Finland for Brown Bears

Tuesday 6 - Monday 12 August 2002

John Muddeman
Markku Hukkanen (Finnature)


Although based around a visit to see one of Europe's scarcest and most difficult-to-see mammals, the impressive Brown Bear, the trip was also designed to give a chance to visit some of Europe's most extensive northern forests and also coasts, with a host of other wildlife. This included not only classic birds of the area, including grouse, owls and smaller passerines, including the secretive Siberian Jay and often-elusive Siberian Tit, but also other mammals, including Reindeer and even the almost impossible to see Wolverine.

The trip achieved all these goals and more, with the good food, excellent weather and even almost traffic-free roads simply adding to the experience. In addition, being in a converted frontier station hidden in the depths of the northern taiga was a unique experience in itself.

I sincerely hope you all enjoyed the trip as much as I did.

John Muddeman

Madrid, August 2002


Tuesday 6 August

We all met-up in Helsinki airport, having come from Heathrow, or Manchester via Stockholm, the flight from there to Oulu being mercifully short. We speedily made our way through and got our luggage fast, and while John went to claim for damage to a case, the rest of us enjoyed the warm fine conditions and noticed the flocks of Common Swifts and several White Wagtails in the car park. After just 10 minutes we reached the Vihiluoto Hotel looking across the Kempeleenlahti Bay to Oulu. Those with their eyes open noticed numbers of small birds in the surrounding scrub and trees, including lots of Willow Warblers and a couple of Pied Flycatchers.

After a tasty dinner we reconvened at 10:10 p.m. and went out birding given the 2-hour time difference to the UK and the latitude! The evening was delightful, dead calm and cool, and despite little light over the bay we still managed to see Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Whooper Swans, Great Crested Grebes, Common Goldeneye, Common Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover, and heard calling Wood Sandpiper and Greenshank. A large splash pointed out a fine Caspian Tern diving for fish, which passed several times allowing us to see the dark under-primaries and huge red bill.

Moving a few yards we looked at the dying embers of the sun reflected in the waters, beautifully silhouetting Herring and Black-headed Gulls and picking out a series of fish traps left high and dry on stakes. A fine end to the day.

Wednesday 7 August

A fine start, with Guy and Shane out early before the 8:00 am breakfast, seeing three Green Sandpipers and a Dunnock amongst other species.

In the birches surrounding the hotel car park, we were delayed by a stunning red-breasted Common Redpoll, though a Tree Pipit and a Redwing popped out from the undergrowth for a few seconds and Willow Warblers and Pied Flycatchers flitted through the trees.

Our first stop was at Lake Papinjarvi where a superb summer-plumaged Red-throated Diver graced the water in front, though the breeding Common Scoters kept much further away, despite a few young following a female out into the open. White Wagtails fed close by on the shoreline while a Eurasian Curlew flew out from the trees along the shore before dropping back into cover shortly afterwards. Despite the distance, Guy decided he wanted a photo of the diver, wading out up to his knees being the best way to cut the distance...

Working our way S to the edge of the Liminka Bay, we went to the Virkkula Visitors (and interpretation) Centre, pausing for a female Hen Harrier en route, and made our way along a boardwalk through extensive reed and sedge-marsh to the taller of two tower hides overlooking the edge of the Baltic. Flocks of duck on the open water included numbers of Mallard, Northern Pintail, Common Teal and remarkably for us, Smew, with several hundred Greylag Geese also present. Waders were also present, but distant, though Greenshank and Northern Lapwing were seen, a flock of Spotted Redshank fed in typical manner up to their bellies, two Ruff played hide and seek in the rushes and a Whimbrel flew round calling for several minutes. Fly-by Wood Sandpipers and Common Snipe added to the diversity.

Though these formed the bulk of the birds, raptors were also present and included another, this time juvenile male, Hen Harrier, a number of Marsh Harriers of different ages and sexes and a few Common Kestrels. Apart from the common Black-headed Gulls, three juvenile Little Gulls with their black "W" upperparts' pattern flittered over the water and two Caspian Terns were present early on, one failing dismally to hide amongst the rather drab ducks given its enormous size!

As the new birds declined and the heat rose, so we went back to the centre, pausing en route for a perched Black Darter dragonfly. We took a look at the exhibits and fine photos there, tried unsuccessfully to evict a White Wagtail trapped in the building and looked out over the adjacent fields finding a few Whinchats. It seemed to have been a long morning, so we took time over a leisurely lunch, which included an excellent salmon and potato 'stew', despite being seemingly early at 1:00pm, this being so good that no-one bothered to look at the Reed Buntings outside... A superb Camberwell Beauty butterfly fluttered around the building as we left, also a sign of the fine weather.

