In Association with:
FINLAND/NORWAY 2nd - 13th June 2002
Day 1 2nd June
The whole group met from all their respective directions at Helsinki airport where we were soon aboard our next short flight to Oulu, Finland. On our arrival we were met by our Finnature Guide, Ari, and after collecting our luggage we walked outside of the airport, loaded up our two minibuses and then drove just a few minutes to our hotel which was situated beside a large lake. After an hour of settling into our rooms we then met up in the car park beside our minibuses. We saw Pied Flycatcher's nesting in a box and a Common Rosefinch was singing from a nearby tree. We then drove off and had our evening meal in a local farm house where we were made very welcome by the family. After our meal we headed back towards our hotel with a brief stop beside some arable fields where a Short-eared Owl was seen hunting. There were plenty of Curlew around as well as Lapwing, Fieldfare and a single Crane flying past. We went back to the hotel and made preparations to meet before breakfast in the morning.
Day 2 3rd June
Everyone was up early before breakfast and in a scrubby area near the hotel car park we had a quick look at a 1st year male Common Rosefinch singing. We then drove to an area where we could overlook the Gulf of Bothnia. From a tower platform we scanned the edge of the bay and after a few minutes found the first of two Terek Sandpipers, a bird special to just this area in Finland. A Red-necked Phalarope was then seen, while other wading birds included Ringed Plover's and a couple of Ruff. Amongst the terns were Arctic, Common and Little while ducks included Wigeon, Tufted Duck, and Teal. A Common Snipe flew overhead followed by a Jack Snipe and Sedge Warblers proclaimed their territories from every other bush. We then returned for breakfast. Afterwards we went to look on the nearby stretch of water beside our hotel. We soon found our first Whooper Swans and then picked out a dozen Smew as well as Goldeneye, Pintail, Red-breasted Merganser's and two Garganey. A couple of Marsh Harriers were then spotted, as were Great Crested Grebes. Walking back towards the hotel we found Willow Warblers, a male Redstart, two Willow Tits and a lovely Swallowtail Butterfly. Jumping into our minibuses we continued on to our next stop in a wetland. Here we put on our Wellington boots, or most of us did!! and then we walked out into a marsh where it didn't take long to locate a rare breeding pair of Citrine Wagtails. After looking at these birds and a pair of Marsh Harriers we returned to the Vehicles. Here, a male Hen Harrier put in a close but all to brief appearance.
We soon found Black-tailed Godwits, lots of displaying Ruff and a flock of over 200 Common Cranes. There were a lot of waterbirds present and Geoff found us a huge Caspian Tern sat amongst the Black-headed Gulls. A pair of Garganey could be watched Displaying and an adult Little Gull hawked over the marshes. Leaving here we drove to a remote woodland where Ari showed us an old Goshawk's nest which was occupied by a big ball of feathers which was a baby Ural Owl. We looked around for an adult but couldn't find one. Not far away we were then shown the nest hole of a Three-toed Woodpecker, and immediately we spotted the female on a nearby tree. She then came down and showed on the bare trunk beside the hole before disappearing in-side. Our next site was another tract of woodland and here we put up with the mosquito's to enjoy fabulous views of a female Great Grey Owl sat on her nest with four fairly large chicks. Fantastic views were had of this much sought after owl and we all walked away with huge smiles on our faces.
As we returned towards the hotel Ari decided to try another woodland site and here we were soon to be treated to an adult Ural Owl sat amongst a group of spruces. With our telescopes set up we enjoyed great views of another excellent owl. Leaving here we then returned to our hotel a little late, but still in time for our evening meal. After eating we went through our checklists together and then for those who wished we went out again for a little more owling! After half an hours drive we parked in a woodland where we were eventually treated to the most fantastic close views of an adult Pygmy-owl.
This tiny bird no more than 15 feet away just looked down on us, totally unconcerned. With a few Woodcock seen roding and a couple of Elk beside the road we ended an unbelievable first day's birding. We did try a spot for Tengmalm's Owl but it was now late and everyone was more than happy so we retired back to the hotel and a well deserved sleep.
