Lapland & Varangerfjord

5th - 17th June 2004

Keith Grant
Harri Taavetti (Lapland & Norway, 5th - 16th)
Matti Komulainen (Helsinki, 16th - 17th)

Saturday 5th June Arrival

Overcast & breezy, 16°C

As our Heathrow flight was slightly delayed and with a tight connection at Helsinki, we only just made our Oulu flight, though our bags did not! However, most did appear during the course of the evening. We managed a short excursion before arriving at the hotel, the first stop being a short walk into the forest where a nest-box set low on a trunk was emitting 'owlet hissing' - Pygmy Owl. Suddenly, the female appeared just a few feet from us on a low branch. The male called and she flew directly to him and we realised he had a male Crossbill clasped in his talons. She took it from him and disappeared into the box - the young fed well this afternoon! We returned to the minibus and explored the fields near the hotel. Ortolan Bunting and Yellowhammer were found, singing from roadside trees. Curlew and Lapwing were displaying in the fields and three Cranes were feeding on the bare earth. We also saw flights of Whooper Swans and Greylag Geese. We checked into the hotel and found Woodcock, Snipe, Marsh Harrier, Redwing and singing Rosefinch during short walks before and after dinner.

Sunday 6th June Liminka & south

Overcast, clearing later, still breezy, 10°C

We gathered outside at 6:30am and made the short drive to Vihiluoto Harbour. Here we found Red-breasted Mergansers, further Whooper Swans and Tufted Ducks. A distant Garganey played hide & seek at the far shore, and a Spotted Redshank flew over us to land nearby. Red-throated Divers flew over. Two of us had walked from the hotel and recorded Willow Tit, Redstart and Garden Warblers. We then drove on to the airport to try to chase up the remaining two bags but with no-one in attendance, we simply looked over a nearby lake, finding Black-throated Diver, numerous Common Scoter, distant Little Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank, and, best of all, a Caspian Tern fishing for most of the time we were there.

Back for breakfast at 8am, and we then headed off to the Liminka area. Near Hirvineva, a nest hole in quite a small Aspen contained a brood of Black Woodpeckers, and two well-grown youngsters were peering out. Having met briefly with some local birders, we moved on to a nearby lake to find a pair of Red-footed Falcons, sitting on birch stumps across the water and looking rather cold! A rogue Capercaillie male had been reported some distance to the south near Vihanti, but there was no sign of it. Several of the group though did find Crested Tit. While here we checked two nearby lakes. The first held several Teal including two families of ducklings, and there were a couple of Slavonian Grebes and a pair of Whooper Swans on a nest on the second lake.

Back to the north, near the Liminka coast, we had lunch at a golf club at Siitajoki, after which we were soon watching a pair of Three-toed Woodpeckers near their nest hole. This apparently contained small young and we saw the male come down to the hole, perching briefly before disappearing inside. We left him be, and went back to the roadway in search of the Goshawk which had been circling over the treetops whilst we were in the wood. We only got a brief view as it crossed over the road. Finally, we headed to an area of sand dunes where Common & Arctic Terns were just offshore, a Turnstone flew past, and a pair of Wheatears were present on the rocky breakwater. Driving on a short way, we then walked out on the beach itself, finding several Temminck's Stints 'singing' and displaying around us, getting really excellent views of these and a couple of Ringed Plovers and several Arctic Terns on nests. The last stop of the day was back near Oulu, at Sankivaara, where a brood of Tengmalm's Owls had just fledged. We found two of the youngsters in different trees, and this was a fitting end to our first full day's birding in Finland.

Monday 7th June Hietasaari-Oulu area, Kempele Bay, Liminka & Lumijoki

Bright & sunny, cool NW breeze.

A 7:30 breakfast and we were off to the north side of Oulu where one of the bird-watching tower hides overlooked the shore and, though the water level was still high, some sandbars were visible. We found a good selection of shorebirds and numerous ducks were offshore, including some fine male Smew, but no sign of the hoped-for Terek Sandpiper. An Eagle Owl sat on the beach and was a real surprise - it was of course being mobbed by Hoodies and gulls. Walking back through the woodland to the car park, we found both Willow and Wood Warblers, and heard Tree Pipits singing overhead. Our next stop was a second tower hide overlooking Kempele Bay - again a good selection of water-birds. A short distance further on was a rather wet bog with open muddy pools and low willow clumps. By walking out (wellies required!) several hundred metres, we found ourselves watching a great many low flying Swifts and hirundines, and several Citrine Wagtails were carrying food for young into the distant willows. We quickly found a couple of favoured perches and all had excellent views of three males and a female through the telescopes.

We had time to wander round the nature centre at Liminka before lunch, then walked out along the board walks to the bird watching tower where we met up with an old friend and guide, Markus. The visibility here along both shores of Liminka Bay was excellent and we were soon watching many waterfowl and shorebirds. Gadwall, Garganey and Pintail were notable, as were a further group of male Smew. A nice flock of non-breeding Cranes were feeding in the distance and both Marsh and Hen Harriers quartered the marshes. These last species caused much consternation with the breeding Black-tailed Godwits, Curlew and Lapwing. Several Ruffs were present, the males displaying and chasing each other through the long grass. Bright chestnut and black ruffs were seen. Finally we headed back to the minibus, finding both Green-veined and Wood Whites near the nature centre, and drove further west to the Lumijoki area. Here, the small hamlet at Varjakka reminded us of a New England fishing village, except for the Pied & Spotted Flycatchers, Brambling, Garden Warbler, Tree Pipit and Treecreeper in the trees and a Wheatear on the quayside.

We returned to the hotel for a rest before being treated to a traditional farmhouse dinner at Helman's and Anni's farmstead near Kempele. On the way back, we made a brief detour, finding a really close Common Rosefinch, this being a nice red one, rather than the brown young males seen up to now! An Elk had been disturbed by dog walkers and we watched it running across the fields towards us.

