Eastern Finland – Varanger 6.-22.7. 2007

We meet again

On the 6th of July we drove to Helsinki with Hanna and his little-brother Miika. After some shopping we continued to Kirkkonummi to my parents.

On the 7th of July Hanna went to Helsinki to do some more shopping but we woke up late with Miika. At 9.30 a.m. we drove to Espoo Finno to do some birding. We saw amazing 64 Gadwalls and 26 Moorhens. It was also nice to see some other birds that Miika had never seen before like Pintail, Shoveler, Teals, Goldfinches and so on. In Nuottalahti we saw an Eider.

At 11 a.m. we drove to Helsinki-Vantaa airport where our good British friend Paul French was arriving. Once we finally found a good parking place was Hanna also already there. Soon we found also Paul, it was good to see again! Then we continued directly to eat and to do shopping.

Paul had come to do birding with us for a couple of weeks. We had planned to see everything on the way from Helsinki to Varanger. Paul of course had plenty of target species – about 20 lifers and 20 other species that he wanted to see again. Of course we knew the time of the year wasn’t optimal for many species, so we knew we wouldn’t get all the species from the list. But we had decided to do our best.

Our first birding place was Helsinki Viikki where we went first to Pornaistenniemi bird-tower. But then it started to rain and very hard, so we had to wait for it to stop under the tower. One of our first trip-ticks was a Thrush Nightingale and once the rain stopped we saw much more from the tower: Barnacle Goose, Caspian Tern, Stock Dove and so on. Next we walked to Lammassaari tower and on the way we found a flock of Bearded Reedlings and heard some Water Rails. From Lammassaari we found an Icterine Warbler but then it started to rain again. Again we were under the bird-tower for a long time before the rain stopped. Pretty soon we found the first female Citrine Wagtail and soon we saw also a young fledling. Also more Caspian Terns, Mute Swans, Grey Herons and so on were seen before we continued to Etu-Viikki to twitch a Lesser Grey Shrike that had been staying there for some days. The bird was found quickly and we decided to continue still to Espoo Laajalahti to see if the rain had dropped some better waders there.

But unfortunately most of the waders had left Laajalahti when the rain had stopped. We met several birders there and also some birds were seen: a Spotted Redshank, Ruffs, a couple of Temminck’s Stints, a Little Ringed Plover, Canada Geese, Yellow Wagtails and so on.

Then we continued driving towards the east and had our next stop after a couple of hours in Hamina Lupinlahti, where a Great Reed Warbler was singing shortly and an another Caspian Tern was seen. After we had eaten again we continued to Hamina Kirkkojärvi, it was already 10 p.m. Unfortunately we didn’t hear a Little Crake even though we tried until midnight. Several Spotted Crakes were heard, also Cranes were shouting and Reed and Great Reed Warblers were singing.

Many good species

On the 8th of July after midnight we continued inland to Savitaipale Jäkälänjärvi where a Savi’s Warbler was singing continuously. Again also a Spotted Crake was heard. We kept on going to Lappeenranta Mentula, where a Booted Warbler had been earlier but it had left or was just silent. Several Corn Crakes were heard. And once we were in Joutseno we heard plenty of Corn Crakes more. In Korvenkylä a Lanceolated Warbler was still singing continuously but it was now as dark as it gets in Finnish summer-night so we decided to come back in the morning so we can photograph it better.

The next couple of hour we tried to find different kind of nightsingers around Konnunsuo but most of the birds were already silent, most of the species had already been breeding for a long time. Luckily in Pikku-Läykkä we found a Black Grouse, a Grasshopper Warbler and also a River Warbler. So in a few hours we had observed 4 species of Locustella-warblers!

In Kotasaari we twitched Marsh Sandpipers; a female and the only young that had survived were still there. Also 3 Temminck’s Stints, 2 Little Stints and several Little Ringed Plovers were found. In Perä-Ahola we twitched a common bird for Paul but not for us a singing Turtle Dove and of course Miika got another lifer. We also met our good friend Andreas Lindén who was coming back from North-Karelia where had been twitching a Long-billed Dowitcher. A Chiffchaff and a Wren were singing.

After we had been photographing the Lanceolated Warbler in morning light we continued our wasy to north. In Ruokolahti we saw a migrating flock of 60 Common Scoters but we continued to Rautjärvi Punasvaara old forest, but there we couldn’t find any grouses, just a couple of Chiffchaffs and Wrens. Somewhere there we found a Goshawk.

