"We'd really like to thank you for a fantastic trip. As usual you looked after us all and kept us organised as well as providing cracking birds. Much appreciated."...... NS and CA, Moray, June 2016.
''Just a quick thank you for an excellent holiday last week. It was my first trip with yourself and I must say I was very impressed with your birding skills not
to mention your enthusiasm! Your determination to find all the key birds for us was greatly appreciated. That coupled with Ari's knowledge of location
and bird song/calls made an unbeatable combination.''.... Mr D, West Yorks, June 2016.
click here for a pdf version of this destination write-up - easier to print - no photos
If you enjoy attractive, unspoilt countryside and beautiful owls then this is the holiday for you. Anyone visiting Finland for the first time would have no difficulty experiencing the former. However, to find the owls and many other exciting northern birds, local help is a necessity. We have enlisted the help of Finnature, a bird tour company run by Jari Peltomaki, renowned Finnish birder and photographer. In addition to searching out Hawk Owl, Ural Owl, Great Grey Owl, Pygmy Owl and Tengmalm's Owl we will look for other northern and eastern specialities including Rough-legged Buzzard, Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse, Terek Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, Three-toed Woodpecker, Siberian Tit, Waxwing, Siberian Jay, Pine Grosbeak and the enigmatic Red-flanked Bluetail.
During this holiday you will feel a sense of remoteness. Indeed, with a population density of just 17 people per square kilomitre (England has over 400) you will quickly forget about congested roads and cluttered cities. We have chosen a two centre holiday for this one week visit, in order to maximise the birdlife and habitats, but minimise the travelling. By flying to Oulu, our first base, we will be in the heart of Finland's best wetland and owl habitat on day one. After three nights we will drive to Kuusamo, near the Russian border, just south of the Arctic Circle. Here we will spend the rest of the week looking for eastern specialities.
We first visited Finland in 1996, and have operated this successful itinerary many times since.
Having flown to Oulu, our base for the first three nights, we will find ourselves on the doorstep of Liminganlahti, Finland's most important wetland. Typical birds we can expect here include Common Crane, Slavonian Grebe, Short-eared Owl and Finland's national bird, the Whooper Swan. Our next two days will be spent exploring this area.
Located on the north-east corner of the Gulf of Bothnia, this is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Being just 200km south of the Arctic Circle, the area spent much of the last ten thousand years buried under thick ice. The weight of this ice forced the bedrock down into the earth's crust. Since the end of the last ice age the land has been 'springing' back, at a rate of about 1cm per year. As a result the landscape is constantly changing, with marshes being continually created in areas which were once the sea bed. This results in an abundance of wildlife habitat which is impossible to cultivate.
On the lakes we can expect to find Black-throated Diver, Velvet Scoter, Bean Goose, Caspian Tern, Little Tern and the splendid Smew. The Red-necked Grebe is a recent colonist. In the damp meadows and marshes waders breed in abundance. These include Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper. The rare Terek Sandpiper chooses the lake shores of Liminganlahti as its only Western European breeding ground. Ruff may be seen at a lek where males in their elaborate summer dress dance and squabble for the attentions of the duller Reeve. Migrants stopping over in the bay can include Grey Plover, Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank and Broad-billed Sandpiper.
Small birds breeding around the marshes include Wryneck and Grey-headed Wagtail, and we may be lucky and find a Blyth's Reed Warbler. In the drier areas there are Greenish Warblers, Red-backed and Great Grey Shrikes, Common Rosefinch and Ortolan. Woodlands in the area hold Black, Three-toed and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.
No visit to this area is complete without sightings of the northern owls. We can expect to see Ural Owl, Short-eared Owl, Great Grey Owl, Eurasian Pygmy Owl and Tengmalm's Owl. Even the enigmatic Hawk Owl appears here in good vole years. This task would not be possible without the help of our Finnish guides, who diligently locate nests during the early spring when the birds are calling.
On day four we will drive to Kuusamo, our base for the remaining four nights. Situated on the Russian border, we will birdwatch around Kuusamo as well as visit the pristine forests at Valtavaara. We shall birdwatch at marshes and water meadows in search of species such as Broad-billed Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank and the delightful Red-necked Phalarope.
There will be an optional ‘grouse drive’ one evening for a couple of hours after dinner. This may produce sightings of Willow Grouse, lekking Black Grouse, Hazel Grouse, plus cranes and perhaps an Elk.
Just north of Kuusamo is the picturesque Oulanka National Park where highlights may include Brambling, Parrot Crossbill, Capercaillie, Black Woodpecker and the delightful Waxwing. Two particularly special birds, the Siberian Tit and Siberian Jay, also occur in the area. During the afternoon we can drive a little further north to cross the Arctic Circle, birdwatching in Southern Lapland.
Valtavaara National Reserve is found just to the north of Kuusamo. This impressive taiga forest holds such exciting eastern specialities as Pine Grosbeak, Three-toed Woodpecker, Rustic Bunting, Little Bunting and Two-barred Crossbill. Inquisitive parties of Siberian Jays become more and more bold, sometimes taking crumbs from the hand! However, the highlight here is the rare Red-flanked Bluetail. With the help of our Finnature guides we have had good views on each of our trips.
On day eight there will be a little time for some birding near the town before we head back to Oulu, arriving in good time before our flight home.
CLIMATE AND PACE
Finland’s climate is similar to that of Scotland at this time of year. It may be warm and settled, but rain is also a possibility. The best way to sum it up is changeable, so we will be flexible with our plans to make the most of what is available. Breakfast will normally be taken at 7am. Beware of tour groups which take you birding through the night in search of 'night singers'. Our experience has shown that this is largely unnecessary. There are 24 hours of daylight at this time of year, so we are careful not to overstretch ourselves because of this. Basic fitness is all that is required. Full days will be spent in the field and short/medium length walks will be undertaken regularly. Most of the country is flat, but there will be some uphill walking at Valtavaara in search of Red-flanked Bluetail, done at a sensible pace.
ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD
Full-board accommodation is provided, with three nights at the Finlandia Hotel near Oulu and four nights in the Original Sokos Hotel in Kuusamo. All rooms have en suite bathrooms.
PRICE INCLUDES …..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guides, full-board accommodation (starting with dinner on 24th and ending with lunch on 31st), soft drinks at meal times, bottled water throughout, local transport by mini-bus, reserve entrance fees, return flight to Oulu (via Helsinki).
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED
Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.
Return flight from Manchester and London Heathrow to Oulu (via Helsinki) using the scheduled services of Finnair. Outbound flight departs mid-morning, return flight arrives back late afternoon.
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