officer finally arrived and once again it was extremely difficult to rent a car with this company. Maybe one reason was that I didn’t have my driving-license as I had left it to Hotel Belova as I had somehow thought that I wouldn’t need it anywhere. But we had already rented a car from this same office so they already had all information.

Taas Cayennessa

Finally we got the keys and carried our bags to the parking place but our car had only just arrived. It took 30 minutes before the car had been cleaned. We had been told that Sixt had all their cars rented so we just had to wait. But finally we were ready to leave but when I started the engine and started driving and managed to get out from the parking place an alarm-light started to blink and indicated that one of the tires was empty. I had to drive back and tell to a man who had been cleaning our car that we had a problem. He didn’t speak any English but after some time he understood the problem. He called to someone, we of course thought that he called to the office, and then he told us that it wasn’t a problem, we just had to go to a service to fill the tire – or at least that’s what we understood from his French. So we just had to hope that the tire wasn’t a problem, maybe they knew about the alarm-light already?

We soon found a service which can be found only from the biggest cities in French Guiana. The tire was only a little bit emptier than the rest but one tire was much too hard! We balanced the tires and then started driving to Cayenne.

We drove once again to Hotel Belova where we were so early that we still couldn’t get our room. So we went to eat to a restaurant that was in the neighbor. It was good to get to internet and see what had happened in the World in the past week.
Finally we got our room and also the rest of our stuff that we had left behind. After a short break we still went birding. We first drove to Point de Buzare where we saw amazing numbers of waders and a Red Knot was seen as a trip-tick. Then we continued to Vieous de Port where we were a little bit too late. Water-level was rising quickly and many birds were already in flight. Hanna concentrated on photographing flying birds while I tried to find new wader or other species from the flocks. There were now about 10 Least Sandpipers, a few Semipalmated Plovers and again we saw a Little Egret too. Then in one flock of Semipalmated Sandpipers we saw 2 Western Sandpipers, but other birds were the same as on our previous visits.

Laughing GullWillet

Pretty early we drove back to our hotel to relax. On the next day we would start a trip to a new part of French Guaiana, so we really needed to rest.

Pripris de Yiyi

On the 2nd of August we left driving when it was still completely dark. After we had stopped in service and filled the tire again a little, we drove a long way to Pripris de Yiyi wetland. On the way we saw Crane Hawks and a Bat Hawk, Channel-billed Toucans, Green Aracaris and so on. On the way we tried to find a small pool (Lagune de Paracou) that should have Least Grebes and be a good place for photographing birds but we never found it (we found the pond site latter; it had dried). While searching for it we finally saw a couple of Guianan Toucanets, a flock of 8 Red-and-green Macaws, a Great Black Hawk, lots of Green Oropendolas, a Plain-bellied Emerald and so on.

Red-and-green MacawGreat Black Hawk

In Pripris we parked our car and climbed to a bird-tower that was next to a parking place. There was a view over the road towards savannas. But soon we started to walk along the track and there were a couple of hides along the trail. Track was muddy but I managed to survive with sandals.

Along the track we saw Black-crested Antshrikes, a Tropical Gnatcatcher, a couple of kingfisher, a Masked Yellowthroat and so on. From the first hide we saw only one bird but it was a Pied-billed Grebe. And when we continued towards the second hide, we saw a couple of Squirrel Cuckoos and a Ruby-topaz Hummingbird.

Black-crested AntshrikeSquirrel Cuckoo

Azure GallinuleWhite-fringed Antwren

Crimson-hooded Manakin

From the second hide we didn’t see much but after some waiting we found an Azure Gallinule. We still continued the rest of the track back to the parking place and saw a couple of colorful Crimson-hooded Manakins, a Cinnamon Attila and a White-fringed Antwren. And the first time there were lots of mosquitoes during the day.

Cinnamon Attila

We continued to a picnic-place (Crique Canceler) that was nearby and there we cooked food and saw a couple of kingfishers and a Slender-billed Kite. A stunning Anhinga was also seen soaring on the sky.

Green-and-rufous Kingfisher

St Elie

Then it was time to start driving through St Elie savannas towards Sentier Botanique trail. While we were getting to savannas it started to get very cloudy. And after all we managed to see only some birds while driving before it started to rain very hard. Luckily the rain stopped for a short time and we managed to make one short walk along a small track in the middle of plantations and there we managed to get pictures of vultures that were drying their wings and we also saw an Ashy-headed Greenlet, a White-shouldered Tanager and a Fuscous Flycatcher.

Turkey VultureLesser Yellow-headed Vulture

Even it was raining we managed to see quite a lot of birds along St Elie road, there might have been much more without the rain. Even now we managed to see and photograph Red-bellied Macaws, Swallow-winged Puffbirds and other savanna and pasture-birds.

Red-bellied MacawSwallow-winged Puffbird

Sentier Botanique

The rain got harder again so we drove until the end of the road to Sentier Botanique. There we found a carbet where to hang our hammocks. This communal carbet can be reserved from nearby city town hall. On opposite side of the road is a hidden very large carbet where we could have moved if someone with reservation comes. When the rain finally stopped, we went to walk a couple of kilometers long trail. Along the trail we found a White-breasted Wood Wren and heard Little and Cinereous Tinamous. Other birds we found were a Common Scale-backed Antbird, a Plain-brown Woodcreeper, a Greyish Mourner and when we were back at the shed, we saw a stunning couple of King Vultures flying above us. Ringed Kingfishers had a nest along the road and they were very noisy. We also saw plenty of huge spiderwebs of palm-sized spiders.

White-crowned ManakinKing Vulture

At night we heard again some owl-like calls but we had no idea which species it was even though we got sound-recordings.

On the 3rd of August it was still raining when we woke up but tinamous were calling in the forest nearby. When the rain stopped we walked along the road a little and saw an Ashy-headed Greenlet, an Ochre-bellied Flycatcher with a young, a Long-tailed Hermit, parrots, a Fasciated Antshrike and then I found a fabulous Pompadour Cotinga perched on a top of a huge dry tree in the top of the hill.

Pompadour CotingaFasciated Antshrike

Towards west

While we were packing our car we noticed that the leaking tire looked very empty! It really was leaking much more than we had thought. And we were going to drive towards west where no services were at all! We knew that in whole western part of French Guiana there were only a couple of proper gas-stations in city of St Laurent du Maroni and we hadn’t decided if we were going to get there at all. And we had no idea if there were any possibility to fix or change the tire?

The rain started again and continued all the time when we drove through St Elie savannas. So we saw only a couple of Channel-billed Toucans and Green Aracaris and so on. And when we were driving towards west, we saw a White-tailed Hawk perched on a pole but otherwise we saw almost nothing.

We had to decide to drive straight to St Laurent du Maroni where we thought we should have a possibility to get the tire fixed or changed or then get the car changed.

Burrowing Owl

Before Iracoubo there was a police road-stop and a policeman also noticed our flat tire. Also at one roadwork a workman pointed out tire. But we couldn’t do anything else than keep on driving. But anyway we had to soon make a stop at Iracoubo stadium; there we found a Burrowing Owl perched on a small post in the middle of soccer-field. It was till raining but we managed to get good pictures of this owl.

Finally we were in St Laurent du Maroni and there we went first to a station where we managed to fill the tire. It had only 1.2 bars pressure. Tehn we continued to harbor when Hanna tried to make a call to Sixt office and I went out to the rain to see if there were any birds on the river. Then I wasn’t disturbing Hanna while she was at phone. About the 5th try Hanna made worked and Sixt officer answered but of course the officer didn’t speak any English. About 7th try someone was speaking English but the call ended surprisingly in the middle of conversation. But Hanna and already found out that there was a Sixt office in this town but it was still closed. But we should get there when they were opening and then they should know in the office what we should do.

Large-biled Tern

In front of harbor there was a shipwreck that was now growing trees and bushes and really looked like an island. There were plenty of swallows flying above the river and with White-winged Swallows there were a couple of Black-collared Swallows. There were only several Large-billed Terns flying towards the sea.

We soon drove to Sixt but of course nobody spoke any English there. And then there was some local man who really tried to help but really messed everything more. It was clear that they hadn’t got any phone calls about our situation. Luckily soon an older officer arrived and he spoke English well. He told us that we should go to a local service where our tire should get fixed free. Unfortunately the service was now closed during siesta but it was opening after a couple of hours.

White-winged Swallow

So soon we continued to birding to local sewage pools where we did one of the very few successful twitches when we managed to find a couple of Blue-and-white Swallows amongst other swallows, martins and swifts.

After we had done some shopping and drank a lot on the shore and so managed to get rid of dehydration, we drove to the service where I managed to find the right person easily. Soon we had the tire in a water-barrel. Then we tried to find the leak together but there was no air coming to the water-surface! It really started to get frustrating as the service-man didn’t really trust our story, but finally Hanna found a small leak. It was so small that man wasn’t going to fix it at all first but after all he fixed it. And after that we had no problems at all with the tire!
Finally we could start driving towards our destination Yalimapo. Even though I had been driving very slowly all the time, much slower than locals, I managed to flash maybe the only traffic-camera of the whole French Guiana! It really started to feel like we should have stayed in Saül…

We passed many poor-looking villaged and saw only a couple of Roadside Hawks on the way before we finally passed Mana and then continued along very slow roads towards the western end of French Guiana and Yalimapo. Finally we arrived to the end of the road to Hattes but we hadn’t seen any potential accommodation on the way. Covid had been very hard for local tourism industry and many accommodation-places had been closed. We turned back and parked to local national park center and asked there about an accommodation. One English-speaking man told us to drive to one garden and there Hanna found an old lady who showed us a Carbet where to stay. The cost was only 10€ per person. And soon we had hung our hammocks and were ready to go birding.

Digue del Panato

Ash-throated Crake

We headed to Dugue Del Panato where a straight road went through a reedy area to a green forest. There were immediately lots of birds and we started birding by walking around a small sewage-pool. There we saw a Spot-breasted Woodpecker and the first Ash-throated Crakes. Then we continued along the road and stopped many times and heard plenty of Russet-crowned Crakes and saw Plain-bellied Emeralds, a Least Bittern, a Roadside Hawk, a Black-bellied Whistling Duck that flew over us, a Piratic Flycatcher and so on.

Least BitternRoadside Hawk

Inside the forest there weren’t many birds but it was already noon. Just a couple of Little Chachalacas were calling and while we were driving back it was already getting dark. Then we saw a Lesse Nighthawk flying above the road with bats.
In the evening there was very restless near our shed as people were walking here and there and one young man visited our carbet and tried to sell something even it was already completely dark. He clearly came to check if there was something to steal. So we had to take everything expensive into our hammocks and it made sleeping even more difficult.

As we couldn’t fell asleep, we still went to walk to the Hattes beach where we hope to see at least one tortoise laying eggs. But the laying had been a few weeks earlier and now we found only some nests that dogs had dug open.

When we got bag to our carbet and tried to get to sleep a huge dog came to sit into our floor. We realized that it was a trained watchdog! It growled when someone got near to our canopy and unfortunately there were people walking whole night. The locals went to the shore to collect shells and crabs. Of course it was nice to have a guardian but for sure it didn’t make sleeping any easier.

On the 4th of August we woke up when a Tropical Screech Owl came to call next to our accomodation. Then we drove to Digue del Panato when it was still dark. All the same birds were again active. We also saw a few Black-bellied Whistling Ducks flying and Least Bitterns were both heard and seen. We also saw a Long-winged Harrier flying over us and both crakes were again heard and also seen briefly. Barred and Black-crested Antshrikes were noisy as were Blue-headed Parrot-flocks too when they were flying over us. Other nice birds were a Little Woodpecker, Red-bellied Macaws, a Piratic Flycatcher, a Ruddy-breasted Seedeater and so on.

Blue-headed ParrotLong-winged Harrier

Other birds we found were a Silvered Antbird, an Olive-grey Saltator, a Blue-chinned Sapphire and a Long-winged Harrier. In the forest Brown-throated Parakeets were noisy and we also saw a couple of Little Chachalacas. There were really lots of birds so the morning was excellent!

Brown-throated ParakeetPlain-bellied Emerald

While we were driving back we still photographed a Yellow Oriole that was building nest along the road and also a couple of Cinereous Becards. Then we had to start driving back towards east.

Desperate searching

We still made a couple of stops in Yalimapo and Mana but without better birds but a small group of Midas Tamarins. Then we continued towards Mana rice-fields and made the first stop at the gate of Terre Rouge farm. There we saw a Northern Caracara, a Zone-tailed Hawk, a couple of Savanna Hawks, a Yellow-headed Caracara and heard a Northern Slaty Antshrike.

Zone-tailed HawkSavanna Hawk

At the former rice-fields we tried to find a way to the middle of the area where the best pools were. But all the tracks either stopped completely or were too muddy to walk. After last days heavy rains the thigh mud was too soft, sticky and slippery to walk. There were also lots of cows in the area and therefore there were lots of barbed-wire fences. The day started to get very hot too so after a couple of hours searching, we had to give up. We never found a way to get to the best area!

Burrowing Owl

Anyway there were a couple of pools next to the road too and we found some waders like a couple of Least, Pectoral and Stilt Sandpipers. We also saw Black-bellied Whistling Ducks in flight but not a single White-cheeked Pintail. We had hoped to get a couple of other lifers and trip-ticks from the pools but for sure we tried as hard as we could to find a way without success.

Finally we had to keep on driving and after some driving we stopped to photograph the same Burrowing Owl again.

Trou Poissons

In the afternoon we drove close to Pripris de Yiyi and turned to Trou Poissons. But after 20 meters the road was far too bad for our car. So we had to park to the junction and continue by feet. We were worried to leave our car so close to the main-road but we had no choice.

It was hot and moist and we were already very tired when we walked along the straight road towards savanna. There was one house on along the road and extremely aggressive dog attacked us from the gate. It followed us for 30 minutes barking all the time. Again I was missing to Saül forests…

Finally dog gave up when we were getting to better savanna-area. But when we got away from the road we found out that whole savanna was flooding! There was 5 to 10 centimeters water everywhere! We were sure that there were no pipits or other similar species in this biotope. So we came back to the road and continued further along it.

Anyway we started to find some birds and saw Grey-headed Kites, Plain-crested and Lesser Elaenias, Plumbeous Seedeaters and an Eastern Meadow Lark. We also saw a couple of Long-winged Kites flying over savanna and on the top of one tree we saw Plain-bellied Emeralds, White-necked Jacobins and a Ruby-topaz Hummingbird.

Common Ground DovePlain-crested Elaenia

Bearded Tachuri

We continued to walk to a drier area that we finally found and soon found several Grassland Sparrows and finally a family of Bearded Tachuris but we couldn’t find any Yellowish Pipits. A small flock of Red-bellied Macaws and other parrot flocks were flying around but soon we had to start walking back. The sun was already setting.

While walking back we heard several Cinereous Tinamous and again saw some nightjar, but finally we were back at our car and the crazy dog was again following us.

We had no plan where to continue. Finally when we were passing Sinnamary, we noticed a big hotel and decided to go to ask for a room. The hotel was expensive but we were so exhausted that we just wanted to get a shower and soft bed. Unfortunately restaurant was closed so we had to cook with trangia in a balcony. And then there was only cold water coming from the shower… There were only handfull of people staying in this enormous hotel complex.

In the evening we packed everything quite ready before went to sleep.

The last day

On the 5th of August we slept a little bit longer but soon we were driving towards east again. We made a few stops along the road, almost always when there was a possibility to stop – there were no bus-stops and wery few wider places along the roads.

Surprisingly we saw again a Pompadour Cotinga and also a Guianan Sciffornis etc. When we were passing Roche Corail, we decided to turn to the forest-roads and drive around there a little. In a couple of stops we managed to find a Paradise Jacamar, a Pompadour Cotinga couple (again), a Waved Woodpecker and several noisy Swallow-tailed Kites.

Pompadour CotingaParadise Jacamar

Finally we decided to continue to Kourou and there we headed to ESA space-museum. It was nice to be a tourist at least once during the trip. Luckily there was more information in English than Hanna had thought so the visit was worthy.

Little Wood Rail

After the museum we continued to Pointe des Roches to relax and also to watch what rising tide would bring to the shore. We were sitting on a bench a little bit away from the dock from where we could see a small patch of mangrove. I was already falling asleep when Hanna noticed a rail walking quite openly along the shore. It passed us quite fast so Hanna managed to get only a couple of pictures but soon I noticed another bird coming. Now Hanna was ready and got better pictures and it was nice to see these rare Little Wood Rails well. For example in Birds of Northern South America this species is not included.

Also a Little Blue Heron and a Scarlet Ibis passed us nicely along the shore and we also took pictures of Yellow-crowned Night Herons and a Green Ibis that were on the trees. But after all we had to start driving towards Cayenne.

