TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT



Northern Finland

30 May to 5 June, 2005





Leaders: Tim Earl

Markku Hukkanen of Finnature



Highlights:

  • Pygmy Owl singing to us before catching a small bird and feeding it to his mate. He then slept for ten minutes while we watched.

  • Great Grey Owl sitting with four chicks on her nest.

  • Five Cranes flying past the hide we were in.

  • Ten sightings of Bitterns in an hour. This included a pair doing display flights which lasted a couple of minutes each.

  • A Ural Owl sitting in perfect dappled sunlight watching us. She had a spruce behind her giving a near-perfect view. Probably the highlight of this trip.

  • A Great Grey Owl with four owlets… charming.

  • The Pygmy Owl which fed its mate and then went to sleep on a branch in front of us.

  • Black Woodpeckers feeding their two well-grown chicks.

  • The Great Grey Shrike which popped up at the Ylikiiminki nature reserve.

  • Calypso Orchids found in bloom behind a café which took its name from the rare plant.

  • A Red-flanked Bluetail which sat in perfect light on a tree-top below us and sang its heart out.

  • The Siberian Jay which spiralled up a spruce tree and posed for us so obligingly making our several attempts to see the species worthwhile.

  • The Little Bunting singing next to a main road out of Kuusamo.

  • The Whooper Swan which serenaded us [surely its mate – Ed?] on our last evening outing.



Daily diary



Monday 30 May

Arrival in Oulu + Pygmy Owl


An inauspicious start, with a 45-minute delay leaving Heathrow and a rush through Helsinki Airport as a result, put pressure on northern Finland to come up with some compensation. What could have been better than an evening with brilliant views of the smallest owl in Europe?

Short-eared Owls first, with two quartering fields and being mobbed by Jackdaws as we set off on our post-dinner jaunt. Two were seen well along with a tricky Pink-footed Goose in a flock of Greylags, an excellent find by Mike. Curlews and Redshanks were displaying, Sky Larks singing and the partially-ploughed fields seemed alive with birds. A singing Ortolan Bunting was heard briefly.

We drove for about 20 minutes to a likely-looking wood where a cross-country ski-trail was followed into its depths. It was not long before we heard the distinctive calls of a Pygmy Owl which came and sat in a tree only a few feet away from us. We enjoyed superb telescope views of the male until it left.

Its mate started her wheezing ‘feed-me’ call and we were in time to see her with a dead small bird the male had caught seconds before as we walked into the wood. She disappeared back into their nest box with her supper while he flew to a tree over looking us… and went to sleep. We left him in his post-courtship slumber.

“That’ll take some beating,” David said, more a compliment than a challenge.

Our day had ended at midnight, the latest any Travelling Naturalist group has stayed out birding. We all agreed, however, that it had been a great start to the trip.

Our hotel was comfortable, the food good, service attentive and we retired to bed well pleased with the end-of-day activities.



Tuesday 31 May

Oulu area and more owls

Great birds and super weather made for a first-class day. We started with a 6am pre-breakfast trip to Hietasaari Tower where we crowded onto a platform and looked for Terek Sandpipers, without success. However, three Caspian and two Little Terns, Snipe drumming out their classic displays in front of us, Common Rosefinch, Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting singing nearby all made up for that. Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover and three Whooper Swans swooped in to give good ‘scope views – as we were watching them a small grey and white duck flew into view and dropped into a pool in front of us – a fine red-headed duck Smew. Our return to the vehicles was serenaded by Garden and Wood Warblers.

Leaving at 9.30 we were soon on the shores of the beautiful Papinjärvi Lake where a stunning Red-throated Diver was posing within a few metres of the bank while many pairs of Common Scoter sat together across the surface. All sorts of wildlfowl were added to the list: Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser. Common Sandpipers were performing display flights. A couple of Little Gulls dipped over the lake before it was time to move on.

A walk in the woods near Liminka produced great views of a singing [more like an asthmatic wheeze, surely – Ed?] Brambling, several Siskins and a few Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Ray found a perched Hobby in time for most to see the bird before it did a quick circuit and disappeared. A pair of Goosander and a fine male Wheatear were watched at a nearby harbour before we left for an excellent lunch at the Liminganlahti Lake interpretation centre.

We walked out to a huge hide overlooking the marshes where birds took turns to parade past us. A couple of drake Garganey were much admired as were the other wildfowl which included scores of Whooper Swans, Pintail, Tufted Ducks and lots of sawbills.

