30 May, 2008

Trip report: Tromsø, Norway, 27.-30.5.2008

My trip to Tromsø was not a traditional birding trip, but a business trip, as I went there to participate in one conference. Anyway, I had enough free time to go birding too, so hopefully this trip report gives readers some hints how to find birds in Tromsø area. At least from Finnish point of view, Tromsø and especially it's surroundings is a very interesting area, with several species that are hard to see in Finland. Car is almost mandatory and if you don't arrive with your own car, you can hire one from several car rentals either from airport or town center. Please note also that rubber boots would make your birding here much easier - I did not have them... Also a local guide would be worth of gold, if you manage to find one.

Day 1.

I arrived to Tromsø airport around 22:00 and took a taxi to my hotel. So, not much birding yet, though the evening was very luminous, because the sun does not set down at all in these latitudes during this time of year. During these last hours of the day I managed to spot such birds as Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) and several gulls; Mew Gulls (Larus canus), Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) and Great Black-Backed Gulls (Larus marinus).

Day 2.

This day was my main birding day here as today I had more free time than rest of the days. My original plan was to participate in whale watching trip with M/S Cetacea but unfortunately they canceled this day's cruise. Quite a disappointment to me as it would have been the only chance to see certain pelagic birds, like Fulmars, Petrels, Gannets and Shearwaters - all would have been lifers to me. Well, as I could not go to the sea, I turned to Plan B and rented a car from Avis and headed birding to nearby birding hotspots. At this point I want to give big thanks to Mr. Stein Ørjan Nilsen who kindly advised me to go birding to certain places in the island of Kvaløya. Without his hints I would have probably missed several nice species.

So, my first target was a cape called Tisnes in southeastern part of Kvaløya. But already before Tisnes I saw lots of birds as the road followed all the time coastline. Mostly same species that I had seen already earlier this year in Finland, just for example Ruffs (Philomachus pugnax), Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus), Black-throated Loon (Gavia arctica), Bramblings (Fringilla montifringilla), Redwings (Turdus iliacus) etc. One surprise was a Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), first one in Heim and later two in the bridge of Håkøya. I never thought that Herons would live this far north.

Just before Tisnes, the road climbed up to the swampy hill at Grönnäsen. Very interesting place and I decided to take a better look at it. Almost immediately I saw 2 Parasitic Jaegers (Steracorarius parasiticus), then a Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) was hunting over the swamp, Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) and Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) were calling somewhere. Nice place.

Next Tisnes. Definately a hotspot in these latitudes, big fields, shallow shore. Lot's of waders; 100 Red Knots (Calidris canuta), 85 Dunlins (Calidris alpina), 75 Ringed Plovers (Charadrius hiaticula), Ruddy Turnstones (Arenaria interpres) and much more. Again a hunting Short-eared Owl, this time over the field. Some new species for me this year, but nothing what I was looking for. Still, definately a place worth visiting.

But now it was time to decide whether I would continue to south along this coastal road to next hotspots (Brensholmen and Straumsbukta) or should I try to go to the Vengsøya island, where I could see Puffins (Fratecula arctica). Well, basically the decision was easy, as Puffin would be a lifer to me. So I turned back to north.
Long-tailed Skua at Grönnäsen
I drove again over the swampy Grönnäsen. Something made me stop again here and immediately when stepped out of the car I saw it: Long-tailed Skua (Stercorarius longicaudus) ! Lifer and so close to me; I could see it well even without binoculars! Wow! What a beautiful bird indeed. In addition to that, a flock of geese were passing by; 2 Tundra Bean Geese (Anser fabalis) and 4 Greylag Geese (Anser anser).

I had no idea about the Vengsøya ferry timetables, so I pushed the pedal as the time ran fast - it was already afternoon. At Finnvik I turned northwest towards Bellvika and mountains. The road was pretty steep and I reached fast the snow covered slopes of the mountains. In the midway to the top, at Søraksla area, there's a nice rest stop area. I parked my car and when I opened the door, I heard righ away the beautiful song of Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica). A very handsome male was singing right next to me. Quite a surprise in the snowcovered landscape! Well, it wasn't the only Bluethroat of those mountains, after this I heard and saw at least two more of them. I spotted also a big Moose (Alces alces) which was climbing up at the slope of Skavlikollen.

The next surprise was in the highest point of the road, at Sørskardet. Two Ring Ouzels (Turdus torquatus) were singing close to the road. This was the first time ever when I heard the song of this species, a very pleasent experience!

I did a short hike around the Sørskardet. Between the songs of Bluethroats and Ring Ouzels I heard also an odd creaking sound that I had never heard before. It came somewhere from the thick fog, which was in fact low hanging clouds. The sound reminded me of the Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus), but I could not be immediately sure about that. And then it stopped, before I could locate the origin of the sound... Later, when I compared the sound to recordings of Rock Ptarmigan, I could verify the identification! A lifer to me, again!

