Finland May 2005

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT

Participants: Toni Uusimaki - Finnature guide, Ian Broadbent - Organiser, Chris Hall, Graham Mant, John Raby


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Great Grey Owl (Ian Broadbent)
Great Grey Owl (Ian Broadbent)
Siberian Tit (Ian Broadbent)
Siberian Tit (Ian Broadbent)
Black Woodpecker (Ian Broadbent)
Black Woodpecker (Ian Broadbent)
Hawk Owl (Ian Broadbent)
Hawk Owl (Ian Broadbent)

Report by John Raby

Ian proposed the trip after parents Roger and Gill Broadbent enjoyed a similar trip in April 2004. Taking inspiration from John Bannon’s June 2004 trip report, he brought our group together and made the flight booking by Internet He engaged the services of Finnature of Liminka - for a guide and the agreement of an itinerary. Leena at Finnature also organised our car hire and accommodation throughout the trip. The car was a VW Caravelle minibus, roomy and comfortable although the rear windows were dark-tinted and would not open, which made viewing difficult on occasion. Accommodation was in comfortable twin rooms for the first night, then a ski-chalet/apartment for the 2 nights in Ruka. Finnature kept us well informed on all aspects of the trip and the birds to be expected and provided regular “owl updates” on latest sightings. Other useful information on latest sightings came from and

The Country

Finland seems to be approximately the size of England. With a population of 5.2m people it is sparsely populated and with unspoiled habitat away from agricultural areas. The natural wet conifer and birch forest dotted with many lakes becomes tundra with nomadic Lapps and semi domesticated migratory Reindeer herds in the north. Coast and wetlands and forests are little disturbed and there is a long period of winter snow cover over much of the country. The principal roads are good quality tarmac and most minor dirt roads seem well maintained. Finland is a member of the EU. The Finns are friendly and welcoming and most we met spoke excellent English. The food at cafes and hotels is very good and of generous proportions. We had comfortable hotel accommodation. Goods and food and beer are on the expensive side!

Planning Notes

Owls are easiest to see after the nests have been located in April – mid May, the end of May and early June being probably the best periods, before the chicks start to leave the nest and mosquito numbers start to rise. Owl numbers fluctuate according to food supply and this was a good vole year so there were several possible sites for most of the owl species. A good early indicator of a good vole year is the number of calling Tengmalm’s Owls early in the season (Jan-Feb), although Finnature usually say that they cannot tell whether it will be a good vole year until they start to look for nests. Some of the migrants (e.g. Greenish and Arctic Warblers) don’t arrive until early June but we were fortunate that the first Bluetails had started to sing (the first last year wasn’t until the last week in May).

Don’t think about looking for owls without a guide! The forests here are immense and you would be very fortunate to bump into one or two owl species without specialist local knowledge. Finnature have an excellent network of local contacts. Olli Lammansalo in Kuusamo also organises guided trips:

Currency is the Euro. Speed limits vary but the general limit on main roads is 100 kph. The excellent roads have frequent petrol stations and most have café/restaurants attached to them. However, the automatic systems did not accept our credit cards in payment for fuel so we paid in Euro cash. Our mini bus ran on diesel, which cost 90p/litre. Weather can be variable; we were told that it had been cold up until a week before our arrival but we luckily enjoyed an increase in temperatures (up to 24C) and we rarely felt cold, except perhaps at the exposed coastal site at Liminganlahti. Strong walking boots are a must. Wellies/waterproof trousers could be useful although with the good weather we found them surplus to requirements.

We motored for 2730km in our 4 days. The whole trip cost each of us £62 for the flight, and about £620 for food, accommodation and transport. We would have paid less for a group of 5 or 6 but thought our deal well worth the money for such excellent birdwatching.


19th May.

