Thursday, 20 December 2012

Winter birding and farewell Finland...

Today (20/12) is my last day in Finland. My first flight to Helsinki is tomorrow (21/12) morning at 06:05.

I have made the effort to get out a couple times in the last week and I am very glad I did. Last Sunday 3 of us headed up to Ounasvaara to take a walk in the snow and make a fire and have tea / coffee. But I had an ulterior motive of maybe seeing a Capercallie which I did not, but I did get to see 2 Siberian Jays which was just a great bird to see one last time and in a perfect setting.

So on Wednesday, yesterday I took one last trip to Ounasvaara on my own. I decided to visit the feeder again that I mentioned in my last post. The weather was really good, clear skies meant there was some actual light for a couple hours but it was bitterly cold at minus 20 degrees.

On the way up to the feeder a nice surprise was a Sparrowhawk that flew out of the forest across the road about 20 metres in front of me and disappeared into the forest on the other side. Species number 51 for my time here and only my second bird of prey species (saw a Hen Harrier back in the Autumn). I got to the feeder and there were plenty of Great and Blue Tits and a Willow Tit. After a few minutes 1 Crested Tit joined them. I didn't spend too long there this time as I wanted to walk through the forest and I decided to take the route of one of the nature trails which starts at the same carpark where the feeder is located.

Start of the nature trail.
Now I love going out walking and birdwatching in the winter. It is quiet and there is not as much to see the Spring but there is always something to see and if you do see something, it is usually even more special and I tend to focus on anything I see more because it might be the only thing you do see that day. There is usually no-one else around either which makes it even better. But, birding in winter in Lapland is something else. Clothing is so crucial if you want to be out for a few hours. It is impossible to be quiet crunching through a foot of snow when the forest itself is almost deadly quiet. Your binoculars freeze, the focus wheel is hard to turn and you have to be careful not to breathe out near the lenses as it means instant freezing. You have to choose whether to breathe through your nose and have your nostrils stick together or through your mouth which starts to hurt your teeth after awhile. The forest is a matrix of brilliant white snow patches and parts of dark green conifers that make your eyes go funny when looking at them for too long. The light is poor so it's harder to see things of which there are not many to see in the first place. Most of the time (unless you are at a feeder) there is not much sign of life apart from the odd Great Tit and Mountain Hare tracks in the snow. Occasionally you may see one running across your path for a split second before it is lost to your eye by it's camouflage or be lucky enough to see something interesting like a Siberian Jay which comes to investigate the noise and follows you for a 100 metres before losing interest. This basically summed up my walk apart from the Jay (this time). I have a great respect for birders here in Lapland some of who are out nearly every day carrying out Winter Bird Atlas work, according to Birdlife Finland's bird recording system, Tiira.

I didn't see too much on my walk as you can now imagine, but I did see a couple of Great Tits and a Great Spotted Woodpecker that was calling from the top of one of the trees. I did however see two Capercaillie, I think. They took off from half way up a Pine right beside me and I saw them for a split second before they were lost behind more trees. They were fairly big Capercaillie looking birds but it was dark and as I only saw them for a split second I won't be counting them on my list.

Great Spotted Woodpecker
I doubled back after awhile as it was still light enough to check the feeder again before heading home. It was a lot busier now with 7 Great Tit, 4 Blue Tit, 6 Willow Tit, 1 Nutcracker, 3 Crested Tit, 1 Female Bullfinch and another Great Spotted Woodpecker that flew past. As always the local Red Squirrel joined in too. Again the birds were not bothered by my presence at all and I stood there watching them all for half an hour knowing that for some of these species it would be my last time seeing them for a long time.

It was great to be out one last time but it is time to go home now and I am looking forward to birding back home in the Highlands again and I will be taking part in WeBS and the BTO Winter Thrushes Survey. But there will be plenty time to talk about that and reflect on my whole experience here when I have more time after Christmas when things settle down.

So Farewell Finland, it has been an experience I will never forget with some bird encounters that I will definately never forget.

