Trip Reports | Home                                                                  

Finland &

Arctic Norway

3am Valtavaara View  Karhujarvi 0155h  Tundra Landscape, Varanger Peninsula

21 June - 06 July 2003

Observers: F. Simpson




This report documents the sightings on a two week whistle-stop birding tour of Finland and north-eastern Norway from the Baltic Sea to the Arctic Ocean (and back) via the Central Lakeland, Oulu Province, Koillismaa Region, Lapland, Varangerfjord, Karelia and the South Coast. For the most part the notes are copied straight from my notebook and reflect the shorthand nature of observations written in the field.


The main aim of this trip was to observe the many northern species typical of Fennoscandia, both new and familiar to myself. I decided to try and cover as much of the region as was possible, thereby experiencing the Arctic avifauna at the southern limits of its breeding range and the Siberian species at the western extensions of their ranges.


The trip exceeded all expectations with 204 species recorded, the highlights being the owls, bogs full of waders, eastern Warblers, Cranes, seabird cliffs and the unbelievably tame Red-necked Phalaropes. Birds aside, the landscapes of forests, lakes, bogs and tundra were a tranquil experience in themselves aided by the superb light and constant daylight in the north and the low mists which formed over the lakes from dusk to dawn.





Steller's Eider, Rough-legged Buzzard, White-tailed Eagle, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Long-tailed Skua, Caspian Tern, Brunnich's Guillemot, Hawk Owl, Great Grey Owl, Black Woodpecker, Three-toed Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Shorelark, Red-throated Pipit, Citrine Wagtail, Thrush Nightingale, Blyth's Reed Warbler, River Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Arctic Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Siberian Tit, Siberian Jay, Arctic Redpoll, Rustic Bunting, Little Bunting, Lapland Bunting and Yellow-breasted Bunting.





Flew direct from London Heathrow to Helsinki Vantaa airport with Finnair/British Airways (~ £120) and hired a car from Connect Car Rental (~ £480) (free upgrade to a Ford Mondeo on arrival) Stayed at campsites, all of which were good quality, and slept in the car/camped when birding during the night or in more remote areas. Cooked most food using a small stove and really only ate out for coffee and doughnuts. A normal daily routine was soon lost as the very long days tempt you to constantly stay awake for much longer than is sensible! Because of the long driving distances involved over the period, a two-hour roadside nap was often useful (or necessary) and revitalising.





•      Aulén, G. 1996. Where to Watch Birds in Scandinavia. Hamlyn.


•      Harding, P. & Brewer, J. et al 2003. Finland. Lonely Planet.


•      Swallow, D. 2001. Culture Shock! Finland. Kuperaard.


•      GT Tiekartato Suomi Finland Road Atlas. Genimap.


•      Svensson, L. et al. 1999. Bird Guide. HarperCollins.


•      Tolman, T. & Lewington, R. 1997. Butterflies of Britain & Europe. Collins.


•      Farrelly, W. 2001. Trip Report: Finland and Varanger, 23 May-3 June, 1998. Internet.


•      Bradshaw, C. 1994. Trip Report: Seen any Pygmy Owls, June, 1994. Internet.


•      Dodd, G. 1998. Trip Report: Northern Scandinavia, June 13-28, 1998. Internet.


•      Woolley, S & Casson, J. 2000. Trip Report: Northern Finland, Varangerfjord and a little bit of Sweden. 26 May-6         June, 2000.





Day 01         21/06/03        London Stansted > Helsinki Vantaa > Saaijärvi > Pyhä Häkki National Park, Finland.
Day 02         22/06/03        Pyhä Häkki N.P. >Liminganlahti, Virkkula, Liminka, Oulu.
Day 03         23/06/03        Liminganlahti, Virkkula, Liminka, Oulu.
Day 04         24/06/03        Liminka & Kempele area, Oulu.
Day 05         25/06/03        Liminka, Oulu > Kalliojärvi > Kuusamojärvi > Torankijärvi > Valtavaara.
Day 06         26/06/03        Valtavaara > Oulanka National Park > Ilmakkiaapa (Petkula Bog).
Day 07         27/06/03        Ilmakkiaapa > Peurasuvannon > Urho Kekkoien National Park > Juurakkovuopajan > Haapalahti.
Day 08         28/06/03        Jokitorma > Utsjoki > Mount Ailegas > Norway > Nesseby > Vadsø > Store Ekkerøy.
Day 09         29/06/03        Store Ekkerøy > Indrekiberg > Vardø > Varangerfjord.
Day 10         30/06/03        Vardø > Hornøya > Vardø > Varangerbotn > Finland > Kaunispää.
Day 11         01/07/03        Drive south through Lapland and Finland to the southeast of the country.
Day 12         02/07/03        Värtsilä > Lake Sääperi > Lake Siikalahti, Parikkala.
Day 13         03/07/03        Lake Siikalahti, Parikkala > Mustilan Arboretum, Elimaki > Högholmen.
Day 14         04/07/03        Högholmen > Svanvik > Täktom > Porkkala > Espoon Suomenoja, Helsinki.
Day 15         05/07/03        Suomenoja > Laajalahti > Vermo > Viiki, Helsinki.
Day 16         06/07/03        Helsinki Vantaa Airport > London Stansted Airport.






Day 1

Saturday 21 June 2003
London Heathrow > Helsinki Vantaa > Saaijärvi > Pyhä Häkki National Park
Partly cloudy in southern Finland, maximum temperature 18°C

Drove north a few hundred kilometres from the airport to a nice area of ancient spruce woodland and pine bog. No camping on the reserve. Slept in the car. First encounter with the Scandinavian mosquito - nasty! Head was covered in lumps! Watched a fantastic adult Great Grey Owl with two chicks at close range.

Highlights: Common Rosefinch, Red-necked Grebe, Wood Sandpipers (displaying), Thrush Nightingale, Great Grey Owl (adult + 2 chicks), Black Tern.

Two hours ahead of UK Time Zone.
1535h. Tern sp. flying over an industrial area of Helsinki, viewed from the plane a few  minutes before landing.
1620h. A White Wagtail at the rental car park.

1630h. Drove north on road E75 (4) via Lahti, Jyvaskyla and Saaijärvi noting the following species. Helsinki > Lahti: Hooded Crow, Jackdaw, Pheasant, Black-headed Gull, Goldfinch and House Sparrow. Lahti > Saaijärvi (with brief stops by the roadside): Jay (4), Great Spotted Woodpecker (1), Thrush Nightingale (1), Stock Dove, Redwing, Little Gull, Herring Gull, Magpie (common), Hooded Crow (very common), Blue Tit, Mistle Thrush, Black Tern (1), Great Crested Grebe and Starling.

2110h. Stopped at a small, muddy, roadside pool near Kekkilä on road 6510, northeast of Saaijärvi. Single Greenshank and a single Wood Sandpiper present along with two White Wagtails. Yellowhammer and Chaffinch singing in the surrounding area. The distinctive song of the Common Rosefinch heard. Fieldfares fairly common in small arable field strips alongside Lapwing and Curlew. First mosquito bite of the trip - female's abdomen full of my blood.

2140h. Stopped at Olet Tässä at the northern end of a lake know as Pyhäjärvi. Flying insects abundant here with Swallows, White Wagtails, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers taking advantage of the aerial plankton. Heard a soft growling "Rrrrr…" from a Goldeneye. A splendid Red-necked Grebe in full breeding plumage, crossing the flat, calm water towards the cover of dense emergent vegetation. A pair of Wood Sandpipers calling loudly as they arrived over mixed birch and spruce woodland. A female Goldeneye with a single small chick and another adult female circling this end of the lake. Black-headed Gull (2). Several Fieldfares in the area with two feeding in a small arable plot and more by the roadside. Willow Warblers and Chaffinches singing.

2215h. Arrived late at the information centre of the national park. An area of 12 km2 of ancient taiga forest is specially protected and contains trees up to 500 years old. Walked part of the Mastomäki trail. Tree Pipit and Robin singing in fairly open Scots Pine woodland. Woodlark singing from an area of scattered stunted pines on the edge of the bog. Willow Tits heard calling. On leaving the wood and entering the bog I was surprised to see a huge bird take off from the ground - I immediately registered this was much bigger and heavier-looking than a Buteo. On raising my bins I watched a fantastic Great Grey Owl flying towards me carrying a measly vole then turn and land on a nearby tree containing two well  grown chicks. The adult was close enough to observe the bright yellow eyes set in the huge head. It was extremely impressive in flight - long, broad, slow-beating wings, almost heron-like. Chicks very vocal at feeding time. Small groups of Siskins overhead. The atmosphere was so still and silent that a passing car sounded like a jet-fighter and could be heard from a long way off. The acoustics of the environment at this time changed the sounds of familiar birds. A calling Cuckoo sounded very deep as it echoed across the bog and a distant Whooper Swan sounded particularly eerie. Still enough daylight to watch birds when I finished writing my notes up at 0015h. Slept in the car.



Day 2

Sunday 22 June 2003
Pyhä Häkki N.P. >Liminganlahti, Virkkula, Liminka, Oulu
Cloudy, light rain 0905-1330h then clearing, maximum temperature 18°C

Spent some of the morning in the park before heading to the half way point in Finland to the Liminganlahti WWT reserve south of Oulu on the Gulf of Bothnia. Stopped to sleep from 1030h to 1300h. This is a huge coastal wetland reserve. Tall observation towers (Lintutorni in Finnish) replace hides in Finland and several are placed strategically around the area. This is the western most outpost of the, mainly Siberian ranging, Yellow-breasted Bunting. This was to be the first of several long days (or nights) in the field. Birded from 0615h to 2330h taking time to eat, pitch the tent and have a strong Finnish coffee and pastry of course.

Highlights: Great Grey Owl (adult + 2 chicks), Black Woodpecker, Parrot Crossbill, Rustic Bunting, Willow Tit (borealis race), Crested Tit, Common Crane (82), White-tailed (Sea) Eagle (2), Yellow-breasted Bunting.

0615h. Got up to see one of the adult Great Grey Owls flying through the car park of the reserve, over the road and into Scots Pine woodland. It perched a short distance inside the wood, mid-way up a tall tree in full view. It appeared quite fearless and allowed approach to within 20 metres! At that moment a loud raucous call was heard back near the road - Black Woodpecker. Good views of it flying around the car park and climbing the trunks. Looked even bigger than a Carrion/Hooded Crow though with long, narrower wings. Walked along the wooden board walks of the Mastomäki trail towards Kotajärvi (järvi = lake). The two Great Grey Owl chicks were still in the same tree as the previous night. Two Rustic Buntings were heard singing somewhere out on the bog but could not be located. A Goshawk flew overhead. Parrot Crossbills (4) observed in the canopy. Chaffinch, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Jay, Treecreeper, Great Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, and Robin noted. A pair of northern race Willow Tits (Parus montanus borealis) feeding two fledged juveniles in a small, dense birch mire. At least three Black Woodpeckers heard drumming (one very distant) - a long, three second roll sounding deep, loud and menacing through the forest. Tree Pipit carrying food. Wren singing from the ground in a shady spruce (Picea abies) wood. A pair of Whooper Swans and a female Goldeneye on Kotajärvi. A Pied Flycatcher was observed at the wooden buildings at the cooking place on the hiking trail passing the lake. Another three birds heard in song. Common Crossbills heard passing overhead. Crested Tits fairly common. Barn Swallow (2) over the bog. An alarm-calling Wood Sandpiper was observed flying along the edge of the woodland/bog through the tree tops before dropping down and landing on a small stunted pine just metres away. Like the owl, it was not too bothered by me.

0920h. Left the park and drove north on the E75 towards Oulu.

1030h. Stopped to sleep until 1300h during heavy rain.

1300h. Continued on the E75 noting a Swallow flying into one of the small roadside bus shelters, two Swifts over a small town and Black-headed Gulls feeding in small  field strips of cut silage grass. Fieldfare and Redwing numerous. Bullfinch (m), Common Gull, Pheasant, Blackbird, Lapwing, Whooper Swan (pr), Curlew, Wood Sandpiper and Wood Pigeon noted from the car.

1530h. Stopped for lunch at one of the many roadside picnic lay-bys after visiting a supermarket. Bought some much needed mosquito repellent - The "Off!" brand  is recommended. Setup the GPS to the Finnish System: 71°52'88N 04°38'61E. Two Hooded Crows at the rubbish bin. Several Willow Warblers singing. Bright sunshine now. Chaffinches singing. White Wagtail, Mistle Thrushand Jackdaw noted.

1700h. Arrived at reserve at Liminganlahti (lahti = bay) on the Gulf of Bothnia south of the city of Oulu. This is a 100 km
2 coastal wetland at which the Lumijoki and Temmesjoki rivers (joki = river) reach the sea and is an internationally important site for migratory birds. The area  is surrounded by pasture, meadows, forests and small towns.

GPS: 71°92'96N 04°20'02E (Finnish System), 65°50N 22°00E (International Syst.). The centre had just closed for the day but the reserve is open all hours. Walked along the boardwalks to the birdwatching tower hide (lintoturni). Boardwalk from the centre to the main observation tower: three Common Cranes picked out arriving in the distance. Yellowhammer singing on the edge of a small birch wood. Sedge Warblers and Reed Buntings common. No sign of any Yellow-breasted Buntings.