Five Cranes flew past us and across the bay to settle in the reeds behind, providing one of the highlight moments of the trip. This was followed by a row of Mallard heads which popped up out of the grass in alarm alerting me to a pale Peregrine which caused a scrabble but gave good views as it passed behind the hide.

The phrase ‘it will be with reluctance that we dragged ourselves away,’ applied throughout this super Finland break and not for the first time as we left Liminganlahti Lake. W drove south to pristine old forest at Paavola where we crept up on a nest in which a beautiful Great Grey Owl was guarding her fairly small brood. Remaining well back we could see her face and shoulders as she alternated between keeping an eye on us and sleeping.

A small head could be seen to her left occasionally as one of the owlets moved but this became four heads, with a distinct and classical gradation according to age, when we moved to a different angle.

The move was initiated by the calls of Crested and Willow Tits which we saw well as Goldcrest and Redwing sang in the area. It was a delightful time watching super birds. A short move in the vehicles took us to a huge nest-box from which a brood of Ural Owl chicks had fledged a day or two earlier. Markku donned protective headgear and walked off into a clearing to see if he could find one of the chicks. We thought the headgear might be needed when an adult Ural Owl was spotted in a tree watching our guide. Before we could get scopes on it the bird ghosted back into the wood not to be seen again.

Markku flushed a female Capercaillie as he entered the clearing and a Cuckoo was heard loudly. We returned to the hotel at 7.30 for a well earned and delicious meal.



Wednesday 31 May

Hailuoto Island, Vartti Forest and another Ural Owl

An early start saw us catching a ferry to Hailuoto Island where a comfort stop gave us a moment to enjoy good views of nesting Arctic Terns and a distant Great Black-backed Gull. The harbour at Potinlahti Bay was home to several Shelducks and a brightly coloured Ruff.

Our coffee stop at Kirkkosalmi observation tower was a real treat as it overlooked a reed-bed and inlet of the sea. I asked everyone to look out for flying Bitterns as we had heard them booming out their love-calls from here the previous year.

Within a few minutes a Crane was spotted flying into the reeds. (This may have prompted an unseen territorial dispute as a bird appeared to chase of a second crane soon afterwards.)

As we watched the crane I picked up a movement close to the hide above reeds behind us and we delighted in extraordinary views of two Bitterns in an apparently stiff-winged lazy courtship flight. They circled and dipped for at least two minutes and were even joined by a third Bittern. This was quite exceptional. A fourth jumped up in front of us and flew across the road to join the others a little later and then another courtship flight was made soon after that. In all we had 10 sightings of Bitterns involving at least four birds and possibly six.

A couple of Sparrowhawks were seen and a Whitethroat rattled out its song behind the tower, giving a song-flight for those who wanted a ‘seen’ tick. All too soon it was time to leave for the 12.30 ferry back to the mainland. A Turnstone or two was sighted by the terminal on arrival before we set off for another attempt to find the Three-toed Woodpecker.

It was without success again although we enjoyed a good picnic close to where the birds had been seen. Collared Dove and Mistle Thrush were added to the list and we al enjoyed good ‘scope views of a singing Common Rosefinch.

Yesterday’s views of Ural Owl had been fleeting so we went to another site where a pair were using a nest-box close to their more traditional nest first built by a pair of Goshawks. Markku donned protective clothing again but once more it was not needed. We found an adult Ural Owl sitting in a tree close to the nest and enjoyed wonderful views for some time, eventually leaving it still on guard. It is often the case that Ural and Great Grey Owls are seen deep in a nest giving satisfactory but not stunning views. On this occasion we had seen both species brilliantly well and it was with a great sense of elation that we returned to the hotel to prepare for dinner.

This charming event (it included a song rendered by our hostesses’ children) was enjoyed as a typical Finnish meal, with home cooked food grown on the farm. We looked around the family’s little museum in one of the barns and then set of for a slightly less salubrious end to the evening – a trip to Oulu’s rubbish tip in the hope of seeing its resident Eagle Owl. Sadly, a man with a rifle was wandering over the tip shooting rats and the wise old owl decided to keep clear. The hunter did not put off a pair of Short-eared Owls, however, and we were able to watch brief display flights by the male. A pair of Woodcock flew over clicking and three Temminck’s Stints flew out of a muddy pond which was also home to a couple of Oystercatchers.

The day ended at midnight.