Finnish Bird List additions:
51. Sparrowhawk

Friday, 14 December 2012

Update: 14th December 2012...

Well again it's been quite awhile since I wrote my last blog, almost 3 weeks. The last couple weeks have been really busy with University and completing coursework. Our time here is almost coming to an end too and there have been some goodbyes already. Myself and my girlfriend are leaving next Friday 21st. So now I have a bit more time it's now time to get a few last bits of birding done. The weather recently has been very cold and snowy which is not surprising. Last week the temperature stayed around minus 20 degrees and this week is staying around minus 10 but it hasn't really stopped snowing all week.

I had been in contact with a local birder about a feeder at Ounasvaara hill which is just across the road from my accomodation. He very kindly gave me some good directions to the feeder so that was the plan for today (14/12).

There is very little light here, down to 2-3 hours but when it is overcast and snowing like today there is not really any good light for taking photographs. But I decided to go out anyway and find this feeder. It is about minus 8 today, grey, snowing and quite windy.

The feeder I was told was close to one of the public carparks just off the road that takes you to the hotel at the top of the hill so that's where I set off. It really isn't far away and I was in the rough area in about 20mins. There was almost no birds seen on the way up apart from a Magpie. I got to the carpark which is surrounded by fairly dense forest covered in snow and I didnt locate the feeder straight away but a Nutcracker bursting out of the undergrowth gave the feeder's position away.

There were actually two feeders plus some half coconuts hanging up low down under a large Spruce tree which would have been easily missed if you didn't know. The feeders are maintained by another local birder and it was packed full of birds. The first birds I saw were Nutcrackers, 4 in total plus a variety of Tit species and a Bullfinch. I moved around to the otherside and the birds really did not seem bothered so I moved to within 2 metres and sat down on some snow covered Blaeberry (oh how I wish I worn my waterproof trousers) and waited for the birds to settle down again.

The feeder really was alive with birds. Nutcrackers, Great, Blue and Willow Tits in abundance. The longer I stayed the more birds seemed to appear with a group of 4 Bullfinch coming to feed. All these birds within 2 metres some almost seeming to nearly hit me as they moved around the trees.

I did take some photos but it was so dark and even darker under the tree that I needed the full flash for a fairly clear photo.

Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes)
Male Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
I really couldn't believe how many birds there were. Nutcrackers are always fascinating to watch and they were sometimes less than a metre away from my feet. Never had such good views of Willow Tits either and there was up to 8 of them.

Willow Tit (Poecile montanus)
Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
The highlight of the outing came about 20 minutes in when I heard the distinct call. Crested Tit! One flew in and landed on a branch not a metre away and began to feed on the coconut and on the ground. Amazing views of a bird I have only had a couple brief glimpses of back home. It was shortly joined by another and they both came and went for the half an hour as if I wasn't even there, superb, and my 50th bird on my Finnish list.
Crested Tit ( Lophophanes cristatus)

After about an hour of sitting in the snow my arse was completely numb and I was losing what very little light there was so I decided to head back home but it was an excellent and well spent hour. Just before I left a Red Squirrel joined the party and came down to feed after making sure I wasn't a threat. They look so grey and frosty here but there is no mistaking it with those ear tufts (please excuse the demon eyes!) I will definately try to get back there again before I leave.

Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)
Finnish Bird List additions:
50. Crested Tit

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Update: 28th November 2012...

Another general update on the last week or so.

Birding quiet now as expected. Temperatures have dropped again this week -14C this morning (28/11). But there is always something to see and enjoy around the city.

Still plenty of Waxings around with a nice flock of around 200 seen today on the way home from University. Some not 3 metres away in some roadside Rowan trees.

Still the odd Nutcracker hanging around. One feeding near the bus station at the weekend and one seen today feeding on a fatcake feeder near to the road also on the way home. The bird also allowed me to approach to within a couple of metres, so I will visit the feeder again and try and get some pictures / video.