Day 3 4th June
After breakfast we drove to a nearby area of marshland and walked out to a small tower hide which overlooked the area. From our vantage point we saw many duck and Whooper Swan and a few waders including Greenshank. Far out were Goldeneye and a small group of Graylag Geese. Leaving this area and all it's singing Sedge Warblers we then drove to an area of bushes beside a large river. Here with perseverance we managed to see a Thrush Nightingale singing from the high branches of a birch tree.
Happy with this we moved on to another site where we found an empty Black Woodpecker nest, the young birds having fledged within the last couple of days. Just before we got to this spot we did however find a couple of Green Sandpipers, Tree Pipits and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and several Goldeneye. There were plenty of Green Hairstreak butterflies here as well. We then returned back to the hotel for lunch. After this and a short rest we went out again firstly to a nearby lake. Scanning from the shore we had excellent views of several pairs of Common Scoter, a few adult Little Gull's and then a breeding plumaged Black-throated Diver. From here we next went to an area beside the sea. Parking in the woods we soon found Crested Tits and a pair of Common Treecreepers. As we got towards the water a Lesser Whitethroat showed well singing from the top of a dead tree and then we found the first of several Ruff displaying in the long grass. While here a pale phase Arctic Skua flew overhead and on the waters edge we found Red Knot, Ringed Plovers, Turnstone and Goosander. A Common Sandpiper was also seen before we re-entered the wood. Just before getting back to the vehicles Jeff found a small Adder. Returning back to our hotel we had an early evening meal so as we could go out afterwards with another guide who was going to put identification rings on three baby Tengmalm's Owls. After the meal we all drove to the site and watched as the three chick's were duly rung. They were then put back onto their nest and we left. A Chiffchaff was spotted and a decision was then made to check some nearby fields. Once here we soon heard an Ortolan Bunting and after some searching it was found singing from a tree top. A Short-eared Owl was watched hunting and then we had a Long-eared Owl fly by. The Short-eared was seen well again before we returned back to our hotel and got together to do our checklists.
Day 4 5th June
Today was to be our travelling day north to Kuusamo. After breakfast we packed our luggage into the minibuses and set off. Our first stop was at the Pygmy-owl site, where we saw seven beautiful tiny chicks in a nest box. Moving on from here we then visited an open area of bog which had a tower platform from which we could scan the area. Tree Pipit was soon found and then four Cranes were seen feeding just behind a line of bushes. In the far distant heat haze a pair of raptors were spotted and after some time they came closer and could easily be seen to be adult Golden Eagles. As we watched they were mobbed by hooded Crows and then after climbing high it was great to see them displaying.
A Yellow Wagtail (thunbergi) came and sat in a nearby tree while below us on the boggy ground John found a few Dragonflies which included White-faced Darters. Leaving here we continued north stopping for lunch along the way. Just a short distance from here we saw several Waxwings sat on a dead tree. We then drove a few back roads to get to Kuusamo. A first stop found us Brambling and a very northerly pair of Red-backed Shrikes, plus Willow Tit, Siskins and Sparrowhawk. Another stop found Cuckoo, and several noisy Wood Sandpipers flying over. Continuing on we eventually reached our hotel situated beside a lake in the town of Kuusamo. After our evening meal a couple of the group looked on this lake and found some lovely Smew, Goldeneye and a group of six Red-necked Phalaropes.
Day 5 6th June
After breakfast we set off to a tract of pine forest about forty kilometres from the hotel. We walked down amongst the trees and after ten minutes of searching we found "the old man of the wood" a very stropy male Capercaillie.
He soon tried to show us he was boss and ran over and tried to pick a fight with John, the biggest person in our group. We all backed off and he continued to strut his stuff just a few feet away from us. For those of us that had seen Caper before this was great, but for those in the group who had never seen one before, this was like a dream come true! Leaving this grumpy bird we then set of to another area of woodland.
Here we walked along the road, listened, and scanned the tree tops. Brambling were easily found and then further along a Siberian Jay was spotted on a tree top. It soon flew off, followed by two others. We walked up to the area but they had gone. Common Rosefinch was then spotted and then later we all got fantastic close views of a male Rustic Bunting.
