May 27th -31st 2006
Sue Bryan & Paul Jeffery Andrew Duff & Ann Lawson John & Judy Geeson
John Ann Andrew Pekka Paul and Judy and the Yorkshire Crew!
John Ann Andrew Pekka Paul and Judy and the Yorkshire Crew!
This short holiday was arranged by John Geeson after we told him that we would like to go to
Our guide was Pekka Saikko who met us with a suitable minibus, did all the driving and guiding, stayed with us throughout and was in contact with foresters and local birders using his mobile phone to ensure that we saw our target birds. He discussed options with us so that we saw what we requested. The density of all birds, especially the ones everyone wants, in these Northern forests is low, and any attempt to find these unaided would be entirely futile, very frustrating, and a waste of time and money! A local forester was used around
The boreal forests of
27th May (evening)
28th May Hauho to
29th May birding around
30th May birding around Kuusamo
31st May Kuusamo to
We had changeable weather much like a British winters day. We wore our normal winter gear of jumpers, fleece, anorak and managed throughout with our walking boots. We had mainly cold grey overcast days interspersed with rain and some sunny spells.
Up to 24hr in the north around Kuusamo, 22 hours at Hauho and
The landscape is a mix of boreal
May 27th 1715 Ryanair flight Stansted to
We were met by our guide Pekka Saikko who drove east for about an hour to our first destination at Hauho by 2245, where we met local forester Pekka Poutto. (calm clear evening).
For our first taste of Finnish birding, we were driven a short way along a forest ride, where Pekka Pouttos vocal impression produced a rapid response from an Eagle Owl; this magnificent bird flew in, alighted and called on top of a tall spruce directly overhead, before heading off into the trees. Without having to move our feet, Pekka then called in a Pygmy Owl, which responded and gave good views on many treetops as it flew around us. The supporting cast consisted of roding Woodcock, and Tawny Owl calling in the background. With light quality still fairly good, we moved on to a nearby nest box occupied by Ural Owls, where again Pekkas vocal talents brought immediate results, with the male perching in full few in the forest edge. Three target owls seen between 2300 and 2345 an amazing start! Finally, we headed to our nearby cabins, and so to bed but not for long .
May 28th Hauho
Up at 0530 we drove around various tracks but failed to produce Hazelhen, or anything else of significance but a return visit to the Ural Owls provided better views and photo opportunities. From the next stop, we walked into a felled clearing, where a Three-toed Woodpecker was eventually coaxed into view, before we headed back to the guesthouse at 0900 for a hearty breakfast. A Garden Warbler was singing in the bushes.
Our second excursion, a little further afield, added the first Red-necked Grebe on a small lake, then a singing
Black Woodpecker with chicks
Note the oval-shaped hole!
Pekka arranging the ladder Paul looking down on a Pygmy Owl Pygmy Owl
Grey-headed Woodpecker Lunch Stop
Soon after an emergency stop for 2 Elk about 50km before town, we arrived in
After breakfast at 1830 we drove west out of town to Siikajoki, and along a track deep into the coniferous forest pulling up opposite our next owl. This was the owl that I had wanted to see more than any other. An imposing female Great Grey Owl, sitting brooding 3 chicks in her armchair sized nest dazzled us all. We were busy coping with the rain and poor light trying to take pictures when all of a sudden her mate arrived on the scene with a food delivery. Suddenly 3 chicks popped out their heads beneath her and guzzled down the offerings that she made to them. Stunning!
Great Grey Owl
Great Grey Owl Nest
We dragged ourselves away at 0915, and continued through a patchwork of fields and forest near the
Great Grey Owl in the rain
Great Grey Owl in the rain
Juvenile Hawk Owl
Heading back towards
An evening stroll to Toranki Lake behind the hotel produced Black-throated Divers, Common and Velvet Scoters, Red-necked Phalaropes, Little Gulls and Muskrats to round off another splendid day.
May 30th Kuusamo area all day. (overcast with a few light showers, then sunny).
A 0400 start dispelled any misapprehension that this was a holiday, as we met up at the bus for 0445 and drove north via Ruka to the famous lay-by on the Virkkula road for 0515, to find several groups of birders already in attendance. The various well-stocked feeders attracted plenty of Siskins, plus Bramblings, Northern Bullfinches, the distinctive northern race of Willow Tits and Red Squirrels, but sadly no Siberian Jays put in an appearance by 0700.
