Northern Finland 30th of June to 9th of July 2013

After the inner-ear surgery that was made in Wednesday evening on the 26th of June, I stayed in the hospital for the next night. And the next day I was mostly sleeping in my parents’ house. The rest of the time I was getting familiar with my new Nokia phone and Samsung tabloid.

On the 28th day I left towards Parikkala even though I still didn’t feel so good. Anyway I did a short stop in Espoo Laajalahti where I saw some common waders, 5 Dunlins were the best as it was a new year-tick.

The next day I was still taking easy. Hanna was preparing to leave to Georgia where she was leading a tour again. When I started to feel better I started to plan what I could do during my sick-leave. I had been calling earlier to my brother Pirkka and also to my friend “Potu” Suojarinne and as there were a couple of lifers for Potu in Bothnia, we had decided to go twitching there at least.

So on the 30th of June I woke up at 4 a.m. but it was raining so hard that I left towards Mikkeli when the rain stopped at 6 a.m. 2 hours later I parked to Potu’s parking place and soon we were continuing with Potu’s van. In Laukaa we saw a Merlin and in Perho 10 Whimbrels. Then we decided to turn towards Evijärvi, where were the only breeding lakes for Black Terns in Finland. I had never been there so it was interesting to see these places. First we went to Jokisuunlahti bird-tower where we saw Red-throated Divers dance, which was something I had never seen before. After some waiting we saw only 2 Black Terns that were clearly breeding somewhere further. So we continued to Haapajärvi Vasikkaniemi where we saw 10 Black Terns but also they were very far on the other side of the lake. So we didn’t see them very well either.

So finally we continued towards Kokkola where we parked to Lohtaja Lahdenkrooppi tower. We first checked the nearby area from the tower but soon left to walk to huge Vattajanniemi sand beach.

The beach was very long so after all we had to walk several kilometers to find the Kentish Plover, but finally we found it. It was extremely shy and first we saw it only very far. There were also some other twitchers and we helped them to see the bird too.

After some time we started walking back towards our car. The plover was running in front of us and even though we really tried we didn’t manage to go around it. So after all it was going at least 2 kilometers in front of us. Once we thought we had managed to leave it behind but again it was just in front of us. Then I managed to get some better pictures of it. Other birds we saw in Vattajanniemi were 8 Dunlins, a Turn Stone, 4 Whimbrels, 2 Arctic Skuas and a couple of Redpolls.

We still went to see Halkokari which was too crowded so soon we continued towards north. In Kalajoki we turned to Letto and somehow we managed to find Letto bird-tower even though the path to the tower was almost impossible to walk. From the tower we saw a White-tailed Eagle, thousands of Black-headed Gulls and I managed to see a Little Tern briefly. It was already getting late when we continued towards Oulu.

In Oulu we drove to my brother Riku. Potu hadn’t been sleeping well on the previous night so he went soon to sleep. My brother Pirkka came also there and together with my brothers and Riku’s son Eetu we waited until very late night when the Confederations Cup football final Brazil – Spain started. Luckily Brazil crushed Spain and we could go to sleep before the match ended about at 2:30 a.m. And after a couple of hours we were driving towards Lumijoki with Potu and Pirkka.

We had some breakfast in Tupos and once we continued it was raining pretty hard. Anyway we saw 3 Short-eared Owls and soon we turned towards Sannanlahti.
The weather was changing a little bit better and when we parked our car we saw there were already plenty of twitchers. It was the 1st of July and not a single birder had ever seen a Gull-billed Tern in July in Finland. It had been seen still on the previous day, so now there were all serious month-tick listers already in the tower.

But the weather was far from the last week’s weather. It was cold and rainy now. We managed to get good places from the full tower and started to scan the bay and to the sea. The visibility was excellent and we could see the island Lamukari where the terns probably was when it was not catching insects. Anyway the island was too far so we couldn’t identify the gulls and terns that were perched there. So we had to wait and see the tern when it goes hunting. But due the rainy and quite windy weather there were no insects in the air. Dunlins were on the move and during the day I counted 312 of them, I also counted 120 Greylag Geese that were swimming on the sea. 3 White-tailed Eagles, 6 Black-tailed Godwits, 3 Arctic Skuas, 4 Caspian Terns, a Bittern, a Red-necked Phalarope and a female Red-backed Shrike were also seen.

In the afternoon it started to rain very hard and the rest of the birders decided to leave to Kokkola to twitch the Kentish Plover. We went to eat to our car and once we had eaten the sky surprisingly cleared so we quickly walked back to the tower. Little Gulls starts hunting insects soon and it really looked promising. A Peregrine, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits and 5 more Red-necked Phalaropes were seen but the Gull-billed Tern wasn’t. At 4 p.m. it started to rain again constantly so we decided to leave to Oulu.
Pirkka left to Kemijärvi and we went to sleep with Potu. In the evening we watched a movie with Riku and ate well before went to sleep again. The weather forecast wasn’t good for the next day either so we had no other plans than to go again to Sannanlahti to try to see this bloody tern.

