A trip to Oulu and Kuusamo, Finland 14-18 May 2017

I booked two one-day birdwatching tours from Finnature (finnature.com). One on May 15th, in Oulu and another in Kuusamo on May 18th, 2017.

According to Finnature, expected target species include the following:

Target species in Oulu:

Great Grey-, Ural-, Hawk-, Short-eared-, Long-eared-, Tengmalm´s– and Pygmy Owls, Pallid Harrier, Western Capercaillie, Black Grouse, Willow Ptarmigan, Hazel Grouse, Three-toed- and Black Woodpecker, Wryneck, Parrot Crossbill and Ortolan Bunting.

Target species in Kuusamo:

Siberian Jay and Siberian Tit, Hawk Owl, Great Grey Owl, Tengmalm´s Owl, Capercaillie, Willow Ptarmigan, Hazel Grouse and Black Grouse, Red-flanked Bluetail, Rustic Bunting, Little Bunting, Two-barred Crossbill, Three-toed Woodpecker and Black Woodpecker.
So, my target species from the above list, were 12 as highlighted with bold text above. However, my target species exceed this number as I wanted to see Red-throated and Black-throated Diver, Goldeneye, Smew, Eider, Common and Velvet Scoter, and Long-tailed Duck.

Unfortunately, just five days before the trip I received the following bad news from Finnature. I understand this has nothing to do with Finnature but there you have it, it is the weather, it can be anything from rainy all day to dry and sunny.

Greetings from Finland –  important information before your trip:

Spring and birding season has come to Finland but unfortunately it doesn’t look like that. So I have unpleasant task to warn you about the bird situation. As you know we are working with nature and there are some things we can’t affect even when we would want to. Weather has been exceptional in Finland this year, March was really warm compared to average years but April and especially begin of May has been really cold. Unfortunately, forecasts haven’t been too accurate they promised warming already for 1st of may but that warm weather has been postponed all the time just for a few days, and then again few days and then again few days… It has been still snowing during this week in Oulu region and we might get some snowfall still at the end of this week. In Kuusamo it has been of course even colder. It seems that wind is coming straight from the Arctic Ocean. Forecasts for Oulu region promise still minus degrees for the nights (about –4c) and for days only about +3 – +5 c this should continue until next Saturday (or even until Monday depending of the forecast) This means that weather is now like it should be before mid-April. 

As you can understand this has affected a lot to bird migration and breeding. It seems that almost all the species are coming late and/or starts to breed later than normally. Also we still have quite a lot of snow in the forests so we haven’t been able to check all the nest sites we have. It is just too difficult to get in some places. Unfortunately, this also means that we don’t have so many owl or woodpecker nest sites than in normal years. We have been checking all the old places. We started this job like in normal years in the end of April and we are still looking actively. We also have contacted several bird ringers around the area who co-operates with us, but unfortunately it seems that everyone has the same situation. It looks like this will be quite poor year for owls in middle part of Finland. There are almost daily sightings of the Hawk Owls and Great Grey Owls in the area, but it seems that they are not breeding this year? However, when the snow is now melting we will re-check all the old nest sites and we will try to find some new ones. This has been very strange spring and it might be that some of the owls will start to breed also later than normally. We shall see what happens? 

So, let’s hope weather gets warmer as soon as possible. We do our best to make the excursions as pleasant as possible and our guides do their best to find more birds and to show as many species as possible to you.”

I arrived at Airport Hotel Vihiluoto in Oulu, our meeting point for the next day was at 3:30 am, sunrise at 4am.

After having checked in, I walked outside the hotel, there were loads of Fieldfares, Redwings, Black-headed Gulls, and a couple of Eurasian Magpie.

The next day, at 3:30 am the temperature was -2 degrees Celsius. I was anxious to see the owls, but according to our guide, no nest has been located, so off to birding before sunrise. It was a short drive to stop along the road and there we have it a male Western Capercaillie, I have seen a female last year flying overhead in Slovakia, but this an adult male so close to fill the frame of my camera. It was a nice start.

Most of the lakes were frozen, with water limited to closer parts of the lakes.

At another stop, we had a pair of Willow Ptarmigan a nice target species to begin with. As we drove along the road, there were many Eurasian Curlews, Northern Lapwings, Woodcocks, Common Snipes. We had a Rough-legged Buzzard perched on top of a tree, a second target species bagged. When we a flock of geese landing behind a row of trees we decided to drive closer to have a look, the flock include Greylag Goose, Tundra Bean Goose and Pink-footed Goose. We then saw Whooper Swans, Smew in flight, Black Grouse and three Barnacle Geese, all lifers! We then went to a nest to see a Tegmalm’s Owl.

