Visit your favourite destinations
Western Europe
North America
Eastern Europe
South America
Middle East
East Indies

A Report from

Finland 16th-20th May 2005,

Bob Swann

A report of a trip made by Brian Bates, Simon Busuttil, Chris Donald, Keith Duncan, Andy Jensen, Tim Nicholson, Mark Nowers, and Bob Swann

This report gives details of the birds seen and the sites visited during five days birding in north Finland. The trip was organised by Chris Donald, in conjuction with Finnature. We hired a Kia people carrier from Europcar, Inverness and six of us travelled down from the north of Scotland on the 15th of May (departing at 2.30am!) to Stanstead Airport where we met up with the other two team members. The drive down took nine hours. We then flew by Ryanair to Tampere. On arrival we collected a mini-bus  (pre booked  by Finnature for us, though it was an eight seater rather than the 9 seater we had asked for) and drove north for six hours through the night to Varminkoski just south of Liminka, where Finnature had arranged accommodation for us in a large chalet. At the chalet we met Harri Taavetti our Finnature guide, who was to be with us throughout the trip.

16th May.
The drive north from Tampere took 6 hours. By 0150 the sky was reddening from the north and we began to see things such as our first Elk and both Brown and Arctic Hares by the roadside. We also saw our first birds. Some very pale Short-eared Owls hunting in forest clearings. After meeting up with Harri and having some breakfast we decided to head south to look for harriers. Just south of Vihanti are some open areas of agricultural land. In the arable fields were large flocks of Golden Plover, with Lapwing, Curlew, Ruff and a Whimbrel. Amongst the Common and Black-headed Gulls were 3 superb adult Little Gulls, with their sooty black heads. It had started to drizzle as we headed slightly further east to an area of forestry. Here Harri soon located an adult Capercaille in full display. It was quite an aggressive bird and came rushing up to us as it displayed, giving excellent views. We also heard Crested Tits and had close views of a Greyhen. We headed on to more arable land east of Oulainen. It had now started sleeting! Here we had three Short-eared Owls hunting, two of which were very pale, but no harriers. We also heard our first Redwings, their songs are very variable, and saw our first Fieldfares and recently arrived Willow Warblers. From ditches we flushed 12 Wood Sandpipers and had brief views of two Bluethroats and 3 Grey-headed Wagtails. We also saw a very nice Water Vole eating willow catkins. It was now quite wet so we decided to return to the chalet and catch up with some sleep. The chalet was in a woodland clearing with a large pond. On the edge of the pond were a White Wagtail, a Wood Sandpiper and a Common Sandpiper, whilst in nearby trees were 2 Eurasian Jays, 1pair Pied Flycatcher, 1 pair Common Redstart and 6 Waxwings.

We slept for 4 hours and then went for a tasty buffet lunch at a nearby service station. By now the rain was easing so we drove to a boggy area on the southern outskirts of Kempele. In scrub on the outskirts of town we had Greenfinch, Common Redpoll and a pair of Willow Tits of the race borealis, bigger than ours with a much frostier appearance. We then waded through some wet areas to get a good view of the bog. It was heaving with birdlife. 150+ Wood Sandpiper were feeding, flying about and even song flighting all around us and amongst them was a Spotted Redshank, in full summer plumage. Also present were a vast number of Grey-headed Wagtails, around 200. They would be disturbed from time to time and would fly up, swirl about and land in the trees and bushes. It was quite a spectacle. Amongst them Harri located two singing male Citrine Wagtails, which gave us all good views. Also seen were Tree Pipits, White Wagtails and Reed Buntings. Raptors included 3 male Marsh Harriers and a pair of Hen Harriers. We also spotted a Goshawk on a pylon being mobbed by Hooded Crows and a very bold Magpie. There were masses of Barn Swallows feeding over the bog with a few House Martins and a Sand Martin. A pair of Pintail flew in and we had at least 4 Common Cranes fly by as well as 25 Greylag Geese and a flock of 140 Whooper Swans. It was quite a place and at the end of the trip was voted place of the trip.