Back to the hotel after a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Tuesday 8th June North-east to Ruka

Becoming cloudy, light breeze, 11°C

With no pre-breakfast walk this morning, we had a leisurely breakfast and had loaded the vehicle and were on our way by 8:30am. We revisited the same birding tower north of Oulu in search of Terek Sandpiper but to no avail, though two adult Little Gulls flew over the wood as we walked out to the tower and the same selection of water-birds were seen. We pressed on, stopping near Alakylä, Haukipudas, where we pulled off the road through some stone workings and along a river course. A Common Rosefinch was singing vigorously as we got out the vehicles and a Wryneck looked out of its nest hole. It perched on top of the stump for some time before flying off across the track. We took the boardwalk across the bog at Hirvisuo, to the bird-watching tower. Here a Great Grey Shrike was pouncing on prey from the tree-tops and we found a Peregrine sitting on a wooden post in the distance. As a White Wagtail was becoming increasingly worried, we realised that she had a nest with eggs in the corner of the tower, so we left her in peace and headed on for lunch.

After lunch at Pudasjärvi, we turned off the main road to a track running roughly parallel, making a couple of stops en route. At Iso-Syote, we walked a short distance up the hill and, despite Harri flushing a Hazel Grouse from in front of us, none of us saw it and it didn't reappear! A Two-barred Crossbill flew over calling. The second stop, a little way further on, was prompted by calls from Siskins in the nearby spruces. A Goldcrest showed well, and another Two-barred Crossbill was calling, though flew off before we saw it. Finally, we followed directions to a site near Taivalkoski, where we walked a short distance into the forest to find two large nest-boxes on neighbouring trees. A fine adult Ural Owl was perched nearby and this female bird allowed really excellent views through the telescopes.

Time was getting on so we moved on to our hotel at Ruka, to the north of Kuusamo.

Wednesday 9th June Iivaara, Näränkä, Kuusamo

Cloudless first thing, but becoming cloudy, N breeze, 8½°C

Armed with a packed breakfast, we set out from the hotel at 5am, heading for Iivaara, to the south-east of Kuusamo. We walked out along the boardwalk in brilliant sunshine, continuing along the trail over the ridge. As we dropped down the other slope through the forest, we heard a Red-flanked Bluetail singing ahead of us. Walking slowly through the forest, we found the bird perched up on a treetop. This was a stunning adult male, and he allowed us all to view him through the telescopes for almost an hour. The occasional pauses in his song allowed us to snack on our breakfast sandwiches, but we always returned to the telescopes once he returned to the treetops and sang again. We returned slowly, detouring briefly to a viewpoint almost at the top of Iivaara itself - what a stunning vista, eastwards into Russia itself. Our next location was right next to the border zone at Näränkä where we walked a short distance along another boardwalk. Several Crossbills flew over, landing very briefly, and a newly fledged brood of Treecreepers were being very vocal. Time again was getting on so we returned to Kuusamo for lunch.

In the afternoon, we searched the birches alongside a channel on the outskirts of Kuusamo itself, and a male Little Bunting was found. This allowed excellent views through the telescopes. The refuse dump was very busy and the many gulls included Siberian, Herring, Lesser Black-backed, Great Black-backed, Common and Black-headed. Greenshank, Wood Sandpipers and a lovely Ruff with full black plumes were also present. On the pool on the opposite side of the road, we found four Red-necked Phalaropes. Finally, we went to view Kuusamo Lake where another Little Bunting was singing from the trees in a lakeside garden. We also found several superb breeding-plumaged Red-necked Grebes, as well as Pintail, Wigeon and Teal amongst the Whooper Swans. There were also many Little Gulls feeding off the water surface just offshore. A final stop overlooking another part of the lake added a male Smew to our day's list, and further Little Gulls and both Common and Arctic Terns were dipping into the small harbour.

Thursday 10th June Oulanka National Park

Again becoming cloudy during day, generally warmer, 13°C

Our pre-breakfast trip took in a Hawk Owl nesting site just up the road from our hotel. The female was perched atop a dead tree and we watched her for some time through the telescopes. We then moved on to Valtavaara where the feeding station by a roadside pull-off was relatively quiet. We walked a short way down the road but it wasn't until we returned that two Siberian Jays appeared. Both gave us really close views as they quite unconcernedly hopped along the roadside, picking up titbits.

After breakfast, we headed on to the Oulanka National Park. A pair of Dippers was feeding along the river, delivering food to a nesting box under a bridge. Further on, we found good numbers of Calypso Orchids in full flower, and Alpine Butterwort were also noted. Small numbers of Lady's Slipper Orchids were only just emerging from the ground. There was a good flight of Green Hairstreak butterflies and a Rustic Bunting was present but other than a brief fly-over, it proved completely unseeable! We then explored the forest trails in the vehicles, stopping every so often to check birds or sounds. One lake had very nice numbers of Little Gulls and Arctic Terns dipping for food off the surface and the Teal, Wigeon, Goldeneye and Velvet Scoter all looked superb. A Green Sandpiper was also present.

In the grounds surrounding our lunchtime cafe, Rosefinches, Bullfinches, Chaffinches and Willow Tits were visiting the feeders. Good numbers of Violet Copper butterflies were also on the wing in the warm sunshine. We then drove back towards Kuusamo, in search of Siberian Tit. The first nest-box had been predated by a Great Spotted Woodpecker and the territory was deserted. A short distance further down the road, a second nest-box contained a brood of youngsters and we watched the adult Siberian Tits ferrying food back and forth. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was loitering in the area so we hoped that these chicks will fledge before themselves becoming a meal! We got back to the hotel soon after 5pm for a rest before dinner.

The insomniacs amongst us decided on an after-dinner excursion, firstly to view an Eagle Owl nest where we watched two quite large downy owlets, stretching and shuffling about on the ledge. With no sign of the adults, we moved on after half an hour. Our next stop was to view a Black Grouse lek but a traditional field was deserted. We did find a lone lekking male several kilometres further on and, on returning to the original field, a flock of Cranes had flown in and were feeding quite close to the road. A Blackcock ran along the road in front of us so I suspect that the field wasn't deserted as such, just that we were too early in the evening for the birds to have arrived. We parked near a lake at Antinperä and had to detour off the boardwalk to go around a Capercaillie's nest. The tower overlooking the lake was excellent with Whooper Swans bugling calls echoing in the still air, good numbers of Spotted Redshank & Wood Sandpipers in the shallow water, a further Blackcock beyond the water and a Willow Grouse which flew right past us. A Snipe, unfortunately not Jack, landed in the bog just in front of us. As it was now past midnight, we headed back to the hotel (by 12.30am) having also picked up 5 species of mammals - Reindeer, Red Fox, Mountain Hare (2), Muskrat and finally a wonderfully naive Elk in the roadside ditch.

