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.

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