We moved W to another tower hide at Sannenlahti, with a different bias in the species, with delays as we started and finished the short walk to look at a few Scarce Copper butterflies and numerous Brown Hawker dragonflies around the car park. The hide itself served as a perching post for no less than three 'scaly' juvenile Red-backed Shrikes which were feeding on clouds of flying ants which had concentrated on the tower (and eventually even drove us away!), one also catching a huge Brown Hawker in front of us!

Birds out on the water were different here, a fine adult Arctic Tern fished among various Commons, Common Snipe being noticeable with several in flight and several Sedge Warblers, still collecting food for young, well visible. A third, this time juvenile female Hen Harrier cruised past, along with a number of Marsh Harriers, and a pair of the latter sparred over the vast sedgebeds nearby a giving a fine display.

It was now very warm as we left, with several of the party preferring to stop-off at the hotel on the way back, the rest of us moving a short distance to another tower hide in the reedbeds near the hotel overlooking the Kempeleenlahti Bay. As ever, missing out on any trip can be 'fatal' and two fabulous immature White-tailed Eagles as we arrived were never better proof! These flew off over the forest behind, though among the distant birds remaining out on the lake in front (including amazing numbers of Smew) were a flock of 20+ Red-necked Phalaropes and a superb summer-plumaged Red-necked Grebe! A fine end to the day, despite us seeing a few new species during the call-over outside later!

Thursday 8 August

Leaving the hotel at nine, we headed towards Oulu and a new tower hide by the bay at Hietasaari, close to where the local Terek Sandpipers breed. August is too late for the species, but the coastal mud and sand banks are an excellent feeding and resting ground for waders and water birds.

Walking out through dense woodland, Eurasian Bullfinches and Great Tits were calling, but only Blue Tits could be seen! The view from the tower was good, with roosting waders, gulls and terns, with two adult and a begging juvenile Caspian Tern, a juvenile Common Gull and dozens of Herring Gulls, here of the large pale northern race, of note. With cloudy skies the light was good, and allowed us to see the features of juvenile Ruff, adult Greenshank still in breeding plumage, several adult Ringed Plover and plenty of Common Snipe unusually completely out in the open. A superb summer-plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit probed in the soft sands, though a couple of Eurasian Oystercatchers were far less energetic, sleeping the time away, and failing even to lift their heads when a smart juvenile Marsh Harrier came past on a couple of occasions, disturbing the other smaller waders. A flock of Spotted Redshank were however disturbed out into the open, fortunately.

Given the distance to these, we tried further along the shore at another point, hoping to get closer views and photographic opportunities, though apart from half a dozen Great Black-backed Gulls roosting on rocks among more Herring Gulls, and a female Pintail on the water, little was visible. However, a call by Martin of a very large bird revealed what he suspected - a White-tailed Eagle cruising out over the sea, an always impressive sight and a pleasant bonus for those who'd missed the two yesterday.

It was time to head SE though, towards the focus of the trip - BEARS... Leaving Oulu, we headed through a mixed landscape which became increasingly forested and slightly hillier, though birds were very few, only a Red-backed Shrike on a wire of note, before we paused for a coffee break at a petrol station. Why mention it? Well, not every petrol station has a Eurasian Hobby powering past like that one! (what do you expect on Travelling Naturalist trips, John!)

We continued, seeing fewer and fewer birds, emphasising the low productivity of these northern forests, with drizzle getting heavier and heavier, though as we neared our destination a young male Capercaillie on a roadside bank was at least seen by Katie and Shane as we sped past. Despite a swift about turn, no sign of it, but as we turned off to the Wild Brown Bear centre just a mile or so further on, spirits were understandably high.

We arrived in time for a good late lunch just after three, Red Deer being on the menu rather than outside, and very nice too...! Though only an hour was available afterwards, we took a short walk to stretch our legs and look for a few birds, though as crunched down the gravel tracks in near windless conditions, very few birds even ventured within earshot! A Willow Tit at least had the grace to respond briefly to some 'pishing', though as is very noticeable here, the overall density of birds is very low.