LiminganlahtiFrom the tower: Waders everywhere - although most hidden (breeding) in the vegetation surrounding this corner of the bay. The constant alarm and contact calls revealed their presence. A flock of 14 Black-tailed Godwit and a flock of 13 Greenshank passed by. Ruff passing - mainly males in breeding plumage. Group of four lekking male Ruff on an area of raised earth. Marsh Harrier (m) and Whooper Swans (4) passed by. Barn Swallow, Curlew, Common Tern, Mallard, Coot, Redshank, Lapwing and White Wagtail noted. Another five Greenshank overhead. Two feeding clusters of eight and 74 Common Cranes. Arctic Terns common. Minimum of 190 Whooper Swans scattered all over the bay in small non-breeding groups. Flock of six Bar-tailed Godwits low over the marsh. Hooded Crows fairly common. When one passed with a nearby Marsh Harrier, many waders of several species flew out from the concealment of the marsh to mob the predators. Repetitive chirps of Reed Buntings all around. Many  scattered singles and pairs of Tufted Ducks plus a group of 300+. Pintail (pr). Snipe 'yickering'. Pintail (f + b/2). Spotted Redshank (2). Little Gulls common. Shoveler (2ff, f + b/8). Garganey (f + b/7). First sighting - White-tailed (Sea) Eagle - very impressive in this flat landscape. First spotted on the ground before flying off with a duckling and landing shortly after being forced down by two Hoodies. An immature bird but not specifically aged. Group of (4 ad + 4 juv) Greylag Geese. An adult White-tailed Eagle later appeared, hounding off the immature eagle before settling on a stump. Later, the adult eagle took off in the direction of the observation tower. As it approached, it dropped down low just above the water surface and easily lifted out a large fish with a single foot. No splash or partial submergence like Ospreys. Red-breasted Merganser (3 prs visible). A second Marsh Harrier appeared. Flock of five Goldeneye. Another group of 23 Greenshank flew by.

1935h. Trail back along the boardwalk to the reserve centre: Fieldfare hopping over the boardwalk. Still no Yellow-breasted Buntings. Willow Warblers singing. Magpie and Kestrel calling. Walked along the access road from the centre to the main road. The farmland here is composed of long thin strips (c20 metres wide) of crops or silage separated by drainage ditches where reed, horsetails and other lush vegetation grows. Pair of Whinchats here with the male singing from a small 2010h patch of phragmites reeds. Common Rosefinch (f) on the road with a male singing nearby. Yellowhammers singing. Curlew and Lapwings calling. Meadow Pipit displaying. Sparrowhawk passed over a small copse. Managed to find a female Yellow-breasted Bunting in vegetation at a field bordering a copse. Clean, neat plumage compared with female Yellowhammer. Pale supercilium and throat, dark eye stripe behind eye only, dark outline around ear coverts, pale, mainly unstreaked yellow breast with streaks at sides and on flanks, pinkish bill, pale coloured legs.

2032h. Pair of Pied Flycatchers in the car park. Skylark singing overhead.

2050h. Checked in to the campsite at Värminkoski. Price: 27 euros for three nights. A single Sand Martin over the small pool here. Common Sandpiper calling from the stream. Common Rosefinch and Yellowhammer singing.

2330h. Broad daylight! Woodcock 'roding' over birch and spruce woodland surrounding campsite.



Day 3

Monday 23 June 2003
Liminganlahti, Virkkula, Liminka, Oulu
Blue sky, v. light wind, temperature 20°C

0715h. Willow Tit, Common Sandpiper, Willow Warbler and Garden Warbler heard singing. Fieldfare feeding on the camping lawn among the tents and motor- homes. Great Spotted Woodpecker calling. White Wagtail, Swallow and Common Sandpiper at the pool. Dunnock singing.

0755h. Walk to the small hide: Thrush Nightingale singing in the birch wood. Chaffinch, Great Tit, Willow Warbler, Yellowhammer, Starling, Swallow, Curlew and White Wagtail noted. Observations from the small hide: Similar species as observed yesterday from the nearby tower. Redshank, Sand Martin (4), Common Crane (4 o/h), Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Lapwing, Snipe, Swallow, Curlew, Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye, Mallard, Wigeon (8mm + f), Garganey (m + f + b/8), Pintail (2prs) just in front of the hide, Reed Bunting, Shoveler, Sedge Warbler, Marsh Harrier (2 prs in the immediate area), Little Gull, Arctic Tern, Hooded Crow, Black-headed Gull, White-tailed Eagle (o/h), Teal (flk 70), Whooper Swan, Cuckoo, White Wagtail (inc a juvenile perched on the handrail outside the hide door), Greylag Goose, single Swallow nest inside  the hide, Common Gull, Fieldfare, Magpie. Back at the reserve centre: In the early stage cereal field opposite the car park: Curlew (pr + juv), five pairs of Ruff together in a loose group, Fieldfare flying over, Yellowhammer and Skylark singing, Magpie (3). When the Ruff and reeves were alarmed they tucked their heads in and crept through the short grass.

1130h. Drove out to the headland at Varjakka, further west along the bay. Small harbour. Common/Arctic Terns breeding on the small islets just offshore, one of which had a single wind turbine situated. Wheatear (f), House Martins common, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull ('Baltic Gull') (4), Herring Gulls common, Red-breasted Merganser (4), Tufted Duck (pr), Barn Swallow, Greenfinch (o/h), Goldeneye passing, Common Gull, Cormorant (o/h).

1240h. Stopped at an old windmill: Yellowhammers singing, Whitethroat singing from a large hedgerow, Magpie, House Sparrow, White Wagtail, Greenfinch, Swallow.

Tower overlooking Liminka BaySANANLAHTI
1310h. Tower surveying a vast area - birds distant. At least 60 immature/non-breeding Common Cranes roosting together in one flock. Little Gulls and Black-headed Gulls common, Whooper Swan (50+), Marsh harrier (m), Greenshank passing, Arctic Tern, Whinchat, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler, Wigeon, Red-breasted Merganser, Mallard, Common Gull, Common Tern, Four-spotted Chasers abundant. Birch woodland along the trail from the tower to the car park: Several Wood Whites fluttering over the ground in more open, sunlit areas. Three Bramblings singing in the area - the slow, nasal 'buzz' audible at a fair distance. Males in fantastic breeding plumage. Chaffinches singing in the same woodland. Singing Willow Warblers common. Camberwell Beauty observed at close range (first sighting), basking on the open, grassy area at the cabin at the car park. Also a Large Skipper here. Blackcap singing. Common Redpoll (flammea) (3) in the tree tops. Great Tits with young. A Painted Lady flew in, circling the open area before flying on. Pied Flycatcher singing from a mixed Birch/Scots Pine strip on the other side of the road. Common Crane (3) overhead. Hooded Crow and  Black-headed Gulls calling. Spotted Flycatcher (pr). Robin. Lizard sp. More Bramblings noted singing from an area comprising approximately 95% Scots Pine and 5% Birch trees. A pair of Bullfinches landed on the bench next to the fireplace just as I was leaving at 1605h. Great Spotted Woodpecker calling. More Redpolls overhead. Curlew calling. Drive back to Liminka visitor centre: Mistle Thrush, Yellowhammer, Wood Pigeon, Skylark (pr), several pairs of Curlew, House Sparrow, Swallow and Magpie.

1625h. Stopped for a coffee and a look at the visitor centre which was now open. Curlew visible in the field outside. A male Pied Flycatcher showing well in the car park - coming down to take insects on the ground. Willow Warblers singing. One visitor's car had a dead House Sparrow wedged in the radiator grill.
Drive from Liminka to Selkämma: Swift (3), Rooks common, Starling (flk 20), House Sparrow, Fieldfare, Magpie, Hodded Crow, Tree Pipit, Yellowhammer, Lapwing, Curlew and White Wagtail noted.

1750h. Parked at the 'Morkkilaisten Jalehuoltopiste' sign at a rough gravel car parking area. Two male Marsh Harriers flew overhead. Whooper Swans 'honking' in the distance. Yellowhammers and Willow Warbler singing. Walked along the boardwalk passing the slow moving stream leading down to the edge of the bay. Tree Pipit song-flighting from the edge of a birch stand. Wood Warblers (3) calling from the canopy of mixed Larch/Scots Pine woodland. Blackcap (3 singing mm heard). Magpie, Great Tit and Chaffinch noted. A male Pied Flycatcher calling from the sub-canopy along with another Wood Warbler at the area with the huts and fireplace. A new-looking nestbox around 1.5 metres of the ground was empty apart from the nest of polistes wasps. Found the flycatchers nest in  another, older box situated three metres above the ground. Two Bramblings singing. Nice views of a pair of Bramblings at the huts, calling repeatedly - a nasal wheeze and a high pitched tseet. Siskins overhead. Two Northern Chequered Skippers (Carterocephalus silvicolus) buzzing around a carpet of strawberry sp. in flower in a sunlit clearing. Several 'blue' damselflies here.  A single Large White. Another Blackcap singing and two Wood Warblers calling on the edge of the wood near 1835h the border with the reed-fringed bay. Arrived at the observation tower to the sight of (8) Whooper Swans passing in bright summer sunshine. Again, a panoramic view over this area but most birds distant. Perfect blue sky save for a few white wisps - and warm. A further group of 16 vocal Whoopers passed by at 1850h. Wood Pigeon 'singing'. Marsh Harrier (f) over the tower, turned away at the last second on seeing me. Another female was quartering an extensive area of reedbed at the same moment. Counted 76 Whooper Swans in the immediate area, distributed in pairs, singles and small groups across the marsh. Many birds calling as they prepared to fly off. Whinchat calling. Scores of Sedge Warblers and Reed Buntings singing. Little Gulls 'bobbing' around the edge of the reedbed picking invertebrates from the water surface and off of plants. Tree Pipit heard singing somewhere behind in the birch wood. Mallard (f + b/6). Shoveler (f) in flight - disappeared down into the vegetation. Arctic/Common Terns abundant.

1905h. Curlew displaying. Snipe 'drumming'. Sand Martin (N). A single female Red-breasted Merganser with a group of 27 Wigeon.
Selkamma1915h. Shoveler (m) and a single Whooper Swan passed by. Sedge Warbler song-flighting approximately 40 metres above ground level. Many chaser dragonflies active. Snipe 'yickering'. Yellowhammer (2) on the edge of the birch wood. Herring Gulls passing. Black-headed Gulls feeding further out over the water. Greenshank passed at 1920h. Redpoll (o/h). Group of 11 Goldeneye found. A female Marsh Harrier hunting between 1924h and 1931h disturbed a Greenshank and several Teal. Curlew and Lapwing in a dry field with grazing cattle to the north. Short-eared Owl briefly observed hunting over an area of scrubby birches at the back of the reedbeds, south of the tower. Later hunting over the reedbed almost to the water's edge.
1936h. Flock of 42 Wigeon flew over the hunting owl. Scanning the reedbed with the 'scope revealed several Reed Buntings perched conspicuously on the reed seed heads. Lapwing over the tower at

1940h. Snipe calling - sounding like an old squeaky bicycle pump. Whooper vocal activity increasing as an assemblage of 26 formed, ready for take-off. By 1946h the Short-eared Owl had approached to within 60 metres of the tower. Three Whooper Swans then left, circled, and banked right in front of the tower. A herd of 31 swans departed at 1946h and flew north or inland followed by three stragglers. In the bay, another flock of 22 drifted together on the water from various sources.

1955h. A White Wagtail attempted to settle on the top of the tower. Yellowhammer singing. Barn Swallow (2). Black-tailed Godwit (1) showing before settling back in a field. Redshank dashed by at 2001h. Observed a male Marsh Harrier hunting over an area of fen to the north of the tower from 2002h. It began to concentrate its efforts around a juncus rush-fringed pool, attempted to take a duckling, and was chased off by a White-tailed Eagle which appeared after four minutes. The eagle circled for a time but was repeatedly mobbed by a duck (probably a female Mallard) before it alighted three quarters of the way up a large, mature birch tree.

2012h. The eagle drifted back down in to the marsh, disturbing Little Gulls, Teal and  waders and attracting the interest of a Hooded Crow. With the eagle on the ground my view was obscured but it appeared to be plucking or tearing an item of prey. Two Whooper Swans headed off at 2016h, later followed by a group of 10. Wigeons kleptoparasitising (or at least getting the left-overs from) the swans feeding in deeper water. Greenshank and (2) Red-breasted Mergansers passed at 2022h. A light aircraft was flying circuits overhead, disturbing the otherwise tranquil ambience. Female Marsh Harrier hunting 2024h. Flock of 44 Whooper Swans flew off inland at 2029h.

2034h. Walked back to the car for dinner. Garden Warbler observed singing. A Temminck's Stint disturbed from a muddy pool beside the channel - it flew off into the birch wood without calling. Several lacewings dotted over the car. Short-eared Owl, Marsh Harrier (m) and a Redpoll over the car park. Fieldfare singing.

2150h. Back at the tower: sun now behind some thick cloud which had drifted in. Visibility now improved after the heat haze vanished. Little Gull (9) and Black-headed Gull (5) hawking over a pool north of the tower. Flock of (22) Wigeon passed. Fieldfares singing. Common Gull passed by. Curlew displaying. Snipe 'drumming' to the left of the tower. Tufted Duck (pr) passed. Flock of (70) Wigeon flew south at 2202h. Female Marsh Harrier observed flying inland and carrying prey over the birch woodland. An immature male hunting over the reedbed at this time. Brown Hare in the vegetation below the tower at 2210h. Mallard (f + b/9).Wood Pigeon singing.