Plenty of Tits around everywhere, mostly Great but many Blues too. Still no Siberian unfortunately but I will keep trying. House and Tree sparrows still evident everywhere especially around feeding stations.

Hooded Crows and Magpies are still of course everywhere you look.

Redpoll flocks are scattered throughout the city with c60 seen the other day near the industrial park. Scanned the flock long and hard but still can't find that Arctic Redpoll either.

Pine Grosbeaks still in small scattered flocks around the city, good chance to see them in any Rowan trees. There were actually 2 in the Rowan trees outside the accomodation on returning from University today with one landing on the ground and was within two metres and getting closer until someone walked past and scared it off. Didn't have the camera unfortunately.

Another nice surprise the other day, again on the way home, was a Stoat or Ermine as they are known here, that ran out right in front of me across the road when I was on the bike. It paused for a few seconds before running under someone's shed. Looked stunning with it's coat completely white and black tail tip.

As you can see from my Finnish list I am stuck on 49 species, would be nice to get 50 before heading home in 3 weeks time. There has been Arctic Redpoll reported and chance of Siberian Tit still so I will keep trying. There is also regular reports of Lesser and Grey Headed woodpeckers about 10km South of the city but getting there is another thing entirely.

Will keep you updated!

Finnish Mammal List additions:
5. Stoat (Ermine)

Monday, 19 November 2012

Update: 19th November 2012...

Overall a fairly quiet week, the weather has been miserable, temperatures are slightly above 0 now and everything is starting to melt which means it's very icy and wet. It is getting very quiet on the birding front generally which is to be expected but still some stuff to enjoy. Finished a very intense part of my studies here today so will have a bit more time to explore again although we are down to just 5 hours of daylight already.

Last Tuesday (13/09) had a nice surprise in the form of a Willow Tit (of the Northern race borealis and new bird for the "garden" list) out on the feeder in the morning which was shortly followed by one of the many Red Squirrels seen around here all the time which had finally found the feeder and spent a good few minutes eating the peanuts but I didn't mind it was nice to see one so close. The Red Squirrels over here are actually quite grey looking and almost frosty in certain light. Unfortunately no picture of the Willow Tit but some did get some of the squirrel.

On Thursday (15/09) the weather was bright and sunny for the early morning walk to University and made a nice change of the dark overcast conditions of the last few days. Plenty of Waxwings still about in decent sized flocks and Pine Grosbeaks were spotted a few times at the top of some tall conifers. After crossing the old railway bridge I noticed a small bird in the shrubs at the side of the road. At first it was hard to see as I was looking up and into the direction of the sun. Then the bird hopped down a few branches to not more than 2 metres and I could see it was a Female/juv Blackcap! I was quite shocked if I am honest, never expected to see one of these so far North in mid-November but a nice record for my Finnish list and interesting in general! Did have my camera but only the short lense but you can see what it is at least.

Female/ juv Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)

The river that runs through the city was looking impressive in the sun as it is was mostly covered in ice.

As I said before birding is fairly quiet now and the day are getting shorter by the day but I still hold out some hope for Siberian Tit or Arctic Redpoll before I leave (and one of the woodpeckers would be nice!).

Finnish Bird List additions:
49. Blackcap

Kuntotie Garden List:
  1. Blue Tit
  2. Bohemian Waxwings
  3. Great Tit
  4. Greenfinch
  5. Hooded Crow
  6. House Sparrow
  7. Magpie
  8. Pine Grosbeak
  9. Tree Sparrow
  10. White Wagtail (from back in September)
  11. Willow Tit*

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Pine Grosbeaks again...09/11

First of this morning (10/11) the usual suspects on the bird feeder along with the Greenfinch which was back again. Also in the same tree was a lovely Male Bullfinch, a nice addition to the garden list.

The main highlight was yesterday (09/11) when the Pine Grosbeaks were back again, 2 this time. 1 Female and 1 one of those stunning red males again. Both in one of the Rowan trees mandibulating (thanks Autumnwatch) the berries. Well, I had to try and get some photos didn't I! Four of the male below, what a bird!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Update: 8th November 2012...