It was already a morning when we were in Parikkala. After we had dropped Miika home we went to our place to sleep.

But we slept only a few hours because we didn’t have too much time to waste. In the afternoon we went to Siikalahti where a female Smew, some Slavonian and Red-necked Grebes and a couple of Grey Herons were the best observations. In Kaukola we finally found the first Blyth’s Reed Warbler singing. We also went to try if our Ural Owl family would have still been bear their nest-box but they had moved somewhere to the deeper forest nearby. A flock of Long-tailed Tits and a Common Buzzard were found.

Parikkala-species in a hurry

On the 9th of July we slept again a couple of hours and went to try to find nightsingers to Saari. In Akanvaara Tetrisuo we saw a female Hen Harrier and in Akonpohja we found a singing Blyth’s Reed Warbler, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Marsh Warbler – and of course Corn Crakes like in almost every field. We decided to put up the mist-net and soon we had both a Blyth’s Reed Warbler and a Grasshopper Warbler ringed

So we had already found all the nightsinger species and we decided to drive back to Parikkala to try to find the first lifers to Paul. On the way we still stopped in Pohjanranta where we surprisingly heard a Quail calling!

In Argusjärvi I whistled only a couple of times before a Grey-headed Woodpecker already flew over us – it was the 1st lifer for Paul! After all we found at least an adult and 3 young Grey-headed Woodpeckers and they all were calling actively. Unfortunately they were a little bit too active because of we couldn’t get any pictures. Also a River Warbler and a Blackcap were singing.

In Siikalahti we didn’t need many minutes to find a White-backed Woodpecker and Paul got his second lifer. But also this couple was moving too quickly to get any photographs. But anyway we were lucky to find this species so easily because of it is normally very difficult in summer.

Next we went to forests to see the famous couple of Siberian Jays. But after an hour waiting we still hadn’t found them so we decided to try to find some grouses. But also grouses were totally missing but when we had almost lost our nerves surprisingly the Siberian Jays came to save our day. Paul was happy to get an opportunity to feed these beautiful birds from his hand. Also some Crested Tits, Treecreepers, a Coal Tit, a couple of Red-backed Shrikes, Wrens and Chiffchaffs were found.

Then we continued to a small lake where a Red-throated Diver was breeding. We enjoyed the family of divers for an hour before we felt too tired to continue and we drove back home to sleep.

In the evening we packed our luggage to our car and started our long trip to north. The first stop was made in Tohmajärvi Niirala where we were at midnight.

Some rarities again

On the 10th of June we slept about 4 hours in a car before it was the otimal time to try to hear a Booted Warbler. We met also Jukka Rokkanen and a group of young Spanish birders. These guys had been in contact with me several times before their trip and we had planned to do some birding together as they were also heading to Kuusamo and Varanger. They had already tried to find the Booted Warbler for several hours without success. Well I was sure that if we can’t find the bird until 4 a.m. the it’s not there or then it’s just quiet. It was exactly 4 a.m. when the bird started to sing in a middle of a field! Most of us managed too see the bird also briefly while also a Blyth’s Reed Warbler was singing behind it.

We continued to Kontiolahti to one old forest where we had notes to a nest of a Pygmy Owl. On the way we found a beautiful male Capercaillie. But the nest of a Pygmy Owl was already empty and when we were whistling for it the only bird that came to see us was a nervous Three-toed Woodpecker! The third woodpecker lifer for Paul! A Goshawk family was calling and several flocks of Common Crossbills were around too.

About in the mid-day we drove to Lieksa Patvinsuo where we walked altogether 8 kilometres to Tereti bird-tower and back. The bog-views were once again amazing, but we hadn’t many birds there! A Whimbrel, some Golden Plovers, Cranes, a Black Grouse, a Red-backed Shrike and 3 Rustic Buntings were found. In the afternoon we went to Suomu camping where we put up the tent and slept until the late evening.

At 11 p.m. we continued to Lieksa Sorsala where we met Jukka and the Spanish again. Soon we found what we were searching for – in the middle of a wet field there was a Great Snipe feeding, and soon there were 2 birds singing and jumping on the field! There were altogether 3 birds but we heard at least 2 of them. This was really something that I hadn’t thought to hear for a long time in Finland!

Bears – a lot of bears – and close!

