Our annual visit to Finland proved interesting this year to say the least. Arriving in Oulu, our ground agents reported an exceptionally cold spring which was having a profound effect on the bird life, with migration stalled and breeding delayed. The situation with owls was very poor with many abandoning nests due to deep snow and a lack of food. In fact it was the poorest spring for owls for over 25 years and our group had to accept we were working with nature and our guides couldn't alter this situation even though they wanted to. Despite this initial set back, we actually enjoyed a very productive tour with a host of notable sightings. The delayed migration was in some ways beneficial, meaning some species were found in greater numbers than on previous tours. The fantastic group of 21 pirouetting Red-necked Phalaropes and the flock of over 100 Black-throated Divers on the mostly frozen lake were prime examples. The viewing platform at the rear of our Oulu hotel produced a lovely Terek Sandpiper feeding alongside a Broad-billed Sandpiper, whilst singing Ortolans nearby shared a field with migrant Dotterel awaiting the thaw. Grouse performed admirably with multiple sightings of Capercaillie, plus Willow Grouse and Hazel Hen both showing well. A brilliant collection of eastern passerines included both Rustic and Little Buntings, and a lovely singing male Red-flanked Bluetail.
posing for a picture at Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle, home of the Santa Clause experience.
Fantastic views of Slavonian Grebe near Oulu.
One of three male Rustic Buntings enjoyed during our days at Kuusamo.
A juvenile Parrot Crossbill, one of three found in woodland near Oulu, one of the surprises of the tour.
The Liminka Bay observation tower offers fine views around this important wetland.
Watching Siberian Jays near Valtavaara.
Is it possible to get better views of a male Capercaillie?
In all we had ten separate sightings of Capercaillie.
Female Capercaillie were often seen on roadsides where they collect grit to aid digestion.
Demand was so high for our Finland trip that we ended up running three tours to Oulu and Kuusamo in late May and early June. The trips were like chalk and cheese, with late May being very hot and sunny but winter returned in early June! Nevertheless, all three groups saw all five key owls, thanks to the help of our amazing Finnature guides. Red-flanked Bluetails, Capercaillies, Three-toed Woodpeckers, Siberian Tits, Willow Grouse, Siberian Jays, Rustic Buntings, Waxwings and Hazel Grouse were also seen by all participants. Pine Grosbeak, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Black Woodpecker, Blyth's Reed Warbler and Corncrake were reserved for the lucky groups.
Hot and sunny or cold and wet, how do you prefer your birding? It didn't seem to make much difference to the smiles on the faces, and certainly the birds weren't too bothered.
Waxwings can be seen in small numbers around Kuusamo.
This female Ural Owl was watching over her chicks on week one.
This young Ural Owl was stood right above our heads! We had no idea he was there until one of the group turned round and looked up!
Tengmalm's Owls can be difficult to find, but this year our guide knew of four nests.
This male Pygmy owl was keeping guard close to the nest.
Pine Grosbeak only showed well to one lucky group. It is perhaps the hardest to find of the iconic Finland birds.
Oulanka National park in the sunshine.
Hawks Owls were scarce this year, due to a lack of voles. However, our guide knew just where to look.
Great Grey Owl was is perhaps the most wanted of all the birds on this itinerary, and we were not dissapointed.
Our guide found a small patch of Calypso Orchids at Oulanka National Park.
This Black Woodpecker landed on the 'magic tree', a tree at Valtavaara that had mysterious powers to attract rare birds. At this spot we saw Pine Grosbeak, Waxwing and Parrot Crossbill too.
This rogue male Capercaillie was looking for a fight with our group! Paul didn't manage any photographs, he was too busy fending it off. Customer John Sykes kindly send us this classic image..
Please note: The above photographs were taken on previous trips. Itineraries change from time to time and therefore you cannot rely on these photographs as being an exact representation of what can be expected on a future tour. For details of the each tour, you should refer to the brochure write-up.
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