Just a quick update on the Kuntotie garden list. Had another addition this morning as I was eating my breakfast, a Greenfinch! Didn't hang around long enough for a picture though unfortunately.

Kuntotie Garden List:
  1. Blue Tit
  2. Bohemian Waxwings
  3. Great Tit
  4. Greenfinch*
  5. Hooded Crow
  6. House Sparrow
  7. Magpie
  8. Pine Grosbeak
  9. Tree Sparrow
  10. White Wagtail (from back in September)

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Update: 4th November 2012...

There has been more snow over the last few days but two days ago the temperature rose above 0 degrees which caused a partial thaw and icy conditions the next day (the car park here was like an ice rink).

I have been searching for a fairly cheap but decent bird feeder in the local shops (the half cardboard box on a shoe lace wasn't up to the task) here but hadn't managed to find one but now with the weather getting colder I stepped up my efforts and managed to find and buy a pretty good one for only 6 euros. Finding bird food is easy as all the local small supermarkets are selling bags at fairly cheap prices.

I am now referring to the courtyard by the student accomodation (called Kuntotie pronounced "kuhn-toe-tee-ay") as my "garden". It is about 50 squared metres of grass and a footpath with several coniferous trees (spruce and pine) and about 10 rowan trees. So far on the feeder since I put it up are plenty of Great Tits (up to 10 at a time) just like on the half coconuts but also a few Blue Tits now and again. Both House Sparrows and Tree Sparrows have been seen feeding on the ground underneath. Overall the garden list is very short BUT with a couple of cracking species on it! Would be nice to see a Willow or Siberian Tit on the feeder if the weather becomes harsh enough to draw them out of the forest.

Kuntotie Garden List:
  1. Great Tit
  2. Blue Tit
  3. House Sparrow
  4. Tree Sparrow
  5. Magpie
  6. Hooded Crow
  7. White Wagtail (from back in September)
  8. Bohemian Waxwings
  9. Pine Grosbeak 
New feeder outside
Great Tit (Parus major)

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Another Mega...

If you had read my previous blog you will know I have been on the hunt for Pine Grosbeaks (a true bird of the North) as quite a few have been seen around Rovaniemi now as the weather becomes a lot harsher and drives the birds into the city to feast on Rowan berries just like the Waxwings.

So far I hadn't had much luck and this was one of the top 5 birds I wanted to see here and would have been a bit disappointed if I had gone home without seeing at least one.

Fast forward to this morning (31/10) and getting ready to leave for one of my classes around 9.30am and there right outside not 20 metres away in one of the Rowan trees that had attracted so many Waxwings over the last week were, not one, but 5 Pine Grosbeaks including one stunning red male! Superb! The only shame was that I only had 5 mins to get a few pictures before leaving. The birds were pretty bold allowing me to walk within just a few feet without being bothered at all.

I got home pretty late when it was almost dark so they weren't there when I got back but, fingers crossed, some more might show up because there are still plenty of berries outside.

Finnish Bird List additions:
48. Pine Grosbeak

Stunning male Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator)

More Winter Birding...

Hasn't stopped snowing for the last 3 days but it has become a lot milder with the temperature floating about between minus 4 and plus 1.

Yesterday (30/10) in the afternoon the forestry exchange students were invited along with the Finnish forestry students to the Pilke Science Centre. This centre is also the head office for the goverment owned forestry and natural resource agency Metsähallitus.

The building itself is close to the Arktikum, the arctic museum and education centre here in Rovaniemi but more importantly is the Arktikum gardens which is one of the more productive areas for birding and the previous day 30 Pine Grosbeaks had been seen there. So after the Pilke Science Centre it was a good chance to check the area only just across the road even though it was quite windy, snowing and getting dark already but you have to be in it to win it! 