On the 11th of July we woke up a little in the middle of Jamali fields where I tried to twitch a Corn Bunting while Hanna and Paul were sleeping a little bit longer. A Red-throated Diver was flying around and calling but the bunting was quiet.

Next time we slept in Sotkamo Vuokatti skiing resort, on the top of the hill. All the birds in the nice spruce-forests had been quiet. Almost in the city of Sotkamo we saw a Rustic Bunting before at 11 a.m. we met Ilkka Jarva and went to eat. We had fun and we could have been talking and talking for hours but Ilkka had to go to work and we had to keep on going because of we had to be in Suomussalmi Martinselkonen at 3 p.m.

So we had only one stop before Martinselkonen when we found 3 young Great Grey Shrikes fighting in one felling. At 3 p.m. we parked to Martinselkonen where we were because of the bears! After 45 minutes we and 7 other tourists and a guide started our way towards the bear-hides. First we drove a little bit and then walked a couple of kilometres. 2 of the foreigners went to a hide that was near a small bog and the Finnish went to a professional photographer hide alone, so to a big hide came 3 Italians and the guide with us. So we had plenty of room in the hide and of course we managed to get the best places.

It took only a couple of minutes when the first bear arrived! There were lots of salmon that they came to eat. Because of it was still early afternoon the light was really good for photographing. There were more and more bears coming all the time and the cameras were busy. Soon a Black Kite came to perch on the top of trees. It took its part of the salmon without landing between the bears and it always perched to the top of the trees before it flew away and probably went to feed its nestlings. On the best time there were altogether 12 bears, 2 Black Kites, a sub-adult White-tailed Eagle and a Heuglin’s Gull with a flock of Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The first Waxwings for the trip were heard too. Altogether we counted more than 20 Bears, there were young twins and one year old triplets that were a bit afraid of the bigger bears and were climbing to the trees when they got scared. Anyway the bigger bears were very calm so we didn’t see any bigger fights between them but we heard one fight – it was really amazing roaring! After the midnight it came too dark for photographing and also the bears came much less active. So at 1 a.m. we decided go to sleep.

To Kuusamo

On the morning of 12th of July only a couple of Bears came to lick the last smell of the salmon from the rocks. Also a Black Kite visited briefly so we could still get some pictures but when at 7 a.m. we started to pack our stuff there were no more movements on the forest. But when we were leaving one big old bear came to lie down to the feeder like waiting for the next salmon load to come. It was of course a difficult situation for us because of the Bear was only 10 metres from us. But the guide thought this Bear was so old and stupid that we could anyway start walking away. When we were all out from the hide the Bear decided to go a little bit further to wait for us to leave.

On the way back we photographed the footprints of the bears and an anthill a bear had destroyed and the trees that they had used to sharpen their nails. In the information centre we had a shower, charged all our batteries and photographed a couple of Siberian Jays that were visiting the feeder together with young Bullfinches, Redpolls and Greenfinches.

When we finally continued our way north we had driven only some 20 kilometres when we saw a Bear crossing the road far in front of us! In any other day this would have been maybe the best ever observation for me but somehow the last night was decreasing the value of this observation. Only a little bit later we saw an Elk crossing the road and even this felt better than the Bear right now.

We continued straight to Kuusamo and until Iivaara. After a short walk we heard a Little Bunting calling. We walked with our luggage under the Iivaara hill where we put up the tent. Then we climbed up to the top of Iivaara but because of it was an afternoon there weren’t many birds to see. But finally we found a family of Hazel Hens. Surprisingly we had managed not to find any before. It was another lifer for Paul. It wasn’t a surprise that we couldn’t find any Red-flanked Bluetails but a female Capercaillie was still found.

A Really long day!

On the 13th of July we slept some hours in the tent and after packing the tent we decided to leave Iivaara and to Konttainen. On the way we managed to get some pictures of a Goshawk that was perched on an electric pole. While walking to the top of Konttainen we found at least 3 Red-flanked Blutails that were calling to each others but we couldn’t find them because ot they stopped calling suddenly. On the top we found a tame couple of Siberian Jays that came to eat from our hands. Unfortunately the weather was changing rainy again so we decided to keep on going, but we were planning to come back later.

We continued to Vaimosuo where an Arctic Warbler was singing exactly on the place it was told to be. I got really good recordings but it was moving too quickly for photographing. A couple of Rustic Buntings were also found. Our next target was Ruka Saaruanlammet where we found a Grey Wagtail singing on the wires of skiing lifts. Again one more Siberian Jay was seen flying across the road.