Scarlet IbisYellow-crowned Night-Heron

Green IbisYellow-billed Tern

Somewhere along the way I saw some tinamou running across the road but I couldn’t say which species it was. In the afternoon we still drove to La Levee where we had read that a Toco Toucan had been seen a couple of days earlier. Our schedule was tight but we still could wait for a toucan for an hour or so until 5 p.m. But we couldn’t find Toco Toucan but saw the last new and the 385th species of the trip – a Black-crowned Tityra. Also Green Aracaris, Short-tailed Parrots, a Spot-breasted Woodpecker and a Grey-cowled Wood Rail that crossed the road were seen.

Towards home

Finally we had to start driving towards the airport. There we left our car to the parking lot and even though I really wanted to go and give some feedback to Sixt-office, I didn’t do that.

Again there was a strange atmosphere in the airport. First there was nothing happening and finally when we queued to get our tickets, we were told that the plane had been overbooked! And of course it was us that weren’t going to fit to the plane, even though we had bought our tickets very early and now were in the airport much earlier than many other passengers. So now I finally lost my nerves to the officers and maybe because of that everything started to go smoother and soon we were told that we could make it to the plane.

After all the plane was quite a lot late but the most important thing was that we were finally sitting in. When the flight left we were both sleeping like babies and it felt that the flight wasn’t too long at all.

In Paris we took a bus again to another terminal and it took some time again to get to the right gate. So the waiting wasn’t too bad. And finally our flight to Finland left and again it wasn’t difficult to fall asleep.

When we landed to Helsinki-Vantaa it wasn’t a surprise that Hanna’s bag never arrived. It was easy to guess that it was left behind already in Cayenne airport. But it was better that the bag was there than in Paris where had been a mess with luggage for several weeks and many people had been waiting for their bags for weeks already.

Soon we took a bus to our airport hotel and then found our car from the parking lot and started a long way back home. In Hamina we saw a European Nightjar flying over the road and in Simpele an Eurasian Eagle-Owl almost hit a truck that was driving in front of us. Finally at 1 a.m. we were at home. There we dropped our bags in plastic bags to our balcony and left to Papinlahti to put up mist-nets. Then after a couple of hours sleep we had SSP-ringing when the sun was rising.


Tips for traveling in French Guiana:

Birding in French Guiana is tricky but very rewarding. This country has lots of potential and could be major birdwatching destination in South America. It is part of European Union and one of the safest destinations in Southern and Midle Americas.

Observations, identification aid and news of wildlife in French Guiana:

Birding sites:

Bird photographs:

Leaflet of coastal species:

Leaflet of Cayenne region fauna:

Leaflet of waders:

Leaflet of poisonous snakes:

Leaflet of frogs and toads:

Nature destinations:

Walking trails:

Sentier: circular trail

Layon: trail that you have to walk back

Piste: Driveable or nowadays undriveable dirt track. Some roads drawn to official maps are very poor tracks on wet ground. Asphalted roads are driveable with caution. Unpaved major roads were barely driveable with a normal car.

Map of trails in Saül. Was not available in printed form:

Amazonian natural park:


You should do accommodation inquiries in French. Google translate works well.

Hotels can be found only in cities. Many hotels and other accommodations were closed.

Budget accommodations around country:

Carbet: Roof and horizontal poles where you can tie your hammock.

Gite: Roof, walls and a bed where you sleep under mosquito net. Room is not necessarily insect proof.

Hamac: Hammock. Night temperatures are so high, that you might only need light blanket or thin sleaping bag under your back. You do need mosquito net and tarp if you sleap outside. There are lots of youtube videos that share tips and tricks to more pleasant sleeping in hammock. Remember that your gear also needs a raincover.


Northern Tanzania 7th to 17th of February 2022

In autumn 2021 when the World was suffering with Covid, in a weak moment I promised to participate to rinkball Finnish championship tournament with a team LaPo from Lappeenranta. I hadn’t been skating for almost 2 years and done anything else than running. On the next day I was going to play in the tournament in Kuopio and on the way I had time to think about another decision which I made too. If I, 44 old man, can go to play with the best players, I can go to Tanzania too! Jyrki Normaja was organizing a trip to Tanzania and there was only one place left so I sent a message to Jyrki and told that I am coming.

Winter was really cold old-time winter and corona was doing its worse with Omicron, so it looked like the trip was never going to happen. I also had difficulties to get Visa to Tanzania but on the third try I finally got it. The payment was made three times. Finally February started and the last week I was living as carefully as possible. On Friday the 4th after work I drove to Helsinki-Vantaa where I did PCR-test and on the next night I got the result which was luckily negative.

And on the 6th day I was twitching a possible Northern Grey Shrike in Asikkala and finally saw the bird after 9 hours trying. I was really freezing there but luckily I didn’t give up.

On the 7th day I twitched a female Pine Bunting in Kirkkonummi Masala and then we still went to see a Dipper with my father. But soon we had to drive back to my parents where I packed my luggage and then my father drove me to Helsinki-Vantaa airport. After all I was there in the airport too early, 3 hours before the flight.

To Tanzania

Almost our whole group was already there: Jyrki and Lotta Normaja, Matti and Liisa Kapanen, Tom and Kaija Lindroos, Henrik Lindholm, Hannu Huhtinen and soon also Mika Ohtonen arrived. Our flight left a little bit late and once again I watched a couple of movies and tried to sleep a little.

We landed to Qatar Doha before midnight and after a couple of hours the next flight left to Tanzania. I tried to sleep but there were noisy people sitting behind me and after all I managed to get about an hour sleep.

Finally after 7 a.m. we landed to international airport in Arusha. There we were expecting to have another corona-test but after all only PCR-test paper and a local health surveillance form were checked. So soon we were outside the airport and waiting for the rest of hour group which some had been in the back of the plain and were stuck in the line. We also waited for our guide and drivers to arrive as they had told to be there about 45 minutes after we had arrived but we had managed to get out in 5 minutes.

Introduction to birding

Outside the airport there were lots of birds. A flock of Little Swifts was flying over but also many lifers were seen. 3 species of “turtle doves”, Mourning Collared, Ring-necked and later also Red-eyed Doves were seen. Amazingly colorful Superb Starlings and Pied Crows were walking between the people, Tricolored Bulbuls were calling and on the sky we saw Lesser Striated Swallows, White-rumped, Nyanza, Horus and Mottled Swifts. On the bushes we saw sunbirds which Scarlet-chested and Collared Sunbird were identified. Further along the road there was a dead tree where a Stripe Kingfisher and a black morph Ovambo Sparrowhawk visited. Also a Black-headed Heron was seen flying by, African Pied Wagtails were perched on the roof over us and some Red-winged Starlings were also seen. I really didn’t know which way to look.

After quite a long waiting our Tanzanian Birding and Beyond Safaris guide Anthony Raphael and drivers Edson and Geitan arrived and timing was good as only soon after that the last few of our group got out from the airport. Fever had been tested from some but luckily we all were feeling well and ready to go. Soon we packed our luggage to 2 big safari-cars and were ready to hit the road.

We soon stopped along the road to do some birding and Tawny-flanked Prinias, Blue-naped Mousebirds, a Black-chested Snake Eagle and a Variable Sunbird were seen. And once we were driving again we saw Red-billed Buffalo Weavers, a Fork-tailed Drongo and Long-tailed Fiscals.

We drove about a half of an hour towards Mt Meru and then stopped to walk in a small forest track and it was difficult as there were quite a few birds and I had no idea what most of them were… African Palm Swifts were flying on the sky, an African Emerald Cuckoo was found on the top of a tree, a couple of Hadada Ibises were on one roof and a Rüppell’s Robin-Chat, White-eared Barbets and African Grey Flycatchers were also found. Tropical Boubous were calling with funny voices, also Tambourine and Emerald-spotted Wood Doves were not only heard but also seen. On the top of one tree there was a perched Palm-nut Vulture and a back-color of a Grey-backed Camaroptera was seen after some trying. Anthony found several White-starred Robins that were actively singing but impossible to see in the dense vegetation. A White-browed Robin-Chat was seen and identified once the tail was seen well and also Kenrick’s Starlings and an Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon were seen.

Emerald-spotted Wood Dove

Finally we continued to Ngare Sero Lodge grounds where new birds were found all the time. A Green Malkoha was calling all the time and also seen pretty well and also a Golden-tailed Woodpecker was seen before we walked down to a pool where we saw Reed Cormorants, Thick-billed and Taveta Weavers, some African Jacanas, a Black Crake, Bronze and Red-backed Mannikins, Black-throated Wattle-eyes, a Black-backed Puffback, a stunning African Fish Eagle and an amazing Giant Kingfisher. Some familiar birds were also seen like Little Grebes, Moorhen and a Great Egret.

Anthony was all the time pointing new birds with a pointer and we were all the time asking what were the calls too – and they were always new species. Northern Crombec, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Lesser Honeyguide, Green-backed Honeyeater, Grey-olive Greenbul, Black Cuckooshrike and on a short walk also a funny Hamerkop and a couple of African Black Ducks were seen. Some calls heard were a Long-crested Eagle, a Red-chested and a Klaas’s Cuckoo, a Little Rush Warbler and an Augur Buzzard.

After some walking we climbed a bit higher along the pool to have lunch. It was difficult to eat as there were too many birds to see and to photograph everywhere around us. There were also a several Guerezas climbing on the tree on the opposite side of the pool which were nice to follow.

After the lunch we walked around the area more. Some of us were resting a little after a very long traveling and some were concentrating to take pictures. But with Mika we headed to walk along a small path inside the forest. In the beginning it was quiet as the day was already warming up but then we found a couple of Red-throated Twinspots, African Firefinches and a Little Greenbul. Soon we met Hannu and “Henkka” and continued along a stream towards the pool and found a Spectacled Weaver and a couple of Mountain Wagtails and so on. Also some Blue Monkeys and Ochre Bush Squirrels were seen.

Once we were back on the lodge we found some Brown-breasted Babblers and a Cardinal Woodpecker close to the parking place. Also an African Grey Hornbill and a Silvery-cheeked Hornbill visited the treetops. Soon we were ready to move on and after about 100 meters driving we had to stop again as there were Yellow-fronted Canaries and some African Firefinches on a small meadow.

It was already getting dark when we arrived to Arusha and parked to a garden of Korona Villa (I didn’t really like the name of the hotel but it was nice!). We were warmly welcomed and after we had carried our luggage to our rooms, we had dinner ready. After the dinner we kept a log which was long even though we had only done the Introduction to birding (days birding was in our tour-program with that name).

Arusha National Park

On the 8th of February we had quite late breakfast and soon most of us were out and waiting for our cars to arrive. There were quite a few birds and we saw Speckled Mousebirds, a couple of White-necked Ravens and a couple of pure-lookin Fischer’s Lovebirds but most of these birds looked like hybrids. In Arusha most birds are hybrids between Fischer’s and Yellow-collared. At 7:30 a.m. our cars were finally there and we left towards Arusha National Park. Anthony was every second day in different car and this time we were on so called car one with Normaja and Kapanen couples.

We stopped a couple of times on the way and the first stop was great as we saw a couple of Grey-crowned Cranes and there were also an African Sacred Ibis and a Three-banded Plover on the rice-field. After we had seen some Northern Fiscals and a couple of African Stonechats, we arrived to the gate of the National Park. Our drivers had to go to do some paper-work, so we were free to walk in the area a little bit. We found a funny-looking Chinstrap Batis, a Cape Robin-Chat, Bronzy Sunbirds, a Yellow-breasted and a Black-headed Apalis but soon we were in a car again and driving to the park. It was not allowed to get out from the car in the parks because of there were wild animals like Lions and Leopards. So we could get out only in some places like picnic-places.

After we had seen a couple of Scaly Spurfowls and Little Bee-eaters we came to an open area where we saw the first mammals – Cape Buffaloes and Plains Zebras with some Common Warthogs. Also the first Red-billed Oxpecker was seen on a back of a buffalo. There was also a stunning Saddle-billed Stork close to the road and also a Northern Fiscal and some White-winged Widowbirds and Red-billed Queleas.

Slowly we got higher and higher to the mountain forest and then stopped next to a huge tree that the road went actually through the trunk.

Next to this tree we got out and there were lots of birds in the tree and everywhere around us. Anthony started to play tape for some target birds and the first target was found quite soon. First we heard some harsh calls but the saw a colorful bird on the top of the tree – Hartlaub’s Turaco! We saw it only behind branches and in flight but some other birds were easier to see like African Dusky Flycatchers, a couple of Brown Woodland Warblers, Mountain and Strip-faced Greenbuls, a Grey-headed Nigrita, Broad-ringed White-eyes and then the tape worked again as another colorful bird arrived to the top of the tree – a Bar-tailed Trogon! It was also hiding well but after some trying we managed to get some kind of pictures.

Once we continued we started to see more mammals; Masai Giraffes, Cavendish’s Dik-diks, a Harvey’s Duiker, Guerezas, Cape Bushbucks, Ellipsen Waterbucks and then also a stunning Serval! More Cape Bufalloes and Zebras were also seen and of course we took lots of pictures both animals and birds. Some birds we saw were Helmeted Guineafowls, African Yellow Warblers, Red-capped Larks and Little Bee-eaters.

Then we arrived to Momella Lakes and stopped to a picnic-place close to the first lake. We had lunch there on a perfect spot to see birds and also mammals. While eating we saw Baglafecht Weavers and a White-fronted Bee-eater was catching insects from the closest bushes and trees and from the lake we found a Southern Pochard, a couple of Red-billed Teals, some White-breasted Cormorants and from the shore a couple of Blacksmith Plovers. There were also 3 Common Hippopotamuses on the lake but quite far! And in a short bush-visit we found a small flock of Crimson-rumped Waxbills.

Soon we were in a car again and we had opened the roof so we could either sit down and watch through the windows or stand on the bench and look much better to all directions as I was doing most of the time. On the next lake we found lots of Lesser and Greater Flamingoes, Cape Teals, Black Saw-wings, a few Banded Martins and a lonely male Maccoa Duck. Finally I also saw a White-browed Coucal which I had already missed a couple of times and also a Moustached Grass Warbler, a Spot-flanked Barbet, a Diederik Cuckoo, African Black Swifts, a Moustached Tinkerbird and a Yellow Bishop were seen. Also Zebras, Giraffes, Buffaloes and Warthogs were seen and photographed and lots of Olive Baboons and some Blue Monkeys too. But not all birds were so exotic, we also saw Black-winged Stilts, Little Grebes (amazing numbers), Ruffs, Wood Sandpipers, a Green Sandpiper, a Common Sandpiper and so on.

Suddenly our car stopped and our driver had seen something flying in the forest. We drove back a bit and Anthony started to play tape again. Then the group on the second car saw a Narina Trogon flying inside the thick vegetation. I saw to tree-tops only through a tiny hole between all branches and leaves but I was lucky, the trogon was perched right on that spot! It was impossible to see from any other place from our car, so we all had to come to stand on my seat in turns. And after all we all managed to see it and get some pictures too.

We continued to savanna and there the next species was a Pangani Longclaw. The first of many cisticolas was identified (I have no idea how many we had already left unidentified) and it was a Singing Cisticola. We also saw a small flock of African Green Pigeons and the second cisticola got a name Trilling Cisticola. Also a colorful Black-fronted Bushshrike was seen briefly and other species we saw were a Black-headed Oriole, an Eastern Grey Woodpecker, a Southern Citril and a Pin-tailed Whydah.

Finally we were in the end of the tour and at the gate again. There we walked again a little while paper-work was done. Then we continued to Arusha and Korona Villa where we had a dinner again. Then we still had a long log before we could go to sleep far too late.

Longer drive

On the 9th of February we had breakfast again at 6:30 a.m. and we had managed to order the cars to arrive a little bit earlier and we were now free to leave earlier as there was no late-opening gates on the way. On the garden we saw familiar birds but also a Village Indigobird was perched on a wire. Soon we were on the road and driving towards Serengeti. Luckily we could stop the car if it was needed once we had driven through an area that was told to be a military-area. So we started to see birds and saw Fischer’s Sparrow-Larks, a Brown Snake Eagle, Yellow-billed Kites, a Lanner, White-faced Whistling Ducks, Crowned Lapwings, Lesser Masked, Rufous-tailed, Speckle-fronted and White-headed Buffalo Weavers, Kenya Sparrows and when we stopped to fill the tank of our car, we saw a couple of Yellow-collared Lovebirds. Also big flocks of Abdim’s Storks were seen on savanna and on the sky and then first White-bellied Go-away-birds.

Finally we stopped for a short 30 minutes walk to an acacia forest but there were so many birds that we stayed there at least an hour. A Grey Wren-Warbler, Taita Fiscals, Red-cheeked and Blue-capped Cordon-bleus, a Purple Roller, a Southern Black Flycatcher, a Black-throated Barbet, Red-fronted Prinias, a Rosy-patched Bushshrike, Brimstone Canaries, a Spotted Palm Thrush, a White-browed Scrub-Robin, a Hildebrandt’s Starling, Yellow-crowned and Brimstone Canaries, Northern White-crowned Shrikes, Red-faced and Rattling Cisticolas, White-eyed Slaty Flycatchers, Beautiful and Eastern Violet-backed Sunbirds and an Abyssinian Scimitarbill were seen. We could have easily stayed in this place for whole day as there were so many birds to see and photograph but we still had many things to do and a long drive.