We left Kempele and stopped by some stubble fields just north of the town. Here we had a flock of about 180 Ruff. The males were in full breeding plumage with white, black, brown, orange and bronzy ruffs. We watched a few males lekking. There were also good numbers of Golden Plover, Lapwing and 4 Black-tailed Godwits. Overhead we had a small flock of Common Swift, the first of the summer. Next stop was Vihiluoto a small point in a bay on the east side of Oulusalo. Waders here included 3 Temminck’s Stint, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Common Redshank plus many Ruff and Wood Sandpipers. Ducks included a pair of Garganey, Common Teal, Mallard and Shoveler with lots of Goosanders and Red-breasted Mergansers on the water. Further out in the bay we had a Black-throated Diver and 2 Red-necked Grebes, all in summer plumage. We then moved east to some fields near Paituri where we had good views of a male Ortolan Bunting, alongside a male Yellow Hammer and 4 Whinchats. We were enroute to an area of forest just southeast of Oulu near Sandinsuu. Here Harri took us to a box where we had good views of a Tengalm’s Owl, which looked out the nest hole when Harri scratched the base of the tree. We then moved back to the coast to the bird observation tower at Hietasaari on the north side of Oulu. On the shore were 20 superb Caspian Terns along with a few Common, Arctic and one Little Tern. There were quite a few immature Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls as well as at least 6 Little Gulls (some with pinkish breasts). Waders included 11 Bar-tailed Godwits (all in beautiful summer plumage), 4 Greenshank, 1 Spotted Redshank, 1 Turnstone and some Ringed Plovers.

We then drove down to the south side of Oulu to a spruce forest near Rusko. This was a Pygmy Owl site. Harri tried to attract the male by calling, but unfortunately it did not respond. We had a quick look inside one of the nesting boxes and had a brief view of the female brooding her chicks surrounded by masses of plucked passerine feathers. We moved further south and stopped at a service station to exchange our crowded 8 seater mini-bus for the 9 seater we had originally ordered. Then headed on to some forest south of Liminka. Here we tried, unsuccessfully to locate a pair of Ural owl. We did have nice views though of a roding Woodcock. Then at dusk we went to a very large bog at Haarasuo in the forest. Here we waited for a while till in the distance, then eventually just above us, we heard the galloping horses hoofs calls of displaying Jack Snipe which resonated over the bog (voted the top bird sound of the trip!), enhanced by the calls of frogs and distant cranes. So it was back to the chalet at 0015 after a very long but exciting day.

17th May.
After yesterday’s long day we had a lie in till 8.30am. It was raining again when we got up, but it soon started to clear. A walk round the chalet ground revealed lots of Tree Pipits, Siskins and singing Song Thrush, Robin, Dunnock and Goldcrest and another nice Willow Tit. We decided to head south again to the fields south of Vihanti to continue our search for harriers. On arrival we immediately spotted a third summer male Pallid Harrier hunting over the fields (there has been a large influx of these birds to Finland this spring). We got very good views of it and at one stage it interacted with a female Hen Harrier. As we drove back north along the main road we spotted another Pallid Harrier and like the first it was a third summer bird as it still had some brown rings on its tail. There was also a male Hen Harrier in the same field, so voles must have been plentiful.

We then headed to an area of mature forest east of Paavola, en-route spotting the only Common Buzzard we saw during the entire trip. Harri took us to a Great Grey Owl site where we had good views of the female on its nest and excellent close views of the male, which was roosting nearby. Quite an impressive bird. A further 1.5km into the forest we stopped at another site and Harri attracted a male Ural Owl by imitating its call. It was a bit timid, but eventually we all got very good views of this bird. In the forest we also saw Siskin, Common Redstart and a Green Sandpiper which called and song flighted above us. It was now bright and sunny, though there were a few heavy showers from time to time.