Red Squirrel Bullfinch
We then walked up the spruce forest covered hillside opposite seeing a singing male Red-flanked Bluetail (unfortunately only a first summer bird), before returning to the hotel in Kuusamo for 0900 and a much needed breakfast. Paul had heard that Siberian Jays love camp fires of foresters and the attendant sausages that are cooked on them. Needless to say he had lots of them on his plate for breakfast that mysteriously disappeared.
Revitalised, the second sortie of the morning began with a long vigil around a nest box in pinewood near to town before the resident Siberian Tit made its all-to-brief appearance, then back to the Ruka lay-by 1100-1230. The usual cast of characters, plus Great Spotted Woodpeckers, were still present on the feeders, a surprisingly obliging male Hazelhen provided a brief distraction on the roadside, before two Siberian Jays appeared from nowhere, made a lightning raid on the restaurant, and disappeared just as quickly.
Great Spotted Woodpecker and the offending Sausages!
After a further 30min drive north, we visited Oulanka National Park, and walked the riverside trail from the visitor centre; the main goal of Calypso orchid was found by the path, but needed another week or so to be fully open. On the river were Common Sandpiper and Black-bellied Dipper.
The third visit to the lay-by 1500-1630 found the feeders relatively quiet. Pekka, Andrew, John and Paul made a repeat climb up the hill, obtaining much better views of the same Red-flanked Bluetail, whilst the ladies took the opportunity of more photography at the feeder. (Judys sensibilities were affronted with sausages being in the birdie photos!!!)
Back in Kuusamo, we enjoyed the flocks of Whooper Swans, Little Gulls, nesting Red-necked Grebes, waders and Grey-headed Wagtails from the viewing platform overlooking
Whooper Swans on Lake Kuusamo Arctic Tern
Whooper Swans on Lake Kuusamo Arctic Tern
Red-necked Grebe on a nest amongst the reeds Whooper Swan
May 31st Kuusamo area -
We left the hotel in rain at 0600, and drove to the wooded suburbs of town by the lake, where a pair of the promised Willow Grouse duly obliged on the edge of a tiny forest fragment, which did wonders for our appetites. After breakfast we checked out at 0715.
Our first port of call was the town refuse dump (as in every good birding holiday!), where we discovered that Pekka was a closet gull enthusiast. The finer points of separating Heuglins from the local fuscus Lesser Black-backed were digested, along with another pair of Red-necked Phalaropes on the pool. Around 30 minutes out of town, a stop in wet birch woodland produced Little Bunting in response to the disc player.
Most of the day was spent on the long drive south, with frequent refreshment and rest stops, especially for our driver. Making good time, Pekka managed to squeeze in a brief final stop at the Lokalahti wetland near Jamsa late in the afternoon; this yielded a selection of common waterbirds, plus Little Ringed Plover and a Thrush Nightingale coaxed out from the undergrowth as the last birds of he trip.
Heuglin's Gull with Lesser Black-backed Gull
We finally arrived at
Black-throated Diver pair on lake between Hauho and
Red-necked Grebe 1 Hauho area 28/5; 3 pairs with nests
Great-crested Grebe 4 between Hauho and
Cormorant 1 on offshore rocks Varjakka 29/5.
Whooper Swan fairly common throughout, seen daily; max. flocks c.50 birds.
Taiga Bean Goose Anser fabalis fabalis 6 on boggy heath E of Oulu 29/5.
Greylag Goose 7 near Varjakka and c.6 Liminganlahti, both W of Oulu 29/5
Eurasian Wigeon 1 male nr.Hauho 28/5; few Liminganlahti 29/5; few Toranki and
Teal 1 Liminganlahti 29/5; 2 Kuusamo
Mallard small numbers on lakes and in fields throughout.
Northern Pintail 1 male Liminganlahti 29/5; male and female
Garganey 1 drake Liminganlahti 29/5.
Northern Shoveler - <10 Liminganlahti 29/5; pair Lokalahti wetland 31/5.
Tufted Duck total of 4 on lakes between Hauho and
Long-tailed Duck 6 flew past Varjakka 29/5.
Common Scoter Kuusamo: 18
Common Goldeneye common on lakes in the N.
Smew single drake Liminganlahti 29/5
Red-breasted Merganser male between Hauho and
Goosander female nr.Hauho, and 3 between Hauho and
European Honey Buzzard a pair and two singles over forests nr.Hauho 28/5.
Sparrowhawk I Hauho 28/5.
