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A Report from

Finland 9th to 17th May 2006,

Alan Miller

Great Grey Owl
Tengmalms Owl
Great Grey Owl
Tengmalms Owl

A beautiful country with outstanding scenery and friendly people. Nine days in Finland produced a list of 143 species including all five speciality owls.

Spurred on by an extremely successful trip to Northern India, the team of four, son Ben and friends, Bucks Birders Mike Collard and Rob Andrews decided upon an owl trip to Finland. This time the party swelled to seven when wife Anne (owls are her favourite birds), and more Bucks Birders Rose Collard and Jim Rose joined the team. The core of the trip was a five-day guided package by Finnature but Anne and I added an extension of three days in Helsinki and an extra night at Oulu. The organisation by Finnature was first class and thanks must go to our guide, Harri Taavetti. This report covers the whole nine days of our trip.


Tuesday 9 May          Morning flight from Teesside to Helsinki via Amsterdam by KLM

Wednesday 10 May    Helsinki

Thursday 11 May       Helsinki

Friday 12 May           Midday flight from Helsinki to Oulu by SAS

Saturday 13 May       Oulu

Sunday 14 May         Oulu. Drive to Kuusamo

Monday 15 May         Kuusamo

Tuesday 16 May        Kuusamo. Return drive to Oulu

Wednesday 17 May    Morning flight from Oulu to Helsinki with SAS then onward to Teesside via Amsterdam with KLM.

General Information

The package booked with Finnature was for five days starting and finishing at Oulu and included accommodation, breakfasts, dinners, transport and the services of a guide. All group members arranged their own transport to arrive at Oulu on the afternoon of 12 May. Our extra night at Oulu was organised by Finnature.

Our return flight with KLM from Teesside to Helsinki was booked over the internet via the KLM website. The return flight from Helsinki to Oulu was booked through We found it useful at Oulu to be able to book our cases straight through to Teeside even though we were changing airlines which made our time at Helsinki airport easier without cases.

In Helsinki we stayed at the Radisson SAS (booked directly over the internet) which was ideally located in the city centre, 10 minutes walk from the bus station. We travelled from the airport to the city centre using the Finnair coach from outside the terminal building. In Oulu we stayed at Hotelli Vihiluoto a short distance from the airport and overlooking Kempeleenlahti Bay. At Kuusamo we stayed at the ski resort of Rukatunturi at the Hotel Rantasipi Rukahovi.

For transport we had a Volkswagen Carvelle 4x4. The seating was arranged with the two rows of seats in the rear facing each other which we found very user-friendly. Also we were grateful for the four-wheel drive at Kuusamo as at times we were on sheet ice roads.

The weather was very mixed. In Helsinki it was shorts and tee-shirt weather with the daytime temperature in the 20’s. As we went north to Oulu it was still clear and sunny but a little cooler needing a jumper and fleece. At Kuusamo it was bitterly cold with –4 degrees in an icy blast and some frozen lakes. We had snow here on two occasions. Also the further north we went the more daylight we had with only a few hours darkness each night.

For research we used information provided by Finnature together with various trip reports from the internet. For identification issues we mainly used Collins Bird Guide by Mullarney, Svensson, Zetterstrom and Grant.

More details can be obtained by contacting me on ‘’. Also Jim has put photographs and more details on a website at

Daily Highlights

Tuesday 9th May

Anne and I left home at 0430hrs to drive to Teesside for the 0600hrs flight to Helsinki. We eventually arrived at Helsinki at 1430hrs local time (BST + 2hrs), caught the Finnair bus to the city centre and after a short walk were at our hotel by 1515hrs. After a quick wash and brush-up we set off to explore Helsinki. We started by walking to the Tourist Information Centre on the waterfront and finding ourselves in the middle of major celebrations for Europe Day. Our first sightings were of House Sparrow, Jackdaw and White Wagtail together with Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull and Common Gull at the harbour. All too soon the light had faded for the day. 

Wednesday 10th May

After breakfast we headed back to the waterfront and took a morning cruise around the harbour. There were various boats offering trips and we chose M.V.Diana operated by Sunlines Cruises. Besides stunning scenery, the cruise was productive for birds. Additions to our list included Baltic Gull, Eider, Goldeneye, Goosander, Scaup, Barnacle Goose, Canada Goose and Mute Swan.