Thursday 2 June

Derek the Terek sees us off to Kuusamo

Our travelling day started with the morning spent in Oulu catching up with birds we had missed, although our first stop on the Teppola fields did not produce the desired views of Ortolan Bunting. We were completely successful at another site in Oulu where we found a pair of Terek Sandpipers nesting in complete security among a colony of Arctic Terns. These great character birds gave unsurpassed views as they raced to and fro among the terns and hit our star-bird list with no problems.

Hiukkavaara Lake is an idyllic spot made the better by a pair of Black-throated Divers which nest on its banks. One bird was found flattened along the surface of the water, occasionally diving, while the other was sitting in full view on their nest opposite our viewpoint. Little else was showing but this was a magical place and we all enjoyed the ‘loons’ and their setting.

Our next stop was the Sanginjoki Forest where a Tengmalm’s Boreal Owl was nesting in a box put up by the Finnature staff. The species was having a thin time of it with a vole crash around the area this year. Nevertheless, they had hatched five chicks which had received a food-supplement in the form of minced meat put in the box by Markku’s father the week before. Using established custom we scratched the tree trunk below the box and waited for a head to pop out and investigate. Nothing happened and plan B was put into operation. To our nervous surprise, Markku shinned up the tree, the Tengmalm’s head popped out and the two stared each other out. Markku cracked first and moved a step higher. The owl came out and flew into a nearby tree where it watched him closely. Nothing more happened for some time as both stayed put but when Markku finally moved up to the box the tiny owl swooped in to attack. Acting quickly, Markku opened the box, lifted out one of the four chicks remaining for us to see and replaced it with another helping of minced meat. We all hoped that the offering would compensate for the intrusion and that more owls would fledge as a result.

We drove around the corner to a river running through the Sanginjoki Forest where Markku knew of a Black Woodpecker nest site, although he warned that the chicks might have fledged. They had not – we could hear them cheeping. Settling down on the opposite side of the road, we were soon rewarded with calls and then two adults swooping in. The swan-like rushing of air through their wings could just be heard. They called and flew across the river and back again, but did not approach the nest hole. Our proximity could be disturbing them, we decided and so moved deeper into the mosquito-infested wood to watch. Within seconds the male swooped in above the nest hole and, calling loudly, slid tail-first down the tree to be greeted by a pair of fully-grown chicks demanding food, a request he acceded to. The female called a few times as we left the family party. We set off for some lunch and the journey to Kuusamo.

This we broke at the Ylikiiminki nature reserve, a special area of bog and stunted pine trees. Viewing is from a tower overlooking a great chunk of the reserve on which we found nesting Whooper Swans and Taiga Bean Geese. Mike spotted two birds while there: a Great Grey Shrike which was quite a surprise, and another Peregrine, this sitting on a fence post some distance away from us. Two pairs of Cranes were seen but the hoped for Golden Eagles did not show.

The journey to Kuusamo and on to the ski resort of Ruka was completed uneventfully and we retired early after dinner with a 5am start planned.



Friday 3 June

Valtavaara Hill and Oulanka National Park

An early start saw us climbing the steep Valtavaara Hill to gain superb views out across the Finnish border to Russia. The weather was perfect with unbroken sunshine and no wind. Siskins abounded and we caught up with Redpoll while a singing Tree Pipit entertained us. Markku slid away into the bushes with his telescope and returned with the news that it was trained on a Capercaillie incubating eggs. What we saw was breathtaking as we came face on with a female about 30 metres away.

Settling down to the view once more, a Blackcock called before the sibilant song of a Red-flanked Bluetail was heard. This much-prized bird was soon located on a nearby tree-top and we had wonderful views looking down on the gem. It posed like a super model, sitting first this way, then that, head-on and back to us, all the while singing. The bird dropped into deep forest and returned to a different tree three times before deciding to stamp its mark on another part of the territory. We returned to the car park once more elated by this amazing country and its fabulous birds.

Fabulous but difficult. A stake-out at the feeders next to the car park failed to produce the much desired views of Siberian Jay. A Willow Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker provided the only entertainment but we were still in high spirits when we returned to the hotel for a celebratory breakfast.