We continued driving and on the way we saw an Eastern Chanting Goshawk, a few Abyssinian Wheatears and a Cinnamon-breasted Bee-eater. We also saw the first masai-villages where mud hut looking buildings were surrounded by a thick fence made of big branches. We also saw a funny-lookin Flap-necked Chameleon crossing the road.

Then we turned to Ngorongoro gates where were lots of Olive Baboons and also some Reichenow’s Seedeaters, a Red-fronted Tinkerbird and a couple of Brown-headed Apalis were seen. Then we continued higher to a view-watching place where an amazing view opened to Ngorongoro crater! There we ate picnic-lunch (which was again really good by the way) but it was once again difficult to concentrate eating as there was so much to see!

Some of us had put up telescopes and were watching to the crater where were lots of animals. And soon the first Black Rhinoceroses were found! I also saw an African Elephant with my binoculars but Rhinos were so much more rare that I really needed to go to see it with a scope. After all we found 4 Rhinos but of course they were very far on the bottom of the crater. But there were too many birds again so I had to start looking at them too! Again they were all new species.

We saw some Mblulu White-eyes, an Abyssinian Thrush, a Red-fronted Barbet, a Streaked Seedeater and an amazing Golden-winged Sunbird. There was really no time to visit toiled – I did that and missed a couple of lifers. It was a bit frustrating as I had no idea which birds were going to be difficult to see later as all birds were different in every place…

Once we were back through the gate, we continued towards Serengeti. On the way we saw first huge Kori Bustards, Greater Kestrels, Red-capped Larks, African Pipits, some Cape Rooks, Spotted Thick-knees and then we started to see amazing numbers of mammals! White-bearded Wildebeest and Plains Zebras were in huge numbers but also Cape Buffaloes and Thomson’s Gazelles were a lot. There were animals both sides of the road as far as we could see! We also saw some Common Elands, Serengeti Topis, Grant’s Gazelles, African Golden Wolves and Spotted Hyenas. The big migration was going on! There would have been so much to see and photograph but unfortunately we were in a hurry as we had to be at Serengeti gate at 5 p.m.

We drove quite a long time along very poor road very fast and we could make stops only if it was really necessary – so all the possible lifers were checked and a couple of better pictures taken. But we were really driving so fast that we were worried if we soon have only broken cameras.

So finally we got the first pictures of a Greater Kestrel, a Black-bellied Bustard, a Yellow-throated Longclaw, a Capped Wheatear and finally also Common Ostriches. And just before the gate we made a stop to photograph a Secreterybird that was swallowing a snake close to the road and there was also a lonely Lion resting behind some vegetation a bit further! Amazing!

Finally we were at the gate to Serengeti National Park and again drivers had some paper-works to do. So we were able to straighten our legs and walk a little. A Brubru, a Red-faced Crombec, Buff-bellied Warblers and a Banded Parisoma were found. There was also a familiar, but more difficult to identify, bird on one tree but after all it was quite easy to identify as an Icterine Warbler. Then we again got into our cars and started driving towards our lodge.


Luckily we were not in so bad hurry anymore so we could make some more stops. Anthony took his phone and tape-lured a flock of Black-lored Babblers visible. Also a couple of Coqui Francolines were seen briefly before the sun started to set. The road was still very bad and soon we were driving very fast again. It was already getting dark when we saw some vultures which were identified as White-headed and a Lapped-faced Vulture and later we saw some more unidentified vultures on the dead trees. Also a couple of flocks of Wattled Starlings, a White-bellied Bustard and some Marabou Storks were seen. It was already dark when we stopped briefly along a pool where were Hippoes swimming and also a couple of them next to the pool.

Then it started to rain very hard! Finally we parked to Thorn Tree Camp parking place where the crew was welcoming us with umbrellas. We walked under umbrellas to the reseption and our luggage were carried there too. And soon we were enjoying a good dinner and after that we still had a log to do.

When the log was done we had to ask an employer to walk with us to our tent as it wasn’t aloud to walk there by yourself – we were in the middle of Serengeti and there were many animals living next to us!


On the 10th of February it had been very heavy rain at night, but luckily weather was nice in the morning. When the sun was rising, we walked to have breakfast and got several Grey-capped Social Weavers to join us even inside the tent. After the breakfast we climbed to our cars and started driving inside Serengeti.

It was now rainy season and very green everywhere, but the rains had started very late so all migrating animals were late on their usual schedule and still on the way to Serengeti. That’s why we had seen so many mammals on the previous evening – they were close but not yet inside the park. So we didn’t see a single Gnu and only a few Zebras inside the park.

Some birds we saw early in the morning were Nubian Woodpecker, Dark-chanting Goshawk, Village Weaver, funny-sounding Flappet Lark, Bearded Woodpecker, Silverbird, Foxy Lark, Grey-backed Fiscal, White-tailed Lark, Black-faced Waxbill, Meyer’s Parrot, Slate-colored Boubou, Bateleur, Purple Grenadier, Pin- and Straw-tailed Whydah, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Croaking Cisticola, Gabar Goshawk, Grey-headed Silverbill, African Hoopoe, Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbill, Magpie Shrike, Rüppell’s Starling, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Vitelline Masked Weaver and Usambiro Barbet. We also got nice pictures of Black- and White-bellied Bustards, an African Woolly-necked Stork and so on. We also saw some mammals like Impalas, Serengeti Topis, Common Dwarf Mongooses, Cavendish’s Dik-diks, Cape Buffaloes with some Yellow-billed Oxpeckers on their backs and also some Leopard Tortoises and a flap-necked Chameleon were seen. We also got familiar with tsetse-flies, but luckily there weren’t many of them or other insects either.

After quite a lot of driving and birding, we arrived to a high area where were a couple of meters long spiky trees here and there. This was area for rare Karamoja Apalis. So we started to stop every couple of hundreds of meters and played tapes in both cars. Anthony told that this species was difficult to see as, if it comes, it comes quiet, stays in a tree for a short time and then disappears. We had once again continued after a long try when we our friends on the other car called us that they had found one bird. We managed to get back (frustratingly slowly) but luckily the bird was still there and we got this rare endemic to our list! In same time there was a herd of Elephants walking on the savanna behind the spiky trees so it was very nice moment!

We kept on getting further and soon found a Pygmy Falcon on a tree next to the road. Then Anthony started playing the tape again but now from a moving car. But it seemed that all birds had disappeared, but then a flock of birds flew over us and they were exactly what we had been searching for – Grey-crested Helmetshrikes! Shrikes were flying around and only shortly stopped to some distant bushes but after all we managed to get some pictures. These birds were really funny-looking.

After a short drive we stopped to a plateau where we could see were big trees further on the mountain side. Soon we saw a Woodland Kingfisher and then the next bird was a nice surprise – a beautiful Black-headed Gonolek! Almost same time the tape lured an amazing-looking Schalow’s Turaco to the trees further and after some time we could see it in flight but then it also perched quite openly but unfortunately quite far. Von der Decken’s Hornbill landed very close to us and soon the tape worked again as a couple of huge Eastern Plantain-eaters were seen in flight on the top of very distant trees. This had been one of the most memorable stops ever – we had seen several amazing birds in very short time!

We drove quite fast back to our camp and after the lunch we had some time to photograph common birds in the camp. I got pictures of Superb and Rüppell’s Starlings and Swahili Sparrows, also a Red-throated Tit was found from the parking place.

In the afternoon we drove in the park again and saw Desert and Lyne’s Cisticolas, a Long-crested Eagle, Fischer’s Lovebirds, Grey-breasted Spurfowls and Arrow-marked Babblers.The best observation was a Cheetah that we saw with help of a car that stopped to tell us about it. The cat had disappeared to the vegetation for some time ago but luckily we found it quite soon. And after some waiting it got up and gave us better views! We were very happy!

Once we were driving again I finally saw a Pearl-spotted Owlet that I had missed earlier and also the first Wahlberg’s Eagle, an African Hawk-Eagle and a couple of Yellow-throated Bush Sparrows were seen. In the evening we had really good light for photographing and as we were in no hurry, we got very good opportunities to get pictures. Edson was stopping every time we asked and he was actually the most talkative of the locals and told us many interesting stories during the trip.

We were back in the camp before the sunset and then we had dinner and log again. I got into our tent again so that a local was escorting me. Mika stayed up much later once again.

Another day in Serengeti

On the 11th of February an Elephant had been walking through the camp and very close to some of our tents. It had also left a huge pile of shit in the middle of the path. After the breakfast we headed to the park and our goal was to see some more birds but also the missing mammal of the big five list – a Leopard. All cars in the park had radiophones and all big cats and so on were told to other groups, so we could still concentrate on birds and keep our radio on and then go twitching.

We were driving a bit more moist areas and headed towards North first. We saw Meyer’s Parrots, a Lesser Kestrel, a couple of Dark Chanting Goshawks, Usambiro Barbets, a Pied Wheatear, a Black Crake, Woodland Kingfishers and so on. It seemed that lifers were getting more difficult to get. We also saw Common Hippoes, Black-backed Jackals. Dik-diks and so on.

Finally we found a few Three-banded Coursers and then some Yellow-billed Storks, a couple of Chestnut-banded Plovers, a Black-winged Red Bishop and also a couple of Crocodiles. We also saw lots of Hippoes and a couple of them were fighting a long time. It was fun to see a Common Sandpiper walking on the backs of Hippo together with a Red-billed Oxpecker.

When we were driving again we saw some flocks of Yellow-throated Sandgrouses in flight and then found a couple of Black-faced Sandgrouses along the road. Then Edson found a stunning Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl that was perched on a tree. Other observations were a Bohor Reedbuck than was laying down next to the road and a huge Python that crossed the road.

After one more cisticola, Pectoral-patch Cisticola, we found an African Harrier-Hawk working on one tree. It was robbing some nest and we could get really good pictures of it. I was happy to see another species that I had missed earlier. Then we still saw a Hooded and a White-backed Vulture on the sky before next to a small airfield we found a small pack of Lions laying on the shadows of trees. One bigger Lion came closer but behind some vegetation to eat a carcass of a Cape Buffalo. We also saw several Kongonis and on a small pool we saw a Common Snipe, a Wood Sandpiper, a Kittlitz’s and a Three-banded Plover.

We walked a little bit on the picnic-place next to the airfield and again got some pictures of common birds like tame Hildebrandt’s and Rüppell’s Starlings, Slate-colored Boubous, a Red-throated Tit, Grey-headed Silverbills, a Spotted Palm Thrush and also cute Common Dwarf Mongooses and Eastern Tree Hyraxes.

Once we were moving again we saw the same Lions again and now one female was drinking by the pool! So we finally got good pictures of this massive cat! Next we continued towards south quite fast but we still saw a flock of Collared Pratincoles, Black-bellied Bustards and finally a few Two-banded Coursers with one chick too.

Once again when we were driving fast there started to be amazing numbers of mammals! We saw thousands and thousands of White-bearded Wildebeest and Plains Zebras but also Spotted Hyenas, Secreterybirds and Tawny Eagles very well. I could have watched there masses of animals for a long time but we were in a hurry.

The next stop was made in Serengeti Media Center where we walked a little bit again. It was a nice place but in the middle of hot day there weren’t much birds. But we got pictures of different kind of lizards – Common Agama was the most colorful and thus easy to identify. And soon we were driving again and more Hyenas and also an elegant Serval was seen. It was already getting late when we started to get close to Ndutu and there we saw quite a few vultures on the top of trees.

Finally we were in Ndutu Safari Lodge where we went to eat immediately. After a few minutes a Common Genet joined us and stared at us from the ceiling where it was perched. Then after the dinner our log got an awful twist as one of us had made a covid test and got a positive result! We first discussed what we could do but then together with Anthony we all agreed that we couldn’t do anything more than keep distance to all other people. We were in the middle of Serengeti and we had already been together for days, so we all probably had the virus already. And after all we were all the time just together, so we could only hope that nobody gets more sick. And after all it seemed that locals where happy if there just was ginger-tea on every meal.

But anyway I had difficulties to get asleep and of course in early morning I started to feel some itching on my throat…

To Ngorongoro slopes

On the 12th of February we woke up and had breakfast same at time again and then we had to split into two groups. In our original program we were going to visit both Ngorongoro crater and slopes in the same day but we were just too slowly and making many stops all the time so Anthony had realized that it was impossible to do all this in one day. So one group was going to the crater and another one to the slopes. In crater there would be more mammals to see and of course also some birds in the crater lake too, but on the slopes there would be more mountain-birds which usually are very local and difficult. So after all I decided to go birding. I had already seen the endangered Black Rhino and this was maybe the best opportunity ever to get some lifers from the slopes. I think I will be visiting the crater one day with Hanna anyway.

So after all there were me, Mika, Henkka, Hannu and Matti with Anthony and Geitan going to the slopes. But both groups had to drive first a long way to get to Ngorongoro. First we started on the shore of Lake Ndutu where we saw Rüppell’s and other vultures, a perched Bateleur, a Thick-billed Seedeater and an African Cuckoo.

On the same straight road that we had been driven in the last evening we saw more vultures, Hyenas, Jackals and amazing numbers of Gnus again and Common Elands, Kongonis, different kind of Gazelles, a couple of Black-winged Lapwings, a flock of Caspian Plovers, a Temminck’s Courser and so on.

Slowly we got closer to Ngorongoro mountain and then started to climb higher. After quite a lot of driving we finally found the first Anteater Chats and then stopped to a place with nice view to the crater where we easily found Lyne’s Cisticolas and some Dusky Turtle Doves.

Soon we continued, saw a couple of Hildebrandt’s Spurfowls and then stopped to twitch Hunter’s Cisticolas.

Next stop was made on the same view watching place where we saw Mbulu White-eyes, but soon kept on driving higher. After some driving we found some Moorland Chats but the road was very curvy and narrow so we couldn’t stop in most of the places.

Finally we got to the plateau where were lots of masai huts – it was like a city! Anthony told us again not to take pictures of people or buildings so we just tried to find birds. After some searching we found a couple of Red-cowled Widowbirds and then finally a single Jackson’s Widowbird too. These birds were quite far but some pictures were got and secretly we could get some huts to the background.

Masai city

While we were driving again masai-children were waving to us. They were shepherding goats and I think youngest were maybe 4 years old. Soon we had to turn back and after we had seen a Speke’s Weaver and an Eastern Double-collared Sunbird, the next bird was a huge Martial Eagle that was soaring on the sky. Then we stopped to a hillside where on dense vegetation we saw some Bar-throated and Brown-headed Apalis, an African Hill Babbler and a Tacazze Sunbird.

Once we were on the view watching place again, we met our second half of the group and saw now 7 distant Black Rhinos but there was no time to discuss as we were in a hurry to get out from the National Park. We had paid to stay in the park for 2 days and the time was getting full.

Then we had a long drive to Karatu where we parked to really comfortable Villa Lodge. Our cottages were really nice and in the evening we had some time to watch birds from our terrace. The bst bird we saw was a Black Sparrowhawk. In the evening everyone was very tired and it seemed that some of us clearly had covid. Anyway we still tried to listen to nightjars on the garden but without luck.

Some were too tired and maybe sick to join the log which was long as we had two groups observations that were very different. There would have been some lifer on the crater too but I think I had made the right choice.

Lake Manyara National Park

On the 13th of February we were in the same groups again but a couple of us had to stay in the lodge as they felt themselves sick. We drove to Lake Manyara National Park and we knew that the lake had been flooding so there weren’t many shorebirds around and also several roads were not driveable.

So once we were through the gate, we concentrated to forest-birds. It started very well as we soon found a couple of Southern Ground Hornbills that were perched on a dead tree quite far. But soon we got closer views of a Hamerkop, Silvery-cheekd Hornbills, White-headed Barbet couple, a Yellow-bellied Greenbul and a Crowned Hornbill. Then we saw an African Pygmy Kingfisher flying across the road and then we found a perched Crowned Eagle. And soon we found 4 Broad-billed Rollers which was again a bird that I had missed earlier. Then we got an unexpected tick when Anthony showed us a Collared Palm Thrush and then we still found a colorful Orange-breasted Bushshrike – we were really having a good time again!

It went well later too as with the tape we found Rufous Chatterers and on one tree we found a Gabar Goshawk eating a prey. Also a Fan-tailed Widowbird was seen and then we saw the first close by Elephants.