2214h. An Elk (Moose) wandered out of the birch woodland to the left, through the reedbeds and then began splashing through the shallow waters of the edge of the bay - a large and impressive mammal. Tufted Duck (4) passed at 2230h. Little Gulls (20) and Black-headed Gulls (9) over the pools to the north at 2237h. A male Ruff and a Tufted Duck hurried by at 2245h. Pintail (f + b/2) in the pool on the edge of the bay, directly in front of the hide. Tufted Duck (pr) overhead. Greylag Goose (pr + b/3) - young about half adult size. Spotted Redshank overhead at 2308h. Activity decreasing after 2300h. Left at 2345h.



Day 4

Tuesday 24 June 2003
Liminka & Kempele area, Oulu
Blue sky, very light wind, temperature 22°C

Explored various areas of the bay. Great sites for breeding waders and duck in the largest tracts of phragmites reedbed I've been to. This was the 'owling' night with Finnature which cost 100 euros (reduced from 150 euros due to the early breeding of the owls this year) for eight hours guiding from eleven at night. Although getting a bit late in the season with most young fledged (missed Ural Owl) it was well worth it. The guide was very knowledgeable and gave me lots of info on Hawk Owl sites in the north. We approached to within 6 metres of a Great Grey Owl chick, watched another pair feeding young at the nest, went to a nestbox of Tengmalms Owls and were standing amongst seven Pygmy Owls (two adults and five young). I knew these birds were small but it was hard to comprehend an owl smaller than a Starling! We covered over 200 kilometres.

Highlights for Monday & Tuesday: Baltic Gull, Smew (flock of 22), Temminck's Stint, Marsh Harrier, Spotted Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Ruff (lekking), Garganey, Teal, Shoveler, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Wood Warbler, Short-eared Owl, White-tailed Eagle, Common Crane.

0000h. Drove further along this road to some nice Scots Pine woodland. Only Robins heard singing, however. Another Short-eared Owl about 1 km along this road at 0010h. Woodcock displaying over birch at 0015h. Hooded Crow, Fieldfare, Wood Pigeon, Common Gull, Curlew, Magpie and Black-headed Gull noted. Swifts over the town of Liminka at 0030h. Curlew displaying at 0035h.  

0045h. Daylight! Temperature down to 11°C. Common Snipe at the edge of the field opposite the entrance to the reserve centre. Able to approach very close to it in the car. Numerous Sedge Warblers singing continuously. White-tailed Eagle (2) perched on posts. Flock of (54) Common Cranes flew over the reserve. Also noted to be active at the this time of night: Whooper Swan, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pintail, Wigeon, Teal, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Shoveler, Curlew, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Lapwing, Reed Bunting, Barn Swallow, Little Gull, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Great Crested Grebe (8). Snipe 'drumming' and then a Sedge Warbler mimicking a Snipe's 'bleating' call.
0200h. Left the reserve and returned to the campsite.


1200h. Woke up to hear a Chiffchaff singing - it sounded faster than British birds and included a regular third note sounding like 'tsuee' - higher pitched than the regular two notes. Also calling or singing: Chaffinch, Common Sandpiper, Willow Warbler, Brambling, Redwing, Tree Pipit, Great Tit, Dunnock and Robin. White Wagtail by the pool. A female Goldeneye down on the sandy shore of the pool.

1445h. Wide view over the bay know as Kempeleenlahti from a small harbour.
A group of (22) Smew, mostly female or 1st-summer plumaged males. A further bunch of six then flew in to join them. The wind and the waves hampered proper observation. Goldeneye, Wigeon and Red-breasted Merganser abundant. Great Crested Grebe (5), Greylag Goose (b/4, b/2), Whooper Swan (pr), Common/Arctic Terns common, Greenshank (1), Ringed Plover (pr), Temminck's Stint overhead, Curlew, Mallard, Shoveler, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull all noted. In the car park: Spotted Flycatcher, White Wagtail and Hooded Crow.

1610h. Tried to get in to the port but there appeared to be security. A rough gravel car park with adjacent waste ground on the south side of the port held an Arctic Tern colony. Difficult to judge the size as birds were nesting in sparse vegetation approximately 40 cm high. At least 20 pairs with adults feeding young. Two half-grown chicks were wandering off the site towards the road. At least two Redshank present and several pairs of Ringed Plover including one chick. Also a White Wagtail and a Skylark nearby.

1830h. Slept in the car back at the reserve car park until 2100h, and then cooked dinner. Pied Flycatchers in the birches surrounding the car park. Skylark singing and Curlew displaying. Mistle Thrush (o/h) calling.

2300h. Met up with the Finnature guide along with a couple from England for an 8 hour  owling  trip. Drove about 100 km southwest from the reserve. First stopped at a pair of lakes near Varri. Wigeon numerous including a female with a brood of five ducklings. Teal common with one female with (b/8). Elk common along and on the road. Slavonian Grebe (1). Thrush Nightingales singing. A pair of Slavonian Grebes then found on the lake  on the opposite side of the road. Sand Martins fairly abundant here. Marsh Harrier (o/h) carrying food and mobbed by terns. Many duck broods on this lake - many of the ducklings jumping up to snap on flying insects. Little Gulls, Sedge Warblers singing, several Woodcocks displaying, Coots common, and Tufted Duck noted. Moved round to the other side of one of the lakes where three Thrush Nightingales were singing in close proximity. Very loud in the still air. Sounding louder than megarhynchos although not as melodic.



Day 5

Wednesday 25 June 2003
Liminka, Oulu > Kalliojärvi > Kuusamojärvi > Torankijärvi > Valtavaara
Partly cloudy, cloudy later, some rain in Kuusamo, max temperature 22°C

Birding through the night until 0800am when we returned to the WWT centre. The guide also took us to see Finland's only breeding pair of Crested Larks - well out of range anyway. The thing was, I drove along this road the day before, registered a lark crossing the road here and just assumed Skylark. Skylarks are not that abundant here and there were none singing at this site today!! Couldn't sleep during the 'daylight' and 21°C in a tent is not that comfortable so I drove across the country to the Kuusamo area. Went to check out the Juntilla area and found Little and Rustic Bunting. Then headed to the famous Valtavaara ridge for the Finnish bird - Red-flanked Bluetail - a bird of the Siberian taiga at its only know European site. Slept from 2130 to 0100h.

Highlights: Great Grey Owl (pr + chick on nest, another fledged chick from another nest), Pygmy Owl (pr + 5 fledged young), Tengmalm's Owl (family in a nest box), Short-eared Owl (10+), Salvonian Grebe, Terek Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Crested Lark, Smew, Little Bunting, Rustic Bunting.

0005h. Attempted to view one bird singing from thick birch, willow and pine scrub but it was too tightly concealed. Drove on further into the forest along rough tracks.

0032h. Stopped to listen for any calling owls. Young Long-eared Owls heard calling. Crane (3), Brown Hare, Sedge Warblers singing, Robin singing, Curlew calling, Lapwing with young. After a few minutes, (10) Cranes appeared in the field from behind a strip of trees. Fieldfare singing and a male Blackbird noted.

0050h. Elk (4) noted in an area of conifer re-growth. Another two c400 metres along the road. Whinchat in another clear fell area. Blackbird, Willow Warbler and Redwing singing.

0105h. Great Grey Owl chick calling.

0125h. Moved to another site where a large (dog-sized) basket had been erected in a tree a few years ago with the intention of attracting nesting owls. Situated on the edge of a forest with a small area of clear fell area between the nest and the road. A female Great Grey Owl was sitting on it with a single chick visible. After 10 minutes or so, the male flew in with a vole, passed it to the female then quickly left. Over the next 15-20 minutes the female ripped up the rodent and fed one chick (or the only chick). Excellent views from the roadside and the blood on the adults beak was even visible. Garden Warbler singing.

0156h. Woodcock sitting at the side of the road near Keskikyla as we passed in the car. Yellowhammer singing.
0205h. Short-eared Owl perched near the top of a dead, bare pine standing alone in a clear fell area. Flew to another dead tree after several minutes observation. Tree Pipits displaying.

0212h. Another Short-eared Owl a few kilometres on from the last stop, again in a clear fell area, perched on top of a dead birch trunk.
0222h. Goldcrest, Chaffinch, and Tree Pipits singing.
0310h. A third Short-eared Owl. Garden Warblers and Tree Pipits common.
0315h. Stopped regularly from now on to listen for owls.
0335h. Heard a Great Grey Owl chick about 100 metres from the trackside in an area of forestry. Managed to locate a single chick perched one metre above the ground in a dark, shady area of woodland - views down to five metres.

0350h. Elk (3) on the road near Piehinki. Drove back towards the Oulu area.

0530h. Kiiminli area. Walked a fair distance through some rough, regenerating clear fell to an area of fairly open birch woodland. Pygmy Owls were heard calling several minutes before we found them. A high pitched Robin-like note and piping calls were heard. Watched two adults and up to five fledged owlets at close range on the edge of the wood. Tiny owls - between the size of Starling and a Sparrow. One of the juveniles was disturbed from the ground in the area of cleared  forestry. It fluttered on a short distance. All birds contact calling continuously.

0630h. Drove on through a fragmented area of forestry and clear fell patches to an area of open, old spruce woodland. Walked into the wood towards a known site where a nest box had been situated. As we approached the box, though still some distance away, an adult Tengmalm's Owl stuck its head out of the hole. It remained on watch in this position even until after we had left. Large yellow eyes impacting a surprised look from the two, large, white facial discs bordered with black and spotted forehead. This individual had a rather dark upper breast.

0740h. Crested Lark observed by the roadside along waste ground/workings. Apparently the only known breeding site in Finland this year. Normal northerly range reaching Denmark and Estonia. Wheatear also present here. Starling (30+). Pool at the dock/port: Wood Sandpiper (5). Redshank (5+). Marsh Sandpiper (1). Ruff (2mm + 1f). Two Terek Sandpipers were disturbed from a concealed location on the other side of the pool. They towered high in to the sky and were visible for several minutes. Sand Martin (20+). Wheatear (1). Slow-moving channel between the freight railway lines: Common Rosefinch (1), Redpoll (4), Oystercatcher (o/h), Great Tit in a willow copse, Arctic Terns overhead, Reed Bunting, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Yellowhammer singing. Gravel car park: Ringed Plovers and Arctic Terns at the breeding colony visited yesterday.
0807h. Two Short-eared Owls hunting together near Tupos on the road back to Liminka. Rook (flock of 60), Hooded Crow, Song Thrush, and Curlew also noted. Tree Pipit and Common Sandpiper back at the campsite.

Species noted en route: Feral Pigeon, Kestrel, Rook, Fieldfare, Magpie, Jackdaw, Whooper Swan, Hooded Crow, Swallow, White Wagtail and Black-throated Diver. Many Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) along Road 20. Stopped to sleep (2hrs).

1350h. Stopped for a few minutes at Kalliojärvi. The lake held a single Whooper Swan and three Black-throated Divers. Brambling, Chaffinch and Willow Warbler singing.

1600h. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers at a nest site in the town of Kuusamo.

1640h. Observations from the edge of the lake at a small slipway for boats. A pair of  Whooper Swans breeding - the female sitting on a nest quite far out on the floating vegetation. Little Terns and Arctic Terns common. White Wagtail (pr). Common Rosefinch singing. Family group of Fieldfares in waterside birches. Greenshank feeding on top of floating vegetation at the water's edge. Great Tit calling. Willow Warbler and Chaffinch singing. Goldeneye (f). Started to rain heavily.

1730h. A single Red-necked Grebe present along with at least four pairs of Great Crested Grebes. Female Marsh Harrier present - probably one of the most northerly individuals in Finland and out of range according to Collins Bird Guide (1999). Raven overhead. Muskrat (3+) including several nests. Common Rosefinches singing. Smew (pr). Goldeneye common including a female with a  brood of six chicks. Wood Sandpiper (pr). Tufted Duck (60+). Teal (10+). Arctic Terns common. Brambling singing. Chaffinches singing.

1930h. A pair of Little Buntings feeding in the sparse birch/pine bog around the edge of the loch here. Observed flying over the road behind into birch scrub with food for young, before returning to the lake side. A male Rustic Bunting with food for young, perched briefly on the wire here. Several Reed Buntings singing. Wood Sandpiper displaying. Brambling, Willow Warbler and Chaffinch singing. Curlew displaying. Arctic Terns over the lake. Common Rosefinch singing. Little Gull and Black-headed Gulls breeding in the area. Goldeneye overhead. Whooper Swan (pr) in the corner.

2100h. Stayed overnight at the car park for the Valtavaara ridge north of Ruka. Some seed and food dispensers had been placed at the information board by the local  bird group. Bullfinch and Great Tit feeding here. Slept until 0100h.



Day 6

Thursday 26 June 2003
Valtavaara > Oulanka National Park > Ilmakkiaapa (Petkula Bog).
Blue sky, max temperature 20°C

Got up at 0100h and walked 4km up and along the ridge through ancient spruce woodland literally draped in beard-type lichens. Searched for seven hours but failed on the RFB. The experience of the view of the mist hanging over lakes and forest as far as the eye could see and the calling Black-throated Divers was well worth it. Headed north into Lapland, by-passing Santa and Sami historical sites and museums, and dodging Reindeer on the road, eventually getting to bed at 0145h after seeing Hawk Owl just after midnight.

Highlights: Siberian Jay (11), Greenish Warbler, Honey Buzzard, Smew, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Black-throated Diver, Waxwing.