We got back spot on time for a short introductory talk, before going off to the hides around 17:45, though a few who ventured out down to the end of the adjacent lake just before leaving were rewarded with Whooper Swan, Red-throated Diver and Hobby! Several flocks of Common Crossbills were also noted flying overhead as they searched the vast acreages of surrounding spruces for cones.

We walked to the hides along a forest trail, our footsteps deadened by the springy carpet of bilberries and sphagnum moss, though as we approached the hides, drizzle and thickening cloud did not bode well. However, once we'd entered the hides, the tension and expectation grew, and when cameras, binoculars and food (quite how Shane got through so many sweets will defy me!) had all strategically been placed for easy access, the waiting game began. Given that most of the bears at this site are visiting from over the Russian border, just a few hundred metres way, and are wild, despite the food put out to attract them, they are understandably shy. While complete silence is ideal, having up to 9 people in a hide produces its inevitable drawbacks, despite the relative comfort of these, and Sabrina, our guide in the biggest hide got us to play a fun and educational question and answers game (about bears, of course) to break the tension. An excellent idea and once we'd finished this and started to really concentrate on watching, we were much more focussed on the objective at hand. Our luck was in too, as a clear front came from the E, leaving us with beautiful evening light from 8 p.m., and giving the photographers a great chance...

We were not disappointed, and the c. 50 kg of salmon remains dumped in front of each hide proved too great an attraction, not only for Aulis ("Owlis"), a dark young male, but also for V, his mother, with a broad but incomplete whitish collar, and in excellent light! As we feasted our eyes, so did they, but on the fish, and to our surprise, another two bears (the male Valerie and an unnamed female) appeared shortly afterwards, with a scuffle resulting in 'V' rearing up on her hind legs to watch - a fabulous image!

We watched the comings and goings of these individuals for hours, with probably more during the hours of greatest darkness, though the appearance of Tatiana with her truly remarkable four cubs about 2 am caused most of us to get up and look, though they didn't stay for more than a minute or two.

With greater darkness and tiredness kicking-in, the use of the bunks at the back was more frequent, though disruption of sleep patterns can produce odd effects and in the middle of the night a grey cat gave John a nightmare, to half-frightening, half very amusing result (for the rest of us!).

Friday 9 August

The second half of the night was quieter, though Timo a new bear at least 10 years old and with ear-tags and another male Kolya ("Coleea") with two wounds on his back appeared, bringing the night's total up to a remarkable 11! Others from earlier in the night sauntered out later too, for a last guzzle, and despite word that a wolverine had appeared in front of the smallest hide, the thick mist meant that we stood no chance... Tomorrow..?!

One of the great things about these hides is the presence of an amplifying microphone on the roof of each and individual headsets for the padded watching chairs. Simply listening to slurping, grumbling, snuffling, snorting and huffing bears is one thing, but when an Eagle Owl called a few times and an Elk bellowed from the forest, it was an extraordinary experience.

Leaving shortly after six, we headed back for breakfast, followed by a sauna (for the ladies, since waiting another 30 minutes was too much for us chaps!), then we crashed out until noon. All that is except Guy, who working on the "I'll sleep when I get home" principle, went for a walk, and bumped into a mixed flock of 4+ Willow and 4 Siberian Tits nearby!!!

Teas and coffees revitalised us a little at midday, and we went off for another walk through the endless forests surrounding the hotel. A nearby lake housed an adult and a juvenile Red-throated Diver, with the forest en route being full of bilberry, crowberry and cowberry, and a small clump of Creeping Lady's-tresses, one of Europe's very few autumn-flowering orchid species.

Birds were hard to even hear though, so we headed for some dense cover near a stream. Whoops, the fabulous habitat was sadly complicated by deep, soft-sided drainage channels, and after a while we aborted the effort, exiting along an Elk-path complete with enormous footprints! A side track at least gave us fly-over views of two European Honey Buzzards and three juvenile Eurasian Bullfinches which responded to being whistled down, but it seemed scant reward. We got back with a little time to watch a Tree Pipit creep around in the bilberries, though two adult Siberian Gulls flew over calling, and a couple of Siskins flittered through the spruces, showing that sometimes it's best not to move too far!

The fabulous lunch at 3:30 p.m. included a main course of delicious whitefish, the soporific effect of being indoors afterwards little altered by moving outside into beautiful conditions for the log-call, though at least this gave us time to catch up on the last 36 hours! Another European Honey Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk flew over, a pair of Yellow Wagtails sat in a tree and our first perched Fieldfare all graced the proceedings.