It was already late morning when we were back in Konttainen. We climbed again to the halfway of the hill when we suddenly heard a Red-flanked Bluetail calling. We tried to get closer we heard another bird singing somewhere far on the Valtavaara. But again both birds stopped calling. Several flocks of Common Crossbills flew over us but still we hadn’t seen any bluetails. After some time we decided to walk back to our car and we were only 30 metres from it when a young Red-flanked Bluetail was jumping on the track just in front of us! Unfortunately Paul had his camera in a car and Hannas camera had some dysfunction and the pictures weren’t got. The bird ran to low bushes and disappeared. Luckily a couple of Parrot Crossbills landed to the top of the trees nearby and a flock of Two-barred Crossbills flew over us so we were more than happy!

At 8 a.m. we continued towards Kemijärvi. We were all extremely tired so only 20 kilometres before Kemijärvi I had to stop and sleep a little bit! Too many Reindeers had been running on the road so the driving had been pretty slow and tough. The short toilet-visit to the forest revealed the reason why the Reindeers weren’t there; the forest was absolutely full of mosquitoes!

After a half an hour sleeping we continued to my brother Pirkka who had just moved to a bigger apartment in Kemijärvi. After some coffee we drove to a factory area where Pirkka had a permit to do birdwatching. So we were able to twitch the famous Bar-headed Geese that come to spend the whole summer to this place. Altogether 22 Bar-headed Geese and 2 hybrids between Bar-headed and Barnacle Geese were seen. Also a rare Lappish bird an Oystercatcher and 5 Great Ringed Plovers were seen.

When we were leaving and going to order some pizzas Pirkka got a call from Jorma Halonen: “Have you heard about the Abdim’s Stork in Pekkala?”. ”WHAAT?” So soon we were driving to Rovaniemi Pekkala to twitch some strange stork that we managed to see a picture in a local paper and amazing it really seemed to be an Abdim’s Stork!

After a half of an hour we were in Pekkala which was a familiar place for Pirkka because of last summer there had been a Cattle Egret! And soon we had a strange looking stork in our telescopes! The bird was feeding on the field only a couple of hundreds of metres from us. Soon it flew shortly and soared above us and landed to an electric pole to clean its feathers.

I took more than 200 pictures of the stork. There were several journalist and more were coming even before the twitchers so we decided to leave pretty soon. We were much too tired to give interviews.

When we were back in Kemijärvi we put the pictures to the computer, photoshopped them and sent tem around the country so in the evening my pictures were shown in news and in the next morning they were in several newspapers around the country. And finally we had time to go to order some pizzas! We weren’t sure when we had eaten last time. After all we were so excited about the stork and good pizzas that we had also forgotten when we had been sleeping last time so we decided to keep on going towards north.

The next stop was made in Sodankylä Ilmakkiaap, where was very quiet. The view from the tower wasn’t very good eirther as the trees had grown too much in front of it. So only some Common Scoters were found.

In Sodankylä Vuotso we saw a Sparrowhawk crossing the road. In Inari Kaunispää we had saw plenty of Japanese tourists that where there to see the midnight sun. We laughed a little bit because they were just sitting in their cars and waiting for the midnight. But we wouldn’t have laughed if we’d known this to be the last change to see the sun at all for a long time! Well also a family of Dotterels was found – a dad with 3 small chicks. A couple of Whimbrels and Golden Plovers were also found but we kept on going.

We managed to drive until Ivalo Koppelontie where we put up the tent and went to sleep. And I think this had been the hardest but one of the best birding day ever!

To Norway

On the 14th of July we woke up and twitched another Arctic Warbler in Koppelontie. This bird was easy to photograph too. We also saw a couple od Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. And when it started to rain again we noticed we had to try to find Siberian Tits before the rain was getting too hard. Luckily already the first stop to a good looking place was good and we found a flock of several young Siberian Tits – the 6th lifer for Paul. Soon the rain was getting too hard and we continued to north.