View from ValtavaaraVALTAVAARA
0100h. GPS: 66°12' 26N  29°12' 59E at the road cutting through the ridge.
Two Siberian Jays at the feeders when I woke up and peered out the car window. Walked from the car park up the hill and along the southern Valtavaara ridge to the third peak with small hut.  Searched for around five hours for the Red-flanked Bluetails but with no luck. The only birds singing from the tops of spruce trees were Redstarts (6 singing mm), Willow Warblers and Tree Pipits. Flocks of eight, 20, 30+ and five Common Crossbills noted overhead. Birdsong fairly quiet on the way up. From the top (450 metres asl) four pairs of Black-throated Divers were visible on three lakes on the southern/western side of the ridge. First became aware of them when one bird began uttering its mournful call. Two pairs of Whooper Swans - one pair with a brood of four small cygnets. Two female Teal also picked out. Tree Pipit feeding two recently fledged chicks on the ground approximately 30 metres apart. Magpie at the top. Nice views of a Honey Buzzard patrolling the spruce woodland on the lower slope. A male Black Woodpecker observed in flight, then on a dead spruce trunk. Greenish Warbler observed at close range flitting about some small birches and picking insects off the ground. Birdsong began to increase after 0300h. Many Bramblings and Chaffinches singing. Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming and a brief drum from a Three-toed Woodpecker. Bullfinches common. Siskin, Great Tit and Dunnock (2) also noted. On the lower slope of the trail, a Greenish Warbler was observed carrying a beak full of insects while another bird was calling nearby. Returned at 0800h. Much activity at the feeders in the car park. The most entertaining was the family party of Siberian Jays (2 ads + 5 juvs). These birds were fairly tame and reminded me of the Azure-winged Magpies around the picnic tables at El Acebuche in Doñana National Park. They first arrived from the woodland on the opposite side of the road, flying across one at a time in a rather weak, fluttering flight. Much squabbling and vocalisation when feeding on the bread I threw for them. Took a few digital photos but they were mostly too quick in snatching the bread for the shutter to capture a good image. At least four different Red Squirrels coming to the feeders. Bullfinch (4mm + 1f), Great Tit (2-3), Siskin (2+), Brambling (f), Great Spotted Woodpecker (f), Willow Tit (1) and a single Siberian Tit. Three Reindeer wandered by.

Siberian Jays (Perisoreus infaustus)3 Km EAST OF RAYLA  66°19' 16N  29°07' 44E
1055h. An area of bog with a pool surrounded by stunted pines and birches. Common Crossbill (18) overhead. Kestrel hovering over the bog. Reed Buntings singing from the small pines and birches. Lapland Ringlets (Erebia embla) common. Frigga's Fritillary (Clossiana frigga) common - flying low over the ground. Cuckoo, Tree Pipit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, and Goldeneye also present.

1300h. Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) on the outskirts. Trail along the river: White Wagtail, Dipper, (2 ads + juv), Siskin, Crossbill (o/h), Brambling singing. A family of Siberian Tits (2 ads + 3 juvs) watched for around 10 minutes feeding high up in spruce trees covered with 'beard' type lichens. Pied Flycatchers singing. Chaffinch singing. A few Sand Martins over the larger pools. Watched a female Pied Flycatcher from the café at the visitor centre. Another Siberian Jay near the junction with the E63 Kuusamo road.

1530h. Smew (redhead). Black-throated Diver (pr), Red-breasted Merganser (pr), Goldeneye (10+), Tufted Duck (pr), Great Spotted Woodpecker (calling), Arctic Tern, Swallow, House Martin, Chaffinch, and Curlew calling.

ANOTHER LAKE A FEW KM ON  66°19' 27N  28°48' 36E
Smew (3 adult mm + 5 redheads). Arctic Terns nesting on dry mud. Whinchat (1), Willow Warbler, Curlew calling, Teal (15 mm + 3ff), Hooded Crow, Goldeneye (f + b/13), Yellowhammer, Tufted Duck (10+), Mallard, Pintail (f), singing male Whitethroat, Magpie, Muskrat 'homes', Brambling singing in Scots Pine woodland, Siskin, Raven (2) overhead, Reed Buntings singing, Sand Martins over the lake, Red-breasted Merganser (pr), Barn Swallow, Whimbrel overhead.

ILMAKKIAAPA (PETKULA BOG)  67°42' 18N  26°45' 33E
2345h. A Broad-billed Sandpiper disturbed from the bog close to the boardwalk running  across to the lake. Smew (8), Wood Sandpiper (2), Cuckoo (2 singing mm), Teal (40+), Goldeneye (20+, f + b/7, f + b/9), Lapwing (1), Tufted Duck (30+), Pintail (2ff + b/8), Yellow Wagtail (2). Hawk Owl observed in flight over the lake, flying right to left and disappearing into the woodland. Bluethroat (2 singing mm),Wigeon (4), Mallard (11), Brambling, Fieldfare, Siskin and Herring Gull noted.



Day 7

Friday 27 June 2003
Ilmakkiaapa (Petkula Bog) > Peurasuvannon Lintutorni > Urho Kekkoien National Park > Juurakkovuopajan > Haapalahti Lintutorni
Cloudy, max temperature 24°C

Woke up at 0850h to the sounds of Brambling and Red-spotted Bluethroat singing away. Continued on the road north noticing subtle changes in the habitat…after all the country is mostly birch, pine or spruce woodland (or a mix), bogs and lakes - there are 187,888 of them! While most of the woodland is actually a commercial crop there are some very old areas in the north under protection. Checked in at a campsite and had an early night drifting off to the sounds of displaying Greenshank and Wood Sandpipers and an Arctic Tern colony. I woke up around one a.m. and my skin was stone-cold and could hardly move. Climbed into the car where it was a little warmer.

Highlights: Hawk Owl, Bluethroat, Willow Grouse, Arctic Warbler, Smew, Arctic Redpoll, Little Bunting, (Grey-headed) Yellow Wagtail (thunbergi race), Three-toed Woodpecker, Rustic Bunting, Waxwing, Black-throated Diver, White-tailed Eagle. Rough-legged Buzzard.

Pine BogILMAKKIAAPA (PETKULA BOG)  67°42' 18N  26°45' 33E
0130h. At least one male, maybe more, Willow Grouse calling from the boggy heathland/birch woodland on the opposite side of the road - giving the the nasal bark which accelerates in to a trill. Curlew calling. Raven and Lapwing also calling. Arctic Warbler heard singing (three times) from birch/willow scrub along the parking lay-by.

ILMAKKIAAPA (PETKULA BOG)  67°42' 18N 26°45' 33E
0840h. Pintail with a brood of ducklings very close to the road. Brambling and Bluethroat singing. Kestrel hunting. White faced Darters (Leucorrhinia) numerous and a Hawker (Aeshna) sp. noted. Little Bunting carrying food from the bog, over the road to a nest site. Common Redpoll (1). Arctic Warbler observed in small birches - just a fleeting glimpse - but recognised by its distinctive song which it voiced three times. Herring Gull (7) overhead. Nice views of a pair of (Grey-headed) Yellow Wagtails collecting insects form the ground just metres from the lay-by. Lapwing and Hooded Crow calling.

0945h. Waxwings heard calling, then watched in flight overhead. Bluethroat and Brambling singing, Common Sandpiper, Swallow, Willow Warbler, Redpoll,  Hooded Crow, Goldeneye (f), Sand Martin, Cuckoo singing, and Raven. White-faced Darters common - some individuals landing on the tower supports where paper wasps were chewing away at the wood! Blue Coenagrion damselflies common, some of which were Northern Damselfly (C. hastulatum). Song Thrush, Siskin, and White Wagtail also noted.

Species noted along the road: Swallow, White Wagtail, Whooper Swan, Raven. A Siberian Jay over the road approximately 5 km south of the turn off for Tankavaara.

1115h. Almost birdless apart from Brambling, Redwing, Willow Warbler and Great Tit.

MIELIKKÖJARVEN  68°44' 01N 27°42' 34E
1245h. Drove 6 km along the road to Veskoniemi, northeast of Ivalo, to another lintutorni.
Redwing (4-5 singing mm) in the area around the tower. Several alarm calling Fieldfares. Common Cranes breeding here - two adults and two chicks feeding out on the bog. Hooded Crow, Siskin, Goldeneye (b/6, b/8), Tufted Duck (2 prs), Brambling and Willow Warbler singing, Meadow Pipits displaying, Green and Wood Sandpipers displaying, an elk grazing, Little Gull (1), Arctic Tern (1), Cuckoo singing, and a second elk appeared.

1400h. Lake on the other side of the road: Wood Sandpiper alarm calling (digiscoped). A Three-toed Woodpecker flew over the lake and disappeared into pines by the road. Several Cranberry Fritillaries (Boloria aquilonaris) in the woodland here along with a single Lapland Fritillary. Reed Buntings singing. Mallard (f + b/8) and Tufted Duck (pr). Hawkers and Darters common, particularly White-faced Darters.

JuurakkovuopajanJUURAKKOVUOPAJAN  68°45' 45N 27°40' 14E
1445h. Walked along the 1.2 km trail to the lintutorni where at least 20 Cranberry Fritillaries were observed flying low over the ground. Also a single Lapland Ringlet. Brambling (pr) in pure birch woodland. Greenshank (2) alarm calling around the tower. Smew (f + b/6), Goldeneye (f + b/7), Wigeon (f + b/6), Willow Warbler singing, Black-headed Gull, several Arctic Terns, Cuckoo singing, Mistle Thrush (2), Green Sandpiper (in flight), Rustic Bunting in flight over the bog, Muskrat, Reed Bunting singing, Yellow Wagtail (digiscoped), Redpolls overhead,  Brambling, Redwing, and a Wheatear perched on top of a tall pine.

HAAPALAHTO LINTUTORNI  69°04' 10N 27°06' 31E
1800h. Waxwing calling, Smew (m), Great Tit using a nestbox here, Redpolls numerous,Goldcrests calling, Arctic Terns numerous, Goldeneyes with broods, Mallard, Bluethroats singing, Pied Flycatcher (m) and a Redstart (f).



Day 8

Saturday 28 June 2003
Jokitorma > Utsjoki > Mount Ailegas > NORWAY > Nesseby > Vadsø > Store Ekkerøy
Cloudy, fairly windy later on the coast, max temperature 8°C in Norway

The lack of sleep finally caught up with me and I wasn't on the road until nearly midday. Climbed a hill near the Finnish/Norwegian border. This far north and Dwarf Birch (Betula nana) dominates the landscape which gradually and naturally becomes treeless along the Varanger Peninsula where a sub-Arctic tundra comprises the environment. Reached the legendary Nesseby Church where it felt like a January day on the Ayrshire coast - bitter and overcast. There, on the pool below the church, were the extremely tame Red-necked Phalaropes 'spinning' around on the water. The Arctic Skuas began to dive bomb me and the fjord was full of seabirds. Camped (that is, slept in the car) on Store Ekkerøy island, connected to the mainland by a causeway.

Highlights: Steller's Eider, Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Lapland Bunting, Red-necked Phalarope, Rough-legged Buzzard, White-tailed Eagle, Bluethroat, Red-throated Diver, Fulmar, Puffin, Black Guillemot, Razorbill, Northern Guillemot, Kittiwake, Ring Ouzel, Dotterel.

1145h. Rough-legged Buzzard (2) over the road.

Finnish-Norwegian border at UtsjokiUTSJOKI
1230h. Arctic Woodland Ringlet (Erebia polairs) found along a track at the south end of the town of Utsjoki.

MOUNT AILEGAS (342 metres asl)  69°54' 48N  27°05' 25E
1800h. Walked up from the road 970 to the barren peak through scrub and dwarf vegetation. Excellent views of a male Red-spotted Bluethroat perched on a roadside wire here (digiscoped). Numerous Bramblings and Willow Warblers singing from dwarf birch scrub on the climb up. Bluethroat and Cuckoo singing. Excellent views of a soaring and hovering Rough-legged Buzzard at close range, showing the pale/white tail with dark terminal band, white upper primary panels and narrow pale breast band. Another two Bluethroats observed including one bird sitting on a wire close to a Tree Pipit. Redstart and Redwing noted half way up. Meadow Pipit near the top. A further three Bluethroats found. Near the transmitter, a pair of Wheatears were present, the male carrying a large cranefly. Covered a large area searching for grouse and Dotterel. Several pairs of Wheatears in the area. Meadow Pipits displaying. Heard a Dotterel calling in the distance, approaching closer, good views of a female display flighting over the area. Later on, a group of four Dotterel was circling fairly high over a large area from the transmitter to the high, flat hill to the northeast. Ring Ouzel heard singing in the distance to the northeast.

One hour ahead of UK Time Zone.

Species note on the drive:
Rough-legged Buzzard, White Wagtail, Hooded Crow, Fieldfare, Magpie, Mallard, Wigeon, Wheatear, and Shag.

VARANGERFJORD  70°10' 32N  28°41' 13E
Stopped on the fjord between Nyborg and Nesseby. As cold as the Ayrshire coast in January. Goosander (4), Eider (15 inc. f + b/7), White-tailed Eagle (imm) flying over the sea, Redpoll sp. in the dwarf birch cover, Oystercatcher (pr) nesting and seeing off attendant Hooded Crows at times, Common Gull, Herring Gull and several Arctic Terns.