Soon after that I was already at Bellvika. And just in time, the ferry was there and I did not had to wait too long.

The ferry trip was interesting. The ferry itself reminded me of the old Finnish and Estonian ferries, it was a medium size ship with no services. I spent most of the time in the deck, even it was a bit cold and windy. But it was worth it. Very soon after depart I saw my first Puffins (Fratercula arctica), about 20 of them and soon after that came the big surprise: Great Skua (Stercorarius skua) ! Both lifers to me, and the latter one was a species that I had not even expected to see there! You may guess that I was happy! In addition to those there was also many other species in Skulsfjorden; 2 Parasitic Jaegers (Stercorarius parasiticus), 3 Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla), 3 Red-throated Divers (Gavia stellata), about 30 Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis) and 10 Razorbills (Alca torda). Not a bad start to this maritime part of the birding day.

The island of Vengsøya is a mountain rising from the sea in the edge of Atlantic Ocean. In the east coast of island there is a small fishing village and that was my destination. This remote place was very nice, I really enjoyed the atmosphere there. I spent only about an hour or two there but I would have loved to be there much longer. At first I checked the local services, well, not much, just a combined post office / village shop. No bed & breakfast, so I thought that I better should not miss the ferry when it leaves the island...

Greylag Goose at Vengsøya

There's only few kilometers of road in the Vengsøya, so it was a pretty quick task to check the surroundings of the village. Lots of birds around; about 100 Razorbills (Alca torda), 50 Puffins (Fratercula arctica), 20 Black Guillemots (Cepphus grylle), 65 Common Eiders (Somateria mollissima), 60 Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis), 8 Greylag Geese (Anser anser), 2 Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla), 200 Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus), 20 Great Black-backed Gulls (Larus marinus) and 30 Mew Gulls (Larus canus). Passerines were scarce, I saw only one Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe), 1 White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) and 1 Dunnock (Prunella modularis) there. But the highlight of the Vengsøya was definately the adult Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), which flew over the village, scared all the gulls and disappeared to the mountain. Very nice!

In addition to birds, there was two Bearded Seals (Erignathus barbatus) in the Vengsøya harbor. And while driving back to Tromsø, I saw one Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) at Lyfjorden - surprisingly the only Reindeer during whole trip.

Day 3.

I woke up very early in the morning and drove through the Tromsø mountain (the island is full of tunnels) to small cape of Langnes near the airport. I noticed yesterday that the coastline is very shallow there and was hoping to find some more waders.

Red Knots at Langnes

And so I did - a very nice flock of about 250 Red Knots (Calidris canutus), 2 Temminck's Stints (Calidris temminckii), 3 Dunlins (Calidris alpina), 8 Eurasian Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus), 1 Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) etc.

Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Larus fuscus graellsii)
From Langnes I drove south, stopped every now and then, but did not see much interesting species. Okay, to be honest, the Atlantic subspecies of Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus graellsii) was interesting to me, as it's a rare subspecies of this species in Finland.

Later in the evening I did still a short hike at the top of Storsteinen, about 430 meters above the sea level, trying to find the Rock Ptarmigan. No luck, just some Meadow Pipits (Anthus pratensis) and again couple of Golden plovers and Ringed Plovers. Perhaps I should have climbed higher to the top of Fløya (642 meters above sea level) to find them, but I did not have proper shoes nor clothing, nor anymore free time.

And finally, here's three links worth visiting before you go birding to Tromsø:




P.S. (17.2.2009) all my observations from Norway are now uploaded / stored at http://artsobservasjoner.no/

13 May, 2008

Birdwatching contacts and information around the world.

Birdwatching contacts and information around the world.

Going on a business trip, to a conference or on vacation? Have a bit of extra time? Don't waste it. Go birdwatching! Enjoy the safety and knowledge of a local birder and meet friendly people with the same favorite pastime as yourself. Become a Birdingpal and introduce a visitor to your favorite birdwatching sites. Through your hospitality the world becomes a better place. Just like Pen Pals say....
A stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet.

Meet a Birdingpal, be a Birdingpal!

04 May, 2008

Old roads from Hämeenlinna to Valkeakoski

During this spring I've been driving every evening Sunday to Hämeenlinna, to bring my younger son Roni to swimming school. When we drive back to home, we choose almost always the old roads instead of highway. It takes more time, but it's worth it - if you like the countryside scenery. And you will see definitely more birds along these old roads, like today.

Today the best spots were at the fields of Taljala and Kuurila villages in Kalvola. We found for example a flock of 35 Common Cranes (Grus grus), 14 Golden Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria) and the first Rook (Corvus frugilegus) for this year. Roni was especially happy because of the Golden Plovers, as he had never seen them before. And yes, they were really beautiful in sunset, unfortunately bit too far for photographing but close enough for scope.