A Wryneck was heard calling but not seen so we decided to leave and headed for Oulanka national park. Here we walked along the river to a waterfall. White Wagtail, Common Sandpiper and then a pair of Dippers were found. As we watched the Dippers were seen to go to a nest where we all enjoyed superb views. On our way out we listened to Redwing singing and saw several Calypso Orchids.
From here we drove to our lunch spot in the middle of the forest. The owners put out food for the birds and we soon found an adult (red) male Common Rosefinch plus lots of Siskin. After a really nice meal of Reindeer we found several Violet Copper butterflies then drove towards the Russian border but a barrier was down and we could not go any further! We drove along many kilometres of dirt track eventually coming out beside a small lake.
Here we had good views of up to twelve White-winged Scoter, several Smew, Goldeneye and ArcticTerns. Ari then found three very distant raptors, at least one of which was an immature White-tailed Eagle. After trying to get all of the group to see this bird, it drifted fast left, over the hill and was gone.
A Reindeer was spotted and not far from here a stop which overlooked Russia had us find a closer White-tailed Eagle and a very bright male Whinchat. We returned to the hotel for an early evening meal after which we went out again, this time to an Eagle Owls nest where two downy chicks were seen waiting for an adult to return.
Day 6 7th June
We were due to go out early but the weather had changed and it was now pouring with rain so we returned to bed. After breakfast at 7.00 we then set off firstly to area of pines. Here we braved the light rain and were soon admiring a pair of Siberian Tits which were taking food to and throw from a nest box full of chicks. Next stop was to Valtavaara. On our arrival the rain had slowed a little and this allowed us to get out and search part of the wood. We climbed up into the forest and listened. After a while a Red-flanked Bluetail started singing very nearby, however it soon stopped and so we were unable to locate it. Brambling's were easily seen and beside the minibuses were Bullfinch and Willow Tit. Leaving here we set off to drive an area that is usually productive for Grouse species, but it was now really to late in the day. A drive to the Russian border added a brief and distant Great Grey Shrike. One other stop along the way found us a male Little Bunting, which we tracked down and saw singing from the top of a dead tree. It was nearing lunch time so we returned to Kuusamo for something to eat. Afterwards we visited a nearby lake where the sun was out and viewing conditions were perfect. A beautiful breeding plumaged Red-necked Grebe was found and enjoyed first, soon followed Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Greenshank and some very good views of close Arctic Terns and Little Gulls. Ari then found two Long-tailed Ducks, we saw more Red-necked Grebes and then Ray came up trumps when he found a sub adult Golden Eagle circling over a distant forest. As we all watched this bird, a great scenario emerged when firstly an Osprey started mobbing the eagle and then a Goshawk circled amongst them. "What a show!". Our next stop was Kuusamo rubbish dump, we parked beside a small pond and soon got searching. Two Red-necked Phalaropes were as always a nice find and Agnes counted for us over thirty Wood Sandpipers. There were also two Spotted Redshanks, Snipe, and amongst the gulls were Black-headed, Common, Herring and a Lesser Black-backed. After this we tried Hazel Grouse without success and then returned to the hotel. After eating we quickly went through the daily checklist and then several of the group went out trying to find Siberian Jay. We searched a recently opened up piece of wilderness and only managed a group of Waxwings. We returned back to the hotel and went to bed ready for a last try for the Red-flanked Bluetail in the morning.
Day 7 8th June
Some of the group were up early and soon on our way to Valtavaara. Here we positioned ourselves on the hillside overlooking the woodland. While listening we checked every tree top in sight. Redwings, Siskins and Brambling were soon found as was Robin and Dunnock. A Greenish Warbler then started singing and we soon found the bird and although quite distant, through the scopes every detail could be seen. John then spotted a Siberian Jay on the top of the hillside. It disappeared but later Agnes relocated it and we all got scope views. It was almost time to leave when I spotted the male Red-flanked Bluetail perched on a very distant tree. Frustratingly nobody had time to get their scopes on it before it flew high and over the top of the wood. The same bird was spotted flying way over our heads and into the woods behind. It was time to leave so we made our way down onto the road. A last minute check behind us and there it was right on the top of a spruce singing away. We set our scopes up and had very good views of this much wanted bird. Excellent! We then returned back to the hotel, had a quick breakfast, loaded the minibuses and drove to nearby Kuusamo airport where Geoff, Don and Mary finished their tour and set off on their return flights. We said our farewells and then the rest of the group continued our journey north towards Lapland and Norway.