On the 2nd of July we woke up at 6 a.m. and at 7 we had again had some breakfast in Tupos and seen a Short-eared Owl and were parking to Sannanlahti parking place. The most serious month-listers were back from Kokkola and they had started already at 4 a.m. again. The weather was not rainy but quite windy now. There were less birds around so nothing new was really seen. A couple of Ospreys, the same Peregrine which was seen much better now and was an adult male, about 30 Greenshanks and so on. Siskins were on the move and also some Chaffinches and even some Bramblings and 3 Parrot Crossbills were seen too. Finally at 10:37 a.m. Mika I. Koskinen found a good looking tern was from the east. It took some time to find it but when I found it I was soon sure that it was the right bird! The wind was pushing the tern towards Lamukari but it was catching something from the water. Luckily everyone managed to find it and all got different kind of ticks – Potu even a lifer! Finally Gull-billed Tern landed to Lamukari and soon after that it started to rain again. So everyone decided to leave.

I had go a phone call from the South-Karelia hospital earlier that I was supposed to go there on the next day’s afternoon, but as the weather forecast was still bad, it didn’t really matter. We still had something to do but we could do it right away. So we continued to Pitkänokka together with some other twitchers. After some walking we managed to find a Lesser Grey Shrike that had stayed there some days. We also saw the same Peregrine again and also a Stock Dove that was breeding in a nest-box there. Then we continued to Liminka Virkkula with Potu but once we got to the tower it started to rain again. So we went to eat into the information center where we met some friends too. When the rain stopped we walked to the tower again and it didn’t take long once we saw a male Pallid Harrier that was chasing a flock of 300 Wood Sandpipers.

We still visited Tyrnävä briefly but saw only a Hen Harrier before it started to rain hard again. So we decided to start a long way back to south-east. We were in Kuopio when we got a message that a Stilt Sandpiper had been found in Pori. We turned towards Suonenjoki which was still towards Mikkeli but also towards Pori. Once we got there the sandpiper had left already so we could continue towards Mikkeli again. We stopped in Haukivuori Hirviniemi where we saw a family of Slavonian Grebes but soon we got a message that the the sandpiper had come back, so once we were in Mikkeli we started to drive towards Pori which was about 450 km away. But after a half an hour the bird had left again. I had been sure it would stay as it was almost midnight already but now when it had left again we decided to give up and turned back to Mikkeli again. We stopped near the airport where we heard some Corn Crakes and 2 River Warblers but soon we continued to Potu to sleep.

On the 3rd of July we had late breakfast in Mikkeli and then I started to drive towards Lappeenranta. In the hospital I did some work things in x-ray department and before 3 p.m. I had a control for the ear-specialist. About a half an hour later I was driving towards Parikkala.

Already on the way I tried to find out the weather forecast for the next week and it looked pretty good. So I called to Potu again. We had been talking that it would be nice to do a trip to Lapland and as I still had 6 days free and I really thought that it was the best way to spend the rest of my sick-leave, we decided to go. So already before I was in Parikkala Potu started to drive to there too. At home I had plenty of things to do and when Potu arrived we still did some planning before we left.

The first stop we made pretty soon to a field where a couple of Booted Warblers had been seen about a month earlier. We walked around the bushes and managed to see one Booted Warbler very briefly. But we couldn’t find out if it had been breeding or not.

Then we continued towards Joensuu and turned to Kontiolahti and soon parked to Kylmäsuo. There we met some birders and soon found the right place where we could se 3 Ruddy Shelducks that had stayed there for a couple of days.

We still saw a couple of Short-eared Owls in Kontiolahti but then continued until Sotkame where we managed to twitch a Quail in Vaarankylä. Then we continued to Ristijärvi Saukkovaara where we were about at 3:30 a.m. We were extremely tired but as the timing was perfect we still decided to walk a little bit. The best forests had been cut down but anyway we managed to find 2 singing Red-flanked Bluetails. It was almost 5 a.m. when we finally went to sleep into Potu’s van.

We slept until 11 a.m. and then we woke up as it was absolutely too hot in the car. We still saw a Hen Harrier before we continued towards north. In Hyrynsalmi we visited Komulanköngäs where we tried to find a Grey Wagtail but there was none. Then we decided to turn towards Puolanka where had been one Grey Wagtail in Hepoköngäs. But we couldn’t find it there either and after all we realized that it had been seen pretty far from the waterfall. So we gave up and continued our way.