03 May, 2008

The Battle Of Towers 2008

In Finland, we have every May "Tornien Taisto", in english "The Battle Of Towers". It is organized by Birdlife Finland, and it is a playful competition, where participants try to observe from bird tower as many birds as possible during eight hours. At the same time the goal is to make bird watching well know to public and whip round for bird conservation.

This year the Battle was held on 3rd of May and about 1000 birders participated to Battle in 270
towers. I was once again in the old tower of Ahtialanjärvi in Lempäälä, with Ville Työppönen and Tom Eklund. The Battle started in 5 a.m. and like always, the first hours were the most busy. This year the weather was warmer than ever, during the day the temperature rose over 20 deg. Celcius. After 6 or 7 hours our backs and eyes were tired, but still we tried to find new species until the end. The last species, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, was observed at 12:15 a.m. - 45 minutes before the end. In total we saw 63 species, but the official number was 61, as the rules say that at least two team members must observe and identify the bird, before it can be ticked. Our result was close to the average, which was 67. The minimum was 18 species (somewhere far in the north), maximum 115 (all 100 species towers were on the coast).

Below is the full list of all the species we saw:

1. Taiga Bean Goose Anser fabalis
2. Greylag Goose Anser anser
3. Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus
4. Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope
5. Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
6. Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
7. Eurasian Teal Anas crecca
8. Common Pochard Aythya ferina
9. Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
10. Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula
11. Common Merganser Mergus merganser
(12. Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator ) - only seen by 1 person
13. Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
14. Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris
15. Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
16. Osprey Pandion haliaetus
17. Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
18. Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
19. Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
20 Common Crane Grus grus
21. Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
22. Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
23. Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
24. Nothern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
25. Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
26. Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
27. Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
28. Mew Gull Larus canus
29. European Herring Gull Larus argentatus
30. Common Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
31. Little Gull Larus minutus
32. Common Tern Sterna hirundo
33. Common Pigeon Columba livia
34. Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus
35. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor
36. Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
37. Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius
38. Eurasian Magpie Pica pica
39. Western Jackdaw Corvus monedula
40. Hooded Crow Corvus cornix
41. Northern Raven Corvus corax
42. Willow Tit Parus montana
43. Great Tit Parus major
44. Blue Tit Parus caeruleus
45. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
46. Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis
47. Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
48. Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca
49. Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
50. Common Blackbird Turdus merula
51. Fieldfare Turdus pilaris
52. Redwing Turdus iliacus
53. Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
54. European Robin Erithacus rubecula
55. Dunnock Prunella modularis
56. White Wagtail Motacilla alba
(57. Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava) - only seen by 1 person
58. Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
59. Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
60. Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
61. European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
62. Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus
63. Common Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus

Common Cranes (Grus grus) over the tower

02 May, 2008

Floods of Korteniitty

I visited three days ago first time in my life at Korteniitty in Pirkkala. Magnificent place, real birding hotspot, at least right now when the pump station was switched off and the whole valley was flooding. In spite of the fact that the weather was anything but good - if you think about waders - i.e. anti-cyclone with almost no clouds in the sky, there was still tens of waders in the valley; Little Ringed Plovers (Charadrius dubius) , Common Snipes (Gallinago gallinago) , Common Greenshanks (Tringa nebularia) , Spotted Redshanks (Tringa erythropus) , Wood Sandpipers (Tringa glareola), Ruffs (Philomachus pugnax), Northern Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) and Eurasian Curlews (Numenius arquata).

I just wonder how this place would look during rainy days when waders have to fall down from migration...
But once again, this place looked too good to be true. Only a day later the landowner switched the pump station on, and now the flood is history...

29 April, 2008

Warm night, new backyard singers and morning birding trip to the big lakes

Common Redstart
Last night was warm, in fact the warmest during this year, temperature was over +7 deg. C already early in the morning. And when I opened the kitchen window during breakfast, three new artists were singing outside: Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus), Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix) and Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus). And of course the Pied Flycatcher who arrived yesterday. Not bad.

This morning my targets were the big lakes around Valkeakoski; lake Mallasvesi and lake Vanajavesi. At first I checked the nearby bays of Mallasvesi and found two new species for this year; 4 Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator) and Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos). Good start, so I headed straight to Vanajavesi, which looks more like a sea than a lake. Fortunately weather was totally calm and there was no ruffle in the air, so the visibility was perfect. And soon I found one species I was looking for; two flocks, 6 + 10 Black Scoters (Melanitta nigra) were resting in the middle of the lake, kilometers away from nearest beach. But no Long-tailed Ducks yet, nor any migrating Loons. From nearby bay I found a 2nd year Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), pair of late Smews (Mergus albellus) - they should be much further north already- and many more much common birds.