Continuing on we had a coffee break and later stopped beside a wide open area of marshland. Right beside where we parked a superb male red spotted Bluethroat sang from the tops of some small trees. We had the best views ever of this beautifully bright bird.
A distant White-tailed Eagle was then scoped after which we made our way on to our lunch stop in a cafe owned by a local birdwatcher. After a lovely meal of Whitefish, the owner came with us a short distance to a small bit of wood where he showed us a nest hole of Tengmalm's Owl. Unfortunately the chicks had left the nest already. John then spotted them sat in a nearby tree just six feet of the ground.
Our next stop was 60 km fom Ivalo. We visited a huge nature reserve and here set off along one of the trails. We hadn't gone far when a Siberian Jay was found sat on a tree top.
As we watched another flew in close to us and gave unbelievable views. Moving on we found a particular area within the woodland and myself and Ari split up in search of our next speciality. After some thorough search I then found our prize, a magnificent Hawk Owl sat on the top of a spruce looking at us with his piercing yellow eyes. Every one saw him through the scope before he flew off and was not relocated. We had good views of a perched Crossbill before leaving and setting off on our last stretch of today's journey, eventually arriving at our hotel in Ivalo.
Day 8 9th June
After breakfast we loaded up the mimibuses and set of north towards Norway.
From here we had a couple of singing Bluethroats, a Greenshank sat on top of a tall Spruce tree and a very distant Osprey. A Broad-billed Sandpiper was heard singing and after climbing back down from the tower we tried to call it up without success. Moving on, a roadside stop for a Rough-legged Buzzard also had the first bus see a Merlin dash by! The next roadside stop had us watch four Long-tailed Skuas circling and calling in the sky together and then we all got fantastic close views of an adult male Lapland Bunting.
Continuing north we stopped for a wonderful filling lunch of Salmon and potato soup and then close by and near the border to Norway we searched a high area of open moorland. Eventually two Dotterel were found and seen very
well and a pair of Golden Plovers and Arctic Grayling butterfly added to our lists. Into Norway and heading towards Varanger fjord the trees slowly disappeared giving way to barren open, rock strewn land with patches of still un-melted snow. After a coffee break we drove further and then stopped occasionally to look at the sea. Several more Rough-legged buzzards were seen and on the beaches were many Goosander and Common Eider. The temperature had dropped considerably and despite there being a bright blue sky it was now cold. Beside a garage we found a single Bar-tailed Godwit, numerous Common Eider and a pair of Scaup. As we followed the coast tens of thousands of Kittiwakes could be seen in many huge rafts on the water, quite a spectacle.
We soon arrived at our hotel just in time for our evening meal which was promptly eaten and our checklist was duly complete. The keenness of being in a totally new area saw everyone out and ready for some evening birding. We drove out of Vardo through the 3 km long undersea tunnel and across the moorland.
A roadside stop by a small pool found a beautiful pair of Red-throated Divers and on the opposite side of the road we watched breeding plumage Dunlin and several dainty Red-necked Phalaropes. Arctic Skuas of both light and dark phase could be either seen flying around or sat on the ground. A little further along we drove into a small fishing village and as we drove towards the end of the harbour I spotted a close White-billed Diver in the tiny harbour itself.
The water was flat calm and the light conditions perfect for the best scope views imaginable. We watched this stunning bird in its full breeding plumage so close it filled the view in the scopes completely. We then turned our attention to the sea where a first summer drake King Eider was soon found, followed by a 1st summer Glaucous Gull flying past as well as Black Guillemots and a few Puffins.