Friday 11th June Across the Arctic Circle to Ivalo

Mixed sunshine & showers, up to 17°C

We left Ruka by 9am with clear skies and sunshine, though clouds were threatening. We briefly checked Valtavaara again, both from the roadside and from tracks on the north side. Siberian Jays were again present at the roadside feeding station. We stopped for coffee as we crossed the Arctic Circle just south of Kemijärvi, then continued north towards Sodankylä. South of the town, we stopped at a layby to take a phone call and immediately found a Camberwell Beauty butterfly. A little further on, we checked a Tengmalm's Owl breeding hole, scratching the trunk so it would peer out - just checking it was us and not a predatory Pine Marten! A superb board-walk allowed us access across Sokan Aapa to a newly constructed birding tower. Lapland Ringlet butterflies were warming themselves on the boards, and Meadow Pipits and Grey-headed Wagtails were on territory. Just as we really had to leave, we spotted a Black-throated Diver on its nest. We had a fast drive then to the Kitinen River for a late lunch and to stretch our legs exploring the immediate surroundings. A nice Pied Flycatcher was singing from a riverside tree and there was a large House Martin colony under the road bridge.

At about 4pm, we returned the short distance south to Ilmakki Aapa and walked across the bog on the boardwalk to the tower hide. The Bog Rosemary and Bogbean were only just beginning to flower and there were no damselflies or butterflies visible. Good numbers of Wood Sandpipers were flying around and various Grey-headed Wagtails looked superb in the sunshine. A Little Bunting was singing near the tower and there was a Fieldfare nest at the top of the tower steps, containing five eggs. No wonder the adult Fieldfares were worrying us! Time was pressing, so we carried on northwards, arriving at Ivalo at around 6:15pm.

Saturday 12th June Ivalo & Inari areas

Sunshine & showers, some heavy, much cooler

After a 7:30am breakfast, we went straight to check out an Arctic Warbler found just up the road by the early risers amongst us - no sign of the bird for the rest of us, and no sign at a traditional territory just outside town. We therefore reverted to our original plan and travelled south to the hilltop at Urupää. This was just accessible by vehicle and very quickly after arriving beside the satellite antenna at the top, we found a male Ptarmigan. We walked a circuit round the hill, finding Whimbrels and Golden Plover. We then moved on to neighbouring Kaunispää for coffee and sticky buns, and just as we were finishing, a Dotterel was noticed from the window, just a few metres from the cafe! We all had excellent views before it flew off. We did a circuit of this hilltop but again found only Whimbrel and Golden Plover. We then headed back to the hotel for lunch.

After lunch, we headed north, turning into an excellent open pine forest before reaching Inari. Several kilometres down the track, we stopped in an area containing both mature and young pines. As we alighted from the vehicles, a female Pine Grosbeak was feeding in trees right beside us! She gave brilliant views, perching up on a low tree nearby. We walked a short way along the trail and it was whilst one of the group was following a Camberwell Beauty that a Willow Grouse was flushed. We headed back, finding Pine Grosbeak and Waxwings in the same area again. Although this was outside our normal itinerary, we managed a visit to the Sami Museum at Inari. This really excellent museum gives an insight into the history and lives of the Sami peoples, and includes both an interior exhibiting hall and external exhibits in the forested grounds. We then travelled a little way further north to the wet marsh at Haapalahti, where many Ruffs were lekking. There were also good numbers of Spotted Redshank and Wood Sandpipers, and Common Snipes were drumming overhead. A Jack Snipe was displaying in the distance and as it came towards us, two Merlins flew over. The Jack Snipe came right over us. We finished the day with a visit to the Inari Reindeer Farm, where we were treated to dinner in a kota and got 'up close and personal' with the Reindeer.

Sunday 13th June North again to Norway

Sunshine & showers, getting colder

We managed to load the big bags into the vehicle and be ready for breakfast by 7 o'clock and were heading north soon after 7:40am. Our first detour took us several kilometres along a track towards Iijarvi where we stopped at one of the bogs. We watched at least one Golden Eagle soaring in the distance and with Harri now in his wellingtons (and perilously close to overflowing!), a Broad-billed Sandpiper was flushed from the wet bog. A distraction display indicated a nest nearby so he withdrew a short way and we were treated to several flight views, including a display flight right overhead. The Golden Eagle (perhaps a second bird) glided across much nearer to us. Back on the main road and continuing northwards, our next stop was near Saytsjarvi where we saw several Long-tailed Skuas flying past. A lovely male Lapland Bunting was singing from a stunted birch and was joined by a Grey-headed Wagtail. This bird was sporting a clean white throat, unlike the yellow throat of most Scandinavian birds - how variable this species is! A very close Golden Plover in crisp breeding dress was also seen. Our next stop was for coffee and apple flan a few kilometres before Utsjoki. As we alighted from the vehicle, three Pine Grosbeaks were perched in a tree, including two stunning males. Going inside, we watched these from the tables, together with Redpolls, Bramblings and Greenfinches, all coming to the feeders just outside the window.

After a quick top up with diesel at Utsjoki, and finding the supermarket closed on a Sunday, we crossed the border and followed the Tana River on the Norwegian side, crossing at Tana Bru and headed for Høyholman. The great cliff overlooking the river again hosted a pair of Gyr Falcons, though we only saw the adult pair fly along the cliff top above us, and this was during a heavy rain squall so views were rather brief and poor. We then decided to move on to Høyholman itself, just a few kilometres up the road, to have our picnic lunch. The sun returned during this time and we had our lunch accompanied by displaying Temminck's Stints, and with Eiders and Black Guillemots on the water and many hundreds of Goosanders and Eiders on a distant sandbank. Three geese on the sand flats as we arrived were a surprise, these being two Barnacles and a Pink-foot. These had flown off by the time we returned along the road. An Oystercatcher's nest was found at the roadside, containing three eggs. We returned to the Gyr site, but despite waiting for some time in warm sunshine, there was no further sign of the adults.

We then headed back to Tana Bru and on over the ridge and down to Varanger Fjord itself. We had a brief stop at Varangerbotn for coffee and also to check the shoreline at the head of the fjord. At Nesseby Church, there were two breeding-plumaged Dunlin very close, a party of Common Scoter on the water and several Long-tailed and Arctic Skuas flew over. The isthmus at Ekkeroy was also quite quiet, though several Turnstone, Dunlin, Sanderling and Bar-tailed Godwits were on the shore, and a small flock of Long-tailed Ducks were in the bay. On then to Vardø to check in to the hotel and dinner.