NESSEBY CHURCH  70°08' 42N  28°51' 57E
1810h. House Sparrows common around the churchyard gate. Great Black-backed Gull overhead. Walked straight down to the pool below the church which is actually part of a designated nature reserve. As hoped for, several Red-necked  Phalaropes were bobbing around on the water surface. At least six birds were present but one flew off as I arrived. The rest were relatively tame or at least not at all disturbed by my close presence and were approachable to within three metres. When spooked they would swim into the surrounding emergent vegetation, taking invertebrates from the stems. Some eventually started to roost after an hour or so. On the headland above the pool a pair of Arctic Skuas were nesting - one dark morph and light morph. House Sparrow (20+) around the churchyard. Several pairs of Oystercatchers nesting in the area, rising up to mob passing Hooded Crows. Meadow Pipits displaying. A pair of Wheatears present. Large numbers of birds moving up and down the fjord and breeding on the low lying islands offshore: Arctic Skua (20+), Great Skua (1), Red-throated Diver (2), one sitting in the sea, the other flying by, Puffin (numerous), Guillemot (common), Razorbill (common), Black Guillemot (4+), Fulmar (10+), Kittiwake (common), Arctic Tern (numerous), Red-breasted Merganser, Eider common  including a crèche of (28) chicks, Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls with many chicks visible on the islands, Herring Gull, Shag (1), Cormorant (1). Back in the bay to the north of the church: Ringed Plover (3), Bar-tailed Godwits (68) including 11 birds in full breeding plumage. Shelduck (pair).

Nesseby ChurchNesseby Church Nature Reserve

VADSØ  70°04' 23N  29°47' 11E
2215h. Bay on the east side of Vadsø: A group of (9) Steller's Eiders feeding  approximately 80 metres away with some Common Eiders (inc. f + b/4) along seaweed-covered rocks. At least (70) Goosanders in the bay, mainly immatures and adults in moult. Dunlin (100+), Bar-tailed Godwit (10+), Knot (2), Wheatear (3+), Arctic Tern, Mallard, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, 'Baltic' Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull. Cloud began to break up.

2230h. An island connected by a causeway to the mainland. A huge colony (reported to be c 10000 pairs) of Kittiwakes on the cliffs at the south end of the island. Many Goosanders, Eider and Bar-tailed Godwits along the shores. Several Arctic Skuas over the village and a pair nesting on heathland. Wheatears common. Three Lapland Buntings heard singing - good view of an adult male perched close by on a rock. Red-necked Phalaropes (3) on the large pool on the moorland in the centre of the island. A Golden Plover sitting here.



Day 9

Sunday 29 June 2003
Store Ekkerøy > Indrekiberg > Vardø > Varangerfjord
Blue sky, max temperature 12°C

Woke up to a full blue sky and explored Ekkerøy island finding many great birds. There is a huge Kittiwake colony here where Snowy Owls are sometimes seen taking birds - but no luck today. Drove further east to Vardø which is another island connected to the mainland by a 3 km tunnel under the sea. More Arctic species. Went to the harbour to find out about getting a boat out to the seabird island of Hornøya. A small boat could take me tomorrow at 0900h for 175 Norwegian Kronas (£15). This island is one of the few places in Europe where five species of Alcids can be seen - about 3-400 pairs of Brünnich's Guillemots nest on the ledges along side Common Guillemot, Razorbill, Black Guillemot and Puffin.

Highlights: Long-tailed Skua, Red-throated Pipit, Arctic Redpoll, Red-necked Phalarope, Lapland Bunting, Shore Lark, Rough-legged Buzzard, Steller's Eider, King Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Snow Bunting.

0800h. Woke up to full blue sky and calm day - a big change from last night. Meadow Pipit, Herring Gull, Hooded Crow, and Wheatear noted around the car. Just two minutes after leaving the car, I began checking every Anthus species. The second pipit was a Red-throated Pipit. Soon two birds were song-flighting off the low cliff above the sheep track towards the Kittiwake colony. Two birds observed had pale orange throat plumage another male had much stronger, red plumage. A group of four nice and white plumaged Arctic Redpolls on the cliff top above the Kittiwake colony - completely treeless landscape. White Wagtail and House Sparrow noted. At least 27 Red-necked Phalaropes 'spinning' around on the main pool with some feeding in the mud allowing the partially webbed toes to be seen. Again they were implausibly approachable, coming to within one and a half metres - a bit too fast for photographing, especially as they were actively snapping gnats from the air and water surface. White Wagtail and Kittiwake observed mobbing a Hooded Crow here. Lapland Buntings fairly common - one male watched carrying food to a nest and another male song-flighting close by. Golden Plover (pr), Redshank (pr), and Dunlin (pr). Three pairs of Red-throated Pipits breeding just behind the foreshore along a 200 metre stretch of the north coast. One male displaying and around 4-5 birds carrying food for young in nests near the dry stone walls. Some Norwegian birders reported another 50 Red-necked Phalaropes on a pool at the far end of the island. Ruff overhead. Also noted: Great Black-backed Gull, Shag (4), Herring Gull, Common Gull, several more pairs of Redshank, Oystercatcher and Ringed Plovers. House Sparrows common around the village. Many Eider broods. Bar-tailed Godwits in the bay east of the causeway. A Lemming seen hurrying across a track.

Kittiwake ColonyRed-necked Phalaropes

Shore Lark (2), White Wagtail, Golden Plover, Fieldfare, Wheatear (common), Rough-legged Buzzard (hovering by roadside), Raven (1+2), Ringed Plover, Arctic Skua (common), Kittiwake, Arctic Skuas mobbing some walkers, Long-tailed Skua (5 light-morph) at 70°15' 40N  30°44' 54E, another (dark-morph) Long-tailed Skua.

70°15' 47N 30°46' 22E
Hundreds of reindeer along the coast, Arctic Redpoll (2), Arctic Skua (3), hundreds of Arctic Terns, and Wheatear.

INDREKIBERG  70°16' 11N  30°57' 05E
1245h. A few hundred Eider in the bay here. Very strong heat haze preventing identification of much of the flock. Goosanders again present here. Long-tailed Duck (ad m) in breeding plumage. Red-throated Pipits displaying.Oystercatcher, Redshank and Arctic Terns common. Four Steller's Eiders feeding closer in along the seaweed covered rocks. In flight they appeared approximately 75% the size/mass of a female Common Eider they were flying with. Rough-legged Buzzard hovering behind the village. Redshanks perched on telegraph poles in the village.

VARDØ  70°22' 46N 31°07' 22E
Drove through the 3 km tunnel under the sea from the mainland to the island of  Vardø. Observations from the southeast of the island towards the smaller island of Hornøya: Large numbers of breeding birds on the cliffs just above the jetty. Rafts of Puffins and auks on the sea below. The Guillemots were too distant to  find the Arctic species among them. Arranged for a boat trip tomorrow at 0900h (K175/£15). Kittiwakes nesting on buildings around the harbour.
1445h. Observations around the northeast of the island: Barren, treeless and rocky landscape - Redwings singing from the ground. Fieldfares also present. Feral Pigeons overhead. Arctic Redpoll (2) overhead - one landing close by on a rock. Wheatears common. Amazingly, a Willow Warbler singing as well from vegetation that was a maximum of 30-40 cm high. Kittiwakes and Arctic Terns flying overhead. Meadow Pipits displaying. A singing Willow Warbler, perched on a diagonal wire supporting a short telecommunications mast, had a more elevated position than its territorial neighbour. Two more Redwings observed singing from prominent outcrops on the tundra (like a Ring Ouzel or Rock Thrush). Several Meadow Pipit fledglings flushed from the ground. A nice male Snow Bunting flew past in fine white and black plumage. Rock Pipit (Scandinavian race
littoralis) with a beak full of cranefly and still managing to alarm call from the boulder-strewn coastline. Three male Long-tailed Ducks passed by. A group of 81 Goosanders also held six Long-tailed Ducks along with a few Black Guillemots diving among them. Puffins and alcids passing regularly in small flocks.

VardoWalking on the tundra

Observation of the sea and islands: The seabird colonies out on the two small islands of Reinøya and Hornøya were clearly audible from Vardø. Scope views of hundreds of gulls, auks, Puffins, Shags, Kittiwakes, Arctic Terns, Eiders, Goosanders, Skuas, Cormorants and Great Black-backed Gulls with chicks on the grassy tops. Arctic Skua pursuing a Puffin, driving it down towards the sea. A single Raven flew from Vardø across to Reinøya. Scoped an Arctic Skua sitting on the grassy top of Reinøya, presumably on its nest. Most of the Guillemots identifiable on the sea through the heat haze appeared to be of the 'bridled' form.

1615h. Walked across to the north coast: A large Arctic Tern colony found on the northeast coast. Found a group of (12) King Eiders roosting on seaweed covered rocks with a single Long-tailed Duck and a Goosander. All Kings were immature birds with the exception of a fine adult drake. Something flushed them into the bay but they quickly returned to lazing back on the rocks.

1650h. Close views of a singing male Snow Bunting on bare rocky outcrops. After a few minutes it chased off another nearby male. A further seven King Eiders appeared from behind a ledge on a rocky islet included two 1st summer males. The Snow Bunting back on its rock at 1701h with a Fieldfare close by. Then, three Fieldfares flew by alarm calling. Many Arctic Skuas moving around in the channel between Vardø and the mainland of the Varanger peninsula. Several birds attacking Kittiwakes. Possibly three male Snow Buntings in this area. Redwings heard uttering their 'seeep' calls heard during migration in Britain. Three King Eiders (1m/2ff) flying west along the coast dropped onto the sea amongst a large, distant flock of duck. A Bearded Seal sticking its head out of the sea c100 metres offshore. Black Guillemots and Goosanders passing. Observed one of the Snow Buntings pulling off the black, crusty, leaf lichens from the bare rocks while searching for invertebrates. It then moved into some short vegetation and caught a few cranefly - this insect appears to be the staple diet for many passerines in this area. It carried them off, probably for young/incubating female.
2100h. Camped at the southeastern end of the island closest to Hornøya. By 2200h the heat haze had disappeared and the sea was more calm. The visibility was good enough to pick out every auk on the ledges of the island and every bird sitting on the sea.



Day 10

Monday 30 June 2003
Vardø > Hornøya > Vardø > Varangerbotn > FINLAND > Kaunispää
Blue sky, max temperature 12°C in Norway, 27°C in Finland

Boat trip left with four other people on a flat calm sea on another blue sky day. This was one of the best days of the trip and was just like an Isle of May or Bass Rock experience. The largest Herring and Baltic Gull colonies in the world are found on this and the neighbouring island. Found the Brünnich's and estimated that about 15% of the Common Guillemots were of the 'bridled' form. A gruesome sight was a Great Black-backed Gull, face covered in blood, tucking into an adult Puffin. The gull flew off when I walked a few yards towards it but I later saw it flying along the coast with the Puffin in its bill! Spent four hours on the island before returning to Vardø and heading back to Lapland. Stopped at a hill in Lapland to look for Ptarmigan and Dotterel. Drove on through the night reaching Valtavaara at 0300h for another try for the Red-flanked Bluetail. Again no luck. Slept here from 0630 until 1030h before heading south again.

Highlights: Brünnich's Guillemot, Northern Guillemot, Black Guillemot, Puffin, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Cormorant, Shag, Glaucous Gull, Red-throated Pipit, Arctic Skua, Arctic Redpoll, Bluethroat, Bean Goose, Rough-legged Buzzard, Common Scoter, Shore Lark, Dotterel (male + 2 small chicks), Ptarmigan.

0750h. Woke up to hear a Red-throated Pipit singing and displaying over the rocky terrain. A single Arctic Redpoll landed briefly. White Wagtail also noted.

VARDØ HARBOUR 0830h. Kittiwakes nesting on wooden buildings surrounding the harbour. Eider (2ff + b/1), Black Guillemot (2), Guillemot (1), Shag (1), House Sparrows common, Redpoll sp. flew overhead, Herring Gulls (argentatus), 'Baltic' Lesser Black-backed Gulls (fuscus), and Feral Pigeons (4) not resembling wild birds at all. A Kittiwake egg was visible on one window sill where it had appeared to have rolled out of the nest.

0900h. Many auks, Eiders and Goosanders all around the boat, increasing in density towards the island.

Vardo from HornoyaHornoya

HORNØYA  70°23' 07N  31°09' 40E
0915h. Area around the jetty: On arrival, I immediately set the scope on the ledges containing the main colonies of Guillemots. Within a few minutes, Brünnich's Guillemot was located - a group of five pairs nesting below a large group of Common Guillemots. The main identification features were clear: shorter and thicker bill with distinctive white stripe along the gape, blacker upperparts, clean white flanks lacking streaks, distinctive neck pattern with a pointed interface between the black and white plumage resulting in a point (rounded in aalge), and clean, white 'armpits' in flight. A Puffin observed carrying a Kittiwake flight feather. A Great Black-backed Gull, its normally clean white face discoloured with much blood, was tucking in to an adult Puffin amid the mass of white flowers close to the jetty. Kittiwakes were the most abundant species and this was particularly apparent from the noise levels from all their calls. The lushness of the coastal strip below the main cliff, fertile from the accumulating guano, was in stark contrast to Vardø and the mainland. The main species were scurvy-grass, sorrel and red campion. In a sample count of 100 Common Guillemots grouped together, 15% were of the bridled form. The Brünnich's appeared to be on the lower half of the cliff in small groups clustered on their own on the edge of the large Common Guillemot groups. Pair of C. Guillemots observed allopreening. Well grown Shag nestling  found. The red interior of a Kittiwakes mouth was visible when agitated and calling. Pair of Wheatears present at the point where the anticlockwise path begins to climb. One assemblage of Brünnich's Guillemots contained six C. Guillemots within their 'sub colony'. Puffins well represented particularly where the path climbs and burrows are present under foot. A tiny Guillemot chick momentarily observed as the adult shifted position. At the flatter, southern coast of the island the ground layer was much more luxuriant than the mainland due to the large numbers of gulls nesting - Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls. Goosander (9) and Eider (10) in the bay here. Rock Pipits picking over the in seaweed-covered rocks. Gull chicks visible.