Three of us cycled around to the garden and had a look around but it was very quiet. We hung around for maybe half an hour and decided to leave. Just as we were about to leave a flock of about 20 noisy birds landed at the top of some birch trees. They were Common Redpolls, a life tick for me actually so I was pleased. I scanned them all as closely as I could in the poor light but couldn't find any Arctic Redpolls unfortunately.

Common of Mealy Redpoll (Carduelis flammea)
 As I was watchign the Redpolls I turned to my girlfriend and said "still would love to see some Long-tailed Tits" and not 30 seconds later she spotted some. Had really wanted to see a "Northern" Long-tailed Tit whilst I was here, mission accomplished! There were about 15 in total. Couple of nice species to see without much effort at all. For those of you who don't know, Northern Long-Tailed Tits differ from those throughout central Europe and the UK. The Northern race have completely white heads and look like cotton balls with long tails when flitting about in the trees.

Northern Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus caudatus)

Finnish Bird List additions:
46. Common Redpoll (Lifer)
47. Long-tailed Tit (Northern Race)

Friday, 26 October 2012

Waxwings everywhere...

It's been quite awhile since I last posted, almost 3 weeks actually. I wouldn't say a lot of exciting things have happened more that I have been very busy with coursework and the weather had been pretty miserable up until 10 days ago.

Not a whole lot to report on the birding front but a few exciting things to note (for me anyway).

Last weekend us UK forestry exchange students, Czech students and Suvi our Finnish friend went to one of the many free cabins in the forest about 30km South of Rovaniemi. There had been the first snow a couple days before and even most of it had melted in the city there was still a fair bit left on the ground where we were going and it was starting to get nice and frosty. It was a great night with -4c outside and some (not me) seeing faint Northern Lights from the fire tower near to the cabin. I did get to see a lone Siberian Jay again which is always nice. On the way back to Rovaniemi two of the people in our car apparently saw a Golden Eagle but I didn't even manage to catch a glimpse of it.

View from the fire tower
Fire Tower
Looking down on the cabin.
At the start of the week Waxwing numbers were really starting to build up in the city with 1200 seen in the city centre on Wednesday. Outside the student accomodation here in Kuntotie there is a small courtyard area which has a few Scots Pine, Norway Spruce and most importantly plenty of Rowan trees loaded with berried. Unfortunately the one outside my balcony is pretty bare (probably because it doesn't get much sun) but there are plenty others close enough. I didn't think it would be long before they started trickling in and they did maybe 10 at first but by the end of this week there were up to 120. I did attempt some photos but they weren't great with it being very overcast and most of the birds feeding at the top of the trees.

I also started to put some food out on the tree outside. Some fatballs to start off with then some half coconut shells with a fat mix inside. Plenty of Great Tits visiting and one Blue Tit so far but some cheap entertainment at the kitchen table. They are so close only really possible to take photos through the window.

The last 3 days there has been plenty of Waxwings flying to and from the conifers to the Rowan trees all day. Amazing to watch and listen to them all "trilling" up in the trees. Was looking forward to seeing them in Finland but never imagined I would have so many less than 10 metres from my backdoor.

Today (26/10) it has been the coldest so far with -12c at 9 o'clock this morning and -15c recorded last night. It was a beautiful day though and the sun was out. I decided to go out for a walk up to part of Ounasvaara hill called Isorakka. It was fairly quiet as to be expected but you gotta be in it to win it. I didn't see much for a good couple hours but when I got into the forest properly I did see a few things. A clearing in the forest had quite a bit of activity with 4 Waxwings, 2 Willow Tit, 5-6 Great Tit, Blue Tit and 3 Bullfinch (a new species for the Finnish list). I enjoyed walking up to the top of the hill and having a look around but there wasn't much else of interest seen. On the way back home there were plenty of Waxwings in the roadside Birches in small but frequent groups.

When I made it back to the accomodation I noticed that the Waxwings had moved to the lower branchs of one tree where there were still berries left and the light was really good so I attempted some photos and got some ok ones I think, some below.

Finnish Bird List additions:
45. Bullfinch

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Elk Hunt...