Monday 14th June Hornøya Island, Vardø & Kiberg area

Overcast, strong SE wind, cold

We walked out to the western peninsula of Vardø island before breakfast. The strong wind made birding difficult but, even so, we found three Brünnich's Guillemots on the sea near the harbour entrance. Meadow Pipits, Fieldfares and Redwings were seen, some carrying food for young. On the southern, more sheltered, side overlooking the sound, several Wheatears and Red-throated Pipits gave us excellent views. There were massed ranks of Common Eiders near the mainland shore, but a small party of King Eiders were really too far away, even for the telescopes. Anyway, hot coffee and breakfast was calling!

We took the boat out to Hornøya Island and were, as usual, hit by the spectacle that only a large seabird colony can project. As we approached the jetty, Razorbills, Guillemots and Puffins skittered out of the way across the waves. Several Black Guillemots were loafing on the rocks near the landing stage and above us on the cliffs, Kittiwakes were most noticeable, with Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins also coming and going. Careful searching revealed good numbers of Brünnich's Guillemots, and we could all examine the detailed plumage differences through the telescopes. Walking slowly up the marked footpath, we passed very close to many birds - a photographer's delight! Half way round, we were able to look out across the beach and two smaller islands. Here, hundreds of gulls were loafing, together with Goosanders and Eiders on the water. An immature Glaucous Gull was found and was watched through the telescopes with the other gulls. Several Fulmars and Gannets passed offshore. On the way back down the path to the landing stage, some of us watched a pair of Ravens raiding a Kittiwake nest, bundling the adult out of the way. As you can imagine, there was much noise and annoyance from the neighbours! We were duly collected by the boat after just over two hours.

Returning to Vardø, we saw an adult Glaucous Gull in the harbour. After a much needed coffee, we took the vehicle back to the western end of the island. A small group of King Eiders were just offshore and much closer than the morning's sighting. An area of rough grasses near an old quarry face had attracted several Twite and a pair of Snow Buntings were ferrying food into a crevice. We could hear the brood of young calling loudly every time an adult arrived. Both species gave us excellent views.

We then drove back to the town for an excellent fish lunch in a cafe-bar, after which we explored the mainland coastline to the south. The bitter wind had strengthened and we found what shelter we could, whilst checking out large numbers of Eiders in the waves. Good numbers of Goosanders and Red-breasted Mergansers were also seen, and several Long-tailed Ducks. Fields nearby held two Tundra Bean Geese and a Ring Ouzel appeared on the bluff, perching first on an exposed rock but quickly retiring into the relative shelter of a small tree. As we left, a Shore Lark appeared on the track ahead of us and had a dust-bath. We stopped at a second inland cliff where a pair of White-tailed Eagles were present - the adults showing beautifully in the air and perched on the cliff. A large flock of Eiders offshore held just a single King Eider, this bird being an adult male just going into eclipse plumage. It was very difficult for everyone to follow him as the flock kept disappearing into the wave-troughs. Ultimately they started to feed so it became increasingly difficult as he was either underwater or between waves. We moved on, stopping occasionally. Finally, at Kiberg, we found three more Glaucous Gulls on the beach, and two immature King Eiders were at the end of the breakwater.

Back at the hotel, most had just got to their rooms (or even into the shower!) when Harri telephoned round with the news that an immature Iceland Gull was with the gulls loafing on a rooftop the other side of the harbour. We all arrived in Harri's room to view the bird through the telescopes.

Tuesday 15th June Along the north coast to Hamningberg

Overcast, windy from NW, still cold

We headed west along the coast after breakfast, stopping periodically to check the various lakes, bays and beaches. As we crested the first ridge outside Vardø, a Pomarine Skua flew over, most people managing to see the 'trailing spoons' on its tail. Views of Red-throated Divers and just one immature Great Northern Diver proved difficult in the cold and windy conditions. Goosanders, Red-breasted Mergansers and at one point, small numbers of Long-tailed Ducks were also seen. We managed a magnificent total of six White-tailed Eagles and these included an adult pair perching on a cliff allowing us to view them through the telescopes. A little later, one flew out over a bay as two more to patrol a snowfield above us. These again perched several times. Finally, a further adult flew past us at Hamningberg, again heading across the bay. A party of six geese beside a river mouth included four Taiga Bean Geese and singles of Pink-footed and White-fronted Geese. We had lunch sheltered from the wind at Hamningberg, watching Snow Buntings and Red-throated Pipits on the grass around us and the large numbers of seabirds passing the point. Arctic Skuas were patrolling continuously, and several times we saw these birds chasing Kittiwakes. Interestingly, the Herring Gulls often joined in, hoping to steal a free meal from the skua!

We checked the bay across the isthmus from Hamningberg, finding a flock of King Eiders (unfortunately no adult males here) and an immature Glaucous Gull feeding on the beach on something juicy! Retracing our journey, we stopped at a large area of willow scrub alongside a river. This contained Redwing and Fieldfare, and both species of Redpolls. We had superb views of both Common and Arctic Redpolls perched in the same tree just in front of us. We could hear a Bluethroat singing but failed to see it. Beside the river itself, there were Temminck's Stint, Ringed Plover, Redshank and four Ruffs. Just before reaching Vardø again, we turned inland to check out a particular lake. Three drake Pintails were feeding here, and a Red-necked Phalarope allowed everyone to view it through the telescopes. It was surprising how few phalaropes we found this year. Finally, out on the western point of Vardø island, we found a lovely male Bluethroat.

Wednesday 16th June South to Ivalo, fly on to Helsinki

Overcast, rain all the way to Helsinki!

We departed from Vardø by 8am in driving rain and sleet. We again checked the Eider flocks along the shore but unfortunately no sign of Steller's Eider - our first year failing to find this species. An adult White-billed Diver was found offshore and allowed distant views in the telescopes; then an adult Great Northern Diver appeared nearby to allow comparison. We had a brief stop at Vadso for restrooms, munchies and to check the shorebirds in the bay. There were some excellent breeding plumaged Bar-tailed Godwits and Dunlin here, one of the latter was displaying and 'singing' to a female - what smart little birds in their breeding dress. We then continued across the border to Finland at Nuorgam and headed on to Utsjoki for a light lunch, checking also the bird feeders for our final 'fix' of Pine Grosbeaks and Bramblings!