261 Little Gulls!

From huge lake Vanajavesi I drove to nearby lake Vähäjärvi, a small eutrophic lake in the middle of fields of Ritvala. This lake is nowadays only a shadow from it's previous glory days, when it was full of waterfowls and waders. But today it provided still a sample of it's previous power; 261 Little Gulls (Larus minutus) were catching midges in the middle of the lake together with 104 Black-headed Gulls (Larus ridibundus). This big number of Little Gulls is exceptional here, so it was a pleasant surprise. And one more new species for 2008 was found too; lonely Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) was flying around, calling all the time for it's fellows.

28 April, 2008

Cycling at monday evening

Busy day, although I'm on one week vacation at the moment. But in the evening I went for almost 18 kilometers bicycle drive around the town of Valkeakoski. Nothing really special, but to mention something: 2 Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus), 1 Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) , 2 Dunnocks (Prunella modularis) and one new species for year 2008, Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix), was signing in two places, quite early observations. In addition to those I found also a dead Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) , a victim of traffic accident. Sad end for this handsome woodpecker...

Backyard birds during last days

Concert in our backyard gets new artists almost daily. Tens of Thrushes, Chaffinches, Eurasian Robins and Tits have been singing already for weeks, but during last days we got some new artists; Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) and Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) arrived two days ago and Pied Flycather (Ficedula hypoleuca) today. Wryneck and Flycather were both bit early, but it's not big surprise this spring, nights are already warm and days are getting warmer all the time - maximum temperatures have been here already +18 degrees Celcius. Summer is coming - no doubt about it! I wonder what are the next artists, perhaps Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat or Wood Warbler, who knows?

27 April, 2008

Golden Plovers, Bitterns, White Stork and more

Nice Sunday, many new species for 2008 and one rarity in the evening. The morning started with Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor) in our backyard, it was one of the four birds we saw today. The main trip of the day began at 06:30, when my old birding friend Rainer Häggblom picked me up. At first we headed to lake Kortejärvi in Urjala, where we saw for example the first two Golden Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria), four Common Terns (Sterna hirundo), one Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis) and a pair of Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata) - all new species for me this year. In addition to those, small highlights were a visual observation of flying Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) and a "singing" Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus).

From Kortejärvi we headed to fields of Kylmäkoski, Akaa, Kalvola and Valkeakoski. We checked many square kilometers of fields, but unfortunately all floods had dried. Of course there were Common Cranes, Whooper Swans, Eurasian Lapwings and Eurasian Curlews every here there, but no Geese anymore nor any other waders - except in almost last spot there was a nice flock of 50 Golden Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria) in Kuurila fields in Kalvola.

From fields we went to woods; Jutikkalanharju ridge in Valkeakoski was a good birding hot spot once again; in a short time we found for example two Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus), one male Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus), singing Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopys collybita), one Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor) etc.

Jutikkalanharju ridge ends as a short cape in lake Saarioisjärvi and there is one of the oldest bird observation towers of Pirkanmaa county. It's still very popular place, though the lake itself is not as good as it was earlier. Today there was nothing special, just the some normal waterfowls and Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) - one of the 5-6 Marsh Harriers we saw today.

From Saarioisjärvi we drove to lake Ahtialanjärvi, the famous bird lake in Lempäälä. I was almost sure that there we would see finally some waders - but no - the water was in so high level that all the migrating waders had left the lake... damn... Well, at least there was much more birds to see than there was in lake Saarioisjärvi; 4 Northern Shovelers, about 30 Eurasian Wigeons, 8 Common Terns and many more. Two Common Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) , a male and female, were nice to see after the cavalcade of Western Marsh Harriers. Lonely Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) gave the first real sign of forthcoming summer.

At this time it was already noon, time to turn car back to Valkeakoski. But before that one more stop, at lake Mäyhäjärvi - which is full of midges during spring, and certain birds love them. This is not yet the best time for midges, but still there was already about 300 Black-headed Gulls and some 30 Little Gulls (Larus minutus), firsts for this year, enjoying of the easy food. Mäyhäjärvi is also a good place to see Black-throated Divers (Gavia arctica) - this time we saw two of them.

Later in the evening I drove to Hämeenlinna with my younger son Roni, who goes to swimming school there. While approaching Hämeenlinna, an SMS from Lintutiedotus (the Finnish Twitchers Association's rare bird alert system) told that there was a White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) very close to us. Roni had never seen a White Stork so I promised him that we will try to see the bird after swimming school. And there it was, not in the same place where it had been found but close to it, feeding in the field. We saw the Stork very well and Roni was happy - and so was I. Nice end for the weekend.

25 April, 2008

Maltese 2008 spring hunting season banned by European Court

Maltese 2008 spring hunting season banned by European Court

Great news from south!