By the harbour a nice breeding plumage Long-tailed Duck was seen as well as another Glaucous Gull and lots of Eider and both Common and Great Black-backed Gulls. With the White-billed Diver still fishing in the harbour beside us we left and returned back to he hotel. A quick stop was made for a Short-eared Owl flying over and for a Red Fox which sat in the grass looking at us.
Day 9 10th June
After breakfast we put on our warmest clothes and then drove just a few hundred yards to a boat jetty. Here we boarded a small boat and set off across the flat calm sea to the very close island of Hornoya. Half way across we spotted a drake King Eider in full breeding plumage. A quick word with the boatman and he steered us towards the bird. We got fairly close and enjoyed excellent views of this beautiful bird. Continuing on we started to see more and more auks until we were surrounded by hundreds of Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins. We landed and walked to the base of the cliff where in front of us a seabird colony was alive with the sights and sounds breeding birds. Black Guillemots were the first to pose for photographs, soon followed by the Puffins which preferred to be around their grassy burrows rather than the cliff. Up on the ledges we scoped Kittiwakes, Shags and Razorbills and then we all got superb views of the target species the Brunnich's Guillemot.
Very close views were had of all the species and the atmosphere was wonderful. Walking around to the other side of the island we saw a Glaucous Gull and many Eider and Goosander. With our cameras all running out of film we returned 3 hours later to meet the return boat.
We had to wait for the boatman and this was a good opportunity to get more photo's of all the seabirds.
Out on the sea beyond all the auks was a flock of forty King Eider with just one full breeding drake amongst them. As we returned across towards the mainland we then found the other drake King Eider. Once ashore we set off through town and then drove to the shore where the King Eider could be seen from. We soon located it and enjoyed good telescope views. It was now time for our lunch which consisted of about six different types of fish. After lunch we set off along the coast road towards Jacobselv. Along the way we made a few roadside stops to search the many roosting Common Eider. On an open area we saw two Willow Grouse being pursued by Some Arctic Skuas and we passed by many more Skuas and pools which held groups of Red-necked Phalaropes. Along a sandy beach despite the cold wind we found Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwits and Turnstones. Once at our destination we searched the small harbour and found more Eider a flock of Common Scoter flew past and a group of Red-necked Phalaropes proved to everyone just how tame they were when photographed at just a few feet. On the other side of the town we found another Glaucous Gull, Spotted Redshank, Ruff and a pair of displaying Temminck's Stint. In the town a pair of Common Starling were our only ones of the trip! We then returned towards Vardo. Ari made a roadside stop and everyone got very good views of a Red-throated Pipit, with a red throat. Further along we found a group of four "Taiga" Bean Geese and with them was a single White-fronted Goose. It was now getting late so we drove quickly back to the hotel for our evening meal. Ari's bus seeing a Hen Harrier along the way. After the meal and our checklists, a few of the group wanted to experience some evening birding so we drove through the tunnel and onto an open area of moorland. As we passed by the beach a quick scan found twenty Long-tailed Ducks, while beside us a Short-eared Owl was seen sat on a telegraph pole. We drove out onto the barren moor and glimpsed a singing Lapland Bunting. We then found a couple of Snow Buntings and after walking to a high vantage point, we found Rough-legged Buzzard and got good scope views of three Ptarmigan. At about midnight, and still daylight! we returned to the hotel.
After breakfast we first drove to a nearby bay where we could search amongst the many duck. Along the way we stopped and had superb views of a pair of Shorelarks and a few Snow Buntings. We then drove along the edge of the bay and after parking we found a White-tailed Eagle sat proudly on a rock overlooking the sea. There were both Red-throated Pipit and Bluethroat close by and out on the water we saw over 500 Long-tailed Ducks, a few White-winged Scoter, Black Guillemots, and countless Common Eider. Amongst the thousands of Kittiwakes feeding on the surface we could see a couple of Harbour Porpoises gently breaking the surface. Leaving here we headed north into even more barren scenery. We followed the coastal road making stops to check every group of Eider and Goosander. More Long-tailed Duck were found and a couple of White-tailed Eagles and Rough-legged Buzzards. We drove further on through some very impressive scenery and then stopped beside a small river surrounded by very low willows. Here we searched and found a few Mealy Redpoll's and even spotted the nest of a pair which was very exposed on top of a 5ft high willow. There were Bluethroats also here and near the river a Temminck's Stint could be watched singing from a tree top.