The main part of our day was spent in Oulanka National Park where a walk down the river at the park’s interpretation centre gave good views of a Dipper. We saw Waxwings and several more common species on the Russian border. A café close by, used regularly by Travelling Naturalist groups, provided one of the trip’s great finds. Steve had asked if there was a chance of seeing the rare Arctic-flowering Calypso Orchid, Calypso bulbosa. Investigations revealed that the name of the Cafe is Kahvila Neidonkenkä, named after a rare orchid that blooms in the gardens – the Calypso – and we had never associated the two. Happily, the rare blooms were just opening and what should have been a difficult request was provided with ease to the delight of all.

The café’s claim to fame previous to this (apart from the home-made lunches which are delicious) is a bird feeder which had lots of Rosefinches, Greenfinches, Bullfinches, Siskins, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Redpolls and two Red Squirrels in attendance.

Rain had set in with a vengeance and we headed for the hotel. It eased enough to prompt another try for the Siberian Jays but again without success. Another early night was had after an equally excellent supper.



Saturday 4 June

Kuusamo area

Our start this morning was earlier than ever – 4am to get the best chance of seeing Black Grouse leks. A total of six birds were seen, lower than usual probably because the tour was later and the leks were winding down. Views of some were excellent, however, and as a bonus three Arctic or Mountain Hares were seen, their white ears and bellies the only remaining areas of winter fur. The pre-breakfast trip continued with a visit to Vuotunki Lake, a super place with lots of wildfowl which included several pairs of Velvet Scoter, a pair of Long-tailed Ducks, four ‘white-nun’ drake Smew and a red-headed female, and a pair of Red-necked Grebes. Another try for the Siberian Jays was futile and we returned for breakfast.

Our first stop during the main part of the day was just outside Kuusamo where a Little Bunting was singing from the top of a low spruce giving unequivocal views of this much sought-after species. Their occurrence in Britain is as vagrants, usually in bad light and non-breeding plumage. This bird was a cracker as vouched for by its mate who was chased around the territory (or was she chasing him?) occasionally.

On a roll, we headed for a lake now known by all the local guides as Beautiful Lake, a name coined by me on my first visit. As ever, it was beautiful and rich in birds. Little Gulls were quartering the surface in the company of Common and Arctic Terns, an almost completely black Ruff was imitating a Spotted Redshank while Wigeon, Tufted Duck and a pair of Teal were nesting in the reeds. I found a small wader picking among the gull nests and quickly called everyone to admire a female Red-necked Phalarope in full breeding plumage (the females are brighter than males). A Muskrat was added to the mammal list although it could not have been responsible for all the ‘lodges’ built around the lake’s perimeter.

It was with reluctance that, after a cup of coffee, we dragged ourselves away (and not for the first time by any means) to visit Kuusamo’s tip. Sadly, after scanning all the gulls several times only one Siberian Gull was found and the wintering Glaucous Gulls had gone north. Tips are not much fun aesthetically and apart from the Ravens and a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls of the race fuscus, there was little of note so we visited Markku’s Siberian Tit study area. Here a pair of these delightful birds was watched as the female popped out from incubating duties to be fed by her mate who then visited their nest-box several times more to feed her.

Plans to have lunch there were ditched as the birds had cooperated so quickly so we returned to the Siberian Jay site to eat our picnics. [What a saga – Ed!] Persistence paid off, although only just. Patience had worn out and as I slept in a vehicle the group descended into chatter. Only Ray remained focussed and on the ball – to be rewarded with the Man of the Match title after finding two Siberian Jays. They were impossible to see, however, until one recognised the group as Travelling Naturalists and hopped in a spiral up a spruce to perch in full view at the top for several minutes. The birds left, Ray received due and bountiful praise and we retired to the nearest supermarket for a celebratory ice cream. Hoorah!

We had a much-earned rest for three hours until meeting for the call-over and an early supper following which our last excursion was embarked upon. Wading through a bog looking for Jack Snipe and Broad-billed Sandpipers was unsuccessful as was a search for a reported Hawk Owl. But we had a wonderful evening despite this with a Whooper Swan demonstrating how they came to be named thus, a singing Redwing and the most peaceful sunset imaginable. The latter was rather unusual as the sun actually set in the morning – at 12.15 am to be precise. We got back to the hotel at 12.45 am, tired but extremely happy.



Sunday 5 June

Homeward bound


Sleeping until 7am seemed a luxury after the last two mornings and we met in great mood for breakfast. We set off for Oulu airport at 8.30 and almost immediately saw an Osprey which obligingly hung around until both vehicles were parked safely and then flew over the top of us affording great views. We stopped briefly in Elehvä Forest where a Black Woodpecker was seen and several (Winter) Wrens hear. We arrived at the airport on time and after a snack-lunch left for Helsinki and/or home.



