Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
Great Grey Owl
Spurred on by an extremely successful trip to Northern India, the team of four, son Ben and friends, Bucks Birders Mike Collard and Rob Andrews decided upon an owl trip to Finland. This time the party swelled to seven when wife Anne (owls are her favourite birds), and more Bucks Birders Rose Collard and Jim Rose joined the team. The core of the trip was a five-day guided package by Finnature but Anne and I added an extension of three days in Helsinki and an extra night at Oulu. The organisation by Finnature was first class and thanks must go to our guide, Harri Taavetti. This report covers the whole nine days of our trip.
Tuesday 9 May Morning flight from Teesside to Helsinki via Amsterdam by KLM
Wednesday 10 May Helsinki
Thursday 11 May Helsinki
Friday 12 May Midday flight from Helsinki to Oulu by SAS
Saturday 13 May Oulu
Sunday 14 May Oulu. Drive to Kuusamo
Monday 15 May Kuusamo
Tuesday 16 May Kuusamo. Return drive to Oulu
Wednesday 17 May Morning flight from Oulu to Helsinki with SAS then onward to
Teesside via Amsterdam with KLM.
The package booked with Finnature was for five days starting and finishing at Oulu and included accommodation, breakfasts, dinners, transport and the services of a guide. All group members arranged their own transport to arrive at Oulu on the afternoon of 12 May. Our extra night at Oulu was organised by Finnature.
Our return flight with KLM from Teesside to Helsinki was booked over the internet via the KLM website. The return flight from Helsinki to Oulu was booked through Expedia.co.uk. We found it useful at Oulu to be able to book our cases straight through to Teeside even though we were changing airlines which made our time at Helsinki airport easier without cases.
In Helsinki we stayed at the Radisson SAS (booked directly over the internet) which was ideally located in the city centre, 10 minutes walk from the bus station. We travelled from the airport to the city centre using the Finnair coach from outside the terminal building. In Oulu we stayed at Hotelli Vihiluoto a short distance from the airport and overlooking Kempeleenlahti Bay. At Kuusamo we stayed at the ski resort of Rukatunturi at the Hotel Rantasipi Rukahovi.
For transport we had a Volkswagen Carvelle 4x4. The seating was arranged with the two rows of seats in the rear facing each other which we found very user-friendly. Also we were grateful for the four-wheel drive at Kuusamo as at times we were on sheet ice roads.
The weather was very mixed. In Helsinki it was shorts and tee-shirt weather with the daytime temperature in the 20’s. As we went north to Oulu it was still clear and sunny but a little cooler needing a jumper and fleece. At Kuusamo it was bitterly cold with –4 degrees in an icy blast and some frozen lakes. We had snow here on two occasions. Also the further north we went the more daylight we had with only a few hours darkness each night.
For research we used information provided by Finnature together with various trip reports from the internet. For identification issues we mainly used Collins Bird Guide by Mullarney, Svensson, Zetterstrom and Grant.
More details can be obtained by contacting me on ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. Also Jim has put photographs and more details on a website at http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/birdingtrips/Finland/Finland1.htm.
Tuesday 9th May
Anne and I left home at 0430hrs to drive to Teesside for the 0600hrs flight to Helsinki. We eventually arrived at Helsinki at 1430hrs local time (BST + 2hrs), caught the Finnair bus to the city centre and after a short walk were at our hotel by 1515hrs. After a quick wash and brush-up we set off to explore Helsinki. We started by walking to the Tourist Information Centre on the waterfront and finding ourselves in the middle of major celebrations for Europe Day. Our first sightings were of House Sparrow, Jackdaw and White Wagtail together with Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull and Common Gull at the harbour. All too soon the light had faded for the day.
Wednesday 10th May
After breakfast we headed back to the waterfront and took a morning cruise around the harbour. There were various boats offering trips and we chose M.V.Diana operated by Sunlines Cruises. Besides stunning scenery, the cruise was productive for birds. Additions to our list included Baltic Gull, Eider, Goldeneye, Goosander, Scaup, Barnacle Goose, Canada Goose and Mute Swan.
Near the harbour is the Uspenski Cathedral, the largest Russian Orthodox church in Europe. After visiting the church we checked the grounds finding Northern Wheatear, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Greenfinch and Willow Warbler.
In the afternoon we visited Helsinki Botanical Gardens. Besides a number of Fieldfare we found a Bluethroat (red spot ssp. svecica).
