Old time winter

In the end of January the best birds seen were a White-backed Woodpecker that came to our own feeder in Siikalahti. For some reason I hadn’t seen any White-backed Woodpeckers in several months in Parikkala. Then on the 29th day we tried to catch and ring it but all we caught were 9 Long-tailed Tits and some Grat and Blue Tits. Only woodpecker that was caught was a Great Spotted Woodpecker and somehow it managed to escape from the mist-net. In the afternoon we participated to Garden Twitch but it was snowing so only 9 common species were seen in about half an hour.

On Sunday the 31st of January we met Jari Laitasalo in Särkisalmi and then we continued to Tarvaslampi from where we started skiing towards Siberian Jay forests. After only some hundreds of meters skiing we flushed a Great Grey Owl that flew so far that we couldn’t relocate it. After we had seen a Goshawk and some Treecreepers, Willow and Crested Tits, we finally were in the place for Siberian Jays. We had to wait quite a long time before the last 3 birds finally arrived. It was so good to see they were still around!

February started with very cold weather so I didn’t see any birds on the first week. On Saturday the 6th a couple of Coal Tits and Treecreepers were seen and on the next day I saw the same 9 Long-tailed Tits and a Great Grey Shrike and a Dipper in Tyrjä.

During the week I was working one day in Imatra and on the way back to home I saw a Great Grey Owl and a big flock of Common Redpolls.

On the 13th day we saw a couple of White-backed Woodpeckers and the same Long-tailed Tits in Siikalahti and here and there some Treecreepers and a Crested Tit and a Great Grey Shrike in Tiviä. On Sunday we found nothing new to mention.

On the 17th day I did a short drive in very cold weather and stopped in Ristimäki. Surprisingly there was one more Great Grey Owl perched on a high tree. When I was about to leave my car-battery had died. Luckily it turned on after some trying and I could drive to buy a new battery.

The weekend started with again one more Great Grey Owl – this time in Siikalahti. Last year I didn’t see any Great Grey Owls and now I had seen four in a few weeks. Long-tailed Tits, a Grey-headed Woodpecker and a Great Grey Shrike were also seen in Siikalahti and in Moskuunniemi we managed to twitch a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker that had been visiting a feeder. It was about the time to get the first year-tick for February on the 20th day.

On Sunday the 21st day we went to check Kokkolanjoki-river in Simpele. Altogether 9 Goldeneyes, 3 Goosanders, 4 Whooper Swans, a Mallard, 4 Dippers and then also a Little Grebe were found. In the afternoon I did a run in Tarvaslampi and saw a Black Woodpecker which was a year-tick.

And once I finally had started to get year-tick, on the 22nd day a bigger and better was got. It was quite late in the afternoon when we got a message that Hiski Hirvonen had seen a Snowy Owl in Siikalahti! It had been perched on a field in Aittavaara but it had flight towards Huhmarinen. In a couple of minutes we were driving towards Huhmarinen. I dropped Hanna to check the first fields and continued further. I stopped next to Siikalahti parking place to check the fields there and somehow managed to find the owl even though only its head was visible. It was quite close but deep in the snow in the field. I didn’t dare to move until Hanna got there with Harri Partanen, Matti Lötjönen and Hiski.

We photographed the owl for some time until it got bored and flew as far as we could follow to the other side of the field towards Liuharanta. After some planning we drove after it and Matti managed to see the owl again in flight in Liuharanta but he lost it in flight.

It was already almost dark when we decided to go to check the field where we had seen the owl and there it was again. It flushed from the exactly same place with a rabbit on its nails. Luckily it landed further on the same field and Anne Poutanen still managed to see the silhouette of the bird before it was too dark.

Snowy Owl was the first Siikalahti-tick for me after almost 6 year! It was also Parikkala and South-Karelia tick. The last record in South Karelia had been made 16 years ago and in Siikalahti it had been seen only once before 21 years ago. So thank Hiski!

On the next morning we went to check the field but the owl was gone. There were some birders searching for it until the afternoon. I went there again during my lunch-hour and while we were chatting with my old friend Olavi Kemppainen I found a Golden Eagle migrating towards north. So luckily Olavi didn’t had to leave without any better birds. In the afternoon the weather turned awful, so I had to give up with more searching after my work. But I still visited the place where Snowy Owl had been fighting with the rabbit and then been eating. It had been quite a fight.

On the 24th day I visited Kangaskoski again and Little Grebe was still there. Also 3 Dippers and a Goosander were seen and from the main road 6 I saw 4 young Whooper Swans and a Goldeneye on the river. On the way back I saw 3 Elks in a snowy field.

On the 26th of February a White-tailed Eagle was seen in Härskiinmutka and on the next evening a Tengmalm’s Owl was calling in Tarvaslampi. On the last day of February we did winterbird-counts with Miika Soikkeli and saw a Hazel Hen a Goshawk, a Sparrowhawk, 61 Rock Pigeons, 6 Great-spotted, a White-backed and a Three-toed Woodpecker, 109 Great and also 109 Blue Tits, 2 Crested Tits, 3 Willow Tits, 2 Treecreepers, a Great Grey Shrike, 9 Jays, 108 Jackdaws, 36 Hooded Crows, 5 Ravens, 48 Tree Sparrows, 9 Greenfinches, 28 Bullfinches and 17 Yellowhammers.