BirdLife International and BirdLife Malta welcomed yesterday’s decision by the European Court of Justice to issue interim measures ordering Malta not to open the 2008 spring hunting season for European Turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur and Common Quail Coturnix coturnix. This Order implies that the Court sees urgent need to prevent irreversible damage to these migratory bird species, while a final ruling on this case is pending and not expected before 2009.

In January 2008, based on a complaint by BirdLife, the European Commission took the Maltese government to Court for having allowed, every spring since the country’s accession to the EU in 2004, hunting and trapping of European Turtle-dove and Common Quail, in direct contravention of the EU Birds Directive. Malta is located on an important bird migration route in the Mediterranean. Hunting during the sensitive breeding and spring migration period is prohibited under EU law, in all Member States.

Read more from Birdlife International pages, see link above.

Evening trip with boys

This evening was already quite warm, +15 degrees Celcius and almost no wind at all. This time we headed east, to lake Tykölänjärvi. It was a good choice, there were lots of birds, just for example 52 Common Porchards (Aythya ferina), 56 Eurasian Wigeons (Anas penelope), 62 Common Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula), 126 Eurasian Coots (Fulica atra), 2 Eurasian Bitterns (Botaurus stellaris) and many others. New species for me this year were 5 Red-necked Grebes (Podiceps grisegena) and a singing Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes). We saw most of the birds very well and my boys were very exited, not only because of birds but because they found also lots of interesting insects.

From Tykölänjärvi we continued to another bird lake, called Vähäjärvi. There had been some interesting species in the morning, but now the lake was quite empty. Most interesting observation was an old birder - I soon identified him as Pentti Linkola, a 76 years old environmental evangelist and one of the most famous Finnish birders ever. It's a shame that he left before us, I would have liked to have a chat with him. Well, he lives not too far from here, so perhaps I should go to meet him later in the spring.

After we left Vähäjärvi, we found still one little bit better species; a male Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe), once so common, but nowadays quite few in numbers due to changes in rural environment. For me this was second this spring (I saw one in Tampere yesterday), but for my boys it was their first for the spring.

24 April, 2008

The bold and beautiful

I saw these odd-colored Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) yesterday at Hatanpää Arboretum in Tampere. The male in photo tried first to mate with normal female Mallard, but the female did not accept this guy. Finally the male gave up, flew back to an other pond where it met this black female Mallard. She was totally different compared to her normal colored sister and she accepted the male immediately and soon they looked like a happy just married couple.

The Hawk Owl's Nest: The Most Hardcore Birder Ever

The Hawk Owl's Nest: The Most Hardcore Birder Ever

"This guy is the most hardcore birder ever" says Patric Belardo and his right, the guy looks like the Rambo of all birders. Check Patrick's blog and leave your comments there.

23 April, 2008

Commute twitching

Quite a day. When I returned back to the office, I received another SMS from Lintutiedotus (the Finnish Twitchers Association's rare bird alert system) - almost from the same place where I twitched the Black Redstart. But this time there was Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) ! It was found by Unto Söderholm, the same birder who had just found the Black Redstart. Lucky guy indeed!

Well, I could not go after Ring Ouzel immediately, I had work to do. But at 4 p.m. when I was about to end my work, I received again a message from Lintutiedotus which told that the bird was still there. So I headed again back to Hatanpää. There was also couple of other birders searching for the bird and after 15 minutes we found it. Nice female, not so handsome as a male, but never mind, cool observation anyway.

Lunch hour twitching

Got an SMS from Lintutiedotus (the Finnish Twitchers Association's rare bird alert system) about an hour ago. Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) very close to my office. Hmmm... no meetings in the calendar and no urgent tasks at the moment, so I decided to have my lunch hour a bit earlier than normally.

I found the bird very quickly, an elegant male, feeding with insects and singing every now and then. It was very nice to see this species again, as few years had already gone from my previous observation of this species.

21 April, 2008

Hybrid Crow, Lapland Longspurs and busy weekend

Last weekend was busy - spring and summer is coming, had to fix all our bikes, store all winter things (skis, sleds etc), wash winter clothes and get summer clothes out of closet and air them etc. Well, I found some time for birding with my kids though. No big surprises, but something nice like two Lapland Longspurs (Calcarius lapponicus) in Vanhakylä fields on Saturday. There was also a probable hybrid Hooded x Carrion Crow (Corvus corone cornix x C. c. corone), see the photos below.

On Sunday we saw for example couple of flocks of Taiga Bean Geese (Anser fabalis); 39 in Kylmäkoski and 23 in Urjala, first Common Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) for this year, big numbers of Common and Black-headed Gulls (Larus canus & L. ridibundus) feeding in the fields (for example 300 Common Gulls and 500 Black-headed Gulls in Uusi-Annila), a flock of 38 Common Snipes (Gallinago gallinago) in Kuurilannotko. So, basically a lot of birds out there, but still I'm missing something - where are all the birds of prey. Did they arrive this year one by one and flew straight to their territories? I also missed masses of Common Cranes, they seem to have slipped north from west while I was in Helsinki last week... So no mass migration in my birding area during this spring ??