We decided to have our picnic lunch here and in so doing we were treated to some exceptionally fine weather and excellent views of Arctic Redpoll's. After lunch we moved on to the end of the road at Hamningberg. In the bay there were 71 King Eider and a couple of Common Scoter. Arctic Terns sat around on every rock and Swallow, Red-throated Pipit, and Small Tortoiseshell butterfly were seen. Out at sea were Gannets and groups of auks flying by and we also saw two Great Skua's. Leaving here we drove across to another bay which overlooked distant snow covered mountains. On the beach here we found Purple Sandpipers and Ruff while on the grassy banks were several more Snow Buntings. We then took a slow drive back towards our hotel with many stops along the way. After our evening meal we went out for a couple of hours onto some nearby moorland. We soon found some Golden Plovers plus many Arctic Skuas. In a grassy field there were 34 Bean geese and a group of Ruff lekking. Two White-tailed Eagles flew towards the sea and Rough-legged Buzzards were seen again. At the end of the track we got out and found another two White-tailed Eagles sat on a hilltop and both Dunlin and Lapland Buntings could be heard singing. We then found a pair of Long-tailed Skua's and everyone enjoyed fantastic views as they flew around us, chased a fox, and then sat on the ground and posed for our scopes. It was time to leave so we headed back with one brief stop to look at a Willow Grouse perched on a rock 30 yards in front of us.
Day 11 12th June
After breakfast we loaded our luggage onto the minibuses and set off on the journey back to Ivalo. There was to be many stops en-route and the first was for a group of Bean Geese close to the road. We then called into the small harbour at Kiberg and here just twenty yards away feeding in the seaweed was an immature drake Steller's Eider.
After excellent view of this bird we continued on our way. Both White-tailed Eagle and Rough-legged Buzzards were seen close to the roads and a group of 16 Whooper Swans were our first for Norway. All the usual duck were seen along the way and then following the Tena river we stopped to view the tall cliffs and recently occupied Gyr Falcons nest. We checked all the likely looking perches but the birds were not around. A huge White-tailed Eagle soared overhead sending all the nesting Herring Gulls into a frenzy and further on we drove into a huge basin surrounded by rivers and snow-capped Mountains, a truly beautiful setting! Here we had our picnic lunch. Arctic Terns nested beside the road and Temminck's and Little Stints were seen. As we had our picnic in the glorious sunshine a juvenile White-tailed Eagle flew overhead pursued by a Rough-legged Buzzard and nearby a Temminck's Stint displayed from the roof of a wooden shed. We then drove through Lapland and back into Finland arriving at our hotel just in time for our evening meal.
Day 12 13th June
Our last morning and we decided to go out early for a few hours before breakfast. Only about 10 km from the hotel we drove into a forest and then walked a short distance to a tower hide. Despite the light rain we scanned across the open bog and saw distant Red-necked Phalaropes, Wood Sandpiper and a pair of hunting Short-eared Owls. Two Common Cranes were found feeding and beside us a pair of Fieldfares were going a bit crazy because their nest was in the hide. We left them in peace and went to another area of bog. Here we had fairly good views of a Broad-billed Sandpiper in it's display flight. We then drove around some forest tracks and found it rather quiet with just Brambling the most obvious species. Hungry we returned for our breakfast and then packed our bags and said our goodbye's to Monique and Agnes. We drove to the nearby airport where we found the flight was just about to go, and this after just confirming an hour previous! everyone said goodbye to our Finnature guide Ari and then flew to Helsinki and then later on to Heathrow where we concluded yet another g reat birdseekers tour.
Great company, excellent bird sightings with everything seen well by everyone and all backed up by very good weather and fantastic scenery.
Full Species list for Finland trip