We drove directly to Utsjoki where we did last shopping and put the tank full Finnish cheaper gas. Anyway we decided to drive on the Finnish side of river Teno until Nuorgam – the most northern place in Finland. That was a right choice because of we found a family of Hawk Owls on the way! Four absolutely wet young owls were begging for food from their mother; again a lifer for Paul. Well I must say they were the ugliest Hawk Owls I’ve ever seen…

We crossed the border to Norway in a heavy rain and started to collect Norway trip-ticks! There weren’t many birds but a Short-eared Owl and a Dunnock were seen before we reached the sea in Varagerbottn where we of course got plenty of trip-ticks – Shelducks, Redshanks and Eiders and so on.

The rain stayed heavy, but anyway we were stopping on the good places on the coast. Arctic Skuas, Great Black-backed Gulls and then in Nesseby church Kittiwakes and lots of Eider families and a Shelduck family were seen. Because of the heavy rain we decided to sleep in a car in front of the church.

The weather stays awful but birds can be found

On the 15th of July we were sleeping until the morning even though the rain stopped for a while during the early hours. When we woke up the rain was even harder than earlier, so we had to start birding in a rain. Luckily when we walked behind the church the rain stopped for a while. 3 Shovelers, some Bar-tailed Godwits, a stunning Great Skua, a Grey Plover, 4 Greylag Geese and far on the calm sea together with some Black and Red-throated Divers was a young White-billed Diver. Still we found 4 Gannets and a Fulmar so the birdlife seemed to be good; we were just the bottom of Varangerfjord!

In Vadsö Island we found 14 Steller’s Eiders with Eiders. On the sand-beach there were also a couple of beautiful Curlew Sandpipers and a Dunlin. From the pools we found lots of Red-necked Phalaropes; altogether 60 birds, also families of Wigeon and Mallard. A couple of Ruffs were seen on flight too. A Temminck’s Stint was panicking on the meadow where were also several Red-throated Pipits while we were hurrying back to our car to try to get our optics and clothes dry.

We sent a message (again one more) to Spanish and soon they came to twitch Steller’s Eiders. They had been driving up and down along the fjord whole night and we got a couple of good tips from Vardö where we were now continuing.

In Eckerö the rain was still hard and Hanna and Paul climbed up to the hill to photograph a huge colony of Kittiwakes from above while I went to record them under the colony. Luckily we all managed to see the same Peregrine Falcon that came to catch some young Kittiwakes for a lunch. A couple of Rock Pipits were found and I saw the first Brünnich’s Guillemot too.

Finally the rain stopped and the next stop was made because of a huge flock of Redpolls that was feeding on the bushes along the road. Only one Arctic Redpoll was found but pretty soon we found a family of Gyr Falcons sitting on the electric poles. And luck continued when Paul found a Willow Grouse that was running under the sheep fences. When we stopped we found out that this female Willow Grouse had 9 youngsters following it. Pretty soon we found the first Rough-legged Buzzards of the whole trip.

In Persfjorden we found a couple of King Eiders that were in a huge flock of Eiders, one bird was a 2nd cy and another was 3rd cy male. We continued until the world’s end to Hamningberg where a deep fog made the visibility almost zero and soon the rain started again! So we couldn’t find anything else than a Snow Finch, a couple of Gannets, a Twite and a dozen of Brünnich’s Guillemots. All the divers were just Black-throated Divers even though other birders had seen there much more interesting species too. After some time the fog and the rain bacame too uncomfortable so we went to tent to get some sleep.

Hornöya day

On the 16th of July we woke up when the rain was still whipping our tent. The wind had also started to blow very hard it was almost stormy. So we left Hamningberg and started to drive back to Vardö. On the way we found a stunning 2nd cy Glauscous Gull that was on a big flock of gulls and also another Gyr Falcon family. The youngsters were fighting and calling and we saw even another adult attacking to a White-tailed Eagle that was flying above the edge.

But we were already in a hurry to get to Vardö where we had a boat to catch at 10 a.m. We were going to Hornöya bird-island! We made it t the harbour at 10 a-,- but we realized that we hadn’t a single Norwegian money. So we decided to take the second boat because of it seemed that the weather was also getting better soon. So we went to cash-machine and shopping before we had to be back in the harbour at 11.30 a.m.

Hornöya was as it always is – amazing! Thousands and thousands of Kittiwakes and guillemots and lots of Razorbills and Puffins! The weather was still bad for photographing and too bad for recording. The Fulmar was again in the same nest where it had been our previous visits and another couple was seen also little bit under it, but later there were just Kittiwakes sitting on these decks. Maybe the Fulmars were still there because ot there were small tunnels where they might have been incubating the eggs or warming the nestlings.