Taiga Bean Geese (Anser fabalis) in Urjala

20 April, 2008

Trip report: Stockholm, Sweden 10.-11.4.2008


This trip report is targeted especially to birders outside Europe and it gives hints ho
w to find birds in Stockholm if you have only very limited time to use (i.e. if you are in a business trip, conference or you are otherwise very busy). All you need is few hours of time, appropriate clothing, modern cellphone and your binoculars with you.

Like in all big cities, most birds in Stockholm are pretty tame and easy to photograph, like this 
Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) in Tantolunden park.

Day 1: 10th of April 2008

I arrived to Arlanda Airport at 6:30 in the morning. The easiest way to get in to the City center is to take Arlanda Express, one way ticket to this super fast train costs 220 SEK (about 23 EUR). I took this time a taxi, because I wanted to go straight to the hotel (and as I also offered a drive to Stockholm for couple of our customers). Taxi from Arlanda to Hotel Hilton Slussen cost 545 SEK (about 58 EUR).

During drive to Hilton, I saw the first birds along the highway; Wood Pigeons (Columba palumbus), Common Gulls (Larus canus), Herring Gulls (L. argentatus), Black-headed Gulls (L. ridibundus), Eurasian Jackdaws (Corvus monedula), Hooded Crows (Corvus corone cornix), Eurasian Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula), Goosanders (Mergus merganser), Common Pigeons (Columba livia) and surprisingly also the best species of the day: Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia) flew by in Riddarfjärden (not very common in Stockholm).

Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) in Tantolunden park.

Before my workshops started in Hilton, I had about an hour and half free time. Weather was not fine, slight rain and a bit windy. Anyway I decided to take a walk around the shores of Södermalm island, to see if there's gulls and waterfowls. I headed east along Stadsgårdshamnen and turned back at Tegelviksplan to Folkungagatan, then Fjällgatan and along Katarinavägen back to Slussen. Especially from Fjällgatan there is a very nice view over lakes Strömmen and Saltsjön, where I saw 5 species of Gulls: Lesser Black-backed (Larus fuscus), Great Black-backed (L.marinus), Common (L. canus), Black-headed (L. ridibundus) and Herring Gulls (L. argentatus). In addition to gulls there was also 2 fishing Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo). In Fjällgatan there is also nice backyards worth checking at Ersta Sjukhus (hospital) and Ersta Diakonimuseum. In those gardens I saw such common species as Blackbirds (Turdus merula), House Sparrows (Passer domesticus), Great Tits (Parus major), Blue Tits (P. caeruleus), Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebes), Greenfinches (Carduelis chloris), Eurasian Jackdaws (Corvus monedula), European Magpies (Pica pica), Wood Pigeons (Columba palumbus) and Common Pigeons (C. livia). In addition to those I saw also migrating flocks of Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) and several species of gulls on the roof tops or just flying by.

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) in Tantolunden park.

In the evening, between workshops and dinner, I had about 3 hours for birding. So, how to reach big parks and other birding hotspots in Stockholm? The answer is simple; rent a CityBike. CityBike has bike stands all around City center and the price is cheap; a three days card costs only 125 SEK (about 13 EUR). With card you pick a bike from any stand and return it back to any stand within three hours. If you need the bike for longer time, then you just pick a new bike for next three hours. Bike cards are sold in Tourist Center and all SL Centers, which are the Stockholm Metro Ticket selling points. I bought mine from Slussen SL Center and picked the bike from nearby stand.

My first target was Tantolunden park in Södermalm island. According to Svalan (a Swedish bird observation database) there had been recently for example Green Woodpeckers, a species that I had not seen since 1980's. With bike I reached the park quite easy - naturally with a help of Stockholm Map that I had grabbed from hotell. Very nice park, with lots of walkways, old trees and lots of birds. For me the highlights were 2 Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) and a singing Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), both small rarities in my normal birding area in Finland. Hawfinches were hiding silently in tree tops, but when I played Hawfinch calls with my cell phone, they answered immediately and I managed to see them well. In addition to those, there was also two White Wagtails (Motacilla alba), Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs), Greenfinches (Carduelis chloris), Great (Parus major) and Blue Tits (P. caeruleus), one European Robin (Erithacus rubecula), Wood Pigeons (Columba palumbus), Eurasian Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) and Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major), but no Green Woodpeckers, even though I played their calls with my cell phone.

After Tantolunden I cycled towards Årstaviken bay and Eriksdalslunden park. At bay I saw 2 Mute Sawns (Cygnus olor) , Common Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula), Eurasian Coots (Fulica atra), Lesser Black-backed (Larus fuscus) and Black-headed Gulls (L. ridibundus). In park there was again singing Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) and other common species I saw earlier in Tantolunden park.