The following birds I saw on May, 15th with the help of our guide :

Tundra Bean Goose (Anser serrirostris) 7 , Taiga Bean Goose (Anser fabalis), Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) 9, Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) 11, Greylag Goose (Anser anser) 38, Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus) 33, Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) 3, Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) 2, Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 8, Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope) 50, Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca) 45, Smew (Mergellus albellus) 12, Common Merganser (Mergus merganser) 2, Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) 2, Black Grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) 1, Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) 1, Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus cyaneus) 1, Rough-legged Buzzard (Buteo lagopus) 2, Common Crane (Grus grus) 5, Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) 1, Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) 8, Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) 2, Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) 2, Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) 15, Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) 3, Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) 3, Stock Dove (Columba oenas) 1, Common Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) 4, Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) 2, Tengmalm’s Owl (Aegolius funereus) 1, Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) 2, Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) 5, Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) 1, Rook (Corvus frugilegus) 9, Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix) 2, Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis) 3, Great Tit (Parus major) 6, European Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) 1, Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula) 2, Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) 30, Redwing (Turdus iliacus) 1, Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) 7, Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) 1, Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) 4, Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 9, European Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) 1, , Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) 1, Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) 2, Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) 4, Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) 5, Ruff (Calidris pugnax) 5, Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) 1, Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus) 3, Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 12, Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 36, Common Swift (Apus apus) 1, European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 1, Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) 1, Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) 1, Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) 1, Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) 1, Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus cyaneus) 1, Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) 1, Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) 10, Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) 2, Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) 8, Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix) 12, Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 4, White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) 4, Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) 5.

On 16th I birded on my own in Oulu, after renting a car:

At Sannanlahti Lintutorni, Lumijoki:

Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope) 9, Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 7, Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) 2, Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca crecca) 4, Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) 12, Smew (Mergellus albellus) 2, Common Merganser (Mergus merganser) 41, Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) 19, Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) 4, Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) 2, Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 4, Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus) 5, Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia) 1, Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix) 2, White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) 3, , Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus) 9, Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) 11, Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) 5, Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) 7, Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) 1, Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) 3, Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) 2, Mew Gull (Larus canus heinei) 4.

Along the road between Siikajoki and Revonlahdentie at coordinates: 64.7741, 24.8613 I had:

Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) 1, Common Crane (Grus grus) 2, Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) 3, Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) 2, Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 34, Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) 5, Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) 2, Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) 2, Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) 3, Western Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava thunbergi) 2.

Common Crane (Grus grus)

On 16th May I drove along road 20, towards Kuusamo:

At Ostrobothnia-Sotkajärvi-Hevoskankaantie at coordinates 65.4145, 27.4301, I had the following species:

Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix) 1, Common Raven (Corvus corax) 1, Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) 2, Western Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus urogallus) 1, Redwing (Turdus iliacus) 2, Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) 6, Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus) 1.

Western Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus urogallus), female.
Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus)

But at another stop at lake Koitijarvi, at coordinates 65.6520, 28.4188, I saw the following:

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 3, Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca) 2, Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) 1, Smew (Mergellus albellus) 2, Common Merganser (Mergus merganser) 2, Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) 2, Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) 1, Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 1, Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) 2, Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 3, White Wagtail (alba) (Motacilla alba) 3.

On 18th May, we met our guide at Sokos Hotel Kuusamo, again at 3:30 am. Our first stop provided us the following:

Western Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus urogallus) 4, Hazel Grouse (Bonasa bonasia bonasia) 1, Willow Ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus lagopus) 2, Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) 4, Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) 2, Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 4.

Then while driving along a road we had Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa), but not the Hawk Owl, while the other group with Finnature saw the Hawk Owl, but not the Great Grey Owl.

Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa)
Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa)

While driving we stopped at a lake where we had:

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 4, Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) 1, Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) 6.

We then stopped at a bridge at coordinates 66.2848, 29.0160:

Taiga Bean Goose (Anser fabalis) 2, Tundra Bean Goose (Anser serrirostris) 3, Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus) 8, Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 2, Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca) 2, Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) 25, Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) 1, Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 2, Redwing (Turdus iliacus) 2, White Wagtail (alba) (Motacilla alba) 3, Rustic Bunting (Emberiza rustica) 1, Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 6.

At another stop we had:

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) 1, Great Tit (Great) (Parus major [major Group]) 3, Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 2.

At mid-day, we were back to the hotel as our tour finished, so I had to go birding on my own.

I stopped at coordinates 65.8849, 29.4459 to find normal birds:

Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) 2, Common Raven (Corvus corax) 1, Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) 1, Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) 1, Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) 3, Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) 6, European Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) 7

I also stopped at Ala-Kitka Kaukosaari Lintutorni, at coordinates 66°14’42.7″N 29°05’04.1″E to find:

Tundra Bean Goose (Anser serrirostris) 5, Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus) 5, Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 12, Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca crecca) 4, Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) 18, Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) 24, Smew (Mergellus albellus) 5, Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) 3, Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) 1, Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus) 4, Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 4, Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 12, Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus) 5, Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) 2

At 4:30pm, it is being the time to drive for three hours back to Oulu to get enough sleep for my next two stop flight home. I stopped at Helsinki airport for 5 hours, then Qatar Airways flight to Doha and then to Kuwait.