Common Kestrel 1 or 2 seen most days.
Willow Grouse Lagopus l. lagopus a pair found on grass verge beside a small patch of spruce forest in the suburbs of Kuusamo early am on 31/5 were a bizarre sight.
Capercaillie female scoped sitting on nest in burnt clearing in Hauho forest 28/5.
Hazelhen male found feeding in forest edge by the road near the Ruka lay-by 30/5.
Coot 2 between Hauho and
Common Crane birds seen on arable land: 1 near Hauho 28/5; 30 incl. flock of 29 near Varjakka, W of Oulu 29/5.
Oyster Catcher 1 Toranki
Northern Lapwing small numbers regularly seen in farmlands throughout.
Common Snipe 1 in reedbed Liminganlahti 29/5; also heard drumming over wet forest near Kuusamo 30/5.
Black-tailed Godwit 1 Liminganlahti 29/5.
Whimbrel 1 flew up off the road between Syotte and Kuusamo 29/5
Eurasian Curlew small numbers throughout.
Green Sandpiper 1 over forest S of Oulu 28/5; 2 over Ruka lay-by 30/5.
Wood Sandpiper 2 Kuusamo
Common Sandpiper N of Hauhao 28/5; 2 Varjakka 29/5;2 Oulanka NP and 1
Ruddy Turnstone 1 Kuusamo
Ruff 10+ incl.lekking males Limnganlahti 29/5; 3 Kuusamo
Red-necked Phalarope - party of 15 Toranki
Heuglins Gull Larus (fuscus) heuglini 2 ad/near-ad, plus two first SP birds Kuusamo dump 31/5. Appeared longer legged and slightly larger than L.Black-backed, the mantle colour of the adults charcoal almost identical to the British Lesser Black-backed L.fuscus graellsii, whilst the first-years already had more or less white head and underbody, much more advanced than Herring Gulls of corresponding age. A useful lesson from our gull expert leader.
Lesser Black-backed Gull/ Baltic Gull Larus f. fuscus with very black mantle; fairly common in farmland throughout, and many on Kuusamo town dump 31/5.
Little Gull - 1 ad. over Syotte NP 29/5; the many colonies on lakes around Kuusamo were a delightful sight.
Common Tern small numbers on lakes throughout and at coast W of Oulu.
Arctic Tern first seen (alongside previous sp.) on coast at Varjakka, but also on lakes inland around Kuusamo.
Eagle Owl a magnificent male was called in and perched on a spruce over our heads in Hauho forest, late evening 27/5.
Ural Owl a very obliging bird (? male) watched at length close to its nest box in Spruce forest near Hauho late evening on 27/5, and again there on the following morning.
Great Grey Owl a huge imposing female sitting on her gigantic nest brooding three chicks in forest nr.Siikajoki, W of Oulu 29/5, and the male made a brief food delivery visit.
Northern Hawk Owl a fledged chick, calling for food located (by Pekka) on ground in narrow strip of birch wood near Varjakka, and on a return visit later in the morning, an adult watched at length on roadside cables nearby 29/5.
Pygmy Owl one mobile bird called in, at the same spot as the Eagle Owl, in Hauho forest late evening 27/5; a brooding female, sat tight and allowed point-blank inspection in her nest box at another site nearby 28/5.
Tengmalms Owl one seen (head and shoulders only) popping its head out of a nest box in response to gentle scratching on the trunk, Hauho 28/5.
Common Swift small groups feeding near Hauho 28/5, Liminganlahti 29/5, and Lokalahti 31/5.
Eurasian Wryneck 1 Varjakka 29/5.
Great Spotted Woodpecker - <3 visiting feeders in Ruka lay-by 31/5;1 Lokalahti 31/5.
Black Woodpecker female visiting nest hole in poplar, and another bird flying over road in Hauho forests 28/5.
Grey-headed Woodpecker female emerged from nest hole in birch in response to play-back, and then seen several times in surrounding mixed birch/spruce forest N of Hauho 28/5.
Sand Martin few seen Liminganlahti, Kuusamo and Lokalahti.
Barn Swallow fairly common, seen in small numbers throughout.
House Martin few Hauho, Varjakka and Liminganlahti.
Tree Pipit very common in forests around Hauho, but less so in the Northern forests.
White Wagtail Motacilla a.alba small numbers in suitable habitats throughout.
Grey-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava thunbergi 4 in fields Varjakka 29/5;3 on grassy margins of
Bohemian Waxwing 6+ Syotte NP 29/5.