We did a short walking stop in one picnic-place and just before the stop we saw a Red-and-yellow Barbet which was luckily seen briefly on the picnic-area too. We also saw a couple of Yellow-spotted Bush Sparrows, a couple of African Hawk-Eagles were soaring on the sky but on the lake, that was quite far, we saw no birds at all. And soon we were driving again.

With help of the tape we found our next target which was a Purple-crested Turaco. It was quite far but was showing pretty well after all. It was one more amazing turaco to our list!

We were already driving quite fast back when Anthony found a flock of Eastern Crested Guineafowls feeding on the shadows under some vegetation. It was one more dream-bird that I had hoped to see.

Pretty soon we were back at the lodge where we ate well. In the afternoon only 5 of us were participating the trip. Some felt sick and tired and the garden was also a great place to try to see some soaring raptors.

We drove a short distance along the road and then stopped a couple of times just along the road in acacias and plantations. But once again all birds were new. We saw Black-crowned Tchagras, Holub’s Golden and Golden-backed Weavers, Southern Red and Black Bishops, a Bare-eyed Thrush, a D’Arnaud’s Barbet, African Paradise Flycatchers, Pale White-eyes, a couple of Violet-backed Starlings and so on. I finally got pictures of an Augur Buzzard and saw one familiar trip-tick – a Common Whitethroat. Other common Finnish summer-birds that we had seen had been numerous Barn Swallows, House Martins, Common Swifts, Northern Wheatears, a couple of Whinchats, Red-backed Shrikes, Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Spotted Flycatchers, a couple of Yellow Wagtails and a single Osprey. I had really thought that we could see more Finnish migrants.

In the evening we had dinner (even though I wasn’t hungry at all) and then log again.

More mountain birds

On the 14th of February after breakfast we were on the way to Ngorongoro highlands again but different side of the mountain. The first stop was made to twitch a Red-faced Cisticola which was found already while we were still moving. On the same place we saw Yellow-bellied Waxbills, a Green-headed Sunbird and a Grey-capped Warbler.

It had been raining at night so ground, especially the road was very muddy. Soon our boots had thick mud-layers, so it was quite slippery to walk. We continued a little bit higher to Elephant Cave trail where we met our local guide Emmanuel and an armed guide who were going to join us. They had already checked that Elephants and Cape Buffaloes had moved higher and weren’t on the track.

Soon we were walking along a curvy and slippery path in a mountain forest. Emmanuel knew the calls very well too so soon we started to find new birds. We found a couple of White-tailed Blue Flycatchers, a singing Red-capped Robin Chat, with Mika we saw briefly a Lemon Dove in flight and soon we heard a couple of Schalow’s Turacos which we also manged to see briefly again. Also Mbulu White-eyes and a Common Cuckoo were seen.

After a quite long walk we found a couple of Purple-throated Cuckooshrikes and immediately after them also an Orange-breasted Bushshrike. Also some Abyssinian Crimsonwings, an Amethyst Sunbird and a couple of African Paradise Flycatchers were seen. And when we were on the furthermost point just about to turn back, we found a Sharpe’s Starling that was visiting a nest-hole.

We still decided to get down to a small river but then climbed back up along a different, less slippery, path and started walking back. Birds were quiet as morning was over. So we were pretty soon back in the parking place. The best bird we saw on the way back was a Grey Cuckooshrike.

We still had lunch in the lodge and then we packed our cars and started a longer drive to Tarangire. And again we soon found out that birds had changed completely!


The first lifer was a Red-necked Francolin but also several Yellow-collared Lovebirds were seen here and Mika got his World-tick number 5000! At the gate we walked a little and saw White-browed Sparrow-Weavers, Northern Red-billed Hornbills and Ashy Starlings. And when we were driving again we soon saw the first Yellow-necked Spurfowls.

We also saw some mammals and got pictures of Common Warthogs, Common Dwarf Mongooses, Elephants and Ostriches – oh the last one is claimed to be a bird… In nice evening light it was good to get pictures of spurfowls, hornbills, Northern White-crowned Shrikes, a Pygmy Falcon, a Fork-tailed Drongo and a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater.

Our accommodation was an amazing Safari Lodge which had a terrace with a view to river and savanna. In the evening we celebrated Mika’s 5000th tick with champagne and enjoyed the view and some birds. A Greenshank was heard as a trip-tick and we also saw Mottled Spinetails and when it was almost dark some of us saw a Freckled Nightjar flying over very close. And while we were having a log, an African Scops Owl started to call nearby.

On the 15th of February after a night in a tent we walked to have breakfast when the sun was rising. Then we got pictures of an African Scops Owl that was sleeping in the closest tree next to the terrace. I managed to find a Black-throated Weaver and get some pictures of White-headed, Red-billed Buffalo and Rufous-tailed Weavers before we left by cars to the park again.

We photographed a nice couple of Wahlberg’s Eagles, Giraffes, Banded Mongooses, Crested Francolins and so on before we found the first lifer which was a flock of funny Green Wood Hoopoes. Then we found some Red-necked Spurfowls, White-bellied Bustards, and so on before the next lifer which was a fruit-eating Red-bellied Parrot.

We got good pictures of Magpie Shrikes, Lilac-breasted Rollers, White-bellied Go-away-birds and a Nubian Woodpecker and then suddenly we found a perched Greater Honeyguide. Then a Knob-billed Duck that was perched on a tree-top. In a shore of a pool nearby we saw a couple of Black-faced Sandgrouses and then the male Knob-billed duck landed to the pool to chase females. There were also White-faced Whistling Ducks, Egyptian Geese and then after some more driving there was another duck on the tree-top – a Spur-winged Goose. And finally I managed to see a Mosque Swallow so well that I could take a lifer.

A short stop in a picnic-place produced pictures of Superb Starlings and from the view watching place we saw a couple of Water Thick-knees along the river. And when we were on the move again, we found a perched Martial Eagle and in the same time there was a big Monitor going to swim to a pool.

Of course we had to take pictures of huge baobab trees too and check every single branch if there was a Leopard. But only mammals we got good pictures were Zebras and Elephants which were now seen quite a lot. The next bird-lifer was a Senegal Lapwing and soon we found another Verreaux’s Eagle Owl which was calling on a branch a little bit too far. There was also a female on the same tree but hiding behind all branches.

The next new bird was a Buff-crested Bustard which came too close to fit to the pictures. We also saw a dark morph Gabar Goshawk. Also both Great Spotted and Levaillant’s Cuckoo were seen briefly.

We drove back to the lodge to have lunch and then had some time to photograph tame birds in the lodge-area. A beautiful Red-headed Weaver was building its nest next to the swimming pool. It was amazing red bird! I also got pictures of Superb Starlings, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleus, Yellow-collared Lovebirds, an African Hawk-Eagle that was soaring close to the view-watching place, a Beautiful Sunbird, Von der Decken’s Hornbills, buffalo weavers, Ashy Starlings, Slate-colored Boubous, Yellow-breasted Apalises and also Unstriped Ground Squirrels.

It seemed that we had seen so many birds already that new lifers were not so easy anymore. So in the afternoon we had more time to photograph and it was good to get nice pictures of Secreterybird. We also saw Two-banded Coursers, Senegal Lapwings and several gazelles and so on before we found the first targeted lifer – a flock of Northern Pied Babblers and almost right away after them we found a couple of Pale Flycatchers. We also got pictures of a Red-billed Oxpecker cleaning Impalas ears and also African Grey Hornbill showed very well.

We also got pictures of a Yellow-billed Stork, Yellow-necked Spurfowls, Black-faced Sandgrouses and Blue-capped Cordon-bleus. In the evening we were in the lodge early enough to get more pictures of birds there. And then it was time to eat and have the log again.

On the 16th of February we were out a little bit earlier as we wanted to get to bustard-areas as early as possible. It had been raining at night so roads were very muddy and soon it was clear that we couldn’t drive any further than on the previous day. But already on the way we could see that bustards were very active as we saw several White-bellied Bustards flying around.

Soon we found the first Buff-crested Bustard too and also a Black-bellied Bustard that we first hoped to be a Hartlaub’s Bustard but no. But then in the same place we saw a distant bustard in flight and it was much paler – it was a Hartlaub’s Bustard! We also saw a Pallid Harrier, a Knob-billed Goose, Yellow-necked Spurfowls, a Pangani Longclaw and other familiar birds and mammals. We got really good pictures of Hyenas as a couple of them were cooling in a small water-pool.

Red-and-yellow Barbet couple was mating, Yellow-billed Oxpeckers were climbing on Giraffes neck, Cavendish’s Dik-dik was waving its nose while watching at us, Red-bellied Parrot was eating fruits, Jacobine Cuckoo flew over us, a turtle was running over the road and Banded Mongooses were wrestling on the track. So it was just a basic morning in savanna…

It was also nice to get better pictures of a D’arnaud’s Barbet, a Meyer’s Parrot and a flying Bateleur. Then on one dead tree we saw a couple of Southern Ground Hornbills which was also nice to get photographed. Also Ostriches were showing well and we also saw a Striped Kingfisher, Mottled Spinetails and briefly a couple of Hildebrandt’s Spurfowls.

Once we were back at the camp we found a Marico Sunbird and a few Red-billed Firefinches and then Jyrki who was going to photograph Ashy Starlings got accidentally quite close to a huge Python. Unfortunately the snake was going to hide us to a water pipe that went under the track, so only a half a meter was visible when we went to see it.

After the lunch we started to drive towards Arusha but luckily we still had some driving in savanna both before and after the gate. So we still saw plenty of birds and mammals. Especially Elephants were showing very well. Then on the gate we saw Grey-headed and Woodland Kingfishers and a Red-chested Cuckoo which all were photographed.

Then we had a long drive to Arusha and on the way we saw several villages more active as it was a market-day. Finally we parked to Korona Villa garden and now if ever the name of the hotel sounded awful, probably several of us was having covid right now…

Lark plains

On the 17th of February we woke up a little bit earlier and after breakfast we were soon driving north from Arusha. It was surprisingly long drive but on the way we saw a Lizard Buzzard on the wire and several flocks of White-fronted Bee-eaters.

Finally we reached the lark-plains about at 9 a.m. and Anthony called to a masai who was working with endangered and endemic Beesley’s Lark. Soon we saw this man standing in the middle of the plains and started driving slowly towards him. He had been searching for these larks from 7 a.m. and had just found the birds! And once we got out, we soon saw 2 Beesley’s Larks! And in short walk on the area, we saw altogether 5 of these birds that is known only in this area in the whole World! On last count a couple of years ago only 23 birds had been found! This plateau has almost every year so hard winds that the whole vegetation flies with the wind and destroys many nests of birds.

We managed to get pretty good pictures of Beesley’s Larks and after that we found also Fischer’s Sparrow-Larks, Red-capped Larks and Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses and then on another stop we found a couple of Athi Short-toed Larks and a single Short-tailed Lark. Also Northern and Isabelline Wheatears were seen and a couple of Temminck’s Coursers.

Then we continued to acacia area where we found a couple of Pygmy Batises, a Grey Wren Warbler, a Red-and-yellow Barbet and a small flock of White-headed Mousebirds. In this area we also met the first angry local people who probably wanted to get some money from us. They said that we were on their land, but for sure we weren’t. And once we were driving again we found a Kori Bustard that decided to fly very close to us and it was nice to see and photograph this heaviest flying bird of the World in flight.

Soon we found a female Common Rock Thrush and then the last stop was made in another acacia area where we found some Tiny Cisticolas and Foxy Larks, a Straw-tailed Whydah, a Northern Crombec, a couple of very active Scarlet-chested Sunbirds and then the last lifer of the trip was a Southern Grosbeak-Canary which I couldn’t photograph as my battery died. It was the first time I didn’t have extra-battery with me.

On the way back we still stopped to tick one more cisticola but luckily we stayed critical and identified the bird as a Winding Cisticola instead of something else.

Way back to home

Finally we were back in Korona Villa where we had excellent pizza and them it was time to say thank you to Anthony as he was leaving. We had collected tips to him and also to drivers and gave them after we all had eaten. Then we did all the packing and still had almost whole log before we had to leave to Arusha airport with our drivers.

Luckily there were no covid-tests at the airport as we really didn’t want to stay in Tanzania in quarantine. A couple of week old PCR-test papers were only asked.

Our first flight was to Dar Er Salaam where were no tests either. We had some time to do some shopping even though we had to check-in our luggage again. Then the next long flight was to Qatar Doha. I managed to sleep for some time and then in Doha we had again some hours to wait. Last flight was long and I slept almost whole time. Then we landed to snowy Helsinki-Vantaa airport.

While we were waiting for our luggage also Peking flights luggage were on the same belt. There were Finnish women icehockey team and also some skiers, for example Iivo Niskanen so there were many Olympic medals hanging on the necks. We tried to stay as far as possible from these sport-heroes as we probably still had covid.

Finally it was time to say thanks and goodbyes to our group. My father was picking me up but as I thought that I might have covid too, I just gave him the souvenirs and took my car and started driving towards Parikkala. My father had to take a train back to Kirkkonummi. I was at home pretty early and as it was Saturday I had good time to relax.

But during the weekend I felt myself sick and it wasn’t a surprise that homemade covid-test gave positive results. And on Monday I got positive also from real test. So I still stayed away from work for 4 days.

Our trip had been amazing! Our group had seen 474 species of birds. I had missed 6 species that had been seen only from other car or then by one or two people and then I had of course missed some species that had been seen only in Ngorongoro crater. So I had seen 459 species which 356 had been lifers! There are amazing numbers of birds in Africa! We had seen amazing mammals and taken too many pictures on the trip too! I think this was not my last trip to Africa! Thanks to our Tanzania Birding and Beyond Safaris company and our guide Anthony, drivers and other helpers and of course to our group, especially to Jyrki.


Northern Finland 18th to 27th of June 2020

Because of COVID19 the borders were closed and there was no possibility to make traditional summer trip abroad, we had been planning to go to Lapland. But after busy spring we had been too tired to make any plans. When I surprisingly heard that my nephew was having his confirmation parties in Kemijärvi, we decided to go. There was only one problem, I got the information about the parties less than a week before them and I had no holiday asked. Luckily my boss understood that this was a right time to go to Lapland and I got holiday.

Hanna’s sister Elissa had also planned to go to Lapland to see birds, so we asked her to join us to make the trip of course cheaper but also more fun because of Elissa had never been in Lapland in summer so she had several species to see as lifers there.

So in the 18th of June after I had finished at work, we packed our car, drove to Tarvaslampi to pick up “Elli”. Somehow we managed to squeeze her stuff into the car too and started driving towards north.

It was raining and even stormy but anyway we did a stop in Saari Pohjanranta where only a couple of Ruffs were seen. When we got to North Karelia we started to keep trip-tick list. The weather also cleared and in Kitee we saw a Red-backed Shrike and a Barnacle Goose along the road. Then we stopped in Kontiolahti Linnunsuo for an hour and saw a Spotted Redshank, Long-tailed Tits, Yellow Wagtails and so on.

Red-flanked Bluetails

We drove a long way until Sotkamo Talvivaara where we climbed up along a steep track to the top next to a mast and once we parked and got out from the car, we immediately heard a couple of Red-flanked Bluetails singing. So soon we had gathered our ringing-stuff and were putting up a mist-net into the forest. And it didn’t take long when we had a stunning adult male bluetail in the mist-net. As it seemed to be so easy, we soon tried to catch the other bird too but it had stopped singing and we didn’t see or hear it at all anymore. But the bird with a ring kept on singing all the time.

Soon we had the tents up and after we had eaten we were ready to go to sleep. We had lots of sleep debt with Hanna because of a busy spring and we thought there would be more during this trip.

On the 19th of June we woke up before 1 a.m. and both bluetails were already in full song. Soon we had a mist-net up again and in a minute even more beautiful adult male Red-flanked Bluetail on our hands.

Soon we were walking in Talvivaara forests carrying our ringing-equipment and after some walking we heard again a bluetail. And soon it started to feel that there was always a new bird in every 300 or 400 meters. We tried to catch almost every bluetail we found but only one adult male was hitting the mist-net but escaping. Young males were much more suspicious and they were getting close to the mist-net slowly from the heights so they probably saw the net. We also found one alarming female but after all we couldn’t catch a single bird even though during the whole morning we had heard 13 bluetails.

Other birds we found were 4 Greenish Warblers which 3 of them were singing very close to each others, some Wrens, a Crested Tit, Common Crossbills, Bullfinches and a Green Sandpiper. And there were mosquitoes – enough mosquitoes!

Once we were back in our camp we slept a few hours and then hit the road again.

In Ristijärvi we saw a Honey Buzzard and once we had decided where to go next, we finally turned to Puolanka Kuirivaara and soon were searching a suitable place for camping.

We couldn’t really see the hill and forests from our camp so we didn’t know what to expect. There were amazing numbers of mosquitoes and other bloodsuckers and only bird we saw in the evening was a Common Buzzard.

On the 20th of June we woke up at night again and soon were climbing up towards the forests. It didn’t take long when we heard a familiar song of a Red-flanked Bluetail and soon we were ringing one more adult male.