Hanna and Paul concentrated on photographing flying alcids and I climbed higher to a less windy place to digiscope Rock and Red-throated Pipits. Between the worst gusts I also managed to get some kind of recording under the colonies. We did find a place where a Twite was breeding but it was too bad wind to photograph such a small bird. Anyway the time went fast because of there were so much birds and it was fun to watch what they all were doing. At 5 p.m. we had a boat back to Vardö.
Because of the wind we drove until Nesseby where we put up the tent behind the church just next to a fence that protected us from the wind.

Lifer for us too!

On the 17th of July we drove directly away from Varanger to Teno river-mouth to Högholmen. There were only a few birds and the road was extremely bad but the views were stunning again!

We continued to fjelds where we saw 20 Rough-legged Buzzards and when we were on the highest part we saw also the first Long-tailed Skua, a couple of Snow Finches and Shore Larks. A little bit lower we saw a Merlin.

We drove fast towards the Porsangerfjord. A short stop was made in Silvarifossen where we found a nest of a Bluethroat. The male and also the nest were photographed and soon we hit the road again. Porsanger was a beautiful place; the views were stunning and there were also good selection of birds. When the weather was getting really good too it was really nice! Our target was to find a Surf Scoter that Pierre-André Crochet and his friend had seen a couple of weeks earlier. I had been guiding them one night in Parikkala so I had got instruction to the place where they had found the bird. But after all the instructions weren’t that easy and because of the sea was full of Velvet and Common Scoters and Eiders it seemed not to be that easy.

We stopped in several places around the bottom of the fjord and saw lots of Velvet Scoters and quite a few Common Scoters, Eiders and Long-tailed Ducks, also 12 Scaups and a Slavonian Grebe were seen. After having some lunch in one parking place I sent a sms to Pierre and asked about better instructions. Luckily he answered soon and even though it was still difficult to understand the exact place we finally thought we might know the right place.

So we drove 7 kilometres back from Lakselv to a place where the fjord was visible from the road, stopped and started scanning the sea with scopes. And there it was, a male Surf Scoter was sleeping in a big flock of Velvet Scoters and Eiders! First I could see only some white on its forehead but soon it turned and also the hind-neck came visible. After some time it finally woke up and we could see THE bill! A lifer for me and Hanna! Soon the bird started to swim actively and it funnily stretched up many times, a couple of times we saw its wings that almost didn’t exist – it was in a middle of strong moulting.

We were happy when we started our long way back to inland and towards Finland. In the evening we parked to a slope of Karigasniemi Ailigas fjeld where we put up the tent and when it once again started to rain we went to sleep.

Slowly towards Oulu

On the 18th of July once we had woke up we climbed to the Ailigas fjeld where almost no birds were at all. Normally this was the best bird-fjeld in Finland. We walked around the whole top of the fjeld together with 3 Finnish birder that we met but we couldn’t find anything else than some Snow Buntings. On the way down we saw briefly a Golden Eagle but anyway Ailigas had been a big disappointment. Luckily in Piesjänkä nearby we saw a family of Willow Grouses and a Lemming! Soon we found a breeding pair of Long-tailed Skuas. Their territory was full of pieces of dead Lemmings, mostly there was only head left. We photographed these skuas for some time before we left them and walked back to our car. On the way we saw also a couple of Arctic Redpoll, Bluethroats, Lapland Buntings and also a Reed Bunting which I think was in wrong place.

Near Nuvvus Ailigas we saw plenty of Rough-legged Buzzards and also a Merlin and a stunning Gyr Falcon that flew over us calling

In Utsjoki we did some shopping again and it started to rain very hard again when we continued 9 kilometres to Pohjan tuli hotel to eat some reindeer. This was a place to see Pine Grosbeaks visiting the feeders just outside the restaurant windows. The rain stopped right when we got our food to the table and exactly then an adult female Pine Grosbeak came to the feeder! 10th lifer for Paul! And the timing was perfect!

We were so happy when we had seen also this extremely difficult species that we decided to take a room and have a shower with sauna. And it was also good to charge some batteries, also our own.

On the morning of 19th of July we still tried to see Pine Grosbeaks better but only Paul saw the same bird while we were still sleeping. The wind was now stormy so we could easily decide to start driving a long way towards Oulu.