Ian flew Aberdeen/Luton by Easyjet and took a coach to Stanstead to meet up with the rest of the group at 1500hrs. We flew Ryanair Stanstead/Tampere arriving 2230 local after a 2 * hour flight (and a 2 hour time difference). We picked up our hire minibus and drove the 560km to Oulu in 5 * hours. At least 6 Short-eared Owls en route together with one that may have been a Long-eared. Several Woodcock (including a party of 4) and a roadside Elk enlivened the journey.

20th May

We met Toni near Oulu and he took over the driving for the rest of the tour. After breakfast we set out at 0515 to visit numerous sites in the Oulu region. A fantastic start was a male Great Grey Owl perched by the roadside near Ruukki. When we were taken to a nest site, a female fixed us with her unwavering glare. Wondrous big beasts. These were followed by a pair of Ural Owls near their nest box with at least 2 chicks. Ubiquitous migrant breeders Willow Warbler and Chaffinch were heard here and everywhere throughout the trip. At Oulainen a female Bluethroat was followed by lovely views of a male Pallid Harrier (this had been an excellent year for Pallid Harrier in Finland). Nearby a female Dotterel was with a Golden Plover flock and a party of over 400 Ruff included many males of various colours. Later a male Capercaillie provided aggression and photo opportunities and a female Goshawk peered out of her enormous nest with her bright orange eyes. Singing Brambling were in immaculate plumage and Green Sandpiper displayed from the treetops.

After check in and dinner at the Hotel Vihiluoto in Kempele, we were out again to connect with the owls we missed earlier in the day. Near Oulu a Tengmalm’s Owl peered out at us from its box and a Pygmy Owl put on a flying display around us. Later still there were several flypasts by Woodcock. There were good numbers of duck and of hirundines at Pyykosjarvi Lake as well as waders and a Musk Rat. We had an abortive attempt for Eagle Owl at Oulu rubbish dump where we were asked to leave by the security guard; several “fuscus” Lesser Black-backs and 9 Temminck’s Stints were the only real birds of note. When we returned to the hotel just after midnight there was still twilight some 2 hours after sunset.

21st May

After breakfast at 0700 we visited several more sites in the Oulu area, starting with fine views of a female Black Woodpecker at the nest. Notable was the Liminganlahti birdwatching centre on the coast with good numbers of wildfowl and waders including 1500 Ruff with adults displaying. Single Common Rosefinch and Ortolan were present. At Heitasaaren we heard at least 5 Wood Warblers singing at this very northerly outpost, as well as the more common Tree Pipit. The shore is potentially good for waders or seabirds (including Terek sandpiper and Caspian Tern) but we encountered nothing of note.

We drove northeast to Kuusamo (Approx 3 hours). There was quite a lot of lying snow and many of the lakes were frozen. Black-throated Diver were seen and Goldeneye were more numerous. Kuusamo dump held many gulls that included Heuglin’s and Baltic Gulls as well as Common, Black-headed and a yellow-legged “argentatus”. A large proportion of the “argentatus” Herring Gulls here have yellow legs, a considerable pitfall when making claims of Yellow-legged Herring Gull. At Oivanka we saw our first Siberian Tit, an attractive bird. We checked in at the Hotel Rantasipe Rukahovi in the ski resort of Ruka and looked in on our somewhat bijou 2 * room 6-bed ski chalet. After dinner, a late evening excursion produced several Black Grouse and Capercaillie and two Willow Grouse. We checked out a Hawk Owl stakeout near Iivaara without success. We got back for bedtime by 0030.

22nd May

Out at 0400 and visited a roadside site near Konttainen to see a confiding Siberian Jay that had eluded us the night before. We heard a Red-flanked Bluetail in brief song but somehow it evaded us as did a Hazel Grouse that called nearby. After breakfast back at the hotel we headed east to Oulanka National Park and close to the Russian border with its watchtowers, seeing 3 Common Scoter en route. On our approach to the lake of Juhtilampi we had excellent views of perched male Hazel Grouse and the lake held 2 Smew, 3 Wigeon and another party of Goldeneye. Driving the area we saw a splendid adult Golden Eagle and noted a couple of Spotted Flycatcher. Singing Redwing on territory were in evidence. Stopping at the Oulanka National Park Visitor Centre, Ian found us two Siberian Tits, an Osprey flew over and a Black-bellied Dipper flew upstream.