We walked until the morning was getting too hot to continue and found altogether 9 bluetails and all birds we had seen were young males. And they were really tricky to catch but after all we managed to catch 2 of them.

We also found a Tree-toed Woodpecker, some Chiffchaffs and Bramblings, a Black Woodpecker, a Wood and a Green Sandpiper and a Treecreeper.

Seeing relatives

After sleeping a few hours again we continued to Pudasjärvi Syöte to my brother Riku’s cottage. It was good to see his family for a long time. So the evening was spent while chatting and eating well. We also went jogging with Riku.

On the 21st of June we went to early morning run with Riku’s wife Pirjo. And surprisingly the first bird we heard while running was a Red-flanked Bluetail in Aurinkokallio. It really seemed that there were more bluetails than ever!

During the day we started driving towards north again and most of Riku’s family followed us with their brand new camper. Finally we were in Kemijärvi and my other brother Pirkka’s home. His younger son Veikka was having his confirmation party. Parties were of course because of the situation quite small-scale but it was maybe even more fun for us as there were almost only close relatives.

During the parties we saw some birds too as a Common Rosefinch was visiting the feeder and in the evening a Woodcock was flying over us while we were putting up the tents to the back-yard.

On the 22nd of June we did a short morning trip with Pirkka in Kemijärvi but in mid-summer there weren’t much to see. Some Red-throated Divers and Red-necked Grebes, a Hen Harrier and a Rough-legged Buzzard were the best birds.

After a morning run with Pirkka we started to drive towards north again. The next stop was made in Pelkosenniemi Sokanaapa where some Yellow Wagtails and Waxwings and a Black-throated Diver were seen and then the next stop was made in Sodankylä Ilmakkiaapa where we saw more Yellow Wagtails and an Osprey.

Inari Ivalo Mellanaapa

After a brief stop in Sodankylä Porttipahta we twitched a Grey Wagtail in Inari Laanila. We also saw a Stoat crossing the road and then finally after a long driving day were in Inari Ivalo Mellanaapa. Soon we met Olli Osmonen who had set up a ringing station to wastewater treatment plant. Quite a few ringers have been visiting the site and with fresh ideas the place had became surprisingly working station. Together with Olli we walked around the area to see the mist-net places and as we were the first visitors this year (most ringing is usually done in autumn), there were some work to do with some fallen poles and so on. So after we had seen all the places, Olli left and we began to work. And in hour or so we had all the poles up and mist-nets ready for the next day.

It was already late so soon we had the camp ready and we went to sleep for a couple of hours.

On the 23rd of June we woke up again too early. Soon we had opened the mist-nets with Hanna and as the round to check all nets was very long, we decided that I will check nets around the pools and Hanna and Elli would check nets around the buildings. Then Hanna would ring the birds around the station-building.

Elli had already heard a Jack Snipe into her tent but luckily it was displaying also later during the morning. On the first round we caught some Reed Buntings but the second round was so quiet that we went twitching with Elli. We drove some 10 minutes to Ivalo beach and immediately heard a singing Arctic Warbler from the other side of the river. Surprisingly there was also a 2nd c-y Grey Heron on the beach with a herd of Reindeers. Because of the Arctic Warbler was moving further and it wasn’t easy to hear anymore, we were soon driving back towards Mellanaapa.

Some 400 meters before the gate we stopped and right away heard a Little Bunting singing. We also managed to see the bird briefly on the top of a perch but then it flew further and as there were too many mosquitoes, we decided to keep on going to ringing station. Elli had really had a good morning as in 1.5 hours she had heard her first ever lekking Jack Snipe and got two lifers.

Hanna hadn’t done any rounds so we left to check the nets right away. But as expected it was pretty quiet this time of year. After many round and many walked kilometres I slept an hour or two and finally at midday we closed the mist-nets. We had caught a Yellow and a White Wagtail, 2 Common Redstarts, a Song Thrush, 9+2c Willow Warblers, a Brambling, a Bullfinch and 3r+2c Reed Buntings. We had also heard a Bluethroat, a Broad-billed Sandpiper and seen a Common Ringed Plover, some Waxwings and Common Crossbills and so on. We also had seen a couple of Elks crossing the bog.

After we had slept a few hours we continued towards north again and the next stop was made in Kaamanen 4 tuulen tupa where on the feeder we saw 7 Pine Grosbeaks and also some Tundra Voles. Unfortunately we didn’t see Siberian Jays or Siberian Tits that seemed to visit the feeder more likely in the morning.

In Ahvenjärvi we saw a male Velvet Scoter and in Basijávri a female Smew. Then in Karigasniemi we visited briefly Piesjänkä just to see if there were any good tenting places but decided to continue to Ailigas to our traditional camping place close to the gate. And soon we were putting up the tents to a place where we had really nice views to Ailigas fell.

Piesjänkä and Ailigas

On the 24th day we woke up again at 1 a.m. and after we had seen a Long-tailed Skua flying over our camp we were driving towards Piesjänkä. On the way we saw a Rough-legged Buzzard and soon we were walking towards the big bog-areas.

We found some couples of Long-tailed Skuas right away and on the first pool we saw 16 Red-necked Phalaropes and some more were found later. Also a Temminck’s Stint and a Dunlin were seen by the pool. We walked quite a long way but it was surprisingly quiet. Just some flocks of Common Redpolls were flying over us and at least a couple of them were probably Arctic Redpolls but we didn’t see them well enough. Other passerines were missing and for example not a single Lapland Bunting were seen and only a couple of Bluethroats were found.

We walked until the wet bog where we could scan also a couple of distant lakes with telescope. We found Tufted Ducks and Goldeneyes but also 3 males and a female Long-tailed Duck. As the walking came difficult, we decided to start walking back. We still had plenty of to do during the morning. Luckily Hanna found a female Willow Grouse and a Jack Snipe came to display over us and when we still found a tame Red-necked Phalarope the walk in Piesjänkä had been very good.

Soon we were up at Ailigas and by the gate where we parked the car and soon started to walk up towards the top of the fell. It was a tough climb up to the top but anyway we started immediately to walk around the top and search for birds. But there were only some Golden Plovers – nothing else.

When a couple of Long-tailed Skuas were flying over us, we decided to continue to the next top, Gaskkamusalas. I had briefly seen a Snow Bunting flying against the top, so we wanted to see at least it better.

Some more climbing was worthy as we found several Snow Buntings including a nest with eggs. But still we found no Ptarmigans or Dotterels. After some more walking around the top, we started to walk towards the road and landed lower down between the tops. And surprisingly there much lower down we first heard a Ptarmigan calling and soon saw it flying towards us. It landed quite close so we managed to see it well and got some pictures too.

We also found a couple of Long-tailed Skuas that were alarming when a Rough-legged Buzzard was flying over their territory. And while walking up and down next to the road back towards our camp we found another Ptarmigan, a flock of 20 Golden Plovers and a singing Bluethroat that was already close to our tents. And then it started to rain, so our timing had been perfect – we could go to sleep.

In the afternoon while driving again we saw a Rough-legged Buzzard in Nuoppiniemi and in Dalvadas we saw a Lesser Black-backed Gull along Teno-river on the Norwegian side of the river. It was pale-backed and huge, so it looked more like a grallsii than heuglini. After all we weren’t far from the Norwegian sea-coast. Also a couple of Ruffs were seen before we continued driving.

Nuvvus Ailigas

Finally we took a small road just before Nuvvus and found a suitable place to camp. We agreed to sleep a little bit later – until 3 a.m.

On the 25th of June we were at 4 a.m. next to Nuvvus Ailigas fell and soon started climbing along Cihkagurra towards the top. It was a tough climb along the steep and rocky hill and there weren’t many birds around. We had seen only a Willow Tit and a Bluethroat until we were already above the tree-line when we finally first heard and then saw a distant Ring Ouzel.

Then we heard strange calls that I thought it was a Dotterel but we never saw the caller. All we found visible were Golden Plovers and Whimbrels. The views were amazing to other fells and to Teno-river. And while we were photographing the views we heard a different kind of call that I didn’t identify but now we saw a Dotterel flying past us.

After we had been walking a little bit on the top, we started to walk back down. Again we saw the same Ring Ouzel briefly and when we were much lower down 2 more Ring Ouzels flew over us. We were pretty tired when we were back on our car, but still we went to parking place to listen one more Ring Ouzel singing and we also heard a distant Dunnock.

The weather was getting worse while we were driving towards Utsjoki. So the raptors weren’t flying and it wasn’t a surprise that only a single Rough-legged Buzzard was seen on the way. In Utsjoki we visited a shop and after all decided not to drive any more north towards the northernmost village of Finland, Nuorgam, but turned towards south. We had a tight schedule after all…

Self-found Arctic Warblers

Our next stop was made in Skalluvaara where we walked some time in a boggy area and found a Rough-legged Buzzard, 12 Red-necked Phalaropes, a Spotted Redshank, some Bluethroats, a Great Grey Shrike and finally also a single Lapland Bunting which only I saw well enough to get a trip-tick. I wonder were all buntings were as it should be very common bird.

While driving back towards the main road we heard an Arctic Warbler through open windows. We stopped and found out that there were 2 birds singing. We tried to see the closer bird and saw 2 birds briefly. Maybe there was one more bird that wasn’t singing?

Moving south

We continued towards south and did a couple of stops along rivers close to Kevo and some hills later but saw only a couple of Peregrines that we twitched. Also a Kestrel was seen there and later a Hen Harrier in Inari. Then in 4 Tuulen tupa we saw only a single Pine Grosbeak. When we were driving again we saw a female Smew on the first small pool.

We continued until Toivoniemi bird-tower where we put up the tents into the forest and saw briefly a Willow Tit chasing a Siberian Tit. I visited the tower from where were extremely nice views but soon we had to go to sleep. We agreed to sleep a few hours but after all we were sleeping five hours while Elli had awaken a couple of hours earlier. She had been listening weird high calls for some time until from the tower she saw a Hawk Owl and realized that the callers were Hawk Owl fledlings. Finally we woke up too and together we went to search the young owls that 2 of them were quite easy to find while 3 more were heard.

We visited the tower and photographed the views and I heard a Common Redshank calling in distance. And soon we had packed our car again and started driving.

It was already late when we drove through Ivalo where we saw a Woodcock displaying. In Sodankylä Madetkoski we saw a Short-eared Owl and in Ilmakkiaapa I heard a Broad-billed Sandpiper calling shortly.


Finally we stopped in Vuojärvi Kantola where an Ortolan Bunting had been for some time. After some waiting it started to sing and it sounded as weird as it had sounded in Olli’s recording that we had listened in Mellanaapa. It sounded more like a Cretzschmar’s Bunting, but unfortunately there had been good pictures of the bird and it was an Ortolan for sure. Also we saw the bird chasing a couple of Yellowhammers and the identification was straightforward. Later we heard that there are Ortolan Buntings singing like this bird in Northern Sweden.

Then we continued to Kemijärvi where had been a very rare summer visitor – a Yellow-browed Warbler on the previous morning. We were there in good time early in the morning but in an hour we couldn’t hear or see it. And after all nobody found it anymore. We did hear a Lesser Whitethroat there.


While we were driving towards Kuusamo I got an idea to turn to Salla. After some extra driving we stopped in Ruuhijärvi where a long straight track was going along the lake and there were bushy bog on both sides of the road. Immediately we heard a Rustic Bunting singing and soon we had mist-net up again. The bunting wasn’t interested of the tape so Hanna stayed by the net and I walked a little bit more along the track. I soon found a Little Bunting singing but it stopped and disappeared very soon. When I was walking back I noticed that Hanna had changed the tape to play Little Bunting’s song and there was a Little Bunting hanging on the mist-net.

We stopped about every 200 meters along the road and found several more Little Buntings and managed to ring one more bird. Also one couple was seen. But there were no more Rustic Buntings so after all we turned back and made another try to catch a Rustic Bunting too. After all there were 3 birds flying around but they never came close to the mist-net, maybe because of the wind that was getting quite strong.

We heard a Merlin calling and several Whimbrels and some other bog-species too but then we started to feel too tired to go on. We drove to a small parking place of Termusjärvi bird-tower and soon had tents up. We still walked to the tower which was quite far. So we didn’t bring our scope with us and that’s why we couldn’t identify any of the distant ducks we saw. A tame Three-toed Woodpecker was seen along the path and I still saw a female Willow Grouse before we went to sleep.

We woke up when it was getting too hot in the tents. After we had eaten we started driving towards Kuusamo. It was already midday when we arrived at Oulanka where we first tried to find some orchids. We found some Lady’s Slippers but Fairy Slippers weren’t found, it was probably too late. A couple of Parrot Crossbilles, a Crested Tit and a Chiffchaff were heard. Then we walked to Kiutaköngäs rapid where we photographed the stunning views and also saw 2 males and a female Grey Wagtail. Also a Wren was singing there.

In Käylänkoski we found a young Dipper hiding along a small ditch as the river was flooding. Then we still visited new Oivanki wetland where we heard again a couple of Parrot Crossbills.

Then we started a long drive towards south. I had decided to drive as long as possible to make the last day of our trip easier. We also would have plenty to do on Sunday in Parikkala on my last day of holiday. In Taivalkoski Siltasuo we saw a Short-eared Owl and of course we stopped to see Hiljainen kansa. In Hyrynsalmi Hoikkajärvi a female Capercaillie almost flew against our wind-screen and while Hanna and Elli were sleeping I continued driving. There were lots of Hares along the road! Finally in Sotkamo it seemed that there was very big storm in front of us, so we decided to stop to one parking place to sleep in a car and wait the clouds to move.

I couldn’t sleep at all so after an hour I started driving towards still cloudy south. Luckily we managed to avoid the storms and finally were in Kontiolahti where we turned towards Kolvananuuro which we had decided to be our target-place in the morning. When we had parked, it took some time to find suitable tenting places and once the tents were up, a thunder was coming right over us.

Very good last morning

Anyway we slept very well for several hours and about 8 a.m. we started walking to Kolvananuuro. We soon found a couple of White-backed Woodpeckers and then found passerines alarming in a top of one pine. After some waiting it wasn’t a surprise to see a Pygmy Owl escaping the flock of attacking passerines. And after some more walking we heard Ural Owl youngsters begging for food and soon found one bird visible while 2 more birds were calling around us.

After we had heard a distant Greenish Warbler we started walking down to Kolvananuuro. There we walked along rocky bottom for quite a long time which was very hard because of rocks were still wet and slippery. But there were so many birds around that it really didn’t matter – we heard lots of Wrens, 3 Red-flanked Bluetails, 2 Red-breasted Flycatchers and some Chiffchaffs. There were also lots of Phoxinus fish on the pools between the rocks. Finally the track started to climb back up and after hard climbing we started to walk back towards our car.

We had already walked the whole round when we heard familiar calls which I couldn’t identify first, but then we heard rattling and of course, there was a family of Red-flanked Bluetails, a female and at least 2 fledlings. Hanna managed to get some pictures of a young bird.

Finally we were back at our tents, we packed everything and luckily tents were already dry. And soon we started to drive towards south.

Our last stop was made in Kitee Puhos where had been a female Siberian Stonechat for several days. We found it easily and Hanna managed to get very good pictures of it. We also heard some Common Whitethroats and saw a few Linnets that were our last trip-ticks. Altogether we had seen 144 bird-species without really collecting.

Finally after 1800 driven kilometers we were back in Parikkala and in Tarvaslampi where sauna was ready for us. And after sauna we had good food! It was nice to get clean and well fed before we continued home to sleep. On the next morning we woke up at 2:30 a.m. again and went ringing birds. And in the evening we had water-bird counts in Siikalahti – quite a holiday again…


Indonesia, Bali (and Eastern Java) 24th of December 2019 to 5th of January 2020


In autumn 2018 BirdFair in Helsinki we met our old friend Seppo Hjerppe and found out that he had been traveling a lot in Indonesia during the last 20 years and was actually living in Bali in winters nowadays. We discussed that we could come to do some birding with him one day and he thought that it would be fun.

About one year later we were planning out winter-trip with Hanna and contacted Seppo and asked if he was in Bali and wanted to do some serious birding around Christmas and New Year. And soon we were buying flights and in early winter when Seppo was still in Finland we met and planned the base of the trip. But we decided to make more exact plans once we were in Bali.

To Bali

On the 22nd of December in the afternoon and early evening we drove to Vantaa Lentopysäköinti and soon got a ride to the airport. We were once again too early but finally our Qatar Airways flight left towards Doha at 10:40 p.m.

We watched movies and then tried to sleep as much as possible on the flight. It was surprisingly quiet in the plane and we managed to sleep quite well. Finally we landed to Doha, walked a long way to the right gate and spent time while watching outside through the windows. We saw some Tree Sparrows, White-spectacled Bulbuls, Laughing Doves, Rock Pigeons and Common Mynas.

