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.

Sunday, 9 September 2012


Yesterday (08/09) was pretty much a lost day due to a hangover from some Finnish blueberry brandy (don't ask) but today (09/09) I was feeling much better so it was time to get out again. The weather was sunny but quite windy and I decided to check out Koivusaari Nature Trail which consists of 3.5km of boardwalk around one of the islands in the Ounasjoki estuary just across the water from Jängislahti.

It was fairly quiet all around but I made my way around the circular route. Surprisingly even with the cold wind there were a lot of dragonflies about basking on the boardwalk. These were Black Darters I later found out when I returned home.

Male Black Darter - Sympetrum danae
Carrying on a bird hopped out of the scrub on to one of the many log piles scattered about being used to upgrade the boardwalk. The bird was a nice Lesser Whitethroat a new bird for me and one I have not seen back in the UK.

Moving on again it was still fairly quiet apart from a few sheep but it was a really nice day with a proper Autumnal feel to it. Apart from a couple of Magpies the only other birds seen were Willow Warbler and another Bluethroat.

The island is a whole has some really nice habitat for birds and I imagine it is full of them during Spring and early summer but not today. There is a bird viewing tower on the island but I couldn't get to it due to parts of the boardwalk being removed. Still a good couple hours and another site I have now located for the future reference. Below is a selection of photos taken today. Heading up North to Inari tomorrow for a week, will report back next weekend.


Saturday, 8 September 2012


This last week started off fairly wet with Monday and Tuesday mostly raining. From Wednesday onwards the weather really picked up with plenty of sunny spells. I was busy at the University most of the week taking part in the induction week so I didn't get the chance to go out which was quite hard when there was reports of Bluethroats, Rustic Buntings and Red-throated Pipits.

Friday (08/09) was pretty much free and the weather was sunny and clear from when I woke up so there wasn't much time wasted thinking about what to do for the day. It was time to get back to Jängislahti to see if I could find some more birds on my wish list.

I cycled down and reached the site at 12:00. There were a ringers on site but they were just loading the last of their equipment into their cars before leaving, maybe next time! I decided to walk the boundary of the wasteland and check us much of the scrub as I could. Quite a few Reed Buntings about and plenty of pipits in the field but hard to identify when flushed out and fly into the sunlight but there were definately a few Meadow Pipits.

At one point I decided to walk down to the river's edge when all of a sudden out of nowhere a male Hen Harrier glided right past me up and over the trees and I didn't see it again. First time I have seen one properly and wasn't expecting it! Was too slow for a picture of the bird but I took some of the view anyway.

I carried on and came to the furthest away point from the main entrance to the site. I heard something calling in the scrub nearby which just sounded different. I decided to wait and see if I could get a view of whatever it was. After 5 mins I saw a flash of movement. I tried to follow it through the thick vegetation when all over a sudden it hopped out on to the ground, it was a Bluethroat, superb and it was quickly followed by another. The two of them flew off and I walked in the same general direction. A larger area of scrub and there were Bluethroats all over it, chasing each other and darting in and out. I counted 11 in total getting some great views of another top bird on my list and of course a lifer. Managed some heavily cropped record shots only. There was also 18 Whooper Swans out on the estuary and a Sedge Warbler in the scrub also, a bird I didn't manage to see in the UK this year.

Bluethroat - Luscinia svecica

Sedge Warbler
I came to the end of the scrub and decided to retrace my steps back around. Plenty more unidentified pipits and Reed Buntings. I then went past the entrance to check out the area beyond it where most of the ringing takes place. A couple Willow Warblers were calling and spotted another Bluethroat darting around. There much to see and I started walking back when a small flock of Willow Tits landed in the birch trees nearby again another bird I have never seen back in the UK. I counted 10 in all.

I walked back to my bike where I spotted a lone Northern Wheatear was sat out in the open which was a nice finish to the day. By now it was really sunny and warm for the ride home!

Next week I am heading further North with the University for a tour of  the Northern forests around Inari, maybe I will get lucky with Siberian Jay or one or two owls, we'll have to wait and see.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

First taste of Finnish birding...

Well I have made it to Finland. Been here since Thursday evening and thought I would write my first blog from here. I am staying in Rovaniemi and the city is really nice, full of Pine, Spruce and Birch in the town and as far as the eye can see and plenty of fresh water with two major rivers running through the centre. It was warmish when we got here but the temperature has dropped the last couple days with a chilly 8c at mid day today plus quite a bit of rain. Its been hectic getting accommodation sorted and trying the local beer but I've managed a bit of birdwatching already and it hasn't disappointed.

To start off with there was a nice addition to my UK life list when leaving my Dad's hotel to head off for the airport at 2am a Tawny Owl was spotted sitting in one of the roadside hedgerows giving a great view in the car headlights.

I have done a lot of research about birds and birding sites in the Rovaniemi area so I had a decent idea of where I am going to visit and what I can possibly see. I have registered with Birdlife Finland and their observation system Tiira (Finnish for Tern) which provides great info on sightings and locations. Upon checking it on the first morning (31/08) I saw that Nutcrackers were being reported all over the city and in one of the areas we were to pass when heading into the city for some shopping. Not 2km from the accommodation and there they were metres in front of me, 3 of them. Unfortunately I did not have time to watch them nor did I have my camera with me but I was definately going to come back. So less than a day in and one of my must see birds way sooner and way easier to see than I ever imagined. There were plenty of White Wagtails around the city and Hooded Crow and Herring Gull were also spotted.

On the Saturday (1/09) we decided to go to Ounasvaara Hill. This hill sits near the centre and is used heavily for recreation but is covered in Pine forest. Walking through produced Spotted Flycatchers, Goldcrest and 2 Ravens overhead, but otherwise was fairly quiet. Red Squirrels were also a common sight. After that I asked our Finnish friend who had been showing us around if she could take us to Jangislahti a site I had been informed about. Jängislahti is a wasteland area surrounded by broadleaves and scrub with areas of marsh near to the estuary of the theriver Ounasjoki and is one of the best sites to visit for birds. There are also regular ringing sessions held here. Unfortunately the only birds seen were Reed Buntings but I will definately be back, especially when I have purchased a second hand bike!
Jängislahti area in Rovaniemi

Exploring Jängislahti.
View of city from Ounavaara
Day 3 today (02/09) there was nothing planned which meant exploring and going back to the area where I saw the Nutcrackers. I left the accommodation to start the 2km walk to the city and the trees were alive with birds. Plenty of Great and Blue Tits and Siskins. In one of the gardens I passed I also spotted 2 Fieldfare and a lone Redwing.

I hurried on down to city whilst the weather was still fairly good to the Ounaspuistikko area to find the Nutcrackers. I wasn't disappointed. There were 5 there already flying in and around the pine trees hacking off the large cones that would drop to the ground so they could smash them open with their huge beaks for the seeds inside. I sat and watched them for a good 2 hours, still can't believe I've seen one of my most wanted birds so easily. I decided to collect some cones and see if they would come closer for some pictures. It worked and I got some great views of some really stunning birds. Some pictures below. There were also a couple of Red Squirrels feeding alongside them that weren't fussed about anyone who walked on by.

Spotted Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes)

Red Squirrel

A walk around another part of the city produced Tree Sparrow, Willow Warbler, Feral Pigeons, Black-headed Gull, Scaup, Goldeneye and Magpies amongst others.

So 3 days in and I have seen one of my most wanted birds from my Finland trip in decent numbers. Plenty more and plenty more places to visit and will hopefully have the time to keep this blog updated. I have also added a new page with a list of what I have seen.