We then went back to the chalet to pack up the bus for our journey east. A lunch stop at the ABC service station was a welcome break and the Reindeer Stew proved to be very popular. We then drove north up to Oulu (saw at least 2 Rooks in the town) and then headed north-east along the long straight road towards Kuusomo. As we got further east many of the lakes were still frozen and within the forests there was still much snow. Just west of Kuusomo we stopped at the town dump. On the semi frozen lake below the dump we had nice views of displaying Goldeneye as well as a few Common Teal, 1 pair Pintail, 1 male Wigeon a pair of Goosander and a White-fronted Goose. On the tip were some House Sparrows as well as Hooded Crows, Magpies and Ravens.  Gulls included lots of Black-headed and Common Gulls with a few Herring Gulls and many Baltic Gulls. Harri also pointed out a Siberian Gull, which landed on the ice beside a Baltic Gull so we could see how the former was larger and paler than the latter. A passing Merlin spooked the gulls and then we noted an adult male Goshawk sitting on a stump by the pool. It was very approachable and close examination revealed it had a damaged leg. We then drove into Kuusomo and stopped to order some pizzas. Whilst waiting for them to be cooked, we headed out to check the forested suburbs of the town and here we had excellent views of a pair of Willow Grouse, the male was very smart with his white underside and wings.  We then collected our pizzas and drove to Oivanki, where Finnature had booked us into a lovely log cabin in the woods above a frozen lake.

18th May.
An early start saw us up at 4.15am. It was a nice sunny, dry but cold morning. We started to drive north till a “harrier” call resulted in a sudden stop and we watched our third Pallid Harrier of the trip, a first summer bird cross the road in front of us. We then drove on to the nature reserve at Valtavaara. Here we stopped in the road side pass on this low ridge below a hill called Kortainen. We scanned the forest for a while picking out a nice male Bullfinch, several Common Crossbills feeding on the spruce cones, including some males resplendent in their red plumage and a Red Squirrel. A Goshawk drifted along the top of the ridge, to be followed later by a Hobby. In the car park we had good views of a group of Siberian Jays. They were very approachable coming very close to feed on bits of bread we threw out for them.  We then walked up through the forest. A Red-flanked Bluetail was singing its short repetitive song. It was quite timid but after a while we tracked it down and got superb views of what Harri reckoned was a first year male, singing on top of a spruce. This was later voted bird of the trip. Elated we headed back to the car park. Here we heard a drumming woodpecker and eventually we managed to get good views of a Three-toed Woodpecker in flight as it flew from one side of the valley to the next and then drumming at the top of a dead spruce tree. Just as we left the car park we spotted a male Hazel Grouse at the side of the road. We got very close views of this bird so could admire its smart plumage before it walked off into the forest. This was a super area with both its scenery and its amazing birds.

We then headed towards Juuma. A call of “large raptor” brought the bus to a sudden halt followed by a mass exodus to watch an immature White-tailed Eagle soar up over a frozen lake. Many of the lakes were just starting to thaw and many Goldeneye and Tufted Ducks fed in the unfrozen lake margins. We also had a nice view of a pair of Smew walking over the ice. We were now driving through the forest along gravel tracks in the Oulanka National Park. We stopped from time to time to scan the forest. As well as singing Bramblings, Mistle Thrush, more Bullfinch and Common Crossbill we spotted an early returning Osprey on its nest on a spruce on a distant ridge. In the park we had several stops at wet, boggy, scrubby sites and were eventually rewarded with excellent close views of a pair of Rustic Bunting. We stopped for a coffee and a bite to eat at a café at Lukasenvaara. Here there was a well stocked feeding station, which as well as attracting a partly grey coloured Red Squirrel, had a Common Linnet (quite rare here) a nice male Bullfinch, a male Brambling, some Greenfinch, a pair of Siskin and a Blue Tit, all coming in to feed.

We continued our drive through the forest. Along the gravel roads we had at least 5 female Capercaille, a Greyhen and a pair of Hazel Grouse. At this time of year the females apparently come down to the road side to get grit to help with egg formation. Next stop was the Oulanka Park visitor centre. Around it we had singing Redwing, Fieldfare and a pair of Pied Flycatchers nest building in one of the many nest boxes erected throughout the forest.