Thursday 11th May
After breakfast we walked to the Sebelius monument situated in parkland on another stretch of waterfront. Birds were numerous and we saw a number of new species including Coal Tit, Pied Flycatcher and Oystercatcher,
The afternoon was spent in the city and in the evening we headed to the Finlandia Centre to see a concert by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. The Finlandia backs onto parkland and a lake which made a nice walk before the concert though nothing new was seen.
Friday 12th May
A leisurely morning before departing to the airport for the lunchtime flight to Oulu. All the party except Ben and Rob arrived around 1600hrs. We had two hours to wait for the last two so Harri took us to the local estuary at Oulunsalo for some birdwatching. Birds were numerous and new ones included Raven, Ruff, Redshank, Turnstone, Wood Sandpiper, Curlew, Red-breasted Merganser and Whooper Swan.
Enroute back to the airport we saw a Moose in the trees near the roadside. We nearly got too good views as it ran across the road just infront of us.
After collecting the last two of our party we headed to Hotelli Vihiluoto. After booking in our evening meal of traditional reindeer stew followed by pancakes was taken in a ‘lappish hut’ in the grounds.
A check for Pygmy Owl after dinner failed to turn it up but we did add Shoveler, Snipe and Woodcock to the list.
Saturday 13th May
After a check of the estuary from the hotel we were on the road at 0500hrs with our first stop to be a seawatch at Tauvo Venesatama. Enroute we saw Black Grouse, Willow Grouse and Common Crane together with Arctic Hare. At the harbour there was a good number of birds at sea including Black-throated Diver, Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Scaup and Arctic Skua whilst in the surrounding bushes we added Common Redpoll, Siskin and Skylark.
Just inland from the harbour as we were leaving a stop in the woodland produced a pair of very showy Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers, and Reed Bunting, Pied Flycatcher and Bullfinch.
Our next stop was in the Siikajoki Forest where we saw our first target species and had excellent views of Great Grey Owl on the nest. Also in the forest was another Woodcock and Snipe, and also Barn Swallow, Green Sandpiper and Woodpigeon.
After a coffee stop at Raahe we headed off to the coast near Olkijoki. Around a ploughed field we added ‘thunbergi’ Yellow Wagtail, Redstart, Whinchat and Peregrine before going into the Birch woodland for our second target. Harri found a Ural Owl sitting on an open branch and it may have been recently hunting as it still had blood on it’s bill. On the coast itself sightings included Pintail, Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Goldeneye and Grey Heron together with Greenshank and Redshank.
Harri took a call from a colleague which then saw us head off and near Varjakka, in a mixed goose flock, we had good views of 2 Lesser White-fronted Geese. We continued to Varjakka where we added Wryneck, Redwing, Fieldfare, Ortolan Bunting and our next star, a superb Hawk Owl sat out on top of a high conifer.
Our next stop was a reserve at Virkkula. As it was 1400hrs we made a short stop in the visitor centre for lunch before heading onto the reserve. Unfortunately the sky was grey with rain threatening and a strong wind but we set off for the tower hide. It wasn’t long before the rain started in earnest but we did see new birds including White-tailed Eagle, Temminck’s Stint, Spotted Redshank, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit and Garganey, and we heard a Bittern booming.
At 1600hrs the rain was torrential so we called a halt to proceedings and returned to the hotel to dry out.
Sunday 14th May
We met at the transport at 0600hrs and headed towards Varjakka harbour on a sunny morning but with a biting cold wind. We tried a site for Three-toed Woodpecker without success but did add Rook, Crossbill, Brambling and Smew. Harri took a call to say a White-billed Diver had just flown past a colleague 20k away along the coast and it was heading in our direction. We went straight to the coast and after a few minutes scanning located the bird as it flew by.
At 0845hrs we returned to the hotel for breakfast and to collect our bags and by 0945hrs we were back in the vehicle for our next location, Kuusamo. Before leaving Oulu we stopped at the snow dump for Little Ringed Plover and again checked the estuary beside the hotel where we relocated a Terek Sandpiper which had been found by Ben and Rob on a walk after dinner the night before. Harri called some friends and we had a ‘finnish mini-twitch’ in operation. There we also added Bar-tailed Godwit and House Martin. Just outside Oulu we also stopped at a forested area for our next target bird. Unfortunately we were unable to find it in the trees so we peeped inside a nest box to see a cute Pygmy Owl.
A little further on we stopped at a Birch forest and we were all told to aim our telescopes and cameras at a hole about 20 feet up a Birch tree. Harri went to the base of the tree and scratched it (imitating a Pine Martin) and immediately a Tengmalm’s Owl appeared at the hole looking down. In nearby trees we found Waxwing and another Wryneck.