Thanks

This has been an exceptional tour with a great group of people. The views of most of our target species were outstanding and we dipped on surprisingly few. The later departure brought benefits in terms of weather and the presence of some birds, drawbacks in the lack of migration and some breeding activities, particularly lekking waders and grouse.

I would like to record my thanks and those of the group, to Markku Hukkenen and his team at Finnature who found so many of the great birds we enjoyed on this trip.



ANNOTATED LIST OF SPECIES



BIRDS



DIVERS Gaviiformes Gaviidae

1 Red-throated diver Gavia stellata

Four at Papinjärvi Lake on the 31st.

2 Black-throated diver Gavia arctica

Huikkavaara Lake, a pair on the 2nd; Oulanka NP, one on the 3rd.

GREBES Podicipediformes Podicipedidae

3 Red-necked grebe Podiceps grisegena

Three pair near Kuusamo on the 3rd.

4 Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus

Three seen on two days in the Oulu area.

HERONS, EGRETS & BITTERNS Ciconiiformes Ardeidae

5 Great bittern Botaurus stellaris

A total of 10 sightings of possibly two pairs in display flight plus various individuals on Hailuoto Island on the 1st.

SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS Anseriformes Anatidae

6 Whooper swan Cygnus cygnus

Common, seen most days. One which flew in to a lake at our feet 'whooping' loudly late on our last evening was a special highlight.

7 Taiga bean goose Anser fabalis

A pair nesting at Ylikiiminki NR and 39 near Kuusamo on the 4th.

8 Pink-footed goose Anser brachyrhynchus

One in with Greylags on the Teppola fields the day we arrived.



9 Greylag goose Anser anser

Common near Oulu, seen most days.

10 Common shelduck Tadorna tadorna

Hailuoto: 10 seen on the 1st.

11 Eurasian wigeon Anas penelope

Seen on three days in Oulu and Kuusamo.

12 Gadwall Anas strepera

A pair seen on Hailuoto Island on the 1st.

13 Common teal Anas crecca

Seen in small numbers on four days.

14 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

Abundant daily.

15 Northern pintail Anas acuta

A drake at Liminganlahti Bay on the 31st, a pair on Hailuoto Island on the 1st.

16 Garganey Anas querquedula

Three drakes and a duck at Liminganlahti Bay on the 31st, a drake on Hailuoto Island on the 1st.

17 Northern shoveler Anas clypeata

Common, seen most days.

18 Tufted duck Aythya fuligula

Common, seen most days.

19 Long-tailed duck Clangula hyemalis

Two pairs seen on lakes near Kuusamo on the 4th.

20 Black scoter Melanitta nigra

About 50 on Papinjarvi Lake on the 31st, nine on the 2nd.

21 White-winged scoter Melanitta fusca

About 10 pairs on a lake near Kuusamo on the 4th.

22 Common goldeneye Bucephala clangula

Common, seen most days.

23 Smew Mergellus albellus

Seen on three days with four drakes on the 4th.

24 Red-breasted merganser Mergus serrator

Common, seen most days.

25 Goosander Mergus merganser

Seen on four days.

OSPREY Falconiformes Pandionidae

26 Osprey Pandion haliaetus

One seen well near Kuusamo on our last morning.

HAWKS, EAGLES & KITES Falconiformes Accipitridae

27 Western marsh-harrier Circus aeruginosus

Common near Oulu, seen most days.

28 Eurasian sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus

Two seen on Hailuoto Island on the 1st, a male seen briefly on the 3rd.

FALCONS Falconiformes Falconidae

29 Eurasian kestrel Falco tinnunculus

Common, seen most days.

30 Eurasian hobby Falco subbuteo

One sitting in a tree near Liminganlahti Bay on the 31st.

GROUSE & PTARMIGAN Galliformes Tetraonidae

31 Eurasian capercaillie Tetrao urogallus

Females on nests seen two days, male in flight escorted one vehicle for a short while on the 5th.

32 Black grouse Tetrao tetrix

Seen or heard on three days with a maximum of six on ther 4th.

33 Hazel grouse Bonasa bonasia

This shy species was heard only at Valtavaara Hill on two days.



PHEASANTS & PARTRIDGES Galliformes Phasianidae

34 Ring-necked pheasant Phasianus colchicus

Common near Oulu, seen near the hotel in Oulu on most days.