Finally after a couple of hours waiting our flight left to Denpasar. Again we tried to sleep but also watched movies. And at 11:00 p.m. we landed to Denpasar. We queued to the baggage claim area and my bag was almost the first one that came through the line, but we had to wait for a long time before Hanna’s bag finally came. Then we walked to the lobby where we found our driver Bung who had a bi sign with our names on.

We followed Bung to the parking tunnel and waited for him while he got his car. It was extremely hot and humid in the tunnel but finally Bung arrived and we got to his air-conditioned car where we could cool down.

We started driving towards North and there was surprisingly lot of traffic even though Bung said that: ”There is no traffic”. Finally we arrived at Jukut Paku near Ubud and parked our car in front of some buildings. We found Seppo outside and soon carried our luggage along a corridor and through a gate to his garden. There we met also Kari Riipinen who had been living in this apartment for 7 years now and had been working with Seppo in the past. Their company had been selling Indonesian furniture and other stuff in Helsinki. Kari had been mostly living and traveling around Indonesia and sending shipping containers to Finland to Seppo who then tried to sell everything. In the garden we met also Topi, a Balinese dog.

A Sunda Scops Owl was calling while we chatted with our householders, but it was very late so soon we carried our luggage into a small guesthouse and soon we were sleeping – it was already Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve birding

We could’ve slept longer but when cocks and chickens started to call in the neighbor, also a Green Junglefowl started to call nearby. Soon also a couple of Greater Coucals were calling so I just had to go out. I climbed to the roof of the guesthouse which was build as a bird-tower. The view was amazing green!

It was hot already when the sun was rising. Other calls than coucals and cocks were Yellow-vented Bulbuls, but also some unidentified birds were heard. I immediately noticed that there weren’t songbirds. In Indonesia catching birds as cage-birds is a huge problem and on some islands there are more birds in cages than free! Now I heard a single Oriental Magpie Robin singing, but I couldn’t be sure if it was free or in a neighbor’s cage.

I also saw Pacific Swallows flying past very close and very fast, two kind of swiftlets were flying on the sky which most of them were Cave Swiftlets but also some Edible-nest Swiftlets were seen. Yellow-vented Bulbul and swiftlets were the easiest birds to see, but also Spotted Dove was numerous. Eastern Cattle Egrets and some Javan Pond Herons were seen flying towards the rice-fields, Scaly-breasted Munias flying on the sky and Olive-backed Sunbirds flying on the top of trees. Only very familiar call was a Wood Sandpiper that was calling in the sky shortly.

When Hanna and Seppo had also climbed to the roof we started to identify more birds. A high call that I had already heard a couple of times was a Chinese Sparrowhawk which was also seen soon. On the top of a distant tree Seppo found a Collared Kingfisher and soon a flock of Javan Munias came to the garden trees. A Square-tailed Drongo-cuckoo was calling and soon landed to a top of one of the trees, a Lesser Coucal was calling somewhere along the river that was nearby and a couple of Crescent-chested Babblers were calling inside the vegetation. A Common Iora and an Olive-backed Tailorbird were singing and a small flock of Grey-cheeked Green Pigeons flew over us and landed to a top of one tree visible. A lonely Asian Glossy Starling flew over us and a Javan Kingfisher was calling nearby but we couldn’t find it. We still saw a bright red Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker but then we had to have some breakfast. We had managed to get already 13 lifers in the garden!

After long travelling we had planned to start getting familiar with Indonesian and Balinese birds quite easily. So after the breakfast we left birding to rice-fields nearby. It was nice to meet many locals that Seppo knew, people were happy to meet us too and it seemed all local people were smiling at us. It was good to be in Asia again!

Zebra Doves were calling, a Plaintive Cuckoo whistling and a Lineated Barbet burring somewhere distant. We saw a flock of Pink-necked Green Pigeons and while walking along the fields, an Oriental Honey Buzzard flew over us. Soon we found the first Wood Sandpipers, Pin-tailed/Swinhoe’s Snipes which some were identified as Pin-tailed Snipes and also the first White-breasted Waterhen was seen. After we had heard and seen some Zitting Cisticolas we found the first Golden-headed Cisticola and soon we found more of these very funny sounding birds. All of their calls were just ridiculous! Then we heard and soon saw a Plain Prinia which shouldn’t be found in Bali by the books but Seppo had found them here and there. Soon we also saw a Greater Painted-snipe that a local farmer flushed. Plenty of Scaly-breasted and Javan Munias and a single White-headed Munia, Asian Glossy Starlings and Pacific, Barn and Striated Swallows were seen too.

We continued walking towards Ubud and on the way we saw some nests of Striated Swallows under water-towers. We also saw Tree Sparrows and a couple of Brown-throated Sunbirds before we walked through the famous monkey-forest where we of course photographed tame Crab-eating Macaques. These monkeys were extremely good at stealing stuff from tourists so we hid everything into our bags and pockets but anyway one young macaque managed to steal an almost empty coca cola bottle from Hanna’s bag. It just jumped over Hanna’s bag and took the bottle from the pocket even though only the cap was visible. But this stupid monkey opened the bottle upside down and only got it’s feet wet.

In Ubud we changed local money, Rupias, and we became millionaires! 100 000 Rupias is the biggest paper money which is 7 Euros. We still did some shopping and then took a taxi back to our apartment.

During the hottest time of the day we were having siesta and in the afternoon went to birding again. We walked now towards the river nearby and immediately saw an Emerald Dove flying past us. Along the river we found a big Chestnut-breasted Malkoha perched on the tree and I thought that I had already heard it calling in the morning. Also the same Collared Kingfisher was seen again.

We continued to the fields on the western side of the village and found more Zitting and Golden-headed Cisticolas, Pin-tailed/Swinhoe’s Snipes, White-breasted Waterhens and saw a couple of Greater Painted-snipes in flight. We also heard a Plaintive Cuckoo, a couple of Square-tailed Drongo-cuckoos, a Common Flameback and a Common Iora. While we were walking back we still saw a couple of Sooty-headed Bulbuls. During the walk we also saw some big Asian Water Monitors.

In the evening we had Christmas dinner even with some Finnish salted fish and rye bread. We had small Christmas-presents to our hosts. We chatted until late evening while listening to Sunda Scops Owls calling and Black-crowned Night Herons flying over. We also climbed to the ”tower” to listen to a Red-legged Crake that was calling quite actively. There were also many other animals around the garden. Soon after the sunset very noisy crickets started to call but luckily they stopped after 10 minutes. Several different kind of bats were flying over the garden, the biggest always just flew straight inside the biggest tree. Many kind of butterflies and moths, even some hawk-moths, were seen. Smaller geckos were easily found on the walls but also Toke-geckos were calling around. Big bright-yellow sided skinks were also living in the garden where was also a small pool with fish and some frogs that started to call at night. The noisiest frogs weren’t welcome to the pool.

Christmas Day

On the Christmas Day we woke up early and climbed up to the roof to revise identification of common birds. Green Junglefowl, Crescent-chested Babbler, a couple of Brown-throated Sunbirds, Square-tailed Drongo-cuckoo, Chinese Sparrowhawk, Javan Munias, a couple of White-headed Munias, Grey-cheeked Green Pigeons and so on were seen and finally a couple of Javan Kingfishers were also seen briefly. A small flock of Chestnut-cheeked Starlings flew over with some flocks of Asian Glossy Starlings and with swiftlets there were a few Pacific Swifts flying on the sky.

When Seppo has also climbed up we heard a strange bulbul-like singer that we tried to see for a long time but without luck. I took recordings of the song and later it was identified as an Orange-spotted Bulbul.

After the breakfast we left to walk and took Topi with us. We walked to the river where we surprisingly found 3 White-crowned Forktails! An Oriental Magpie Robin was calling on the tree and a Common Sandpiper was also seen. We continued to an old temple that was along the same river and found out that there were some tourists having their yoga-session. I don’t know if they were trying to find themselves but at least Topi found himself in a cool muddy ditch.

We saw one more White-crowned Forktail and a Blue-eared Kingfisher flew past us very fast. Also a Grey Wagtail was found. It was very hot so Seppo decided to go to swim to the river. It was very rapid and Topi was very worried on the shore.

After a short siesta we headed to fields where we saw again some Golden-headed Cisticolas, White-headed Munias and a Great White Egret. Then it started to look like a rain was coming soon and we headed back. But after all it was raining only some drops. Rainy season should have started already a month ago but it was still very dry. It had been raining only a couple of times and not hard at all.

To mountains

On Boxing Day, the 26th of December we started serious birdwatching. At 4 a.m. Bung came to pick us up and we headed towards the mountains. Seppo had recently found a new forest-birding place which I can’t tell where it is because of bird-trappers.

When we parked our car, we started to walk along the road while Bung started to sleep in his car. We had planned to walk about 4 hours. Immediately we heard plenty of Lesser Shortwings and Crescent-chested Babblers. After a short walk we found a bird-wave where a Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Sunda Warblers, Sunda Leaf Warblers and 4 Scarlet Minivets were found. Several Flame-throated Barbets were burring, a Ruddy Cuckoo-dove was first heard calling and then seen flying past the road, several Green Imperial Pigeons were calling and a couple of Sunda Cuckoos were calling. Grey-cheeked Pigeons were flying over us and soon we found the first Ashy Drongos and then also some Greater Racket-tailed Drongos. Birds seemed to be very shy, so it was difficult to see them well and almost impossible to get any pictures. Also several noisy Plantain Squirrels were heard and seen.

We continued walking and found lots of Mees’s White-eyes some Long-tailed Shrikes and Grey-headed Canary-flycatchers, a male Little Pied Flycatcher and then we found some Snowy-browed Flycatchers hiding low in the shadows. While watching the flycatchers we noticed a different-looking flycatcher female higher on the tree and identified it as a Mugimagi Flycatcher. Soon we found a few females more and then saw briefly a beautiful male Mugimagi Flycatcher too.

We stopped in one open area to search for Sunda Grasshopper Warblers that Seppo had heard earlier in the area, but we couldn’t find them. But after we had continued walking, we heard the first one and later a couple of more. But these birds were hiding in so dense vegetation that we couldn’t see them at all.

Soon we heard a Yellow-throated Hanging Parrot calling while flying over us, but it was just too fast, so we couldn’t see it. Then we heard a new kind of dove calling and I took my phone and listened to some Xeno Canto recordings that I had saved to my phone and found out that it was a Little Cuckoo-dove, a lifer even for Seppo. Soon we had another Little Cuckoo-dove flying over us.

Then we heard a strange bulbul-song very close to us and found a couple of bulbuls that we couldn’t identify. Luckily they were showing well enough to get some photos, so we knew we could identify them later. I had forgotten my book to car, so soon we kept on walking.

We forgot the bulbuls soon as we heard several Cinereous Tits singing and also saw a couple of them. And in the same time we heard several Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babblers calling and after some trying we managed to see these curvy-billed birds hiding in the shadows.

While we were walking on more open forest it was surprisingly quiet around us, only some Greater Racket-tailed Drongos were calling higher on the hillside, but then suddenly we heard a high call of a Javan Whistling Thrush, then another, a third and so on.

On open hillside we stopped to scan the sky and tree-tops and found a couple of Black Eagles soaring on the sky. We also heard a Javan Cuckooshrike calling and then right next to us a bird started to sing in a bush. Again I found the same song from my phone and I started to play it and so we managed to also see this Aberrant Bush Warbler quite well.

We had already seen some flocks of starlings flying over us when I remembered that Asian Glossy Starling wasn’t supposed to occur this high on the mountain. When the next flock flew over us we noticed that the birds seemed to be shorter-tailed too, they were Short-tailed Starlings.

Our road ended but we continued along a small track inside the forest. Still there were Lesser Shortwings singing but now we heard also some Mountain Tailorbirds. Doves were sounding different again and while we were following one unidentified high-pitched caller, I found some Dark-backed Imperial Pigeons on the top of trees. While I was watching them I managed to lean towards a bush that burned my skin through my trousers so badly that it hurt continuously for several days and still burned 5 days later for a while! But at least I saw the pigeons well!

Soon we turned back towards our car and it seemed that birds were much more quiet during hot time of the day. So we saw just some flocks of Mees’s White-eyes and heard some Lesser Shortwings before we were back where Bung was waiting for us. I took my book and soon found out that the bulbuls we had photographed had been Javan Bulbuls. Javan Bulbul hasn’t been seen in Bali before but the biotope was correct and we were far from the place where any cage-birds were. I really think we had found the first for Bali!

We still drove to the shore of Lake Buyang but then it started to rain. We walked under a shed to check the lake with telescopes and found lots of Common Moorhens, some White-browed Crakes, Swinhoe’s Snipes, Black-crowned Night Herons, White-breasted Waterhens, a couple of Yellow Bitterns, Little Egrets, a couple of Grey Wagtails and so on. When the rain stopped we walked a little bit along the shore and found several singing Striated Grassbirds and Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers. Seppo told that he had sometimes seen a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler carrying food, so I would like to know what are they really doing in Bali? Even now they were singing quite a lot and even though I am not experienced, I think they sounded a little bit different than I had expected.

We also saw a small youngsters of White-breasted Waterhen, they were really cute black furry balls. Then we heard Red Avadavat calls shortly but only Seppo managed to see them in flight.

Finally we started to drive back towards Ubud. On the way Seppo bought some strawberries but they weren’t good at all. In Ubud we saw a really bad accident where a car hit a scooter. There were immediately lots of people helping the wounded scooter-driver and then the car-driver took him to the hospital. Bung said that it was his responsibility. I must say that I would never drive with scooter in Balinese traffic. Anyway there were lots of tourists driving, some without a helmet. And after all this wasn’t the only bad accident we saw…

In the evening we went to a restaurant that was nearby. We ate very well there and pretty soon we were ready to go to sleep.

River-delta birding

On the 27th of December Bung came to pick us up at 5 a.m. and soon we were driving towards the coast. When the sun was rising we parked along River Unda and soon we were watching White-breasted Woodswallows and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters that were flying above us. We forded across the river to cleaner side as there had lots of rubbish on the ground where we had started. And soon we were walking on the delta’s sandur-area. We immediately saw flocks of Pink-necked Green Pigeons which some were extremely orange-breasted and we first identified them wrong as Orange-breasted Green Pigeons – but they were too grey-headed, so we later corrected the identification.

On the trees nearby we saw lots of cages and in some of them there were birds inside, at least some Javan Mynas. We still hadn’t seen any mynas in freedom.

On one reed-bed we heard a couple of harsh-sounded reed warblers singing and nowadays it is known that on Bali the species is Australasian Reed Warbler. We also heard a couple of Lesser Coucals and Plaintive Cuckoos and heard and also saw briefly a Sunda Pied Fantail. While following the river again we heard a Cerulean Kingfisher a couple of times but didn’t manage to see this bird yet.

From wet pools we found plenty of White-breasted Waterhens, White-browed Crakes and Yellow Bitterns. Also Intermediate Egrets were seen and a single Striated Heron too. On one reed-bed we heard Streaked Weavers calling but saw them only in flight briefly. One cuckoo-looking bird was seen in flight but it was impossible to identify as there can be several wintering species of cuculus-cuckoos.

After we had been walking between the bushes for a couple of hot hours we finally saw the first Javan Myna flying over us. Again we heard some Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers and Striated Grassbirds and saw several Collared Kingfishers. Also a couple of flocks of White-headed Munias and a couple of Eastern Yellow Wagtails were seen.

When we came close to the shore, there was lots of mangrove and Seppo knew it was a good area for a Savanna Nightjar. We were walking around the bushes for some time before we found the first bird and then there were altogether 8 birds flushed under the same bush. And soon another 8 birds were flushed again from very small area.

There was a tiny farm in the middle of the area and there we heard a Black-naped Monarch singing shortly and then next to a small pool Hanna and Seppo saw a Barred Buttonquail running under a big bush to hide. We also saw a small cuckoo landing to a top of some stick and identified it as a Banded Bay Cuckoo.

When we were on the shore we saw some waders and new trip-ticks were Common Greenshank, Pacific Golden Plover, Kentish Plover and we managed to identify a couple of Javan Plover too. Luckily they were calling. Also a dark-blue kingfisher was seen and in this biotope it had to be a Common Kingfisher, which is a very dark sub-species in Bali.

We walked until a village called Jumpai where Bung came to pick us up. We still checked the beaches and watched to the sea but found only a distant flock of Sanderlings.

To Western Bali

On the 28th of December Kari’s trusted driver Nyoman arrived to pick us up at 7 a.m. and soon we were driving up towards the mountains. We stopped shortly on view-watching place where we saw a couple of Chinese Sparrowhawks. Then next stop we made on the shore of Lake Buyan again but there were less birds now. Striated Grassbirds and Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers were heard but there weren’t many other birds. Only new birds were good, a soaring Changeable Hawk-eagle and a calling Rusty-breasted Cuckoo.