Lighthouse area (70°23' 10N  31°09' 38E): Red-throated Pipit displaying. Two pairs of White Wagtail present. Watched the Arctic Skuas dive-bombing the Puffins below. A pair of Wheatears here. Good views of the mainland, the nearby island of Reinøya, and birds returning to nesting sites. At the eastern side of the island, another area of lower cliffs held good numbers of auks and Kittiwakes. Cormorant offshore. On the islet of Prestholmen between Hornøya and Reinøya, hundreds of Kittiwakes were nesting on a fairly level platform of rock. Back at southern coastal inlet: An adult Glaucous Gull sitting on the foreshore amongst some loafing Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Oystercatcher (pr). Eider nest building with seaweed. By the time I arrived back at the main colonies above the jetty at 1245h, there appeared to be less Guillemots on the cliffs than at 0915h. On the sea immediately below, there were several thousand on the calm surface. Three Ravens together overhead. Marsh Marigold flowering in a damp hollow. One pair of Shags still nest building. Some Brünnich's Guillemots found nesting fairly high up.

Species list for the island: Common Guillemot, Brünnich's Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Black Guillemot, Kittiwake, Shag, Cormorant, Arctic Skua, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Glaucous Gull, Eider, Goosander, Oystercatcher, Red-throated Pipit (5), Meadow Pipit (1), Rock Pipit (5), White Wagtail (6), Bluethroat, Arctic Redpoll (1), Wheatear (3) and Raven (3).

Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)Puffin (Fratercula arctica)

1545h. Boardwalk through young birch plantation to head of the fjord: Tide was out. Arctic Redpoll, Brambling, Fieldfare, Redwing and Redshank noted.
1600h. Species noted on the drive in Norway: Arctic Skua (4), Rough-legged Buzzard (2), Common Scoter (pr) on a small pool by the sea, Bean Goose (5) flying along the coast between Vardø and Vadsø, Hooded Crow, Herring Gull, Shorelark (2), White Wagtail, Fieldfare, Redwing, Eider, Ringed Plover, Wheatear, House Sparrow, Arctic Skua, Long-tailed Skua. Species noted on the drive in Finland: Whooper Swan, Raven, Cuckoo, etc.


Two hours ahead of UK Time Zone.

LIHAVALAJÄRVET  69°23' 10N  27°14' 24E
1900h. Warmest weather of the trip so far at 27°C. No birds on the lakes. Brambling and Willow Warbler singing. Large hatch of alder and caddis flies.

KAUNISPÄÄ  68°25' 56N 27°26' 42E
2100h. 25°C. Drove to the ski centre at the top (438 m) looking for a certain mountain wader. Walked a wide circle around the gently rounded plateau for 20 minutes. After almost giving up, about 70 metres from the road I spotted a male Dotterel. Walking slowly towards the bird, it allowed very close approach. Kneeling down to photograph it at a range of two metres, it suddenly began the distraction display with characteristic wing drooping and at this point I realised that young were present. Simultaneously, one chick ran past and a second was located behind me. The adult led me away towards the road. It returned to its brood of  two chicks which were just a few days old. Continued to watch from the road where the adult was taking cranefly. Returned to the car to write down these notes when I noticed some walkers appearing over the brow of the hill. Thought  they were watching something (they were actually reading a small interpretation board at ground level) and raised my binoculars to find a Ptarmigan running off on front of them. Got out of the car and tracked the grouse to within four metres. It was a female but no young birds were located. House Martins nesting on the ski centre buildings. Two birds mobbing a Magpie. Meadow Pipits displaying. Another pipit chasing off a Cuckoo. Brambling and Willow Warbler heard singing way below in the forest.

Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus)View south from Kaunispaa Hill

2210h. Magpie, White Wagtail, Fieldfare, Swallow, Short-eared Owl (30 km north of Kernjärvi on the E63), Little Gull, Common Sandpiper, Mallard, and Redwing...



Day 11

Tuesday 1 July 2003
Drive south through Lapland and Finland to the southeast of the country
Blue sky - partly cloudy, min temperature 4°C during the night

Took most of the day to drive to the south east of the country near the Russian border. Watchtowers were apparent and a 3km buffer zone along the boundary. Stayed at Oukamo Camping where typical tent-side birds were Fieldfare, Redwing and Woodcock overhead.

Highlights: Siberian Jay, Greenish Warbler, Honey Buzzard, Smew, Black-throated Diver.

KARHUJÄRVI  66°29' 20N 28°20' 57E
0155h. Stopped to photograph the mist over a lake 86 km north of Kuusamo on the E63. Reed Bunting and Cuckoo singing. Common Sandpiper (pr).

Lake at MidnightKarhujarvi

VALTAVAARA  66°12' 26N  29°12' 59E
0300h. Two hares and a vole on the road up to Valtavaara. Searched again for the Red-  flanked Bluetail until 0600h. No luck again. A Greenish Warbler was heard calling, another singing, and another observed flitting about. Great Spotted Woodpecker (3 inc. a juvenile) observed and more drumming further away. Black-throated Divers and Whooper Swans on the lakes below. Redstart singing. Willow Tit (pr + b/4). Tree Pipits displaying. Siberian Jay (2), Honey Buzzard, Willow Warbler, Fieldfare, Redwing, Siskin, Redpoll, Common Crossbill, Bullfinch (10+), Raven, Great Tit, Cuckoo (2 singing mm and a 'bubbling' female), Chaffinch, Brambling, Bullfinch heard giving song, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, and the Willow Tit brood giving thin, high-pitched 'tinkling' calls.

View from ValtavaaraOld spruce forests below Valtavaara ridge

1030h. Species noted: Black-headed Gull, White Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Magpie, Herring Gull, Lapwing, Goldeneye (3ff + chick), Swallow, Common Sandpiper, Fieldfare, Siskin, Chaffinch, Willow Warbler and Skylark.

2000h  Camped at Onkamo Camping between Joensuu and Värtsilä. Woodock 'roding' at 2310h. Fieldfares and Redwings with fledglings on the grass around the tents. Black-headed Gull and Common Sandpiper at the lake. Garden Warbler singing.



Day 12

Wednesday 2 July 2003
Värtsilä > Lake Sääperi > Lake Siikalahti, Parikkala
Cloudy, clearing later to blue sky, max temperature 25°C

Got up early and drove to Lake Saaperi at Vartsila arriving at 0547h with a Short-eared Owl by the car. This site sometimes holds Booted Warbler and Lanceolated Warbler, which have recently extended their ranges westwards across the border. Excellent site for raptors with Osprey, Black Kite, Hobby and Marsh Harrier hunting simultaneously in front of the tower. Continued along the border, stopping at yet another bog with the usual Cranes, Wood Sandpiper and Greenshank breeding, and reached Siikalahti reserve near Parikkala mid-afternoon. This is one of the few sites in Finland for White-backed Woodpecker but the main spectacle is the huge breeding colony of Little Gulls, Black-headed Gulls and Common Terns. There was also flock of 22 Wood Sandpipers! Met the warden about 2000h and heard the contact call between the adult and fledgling Thrush Nightingales which meant a proved breeding record for the year. I heard the 'cheek' call of a GS Woodpecker but couldn't locate it but I soon realised that a Chaffinch was incorporating the sound in its vocabulary by mimicking it at the end of the flourish in each song phrase. No other birds seemed to be doing this and when I asked the warden he didn't really understand the significance of this. I soon realised that many birds in the south of the country seem to have this in their song and I began to wonder if it was in fact copied between Chaffinches (i.e. young birds from adults) rather than mimicry in each case. It's likely that perhaps the phenomenon arose in a single bird and then spread through the population ages ago. The warden was a great help and gave me a 1:20,000 map with Nightjar, Corncrake, Blyth's Reed Warbler, River Warbler and White-backed Woodpecker marked on it. This meant another night trip since these species sing after midnight in Scandinavia. Slept at a causeway over a narrow part of the lake where a Bittern flew in about 10 metres from the car and began strutting around!

Highlights: Osprey, Hobby, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Marsh Sandpiper, Slavonian Grebe, Great Reed Warbler, Bittern, Little Ringed Plover, Water Rail, Reed Warbler.

0547h. Short-eared Owl hunting by the main road through the village. Small numbers of  duck and terns present and hunting raptors evident. Whitethroat (3 singing males) heard around the track from the road to the tower. Robin, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler, and Ortolan Buntings singing. Mallard disturbed from the ditch running along the side of the track. Lapwings (singles and pairs) in many of the fields in the local area. A brood of three observed. Magpie, Curlew, Skylark singing, Hooded Crow, and Black-headed Gull all fairly common. Marsh Sandpiper (2) roosting on a tiny island close to a Teal. Willow Tit (ad + juv) and Spotted Flycatcher in the birch wood. Marsh Harriers nest building near the edge of the lake. The female was regularly observed transporting small bundles of dry grass and other vegetation to the site. A pair of Ospreys passed overhead at 0633h and one of the birds remained in the area for around five minutes, leisurely circling above the lake. Wigeon (f + b/2). Great Crested Grebe (min of 5 prs) on nests and one adult with a tiny chick on the water. Several Reed Buntings and Garden Warblers singing. Wood Pigeons frequently passing overhead. Hobby feeding on White-faced Darter dragonflies fairly high over the lake at 0655h. Food pass observed from the male to female Marsh Harrier about 30 metres above the nesting area. A third Marsh Sandpiper joined the two roosting 0822h birds. Two Black Kites circling the area, attended by mobbing Lapwings and terns. After about 10 minutes, they were low over the observation tower.

Lake SaaperiFarmland around Vartsila

0835h. Hobby in again, this time taking dragonflies low over the expanse of marsh and  reedbed. Flying low, in straight paths with rapid, shallow wing beats interspersed with occasional glides followed by sudden rapid aerial twists to capture a darter dragongly. Shoveler (4). Goldeneye (2ff). Little Gull (4) hawking insects over the lake - one trying to catch dragonflies. Siskin overhead. Skylark singing. An owl calling from the birch woodland behind the tower. Marsh Sandpiper observed in flight.

0858h. Short-eared Owl hunting over the farmland on the far side of the lake - small hay and silage fields and cereal plots. It settled on the ground. An elk crossing a field was mobbed by (10) Common Terns and a Lapwing. Swallows flocking over the water surface. Mallard (5). Teal (3). All terns appeared to be Common Terns. One bird observed offering a fish to a female on a tiny islet/nest site.

0918h. Two Hobbys arrived - most likely a breeding pair as they began displaying over the marsh and above the observation tower on the edge of the birch wood. Garden Warbler calling.

0935h. Ospreys (2) overhead again. Wood White (Leptidea sinapis) noted. Walk back to the road: Great Tit, Tree Pipit, Fieldfare, Whitethroat, Wood Pigeon. Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene) (6) flying on the harvested edge of the birch woodland. Kestrel hunting over farmland. Goldeneye family (f + b/6) in the drainage dyke. Tree Sparrows (2) in scrub along the road - more birds chirping across on the other side of the field. Willow Warbler and Skylark singing. Grey-headed Wagtail singing by the road. Curlew (pr). Lapwing (5+ prs). Sand Martin (4+). Starling (20+). Large Skipper (Ochlodes venata), Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina), Small White (Pieris rapae), and Large White (Pieris brassicae) all flying. Mistle Thrush (2). Greenfinch (2).

Goshawk (m) over the road, 27 km north of Saari. Magpie, Lapwing, Hooded Crow, Fieldfare, White Wagtail, Jay, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Swallow and Dunnock all noted. Another Goshawk (f) over road 6, around 10 km north of Saari.

LINTUTORNI 12 km NORTH OF SAARI  61°47' 44N  29°43' 35E
A lintutorni was signposted approximately 18 km north of Saari. Located 500 metres off the road along a track though mature Scots Pine woodland. The observatory overlooked a grassy bog with little open water evident. Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries noted. Common Crane (pr), Wood Sandpiper (2 calling birds), Common Gull (pr), Chaffinch singing, Curlew flushed by the roaming cranes. Siskins in the forest. A Greenshank perched on a birch stump flew towards me, alarm calling when I reached the end of the boardwalk overlooking the area.

SIIKALAHTI, PARIKKALA  61°33' 58N 29°33' 38E
1540h. Garden Warbler, Magpie, Great Tit, and Willow Warbler in the mixed woodland of  Salix, Rowan and Birch at the car park. A Thrush Nightingale observed at close range, hopping along the path in front of me like the Common Nightingales in the Emporda Marshes in Catalunya. Feeding in the leaf litter like a Turdus sp. and  collecting food for young. A clear, soft, whistle call regularly heard, also a quieter  and less musical contact call to the fledglings.
Boardwalk across the marsh: Little Gull, Common Tern and Black-headed Gull nesting around shallow pools in a large area of mixed typha and phragmites. Greenshank overhead and calling. Male Marsh Harrier and a second bird in the distance. Two Coots showing aggressive behaviour towards the terns. Lapwings (4+) nesting. Reed Buntings singing. Teal (3). One male Mallard in eclipse plumage. Goldeneye (2ff). Bittern observed in flight over the next large of open water to the right of the boardwalk. Odonates abundant. Great Spotted Woodpecker calling from an area of mainly dead, sun-bleached trees in the marsh. Yellow Wagtail flew by. Swallow (2).