CRANES Gruiformes Gruidae

35 Common crane Grus grus

Seen on three days with a mnaximum of five on the 31st.

RAILS, GALLINULES & COOTS Gruiformes Rallidae

36 Eurasian coot Fulica atra

Six on each of two days.

OYSTERCATCHERS Charadriiformes Haematopodidae

37 Eurasian oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus

A few seen near Oulu on a couple of days.

LAPWINGS & PLOVERS Charadriiformes Charadriidae

38 Northern lapwing Vanellus vanellus

Common around Oulu, seen daily.

39 Greater ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula

Seen on three days, maximum four on the 31st.

40 Little ringed plover Charadrius dubius

Four pairs nesting with the Terek Sandpipers and Arctic Terns in Oulu.

SANDPIPERS Charadriiformes Scolopacidae

41 Eurasian woodcock Scolopax rusticola

Common around Oulu, seen nightly.

42 Common snipe Gallinago gallinago

Common around Oulu, seen daily.

43 Black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa

Seen on two occasions, maximum six at Liminganlahti Bay on the 31st.

44 Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Pair at Kovajärvi Bog on our last evening.

45 Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata

Common, seen daily.

46 Common redshank Tringa totanus

Common, seen daily.

47 Common greenshank Tringa nebularia

Seen on four days including birds displaying on the 2nd.

48 Green sandpiper Tringa ochropus

One at Liminganlahti Bay on the 31st.

49 Wood sandpiper Tringa glareola

Seen and heard on three days, mostly around Kuusamo.

50 Terek sandpiper Xenus cinereus

A pair nesting among Arctic Terns in Oulu.

51 Common sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos

Common around Oulu, seen daily.

52 Ruddy turnstone Arenaria interpres

Three at the Hailuoto Island ferry terminal on the 1st.

53 Temminck's stint Calidris temminckii

Just two sightings around Oulu.

54 Ruff Philomachus pugnax

Only a few left, most having migrated north. Best views Liminganlahti Bay on the 31st.

55 Red-necked phalarope Phalaropus lobatus

Female in breeding plumage at Beautiful Lake, Kuusamo, on the 4th.

GULLS Charadriiformes Laridae

56 Common gull Larus canus

Common daily.

57 Great black-backed gull Larus marinus

Two on the 1st.

58 Herring gull Larus argentatus

Common daily.

59 Siberian (Heuglin's) gull Larus heuglini

One seen at Kuusamo tip.

60 Lesser black-backed gull Larus fuscus

A few of the race L. f. fuscus seen on three days, maximum 10 at Kuusamo tip.

61 Black-headed gull Larus ridibundus

Abundant daily.

62 Little gull Larus minutus

Seen in good numbers most days. Many breeding on lakes around Kuusamo.

TERNS Charadriiformes Sternidae

63 Caspian tern Sterna caspia

Seen on two days with a maximum of four from the Hietasaari tower on the 31st.

64 Common tern Sterna hirundo

Seen on four days including many nesting.

65 Arctic tern Sterna paradisaea

Seen on three days with nesting birds on each occasion.

66 Little tern Sterna albifrons

Just two seen from the Hietasaari tower on the 31st.

PIGEONS & DOVES Columbiformes Columbidae

67 Rock dove (feral pigeon) Columba livia

Two only in a town on the 2nd.

68 Stock pigeon Columba oenas

Two at the Teppola fields on the 2nd.

69 Common wood-pigeon Columba palumbus

Common, seen daily.

70 Eurasian collared-dove Streptopelia decaocto

Three in a town on the 1st.

CUCKOOS Cuculiformes Cuculidae

71 Common cuckoo Cuculus canorus

Common calling daily but not seen until the 4th.

OWLS Strigiformes Strigidae

72 Ural owl Strix uralensis

One bird seen briefly in Paavola forest on the 31st; a stunning individual in Vartti forest on the 1st.

73 Great grey owl Strix nebulosa

One with four chicks gave wonderful views on the 31st.

74 Eurasian pygmy-owl Glaucidium passerinum

A calling male was seen feeding its mate before having a snooze in front of us on the 31st.

75 Tengmalm's boreal owl Aegolius funereus

Adult and chick seen on the 2nd.

76 Short-eared owl Asio flammeus

Common daily around Oulu.

SWIFTS Apodiformes Apodidae

77 Common swift Apus apus

Common around Oulu, seen daily.

