Whos keeping an eye on me....

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Finland \ Norway May 2013 - Pt 1 Oulu Region

A whistle stop visit to Northern Finland and North Eastern Norway.
3 main areas would be visited during our stay, Oulu Region of Northern Ostrobothnia, Kuusamo region of Lapland and the Vadso \ Varda region of Varangafjord, all of which involved some long drives fitted in-between early starts and late nights. It is well documented by others of the vast distances between sites, the longer lighter days and the arctic weather. However I didn't learn too much about the Arctic weather as for the majority of the time T- Shirts were the order of the day.
My companion (Jeff) and I flew from Manchester to Helsinki, and then onto Oulu in Northern Finland. We stayed in a small coastal town called Li about an hours drive north from Oulu. The Li area was fairly uninspiring in both location and for local birding, although in the accommodation grounds we had Common Redstart, Woodcock flying over, Fieldfare nesting in the garden, Common Tern on the river across the road and Pied Flycatchers in the town and  new to me was the sight and sound of Greater Spotted Woodpeckers drumming on tin street light covers..... OK all in all it is more than a little inspiring I have to agree. I also had my first ever Common Cranes when a pair flew over the town while we were doing our first birding walk in the area so giving me my first life bird of the trip.
Not only were some birds going to be new to us but what about bird songs and calls. I hadn't ever heard this almost warbler style song that was constant around the town, so our investigation persued, we were somewhat surprised to find it was the song of the Redwing, of course we don't get the breeding and territorial songs of these wintering birds in the UK.

Common Crane (click on images to enlarge them)

Of course this was only a base, the real reason for staying in the Oulu region was for a Finnature Owling trip in a few days time.

The following morning we made our way to Liminganlahti Wetlands in Liminka Bay for a full days birding, we were to visit 5 bird towers that overlooked this bay from varying angles.
Wetlands birding

We arrived before the Visitors Centre had opened but the area is still fully accessible.
The car park held Pied flycatchers and Treesparrows, while the fields behind had singing  Yellowhammer and Whinchats

The short walk towards the first bird tower produced a male Hen Harrier over the reed beds. From the new and impressive bird tower we were immediately onto 3 White Tailed Eagles, they were distant and fairly inactive for a while.
Immediately in front of the tower were Ruffs galore, 3 or 4 males in stunning breeding plumage, some had white headdresses while others had Black and tanned.

Of the expected other shorebirds there were Spotted Redshanks, Black Tailed Godwits and I am sure if I had scanned the area enough I would have picked up some Broad Billed Sandpipers in with the Dunlin. Marsh Harriers circled the area but we didn't pick up the male Hen Harrier again.

A quick coffee in the very impressive visitors centre and we were off to explore the other bird towers dotted around the bay. All need to be accessed by car as they are all a minimum of a few kilometres from each location.
Yellow Wagtails were in good numbers at a few sites, particularly the Blue headed race.

Nothing out of the ordinary was seen during the afternoon apart from a Caspian Tern a female of one of the Grouse species (Probably Willow) coming over the bay towards us an Osprey taking fish from close to the shore.
Tomorrow would be the guided Owl trip with a 3am meet.
We had a very very early start. On the road for 01.40hrs heading to Liminganlahti Wetlands to meet our guide. A few kilometres from the site we were fortunate to have an Eagle Owl fly straight over the car, we watched as it flew into a nearby wood, what a surprise and a piece of luck. At the centre we were 10 minutes early but still long enough to wonder if we were indeed at the correct meeting point, as the minutes ticked towards 3am and without sign of anyone arriving we were a little apprehensive. On cue at 3am two cars arrived, the first with two other birders for the Owl trip and not far behind came our guide.
The guide explained that he hadn't located any Great Grey or Hawk Owls in the favoured areas so the best we were hoping for were Pygmy, Tengmalms and Ural Owls, all three were to be seen as the day progressed, albeit with varying quality of the sightings.
A few failed attempts to attract Owls at localish locations were probably a guise to ensure we lost our bearings for when the real sites were visited. Locations of these sites are secret for obvious reasons but confuse the customer just to be on the safe side! maybe I am a little too cynical but the early start and wasted first hour didn't help.  
What turned out to be a 10 hour tour did get off and running when a Short Eared Owl was located hunting nearby, it climbed to the edge of a copse and then it attacked! we first thought a Perched Marsh Harrier, however when they came towards us it was actually a Rough Legged Buzzard. A further drive to a known site for Pygmy Owl also brought the damp weather. However it didnt deter the Owl who after a short while came to the edge of the forest and perched almost out in the open.
Record shots only, but a great sighting.
Also in the same area I saw my first Hazel Grouse. Despite seeing this species regularly over the next 5 days I would be unable to get an image.... this despite some stunning close views.
A coffee break brought us Ortolan Bunting sat on wires, fields full of Common Cranes and Whooper Swans and a distant Black Grouse Lek.
The next location was for a few Woodpecker species. Wryneck, Short-toed and Black were all on the list, with 3 Wrynecks being first to co-operate. After dynamic passes of our car they eventually settled down on the edge of a clearing giving us stunning views.

We were to move into a nearby wood for Three-toed Woodpecker but a call overhead came from a Rustic Bunting... a pair were in the area

The next 90 minutes looking for the Three-Toed were to be in vein, although we picked up Goshawk, Spotted Flycatcher, Common CrossbillTreecreeper and a wonderful pair of Wood Warblers. A short drive further and my first ever Capercaillies were flushed from the road side as we drove slowly along woodland dirt tracks, we came very close to driving over a Woodcock that refused to move, however this female Black Grouse was happy to potter about a short distance away.
Next on the menu was Black Woodpecker, and sure enough one came into a wooded area, while close by was a Red Backed Shrike. But still we were a few owls missing.....
First off to a secluded site through some bogland to a stumpy looking tree..... somewhere in there is a Ural Owl.
a little closer and you can make her out fast asleep.
Well that was that, we crept off leaving her to continue her sleep, one for the future and a hope of better views I think.
The last location brought us the kind of cuteness that makes all birding days joyous....
Tengmalms Owl.

so there we are, a good few days around the Oulu region of Finland
A pair of Whooper Swans flying over a bay Nr Li at midnight
We now set off to the Eastern side towards Kuusamo.... see part 2 

1 comment:

Rohrerbot said...

WOW!!! I'm in love with your owl!!! Nice find!