We drove on after lunch, arriving in Ivalo in good time to check out an Arctic Warbler on territory and to have an early dinner. Our flight to Helsinki was on time and we met up with Matti as arranged, to check into our hotel near the airport.

Thursday 17th June Helsinki area & departure

Some cloud but mainly sunny & warm!

We had an early breakfast and were away by 6:30, heading to the Laahalahti area, west of Helsinki. We drove straight there, walked down an overgrown track and immediately found River Warbler, singing and in full view at the top of a pile of dead branches. An Icterine Warbler started to sing from trees behind us and we managed some views of the bird through binoculars. It was unfortunately too mobile for the telescopes. We walked on to a boardwalk which took us along the edge of the marsh where Common Whitethroats, Rosefinches and a male Red-backed Shrike all showed well. We could hear a Thrush Nightingale but it was too deep in the scrub. However, a little further on, we found another singing well beside the path, and we all managed excellent views as it perched in full view on some dead branches. Walking on through a wood, we found Treecreeper and Coal Tit, and had good views of Garden Warbler (at last!). We drove a short distance and found Marsh Warblers and Blyth's Reed Warbler - the former giving good views as it sang from some dead sticks, the latter being far more difficult as it crept around tangled vegetation just in front of us. A final location for Corncrake was unsuccessful, which was not surprising considering the time of day.

We returned to the hotel for coffee, our final checklist and to pack tripods etc, before departing for a cafe lunch and the airport.

Species Lists:

The various species lists below use the following references:

Birds: We use the suggested worldwide English names and systematic order as found in World Bird Species Checklist: with alternate English & scientific names (Wells, M.G., 1998). Commonly used alternates are enclosed in [ ] or separated by / .

Collins Bird Guide (Svensson, L. & Grant, P.J., 1999)

Butterflies: Collins Field Guide: Butterflies of Britain & Europe (Tolman, T. & Lewington, R., 1997)

Mammals: We use the suggested worldwide English names and systematic order as found in Mammals of the World, A Checklist (Duff, A. & Lawson, A., 2004)

Collins Field Guide: Mammals of Britain & Europe (Macdonald, D. & Barrett, P., 1993)

Plants: The Wild Flowers of Britain & Northern Europe (Fitter, R., Fitter, A. & Blamey, M., 1985)


Red-throated Diver: Noted on 5 days with 10+ on 6th, 1 Ekkeroy on 13th, 2 on 14th, at least 30 on sea & 1 on lochan on 15th, several on 16th.

Black-throated Diver: Noted on 6 days with 1 on 6th, 1 on 10th, on nest on 11th, 2 Utsjoki on 13th, 5 on 14th, many on sea on 16th.

Great Northern Diver: Noted on 2 days with an immature on sea on 15th, and an adult Varanger on 16th.

White-billed Diver: An adult distantly, Varanger on 16th.

Red-necked Grebe: Noted on 3 days with 2 in Liminka Bay on 7th, several pairs Kuusamo on 9th, 1 Kemijarvi on 11th.

Great Crested Grebe: c12 Liminka on 7th.

Slavonian/Horned Grebe: Two on 6th, Liminka area.

Northern Fulmar: Several off Hornøya on 14th.

Northern Gannet: Noted on 2 days with 2 off Hornøya on 14th, several on 15th.

Great Cormorant: Noted on 5 days, 6th & 13th - 16th.

European Shag: Noted on 3 days, 14th - 16th.

Great Bittern: Heard booming on 6th.

Whooper Swan: Noted on 9 days in Finland, max at least 200 Lim on 7th.

Taiga [Bean] Goose: Noted on 2 days, 21 unidentified Bean Geese (probably this species) flew over on 12th, 1 with other geese near Hamningberg on 15th.

Tundra [Bean] Goose: Two on 14th, Vardø.

Greylag Goose: Noted on 3 days around Oulo, 5th - 7th.

White-fronted Goose: One with other geese near Hamningberg on 15th.

Barnacle Goose: Two at Høyholman on 13th.

Pink-footed Goose: Noted on 2 days with 1 Høyholman on 13th, 3 with other geese near Hamningberg on 15th.

Common Shelduck: Noted on 2 days, on 6th & 13th.

Eurasian Wigeon: Noted on 8 days, 6th - 13th.

Gadwall: A pair, Liminka on 7th.

Eurasian/Common Teal: Noted on 8 days including broods of ducklings, 6th - 13th.

Mallard: Noted on 9 days including broods of ducklings, 6th - 13th, & 15th.

Northern Pintail: Noted on 4 days with several on 7th, a male Kuusamo on 9th, a female on 12th, 3 males on 15th.

Garganey: Noted on 2 days with a male on 6th, a pair Liminka on 7th.

Northern Shoveler: Several noted on 4 days, 6th - 8th, & 10th.

Tufted Duck: Noted regularly on 10 days, 5th - 13th, & 16th.

Common Eider: Noted on 4 days, 13th - 16th.

King Eider: Noted on 2 days with at least 15 on 14th, c10 on 15th.

Long-tailed Duck: Noted on 4 days with 11 Ekkerøy on 13th, 2 on 14th, c10 on 15th, 1 on 16th.

Common/Black Scoter: Noted on 4 days, several near Kempele on 6th, & Kuusamo on 10th, c20 off Nesseby on 13th, c30 Varanger on 16th.

Velvet/White-winged Scoter: Noted on 2 days with 14 near Kuusamo on 10th, 2 pairs en route on 13th.

Common Goldeneye: Noted on 9 days including broods of ducklings, 6th -13th, & 16th.

Smew: Noted on 4 days with at least 11 during day on 7th, a male near Kuusamo on 9th, several on 10th, 2 females on 12th.

Red-breasted Merganser: Noted on 9 days, 6th - 8th, 10th, 12th - 16th.

Goosander: Noted on 5 days, 10th, & 13th - 16th.

Osprey: Noted on 2 days with 1 in Liminka area on 6th, 1 Iivaara on 9th.

European Honey-Buzzard: 1 at Oulanka on 10th.