WOODPECKERS Piciformes Picidae

78 Great spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos major

Seen on four days with a maximum of five on the 3rd.

79 Three-toed woodpecker Picoides tridactylus

One seen by a group member in Oulanka NP on the 3rd.

80 Black woodpecker Dryocopus martius

A pair feeding two chicks on the 2nd, one in Elevä Wood on the 5th.



LARKS Passeriformes Alaudidae

81 Sky lark Alauda arvensis

A few seen around Oulu.

SWALLOWS Passeriformes Hirundinidae

82 Sand martin Riparia riparia

Seen on three days.

83 Barn swallow Hirundo rustica

Common daily.

84 House martin Delichon urbica

Common daily.

WAGTAILS & PIPITS Passeriformes Motacillidae

85 White wagtail Motacilla alba

Common daily.

86 Yellow wagtail Motacilla flava

Only a few seen of two races: M. f. flava and the grey-headed Fenno-Scandia race M. f. thunbergi.

87 Tree pipit Anthus trivialis

A few seen most days.

88 Meadow pipit Anthus pratensis

Seen on only three days.

KINGLETS Passeriformes Regulidae

89 Goldcrest Regulus regulus

Heard only on the 31st.

WAXWINGS Passeriformes Bombycillidae

90 Bohemian waxwing Bombycilla garrulus

Heard on the 31st and three seen near the Russian border on the 3rd.

DIPPERS Passeriformes Cinclidae

91 White-throated dipper Cinclus cinclus

One seen in Oulanka NP on the 3rd.

WRENS Passeriformes Troglodytidae

92 Winter wren Troglodytes troglodytes

Heard only in Elevä Wood on the 5th.

THRUSHES Passeriformes Turdidae

93 Eurasian blackbird Turdus merula

A few seen on three days.

94 Fieldfare Turdus pilaris

Abundant daily.

95 Redwing Turdus iliacus

Lots daily. A male singing on our last evening outing was a highlight.

96 Song thrush Turdus philomelos

Heard only on three days.

97 Mistle thrush Turdus viscivorus

Singles seen on two days.

OLD WORLD WARBLERS Passeriformes Sylviidae

98 Sedge warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus

Fairly common around Oulu.

99 Willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus

Abundant. Easily the most common bird.

100 Wood warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix

Singles at the Oulu hotel, Hietasaari tower and Vartti forest.

101 Garden warbler Sylvia borin

A few seen and heard on two days around Oulu.

102 Greater whitethroat Sylvia communis

Singles seen on the 1st and 2nd.

103 Lesser whitethroat Sylvia curruca

Heard only in Paavola forest on the 31st.

OLD WORLD FLYCATCHERS Passeriformes Muscicapidae

104 Spotted flycatcher Muscicapa striata

A few seen on five days.



105 European pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca

Extremely common. A delight to have nesting around the Oulu hotel.

106 European robin Erithacus rubecula

Heard only on three days.

107 Red-flanked bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus

One, possibly two, seen in perfect conditions on the 3rd.

108 Common redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus

Common, heard mostly but one singing outside the Ruka hotel.

109 Whinchat Saxicola rubetra

Seen on three days with a maximum of six on the first evening.

110 Northern wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe

Only a few males seen on three days.

TITS & CHICKADEES Passeriformes Paridae

111 Willow tit Poecile montanus

Seen on three days.

112 Siberian tit Poecile cinctus

(Gray-headed chickadee) A great pair in Oivanki forest. The male fed his mate a couple of times.

113 Crested tit Lophophanes cristatus

One seen in Paavola forest on the 31st.

114 Great tit Parus major

A few heard and seen most days.

115 Blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus

A few heard and seen most days.

SHRIKES Passeriformes Laniidae

116 Great grey (Northern) shrike Lanius excubitor

One seen in Ylikiiminki NR on the 2nd.

JAYS & CROWS Passeriformes Corvidae

117 Siberian jay Perisoreus infaustus

Plan J finally resulted in two seen at the Valtavaara Hill on the 4th. Phew!

118 Common magpie Pica pica

Common daily.

119 Eurasian jackdaw Corvus monedula

Common most days.

120 Rook Corvus frugilegus

A few on three days in the Oulu area.

121 Hooded crow Corvus corone

Common daily.

122 Common raven Corvus corax

Maximum of seven seen on two days in the Kuusamo area.