We continued driving towards new places. In Munduk I noticed some big birds perching on a wire over the curvy road. When we got closer we realized that they were Wreathed Hornbills! These birds were feeding on the terrace of a hotel where were big feeders for animals. Luckily we were there in the right time. We managed to see these amazing birds extremely well before they left to fly over their home-forest.

After we had been watching mountain-views for some time, we drove down along the coast and when we were near the shore, we stopped to see if there were any birds. Some Little Egrets were feeding on the rocky shore and a couple of Brown Boobies were found from the sea. But there were no other birds at all, so soon we continued towards west.

Nyoman was driving as fast as it was possible on these narrow roads where were lots of other cars and scooters. He was overtaking cars pretty much but he was a good driver and we didn’t need to be scared at all. We saw some families driving with one scooter and usually only the driver had a helmet. It could be possible to see a headline in local newspaper:” 2 scooters crashed, 10 injured”.

Finally we were driving along the western tip of Bali and right before Gilimanuk we saw some Asian Palm Swifts. Soon we turned to parking place of Hotel Lestari. We were there so early that we had to wait for 30 minutes before our rooms had been cleaned. Actually we took better rooms than we had booked as we realized that we really needed air-conditioners.

Once we got into our rooms we relaxed the hottest couple of hours but then headed to birding. We just walked across the road and followed a path to the bushes. Seppo had been birding here before and knew which paths to follow.

It was very hot but we we walked in the bushes for a couple of hours. We saw an Emerald Dove, Lineated and Coppersmith Barbets, a Common Flameback, a couple of Freckle-breasted Woodpeckers, Collared Kingfishers, Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, about 20 Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters, Long-tailed Shrikes, Common Ioras, White-breasted Woodswallows, Black Drongos, lots of Sooty-headed Bulbuls, Pink-necked Green Pigeons, a Lesser Coucal, some Javan Mynas and finally a few White-shouldered Trillers.

When we had walked back to our hotel, we continued straight towards the sea. Once we were on the shore, we found a tern perched on a buoy. It looked strange and when it opened its wings and turned to better position, we realized that it was a Black-naped Tern. From the sea we found also some Lesser Crested Terns and 6 Brown Boobies.

We kept on walking on the beach that was full of rubbish – and we saw people carrying more and more rubbish to the shoreline. Seppo called to his old friend, a local bird-guide Iwan Melali and when we had walked until Bali Barak = West Bali National Park information center, Iwan was already waiting for us.

After some chatting we walked around the area and soon heard a Bali Myna singing and found it perched on a tree. There were some nest-boxes on the trees and altogether we found 6 Bali Mynas which at least 2 were unringed while the rest had color-rings. In this place there was a big cage where Bali Mynas were living while waiting to get free. In the past there had been only about 30 pairs of these beautiful birds but the protection had been successful and nowadays there are about 350 birds in Bali Barat. But the threat still exists as cage-birders can get rich by illegal trapping of Bali Starlings. About 10 years ago armed robbers stole all 100 birds from one cage by force. But anyway the future of Bali Starling looks much brighter than it looks for many other species that are not protected in Indonesia.

It was already getting late but we still found a couple of Scarlet-headed Flowerpeckers, saw briefly an Oriental Pied Hornbill in flight and found an Island Collared Dove. Once we had planned a little bit the next day’s schedule, we walked back to our hotel along the shore.

Hanna cooked her dinner at the hotel but we walked to the city to search a restaurant with Seppo. It was more difficult than we had thought to find a restaurant but after several kilometers walking, we finally found one. Once we were walking back on the other side of the street, we saw a couple of other restaurants that were closer.

Bali Barat

On the 29th of December we woke up early and at 5 a.m. we met Iwan and his driver Dahlan who had arrived early. Soon we were driving inside the National Park towards mangrove. Once we had parked, we continued walking and Iwan was showing the way with his torch.

After short searching we found a couple of perched Savanna Nightjars and managed to get some pictures of them even though it was still completely dark. We also heard a Large-tailed Nightjar calling somewhere in distance.

We continued to the shore where a boat was waiting for us. This was a surprise for us. Soon we were boating towards a mangrove island in front of us.

The view was absolutely beautiful with mangroves and distant mountains and the weather was again perfectly calm. Big flocks of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters with some tens of Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters were flying on the sky. When we were on the island, we started to walk around it. Golden-bellied Gerygones were singing on the bushes and soon we heard the first Indonesian Honeyeaters too. It took some time to find honeyeaters visible but after all we saw a couple of birds very well.

After finding honeyeaters already our main targets were Beach Stone-curlew, Thick-billed Heron and Sacred Kingfisher. While we kept on walking Iwan was whistling Stone-curlew calls but there was no answer. All kingfishers we saw were either Collared or Cerulean Kingfishers which we now saw pretty well. While we were checking the surrounding mangrove-beaches with telescopes, we found quite a few Lesser Adjutants and Striated Herons and a single young Purple Heron.

A stunning immature White-bellied Sea Eagle flew over us and I saw briefly a couple of Asian Woolly-necked Storks landing behind mangroves. There were amazing numbers of red crabs on the mud. They were running in front of us and dug inside the mud if we managed to get too close. Also interesting looking sea-cucumbers and sea-anemones were seen on the pools.

We saw lots of Whimbrels and Common Sandpipers on the shore but when we had walked around the whole island we still hadn’t found our targets. So we got to the boat again and continued towards the northern end of the strait. We found more Lesser Adjutants and same waders and under water we saw plenty of huge seastars and some funny-looking blowfish.

We turned back when we were close to the harbor where we saw big flock of House Swifts. But after all we were back on the beach and soon had walking back towards our car. We still found a Savanna Nightjar perched and now got really good pictures.

Next we drove along a long forest-road while watching and listening through windows. We found Grey-rumped Treeswifts and at least 11 Oriental Dollarbirds from the wires. Also a couple of Javan Mynas, Coppersmith Barbets and a Javan Cuckooshrike were seen.

The next stop was made on the shore of another mangrove-area where we met another guide with a couple of tourists. They seemed to be watching birds too, but they were all amateurs comparing to Iwan and us. Anyway we didn’t find anything really good here either; a couple of Freckle-breasted Woodpeckers, a flock of Small Minivets, some Cerulean Kingfishers, White-shouldered Trillers and a few Common Terns.

Soon we continued across the road to a forest where we walked along a small path until a dry river. There we heard immediately an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher calling. Iwan played a tape shortly and we heard it again. We climbed a bit higher to see behind the bushes and soon found a couple of Oriental Dwarf Kingfishers perched along the river. They were behind the branches and in shadows but Hanna managed to get some pictures of them.

Soon Iwan played also Javan Banded Pitta and immediately we heard a response. But it called only once and we couldn’t locate it. So after we had put some mosquito-repellent we headed deeper into the forest. But after all there were almost no mosquitoes at all, it had been so dry.

After some walking we heard a couple of Kamchatka Leaf Warbler calling above us and found one bird very well visible. Later we heard a least 8 of them altogether. Some Hair-crested Drongos were calling nearby but they were also very shy and we saw them only in flight. Also a Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher was heard singing but only shortly and we couldn’t see it. But soon we heard a couple of Mangrove Whistlers and I managed to see them surprisingly well when they were fighting almost on the ground.

We climbed higher and higher in the forest all the time and still found a flock of very beautiful Ruby-throated Bulbuls and a single Black-thighed Falconet. We also tried to find a Javan Owlet but it wasn’t found even though we knew we were on its territory.

We had walked almost around the whole path when Iwan saw something moving under the bushes in front of us. He pointed us the bird and it was amazing beautiful female Javan Banded Pitta! It was inside a dense bush but anyway we managed to see it very well. But after some time it ran deeper inside the bush. We walked carefully around the bush and managed to find it again, but then noticed that this bird had even brighter orange colors, it was a male. So there was a couple!

During the midday we rested a little in our rooms but in the afternoon Iwan and Dahlan arrived again and we headed to National Park to a forest where was the biggest cage for Bali Starlings. We didn’t go to see the cage but started walking along the road to the forest. And after we had seen a couple of Bali Starlings, our goal was to finally see some Green Junglefowls and of course other forest-birds.

Pretty soon we found the first Green Junglefowl but the vegetation was too dense to get very good views. Pink-necked and Emerald Doves were seen and a couple of Green Imperial Pigeons. More surprising bird we found was a Chestnut-breasted Malkoha.

We also saw a few Oriental Pied Hornbills flying on the tops of trees where was also a big herd of Javan Lutungs, big black monkeys. Both Coppersmith and Lineated Barbets were seen and heard and a Common Flameback was calling somewhere further. Also another woodpecker was heard but it really seemed that seeing woodpeckers was impossible, so it stayed unidentified. A Yellow-throated Hanging Parrot flew over us and finally the first Black-naped Oriole was first heard but then also seen pretty well.

We continued along the road that led to a temple that was about 10 kilometers further. The road was in bad shape but anyway there were quite a few cars going to and coming from the temple. Luckily there was some silent moments and then we found more Green Junglefowls and also a Wild Boar that was walking on the road in front of us for some time.

Other birds we found were a couple of Black-winged Flycatcher-shrikes, Small Minivets, Spangled Drongos, lots of Common Ioras, some Javan Cuckoo-shrikes and White-shouldered Trillers, a flock of six Flame-throated Bulbuls, a Kamchatka Leaf Warbler and an Oriental Magpie Robin.

Finally we walked back towards the Bali Starling breeding center where we went to see this big cage from where armed robbers had stolen almost 100 birds in the past. From the garden we found a Black Giant Squirrel that crossed the road along electric wire.

In the evening we went to eat to the city with Seppo. We found a restaurant a bit closer to our hotel and got very good food but the service was the slowest I have ever seen. After the dinner we went to sleep early as the next day was going to be long.

To Java and Baluran

On the 30th of December we woke up early and at 5 a.m. we were driving towards the harbor. We were lucky to drive almost straight to a ferry and were soon crossing the narrow bay towards Java. Java is the most densely habituated island in the World with more than 350 million people. Our target was luckily only Baluran National Park on the north-eastern corner of the island.

A big flock of Little Swifts was flying over the harbor and soon the sun started to rise. We saw some Lesser Crested and Crested Terns on the buoys and a lonely Grey Heron flying towards Bali, it was only the 3rd record for Seppo on Bali.

The crossing was 12 kilometers because of the ferry had to make some curves, straight line between the islands is only about 7 kilometers. Soon we arrived at Ketapang harbor and we had to walk to the pier as cars were so well packed that only driver was able to get into the car. While waiting for our car we saw an adult and a young White-bellied Sea Eagles flying over us. Soon Dahlan arrived and we started to drive towards north and Baluran.

After about 30 kilometers driving we arrived at the gate of the National Park. It wasn’t 7 a.m. yet so the gate wasn’t open, but Iwan talked us in after we had paid the entrance-fee and soon we were climbing up to the big view-tower that was nearby.

The view was really good so soon we started to scan the tops of trees with our scopes and check every other bird that we could find. First we saw only same species that we had already seen on Bali, but soon we found that with swiftlets and swallows there were also some White-throated and Brown-backed Needletails flying on the sky. More and more needletails were coming and after all there were about 50 of them altogether.

Plaintive and Rusty-breasted Cuckoos were both seen and heard and then we found a big green bird perched on a top of one tree – it was a Black-banded Barbet. Also Black and Ashy Drongos, White-breasted Woodswallows, a couple of Scarlet-headed Flowerpeckers, Grey-cheeked Green Pigeons and so on were seen, but pretty soon we had to start driving slowly along the road inside the park.

We heard many Green Junglefowls through open windows and soon also first Red Junglefowl that sounded very different than in Thailand – actually they sounded very ridiculous. Soon we saw both species very well and managed to get some decent pictures too. We also stopped to get pictures of extremely smelly Rafflesia flowers.

We stopped along the road for some times and walked a little bit and found Coppersmith Barbets, Emerald Doves, Small Minivets and then we found a Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker climbing on the branches. While we were driving again Iwan noticed an eagle perched on the top of one tree and it had a clearly visible crest – a Javan Hawk-eagle! Hanna managed to get a couple of pictures of the eagle before it flew away and disappeared behind the trees.

Most of Baluran is dry savanna but next we parked to evergreen forest to walk. Pretty soon we heard an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher calling and then saw a couple of them flying over the road. Also Collared Kingfishers were seen and heard, a Yellow-throated Hanging Parrot flew over us and Cinereous Tits were singing. When we were driving again Iwan heard a woodpecker and identified it as a Laced Woodpecker. Once we were out, we heard it again and I remembered that this species had been easy to see with a tape, so I played a couple of calls from my phone and soon we saw this beautiful woodpecker flying across the road.

With Olive-backed Tailorbirds we saw some Common Tailorbirds and also a couple of Black-naped Monarchs, a Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike and heard a Kamchatka Leaf Warbler. We also heard strange hawling calls that we were familiar from our childhood and zoo-visits, but this time these sounds were coming from free birds – Green Peafowls!

It was again very hot when we drove through dry savanna-area and then parked to Bekol where was a small restaurant and some other buildings. There we climbed to a hill and to another view-tower with really nice views over the savanna with mountains on the background. In Savanna there were now quite a few people stopped along the road and it seemed that they were all taking selfie-pictures. Soon ”local tourists” climbed to the tower and they were all taking selfies too. It seemed that selfie-culture in Indonesia was much worse than what we had ever seen before. Seppo was asked to a couple of pictures too, as people wanted to show that they had Western ”friends” on their pictures. There weren’t many Western tourists in Western Bali or Eastern Java.

From Bekol tower we saw big herds of Javan Rush Deer that were going to drink to an artificial pool. Also some Water Buffaloes were seen. Not many birds were found but a couple of Island Turtle Doves were calling and we also heard a Crested Serpent Eagle calling somewhere nearby but somehow we didn’t manage to see it. Finally we heard a couple of Green Peafowls calling and even though one was very close, we couldn’t find it. When one bird was calling close to a couple of buildings we hurried to try to see it. Luckily we managed to find it and got a couple of distant pictures too before it went hidden inside longer reeds.

We still went to photograph bathing Water Buffaloes and Hanna also photographed local people that were taking selfies. She got some very funny pictures. There was one group taking wedding pictures too.

After we had continued driving again, we soon arrived at Bama beach. There were lots of people and most were taking selfies again. It was very hot, so we just relaxed for some time in the shadows as far as possible from the crowd and awful music.

But soon we were walking around the area and checking all the big trees. We found plenty of Oriental Pied Hornbills, but didn’t find Spotted Wood Owl that used to live in this area. Again we saw some Island Turtle Doves, Green and Dark-backed Imperial Pigeons and heard calls of Red-breasted Parakeet.

Then we continued to walk along a small path inside a forest. We had mosquito-repellent and long clothes as this place was supposed to be full of insects, but it had been so dry that we found hardly any mosquitoes. But we found again a big herd of Javan Lutungs and there were some golden-colored youngsters too.

We heard several Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatchers and heard a Blue-eared Kingfisher before I saw something yellow and red through some branches. Luckily the birds climbed higher and came well visible and we could see that it was a Crimson-winged Woodpecker! In same time we heard strange calls inside a dense bush in front of us and after some waiting we saw a couple of Horsfield’s Babblers briefly. Then Iwan found a woodpecker from another dead tree and after all there were two White-bellied Woodpeckers! So we had seen some really good birds in a couple of minutes!

On one point along the path we could see the sea, so we scanned the sea for birds. We saw some Lesser Crested, Crested and Common Terns and then found 4 very distant frigatebirds. Luckily they came a little bit closer and we could identify them as Lesser Frigatebirds.

We still found some Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters, a couple of Black-thighed Falconets and Mangrove Whistlers and several Oriental Pied Hornbills. Then we first heard and then saw briefly an Olive-winged Bulbul. Then we saw a big brown bird flushing from a top of one tree but we didn’t see it well enough. Probably it was a Spotted Wood Owl, but we couldn’t really see it well enough.

When we were back at the parking place, we started to drive back. On the savanna we were driving extremely slowly and scanning all the trees and when we found a herd of deer, we stopped to check if there were any birds following them. And almost immediately we found at least 3 Black-winged Mynas! This species is very famous cage-bird and is one of the species that might have worse future than Bali Myna.

Our hawk-eyed driver Dahlan still found a black morph Changeable Hawk-eagle perched on one tree, but it flew away too quickly to get any pictures. And we also saw a Green Peafowl hiding under a tree.

Finally we were back at the harbor and again we managed to get to an almost full ferry without any waiting. We climbed up to the deck and Iwan managed to talk us to closed part of the deck where we had best views. But anyway we saw only some terns and Brown Boobies.

It was already dark when we were back in Gilimanuk and our hotel Lestari. Hanna stayed cooking again and with Seppo we went to the same restaurant than on the previous evening. The owner was very happy to see us again.