White-tailed Eagle: Noted on 3 days with a pair at nest & an imm on 14th, 6 in total on 15th, 5 en route Varanger on 16th.

Hen Harrier: A male over Liminka Marshes on 7th.

[Eurasian] Marsh Harrier: Noted on 3 days with 2 Oulu on 5th, several on 7th, a female on 8th.

Northern Goshawk: Noted on 2 days with 1 near nest on 6th, 1 on 10th.

Common Buzzard: 1 en route on 11th.

Rough-legged Buzzard: Noted on 3 days with 1 in Ivalo/Inari area on 12th, 1 in Kiberg area on 14th, 1 between Utsjoki & Ivalo on 16th.

Golden Eagle: A sub-adult on 13th, Iijarvi.

Common/Eurasian Kestrel: Noted on 2 days in Oulu area, 2 on 5th, 1 on 6th.

Red-footed Falcon: A sub-adult pair looking rather cold on 6th, Liminka araea.

Merlin: Two on 12th, Haapalahti.

Gyr Falcon: A pair on 13th.

Peregrine Falcon: Single birds noted on 3 days, 8th, 13th, & 15th.

Willow Grouse / Willow Ptarmigan: Single birds noted on 2 days, 10th & 12th.

[Rock] Ptarmigan: One on 12th at Urupää.

Black Grouse: Several on 10th, Oulanka NP.

Western/Eurasian Capercaillie: A female near Kuusamo on 9th.

Hazel Grouse: A pair on 10th, Oulanka NP.

Common Crane: Noted on 7 days with 3 on 5th, at least 30 on 7th, several on 8th, 2 on 9th, c8 on 10th, 1 on 11th, 1 on 13th.

Common Pheasant: Several noted on 2 days in Oulu area, 5th & 6th.

Eurasian/Common Coot: Two at Liminka on 7th.

Eurasian Oystercatcher: Noted on 6 days.

Northern Lapwing: Noted on 5 days, usually in roadside fields, 5th - 8th, & 10th.

European Golden Plover: Noted on 5 days with several on territory on 12th, 1 on 13th, c9 on 14th, several on 15th, c10 Varanger on 16th.

[Greater] Ringed Plover: Noted on 10 days.

Little [Ringed] Plover: Two in Oulu area on 6th.

Eurasian/Mountain Dotterel: One on 12th at Kaunispää.

Black-tailed Godwit: Noted on 2 days with several on 6th, several breeding birds on 7th.

Bar-tailed Godwit: Noted on 3 days with 6 at Ekkerøy on 13th, 9 on 15th, c30 Vadso on 16th.

[Eurasian] Whimbrel: Noted on 3 days with 1 Kuusamo on 9th, several on territory on 12th, 1 Ekkerøy on 13th.

Eurasian Curlew: Noted on 7 days, 5th - 11th.

Spotted Redshank: Noted on 5 days with several on 6th - 8th, 24 on 10th, several on 12th.

Common Redshank: Noted on 8 days.

Common Greenshank: Noted on 8 days.

Green Sandpiper: Noted on 2 days with 1 on 7th, 1 on 10th.

Wood Sandpiper: Noted on 10 days.

Common Sandpiper: Noted on 8 days with several on 6th, then single birds on 7th, 9th - 13th, & 16th.

Ruddy Turnstone: Noted on 5 days.

Red-necked Phalarope: Noted on 4 days with 5 on 9th, several on 12th, few on 13th, remarkably few on 15th.

Eurasian Woodcock: Noted on 4 days with roding birds 5th - 7th, & 10th.

Common Snipe: Noted on 10 days, usually performing their drumming display flights.

Jack Snipe: One displaying on 12th, Haapalahti.

Sanderling: Noted on 4 days with 3 on 13th, 2 on 14th, 5 on 15th, singles at Varanger & Vadso on 16th.

Temminck's Stint: Noted on 4 days with at least 5 on 6th, 1 on 8th, several on 13th, 2 on 15th.

Dunlin: Noted on 4 days with 1 in breeding plumage at Kuusamo on 9th, 6 on 13th, 3 on 14th, c30 Vadso including displaying & 'singing' male on 16th.

Broad-billed Sandpiper: Two on 13th.

Ruff: Noted on 9 days with a pair on 6th, several males with females on 7th, a male on 8th, a male on 9th, 2 males on 11th, many males lekking on 12th, few on 13th, 1 on 14th, 4 on 15th.

Pomarine Skua/Jaeger: One on 15th, Vardø.

Arctic Skua / Parasitic Jaeger: Noted on 5 days with 1 on 6th, then noted regularly 13th - 16th.

Long-tailed Skua/Jaeger: Noted on 2 days with 6 Finland 3 Varanger on 13th, 1 Vardo on 14th.

Common/Mew Gull: Noted each day.

Herring Gull: Noted on 9 days.

Heuglin's/Siberian Gull: Noted on 2 days with 3 at Kuusamo refuse dump on 9th, also on 11th.

Lesser Black-backed Gull: Noted on 3 days, 9th - 11th.

Great Black-backed Gull: Noted on 5 days, 9th, & 13th - 16th.

Glaucous Gull: Noted on 3 days with a second year bird Kuusamo on 9th, 5 (3 ad 2 imm) at Hornøya, Vardø & Kiberg on 14th, 2 in Hamningberg area on 15th.

Iceland Gull: An immature at Vardø on 14th.

Black-headed Gull: Noted on 9 days, 5th - 12th, & 17th.

Little Gull: Noted on 4 days, 7th - 10th.

[Black-legged] Kittiwake: Noted on 4 days, 13th - 16th.

Caspian Tern: An adult at Kempele on 6th.

Common Tern: Noted on 8 days, from Oulu right up to Vardø.

Arctic Tern: Noted most days.

Little Tern: Noted on 4 days in Oulu-Liminka area, 5th - 8th.

Razorbill: Noted on 2 days, off Vardø.

Brünnich's Guillemot: Noted on 2 days, off Vardø.

Common Guillemot: Noted on 2 days, off Vardø.

Black Guillemot: Noted on 4 days, 13th - 16th.

Atlantic Puffin: Noted on 2 days, off Vardø.

Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon: Noted on 5 days.

Stock Dove: Several in Oulu area on 5th.

[Common] Wood Pigeon: Noted on 6 days.

Common Cuckoo: Noted on 6 days with 2 heard on 8th, heard Iivaara on 9th, 2 heard on 10th, heard & seen on 11th, heard on 12th, heard on 13th.

