Eastern seawatching in Kristiinankaupunki

On Maundy Thrusday the 1st of April which was also April fool day, I spent lunch-hour in Siikalahti and saw 8 Bean Geese, a White-tailed Eagle, 44 Starlings, 5 Chaffinches and so on. After work we packed our car completely full and when we were sitting in a car, we discussed where we were about to go. We put Kristiinankaupunki Siipyy to our navigator and started a long drive across the whole country.

We planned to start Eastern in Kristiinankaupunki where we had never been birding together, I had only been there a couple of times very briefly.

On the way we saw a Great Grey Shrike in Hämeenlinna and a flock of Bean and White-fronted Geese in Pälkäne. In Tampere we stopped to get some food and when it was getting dark we saw a couple of Woodcocks in Harjavalta and Ulvila. The rest of the drive was made in darkness.

Finally at 11:15 p.m. we parked our car next to Siipyy bird-tower and soon we had found out that the best place for the tent was almost under the tower. Soon we had everything ready and went to sleep.

We had forgotten that summer-time had just started so we woke up an hour too early. But it was good as we heard one or two Tawny Owls calling around us. We still tried to sleep a little but then a car parked to the parking place and the first birder climbed to the tower. So we packed everything, wore lots of warm clothes and climbed up to high tower too.

Ilkka Iivonen was already seawatching and soon also Jukka Koskelainen arrived, both were familiar names but soon we found out that they were very nice birders. Jukka was bookkeeper and soon there were Common Eiders and other birds to book. It really was easy to see why Siipyy is probably the best seawatching place in Finland as the light was really good there. So even the furthest birds were possible to identify. It was still very early when Ilkka shouted that a Common Guillemot was migrating with a couple of Razorbills and we got the first good year-ticks. There was also Black Guillemots flying around their breeding island.

Matti Pajunen arrived soon too and later also Paavo Sallinen, both of them I had met before and they were also very nice people so the morning was really enjoyable – quite a lot of birds and lots of stories to listen and to tell. One very thick snowfall went through but it didn’t stop birds moving as an Oystercatcher was moving high in the sky. Also Common Scoters, Velvet Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks and Smews were seen and the first Rock Pipit and only Meadow Pipit were seen too.

Other birds seen during the morning were Greylag Geese, some Common Shelducks, a couple of Wigeons, Teals and Shovelers, Tufted Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers and Goosanders, 5 Red-throated Divers, a Kestrel, the best birds was a lonely Shore Lark, a Mistle Thrush, some Starlings, 54 Chaffinches and a couple of flocks of Common Crossbilss. Also another Common Guillemot was seen migrating together with a Velvet Scoter.

At midday it was pretty quiet already so the rest of birders left. We still stayed there on the tower with Hanna and Jacob Wasenius who had just arrived. On the second flock of Common Eiders I found a reddish female which shape was also different. Luckily there was also one female Common Eider on the flock with 10 males and this female King Eider!

At 2 p.m. there were several tourists climbing to the tower so we decided to go cooking some dinner. We still saw a Goldfinch, a Rock Pipit and a local Great Crested Grebe before we left to check some other places nearby.

In Storsjö we saw a color-ringed Crane, some Teals and Wigeons and a Grey-headed Woodpecker. Then we stopped in one bird-tower that was in bad condition and saw nothing interesting. Then in Härkmeri fields we found some Greylag and Bean Geese with 2 White-fronted, 9 Barnacle and one Pink-footed Goose.

In the evening we drove back to Siipyy and decided to put up the tent to the same place again. And it was 9 p.m. when we were ready to go to sleep.

On the 3rd of April the first birder arrived when we had just awaken – and we thought that we were early. Soon we climbed up to the tower when Veikko Forsberg was already working. Soon also Jukka and Matti arrived and we seawatched until midday again but it was more quiet morning. Anyway we counted more than 1500 Common Eiders, 28 Red-throated Divers, 28 Razorbills and new arrivals were a Red-necked Grebe, 7 Northern Pintails, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and also 41 Snow Buntings were seen migrating between the waves. Again also a Kestrel was seen.

But again the atmosphere on the tower was nice and many good stories were heard.

In the afternoon we did almost the same round as on the previous day but saw nothing new.

On the 4th day the expectations were high as the wind was finally turning south, but after all the day wasn’t that good. Veikko was there already before sun was setting which meant that we had soon packed our tent and were climning up too. Jukka arrived also soon and then later also Staffan Blom and Aki Linkolehto.

Again it was nice and productive seawatching and until 12:30 p.m. we had seen 17 Bean, 11 Pink-footed, 138 Greylag and 73 unidentified geese, 17 Common Shelducks, 2350 Common Eiders, 147 Long-tailed Ducks, 758 Common Scoters, 107 Velvet Scoters, 340 Goldeneyes, 7 Smews, 128 Red-breasted Mergansers, 250 Goosanders, 31 Red-throated and a Black-throated Diver, 4 Red-necked Grebes, 708 Cormorants, 7 Oystercatchers, a Curlew, an Arctic Skua, 13 Razorbills, 20 Black Guillemots, 370 Black-headed Gulls, 1645 Common Gulls, 410 Herring Gulls, 18 Great Black-backed Gulls, a Mistle Thrush and so on.

Finally it was time to say goodbye to new friends as they left. Then we packed our car and as the weather forecast was really bad for the next morning, we had decided to start driving toward home but still do birding and sleep somewhere on the way.

We stopped shortly in Merikarvia Lankoski but didn’t see Grey Wagtails that had been there. Pretty soon we parked in Pori Yyteri where were lots of cars. So we started walking towards the towers wearing masks. Luckily people were along the long paths, so towers were almost empty. We visited 3 towers and saw altogether 11 Common Ringed Plovers, 20 Oystercatchers, 30 Shelducks, 3 Snow Buntings and the best bird was a nearly Bar-tailed Godwit. When we were walking back towards our car, we still heard a Common Snipe.

We still walked to Langoura bird-tower that was close to the parking place and found a male Pochard and 2 Great White Egrets with some Grey Herons. Then we started driving but still turned to check one field in Preiviiki where we saw some Bean and White-fronted Geese. And when we saw a sign to Kaarluoto bird-tower we decided to visit there too. The light was really bad but there were lots of ducks. Some Pintails and Smews and quite a few Wigeons and Teals were seen but soon we were driving again and while driving across Pori we still saw a single Rook.

We had first planned to tent in Pori but the weather seemed to be better the more east we drive, but it was soon getting very late. We checked also hotels in Pori, Tampere and Lahti, but they were closed because of Covid19. So after all we planned to drive until Joutseno where we could start birding in Konnunsuo in the morning but after all we decided to drive until home. We were finally home at 2 a.m. and it had been along drive but we were happy to go to sleep in soft bed.

The Eastern trip had been really good and I am sure we will go there again. Maybe it will be an Eastern-tradition?

Because of the tiredness, very hard wind and rain, on the 5th of April we wereonly an hour and half in Siikalahti. We saw 70 Tundra Bean, 5 Taiga Bean, 5 White-fronted and a single Greylag Goose, a Pochard male, a couple of White-tailed Eagles, heard a Water Rail, saw 2 Golden Plovers, a Meadow Pipit and 10 Fieldfares. In the evening I went to check Särkisalmi and Lemmikonsalmi and saw a Common Gull and a couple of Goosanders.

J.A.