Dipper 2 Oulanka NP 30/5.
Thrush Nightingale singing male lured into view Lokalahti wetland 31/5.
Red-flanked Bluetail a first SP male singing on the spruce-covered hill above the Ruka lay-by 30/5; also heard in similar habitat in Syotte NP 29/5.
Common Redstart single males Varjakka 29/5, Kuusamo and Ruka lay-by 30/5.
Whinchat male Hauho area 28/5; 3 in fields Varjakka 29/5.
Northern Wheatear single male on beach rocks Varjakka 29/5.
Eurasian Blackbird few in forests at various sites.
Fieldfare the most common thrush throughout.
Song Thrush 1 Hauho 28/5; 1 Ruka lay-by 30/5; 1 between Kuusamo and
Mistle Thrush 1 between
Sedge Warbler several singing in reedbeds Liminganlahti reserve 29/5; 1-2 Lokalahti wetand 31/5.
Garden Warbler 1 Hauho cabins 28/5;
Common Whitethroat 1 singing in same scrub as
Willow Warbler by far the most common warbler, heard (and several seen) in forests everywhere.
Wood Warbler singing male in tall mixed forest N. of Hauho (Grey-hd.Woodpecker site) 28/5.
Goldcrest 1 Ruka lay-by 30/5, but others heard in coniferous forests.
Spotted Flycatcher 2 Varjakka 29/5.
Pied Flycatcher Hauho forest 28/5; 3 Varjakka 29/5; 1 Kuusamo and 1 Oulanka NP 30/5.
Siberian Tit 1 eventually made an all too brief appearance near an occupied nest box in pinewood nr.Kuusamo 30/5.
Great Tit few seen in most forest areas.
Red-backed Shrike 2 males in fields amongst Hauho forests 28/5.
Eurasian Jay 1 in Hauho forests 28/5, and 1 ??? somewhere else?
Siberian Jay this gave us more of a hard time than any other target sp.2 birds came fleetingly to the feeding station at the lay-by above Ruka (probably the most reliable site for the sp. in Finland) on our second attempt 30/5.
Magpie common throughout.
Jackdaw common throughout.
Rook very localised: few in
Hooded Crow Corvus (corone) cornix common throughout.
Raven 1 between Hauho and
Common Starling few around Hauho area 28/5.
House Sparrow 1 in boat marina on coast at Varjakka 29/5,
Chaffinch the most common species of forests throughout.
Brambling regularly in Northern coniferous forests in Kuusamo area, and several coming to feeders in Ruka lay-by.
Greenfinch few around Hauho and
Siskin a few in Hauho forests, but common in forests around Kuusamo, especially (20+) around feeders in Ruka lay-by.
Common Redpoll Carduelis flammea 3 Ruka 30/5, and a few others heard.
Common Rosefinch female in scrub in Hauho forests
Pine Grosbeak a tantalising fly-over in old spruce forest in Syotte NP 29/5, recognisable only by large size, long straight notched tail, double whitish wing bars, undulating finch flight and call.
Red Crossbill 8+ Hauho forest 28/5; 4+ Kuusamo 30/5.
Northern Bullfinch Pyrrhula p. pyrrhula up to 3 around feeders at Ruka lay-by 30/5. Birds of this Northern race have very different buzzing (Redpoll-like) flight call.
Yellowhammer 5+ around Hauho area 28/5; sev.at Siikajoki and Verjakka 29/5.
Ortolan Bunting singing male on wires Varjakka 29/5.
Little Bunting one of these very late arriving migrants (June-) coaxed out of wet birch forest S of Kuusamo 31/5.
Reed Bunting 2 singing males in reedbed Limnganlahti reserve 29/5; singing male Lokalahti 31/5.
Brown Hare Lepus europaeus 2 in fields near Hauho 28/5.
Arctic Hare Lepus timidus frequent, especially on roadsides early in mornings in Kuusamo Ruka area, with >15 seen.
Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris 3 visiting feeders at lay-by above Ruka 30/5, showing a wide range of colouration from a grey winter pelage to the more familiar rich chestnut summer coat.
Muskrat Ondrata zibethicus several in Toranki and
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes 1 in fields near Hauho 28/5.
Elk Alces alces 2 females in roadside forest S of Oulu on evening of 28/5.
Reindeer Rangifer tarandus feral animals fairly abundant in Kuusamo area.