After dinner at the hotel we again went in search of the Hawk Owl, which had been seen near Iivaara by a Finnature group on 18th May. A dirt and the gravel track used yesterday was one of many travelled during our trip. However, the frost remaining from the hard winter had held the track firm yesterday. Today it had gone soft and was a veritable quagmire. The bus became stuck, perched at a jaunty angle at the side of the track. We did some casual birding and fended off mosquitoes whilst waiting until a local farmer kindly pulled us out behind his tractor 2 * hours later. However, during the wait, we heard two pieces of helpful news from Toni’s contacts. Today’s target Hawk Owl had not been seen when searched for by another group, so the quagmire cost us little. Secondly, another Hawk Owl had been found near Oulainen. Back to the hotel by 0030 with several more Capercaillie, Black Grouse and Willow Grouse en route.

23rd May

We skipped breakfast and left the hotel at 0630 with the usual packed lunches that served as breakfast later. We started the 800km drive back to Tampere but made an important detour to Oulainen en route. Near Oulainen, from yet another dirt road, we saw Northern Grey Shrike and further on we finally saw the target Hawk Owl, responding to imitations of its Whimbrel-like call. A very confiding bird that came close to our vehicle and gave prolonged study and photo opportunities. A beautiful and memorable bird.

At this point we said our goodbyes to Toni who returned to his base in Liminka whilst we went on to a good coastal site at Kalajokisuun. Arctic Skua, Red-necked Phalarope (found by Chris), Knot and many other waders were seen and another Osprey flew over whilst the only Sedge Warbler of the trip was heard In a week’s time there would be thousands of this species. We then drove to Tampere to drop off the minibus at 2030 and check in for the late evening return 2 * hour flight to Stanstead and our journeys home.


Sincere thanks go to Ian for bringing it all together so efficiently and to the whole party for good fellowship. Very special thanks go to Toni for his care and help and for all the driving. His birding skills and local knowledge found us the birds and his unfailing concern and friendliness smoothed the way to a memorable experience. The lists of birds and mammals appended are a further testimony to a highly successful trip.

Ian Broadbent & John Raby

Mammal Species (7 were seen)