Yesterday (06/10) I participated in a local elk hunt which had been arranged by the University here. It was an invite for all the exchange students studying forestry from a local forestry company to go along and see something new and act as beaters in a driven shoot.

Early start at 6:00am and we were picked up at our student accomodation. Surprisingly there aren't many forestry exchange students studying here so it was us three from the UK and 6 Czechs who we had already spent quite a bit of time with.

No time for breakfast but it didn't matter because it was being provided for free at the hunting cabin in the woods. A nice big fire was already on the go and we met a few of the people running the shoot. Not long after breakfast the guests started to arrive with their expensive cars, expensive outdoor clothing and big guts, the usual sort.

After a briefing on the plan for the day we set off in the cars to the first location for the shoot dressed in our red caps and vests. The shooters made their way around to the other side whilst we beaters headed off to our position to create a chain of people through the forest which would drive the elk towards the shooters. We were provided with two wooden batons to create as much noise as we could whilst walking.

The horn blew three times and we were off, walking slowly, shouting, clacking our sticks and trying to keep equal distance between the person in the chain either side who was 150 - 200 metres away. After awhile due to the terrain it was impossible to see the person either side of you but I kept going through dense forest and swamp when all of a sudden I saw movement, a young male elk not 20 metres in front. We paused for a few seconds looking at each other and then he ran off towards the right with me wondering if he would still be alive in a few minutes time. I got to the end of my beat at a long clearing in the forest where a powerline ran through. Several others also made it but the chain had become a bit confused and some people weren't there yet. The few of us who were stood in a safe location and waited to see what happened, it was deadly quiet.

We stood there in the rain and cold for a good 10 minutes waiting for instructions and wondered where the others were when all of a sudden BANG! A shot rang out that must have been heard for miles and all of a sudden it became real and there were 5 more shots shortly after that. We all looked at each other wondering what had happened.

We got the order to move, down to the shooter's position to meet up with the others. The word was a large bull elk and a calf had been shot but it wasn't clean so they needed help finding them. Eventually we made it back to the road and the others who were all safe and accounted for. Turned out this group of shooters were useless and no-one had actually hit anything at all even though we had driven 3 elks out in front of them. A small part of me was disappointed after all our efforts but a large part of me was glad that these 3 elk would live another day at least.

We returned, soaking wet to the cabin for a free lunch and to dry off a bit around the fire. After eating we got ready for another shoot at a different location. Same procedure again but this time the gaps in the chain were smaller which made it easier. Walking through the forest clacking my sticks and I saw an interesting looking bird through the trees, it flew off before I could get a proper look but as I continued through the forest I saw it again with another one this time, it was two Hazel Grouse! So the day had suddenly become all worth it. The second shoot yielded nothing aswell, there weren't even any elk this time. But we finished up and headed back to the cabin again where we were presented with a gift for our efforts from the forest company. It was a very nice pocket torch, plus we got to keep the vests and hats as a little souvenir.

Finnish Bird List additions:
44. Hazel Grouse

Free stuff.

Hopeless Hoopoe...

According to Tiira, Birdlife Finland's bird observation system there had been a Hoopoe spotted in the South East area of the City of Rovaniemi at the start of last week and it had been regularly spotted all the way up to Friday morning (05/10). So having not been out properly in awhile due to other commitments I decided to go out on Friday and look for the Hoopoe, definately not a bird I expected to be seeing in Northern Finland in October.

The bird had been hanging around the Vennivaara neighbourhood in the Kylväjäntie-Villapolku area apparently which didn't mean much to be but I checked some maps and asked some people who already seen it and set off on my bike. The area is not too far from Jängislahti which I have talked about in previous blogs so I set off rather optimistic.

The weather for the last 3 weeks has been fairly miserable with lots of rain and combined with being busy with University it's been fairly quiet on the birding front so it was nice to be out, even though it was still raining.