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) seems to hide in tree tops - hard to 
take good photos of it... This one was in Eriksdalslunden.

From Eriksdalslunden I drove back to my hotel, to change clothes for dinner. No more birds this day...

Day 2: 11th of April 2008

Five hours of sleep, after that rise and shine. Woke up early, around 5 a.m. I had a bottle of energy drink (containing among other things coffeine, guarana and taurine) - it gave me a quick boost for sunny morning. Sun was rising at about 5:30 and I started hiking towards Djurgården at 5:20. Yes, hiking, because I was supposed to meet Birdingpal Martin Berg there at 06:00 and CityBikes can be hired only between 06:00 - 18:00 (return latest at 21:00). Walk from Slussen to Djurgården bridge took about 20-25 minutes. Later, when I returned to hotel from Djurgården, I chose again a bike instead of hike.

South Djurgården, also known nowadays as part of Ekopark, is the first urban national park in world. A very nice and large park, with lots of old oaks, perfect place for finding Green Woodpecker and other birds not so common in my regular birding area.

From Djurgården bridge I continued to park with Martin Berg, who is a relatively young, but perfect Birdingpal - I was really happy to meet him. So, our main goal this morning was to find Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis), and so we did. First two birds were found from the southern part of park, near place called Oakhill. My cellphone with Green Woodpecker sound played a major role to get the woodpeckers in sight after we first heard it's a call from somewhere far. For me it was really cool to see this bird after 20 years.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) in the colony of South Djurgården.

Our second object was to find Marsh Tit (Parus palustris). Well, we never found it from Djurgården, instead we saw lots of other birds. Djurgården seems to be also a perfect place to watch for example Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes), Nuthatches (Sitta europaea) and Stock Doves (Columba oenas). They were all common there, during two hours we saw 15-20 Hawfinches, about 15 Nuthatches and rouhgly 30 Stock Doves. In addition to those, on what comes to bigger birds, we saw one Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), some 20 Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo), about 50 Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea), about 50 Barnacle Geese (Branta leucopsis), couple of normal Canada Geese (Branta canadensis), one odd colored Canadale Goose (see the photo below) and 3 Greylag Geese (Anser anser). Smaller ones included such as Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major), one Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (D. minor), Blackbirds (Turdus merula), Fieldfares (T. pilaris), Song Thrushes (T. philomela), Redwings (T. iliacus), Blue (Parus caeruleus) and Great Tits (P. major), House Sparrows (Passer domesticus), Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs), Greenfinches (Carduelis chloris), Eurasian Siskins (C. spinus), 4 European Goldfinches (C. carduelis), European Robins (Erithacus rubecula), White Wagtails (Motacilla alba) and Eurasian Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris).

By the way, South Djurgården is a very large park (and the whole Ekopark even larger) , so be prepared to be there at least 2 hours. Bike is also very useful there, but if you like to walk in the woods, leave your CityBike locked in the nearest stand.

"White-headed Canada Goose" (Branta canadensis) in South Djurgården.

While cycling back to hotel from Djurgården, I saw the last species of this trip; 3 Tree Sparrows (Passer montanus) near Nybroplan.

At the end, a note from Martin Berg that may be interesting for non-Scandinavian birders: Although we did not see the White-tailed Sea Eagle (Haliaetus albicilla), it's quite common view in Stockholm sky.

15 April, 2008

Evening birding near Helsinki

I make business trips to Helsinki area very often, but usually I drive back to home after working day. This time was an exception, as I participated in two day conference - and there was no dinner in the agenda, so I had lot's of free time during evening. Helsinki area is a great place for birders, there are a lot of excellent birding hot spots around the city. As my conference hotel was in western side, I decided to go birding to Suomenoja, Laajalahti and Lauttasaari, all good birding places close to each other.

Juha, watching for Common Porchards (Aythya ferina) at Suomenoja.

But not alone. I went birding with my very old friend Juha Kiviniemi. He lives nowadays in Helsinki and we have had no chance to go birding together for decades - it was really nice to meet him, this trip brought lots of good memories in to my mind.

We started from Laajalahti bay, where we chose the observation tower of Maarinlahti. I was there last time years ago and the landscape had changed a lot and to better direction. Hectares of reed had been ripped off to offer especially for waders a better biotope. Well, there was not many waders yet, just few Eurasian Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus), Redshanks (Tringa totatus) and Northern Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus), but many other birds seems to love this kind kind of muddy areas areas too; there was for example about 80 White Wagtails (Motacilla alba), 140 Common Teals and many others. Small surpise for me was the Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus), earliest one I've ever observed in spring. In the bay there was a lot of waterfowl; Smews (Mergus albellus); Northern Pintails (Anas acuta), Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula), Whooper and Mute Swans (Cygnus cygnus & C. olor), Geese, Grebes etc. etc. In addition to local birds, one Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) and couple of Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) flew by.