Brown Rat
Musk Rat
Red Squirrel
Arctic Hare

Bird species

Black-throated Diver: pairs and small parties on several lakes in Kuusamo region
Great Crested Grebe: displaying birds on several lakes in the Oulu region
Whooper Swan: seen daily; a total of some 140 birds, mostly Oulu region
(Taiga) Bean Goose: 1 flew over near Konttainen 22/5
Greylag Goose: fairly common in the Oulu region
Shelduck: 1 Kalajokisuun 23/5
Wigeon: 3 Juhtilampi 22/5
Mallard: common
Shoveler: 1 Liminka 21/5, 2 Liminganlahti 21/5
Pintail: 2 or 3 Oulu region 21/5, pair Kuusamo dump 21/5
Teal: a few in the Oulu region
Tufted Duck: fairly common – on many waters
Common Scoter: party of 3 nr Ruka 22/5
Goldeneye: fairly common – on many waters
Smew: 1 male flew over near Ruka 22/5; pair on Juhtilampi Lake 22/5
Red-breasted Merganser: on several waters Oulu region + Kalajokisuun
Goosander: recorded daily; up to 20 on Pyykosjarvi Lake 20/5
Marsh Harrier: 1 Liminganlahti 21/5
Hen Harrier: several en route Tampere/Oulu 20/5 & Liminka area 20/5
Pallid Harrier: Adult male near Oulainen 20/5
Sparrowhawk: singles on 3 dates
Goshawk: Female at the nest Oulu region 20/5; also a male flew over near Ruka 22/5
Common Buzzard: 1 or 2 Oulu region
Golden Eagle: 1 adult Oulanka National Park 22/5
Osprey: 1 Oulanka NP 22/5, 1 Kalajokisuun 23/5
Common Kestrel: a few most days
Merlin: 1 at Oulanka NP vistor centre
Hazel Grouse: Displaying male near Juhtilampi Lake 22/5, and female seen briefly; one flew across the road Oulanka NP 22/5, and another heard at Konttainen 22/5.
Willow Grouse: Kuusamo region only; 2 21/5, 2 22/5 late evenings by the roadside
Black Grouse: By roadside Kuusamo region, total about 30; smaller numbers in Oulu region
Capercaillie: 20+ by roadside Kuusamo Region, mostly fem. An aggressive male Oulu region 20/5
Pheasant: 1 noted near Oulainen 20/5
Coot: 1 pair Liminganlahti 21/5
Common Crane: several parties each day, total about 30
Oystercatcher: Oulu region 20/5, 23/5, total about 5
Ringed Plover: 4 Kalajokisuun 23/5
Little Ringed Plover: 2 Pyykosjarvi Lake 20/5
Dotterel: female with Golden Plovers near Oulainen 20/5
Golden Plover: 2 flocks of approx 40 birds in adjoining fields near Oulainen 20/5
Lapwing: fairly common on apparent breeding locations Oulu region
Knot: 6 Kalajokisuun 23/5
Temminck's Stint: 9 flew over at Oulu dump 20/5, 7 Kalajokisuun 23/5
Ruff: common Oulu region, about 1500 Liminganlahti 21/5, males displaying
Common Snipe: displaying birds and small parties seen daily
Woodcock: singles and small parties daily
Black-tailed Godwit: about 10 Liminganlahti 21/5
Whimbrel: 1 near Kuusamo 21/5, another near Kemila 22/5
Curlew: common, especially in Oulu region
Common Redshank: 2 Liminganlahti 21/5, 2 Kalajokisuun 23/5
Spotted Redshank: 1 Liminganlahti 21/5, 1 Iivaara 22/5
Greenshank: 1 Liminganlahti 21/5
Green Sandpiper: displaying birds daily in forests
Wood Sandpiper: a few daily; displaying
Common Sandpiper: recorded daily in small numbers
Red-necked Phalarope: Female along the shoreline Kalajokisuun 23/5
Arctic Skua: 2 Kalajokisuun 23/5
Common Gull: fairly common
Great Black-backed Gull: 1 Liminganlahti 21/5
Herring Gull: small numbers of argentatus seen daily; a yellow-legged adult argentatus was at Kuusamo dump 21/5
Lesser Black-backed Gull: (race fuscus a.k.a. Baltic Gull) several most days; esp. Kuusamo dump
[Siberian Gull, a.k.a Heuglin’s Gull] Up to four adults identified at Kuusamo dump 21/5
Black-headed Gull: common Oulu, fairly common Kuusamo
Little Gull: parties of up to fifty birds in Oulu and Kuusamo regions
Common Tern: fairly common in Oulu region
Arctic Tern: at least 2 Liminganlahti 21/5
Little Tern: 1 Liminganlahti 21/5, 2 Kalajokisuun 23/5