I headed off to the Vennivaara area which I found fairly easy (seeing 2 Common Gulls and plenty of Fieldfare on the way) and I was told it had been hanging around people's back gardens and the park areas. So this is where I looked.....for nearly two hours! And surprise surprise I didn't see anything apart from a few Hooded Crows, Magpies and Great Tits. So by now I was pretty wet and getting cold and decided to give up. I took an alternative way back though through the residential area instead of going back to the main road and I am glad that I did.

I was cycling along one of the paths between the houses which always have plenty of trees either side when I noticed some movement up at the top of some pine trees. I stopped to have a look and it was 3 Redwings but there was something else up there too. Then 6 birds flew out of the canopy down to some rowan trees packed with berries in the garden below and to my delight they were Waxwings. A new bird for me that I have always seemed to have missed back in the UK when we get an influx. They were very close too, sometimes down to just a few feet. I watched them for 30mins and tried to get some photos, 14 in total I counted. As I was walking around this small path I noticed a lot of activity maybe 100 metres down the road at another back garden.

I walked down to the garden and it was alive with activity. There was only a small feeder with some peanuts but there were c20 Greenfinch, 4 Willow Tit, 2 fighting Red Squirrels and more Waxwings eating rowan berries all around me. It definately cheered me up after dipping on the Hoopoe and with the weather. Then sometime flew very close to my head and landed on the trunk of a tree 4 feet away. It was a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a bird I had never seen that close or well and it hung around too so I managed some photos of that as well. In the trees beside the garden there were 2 Treecreepers also so some nice additions to my Finnish List. Some pictures below.

Finnish Bird List additions:
40. Common Gull
41. Waxwing (Bohemian)
42. Great Spotted Woodpecker
43. Treecreeper

On the 27th September I also attended a presentation at the Artikum here in Rovaniemi for the publication of the new Rovaniemi Breeding Bird Atlas. Unfortunately the presentation was mostly in Finnish (no surprises) but some of the more important points were given in English also. But at the end there was a table with several copies of the atlas (a really top quality publication) and when I asked how much they were I was greeted with the answer "Just take one, they are free". To say I was surprised was an understatement but took one I did and some leaflets of birding sites in English.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Jängislahti again...

Just a quick post. Haven't been able to get out much this week because of other commitments but today (22/09) I took a ride down to Jängislahti again. It was quite cold and misty for the whole of the day. It was fairly quiet. On the way down to the site in a patch of roadside mixed woodland there was a lot of bird calls to be heard so I took the time to stop and check. There was a large group of different species including, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Willow Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Siskin and the highlight of the day 5 Brambling.

At Jängislahti itself there were plenty of Reed Buntings again, examined as many as I could but still can't find that Rustic. A couple of Whoopers, Wigeon and Goldeneye out on the water. A lone Fieldfare landed on the top of one of the Birch trees before moving on. There was also, surprisingly, two Swallows flying over the wasteland and marsh repeatedly.

On the ride back got some really good views of a Willow Tit a couple feet away which was nice, and that's about it!

Finnish List Additions:
36. Greenfinch
37. Brambling
38. Swallow
39. Shoveler

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Northern Forests of Lapland Study Tour

The last week was spent in Northern Lapland on a study tour for University. There were roughly 30 of us (20 Finns, 7 Czechs and 3 Scots) and we toured around the Inari and Ivalo area viewing various aspects of forestry and land management. It was fairly quiet in terms of birds and wildlife mainly due to the vast scale of the areas we visited and the time of year but I managed to see my number one bird on my wishlist so it was definately all worth it.

- An early start of 6.30am to make the bus at the University campus that was leaving at 8.00am. It was a cold start with frost on the ground from the previous night. Looking out of the kitchen window and there were two Mountain Hares feeding on the grass outside. They really were huge, the size of a medium dog almost. Our first stop of the day was  Sodankylä. On the journey North were Hooded Crows, Magpies, Reindeer and not a whole lot else really. We were hosted by two employees from  Metsähallitus (The Finnish Forest and Park Service) and were shown around various sites related to forestry and included a forest lunch of sausage rolls and coffee around an open fire.