Near the harbour is the Uspenski Cathedral, the largest Russian Orthodox church in Europe. After visiting the church we checked the grounds finding Northern Wheatear, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Greenfinch and Willow Warbler.

In the afternoon we visited Helsinki Botanical Gardens. Besides a number of Fieldfare we found a Bluethroat (red spot ssp. svecica).

Thursday 11th May

After breakfast we walked to the Sebelius monument situated in parkland on another stretch of waterfront. Birds were numerous and we saw a number of new species including Coal Tit, Pied Flycatcher and Oystercatcher,

The afternoon was spent in the city and in the evening we headed to the Finlandia Centre to see a concert by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. The Finlandia backs onto parkland and a lake which made a nice walk before the concert though nothing new was seen. 

Friday 12th May

A leisurely morning before departing to the airport for the lunchtime flight to Oulu. All the party except Ben and Rob arrived around 1600hrs. We had two hours to wait for the last two so Harri took us to the local estuary at Oulunsalo for some birdwatching. Birds were numerous and new ones included Raven, Ruff, Redshank, Turnstone, Wood Sandpiper, Curlew, Red-breasted Merganser and Whooper Swan.

Enroute back to the airport we saw a Moose in the trees near the roadside. We nearly got too good views as it ran across the road just infront of us.

After collecting the last two of our party we headed to Hotelli Vihiluoto. After booking in our evening meal of traditional reindeer stew followed by pancakes was taken in a ‘lappish hut’ in the grounds.

A check for Pygmy Owl after dinner failed to turn it up but we did add Shoveler, Snipe and Woodcock to the list.

Saturday 13th May

After a check of the estuary from the hotel we were on the road at 0500hrs with our first stop to be a seawatch at Tauvo Venesatama. Enroute we saw Black Grouse, Willow Grouse and Common Crane together with Arctic Hare. At the harbour there was a good number of birds at sea including Black-throated Diver, Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Scaup and Arctic Skua whilst in the surrounding bushes we added Common Redpoll, Siskin and Skylark.

Just inland from the harbour as we were leaving a stop in the woodland produced a pair of very showy Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers, and Reed Bunting, Pied Flycatcher and Bullfinch

Our next stop was in the Siikajoki Forest where we saw our first target species and had excellent views of Great Grey Owl on the nest. Also in the forest was another Woodcock and Snipe, and also Barn Swallow, Green Sandpiper and Woodpigeon.

After a coffee stop at Raahe we headed off to the coast near Olkijoki. Around a ploughed field we added ‘thunbergi’ Yellow Wagtail, Redstart, Whinchat and Peregrine before going into the Birch woodland for our second target. Harri found a Ural Owl sitting on an open branch and it may have been recently hunting as it still had blood on it’s bill. On the coast itself sightings included Pintail, Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Goldeneye and Grey Heron together with Greenshank and Redshank.

Harri took a call from a colleague which then saw us head off and near Varjakka, in a mixed goose flock, we had good views of 2 Lesser White-fronted Geese. We continued to Varjakka where we added Wryneck, Redwing, Fieldfare, Ortolan Bunting and our next star, a superb Hawk Owl sat out on top of a high conifer.

Our next stop was a reserve at Virkkula. As it was 1400hrs we made a short stop in the visitor centre for lunch before heading onto the reserve. Unfortunately the sky was grey with rain threatening and a strong wind but we set off for the tower hide. It wasn’t long before the rain started in earnest but we did see new birds including White-tailed Eagle, Temminck’s Stint, Spotted Redshank, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit and Garganey, and we heard a Bittern booming.

At 1600hrs the rain was torrential so we called a halt to proceedings and returned to the hotel to dry out.  

Sunday 14th May

We met at the transport at 0600hrs and headed towards Varjakka harbour on a sunny morning but with a biting cold wind. We tried a site for Three-toed Woodpecker without success but did add Rook, Crossbill, Brambling and Smew. Harri took a call to say a White-billed Diver had just flown past a colleague 20k away along the coast and it was heading in our direction. We went straight to the coast and after a few minutes scanning located the bird as it flew by.