We were now heading back to Kuusomo, but stopped off in another forested area near Ruka. The forest was quite open here with a lot of dead wood. We had good views of another Three-toed Woodpecker as well as a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Singing from the top of a spruce was a Northern Wheatear. A pair of Greenshank flew in and also landed on the trees. A flock of 30 Meadow Pipits suddenly appeared moving through the open forest as did a few more Common Crossbill. Finally we had excellent views of another male Rustic Bunting singing in the trees beside us. We then headed back to our cabin at Oivanki. A completely white Arctic Hare run across a field at the edge of the track. We stopped in the forest close to the chalets and Harri located a Siberian Tit. We had excellent views as it flitted from tree to tree and fed amongst some tree stumps and even hopped over a snow patch just in front of us – a superb lively little bird. We had some lunch in the chalet and out of the window Keith noted a pair of Siberian Tits in the adjacent trees. We had a rest and a few of us managed some sleep for a couple of hours. Those that didn’t heard a Black Woodpecker calling near the cabins but frustratingly always out of sight.

We then drove into Kuusomo. On the lakes just north of the town we had a swimming Muskrat and over another a hunting Osprey. After another nice buffet meal at the local service station we headed southeast from Kuusomo and out along some gravel roads through the forest to the south of the 866 road. We passed at least 6 female Capercailles and 3 Greyhen on the edge of the road side. We also had 2 Blackcock perched high in road side trees and another lekking in the middle of the road. We stopped at a curve in the road on a slight ridge giving a good view over a large area of forest. Keith spotted a Golden Eagle perched near the top of a dead tree, whilst Mark located a Great Grey Shrike on a dead pine. Then Harri outdid everyone by spotting at large Hawk Owl on top of a spruce on a distant ridge. Despite the distance it was very recognisable and we got brief views of it in flight. It had been a long but excellent day and we headed back to the chalet for a couple of celebratory beers.

19th May.
After yesterday’s long day we had a lie in till 8.30am. It was another bright sunny day as we began the drive back to the Oulu area. First stop was the Kuusomo dump, where Harri once again explained the differences between Herring, Baltic and Siberian Gulls with all three together in the scope. Just east of Taivolkoski we detoured into the forest to a large clearing with many dead trees. No woodpeckers but we did see another Hazel Grouse.

Next stop was Jolsjarvi, 35kms northeast of Oulu. By now it was quite cloudy with some very heavy showers. There was a nice hide on a tower overlooking this lake. In the weedy areas in the middle of the lake both Black-headed and Little Gulls were starting to nest. There was also a pair of Whooper Swan, 2 pairs Great Crested Grebes and a pair of Slavonian Grebe, all nesting or nest building. We also saw another two muskrats. We then drove into Oulu and stopped of at a large lake called Pyykosjarvi. There were masses of Great Crested Grebes (some displaying), over 100 Goosander, lots of Red-breasted Mergansers, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, a pair of Scaup and a Coot. There were also big numbers of Black-headed Gulls and noisy Little Gulls on the opposite shore. It was then back to the bird observation tower at Hietasaari north of Oulu. A strong west wind had pushed up the water levels so there were fewer birds than on our last visit.

We drove south round Oulu and through Liminka, where we had a pair of Collared Dove, to the south side of Liminka Bay. We checked out the agricultural areas south of the bay. The fields held Skylarks and a few Northern Wheatear. By a farmyard we had a mixed flock of House and Tree Sparrows.  In a small wooded area we had 2 Spotted Flycatcher and a pair of Pied Flycatcher. We then headed for the shore. Once again water levels were high, but we did see 3 Temminck’s Stints, an Oystercatcher and a Spotted Redshank, whilst offshore a Great Cormorant flew by. We then headed further east to the observation platform at Sannanlahti. Enroute we flushed a huge flock of 200+ Common Crane from a field, which flew down to the shore. There was a large reedbed next to the shore, where we heard a Bittern booming and both Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting singing. We scanned the shore from the tower and as well as the cranes there were quite a lot of Greylag Geese on the coastal grassland and two Taiga Bean Geese. On the shallow coastal waters were lots of Whooper Swans, 2 Mute Swans and a pair of Common Shelduck. Other duck included lots of Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Mergansers, Goosander, with a few Mallard, Common Teal, Shoveler, Pintail and Wigeon. In a tidal channel we had good views of a redhead Smew. Lots of Little Gulls were loafing in the water and amongst them was a group of 15 Red-necked Phalaropes. Offshore were 3 Arctic Skuas and a pair of Common Scoter. As we walked back down the track through the reeds we flushed a Wryneck, which perched briefly in a bush, giving good views. We then headed back towards Laminski and came across a huge dense flock of 800+ Ruff swirling above, then feeding on a bare patch in a stubble field.