Forest lunch.
A few White Wagtails were seen but not much else, but the weather stayed good for the whole day. In the evening we arrived at our accomodation which consisted of log cabins right next to Inari Lake. There were a couple of Goldeneyes on the water. Later that evening I went for a walk in the forest nearby and I flushed two noisy birds which I think were Siberian Jay but it was too dark to see them or follow them so I went back to the cabin.

Day.2 - We headed to Hotel Ivalo in Ivalo for a presentation by Metsähallitus on Natural Resource Planning in the area, which has to balance the needs of Forestry, Reindeer Herding, Recreation, Hunting and the cultural traditions of the Sami people. We then visited several forestry sites again in the afternoon but towards the end of our forest lunch when heading back to the bus we had a couple of visitors, Siberian Jays! Only got to see them at a distance for a couple minutes which was frustrating but at least I finally got to see them, my most wanted bird for this trip.

Distant Siberian Jay.
Day.3 - Was an early start as we had to pack up everything to leave this accomodation as were moving to somewhere new at the end of the day. During this day we visited the Sami Education Institute which offers courses for people to learn and continue the handicraft techniques of the Sami people including jewellery making and leather tanning. A short trip to Sajos the centre for Sami Parliament (they have their own) and then to Siida, the Sami Museum and Nature Centre. This was very interesting in terms of the nature side. Lot's of information displays on the environment and it's wildlife including lots on the bird life of the area. In terms of sightings there was not much to report as we were inside most of the day and the weather was rubbish. The best bird I saw was a stuffed Great Grey Owl. At the end of the day we headed to our new accomodation for the last two nights, 6 of us had a very nice cabin on the lake shore near to Lemmenjoki National Park. Unfortunately the weather was still rubbish so no chance to explore but the weather looked better for the next day.

Stuffed Great Grey Owl at Siida

Day.4 - This day everyone was looking forward to the most of the whole week. The weather was clear and sunny and we were heading into the heard of Lemmenjoki National Park by boat. Our first stop was the visitor centre where we were given a brief description of the park and what goes on in it. We then headed a couple km down the road to where the boats were. Two boats and 25km up river using the old gold mining route. The only other way in was to walk as there are no roads. We headed up river with some parts so still they seemed like lakes. I was keeping my eyes peeled for eagles but only a few goldeneye were seen. We stopped off at a lovely waterfall where a Red Squirrel made an appearance then continued on for the last few km to our main stop and a forest lunch before hiking to the gold mining area. Shortly after we left the camp I noticed something flying towards the group. It was a Siberian Jay coming to investigate what was going on and looking for an easy meal. It was then joined by another coming to within a few feet. We had to move on but they followed us from tree to tree for a couple hundred metres. Nothing else was seen that afternoon whilst we were panning for gold until we returned to camp which had no less than 6 Siberian Jay flying around and coming down near the fire place for scraps. Some landing not a metre away from my feet, a really great experience. I'm going to flood you with photos now as it is one of my favourite birds.

Siberian Jay (Perisoreus infaustus) - A true bird of the Northern Forest

On the return leg of the boat trip a Dipper was spotted amongst many White Wagtails and a lone Little Grebe and more Reindeer on the river banks. The National Park itself is really stunning and it was a really great day. Upon returning to our accomodation the sky looked fantastic with pinks, purples and blues and later on that night I got my first proper view of the Northern Lights (although I was a little bit too drunk to take a picture by then!)

Day.5 - The fifth and final day was mostly for the journey home but we had a planned stop in Levi on the way. On one of the single track roads an Elk was spotted at the side of the road which I guessed was a young male or a female. There were also shouts for a Willow Grouse but I didn't manage to see it in time. Upon entering Levi I spotted another Siberian Jay from the bus window and a couple Ravens overhead. A group of Whooper Swans was also seen at some point on the long road back.

Overall it was a really interesting week and was nice to get a chance to see a part of Lapland properly. In terms of wildife I didn't see much but what I did was really fantastic.