Siikalahti, Parikkala1710h. Main tower. Panoramic views over a large area of wetland. The most apparent attraction being the large colony of a few hundred Black-headed Gulls with lesser numbers of Little Gull and Common Tern. Species in view: Wood Sandpiper (21), Little Ringed Plover (1), Ruff (1), White Wagtail (5), Slavonian Grebe (8), Pintail (1), Coot (150+ plus many broods), Great Crested Grebe (1), Goldeneye (4, f + b/7), Pochard (f + b/3), Common Tern, Little Gull, Sand Martin, Tufted Duck (3), Fieldfare, Great Reed Warbler, Lapwing, Bittern (1), House Martin, Swallow, Marsh Harrier (m), Shoveler (4 + b/3), Kestrel, Reed Warbler, Magpie, Reed Bunting, Black-headed Gull, Hooded Crow, Great Black-backed Gull (3), Sedge Warbler, Mallard (22), Starling, Sedge Warbler, Wood Pigeon. A loose group of (16) Wood Sandpipers together on one small island. Great Crested Grebe nest building. Brief bursts of song from a Reed Warbler at 1800h. Excellent views of a Marsh Harrier perched high in a large birch on one of the islands. A group of (4) Wood Sandpipers arrived at 1826h, dropping down from high in the sky. Female Marsh Harrier dropped into the reedbed northwest of the tower. Many flightless gull and tern chicks on the reedy island - some of the young gulls swimming on the shallow water. At one point there were c250 gulls in the air chasing off a male Marsh Harrier. When a few Hooded Crows passed over it was mainly the terns which did the mobbing. Great Reed Warbler observed in flight at 1915h.

1929h. Walked back to the car park. Water Rail heard calling from the marsh around the boardwalk at 1934h. Second Water Rail heard. Thrush Nightingale observed again, calling to young. Thought I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling but couldn't locate it although it appeared to originate from wherever a Chaffinch was singing. In fact, the finch was mimicking the woodpecker call at the end of the 'flourish' phrase right at the end of its song. Snipe overhead. Northern Wall Brown (Lasiommata petropolitana) (5+) in birch woodland.

2030h. Swift (4) over the town. Great Reed Warbler and Whitethroat singing on the edge of Simplelejärvi at the SMarket car park. Also Willow Warbler, House Martin and House Sparrow around the town.

KAUKOLA AREA  61°34' 38N 29°35' 11E
2200h. Woodcock 'roding'. Garden Warbler and Cuckoo singing. Yellowhammer.

CAUSEWAY OVER SIIKALAHTI  61°33' 55N  29°34' 13E
2225h. Parked at information board on the causeway, east of the reserve centre. Excellent views of a Bittern flying and landing about 25 metres from the lookout ramp here. It skulked slowly between clumps of reedmace in shallow water, at times in full view. Swift (6) overhead. Muskrat.

2350h. Slept for an hour or so. Woke up to a 'whipping' Spotted Crake close by. It appeared to move more than 20 metres every few minutes before starting to call again. Sound recording made on minidisc.



Day 13

Thursday 3 July 2003
Lake Siikalahti, Parikkala > Mustilan Arboretum, Elimaki > Högholmen
Partly cloudy, max temperature 28°C

Woke up at ten minutes to midnight on Wednesday night to the sound of a 'whipping' Spotted Crake in the marsh just outside the car. Made some minidisc sound recordings then left to find the warblers. Corncrakes were common in the area and indeed the farming is low-intensive here like Eastern Europe. A beautiful, still night with recordings made of the above birds but no White-backed Woodpecker. Returned to the reserve at 0320h to hear a Golden Oriole uttering its fluty notes. Climbed the observation tower. Over the next hour, a woodpecker was heard to drum four times. It was very distinctive, being much longer than GS W/pecker at around 2 seconds. The phrase began loud with even hits/taps which rapidly accelerated, fading in intensity/volume in the way a ping-pong ball comes to rest when dropped on a table. The Collin's guide was back in the car but I was pretty sure it was a White-backed. Watched the wooded island in the lake for another few hours eventually seeing White-backed Woodpecker fly across the lake and into the trees. This species is much more specific in its habitat requirements than Dendrocopus major and in this part of its range it seems to specialise in old, waterlogged deciduous forest. Watched the rest of the waders and waterbirds before walking back along the board walk to the car. Many reserves in the country have these very long board walks across bogs and marshes to islands and across habitats sensitive to trampling. Eventually left at 0740h and drove southwest towards Helsinki stopping to sleep at 0920h until about midday. Later, saw a sign for an arboretum so I turned off in the hope of a last chance for the white-headed Long-tailed Tit. No luck, but about 40 species were logged including Icterine Warbler and Greenish Warbler and many young thrushes. Continued on to the most southwesterly point in Finland. Scanned the many rocky islets along this part of the Baltic Sea watching the Arctic Terns and Ospreys fishing in the sea. The surprise here was two passing (Herring Gull-size) Caspian Terns within touching distance!

Highlights: White-backed Woodpecker, Spotted Crake, Nightjar, Blyth's Reed Warbler, River Warbler, Bittern, Corncrake, Golden Oriole, Red-necked Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Osprey, Greenish Warbler, Crested Tit, Icterine Warbler, Caspian Tern.

Siikalahti at nightSIIKALAHTI AREA
0020h. Two 'roding' Woodcock flying together over the marsh, a third in the distance over birch woodland. Reed and Sedge Warblers in full song. Snipe 'drumming'.

0025h. Thrush Nightingale singing at a farm 1 km east of the causeway. Whitethroat in song. 0030h. 14°C. Robin singing at the Tiviansalontie road (farm road).

0033h. Corncrake calling from a field of short rye further along the road from Kannas to Parikkala at 61°32' 26N  29°34' 30E

0042h. Blyth's Reed Warbler singing at 61°32' 11N  29°33' 20E at the second turn off for Tiviansalonti in an open area with plenty of umbelliferae growth.

0054h. A Corncrake then calling repeatedly.

0110h. Nightjar 'churring' from an open area of small conifers and birch within an open area of Scots Pine forestry just east of the quarry at 61°32' 04N 29°32' 24E . Another distant Corncrake calling here and several Robins singing. Glimpsed the Nightjar flying over the pines after several minutes observation. Two Woodcock  overhead together. Song Thrush singing and a Fieldfare calling.

0125h. Back at the Blyth's Reed Warbler site - walked down the course of the old railway line through the conifer plantation, now just an overgrown ride in the forestry. A River Warbler singing or 'reeling' from a damp area of young birches. Recorded on minidisc, the song sounding like a cross between an insect and a sewing machine. Two Corncrakes audible from here. Blackbird and Song Thrush singing. Common Rosefinch singing. Lesser Whitethroat singing.

0200h. Back at the Nightjar site, the bird was still churring away. Three Yellowhammers now in song here.

JUNCTION OF ROAD 6  & SIIKALAHTI ROAD  61°32' 23N  29°31' 03E
0250h. Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and Great Tit singing. Fieldfares on the road. Corncrake calling here.

0320h. Sun rising. Golden Oriole singing at a rate of 11 phrases/minute. Blackcap singing. Willow Warbler singing. Recorded the Chaffinch with the Great Spotted Woodpecker motif in its song. Spotted Crake audible (somewhere in the marshes) from the reception centre.

0340h. A woodpecker heard drumming from one of the large wooded islands - fairly long (c2 seconds) and loud with distinctive even hits, accelerating and fading in intensity and volume towards the end. Species noted: Whooper Swan (2),  Spotted Crake, Great Reed Warbler, Ruff (2), Little Ringed Plover (1), Wood Sandpiper (10), Pochard (b/4, b/2, b/2, b/2, flk/12), Shoveler (31 + b/6), Little Gull, Common Tern, Great Crested Grebe, Marsh Harrier (m), Slavonian Grebe (5), Red-necked Grebe (pr + b/2, pr + b/4), Osprey (2 at 0530h), Bittern mobbed by Black-headed Gull, Hooded Crow, Cuckoo singing from 0608h, Blue Tit family, Sand Martin (6+), Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting (b/1 noted), White Wagtail (2), Mallard (b/4, b/5), Teal, Goldeneye, Lapwing, Coot, Reed Warbler, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Wood Pigeon, Pintail (2), Tufted Duck (6), Starling, Wigeon (2), Magpie, Fieldfare, Lesser Black-backed Gull, and Jackdaw (8 o/h). Black-headed Gull observed repeatedly attempting to catch a hawker dragonfly in flight. It evaded capture for several minutes before the gull finally snatched it, lost it then quickly re-caught it before swallowing it whole in flight. Muskrat at 0629h.

0656h. White-backed Woodpecker flew across the lake and onto the wooded island (straight out and slightly to the right)

0710h. Walk back to the car: Snipe 'drumming' at 0720h with a further group of (6) flushed by something in the marsh. A large spider, 7-8 cm across observed on the boardwalk. Glanced a male Golden Oriole flying through the subcanopy. Also noted: Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Thrush Nightingale, Garden Warbler, Great Tit (two families), Willow Warbler and Chaffinch. Northern Wall Browns active at 0730h. Yellowhammer in the wood. Consulted the Collin's Bird Guide about the woodpecker heard drumming at 0340h this morning - matched the description for White-backed Woodpecker. The warden at the reserve had seen it last night aswell.

0800h. Marsh Harrier (2), Green Sandpiper, Hooded Crow, Magpie, Starling, Fieldfare, Curlew, Lapwing, Common Gull, and Chaffinch.  

0920h. Stopped to sleep at a lay-by at 61°19' 31N  29°06' 38E. Large unidentified butterfly here, the temperature having reached 28°C already. It was an impressive insect and clearly attracted by the arrival of the car. It landed on the wing mirror before flying off strongly. Probably a Limenitis species. Consulted Collins Field Guide to Butterflies of Britain and Europe (Tolman 1997) on returning home and confirmed identification as Poplar Admiral (Limenitis populi). Apparently they are attracted to petrol, human perspiration and road tar amongst other substances.

MUSTILAN ARBORETUM  60°43' 50N  26°25' 43E
1435h. Goldfinches singing around the visitor centre. Blackbird (4 singing mm), Fieldfare (15 inc juvs), Wren (3 singing mm), Chaffinch (common), Great Tit (many broods), Blue Tit (many broods), Willow Tit (1 + 2 broods), Blackcap (4 singing mm), Pied Flycatcher (6 + 5 families), Garden Warbler (6 singing mm), Great Spotted Woodpecker (3 ads + 3 juvs), Northern Wall Brown (3), Willow Warbler (4 singing mm + juvs), Song Thrush (3), Chiffchaff (1), Siskin, Jay uttering a soft Rook-like call, Coal Tit (2 + b/4), Whitethroat (1 singing m), Jackdaw (calling), Greenfinch (juv + 5 calling), Spotted Flycatcher (4 + b/2), Goldcrests singing, Crested Tit (2-3 calling + a brood), Swallow (1), Redstart (1), Redwing (5 ads, 2 juvs + singing m), Robin (1 singing m), Magpie (2), Hooded Crow (1), Yellowhammer (2 singing mm), Skylark (2 singing mm), Tree Pipit (1 singing m), Wood Pigeon (4). Greenish Warbler observed on the conifer walk - flitting like a Goldcrest and tail flicking behaviour. Best views of this species on this trip and very approachable. The singing Blackbird differed from birds heard in the British Isles (probably local variation or just peculiar to this individual). The clearest, pure note followed by the squeaky conclusion to the end of each phrase was omitted or subdued. Also a little slower/more relaxed. Juvenile Redwing observed - distinctive head pattern and no red plumage under the wing. Another Chaffinch singing with exactly the same woodpecker call note mimicry at the end of each phrase. Icterine Warbler detected flying high into a tree where it began singing, changing its song perch once or twice per minute. Sang for four minutes before ceasing.

HÖGHOLMEN  59°50' 01N  23°08' 37E
2155h. Located east of Hanko right in the southwest corner of Finland. Followed a trail through the pine woodland to a rocky coastline with numerous offshore islets in the Baltic Sea. Mute Swan (4 prs + b/4) - first site for them on this trip. Osprey overhead grasping a fish. Eider (200+). Red-necked Grebe in breeding plumage on the sea in the company of six female Eider ducks. Red-breasted Merganser (pr). Goosander (20+). Arctic Tern (100+) nesting on islets with Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls. A few pairs of Oystercatchers. Another or the same Osprey overhead again.
2230h. Caspian Tern flew east about 40 metres off the headland quickly followed by another one. Huge terns which looked almost as large as the Herring Gull following in their path. Gull-like flight on a steady and straight path with measured wing beats. White Wagtail (3). Common Sandpiper (pr). Woodcock 'roding' at 2310h.

Note on the Chaffinch song:
According to
The Birds of the Western Palearctic (Snow and Perrins, 1998), in wide areas of Europe, though rarely in Britain, song may be followed by a 'kit' unit, similar to that of Great Spotted Woodpecker.



Day 14

Friday 4 July 2003
Högholmen > Svanvik > Täktom > Porkkala > Espoon Suomenoja, Helsinki
Partly cloudy, max temperature 20°C

Slept later until 0940h and spent most of the day along the coast finding nothing startling but was nice to see the first Mute Swans at Svanvik (Swan Bay) and Grey Herons of the trip. There were many Barnacle Geese breeding on the islets but could I count them? Apparently in the 1970's two females were released from a collection in the area but no one expected them to go anywhere. However, come the autumn they flew north with some wild birds, paired off on the wintering grounds and returned. Now the feral population numbers hundreds on the thousands of islets in the Baltic Sea. Headed towards Helsinki after dinner and arrived at a small site in an urban landscape of industrial buildings and factories at 2245h. There was a large noisy Black-headed Gull colony here, which was at a more advanced stage than the Parikkala birds - most young had fledged and were flying around. Heavy rain during the night.