Eurasian Eagle Owl: Noted on 2 days with 1 on beach near Oulu on 7th, 2 owlets on nesting ledge on 10th.

Ural Owl: An adult female near nestbox on 8th.

[Northern] Hawk Owl: A female near nest hole on 10th.

Eurasian Pygmy-owl: A pair with young in nestbox on 5th.

Tengmalm's/Boreal Owl: Noted on 2 days with 2 newly-fledged youngsters on 6th, an adult at nest hole on 11th.

Common Swift: Noted on 6 days, 5th - 9th, & 17th.

Eurasian Wryneck: One at nest hole on 8th.

Great Spotted Woodpecker: Noted on 6 days.

Three-toed Woodpecker: A pair at nest hole on 6th.

Black Woodpecker: Two well grown young in nest hole on 6th.

[Eurasian/Common] Sky Lark: Noted on 3 days, in Oulu area on 5th - 6th, near Helsinki on 17th.

Shore/Horned Lark: One on 14th, Vardø.

Sand Martin / Bank Swallow: Noted on 8 days, including 4 at Vadso on 16th.

Barn Swallow: Noted on 7 days, 5th - 11th.

[Common] House Martin: Noted on 8 days, 6th - 13th.

Grey-headed Wagtail: Noted on 6 days with several on 7th, singles on 8th - 10th, several on 11th, a male on 13th.

Citrine Wagtail: Three males & a female near Kempele on 7th.

White Wagtail: Noted most days.

Meadow Pipit: Noted on 6 days, 11th - 16th.

Tree Pipit: Noted on 6 days, 6th - 10th, & 17th.

Red-throated Pipit: Noted on 4 days, 1 on 13th, several nice views on 14th - 16th.

Rock Pipit: Noted on 2 days with several Hornøya on 14th, & on beach on 15th.

Red-backed Shrike: A male at Laahalahti on 17th.

Northern/Great Grey Shrike: Two en route on 8th.

Bohemian Waxwing: Noted on 6 days, 9th - 13th, 7 at Vardø on 14th was unusual.

White-throated Dipper: Three on river on 10th.

Dunnock / Hedge Accentor: Noted on 2 days, Oulu area on 6th, several at Iivaara on 9th.

Ring Ouzel: One on 14th, Vardø.

Common Blackbird: Noted in Helsinki area on 17th.

Fieldfare: Noted each day.

Redwing: Noted most days.

Song Thrush: Noted on 4 days, 9th - 11th, & 17th.

Mistle Thrush: Noted on 4 days, 9th - 11th, & 17th.

European Robin: Noted on 4 days, 7th, 10th, 14th, & 17th.

Thrush Nightingale: Three singing birds in Helsinki area on 17th.

Bluethroat: Noted on 3 days with a male on 13th, several heard & seen on 15th, several across the road en route on 16th.

Red-flanked Bluetail: A superb male in full song at Iivaara on 9th.

Common Redstart: Noted on 8 days, 5th - 12th.

Whinchat: Noted on 6 days, 5th & 7th - 11th.

Northern Wheatear: Noted on 7 days throughout the trip.

River Warbler: Excellent views of a singing bird at Laahalähti on 17th.

Sedge Warbler: Noted on 6 days, 5th - 9th, & 17th.

Blyth's Reed Warbler: One seen briefly at Laahalähti on 17th.

Marsh Warbler: Two singing males at Laahalähti on 17th.

Icterine Warbler: Noted on 2 days, heard near hotel on 5th, singing birds seen on 17th.

Willow Warbler: Noted each day.

Wood Warbler: Noted on 2 days near Oulu, 7th & 8th.

Arctic Warbler: Noted on 2 days with 1 seen during early morning in Ivalo on 12th, a male on territory near Ivalo on 16th.

Blackcap: 2 singing on 17th, Helsinki.

Garden Warbler: Noted on 7 days, 5th -10th, & 17th.

Common Whitethroat: Several seen on 17th, Helsinki.

Lesser Whitethroat: Noted on 3 days with heard singing Oulu on 6th, 3 seen Lumijoki on 7th, singing on 17th.

Goldcrest: Noted on 2 days with several on 8th, heard Valtavaara on 11th.

Spotted Flycatcher: Noted on 9 days, 5th - 12th, & 17th.

[European] Pied Flycatcher: Noted most days except the far north of Norway.

Willow Tit: Noted on 6 days, 6th & 8th - 12th.

Siberian Tit: A pair at nest box on 10th, Oulanka NP.

Coal Tit: Heard calling on 17th, Helsinki.

Crested Tit: One on 6th, Liminka.

Great Tit: Noted on 8 days.

Blue Tit: Noted on 5 days.

Eurasian Treecreeper: Noted on 4 days, at Lumijoki on 7th, heard on 8th, newly fledged family group on 9th, heard on 17th.

Eurasian Jay: Noted on 2 days with 1 en route on 6th, 1 on 12th.

Siberian Jay: Noted on 2 days at Valtavaara, where 2 seen on 10th & 11th.

Black-billed/Eurasian Magpie: Noted most days.

Western/Eurasian Jackdaw: Noted on 5 days, 5th - 8th, & 17th.

Rook: Noted on 3 days, 6th - 8th.

Hooded Crow: Noted each day.

Common Raven: Noted on 8 days with c12 at Kuusamo refuse dump on 9th, heard on 10th, 1 on 11th, then noted regularly 12th - 16th.

Common Starling: Noted only at Laahalahti on 17th.

Yellowhammer: Noted on 8 days, 5th - 12th.

Ortolan Bunting: Noted on 2 days with a singing male seen on 5th, also on 6th.

Little Bunting: Noted on 2 days with 2 singing males Kuusamo on 9th, & another at Ilmakki Aapa on 11th.

Rustic Bunting: Heard and seen flying over (not good views!) on 10th.

[Common] Reed Bunting: Noted on 8 days.

Lapland Bunting/Longspur: Two males on 13th.

Snow Bunting: Noted on 2 days with several including young in nest on 14th, several on 15th.

Common/European Chaffinch: Noted on 9 days, 5th - 11th, 13th, & 17th.

Brambling: Noted on 10 days, 7th - 13th, 15th - 17th.

European Greenfinch: Noted on 8 days, 6th - 8th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 16th, & 17th.