At 0845hrs we returned to the hotel for breakfast and to collect our bags and by 0945hrs we were back in the vehicle for our next location, Kuusamo. Before leaving Oulu we stopped at the snow dump for Little Ringed Plover and again checked the estuary beside the hotel where we relocated a Terek Sandpiper which had been found by Ben and Rob on a walk after dinner the night before. Harri called some friends and we had a ‘finnish mini-twitch’ in operation. There we also added Bar-tailed Godwit and House Martin. Just outside Oulu we also stopped at a forested area for our next target bird. Unfortunately we were unable to find it in the trees so we peeped inside a nest box to see a cute Pygmy Owl.

A little further on we stopped at a Birch forest and we were all told to aim our telescopes and cameras at a hole about 20 feet up a Birch tree. Harri went to the base of the tree and scratched it (imitating a Pine Martin) and immediately a Tengmalm’s Owl appeared at the hole looking down. In nearby trees we found Waxwing and another Wryneck.

We arrived at Syote National Park mid-afternoon and took an unmade road into the forest. This proved a very productive trail with Hazel Grouse, Goshawk, Three-toed Woodpecker and Capercaillie but the weather was less than kind as the snow started to fall.

It was 1940hrs when we arrived at our hotel at the small ski resort of Ruka. As we ate dinner we watched Reindeer passing the window.

Monday 15th May

We left the hotel at 0500hrs and headed towards Ouanka National Park. Although a clear blue sky the temperature was –4 degrees. We came to a clearing in the trees and on a grassy field were absorbed by a lek of a dozen Black Grouse. During the course of today with touring along many forest tracks we saw 24 Black Grouse and 12 Capercaillie (2 males and 10 females).

We returned to our hotel for breakfast at 0745hrs then headed off again. Our first stop was a forested area near Oivanki where we saw Rustic Bunting. It was then on to Kuusamo Tip where we spent some time gull watching and had excellent views of Heuglin’s Gull.

Early afternoon saw us at Karpan Kyla where we connected with Black Woodpecker and then Haikkila where we found another Hawk Owl and added Bluethroat and Rough-legged Buzzard to our lists.

As we headed back towards Ruka the snow became heavy and was lying on the ground. We decided to make a last check in a forested area near Kuusamo. The snow stopped, the sky cleared and the scenery looked magnificent, just like a Christmas card. It was a magical moment when, in the snow-laden tree above our heads we had superb views of Siberian Tit. We arrived back at the hotel at 1830hrs.

Tuesday 16th May

A lie-in today as we didn’t leave till 0600hrs but the ground was frozen solid and the temperature –4.5deg. but feeling much colder due to a strong wind. We headed to Valtavaara to climb the hill in search of two target species, but unfortunately we had to be content with Great Spotted Woodpecker, Brambling and Bullfinch.

After breakfast we left Ruka and dropped Mike off at Kuusamo airport as he was heading further north and the rest of the party started the journey back towards Oulu.

Stops enroute turned up Swift, Meadow Pipit and Merlin and we had a superb Golden Eagle fly over the vehicle.

Late afternoon and Ben, Rob, Jim and Rose had been deposited at Oulu airport and Anne and I settled into the Oulu hotel for our last night.

Wednesday 17th May

An early morning walk around the bay before breakfast was enjoyable but didn’t turn up anything new. 1000hrs saw us at Oulu airport for the return trip home which, with two changes, was to take us till 2300hrs.