In Taivalkoski we saw a Honey Buzzard abd in Suomussalmi we took pictures of the Quiet People. Once we got to Kuusamo we saw an Osprey and in the city we did some shopping. In the rubbish tip of Kuusamo we saw 2 Black Kites but in Peurasuo we didn’t find a Siberian Stonechat nor an Arctic Warbler in Matolampi where only 2 Smews were seen. So pretty soon we were drivig towards Kemijärvi. In Kemijärvi we visited my brother Pirkka’s family. After a relaxed hour we still had to continue as we really wanted to get as north as possible during the night.

After all we managed to drive until Inari Saariselkä where we parked to a parking place to sleep. We woke up after 3 hours and left to walk to a trail to Iisakkipää. There had been reported 3 singing Arctic Warblers along the trail so wanted to be there early. After some walking we heard and saw a Two-barred Crossbill flying over us and soon after that we heard promising tit calls. I whistled a couple of times and soon we were surrounded by Siberian Tits. Later we found some more Siberian and Willow Tits but nothing else was found along the 6 kilometers trail.

We continued to Kaunispää where we met a couple of other birders. Soon Potu found a Dotterel far from the hillside and we walked closer to get some pictures. This beautiful male had 2 youngsters with him so we managed to get pretty good shots. But soon we left the birds and continued towards north.

On Kaamanen we stopped in 4 tuulen tupa where we ate while watching 2 male and 1 female Pine Grosbeaks visiting the feeder just outside the window.

Once we got to Utsjoki the first better bird was a Smew in Basijávre. Finally we got to Karigasniemi where we took a familiar track up towards Ailikas. We drove as long as it was possible and parked our car. We were ready to a good mountain walk. While I was packing my staff Potu found a 2nd calendar year Golden Eagle soaring on the sky. While a family of Bluethroats was feeding next to our car we left to climb towards the top of Ailikas.

First we were walking along the road and saw some Golden Plovers and a couple of Lapland Buntings and soon Potu found a Long-tailed Skua that I managed to see only briefly before it disappeared behind the mountain. Luckily it soon came back and started to attack to another one. They were chasing each other and came shortly right over us – nice!

Later we got out from the road and started to climb straight towards the top along the rocky hillside. We met a couple of butterfly collectors, but they told that the windy weather hadn’t been good for them. They hadn’t seen any Ptarmigans either.

When we were almost on the top we found the first families of Snow Buntings. Altogether we saw at least 10 birds. We also found 3 Dotterels, later one alarming bird and also a flock of 2 more birds. But even though we walked the whole top and around the top once we couldn’t find any Ptarmigans until we were just going to start climbing back down towards our car we flushed one! We had also found the Long-tailed Skua feeding on the groun and we had managed to get some good pictures of it so we had once again had great time in Ailikas!

We climbed down and walked a little bit on the tree-line but found nothing else. After that we put up a fire, had some sausage and talked until we were too tired to continue and went to sleep.

On the 6th of July we woke up early again and drove to Piesjänkä which is very close to Ailikas. There we start walking in a wet bog and saw Bluethroats and a Spotted Redshank right away and Red-necked Phalaropes, Temminck’s Stints, Wood Sandpipers and Ruffs on the first pool and soon also Ringed Plovers, Golden Plovers, Lapland Buntings and after some walk also a Broad-billed Sandpiper that was calling and flying around actively. We walked around there for 3.5 hours and still found an Arctic Redpoll, a Red-throated Diver, Yellow Wagtails and heard a couple of Cranes. Once we were back on the parking place, we found another Arctic Redpoll that was with a flock of Common Redpolls.

Then we start driving again and drove west until Nuvvus where we parked our car next to another Ailikas mountain. It was time for the hardest walk of the trip – maybe too hard for me as I was still on a sick-leave but it’s not a real trip to Lapland without some serious climbing – is it? So we followed the valley and started climbing. First it was a little bit wet in a mountain birch forest but soon it was just rocks. It was very hot so I was really sweating – and it was not allowed to me. So we had to stop many times. After some climbing we heard promising calls in front of us and soon saw a female Ring Ouzel flying over the valley. Soon we saw also a male and it had its bill full of food. So the nest was close. We sat down and waited if the birds would come sp we could get some pictures, but they were very shy. So after some time we decided to continue climbing.

When we were on the steepest place which was only loose rocks a family of three Ptarmigans ran into sight in front of us. So I managed to get pictures of these birds.

Soon we climbed to the highest top where we surprisingly had more mosquitos around us than anywhere during the trip before. Far on the top of the closest mountain we saw a lake and managed to identify 5 Long-tailed and 5 Tufted ducks and a male Scaup from there. But soon the insects forced us to start climbing back down. The Ring Ouzels were still there and now I managed to get some better pictures of them. Once we were down we ate a little bit and enjoyed the beautiful Teno River in beautiful weather.