We arrived at Syote National Park mid-afternoon and took an unmade road into the forest. This proved a very productive trail with Hazel Grouse, Goshawk, Three-toed Woodpecker and Capercaillie but the weather was less than kind as the snow started to fall.
It was 1940hrs when we arrived at our hotel at the small ski resort of Ruka. As we ate dinner we watched Reindeer passing the window.
Monday 15th May
We left the hotel at 0500hrs and headed towards Ouanka National Park. Although a clear blue sky the temperature was –4 degrees. We came to a clearing in the trees and on a grassy field were absorbed by a lek of a dozen Black Grouse. During the course of today with touring along many forest tracks we saw 24 Black Grouse and 12 Capercaillie (2 males and 10 females).
We returned to our hotel for breakfast at 0745hrs then headed off again. Our first stop was a forested area near Oivanki where we saw Rustic Bunting. It was then on to Kuusamo Tip where we spent some time gull watching and had excellent views of Heuglin’s Gull.
Early afternoon saw us at Karpan Kyla where we connected with Black Woodpecker and then Haikkila where we found another Hawk Owl and added Bluethroat and Rough-legged Buzzard to our lists.
As we headed back towards Ruka the snow became heavy and was lying on the ground. We decided to make a last check in a forested area near Kuusamo. The snow stopped, the sky cleared and the scenery looked magnificent, just like a Christmas card. It was a magical moment when, in the snow-laden tree above our heads we had superb views of Siberian Tit. We arrived back at the hotel at 1830hrs.
Tuesday 16th May
A lie-in today as we didn’t leave till 0600hrs but the ground was frozen solid and the temperature –4.5deg. but feeling much colder due to a strong wind. We headed to Valtavaara to climb the hill in search of two target species, but unfortunately we had to be content with Great Spotted Woodpecker, Brambling and Bullfinch.
After breakfast we left Ruka and dropped Mike off at Kuusamo airport as he was heading further north and the rest of the party started the journey back towards Oulu.
Stops enroute turned up Swift, Meadow Pipit and Merlin and we had a superb Golden Eagle fly over the vehicle.
Late afternoon and Ben, Rob, Jim and Rose had been deposited at Oulu airport and Anne and I settled into the Oulu hotel for our last night.
Wednesday 17th May
An early morning walk around the bay before breakfast was enjoyable but didn’t turn up anything new. 1000hrs saw us at Oulu airport for the return trip home which, with two changes, was to take us till 2300hrs.
1. Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata – Oulu and Kuusamo
2. Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica – Oulu and Kuusamo
3. White-billed Diver Gavia adamsii – Kuusamo
4. Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritus – Kuusamo
5. Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus – Helsinki
6. Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo – Oulu
7. Grey Heron Ardea cinerea – Oulu
8. Bittern Botaurus stellaris – heard Oulu
9. Mute Swan Cygnus olor – Helsinki
10. Whooper Swan Cygnus Cygnus – Oulu and Kuusamo
11. White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons – Oulu
12. Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus – Oulu
13. Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus – Oulu
14. Greylag Goose Anser anser – Oulu and Kuusamo
15. Canada Goose Branta Canadensis – Helsinki and Oulu
16. Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis – Helsinki and Oulu
17. Gadwall Anas strepera – Oulu
18. Wigeon Anas Penelope – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
19. Pintail Anas acuta – Oulu and Kuusamo
20. Teal Anas crecca – Oulu and Kuusamo
21. Mallard Anas platyrhynchos – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
22. Garganey Anas querquedula – Oulu and Kuusamo
23. Shoveler Anas clypeatra – Oulu and Kuusamo
24. Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
25. Pochard Aythya farina – Oulu
26. Greater Scaup Aythya marila – Helsinki and Oulu
27. Common Eider Somateria mollissima – Helsinki
28. Common Scoter Melanitta nigra – Oulu and Kuusamo
29. Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca – Oulu
30. Goldeneye Bucephala clangula – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
31. Smew Mergellus albellus – Kuusamo
32. Goosander Mergus merganser – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
33. Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator – Oulu
34. White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla – Oulu
35. Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos – Kuusamo
36. Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus – Oulu
37. Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus – Oulu
38. Rough-legged Buzzard Buteo lagopus – Kuusamo
39. Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus – Oulu
40. Goshawk Accipiter gentillis - Kuusamo
41. Kestrel Falco tinnunculus – Oulu and Kuusamo
42. Hobby Falco subbuteo – Kuusamo
43. Peregrine Falco peregrinus – Oulu
44. Merlin Falco columbarius – Oulu
45. Willow Grouse Lagopus lagopus – Oulu
46. Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus - Kuusamo
47. Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix – Oulu and Kuusamo
48. Hazel Grouse Bonasa bonasia – Kuusamo
49. Pheasant Phasianus colchicus – Oulu and Kuusamo
50. Common Crane Grus grus – Oulu
51. Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius – Oulu
52. Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula – Kuusamo
53. Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria – Oulu and Kuusamo
54. Lapwing Vanellus vanellus – Oulu and Kuusamo
55. Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres – Oulu
56. Dunlin Calidris alpina – Oulu
57. Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckkii – Oulu
58. Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola – Oulu and Kuusamo
59. Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus – Oulu
60. Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos – Oulu and Kuusamo
61. Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus – Oulu
62. Redshank Tringa tetanus – Oulu and Kuusamo
63. Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus – Oulu
64. Greenshank Tringa nebularia – Oulu
65. Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus – Helsinki and Oulu
66. Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa – Oulu
67. Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica – Oulu
68. Curlew Numenius arquata – Oulu and Kuusamo
69. Whimbrel Numenius heaps – heard Kuusamo
70. Woodcock Scolopax rusticola – Oulu
71. Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago – Oulu
72. Ruff Philomachus pugnax – Oulu and Kuusamo
73. Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus – Oulu
74. Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
75. Common Gull Larus canus – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
76. Herring Gull Larus argentatus – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
77. Heuglin’s Gull Larus heuglini – Kuusamo
78. Baltic Gull Larus fuscus – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
79. Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus – Helsinki and Kuusamo
80. Little Gull Larus minutes – Oulu and Kuusamo
81. Common Tern Sterna hirundo – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
82. Arctic Tern Sterna paradisea – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
83. Feral Pigeon Columba livia ‘feral’ – Helsinki
84. Stock Dove Columba oenas – Oulu
85. Woodpigeon Columba palumbus – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
86. Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto – Oulu
87. Great Grey Owl Strix nebulosa – Oulu
88. Ural Owl Strix uralensis – Oulu
89. Hawk Owl Surnia ulula – Oulu and Kuusamo
90. Tengmalm’s Owl Aegolius funereus – Oulu
91. Pygmy Owl Glaucidium passerinum – Oulu
92. Swift Apus apus – Kuusamo
93. Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius – Kuusamo
94. Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus major – Kuusamo
95. Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides pterodactyls – Kuusamo
96. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus minor – Oulu
97. Wryneck Jynx torquilla – Oulu
98. Skylark Alauda arvensis – Oulu
99. Sand Martin Riparia riparia – Oulu
100. Swallow Hirundo rustica – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
101. House Martin Delichon urbica – Oulu
102. Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis – Oulu and heard Kuusamo
103. Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis – Kuusamo
104. White Wagtail Motacilla alba – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
105. Grey Headed Wagtail Motacilla flava thunbergi – Oulu
106. Waxwing Bombycilla garrulous – Oulu and Kuusamo
107. Dunnock Prunella modularis – Oulu
108. Robin Erithacus rubecula – Kuusamo
109. Bluethroat Luscinia svecica svecica – Helsinki and Kuusamo
110. Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus – Oulu and Kuusamo
111. Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe – Helsinki and Oulu
112. Whinchat Saxicola ruberta – Oulu
113. Song Thrush Turdus philomelos – heard Oulu and Kuusamo
114. Redwing Turdus iliacus – Oulu and Kuusamo
115. Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus – Helsinki and Kuusamo
116. Fieldfare Turdus pilaris – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
117. Blackbird Turdus merula – Helsinki and Oulu
118. Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
119. Common Chiffchaff Philloscopus collybita – Kuusamo and heard Oulu
120. Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
121. Great Tit Parus major – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
122. Coal Tit Parus ater – Helsinki
123. Blue Tit Parus caeruleus – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
124. Willow Tit Parus montanus borealis – Oulu
125. Siberian Tit Parus cinctus – Kuusamo
126. Magpie Pica pica – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
127. Jackdaw Corvus monedula – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
128. Rook Corvus frugilegus – Kuusamo
129. Hooded Crow Corvus cornix – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
130. Raven Corvus corax – Oulu and Kuusamo
131. Starling Sturnus vulgaris – Helsinki
132. House Sparrow Passer domesticus – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
133. Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
134. Brambling Fringilla montifringilla – Kuusamo
135. Common Redpoll Carduelis flammea – Oulu and Kuusamo
136. Greenfinch Carduelis chloris – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo
137. Siskin Carduelis spinus – Oulu and Kuusamo
138. Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula – Oulu and Kuusamo
139. Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra – Kuusamo
140. Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus – Oulu
141. Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica – Kuusamo
142. Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana – Oulu
143. Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella – Oulu and Kuusamo