Hawk Owl
Ural Owl
Hawk Owl
Ural Owl


1. Red-throated Diver           Gavia stellata               – Oulu and Kuusamo

2. Black-throated Diver         Gavia arctica              – Oulu and Kuusamo

3. White-billed Diver             Gavia adamsii             – Kuusamo

4. Slavonian Grebe                Podiceps auritus         – Kuusamo

5. Great Crested Grebe         Podiceps cristatus       – Helsinki

6. Great Cormorant               Phalacrocorax carbo  – Oulu

7. Grey Heron                        Ardea cinerea              – Oulu

8. Bittern                                Botaurus stellaris        – heard Oulu

9. Mute Swan                         Cygnus olor                 – Helsinki

10. Whooper Swan                 Cygnus Cygnus           – Oulu and Kuusamo

11. White-fronted Goose       Anser albifrons            – Oulu

12. Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus – Oulu

13. Pink-footed Goose           Anser brachyrhynchus – Oulu

14. Greylag Goose                 Anser anser                 – Oulu and Kuusamo

15. Canada Goose                  Branta Canadensis      – Helsinki and Oulu

16. Barnacle Goose               Branta leucopsis          – Helsinki and Oulu

17. Gadwall                             Anas strepera              – Oulu

18. Wigeon                             Anas Penelope            – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

19. Pintail                                Anas acuta                  – Oulu and Kuusamo

20. Teal                                   Anas crecca                 – Oulu and Kuusamo

21. Mallard                             Anas platyrhynchos     – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

22. Garganey                          Anas querquedula       – Oulu and Kuusamo

23. Shoveler                           Anas clypeatra            – Oulu and Kuusamo

24. Tufted Duck                     Aythya fuligula            – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

25. Pochard                             Aythya farina              – Oulu

26. Greater Scaup                  Aythya marila              – Helsinki and Oulu

27. Common Eider                 Somateria mollissima – Helsinki

28. Common Scoter                Melanitta nigra           – Oulu and Kuusamo

29. Velvet Scoter                   Melanitta fusca           – Oulu

30. Goldeneye                        Bucephala clangula     – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

31. Smew                                Mergellus albellus       – Kuusamo

32. Goosander                        Mergus merganser      – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

33. Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator         – Oulu

34. White-tailed Eagle           Haliaeetus albicilla     – Oulu

35. Golden Eagle                    Aquila chrysaetos        – Kuusamo

36. Marsh Harrier                 Circus aeruginosus     – Oulu

37. Hen Harrier                      Circus cyaneus            – Oulu

38. Rough-legged Buzzard     Buteo lagopus            – Kuusamo

39. Sparrowhawk                    Accipiter nisus             – Oulu

40. Goshawk                           Accipiter gentillis        - Kuusamo

41. Kestrel                              Falco tinnunculus       – Oulu and Kuusamo

42. Hobby                               Falco subbuteo           – Kuusamo

43. Peregrine                          Falco peregrinus         – Oulu

44. Merlin                               Falco columbarius      – Oulu

45. Willow Grouse                  Lagopus lagopus         – Oulu

46. Capercaillie                      Tetrao urogallus         - Kuusamo

47. Black Grouse                   Tetrao tetrix                – Oulu and Kuusamo

48. Hazel Grouse                   Bonasa bonasia           – Kuusamo

49. Pheasant                           Phasianus colchicus    – Oulu and Kuusamo

50. Common Crane                Grus grus                    – Oulu

51. Little Ringed Plover        Charadrius dubius      – Oulu

52. Ringed Plover                  Charadrius hiaticula   – Kuusamo

53. Golden Plover                  Pluvialis apricaria      – Oulu and Kuusamo

54. Lapwing                            Vanellus vanellus        – Oulu and Kuusamo 

55. Ruddy Turnstone             Arenaria interpres       – Oulu

56. Dunlin                               Calidris alpina            – Oulu

57. Temminck’s Stint             Calidris temminckkii   – Oulu

58. Wood Sandpiper   Tringa glareola           – Oulu and Kuusamo

59. Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus          – Oulu

60. Common Sandpiper          Actitis hypoleucos       – Oulu and Kuusamo

61. Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus            – Oulu

62. Redshank                         Tringa tetanus             – Oulu and Kuusamo

63. Spotted Redshank           Tringa erythropus       – Oulu

64. Greenshank                      Tringa nebularia         – Oulu

65. Oystercatcher                  Haematopus ostralegus – Helsinki and Oulu

66. Black-tailed Godwit         Limosa limosa             – Oulu

67. Bar-tailed Godwit             Limosa lapponica        – Oulu

68. Curlew                              Numenius arquata      – Oulu and Kuusamo

69. Whimbrel             Numenius heaps          – heard Kuusamo

70. Woodcock                         Scolopax rusticola      – Oulu

71. Common Snipe                 Gallinago gallinago    – Oulu

72. Ruff                                   Philomachus pugnax  – Oulu and Kuusamo

73. Arctic Skua                       Stercorarius parasiticus – Oulu

74. Black-headed Gull           Larus ridibundus         – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

75. Common Gull                   Larus canus                 – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

76. Herring Gull                     Larus argentatus         – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

77. Heuglin’s Gull                  Larus heuglini             – Kuusamo

78. Baltic Gull                        Larus fuscus                – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

79. Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus            – Helsinki and Kuusamo

80. Little Gull                         Larus minutes            – Oulu and Kuusamo

81. Common Tern                  Sterna hirundo            – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

82. Arctic Tern                       Sterna paradisea         – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

83. Feral Pigeon                     Columba livia ‘feral’ – Helsinki

84. Stock Dove                       Columba oenas           – Oulu

85. Woodpigeon                     Columba palumbus     – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

86. Collared Dove                  Streptopelia decaocto             – Oulu

87. Great Grey Owl               Strix nebulosa                         – Oulu

88. Ural Owl                           Strix uralensis             – Oulu

89. Hawk Owl                         Surnia ulula                 – Oulu and Kuusamo

90. Tengmalm’s Owl Aegolius funereus        – Oulu

91. Pygmy Owl                       Glaucidium passerinum – Oulu

92. Swift                                  Apus apus                    – Kuusamo

93. Black Woodpecker          Dryocopus martius      – Kuusamo

94. Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus major – Kuusamo

95. Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides pterodactyls  – Kuusamo

96. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus minor – Oulu

97. Wryneck                           Jynx torquilla              – Oulu

98. Skylark                             Alauda arvensis          – Oulu

99. Sand Martin                     Riparia riparia            – Oulu

100. Swallow                           Hirundo rustica           – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

101. House Martin                 Delichon urbica           – Oulu

102. Tree Pipit                        Anthus trivialis            – Oulu and heard Kuusamo

103. Meadow Pipit                 Anthus pratensis         – Kuusamo

104. White Wagtail                Motacilla alba             – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

105. Grey Headed Wagtail    Motacilla flava thunbergi – Oulu

106. Waxwing                         Bombycilla garrulous – Oulu and Kuusamo

107. Dunnock                         Prunella modularis     – Oulu

108. Robin                              Erithacus rubecula      – Kuusamo

109. Bluethroat                      Luscinia svecica svecica – Helsinki and Kuusamo

110. Redstart                                     Phoenicurus phoenicurus – Oulu and Kuusamo

111. Northern Wheatear       Oenanthe oenanthe     – Helsinki and Oulu

112. Whinchat                        Saxicola ruberta         – Oulu

113. Song Thrush                   Turdus philomelos       – heard Oulu and Kuusamo

114. Redwing              Turdus iliacus – Oulu and Kuusamo

115. Mistle Thrush                Turdus viscivorus        – Helsinki and Kuusamo

116. Fieldfare                         Turdus pilaris              – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

117. Blackbird                        Turdus merula             – Helsinki and Oulu

118. Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

119. Common Chiffchaff        Philloscopus collybita – Kuusamo and heard Oulu

120. Pied Flycatcher              Ficedula hypoleuca     – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

121. Great Tit                         Parus major                – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

122. Coal Tit                           Parus ater                   – Helsinki

123. Blue Tit                           Parus caeruleus          – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

124. Willow Tit                       Parus montanus borealis – Oulu

125. Siberian Tit                     Parus cinctus              – Kuusamo

126. Magpie                           Pica pica                     – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

127. Jackdaw              Corvus monedula        – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

128. Rook                               Corvus frugilegus       – Kuusamo

129. Hooded Crow                 Corvus cornix                         – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

130. Raven                             Corvus corax              – Oulu and Kuusamo

131. Starling                           Sturnus vulgaris          – Helsinki

132. House Sparrow               Passer domesticus       – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

133. Chaffinch                        Fringilla coelebs         – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

134. Brambling                       Fringilla montifringilla – Kuusamo

135. Common Redpoll           Carduelis flammea      – Oulu and Kuusamo

136. Greenfinch                      Carduelis chloris         – Helsinki, Oulu and Kuusamo

137. Siskin                              Carduelis spinus          – Oulu and Kuusamo

138. Bullfinch                         Pyrrhula pyrrhula       – Oulu and Kuusamo

139. Common Crossbill          Loxia curvirostra        – Kuusamo

140. Reed Bunting                 Emberiza schoeniclus – Oulu

141. Rustic Bunting               Emberiza rustica         – Kuusamo

142. Ortolan Bunting             Emberiza hortulana    – Oulu

143. Yellowhammer                Emberiza citrinella      – Oulu and Kuusamo


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