We started off to the hides again at 5:30 p.m., pausing for couple of Common Crossbills and three fly-over Waxwings en route, though my knowledge of the nights events almost ends there, given that uniquely I took the night off, wanting to rest properly before the following day's driving. Despite me watching a perched juvenile Cuckoo, a flock of Crossbills at close range and feeling minute in the vast extent of the forests here, the news of a Wolverine (Nestori) at the hides at 8:20 p.m. made me wonder whether I'd made the right judgement or not... Next time! as Ari kindly said later!!! My only consolation is the knowledge that EVERYONE else in the group had such good and repeated views, especially having said that no-one should miss out on the second night (not that you wouldn't have anyway!!!). 11 bears again visited the hides that night, mostly the same as the night before, but with a star visit by Terho, Finland's biggest male bear, weighing in at around 350 kg.

Saturday 10 August

Return from the hides was slightly earlier than the previous day, again in beautiful sunny conditions, with excellent high spirits again.

At the end of breakfast, a couple of Siberian Jays called from the woods by the hotel, though refused to show, though Guy once again took a stroll after breakfast, not only seeing a Siberian Jay at close range before I could join him, but also the two adult and one juvenile Red-throated Diver on the pool, and later, while even I was again snoozing, 3+ Siberian Tits by the hotel about 10:30 am!!

We bade our farewells at c. 12:30, receiving our certificates of bear watching from the hotel's owner Ari and headed N, pausing briefly by the Finnish - Russian border for a few minutes. The long trip through vast tracks of constantly varying forest was punctuated by a couple of stops for birds including a Northern Grey Shrike and a flighty Waxwing, and we stopped at the Winter War museum for a picnic lunch on the grass in warmth and blazing sunshine. However, the various Reindeer which wandered across the roads and few in the adjacent forest were the star attraction, livening up the afternoon, though a stop to stretch our legs and wonder at several hundred "scarecrows" in a roadside field, somewhat amusingly titled, "The Silent People: the oddity of highway 5" was also called for. Snoozing was then generally the order of the day in the bus, especially given ever more cloudy and drizzly conditions, though two Common Cranes were seen in flight off to the right from the second bus.

We finally arrived in Kuusamo around 6 p.m. and after settling in and dining along with a rather solemn bunch of wedding reception guests (the wedding waltz is taken VERY seriously here), we went out again for some birding by the local lake!

A gorgeous sunset provided a dramatic backdrop as numerous Common Teal, Eurasian Wigeon and a few Smew and Common Goldeneye were dotted over the lake, but of more surprise were large numbers of Muskrats busily collecting and storing sedge in the emergent vegetation around the edge of the lake. Most amusingly, as Markku played a tape of Willow Grouse, so we got a rapid response from below the tower hide. Those above were delighted, but our elation was crushed as Shane and Katie told us that a lady in red had emerged from the bushes at that moment with a grin on her face and another person playing a tape was the source of the response!!! However, back in the vans with no-one else around, we played the tape again, and a male Willow Grouse flew across the road, joining a female and two young which were feeding within just feet of the tarmac and which we then watched at leisure! Nice to see 'grys' so close...

Sunday 11 August

Breakfast was not until 8 am, allowing those who'd been sandwiched between the still solemn wedding reception and a dreadful karaoke the night before time to appear in an acceptable state...

The weather was poor, but with only occasional showers as we headed towards the Oulanka National Park, one of Finland's finest old-forest areas. We stopped first at Valtavaara, of Red-flanked Bluetail fame, and despite a heavy shower, a bird noticed by Marie was the first (and last) Siberian Jay for most of the party. A great start. Climbing up into the spruce-dominated forests 'dripping' with lichens, the Hazel Grouse whistle got no response, but a Pygmy Owl call brought a persistent response, though from a distance. Trying again got the same response, though rain stopped play, and we climbed higher and closer to the apparent source of the calls. Rain again intervened, but as it cleared, so a delightful Pygmy Owl flew into full view in a young spruce, and then sat, scratching, looking around, peering at us and occasionally calling, for about 20 minutes! The photography opportunities were excellent, and we were further rewarded to later see it in flight, calling again and being mobbed by several Spotted Flycatchers, even chasing it in flight. A calling Bluetail stubbornly failed to appear however...