Soon we continued towards Utsjoki and saw a Great Black-backed Gull in Yläjalve and a Merlin in Kuoppilasvaara. After some shopping in Utsjoki, we turned towards south and soon turned towards Skalluvaara reindeer round-up place. On the pools we saw 2 Little Gulls and a Red-necked Phalarope, but soon we drove a little bit back towards the main road and parked our car and put up a fire. Bluethroats were hiding on the closest bushes while we ate the rest of the sausages and soon we were ready to go to sleep again.

On the 7th of July we woke up at 5 a.m. and soon we were walking on the bog. Meadow Pipit and Yellow Wagtail were common and soon I managed to get some good pictures of a Lapland Bunting too. But we had to walk a long way to find anything better but when we did, we really had a good time: First we found a couple of Red-throated Pipits and while we were photographing them, a Red-necked Phalarope flew over us and a Jack Snipe was calling just over us a couple of times. Again we walked for 3 hours but found nothing else better.

Pretty soon we were driving towards south again. In Mieraslompola we saw a Great Grey Shrike perched on a dead tree and in Inari Lihavakalajärvet (fat fish lakes) we saw a couple of Red-throated Divers, Tufted Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers and 4 Velvet Scoters and soon after that in Sestjuvieggi we saw a male Pine Grosbeak flying over the road.

While we were driving we planned which way to drive back down to South-East. We decided to make a short Eastern Lapland journey as I had never really been there. After one crepes eating stop, we continued a long way until Pelkosenniemi Kairanaapa. Once we had parked there we heard aloud ticking calls – a family of Rustic Buntings were calling on the nearest bushes. From the bird-tower we saw only several families of Cranes, but nothing else really. On the way back we had to pick up the youngsters of Rustic Bunting safe from the road.

In Mullakkoaapa we tried to find Little Buntings along the main road but again found only some Rustic Buntings. Soon we turned to Sokanaapa where we walked along a really good track to the tower. The scenery was nice but we didn’t see anything special on the bog. We still went to walk a little bit to the other side of the bog but maybe because of it was already a late evening, we found only a family of Smews.

Finally we continued to Savukoski where we tried to see as many species as possible as I had never been there before so we stopped a couple of times but saw nothing interesting. Finally we were in Salla where we drove to Kotola and turned to a small road where we stopped and started to sleep. The last bird we saw there was a Short-eared Owl.

On the 8th of July we woke up very early, again after only about 4 hours sleeping. We went to walk along the main road where we knew some other birders had found plenty of Little Buntings some weeks earlier. Now nothing was singing anymore but we heard at least 4 of them but managed to see only one well.

Soon we continued to Kuusamo where we saw a young Dipper in Kitkajoki where we also heard a Chiffchaff singing. In Peurasuo we still didn’t see a Siberian Stonechat which had probably left, but found again 2 young Rustic Buntings. We started to feel extremely tired so we drove towards Konttainen. But on along the road we found a stunning Hawk Owl which gave us to get really good pictures of itself.

In konttainen we decided that it was far too windy to climb up so we drove down and turned to a small track and parked along it and went to sleep.

We woke up when it was getting too hot inside the van and soon continued towards south. We stopped to eat in the city but then kept on going. In Ristijärvi we saw a Hen Harrier but then in Juuka we turned towards Kaavi and there we turned to Outokumpu. In Outokumpu we drove to Vuonos pools where we found plenty of gulls right away from the first pool. We started scanning the gulls and in 30 seconds I found the bird we were twitching – a 2nd c-y Caspian Gull. My cameras battery died but I tried to use my new phone for phonescoping and after some practicing I managed to get some pretty good pictures and videos.

Once we had continued again we saw a strange looking bird flying across road. First we had no idea what it was, but when I saw it landing I realized it was a Quail! We went to walk to the place where I had seen it landing but it had probably ran to the next, much longer field.

We ate in Joensuu and soon continued to Tohmajärvi Värtsilä Tapiolantie where a Lanceolated Warbler had been heard for several nights. It was very cold, only 9 degrees so it wasn’t a surprise that we didn’t hear it even though we tried for several hours. A couple of Short-eared Owls were flying around the fields and calling. It was already 3:30 a.m. when we left to the last stage towards Parikkala.
We were in Parikkala finally just before 5 a.m. and after a shower we went to sleep. We slept as long as we just could and after some breakfast we visited Siikalahti where we still got some trip-ticks like a Pochard. Then it was time to say goodbye to Potu who had been driving all the time – He wanted to be my patient-driver – but he had also showed me almost every good bird of the trip!

Altogether we had seen 161 bird-species on these 2 trips (120 on the first and 127 on the second). We had got nice pictures, videos and memories! I had even managed to take pretty easy on my sick-leave – I had just been sitting – 4500 kilometers in a car…