Stock Dove: 2 near Liminka 20/5
Feral Pigeon; 1 Oulu area 23/5, several en route Oulu/Tampere
Woodpigeon: a few daily
Collared Dove: c.4 Liminka 21/5
Cuckoo: several daily, mostly heard only but one seen at Konttainen 22/5
Hawk Owl: prolonged close views of an adult male at Lampospera nr Oulainen 23/5
Pygmy Owl: Adult female Oulu region 20/5
Ural Owl: 2 adults with 2 chicks near Ruukki 20/5
Great Grey Owl: male hunting and roadside, female on nest, near Ruukki 20/5
Short-eared Owl: c.6 en route Tampere/Oulu 20/5, 1 Kuusamo 22/5
Tengmalm's Owl: Adult female Oulu region 20/5
Common Swift: a few daily
Black Woodpecker: Female at the nest Oulu region; male heard nearby 20/5
Great Spotted Woodpecker: several daily
Skylark: several singing near Oulainen 20/5 & at Kalajokisuun 23/5
Sand Martin: small flocks in Oulu region
Swallow: small numbers in Oulu region
House Martin: small flocks in Oulu region, 3 Kuusamo region 22/5
Tree Pipit: singing/displaying birds daily
White Wagtail: a few in Oulu and Kuusamo region
Yellow Wagtail: several overflying Oulu and Kuusamo areas; 3 birds at the Oulanka NP visitor centre looked closest to flava; no definite thunbergi were seen
Waxwing: several small parties Oulu & Kuusamo region, some in song
Dipper: 1 “black bellied” bird in flight and perched Oulanka NP Visitor Centre 22/5
Wren: 1 heard Oulanka NP 22/5 was the only record!
Robin: a few seen or heard Oulu region 20/5
Bluethroat: female near Oulainen 20/5
Red-flanked Bluetail: 1 singing at the Konttainen layby 22/5
Common Redstart: a few seen daily
Whinchat: fairly common Oulu region
Northern Wheatear: a pair near Ruka 22/5
Blackbird: uncommon; small numbers Oulu region
Fieldfare: several daily
Redwing: singing birds daily
Song Thrush: a few daily
Mistle Thrush: a few daily
Sedge Warbler: 1 singing Kalajokisuun 23/5. The forerunner of the vast migrant population
Lesser Whitethroat: a few Oulu region, inc. 1 in the carpark of Hotel Vihiluoto 20/5
Willow Warbler: common Oulu region, fairly common Kuusamo region
Chiffchaff: 1 heard Oulu region 20/5
Wood Warbler: several singing Heitasaaren 21/5
Goldcrest: calling birds Oulu region 20/5
Spotted Flycatcher: 2 Oulanka NP 22/5
Pied Flycatcher: fairly common throughout
Willow Tit: 2 or 3 borealis birds Oulanka NP 22/5
Siberian Tit: 1 Oivanka 21/5, 2 Oulanka NP visitor centre 22/5
Crested Tit: 1 near Ruukki 20/5
Great Tit: daily records Oulu and Kuusamo regions
Blue Tit: seen Oulu region 20-21/5
Treecreeper: heard only, Oulu region 20/5
(Northern) Great Grey Shrike: 1 Lampospera near Oulainen 23/5
Starling: Only noted in Oulu region and en route to Tampere
Jay: singles in several locations
Siberian Jay: 1 at the Konttainen feeding station 22/5, 2 singles Oulanka NP 22/5
Magpie: common Oulu region; uncommon Kuusamo region
Jackdaw: common Oulu region
Rook: common Oulu region only – this isolated population is the most northerly in Europe.
Hooded Crow: common throughout
Raven: several daily; 10+ Kuusamo dump 21/5
House Sparrow: only recorded in Liminka area (e.g. at the Finnature office)
Chaffinch: common Oulu region, fairly common Kuusamo region
Brambling: a few each day, including singing birds
Greenfinch: only 1 or 2 recorded
Siskin: common throughout
Mealy Redpoll: fairly common; flammea was the only race noted
Common Crossbill: several small parties daily
Common Rosefinch: 1 briefly Liminganlahti 21/5
Bullfinch: 1 near Liminka 21/5 (“northern” trumpet-like call heard), 1 Kuusamo region 22/5
Yellowhammer: common Oulu region
Ortolan Bunting: 1 singing male Liminganlahti visitor centre 21/5
Reed Bunting: small numbers at Liminganlahti and Kalajokisuun

135 species seen or heard