Well, although I had seen 16 lifers, in this short trip, I was hoping to see the Hawk Owl, Siberian Jay, Siberian Tit and Red-flanked Bluetail. Another target species of the trip that I missed due to the weather, include the two crossbills, scoters and divers. Thus I am planning to go next year!

My sixteen lifer species of the trip:

Taiga Bean Goose, Tundra Bean Goose, Pink-footed Goose, Barnacle Goose, Whooper Swan, Common Goldeneye, Smew, Black Grouse, Hazel Grouse, Willow Ptarmigan, Rough-legged Buzzard, Great Grey Owl, Tengmalm’s Owl, Bohemian Waxwing, Lapland Longspur, Rustic Bunting.

A list of 87 species seen:

Taiga Bean Goose – Anser f. fabalis
Tundra Bean Goose – Anser serrirostris rossicus
Pink-footed Goose – Anser brachyrhynchus
Greater White-fronted Goose – Anser albifrons
Greylag Goose – Anser anser
Barnacle Goose – Branta leucopsis
Mute Swan – Cygnus olor
Whooper Swan – Cygnus cygnus
Eurasian Wigeon – Anas penelope
Mallard – Anas platyrhynchos
Northern Shoveler – Anas clypeata
Northern Pintail – Anas acuta
Eurasian Teal – Anas crecca
Tufted Duck – Aythya fuligula
Common Goldeneye – Bucephala clangula
Smew – Mergellus albellus
Common Merganser – Mergus merganser
Red-breasted Merganser – Mergus serrator
Western Capercaillie – Tetrao urogallus urogallus
Black Grouse – Lyrurus tetrix
Hazel Grouse – Bonasa bonasia bonasia
Willow Ptarmigan – Lagopus lagopus lagopus
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
Western Marsh Harrier – Circus aeruginosus
Hen Harrier – Circus cyaneus
Pallid Harrier – Circus macrourus
Eurasian Sparrowhawk – Accipiter nisus
Rough-legged Buzzard – Buteo lagopus
Common Crane – Grus grus
Eurasian Oystercatcher – Haematopus ostralegus
Northern Lapwing – Vanellus vanellus
Common Ringed Plover – Charadrius hiaticula
Whimbrel – Numenius phaeopus
Eurasian Curlew – Numenius arquata
Bar-tailed Godwit – Limosa lapponica
Ruff – Calidris pugnax
Common Snipe – Gallinago gallinago
Eurasian Woodcock – Scolopax rusticola
Common Sandpiper – Actitis hypoleucos
Green Sandpiper – Tringa ochropus
Spotted Redshank – Tringa erythropus
Common Greenshank – Tringa nebularia
Common Redshank – Tringa totanus

Black-headed Gull – Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Little Gull – Hydrocoloeus minutus
Mew Gull – Larus canus
Caspian Tern – Hydroprogne caspia
Common Tern – Sterna hirundo
Arctic Tern – Sterna paradisaea
Stock Dove – Columba oenas
Common Woodpigeon – Columba palumbus
Great Grey Owl – Strix nebulosa
Short-eared Owl – Asio flammeus
Tengmalm’s Owl – Aegolius funereus
Common Swift – Apus apus
Great Spotted Woodpecker – Dendrocopos major
Black Woodpecker – Dryocopus martius
Common Kestrel – Falco tinnunculus
Eurasian Magpie – Pica pica
Eurasian Jackdaw – Corvus monedula
Rook – Corvus frugilegus
Hooded Crow – Corvus cornix
Common Raven – Corvus corax
Eurasian Skylark – Alauda arvensis
Barn Swallow – Hirundo rustica
Eurasian Blue Tit – Cyanistes caeruleus
Great Tit – Parus major
European Robin – Erithacus rubecula
European Pied Flycatcher – Ficedula hypoleuca
Common Redstart – Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Whinchat – Saxicola rubetra
Northern Wheatear – Oenanthe oenanthe
Eurasian Blackbird – Turdus merula
Fieldfare – Turdus pilaris
Redwing – Turdus iliacu
Mistle Thrush – Turdus viscivorus
Western Yellow Wagtail – Motacilla flava thunbergi
Grey Wagtail – Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail – Motacilla alba
Meadow Pipit – Anthus pratensis
Bohemian Waxwing – Bombycilla garrulus
Lapland Longspur – Calcarius lapponicus
Yellowhammer – Emberiza citrinella
Rustic Bunting – Emberiza rustica
Common Chaffinch – Fringilla coelebs
Brambling – Fringilla montifringilla
European Greenfinch – Chloris chloris
Eurasian Tree Sparrow – Passer montanus