STARLINGS Passeriformes Sturnidae

123 European starling Sturnus vulgaris

Only one sighting on the 1st.

OLD WORLD SPARROWS Passeriformes Passeridae

124 House sparrow Passer domesticus

A few seen on only three days.

FINCHES Passeriformes Fringillidae

125 Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

Common daily.

126 Brambling Fringilla montifringilla

A few seen or heard on three days.

127 Common rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus

Common most days.

128 Red crossbill Loxia curvirostra

A party of 10 on the 3rd and some heard on the 4th.

129 European greenfinch Carduelis chloris

A few daily.

130 Common redpoll Carduelis flammea

Two seen on two days.

131 Eurasian siskin Carduelis spinus

Common daily.

132 Eurasian bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula

Seen on three days with a maximum of four at the Orchid Café feeder on the 3rd.

TRUE BUNTINGS Passeriformes Emberizidae

133 Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella

Common daily.

134 Ortolan bunting Emberiza hortulana

One heard on the Teppola fields on the first evening could not be relocated.

135 Little bunting Emberiza pusilla

A pair seen wonderfully outside Kuusamo; one singing at Beautiful Lake.

136 Reed bunting Emberiza schoeniclus

Seen or heard on three days.



MAMMALS



RABBITS & HARES Lagomorpha Leporidae

1 European hare Lepus europaeus

Abundant daily.

2 Mountain hare Lepus timidus

Three seen on 4th.

SQUIRRELS Rodentia Scuridae

3 Eurasian red squirrel Sciurus vulgaris

Four seen on each of two days was a comparatively low number for this trip.

MICE, RATS, VOLES & GERBILS Rodentia Muridae

4 Field vole Microtus agrestis

One seen on the 31st.

5 Muskrat Ondatra zibethicus

One seen and several lodges used as nesting platforms at the Beautiful Lake.

6 Brown rat Rattus norvegicus

A few seen at Oulu tip. Interestingly, they have not reached Kuusamo tip.

MOONRATS & HEDGEHOGS Lipotyphla Erinaceidae

7 Western European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus

One dead in the road at Kuusamo on the 5th must have just emerged from hibernation.

DEER Artiodactyla Cervidae

8 Elk (Moose) Alces alces

Seen on three days, maximum six on the 4th.

9 Reindeer (Carribou) Rangifer tarandus

A few seen daily around Kuusamo.



REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS



1 Moor frog Ranus arvalis

Tadpoles seen on the 2nd were most likely to be this species.

2 Viviparous/Common Lizard Lacerta vivipara

One individual near Liminganlahti Bay on the 31st.



FLUTS (BUTTERFLIES)



1 Green hairstreak Callophrys rubi

One on 1st.

2 Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines

Seen on two days.

3 Small white Pieris rapae

Three seen on two days.



SELECTED PLANTS



Wetland areas around Oulu were brightened by the delicate pink bells of Marsh Andromeda (Andromeda polifolia). Marsh Marigolds (Caltha palustris) provided splashes of bright yellow in areas of marshy ground and standing water. Carpets of Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis) were waiting to flower in many wooded areas.

Fragrant flowers of the lime-loving Mezereon (Daphne mezereum) were blooming in Oulanka National Park and around Kuusamo, leaves of the insectivorous Butterwort (Pinguicula sp.) were evident, later to produce their attractive violet flowers. A fine mixed woodland on a wet hillside in the Elevä Woods was full of unfurling 'fiddle-heads' of fresh green Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris).

Our thanks to Steve Edwards for these notes.

Steve omitted to mention one of the great finds and coincidences of the trip: He asked me if there was a chance of seeing a rare Arctic orchid, Calypso bulbosa, while in Finland. A couple of emails to Finnature established that they occur in Oulanka National Park, a regular visit on this tour.

The news had firmed up by the time we arrived in Oulu. Markku said that the orchids could be seen in the grounds of the Café Neidonkenka, near the Russian border where we always have a cooked lunch prepared especially for us as one of the delights of this trip. Markku and I kept quiet about it, worrying about whether the orchid would be bloom.

They were. The first 25 heads of what would be hundreds of blooms were out when we got there – to the huge delight of Steve who spent some time photographing the little beauties, known as Fairy Slipper Orchids.

And the coincidence? Café Neidonkenka means the Fairy Slipper Orchid Café – we have been eating there regularly since 2002 and I never realised the significance.



Tim Earl

Principal Leader



© The Travelling Naturalist 2005