New Year’s Eve

On the 31st of December, the last day of the year, we had planned to have a little bit easier morning, but anyway I wanted to make another try to see the species that we had missed in mangrove. So before 6 a.m. we were driving to the National Park again. Iwan had managed to talk us inside the park without surprisingly expensive payment, but we couldn’t be there whole morning. Pretty soon we were walking towards the same place where we had taken a boat a couple of days earlier.

Island Turtle Doves were calling and Golden-bellied Gerygones were singing when we were on the dock and putting up our telescopes. Again we found some Lesser Adjutants and a lonely Purple Heron, lots of Whimbrels and Common Sandpipers. After a long scanning I finally found a single Beach Thick-knee! It was walking openly on the mud for some time but soon went under the bushes and disappeared, luckily we all managed to see it. Then we saw a couple of Sacred Kingfisher landing to a boat that was close to us, so we were doing very well! But Thick-billed Heron wasn’t found, it should have been pretty easily found while fishing along the shore in low water. Anyway we were very happy that we had made another try to this place!

Pretty soon we were walking back towards our car and on the way we found some Orange-breasted Green Pigeons on the top of bushes! So finally we managed to see this species too.

We still had a couple of hours, so we headed to a beach near harbor to scan more mangroves. Some more Lesser Adjutants and waders were seen, but most interesting animals were found under the surface. Hanna found some bright blue fish and also a couple of extremely poisonous Red Lionfish. From the sea we found some Brown Boobies and a single Pomarine Skua.

The rest of the morning we spent in the information center garden and photographed Bali Mynas. We also saw a Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Coppersmith and Lineated Barbets, a Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker and so on.

At 9 a.m. we headed back to our hotel where Nyoman was already waiting for us – an hour too early again. We packed the rest of our luggage, still had a cool shower and then it was time to say thanks and goodbye and of course also pay to Iwan and Dahlan. And soon we were driving back towards Ubud along the southern coastal road.

When we were very close to the shore, we decided to stop shortly to scan the sea and just relax a little bit. There were some terns and surprisingly we found a stunning Brown Noddy flying with them! And then a Lesser Frigatebird flew very beautifully right over us, so it was a good stop!

There wasn’t much traffic even though it was a New Year’s Eve and people were celebrating New Year here, even though it wasn’t an important holiday like in many other parts of the World. Nyoman was overtaking other cars always when it was possible but once again he was driving very well on these narrow and slowly roads.

While we were driving through bigger rice-fields somewhere, we saw a couple of Slender-billed Crows in flight. And soon we had a Lesser Frigatebird flying over the road quite far from the shore almost in the middle of the forest. Other birds we saw were just Intermediate and other egrets.

Finally we were back in Jukut Paku where Topi was happy to see us all again. During the day we just took it easy and enjoyed the weather and familiar birds that were seen around the garden. Then in the evening our project was to try to keep Topi happy and relaxed as it was a New Year and locals were having amazing numbers of fireworks! But it seemed that Topi understood that if we were just taking it easy and talking all the time, everything was fine. It was great to listen many stories that Kari had about religious life of local people in Bali. We were talking and talking and heard of course a couple of Sunda Scops Owls and a Red-legged Crake again. And at midnight the fireworks sounded like a world-war! Luckily the new law had been laid and the fireworks were at least mostly shot around the midnight, while in the past the war had already started a week before and continued a week after the New Year. Now at one a.m. it seemed that the war was almost over and we could go to sleep.

Relaxed first of January

The year 2020 we started easily. In the morning we were just enjoying the garden-birds and after late breakfast we walked to Ubud to do some shopping. We walked through the market street once and then it started to rain very heavily! We were standing under some roof for 30 minutes and waiting for the rain to stop, but it was just getting heavier. So we decided to walk back to the market with Hanna. We had to wade in almost knee-deep water to the sheltered part of the market. But then there weren’t other tourists almost at all, so it was easy to bargain the souvenirs in very cheap, about -70%, price.

When the rain finally stopped, we still went to eat and then visited a bigger market. After the rain traffic was awful, so we decided to walk back to Jukut Paku. While walking through the monkey forest we had to keep our baggage well tighten and bread and so on under our T-shirts, so monkeys weren’t able to steal anything.

Back to mountains

On the 2nd of January Bung came to pick us up at 6 a.m. and soon we were driving towards the familiar mountain again. On the way I saw a young Brahminy Kite flying over us.

Finally we parked to Bedugul Botanical Garden where Bung stayed in car while we went to walk around the park. When we had managed to get into the garden, we soon found a flock of birds where were Mountain Leaf Warblers, Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers, a Sunda Warbler and I saw a female Rusty-breasted Whistler briefly. Many Lesser Shortwings were singing and also some Crescent-chested Babblers were heard. Hanna saw briefly a female Mugimagi Flycatcher.

We continued walking in a very good-looking forest but for some reason there weren’t many birds. Along one river we heard a White-crowned Forktail calling, but a car that was passing scared it away and we couldn’t see it at all. A Sunda Cuckoo was calling and Dark-backed Mountain Pigeons were found from the top of trees. Also a couple of Square-tailed Drongo-cuckoos, several Flame-fronted Barbets and a few Black-naped Orioles were calling and singing and some lonely Yellow-throated Hanging Parrots were flying over us. Again we found some flocks of Mees’s White-eyes and flocks of Short-tailed Starlings were flying over us and we managed to see shortly a couple of Horsfield’s Babblers. Finally we managed to see also the third squirrel-species, a Horsfield’s Treeshrew too. We also saw a fresh corpse of a Civetcat.

There were more and more people inside the park and it was disgusting to see that people were leaving all the rubbish to the ground. People were also driving by cars inside the park, which wasn’t good.

After we had seen a Freckle-breasted Woodpecker, a Crested Serpent Eagle and heard a Mountain Tailorbird, we still went to see Orchid-garden. While we were already walking towards the parking place I finally found a different kind of flowerpecker and when I got it to my scope, I could identify it as a Blood-breasted Flowerpecker. Soon we were in the parking place where we woke up Bung and kept on going.

To camping

We continued to a camping area that was on the shore of Lake Buyan. It had been free in the past but now we had to buy tickets to get a tenting place. Then we took our luggage and started to search a good place for camping.

There were quite a few other people camping in the area and we were pretty sure that there were more people coming in the evening. We had checked the area beforehand in Google Maps and knew that there should be a good area for tenting also almost a kilometer from the real camping area. So we carried our luggage to the forest and continued to another beach where were nobody else. On the way we heard a couple of Flame-fronted Barbets and finally the first Yellow-eared Barbet. Soon we had put up our tents and it was already very hot, so we decided to have siesta.

It was too hot in the tent, so we couldn’t sleep at all, so pretty soon we decided to leave our luggage inside our tents and go birding. Already in our camp we could hear some Sunda, Plaintive and Rusty-breasted Cuckoos and saw a couple of Black Eagles soaring on the sky above the mountain.

We started to walk along track that led inside the forest. Several Flame-fronted Barbets and another Yellow-eared Barbet were calling and we also heard a couple of Rusty-breasted Whistlers singing shortly. Some Yellow-throated Hanging Parrots and Spangled Drongos were heard and a couple of flocks of Mees’s White-eyes were seen and some Cinereous Tits were singing.

We followed the track until it turned towards the shore and we decided to walk back to our camp along the shore. On the meadow we found at least 20 Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, some Zitting Cisticolas, Moorhens and Yellow Bitterns. When we were back in our camp we heard a different kind of grasshopper warbler singing and it sounded exactly like Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler that we were familiar from Japan. I took my recording equipment but of course it had stopped singing and we couldn’t find it.

In the evening we had planned to walk to the forest and further to the shore to listen to owls, but we were still relaxing in our camp when we first saw a couple of Large-tailed Nightjars that came hunting insects above our camp and then heard a Barred Eagle Owl that started calling pretty close! We tried to get close to the owl and of course we wanted to see this amazing-looking bird. But unfortunately it probably saw us first and stopped calling and later we heard it calling very far. Anyway I had taken some pretty nice recordings. No other owls were heard either so after all we went to sleep pretty early. But there were big parties in the camping area and music was played extremely loud. Luckily we managed to sleep anyway.

On the shore of Buyan

On the 3rd of January we woke up a couple of times at night to listen if there were any owls calling, but heard only some frogs and White-breasted Waterhens. In the morning we woke up early and had noodle-breakfast while listening a White-bellied Sea Eagle family calling on the other side of the lake. Later we saw 2 adults and a youngster in flight too. Also a few Crested Serpent Eagles were seen and an Oriental Honey Buzzard flew over us.

We did a longer walk in the forest but not as many birds as we had hoped were found. A few Green Junglefowls, a couple of unidentified Cuckoo-doves, Grey-cheeked Green Pigeons, Dark-backed Mountain Pigeons, some Black-naped Orioles, a couple of Small Minivets and Black-naped Monarchs, some Sunda Leaf Warblers, a couple of Javan Whistling Thrushes and even 8 Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatchers and so on were found. On the shore we had again some Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers and Striated Grassbirds.

When we were back in our camp we heard a strange hurring bird or another animal calling but we couldn’t find it. Later we heard the grasshopper-species singing shortly again and I managed to get a bad-quality recording, I hope it is enough the make identification later, but it still sounded like a Middendorff’s.

During the day we rested again and then the weather started to change radically. There were very dark clouds on the sky and we heard thunder further. Anyway we headed to check the wader-part of the lake with Seppo. Hanna was tired (or clever) and stayed in the camp.

We got only just outside the camping area when it started to rain. But luckily it stopped soon so we continued walking. We reached the end of the lake and I got my telescope up when it started to rain and very hard! We got under a big dredge-tractor to get some cover. From the cover we could see egrets, Moorhens, snipes and Wood Sandpipers but then we had to try to get better roof over us.

When the rain stopped again we started to walk back wearing raincoats. We still had to get cover a couple of times when it was raining. Once we stopped in a bird-shop where luckily were mostly small parakeets on the cages, but also some bulbuls and other birds caught from the nature. There was also one huge pigeon that we had no idea what it was. And then we stopped in the shop outside the camping area before we hurried back to our camp, when it was raining again.

It kept on raining the whole evening! Some thunders came almost straight above us so it was impossible to sleep. When it was already completely dark, it stopped raining for a couple of minutes and surprisingly we heard a Barred Eagle Owl calling a couple of times.

When the rain stopped again an hour or so later it was already late, but luckily none of us was sleeping, as we heard a very harsh shriek quite close above the lake – a Buffy Fish Owl! We had been listening the call earlier from my phone and it was identical! Unfortunately it was flooding outside, so it was impossible to try to go out to search the bird visible.

Pretty soon we managed to fall asleep and luckily there were no more thunders during the rest of the night. But the parties were again on in the camping area. Locals didn’t really bother the rain…

Packing day

On the 4th of January we woke up with Hanna when it was still dark and heard the same unidentified hurring call than on the previous day. We walked after it but couldn’t find anything. It seemed that there were at least 3 of them and they seemed to be on the trees but in same time we heard also different kind of “kwi” calls underneath the bushes. But also this caller seemed to be impossible to find.

Soon Seppo was up too and somehow he managed to find one of the callers from the bushes and it was a Javan Banded Pitta! Later we found out that also the hurring had been was pitta, so we had altogether had 8 Javan Banded Pittas calling almost next to our camp!

We had breakfast and because it looked like it could still start raining any time, we decided to stay near the camp. We did climb up to the temple that was nearby and on the way Hanna saw one pitta briefly crossing one narrow path. Other birds we found were a big flock of Dark-backed Imperial Pigeons, a cuckoo-dove species, a couple of Emerald Doves, a few Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatchers and a Javan Whistling Thrush.

At 9 a.m. we packed our camp and soon were carrying our stuff to the parking place where Bung was already waiting for us.

On the way back to Jukut Paku we stopped in a village where was a shop were a local man was selling beautiful birds made from wood. We bought a couple of different birds as souvenirs. Soon we were back in Jukut Paku where we took the rest of the day easy. We were trying to get all our clothes, tents and so on dry but in the afternoon it started to rain again, so we had to start packing. In the evening we went to eat to a restaurant and after that we just took it easy.

Birding around Denpasar

On the 5th of January we were ready at 6 a.m. and soon packed everything to Bung’s car and started driving towards Denpasar. The best wader-place in Bali, Serangan Island, had been closed from everyone except locals for some years, so we couldn’t get there, but we headed to as close to the island as possible, where were also some good spots to see waders. We had checked that tide was good early in the morning. While we were driving towards Serangan we already saw the first Little Black Cormorant and some Thick-billed Crows and when we parked close to the beach, we saw the first Little Pied Cormorant flying over us.

We walked to the shore and immediately saw lots of Common Curlews and Whimbrels and after some searching identified the first Far Eastern Curlews. On the pools that were under mangroves we saw flocks of Wood Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints with some Common Redshanks, Kentish Plovers and a few Little Ringed Plovers and Long-toed Stints. Both Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants were flying on the sky and then we noticed that there were also some Sunda Teals under the mangroves. We were checking all the plovers carefully and identified some Javan and Malaysian Plovers and while we were checking the curlews one more time we found a single Greater Sand Plover with them. Some Cerulean Kingfishers were flying by and when it started to rain, we hurried to get cover from some trees and saw a Barred Buttonquail running under the bushes.

While we were still waiting for the rain to stop, a guardian came to tell us that we should leave. We had no idea why we weren’t aloud to stay in the area except that there was some kind of warehouse nearby. There were also lots of construction sites everywhere in the coast, mangrove was getting destroyed a lot. It seems that it won’t be possible to look for waders in this place in the future.

Soon we drove to the other side of the bay where were even bigger construction sites, but we got a permit to walk through one of them to the shore. The light was very bad, so we couldn’t identify any of the plovers there but from a big Red-necked Stint flock we found a single Curlew Sandpiper. But then they got flushed by a Peregrine Falcon that was chasing them away.

While we were driving along the long toll-road towards Denpasar, we saw some Gull-billed Terns and a couple of Pacific Reed Herons. Soon we parked next to Nua Dusa sewage ponds, walked through the gate and got a permit to go birding by the pools. We had to write our names to a book that was inside the building next to the gate.

There were several very lush pools and quite a few birds too. Right away we found some Cerulean Kingfishers, 5 Whiskered and a single White-winged Tern and both Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants which we managed to get pictures too. Purple Herons, Little and Intermediate Egrets were seen but only a couple of Black-crowned Night Herons, not a single Rufous Night Heron – unfortunately. We had hoped to see some grebes too, but there were none. While we were walking along the road by the pools we flushed a wader that was behind the bushes, but from the call we could identify it as a Grey-tailed Tattler.

We walked around the pools to the other side and still saw about 10 Javan Mynas and Pink-necked Pigeons, a Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker, some Plain Prinias and heard some Golden-bellied Gerygones. We also saw plenty of very big Asian Water Monitors. Our feet were extremely tired when we still had to walk all the way back to the parking place.

Next we continued to Ponta Kelar beach close to the airport. There we did some seawatching and saw 30 Brown Boobies, at least 25 Lesser Frigatebirds, about 10 Pomarine Skuas, Little, Crested and Lesser Crested Terns. From the other side of the road we found a dirty reed-bed area where we still heard a Plain Prinia and a couple of Clamorous Reed Warblers.

Then it was time to head to the airport. The last bird we saw from the car was a Peregrine Falcon. And soon we had say thanks and goodbyes to Bung and also to Seppo. Then we carried our luggage to a pre-pack room that was easy to find. There we managed to pack our luggage well and change some clothes.

Back to home

Then we had a couple of hours time to get through check in, security check, do some shopping and just wait for our flight.

Finally at 7:15 p.m. our flight left towards Doha. We watched movies but then tried to sleep the rest of the flight. We landed to Doha 30 minutes late and then we had to get quick train to right terminal – and then wait again for a couple of hours.

Our next flight to Stockholm left also late and again we watched movies and then managed to sleep the rest of the flight. We landed to Stockholm also late but luckily we still had plenty of time before our last flight.

Our flight to Helsinki left in time and we landed to Helsinki-Vantaa airport an hour later at 10:35 a.m. I was afraid that there would be one more security check as I had forgotten my Leatherman into my bag. But it had already gone through 4 security checks and luckily there was no more checks in Finland. Our luggage came amazingly quickly so soon we were in a lobby where we met my parents. We still went to eat pizza to Caesar’s and told some storied about our trip while eating.

But finally we were walking outside in surprisingly autumn-like weather and then ordered a bus to Lentopysäköinti. And then we still had a long way to drive to Parikkala.


Our 2 weeks in Bali had been very nice! Thanks to Seppo we had for once made a trip without too much planning beforehand. We really felt relaxed as we hadn’t been driving at all either. But then we suffered from jet-lag for a week anyway. Altogether we had seen 205 bird-species which 78 had been lifers. In Bali we had seen 192 species. We are for sure going back to Indonesia one day, this was just the beginning…