Eurasian Siskin: Noted on 9 days, 5th - 12th, & 17th.

European Goldfinch: Several on 17th, Helsinki.

Arctic/Hoary Redpoll: Excellent views of 2 birds on 15th.

Common/Mealy Redpoll: Noted most days.

Twite: Several excellent views at Vardø on 14th.

Common Linnet: Several near airport hotel on 17th, Helsinki.

Common Rosefinch: Noted on 6 days, 5th - 8th, 10th, & 17th.

Pine Grosbeak: Noted on 3 days with 2 females on 12th, 2 pairs at feeders at Utsjoki on 13th, several again at Utsjoki on 16th.

Parrot Crossbill: A male perched on tree top on 10th, Oulanka NP.

Common/Red Crossbill: Noted on 3 days with c25 Oulu on 6th, several brief views on 9th & 10th.

White-winged/Two-barred Crossbill: A brief fly-over, plus another heard, on 8th, Oulu-Kuusamo.

Common/Eurasian Bullfinch: Noted on 6 days, 6th, 9th - 11th, 13th, & 16th.

House Sparrow: Noted on 9 days, 6th, 7th, 11th - 17th.

BUTTERFLIES & other insects:

Green-veined White: Noted on 2 days, 7th & 11th.

Wood White: Noted at Liminka on 7th.

Green Hairstreak: Noted on 3 days, on 8th, many on wing on 10th, & 11th.

Holly Blue: Noted on 2 days, singles on 10th & 11th.

Violet Copper: Many on 10th.

Camberwell Beauty: Noted on 2 days, 11th & 12th.

Small Tortoiseshell: Noted on 3 days, 11th - 13th.

Lapland Ringlet: Noted only on 11th.

Small Skipper: Found near airport hotel on 17th.


Red Fox: One during our late night Black Grouse hunt on 10th.

Stoat: One during lunch at Hamningberg on 15th.

American Mink: One, Oulanka River, on 10th.

Grey Seal: One near Hamningberg on 15th.

Elk / Moose: Noted on 2 days with 1 in Oulu area on 7th, 1 very close by the roadside on 10th.

Reindeer / Caribou: Noted on 9 days, 8th - 16th.

Eurasian Red Squirrel: Noted on 5 days with one dead on road on 5th, then several sightings on 7th, & 9th - 11th.

Muskrat: Noted on 2 days, 10th & 12th.

Brown/European Hare: Noted on 4 days, in Oulu area on 5th - 7th, Laahalahti on 17th.

Mountain/Blue Hare: Noted on 4 days, 9th, 10th, 12th, & 16th.


(nos. on the right refer to Fitter, Fitter & Blamey,

The Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe)

Betulaceae: Dwarf Birch Betula nana 30.6

Caryophyllaceae: Moss Campion Silene acaulis 58.5

Red Campion Silene dioica 60.1

Sticky Catchfly Lychnis viscaria 60.5

Alpine Catchfly Lychnis alpina 60.6

Ranunculaceae: Globe Flower Trollius europaeus 68.1

Kingcup / Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris 68.2

Papaveraceae: Arctic Poppy Papaver radicatum 80.6

Cruciferae: Common Scurvy-grass Cochlearia officinalis 92.7

Alpine Pennycress Thlaspi alpestre 98.6

Crassulaceae: Roseroot Rhodiola rosea 100.6

Saxifragaceae: Tufted Saxifrage Saxifraga cespitosa 106.8

Purple Saxifrage Saxifraga oppositifolia 106.9

Rosaceae: Alpine Lady's Mantle Alchemilla alpina or A.conjuncta 108.7

Cloudberry Rubus chamaemorus 110.8

Arctic Bramble Rubus arcticus 110.9

Water Avens Geum rivale 112.5

Mountain Avens Dryas octopetala 112.7

Bird Cherry Prunus padus 118.4

Leguminosae: Yellow Milk-vetch Oxytropis campestris 122.5

Northern Milk-vetch Oxytropis lapponica 122.6a

Geraniaceae: Wood Cranesbill Geranium sylvaticum 138.1

Thymelaeaceae: Mezereon Daphne mezereum 142.6

Violaceae: Heath Dog Violet Viola canina 150.3

Marsh Violet (?) Viola palustris (?) 150.6

Yellow Wood Violet Viola biflora 150.7

Field Pansy Viola arvensis 150.9

Cornaceae: Dwarf Cornel Cornus suecica 158.3

Ericaceae: Mountain Heath Phillodoce caerulea 174.7

Bog Rosemary Andromeda polifolia 174.8

Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus 176.1

Cowberry / Lingenberry Vaccinium vitis-idaea 176.2

Alpine Bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 176.4

Black Bearberry Arctostaphylos alpina 176.4a

Trailing/Wild Azalea Loiseleuria procumbens 176.6

Empetraceae: Crowberry Empetrum nigrum 176.10

Primulaceae: Primula nutans or P. stricta 178.5a/b

Chickweed Wintergreen Trientalis europaea 180.3

Boraginaceae: Forgetmenot sp. Myosotis sp. 194

Oysterplant Mertensia maritime 196.6

Lentibulariaceae: Alpine Butterwort Pinguicula alpina 222.8a

Campanulaceae: Bellflower sp. Campanula sp. 230

Compositae: Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara 244.5

Orchidaceae: Lady's Slipper Orchid Cypripedium calceolus 278.1

Calypso Orchid Calypso bulbosa 278.7

As ever, the success of a trip depends upon the pleasure of the company and this one was no exception; I do hope you all enjoyed the trip as much as I did. We found a great many excellent birds, and just a few butterflies. I 'm sure each of us has taken away our own particular memories. Highlights, I guess, must include the five species of owls, the various breeding-plumaged shorebirds, godwits, ruffs, spotted redshank etc. and, further north, the seabird colony on Hornøya Island, the large numbers of ducks and unexpected geese, and the 'arctic ' buntings, all set in what is, in places, a lunar landscape. We were, of course, very disappointed that Steller's Eider, Great Grey Owl and Terek Sandpiper all eluded us, but that is birding no year or trip is ever quite the same!

Well done to all of you who made this trip the success it was, and our special thanks to Harri and Matti who shared their knowledge so freely.

I hope to see you all on another trip sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Keith Grant, June 2004

© The Travelling Naturalist 2004