Whos keeping an eye on me....

Friday, 24 May 2013

Finland \ Norway 2013 Pt 2: Kuusamo Area

After the early meet for the Owl tour and a full days birding we now had to travel on further east to Kuusamo.

We headed straight for our hotel (which is certainly worth a mention! Very comfortable, clean and which provided the best food of the week -  Hotel Kuusamon Portti - Link to hotel). The hotel is located about 8 miles south of Kuusamo on the western banks of lake Lijarvi.

Over looking Lake Lijarvi from our balcony whilst sipping Malt.... life could be worse!

A quick sip of malt on the balcony over looking the lake allowed us to enjoy the good numbers of Sand martins. House martins and Swallows feeding over the boat house, while Wood sandpiper and Common Sandpiper enjoyed the lakes fringes right in front of us. On the lake itself were Widgeon, Whooper Swans and a pair of very territorial Goldeneye that chased anything of that came within striking distance. The weather was still warm (Tomorrows weather would change!) which allowed us some time to explore our new environment, we walked the forest track across the road from the hotel. Although quiet, we did pick up Capercaillie sat on the track and our first Reindeer of the trip. A long day today and a full day birding tomorrow the sensible thing was for a fairly early night...... we woke to torrential rain and freezing sleet!

It really was pointless taking the camera out, rain soaked binoculars, freezing cold hailstone, bitterly cold driving rain and sleet..... off we trudged into the forest. It was hard work but we did find birds.

40+ Golden Plover feeding in a farm yard whilst Yellow Wagtails and a very large flock of Brambling fed in the fields along with some other passerines that got away as we tried to focus through the driving rain, oodles of Redwing and Fieldfare made up the numbers. We decided breakfast would be a good excuse to get warm and dry, on the way back down the track a Garden Warbler sung in the rain but no sign of last evenings Capercaillie.

Over breakfast our host gave us the good news "Sunshine by Lunch time"..... yeah right!

Fair play to him, although he got his timings  slightly wrong the sunshine came out ahead of schedule at 11.00am, by this time we would be well onto one of our missed bird from the Owl Trip .....

We headed straight off to Valtavaara and Kontainman, along the way we started to pick up top quality water birds, Red Necked Grebes stood on the frozen lakes, I managed to pick up my first ever Black Throated Diver as it flew past us and out of sight

 in the woods and lagoons bird song had started and for good measure the rain relented, Reed Buntings, Willow Warblers were abundant. Valtavaara is renowned for a set of feeders that tempt down Siberian Jays, supposedly all you have to do is lay out some hot dogs and bingo.... this didn't work, not to worry for now as we were soon onto some good stuff and with the potential of a couple of mega`s on the cards a promising day lay ahead.

Loud prolonged drumming soon caught our attention, across from the layby we located a single dead tree close to the edge of the forest and there it was, a Three-Toed Woodpecker.

It spent quite a while in that location, through the forest mist a few record shots were all I got, but after the failure to see this bird yesterday we were more than happy with this.
Other species seen were Eurasian Jay (no other sightings all week), Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Common Buzzard (only 2 sightings all week) and Siskin were seen from the layby.

A walk around the foothills loop (Birdwatchers Trail) we had a few possible Greenish Warblers, call confirmed that they weren't Arctic Warblers, unfortunately as we progressed around the loop they didn't follow us but Common Redstarts did. Towards the end of the loop walk we added a pair of Mistle Thrush before we encountered one of our target birds. A pair of Siberian Tits flew across the open valley in front of us and landed on the top of the tallest trees on the forests edge.... not to be satisfied with that in the next tree bang on cue landed a Nutcracker. The day was getting better.

Still on the days list was a bird that if we were to have any chance of seeing today in this area we would be needing to climb a small hill though shallow snow, needless to say we climbed.. As we climbed half way a chat like silhouette sang from one of the tree tops... sure enough our target bird Red Flanked Bluetail. We were able to manoeuvre ourselves to have the sun to our backs and there we have it, a stunning male.

Back down the hill we set off to a nearby small lake in hope of Velvet Scoter. We found the lake but only a pair of Smew.

I know this is not too shabby in itself but Velvet Scoter would have been another life bird for the day, and as it happened I never did catch up with this species for the rest of the trip, hence the little disappointment at this lake. Along the track to the lake we encountered 3 very close Waxwings, a Black Woodpecker and Jeff got a quick sighting of a fully winter plumaged Ptarmigan as it crossed our path, We decided to go searching for this fella however we first had to remove the car from some very soft muddy verges that  had submersed the car halfway up the wheels, some rocking, pushing and wheel spinning later we were out and looking for the Ptarmigan.

Back at Kuusamo we did a lap of Lake Toranki. Like most of the lakes in Finland this is vast, however it does have a bird tower at either end, we had better luck just stopping at opportune points whilst driving around it. Plenty of Little Gulls in stunning summer plumage

Arctic Tern

Arctic Terns, Common Terns, Red Necked Grebes (estimated 50+ across the lake), Black Throated Diver and the usual Goldeneye etc also very close views of Beavers, probably the best views I got on this trip.

Meanwhile a White Tailed Eagle spooked everything on the lake adjacent to Toranki which held good numbers of Red Necked Grebes, Snipe, Goosander, I counted a flock of 30ish all playing follow the leader whilst they headed past in line. Gulls galore for those that can be bothered to scan through them would possibly get the Heuglins.
 A couple of stops at known sites of Little Bunting failed, we revisited and failed again, maybe too early for this species, a little bonus as we got more stunning views of a pair of Hazel Grouse along the tracks between the 2 lakes.
Wood Sandpiper were certainly the default wader in most locations
We had plenty of Willow Warblers all over the Kuusamo area but again no sightings or sounds of any other Warblers apart from a quick rendition from a Sedge Warbler, it wouldn't be until the last day until we saw even this common species.
Whooper on the part frozen lake at the hotel
Hotel Lake around Midnight
Scenes around Kuusamo, some lakes still frozen
and some well on the way to a complete thaw

The Reindeer  seemed to be mostly farmed in this area, but wild(er) as we moved further north
From here we travel north!
Watch out for the Moose!

1 comment:

Liz said...

Gorgeous scenery and beautiful bird shots, Dave!!
Thanks for sharing!