What could be better than the owl?! A Northern Shrike on a wire was seen only by Martin, but as we neared the park interpretation centre, a small brownish bird fluttered up into a roadside aspen. A Hazel Grouse chick!! The female also appeared, and we parked overlooking a narrow strip of trees between the road and the river where at least three young and the female moved around in intermittent view for at least 15 minutes! A couple of Common Buzzards and a European Honey Buzzard also passed over, largely ignored as the cameras snapped away at the grouse!

After buying niknaks in the centre, we headed to a little seat circle at a secluded spot by the river to enjoy our picnic lunch, bathed in the now glorious sunshine and unable to ignore a fine Camberwell Beauty in adjacent bushes.

The surrounding pine forest was too enticing to ignore, so we followed a narrow hiking path up above the river, seeing single Common Redpoll, Mistle Thrush and finally, a super-active tree-top hugging Siberian Tit, and wondering a little if the sheer extent of such wonderful habitat makes it more difficult to find birds as they had less need to concentrate in the 'best' areas.

Time was now marching on, and we took a track to an area of bogs tucked in the forest where Rustic Buntings had bred in the spring, but to no avail, despite seeing a very worn well out-of-range Niobe or High Brown Fritillary and the first Small Tortoiseshell of the trip, and watched Guy emerge out of a drainage ditch, his trousers bathed in liquid peat!

The drive back was also punctuated by a stop for birds on a lake, a couple of family parties of Tufted Duck and two 'redhead' Smew being beautifully picked out in the crystal clear sunlight.

We got back at a reasonable hour, even having time for a proper checklist call-over before dinner which we ate in private with our own waitresses!

Guy wanted a second shot at photographing the Willow Grouse, and Eunice hoped to video the sunset and Muskrats, so a few of us headed back round the lake for a short while. The crystal clear skies were testament to the passing of a cold front and the cold and rapidly falling temperatures were in stark contrast to the previous few days, possibly being the reason for the total absence of the 'grys'...

We rounded off the day at the bar, and watched Shane's proficiency at drawing, each of us receiving one of his works of art. That mine was a Pygmy Owl will only strengthen my memories of this fantastic bird!

Monday 12 August

We said goodbye early to Kuusamo and also Katie and John who were off N to Lapland for another week. We headed W through seemingly endless forest and bogs, noting the by now usual scattering of Reindeer along the way and numerous White Wagtails along the roadside.

Pausing once or twice, we reached the hotel again near Oulu for an early lunch at midday, saying goodbye to Guy and Shane who were going fishing all that afternoon and also to Markku, our excellent Finnature guide, with Hari taking over for the last few hours.

After a race down various roads, back lanes and tracks, seeing a few Common Kestrels and a brief Northern Grey Shrike en route, we entered an area of grazing and hay fields where a large flock of over 220 Common Cranes loafed around, though gave fine displays as they flew from one field to another, their trumpeting calls a wonderful sound in the abnormally hot conditions. A Eurasian Hobby drifted high across the fields, but against the sun. Nearby, a moulting adult female Hen Harrier also required a couple of minutes of our time, though our final destination was a shallow pool in Oulu port.

Here, a good flock of Ruffs fed close by, with a smattering of Greater and one Little Ringed Plover, a juvenile Spotted Redshank and a few Wood Sandpipers, though the star species here was undoubtedly in the shape of three Temminck's Stints! The surrounding edges also held several Common Linnets, half a dozen Northern Wheatears and one or two Sky Larks for those with quicker reactions, while the first group sighting of Reed Bunting involved one which came down to bathe in the edge of the pool in front. The richness of this little spot was further enhanced by a couple of juvenile Marsh Harriers, a Caspian Tern and large numbers of Yellow Wagtails, and it made a fine end to the tour, despite a very brief stop nearby to look for a Crested Lark which failed to show.

We reached the airport an hour and a half before the flight, with plenty of time to do the final checklist call-over and buy tee-shirts from Hari! The flights were largely smooth and went without a hitch, with final goodbyes at Heathrow.

Species Lists

Vihiluoto hotel, Kempeleenlahti Bay, Papinjarvi Lake, Virkkula visitor's centre, Sannanlahti hide, Kempeleenlahti Bay hide, Hietasaari (Oulu), Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo), Kuusamo Lake, Valtavaara, Oulanka National Park, Muhos, Oulu Port


Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata An adult at Papinjarvi Lake on 7th, an adult at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 8th and 2 adults and a juvenile there on 9th and 10th.

Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena An adult in breeding plumage at the Kempeleenlahti Bay hide on 7th.

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 4+ in the Kempeleenlahti Bay on 6th, 20+ at various sites on 7th and a pair + 3 chicks in Kuusamo Lake on 11th.

Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus 4+ in the Kempeleenlahti Bay on 6th, 10+ at various sites on 7th, 2+ at the Vihiluoto hotel (Guy) and 2 at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 8th and one en route on 12th.

Greylag Goose Anser anser 30+ in the Kempeleenlahti Bay on 6th, 200+ at various sites on 7th and several at the Vihiluoto hotel on 8th.

Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope 100+ at the Virkkula visitor's centre on 7th, 4+ at Kuusamo Lake on 10th and 3 en route on 11th.

Common Teal Anas crecca Several in the Kempeleenlahti Bay on 6th, 100s at various sites on 7th, a few at the Kuusamo Lake on 10th and 2 en route on 11th.

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Noted on 5 days, with maxima of 100+ in the Kempeleenlahti Bay on 6th and 100s at various sites on 7th.

Northern Pintail Anas acuta A few in the Kempeleenlahti Bay on 6th, 50+ especially at the Sannanlahti hide on 7th and one at Hietasaari (Oulu) on 8th.

Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata 6 in the Kempeleenlahti Bay on 6th, 6+ on 7th and one at Oulu Port on 12th.

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 12+ including two broods of young on a lake en route on 11th.

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 10+ including young on the Papinjarvi Lake on 7th.

Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula 6 in the Kempeleenlahti Bay on 6th, a few at various sites on 7th, lots on the Kuusamo Lake on 10th and few there on 11th (Guy).

Smew Mergus albellus 6+ at the Virkkula visitor's centre on 7th, 15 on the Kuusamo Lake on 10th and 2 en route on 11th.

European Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus 2 or 3 over the forests around Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 8th, one there on 9th and one over Oulanka National Park on 11th.

White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla 2 apparently immature birds at the Kempeleenlahti Bay hide on 7th and one flying over the Kempeleenlahti Bay on 8th.

Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus An adult female and single juvenile males and females at various sites around Liminka Bay on 7th, and an adult female at Muhos on 12th.

Eurasian Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus About 12 at various sites around the Liminka and Kempeleenlahti Bays on 7th, 2 at Hietasaari (Oulu) on 8th and two juveniles at Oulu Port on 12th.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus Singles en route to and at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 8th, one over Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 9th and one very briefly by the Winter Museum on 10th.

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo One en route on 10th and 3 to 5 over Oulanka National Park on 11th.

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 4 to 5 around the Liminka Bay on 7th and 3 around Muhos on 12th.

Merlin Falco columbarius A female from the Sannanlahti hide on 7th.

Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo Singles en route over the petrol station and at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 8th and one high over Muhos on 12th.

Willow Grouse (Willow Ptarmigan) Lagopus lagopus A male a female and two chicks by the Kuusamo Lake roadside on 10th.

Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus Just one immature male on the roadside seen by Shane and Katie near Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 8th.

Hazel Grouse Bonasa bonasia A female and 3+ chicks by the roadside in Oulanka National Park on 11th.

Common Crane Grus grus 2 seen in flight from the second bus en route on 10th but an excellent 300+ in the Muhos fields on 12th.

Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus Just 2 rather sleepy individuals at Hietasaari (Oulu) on 8th.

(Northern) Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 2+ at the Virkkula visitor's centre on 7th and three on a roadside verge in Oulu on 8th.

Greater Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula About 12 at Hietasaari (Oulu) on 8th and 6+ at Oulu Port on 12th.

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius One in the Kempeleenlahti Bay on 6th and a juvenile at Oulu Port on 12th.

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica One in full breeding plumage at Hietasaari (Oulu) on 8th.

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus One calling and seen in flight at the Virkkula visitor's centre on 7th.

Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata One at Papinjarvi Lake on 7th and one at Muhos on 12th.

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 15 at the Virkkula visitor's centre on 7th, 15 at Hietasaari (Oulu) on 8th and one juvenile at Oulu Port on 12th.

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia One heard at Kempeleenlahti Bay on 6th, a few at several sites around the Liminka Bay on 7th and 2 or 3 at Hietasaari (Oulu) on 8th.

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus 3 seen by Guy by the Vihiluoto hotel 7th.

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola One heard at Kempeleenlahti Bay on 6th, plenty at several sites around the Liminka Bay on 7th, 3 near the Vihiluoto hotel on 8th and 2+ at Oulu Port on 12th.

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos Just one in the Kempeleenlahti Bay on 6th.