Somewhere in Utsjoki we saw a couple of Rough-legged Buzzards and a Short-eared Owl and right away when we had came to Inari we saw a Willow Grouse and a Long-tailed Skua. We climbed to Kiilopää because of we still hadn’t seen any Ptarmigans but we couldn’t find any. A family of Siberian Jays, a couple of Lapland Buntings, a Golden Plover and a Bluethroat were seen. In Sodankylä Porttipahta we saw the first Osprey of the whole trip (that tells something about the weather and our schedule!) and on the lake we saw a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls. After this we had just a long and boring drive until Rovaniemi where we had a must stop at the Arctic Circle, but soon we were on the way to Oulu. We were finally at Oulu at 11 p.m.

And as crazy as we are we decided to drive to Rusko rubbish tip to try to see an Eagle Owl. We had decided to have only a short stop there but we met a security-guard there who told that the best time to see the owl is between 2 and 4 a.m. So we slept a couple of hours in a car outside the rubbish tip gates!

In Oulu region

On the morning of 20th of July I woke up once again to check all the poles that were visibly from the rubbish tip and there the Eagle Owl was perched on a rubbish-hill against the sunset. Unfortunately it flew away almost right away but all of us managed to see it briefly. We still waited for a half an hour but then the sun started to rise and too many gulls and crows were coming to the rubbish tip so the owl was gone.

Because of at 2 a.m. it was difficult to figure out a good place to go to sleep (even though I have lived there for 15 years) I decided that we drove to Liminka Virkkula. So we just slept on the mattresses in our sleeping bags under the sky while a Spotted Crake was calling just next to us.

After some hours sleeping we walked to the bird-tower, where we could see amazingly few birds. A flying Bittern a White-tailed Eagle, lots of Greylag Geese, a Great Grey Shrike but nothing else interesting. So we continued to Lumijoki Sannanlahti where many ducks weren’t either but a Black Tern was a good one as was an Arctic Skua too! The craziest triptick that we had still missing was also finally seen, a Lesser Whitethroat.

In Lumijoki we twitched the Collared Doves and then had a short stop in Oulu Kiviniemi and Oritkari but only some Little Ringed Plovers were seen. At 11 a.m. we had a meeting with our good friend Mikko Ala-Kojola and we drove 100 kilometres to Vaala where we headed to a bog and a nest of an Osprey. It seemed that the local Ospreys were breeding in very ridiculous trees if comparing to those that breeds in South-Karelia. The first nest we visited was in such a tree that it was impossible to climb because of the tree might have been fallen! But the second nest was possible to climb with ladders and Mikko ringed the only but big nestling and we all got nice opportunity to have such a big raptor in our hand. Paul was so happy that we didn’t have to ask him to smile in the pictures! On the ways we saw also a Hazel Hen and a Great Grey Shrike.

We were absolutely tired when we drove back to Oulu. But we were also very thankful to Mikko to have an opportunity to join him ringing an Osprey. If it has been amazing experience for us it was even much more to Paul. In Oulu we dropped Mikko to Linnanmaa and continued to my brother Riku. Riku was with his two children in Kokkola but his wife Pirjo let us to lodge to their upstairs. We finally met their newborn girl too. After some dinner we were ready to go to sleep.

Back home

On the 21st of July we slept as long as it was possible. We didn’t plan any birding for the day but we were resting, went to walk to Oulu city and even went to cinema. Anyway we visited Hietasaari bird-tower and in Lake Pyykösjärvi, but we didn’t see anything special. In the evening Riku came home too so the rest of the day went easily while discussing and also packing. At 11 p.m. we took Paul to the train station and he took the train to Helsinki. The night train was the most relaxed way to get to Helsinki from where he had his flight to catch next morning.

On the 22nd of July Paul had a good time to take a bus to the airport because of his flight was at 2 p.m. We were relaxing until the mid-day when we had to start our long way to Parikkala.

On the way we saw a Great Grey Shrike in Rantsila and the only stop was made in Kärsämäki Nurmesjärvi where 3 Hobbies, a Honey Buzzard and a Hen Harrier were seen. Finally at 10 p.m. we were at home. We had had amazing 2 weeks; 4300 kilometres driven and 222 birdspecies seen, which is really a lot in July!

One thought on “Eastern Finland – Varanger 6.-22.7. 2007

  1. Pingback: Birdersdiary » Vuosi 2007 – kuukausittaiset kertomukset

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