It was then back to Kempele and another buffet meal at the local ABC, then out to the ferry terminal on the peninsular at Oulosalo. Here we did a sea watch. We had 5 Red-necked Grebes fly by and then long lines and groups of ducks heading north, mostly Velvet Scoter, with a few Common Scoter and Long-tailed Ducks. At 11.00pm we headed back into Oulu to the dump on the north side of town. We waited for an hour or so. We had 3 Short-eared Owls, then Brian suddenly spotted a huge Eagle Owl on top of a pylon. It flew along and landed on top of a spruce, a massive bird with its huge ear tufts. Harri reckoned it was a male due to its whitish throat.   We also had an adult Siberian Gull at the dump.  Got back to the chalets at Varminkoski after midnight.

20th May.
Another early start at 5.00am for some of us. Harri arrived to take us sea watching at the headland at Tauvo. Although it was bright and sunny, a very strong west wind made sea watching difficult. We had a few Red-throated Divers go by and small groups of Common and Velvet Scoter flying north, whilst two Common Eider flew south. Waders included 2 Dunlin, a Turnstone and an Oystercatcher. A belt of mixed woodland bounded the coast here. In some aspens a pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker were nesting. We then located a pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, watched them copulate and saw the male enter its nesting hole. Along the woodland edge we had two male and a female Red-spotted Bluethroat, 2 pairs Pied Flycatcher, 2 pairs Common Redstart, a Robin, a Lesser Whitethroat, but best of all a superb red male Common Rosefinch in full song.

Headed back to the chalet, where we had a Chiffchaff singing in the grounds and did our final packing. We then started the long drive south. Harri accompanied us for a while. We turned off the main road down to Hirvineva. Harri suddenly stopped as he had spotted a Black Woodpecker at a nest hole. We had very close views of it as it flew towards us and then back and fro between telegraph poles. At one stage it started drumming on the metal bit of the pole. An amazing bird! We went on down the road to Hirvijarvi, an old peat working site that had been flooded to form a nice marshy lake. There were several pairs of Greylag Geese, a pair of Whooper Swan, a few Tufted Duck, Goosander and a male Common Scoter. A Common Crane fed on the edge of the lake. Overhead we had Common Swift, an Osprey, a pair of Marsh Harrier and a pair of Common Kestrel, whilst we also heard a Cuckoo.

We then drove south to Pyhajoki. At another watch tower we scanned the shore, but again high water levels meant we saw few birds. We did, however, have 3 Whooper Swans fly over with a Bewick’s Swan. In the wood by the shore an early Garden Warbler was singing. Finally Harri took us to some nearby woods to try and see Pygmy owl. Unfortunately there was no rsponse to the tape, though it did attract a pair of Crested Tit and whilst we were waiting another Black Woodpecker flew out of the wood. We said our goodbyes to Harri and continued on our journey south. As we drove through the agricultural land closer to Tampere we came across Rooks in the fields and a lot more Fieldfares and a Pheasant. At a lake 60km north of Tampere we had Common Whitethroat, Whinchat and Reed Bunting, whilst on the outskirts of Tampere another lake produced a Canada Goose. We returned the car to the airport having done about 3000km and having seen 156 different species of bird.

Overall the trip was a great success. We all thoroughly enjoyed it, had good crack and saw lots of nice birds. Harri was an excellent guide and without him we would have struggled to find a lot of Finland’s specialities.

Costs per person

Hire cars plus fuel Inverness to Stansted       £69.25
Return flight Tampere                                 £74.84 inc. taxes
Fuel Tampere – Oulu                                   £5.00
Oulu – Kuusamo                                         £360  

minibus hire
driver for birding part of trip
fuel for birding part of trip
B&B and meals for guide
bird guiding throughout Oulu and Kuusamo

Food & drink over 5-days                             £75.00                                                   

Total                                                        £584.09

Bob Swann


Why not send us a report, or an update to one of your current reports?