(Ruddy) Turnstone Arenaria interpres One seen by Guy near the Vihiluoto hotel on 8th.

Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus 20 unfortunately very distant individuals from the Kempeleenlahti Bay hide on 7th.

Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago Totals of 15 around the Liminka Bay on 7th and at Hietasaari (Oulu) on 8th.

Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii 3 excellent birds at Oulu Port on 12th.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax 6 around the Liminka Bay on 7th, several at Hietasaari (Oulu) on 8th and 40+ at Oulu Port on 12th.

Common (Mew) Gull Larus canus At least one juvenile at Hietasaari (Oulu) on 8th.

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 100+ at Hietasaari (Oulu) on 8th and one at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 9th.

Siberian (Heuglin's) Gull Larus heuglini 2 adults flying over calling at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 9th.

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus One, probably this species seen by Guy near the Vihiluoto hotel on 8th.

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7 on rocks at Hietasaari (Oulu) on 8th.

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus A few noted on 5 days at the coast and over the Kuusamo Lake, maximum of 30+ on 6th.

Little Gull Larus minutus Just 3 rather distant juveniles from the Sannanlahti hide on 7th.

Caspian Tern Sterna caspia An adult at Kempeleenlahti Bay on 6th, 2 adults at the Virkkula visitor's centre on 7th, 2 adults and a juvenile at Hietasaari (Oulu) on 8th and one adult at Oulu Port on 12th.

Common Tern Sterna hirundo About 8 from the Sannanlahti hide on 7th and one seen by Guy by the Vihiluoto hotel on 7th.

Arctic Tern Sterna paradisea One lovely adult from the Sannanlahti hide on 7th.

Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon) Columba livia Just 3 in Kuusamo on 11th and one en route on 12th.

(Common) Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus Just 3 singles at different sites on 7th.

Eurasian Eagle Owl Bubo bubo One heard calling at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) at c. 2am on 9th.

Eurasian Pygmy Owl Glaucidium passerinum A delightful and confiding adult at Valtavaara on 11th.

Common Swift Apus apus Noted regularly on the first 5 days, with maximum of 50+ on 7th.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major A few at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) from 8th to 10th and one heard at Valtavaara on 11th.

(Eurasian) Sky Lark Alauda arvensis Only seen by Martin at Oulu Port on 12th, where one+.

European Sand Martin Riparia riparia 6 around the Liminka Bay on 7th and one seen on 10th.

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Noted daily in variable number.

Common House Martin Delichon urbica About 5 en route on 6th, a few over Hietasaari (Oulu) on 8th and small numbers breeding in the Oulanka National Park on 11th.

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava Seen daily in variable number from 7th, with lots at Oulu Port on 12th of note.

White Wagtail Motacilla alba One of the commonest small birds and seen widely daily.

Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis Singles at the Vihiluoto hotel on 7th and Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 9th.

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis Just 2 briefly in flight over fields at Muhos on 12th.

Northern (Great Grey) Shrike Lanius excubitor Singles en route on 10th and 11th and one at Muhos on 12th.

Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio Three juveniles at the Sannanlahti hide on 7th and one on a roadside wire seen by Guy on 8th.

Bohemian Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus Three in flight at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 9th, one by the Kuusamo Lake on 10th and three singles in the Oulanka National Park on 11th.

Hedge Accentor (Dunnock) Prunella modularis One noted by Guy at the Vihiluoto hotel on 7th.

Fieldfare Turdus pilaris Noted on 4 days, with a maximum of 30+ at several sites on 7th.

Redwing Turdus iliacus Also noted on 4 days, with maxima of 15+ at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 9th and 10th.

Song Thrush Turdus philomelos Just 2 at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 9th.

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus Just one in the Oulanka National Park on 11th.

European Robin Erithacus rubecula One juvenile at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 9th.

Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus Five singles noted from 7th to 10th, with 6+ in Oulanka National Park on 11th.

Whinchat Saxicola rubetra Three+ at the Virkkula visitor's centre on 7th and one en route on 11th.

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe One from the first bus at Vartius on 10th and 6+ at Oulu Port on 12th.

Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus 6+ at various sites around the Liminka Bay on 7th.

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus Seen daily in variable number, though commonest near the coast.

Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca Singles seen by Guy by the Vihiluoto hotel on 8th.

Goldcrest Regulus regulus Just one heard in Oulanka National Park on 11th.

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata Noted daily in small number from 7th to 11th.

European Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca Two by the Vihiluoto hotel on 6th and 7th.

Siberian Tit Parus cinctus At Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo), Guy saw 4 on 9th and 3 on 10th, with one seen by the group in the Oulanka National Park on 11th.

Willow Tit Parus montanus Several at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 8th to 10th, 5+ en route on 10th and 2 at Valtavaara on 11th.

Crested Tit Parus cristatus One seen by Guy in Oulanka National Park on 11th.

Great Tit Parus major Just one+ heard at Hietasaari (Oulu) on 8th.

Blue Tit Parus caeruleus One at the Vihiluoto hotel on 7th and several at Hietasaari (Oulu) on 8th.

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalus caudatus One by the Papinjarvi Lake on 7th.

Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius At Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) 7+ on 8th and several on 10th.

Siberian Jay Perisoreus infaustus 2 heard and one seen by Guy at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 10th and one at Valtavaara on 11th.

Common Magpie Pica pica Seen widely in small number on 5 days.

Rook Corvus frugilegus c. 50 in fields at Muhos on 12th.

Hooded Crow Corvus corone Seen widely in small to moderate number on 6 days.

Common Raven Corvus corax Apart from one over the Sannanlahti hide on 7th, only at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) from 8th on 10th, where max. 20+.

Common (European) Starling Sturnus vulgaris 11 past the Kempeleenlahti Bay hide on 7th and 50+ at Oulu Port on 12th.

Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella Only in the Vihiluoto hotel gardens where 2 on 7th and 3 on 8th.

Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus One+ at Oulu port on 12th.

Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs 2+ at the Vihiluoto hotel on 7th, several at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 8th and 9th, and lots at Muhos on 12th.

Brambling Fringilla montifringilla Just one heard at Oulanka National Park on 12th.

European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris Just one seen by Shane at the Vihiluoto hotel on 7th.

(European) Siskin Carduelis spinus 2+ at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 9th and one in the Oulanka National Park on 11th.

Common (Mealy) Redpoll Carduelis flammea 2+ at the Vihiluoto hotel on 7th, and one in the Oulanka National Park on 11th.

Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina 6 at Oulu Port on 12th.

Common (Red) Crossbill Loxia curvirostra Seen daily from 7th to 11th, with lots over the forests at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 9th and 10th.

Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula One+ heard at Hietasaari (Oulu) on 8th, 3 juveniles at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 9th and 2 heard at Valtavaara on 11th.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus Remarkably scarce, with just a small flock on the edge of Kuusamo on 11th.


Wolverine Gulo gulo One on a few occasions at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 9th.

Brown Bear Ursus arctos 11 at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on nights of 8th/9th and 9th/10th.

Elk Alces alces One heard bellowing at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) very early, with footprints found later on 9th.

Reindeer Rangifer taradanus Noted on and along roads on 10th (15+), 11th (20+) and 12th (25+).

Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris Singles at the Vihiluoto hotel on 7th, at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 10th and in the Oulanka National Park on 11th.

Muskrat Ondatra zibethicus 10+ at Kuusamo Lake on 10th and one en route on 11th.

Brown Rat Rattus norvegicus One at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 8th.

Brown Hare Lepus europaeus One seen by Guy at the Vihiluoto hotel on 7th.

Arctic Hare Lepus arcticus Singles dead on roads on 8th, 10th and 11th.


Green-veined White Artogeia napi Several on 7th and lots at Muhos on 12th.

Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni Two males near the Virkkula visitor's centre on 7th.

Scarce Copper Lycaena vigaureae Several by the Sannanlahti hide carpark on 7th, and 2 en route on 10th.

?Cranberry Blue Vacciniina optilete One, probably this species seen by Eunice at Wild Brown Bear (Kuhmo) on 9th.

Camberwell Beauty Nymphalis antiopa The commonest widespread butterfly, seen in small number on 4 day, with max. 6 on 10th.

Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae One in the Oulanka National Park on 11th and 3+ at various sites on 12th.

Niobe or High Brown Fritillary Argynnis niobe or adippe One worn individual in the Oulanka National Park on 11th.

Other insects

Bedstraw Hawkmoth Hyles gallii A freshly dead caterpillar in a roadside pull-off en route on 10th.

Brown Hawker Aeschna grandis Seen commonly and widely, especially near the coast on 7th and 12th.

Black Darter Sympetrum danae A male perched on the boardwalk near the Virkkula visitor's centre on 7th.

© The Travelling Naturalist 2002