Highlights: Corncrake, Barnacle Goose, Crested Tit, Slavonian Grebe.

HÖGHOLMEN  59°50' 01N  23°08' 37E
0940h. Yellowhammer, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Willow Warbler, and Great Tit singing around the car park. Blue Tit and Magpie noted. Another Chaffinch in song with  the woodpecker incorporated into its song repertoire. Six other birds at this site lacked it in their vocabulary this morning. Greenfinch and Wood Pigeon heard calling. Blue Tit and Great Tit noted. Crested Tits heard and a pair observed at close range. Goldcrests heard. Swallows overhead. Fieldfare. Common Sandpipers calling. White Wagtail (pr + b/3). Redshank (2) passing along the coast. Grey Heron flew west. Goosander (100+) visible, mostly roosting on the rocky islets. Eider (300+). Canada Goose (2) sitting on one of the larger islets further offshore. Mute Swan (8, pr + b/4). Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Arctic Tern, Oystercatchers, Cormorant (3), Red-breasted Merganser, Skylark singing, Siskin and two male Chaffinches singing with Great Spotted woodpecker element in their songs.

SVANVIK (SWAN BAY)  59°50' 16N  23°09' 46E
1120h. Crested Tits in the Scots Pine woodland with mixed spruce and birch and phragmites understory. Looking into the sun from the hide at this time of the day. There was a strong heat haze and the view was over a similar area to the view east from Högholmen anyway. Greenfinches common. Mute Swan (8 - the same birds), Black-headed Gulls, Arctic Tern, Eider, Willow Tits calling, Whitethroat singing, Linnet (o/h), Goosander, Common Sandpiper calling, Hooded Crow, Herring Gull, Whooper Swan (2), Goosander (f + b/4), Lesser Black-backed Gull, Grey Heron disturbed from the reedbed by a boater, Sand Martin (3 o/h), Swift (2 o/h), another male Whitethroat perched out on the reedbed and singing, Orange Tip (a large male individual), Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries (3+), Willow Warbler singing, Chaffinch, Siskin, Song Thrush, Large Wall Brown, Tree Pipit (juv), Chaffinch song with woodpecker element.

TÄKTOM  59°50' 35N 23°04' 58E
1230h. Area around the tiny private airport car park. House Martin (2) over the runway and a Skylark displaying. Migration watchpoint tower: Skylark (3 singing mm), Lapwing (10+), Wood Pigeon (14), Pheasant (3), Herring Gull (2), Swallow (8), House Martin (4+), Yellowhammer (1), Whitethroat (1), Magpie (2), Swift (2), White Wagtail (1), Meadow Pipit (1). Three pairs of Whitethroat in the scrub on the walk back to the car park. Also Redwing, Fieldfare, Goldfinch and Robin. Chaffinch song with woodpecker element. Butterflies: Large Skipper, Wood White, Painted Lady and several Chestnut Heaths (Coenonympha glycerion). Grey Heron overhead. Pied Flycatcher (m). Two unidentified deer ran over the runway - large with long tails held high.
1615h. Steppe Buzzard over road 51, mobbed by Swallows, near Kirkkonummi. Jackdaw (4) nearby.

PORKKALA AREA  59°58' 37N  24°24' 24E
1645h. Walk through coastal stunted pine woodland: Tree Pipit, Crested Tit, Pied Flycatcher, Wren, Robin, Great Tit, Willow Warbler, Chaffinch and Siskin. At the coast: A rocky coast of smooth platforms of limestone with several islets offshore. Some of the islets had a few pines growing on them. One of the barren islets had a pair of Barnacle Geese with a single chick amongst a colony of gulls with many chicks. Also Arctic Tern, Redshank and White Wagtail present with Eider on the sea. Oystercatcher. Herring Gull. Mute Swan (1). Common Sandpiper (calling). Chaffinches singing with woodpecker mimicry/element.


PORKKALA TOWER  59°59' 25N  26°24' 49E
1930h. Observations from the tower: View over extensive mixed pine, spruce and birch woodland and out to the Baltic Sea. Barnacle Goose (5), Mute Swan (2), Oystercatcher, Arctic Tern, Eider, Great Crested Grebe (1), Goosander, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and Siskin. Most interest around the meadow, scrub, rough grassland and large phragmites bed between the car park and the main road. Greenfinch (m + b/2). Corncrake calling from rank grassland/phragmites border. Fieldfare (5+). Swift (5). Blackbird. Chaffinch. Willow Warbler. Siskin song-flighting. Whitethroat singing. Great Tit. Swallow (6+). Common Gull. White Wagtail. A male Red-backed Shrike perched on a fallen, dead Scots Pine trunk lying in rough grassland bordered by scrub. Typical shrike feeding behaviour observed - regularly flying down to the ground for prey before returning to the same perch. After about 10 minutes the female appeared briefly. Yellowhammer singing. Great Spotted Woodpecker. Woodcock displaying at 2146h.

ESPOON SUOMENOJA, HELSINKI  60°09' 19N  24°43' 02E
2245h. An urban nature reserve of man-made pools surrounded by phragmites reedbeds and industrial buildings. By the time I arrived it was actually getting too dark to see anything well although masses of Black-headed Gulls could be seen and heard. The breeding colony was at a more advanced state than the Siikalahti colony. Most young birds had now fledged and were flying around over the pools. Also noted: Coot, Mallard, Slavonian Grebe (4 ads + chick) and a Great Reed Warbler heard briefly. Grasshopper Warbler 'reeling'.



Day 15

Saturday 5 July 2003
Suomenoja > Laajalahti > Vermo > Viiki, Helsinki
Blue sky/few clouds, max temperature 24°C

Struggled up at 0515h in the hope of hearing Marsh Warbler but the best birds were several pairs of Slavonian Grebes. Later drove to one of the best sites in Helsinki (a city of lakes and islands and hidden by trees!)  - Espoo Laajalahti. Saw Marsh Warbler before the rain came on. Sheltered under an info board where nearby a Blyth's Reed Warbler sang in full view during the downpour. After a couple of hours the skies cleared and the temperature rose. Met a birder who had seen the white-headed Long-tailed Tit nearby and gave me a site for Wryneck but time was getting on and I had one last special bird to see. It wasn't hard to decide so I headed to another site in the Greater Helsinki area for Citrine Wagtail - they have been breeding here for the past few years. Walked about 2 km on board walks through the reeds to a tower on an island with a small marsh. After 10 minutes there appeared to be only a pair of (Grey-headed) Yellow Wagtails present. Then I heard a flight call not too dissimilar to flava and across the marsh came an adult male Citrine Wagtail, landed 50 metres from the tower and went in to the nest with food! Later watched the female as well. Finally headed to a campsite on the eastern edge of the city which, when I arrived, looked like a big, noisy, expensive family site so I turned back at he gates, drove north into the countryside and found a campsite in the forest by a lake. Went to bed just after midnight as a Long-eared Owl chick was calling.

Highlights: Citrine Wagtail, Marsh Warbler, River Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Bearded Reedling, Bittern, Slavonian Grebe.

SUOMENOJA, HELSINKI  60°09' 19N  24°43' 02E
0515h. Woke up early to heavy rain. Ceased by 0530h. Slavonian Grebe (7 ads, 2 x b/1), Tufted Duck (b/3, 4 x b/4, b/5, b/9), Goldeneye (b/4, b/7, b/9), Mallard (b/3, 2 x b/6, b/8, b/9), Moorhen (2 ads, 2juvs), Coot (17 ads, b/2, b/2), Grey Heron (1), Black-headed Gull (335 juvs), Teal (12), Pochard (4), c600 Starlings left the reedbed at 0545h. Wigeon (1), Mallard (6), Pintail (2), Reed Bunting, White Wagtail (4), Jackdaw, Hooded Crow, Herring Gull, Willow Warbler, Green Sandpiper (2), Great Reed Warbler singing, Shoveler (7 ads + b/3), Thrush Nightingale, Hare (2), Wood Sandpiper (5), Ruff (4mm + 5ff), Whitethroat, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Gadwall (2ff + b/10) and a Linnet (m).

Hide overlooking Laajalahti, HelsinkiLAAJALAHTI, HELSINKI
0830h. Large phragmites reedbed fringing a large lake within Helsinki. Small area of marsh and mixed woodland. Coot (29), Gadwall (1), Great Crested Grebe (16, b/2), Tufted Duck (6), Wigeon (6), Shoveler (2), Mute Swan (2), Mallard (5), Black-headed Gull (hundreds of juveniles), Herring Gull, Goldeneye (2), Grey Heron (1), Common/Arctic Tern (30+), Pochard (2), Teal (4), Pheasant (1), Fieldfare, Blackbird, Wood Pigeon, Wren, Great Tit, Hooded Crow, Reed Bunting (very common), Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Reed Warbler, Redshank (2), Sedge Warbler, Swift (40, building to 80+ at 0900h), Greenshank (2), Blue Tit and Tree Pipit. Marsh Warbler heard and seen well in a large area of rank grassland (100 x 50 metres) bordered on three sides by woodland, the other side being rough grassland on the edge of the marsh/reedbed. Singing from habitat dominated by tall grass, umbelliferae, Burdock and Dog Rose. Pied Flycatcher, Song Thrush, Siskin, Greenfinch, Whitethroat and Chaffinch. A female Red-backed Shrike flew across the path in front of me. A second Marsh  Warbler heard singing further along the southerly path just as the rain started to fall. The bird was not visible but its movement in the grass and vegetation was obvious. Rain became quite heavy. Sheltered under one of the information boards where the path runs through a ride between narrow strips of birch woodland. A Blyth's Reed Warbler was singing and continued to be vocal during the shower. I managed to approach quite close to the songster and found it singing in full view on the edge of some scrub at a height of around 1.5 metres above the ground. Rain started to go off. Walked back to the tower noting Magpie and Meadow Pipit. Rain off and a Common Rosefinch in song from the edge of the woodland. Grey Heron (2) overhead. Heard the distinctive 'pinging' of Bearded Reedlings from the phragmites in front of the tower. Two birds were observed in flight. Possibly 4-5 birds in the immediate area. Nice telescope views of two juvenile birds perched on the reed heads. Marsh Harrier (f) hunting about 1 km away. Robin noted. Bittern 'booming' at 1100h.

1320h. Area behind the horse racing track: Whitethroats abundant in the scrubby grassland. Thrush Nightingale family. Willow Warblers singing. Swift (20+). Garden Warbler carrying food for young. Great Tit broods. Magpie, Wood  Pigeon, Hooded Crow, House Martin, Mallard, Reed Warbler, Common Tern,  Fieldfare, Herring Gull, Reed Bunting, White Wagtail, Greenfinch (flk 27), House Sparrow, Common Rosefinch, Ringlet (3+) and Painted Lady (2). Marsh Warbler singing from Dog Rose scrub surrounded by long rough grassland.

VIIKI, HELSINKI  60°12' 52N  24°59' 20E (reading at car park)
1600h. Long boardwalk about 1.5 km through phragmites to the tower hide:
Teal (7), Wigeon (3), Wood Sandpiper (3), Mallard (3+), Black-headed Gull, Reed Bunting, Whinchat. Barnacle Goose (7), Mute Swan (1), Ruff (3), Redshank (1), Meadow Pipit, Sedge Warbler, Chaffinch, Wood Pigeon, Redwing, Fieldfare, Grey-headed Wagtail (pr), Common Tern, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Gull, Great Crested Grebe (pr+b/2, pr+b/3, 2 juvs), Pochard (2), Swift, Pied Flycatcher, Little Gull, Red Squirrel nest building.
Citrine Wagtail (m) flew in from somewhere out to the left to a nest site just 50 metres in front of the tower! It continued to fly away to feed in an area of rough grassland c150 metres to the left (as you look out) where the phragmites starts to grow near the fence line and return with food. The nest site was in an bare, uneven area of ground approximately 2 x 3 metres with large tussocks of grass surrounded by grass/sedge and short pragmites growth near the fence line. Made some record digiscoped images. Wood Sandpiper (4) and a Redshank passed at 1841h, Thrush Nightingale (3) heard. Arctic Tern. Coot. The pair of Citrine Wagtails visible at 1800h. Ruff (9) when I left at 1912h and a male Marsh Harrier. A male Common Rosefinch observed singing at close range from a patch of scrub in the reedbed during the walk back. Just a few metres away, the red plumage on this individual seemed particularly intense in the late evening sunshine.

1950h. Drove to a campsite in Helsinki for the last night. When I arrived it looked like a big, expensive family place overrun with kids.

2115h. Decided to leave the city and stay at a campsite near Ruskela at Tuusulanjarvi in the countryside to the north of the airport. Fieldfare with young. A Thrush Nightingale gave one song phrase then began calling the single 'piping' note occasionally. Black-headed Gulls over the pitch from the nearby lake. Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chaffinch, Blackbird and Song Thrush singing.

0025h. Came back from the showers to hear some young Long-eared Owls calling.  



Day 16

Sunday 6 July 2003
Helsinki Vantaa > London Heathrow

0930h. Woke up to see a Red Squirrel climbing around the car wing mirror. The bag of rubbish I had left tied up outside had been raided - though not in a destructive way by a fox. Found my chocolate & nut ice-cream stick gnawed by what was obviously the squirrel. Thrush Nightingale calling. Discovered that the car had picked up a large screw in one of the rear tyres. Changed the wheel then headed off to the airport.


Fraser's Birding Website ·

Top of PageBack to Trip ReportsMore Photographs | Home