Whos keeping an eye on me....

Friday, 24 May 2013

Finland \ Norway 2013 Pt 3: Lapland - A cafe, deep snow and a Bluethroat

Neljan Tuulen Tupa - Pine Grosbeak Heaven so good I visited Twice.

A hostel, Café, Bird Paradise.

It has a reputation with Lapland bird travellers for getting close to Pine Grosbeak. It is true, but add Common Redpoll, Arctic Redpoll, Brambling, Waxwing, Siberian Jay and Red Squirrel. Other well seasoned travellers have used the café window feeders to get close views and to thaw out. No need for me as we arrived in warm un-seasonal weather.

Just before we arrived we stopped at a lake a few kilometres south to get stunning views of a male Smew.

please click on the images to enlarge them

meanwhile just down the road at Tuulen Tupa we didn't take long to locate the main target species.... male - Pine Grosbeak.
and the female
and some more ...... just because!
Not much snow about but enough to tempt them down to eat it
taking cover
ah sunshine

a return to the mound of snow

this time the female finds time for a preen

On the second visit there were good numbers of Brambling in superb summer plumage, too many and too active to count the numbers here. The males were very skittish and the females in small numbers.


Certainly one of the target birds of this trip was the Siberian Jay but one that I hadn't thought would cause us any sighting problems on this trip.
Well after day 6 it had risen to the top of the "wanted" list. Plenty of locations where these fellas should have been but weren't were visited, with a few locations revisited to try and connect with it. Plenty of other locations were they could have been were visited alas we still didn't connect..... until now. I had given myself an hours time-out here before having to set off on the road south again. With 15 minutes of this dedicated stop left, silently if not a little clumsily it appeared right in front of me. I was startled for a second then took it in for a moment and then remembered I had a camera so managed a few shots before it was gone, so with that in mind I am happy with these record portraits.
Maybe, just maybe the possible huge disappointment turned out to be the highlight of the trip......
what a stunner! 
certainly one of my highlights of this trip not only for the run-around it gave but also as it really is a lovely looking species.
I`m here ...... Siberian Jay
what you looking at?
simply gorgeous!

Redpolls galore
Hornemanns Arctic Redpoll (Carduelis hornemanni hornemanni)

Mealy Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea)

This is Tuulen Tupa

A brilliant place and well deserving of a post to itself.
All was not quite done in this area though as just a few miles up the road we pulled into a layby when we discovered this Bluethroat skulking around a stream, it didn't play ball for 5 minutes as it snook in and out of bushes on the rocky margins only a few feet away but then sat out just long enough to get a single shot, a chance find and a brilliant addition to my life list and the trip list.
Throw in a wee bit of snow that ensured I could not get to the summit of Mt Kilopaan for Ptarmigan and Dotterel.... believe me I did try, probably too hard
it started off ok - honestly! the board walk looked navigable
however once the boardwalk ran out the snow got deeper....
and only once it reached my waist did I know I was beaten, I am sure Jeff has some images of me waist deep that may or may not find it onto these pages *** update***
not a problem from here .....
Yours truly heading for a dry patch
and then knee deep in the white stuff (with a polite two fingered salute)
Plenty of water from Jeff's Wellies after the aborted walk
only 5 minutes later did someone Ski down to the bottom of the mountain and wonder what idiots had made the prints in the snow..... he shook his head in disbelief and probably had a laugh at our expense over his diner.
Part 4 we cover Varangafjord in North Eastern Norway

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!