Drake Common Porchard in Suomenoja

Maarinlahti tower was quite crowded, so we moved soon to the next place - Suomenoja sewage pond. It's not very nice place, but you can see there certain birds easily that are quite difficult to find from other places. Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) is such - we saw 4 of them. We saw also one male Gadwall (Anas strepera) and 2 Slavonian Grebes (Podiceps auritus) which are both not so rare, but few in number, always nice to see. Black-Headed Gulls (Larus ridibundus) rule this place, my very rough estimate is that there was about 2000 of them. Other birds we saw there were for example 24 Common Porchards (Aythya ferina) and 6 Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula).

Two Moorhens and Black-headed Gulls at Suomenoja.

Our last target was the southern tip of Lauttasaari island. We went there to see some sea birds, like Long-tailed Ducks, Common Eiders or Common Scoters - but all we saw this time were about 30 Common Eiders (Somateria mollissima) - well, the first for me this year anyway, we don't see the too often in Pirkanmaa county. Two Eurasian Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) were also feeding in nearby islet.

Oystercatchers, Gulls, and Mute Swans....

Sun was already setting down, so it was time drop Juha at his home and me to drive back to hotel. Not bad evening for inland birder, several new species for this year. And of course the best thing was to meet my old friend Juha.

12 April, 2008

Pied Avocet

Short twitching trip with my sons this evening to lake Ahtialanjärvi, about 15 kilometers NW from home. There was Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avocetta), a beautiful wader that I had never seen in my regular birding area. I've seen lot's of Pied Avocets abroad, but as it's a rarity here - it's somehow very different. It's always nice to see rarities here at home, they are like candies compared to common birds you see every day.

In addition to Avocet, there was lot's of birds in Ahtialanjärvi as usual, like Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris), 2 Western Marsh Harriers (Circus aeruginosus), Common Cranes (Grus grus), lots of waterfowls, and many more. Nice evening!

Osprey Pete is dead. Rest in peace, Pete...

High Latitude Birdwatcher: Osprey Pete is coming home

In the above blogging I told about Pete's journey back to home. Unfortunately Pete's flight ended to Marocco, where it flew inside a tropical storm and winds turned it to the sea. After that, no more satellite observations about this old male Osprey. Rest in peace, Pete.

09 April, 2008

Fog and rain

Three days of fog and rain. Meteorologists say that Finland is the graveyard of cyclones and this was true once again. What comes to birding during this kind of weather, it's just the matter of free time, proper clothing and equipment. But if you run out of time - and commute birding or office birding is your only chance to see birds, then fog and rain will ruin everything efficiently. During these three days I did not see any new species for 2008, nor almost anything else interesting. Well, ok, there was one interesting observation; odd-colored female Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) in lake Iidesjärvi at Tampere. These color anomalies are pretty common among urban Mallards, but I still like to observe and photograph them.

06 April, 2008

Taiga Bean Geese, White-tailed Eagles, Eurasian Bitterns and a lot more

Birding with my kids today - we spent the whole afternoon watching birds and enjoying the good weather. Our first target was the bird observation tower of lake Kortejärvi in Urjala. It's very nice place with good facilities; parking place, toilets, information canopy and a perfect large tower itself.

I could have spent there all day, but when you go birding with kids, they set the time limits per location - here it was 45 minutes. During that time we saw a lots of interesting birds; for example 123 Taiga Bean Geese (Anser fabalis), 2 White-tailed Eagles (Haliaetus albicilla), 10 Smews (Mergus albellus), 2 Northern Pintails (Anas acuta), 8 Eurasian Cranes (Grus grus), 2 Reed Buntings (Emberiza schoeniclus), 4 Common Teals (Anas crecca), Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus), Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) and many others.

After Kortejärvi we drove to Kylmäkoski and Viiala. In Kylmäkoski we saw a Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) - a very handsome male. In Viiala, after boys ate their snacks, we decided to check the waterfowls of Sitonsaari. It was a good choice, there were lots of birds around; about 250 Eurasian Coots (Fulica atra), 8 Smews (Mergus albellus), about 25 Eurasian Wigeons (Anas penelope), Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) again and 24 Common Pochards (Aythya ferina) - just to mention few of them.

The most visible bird today was the Whooper Swan (Gygnus cygnus) - in total we saw at least 155 of them in 10 places.

So, 8 new species for 2008 today and many nice experiences. Compared to yesterday, this day was almost perfect!

05 April, 2008

Chill and dull day

In hope of seeing migrating geese and other birds I climbed this morning to the migration observation tower of Kärsä cliffs. After an hour I gave up - all migrating birds I saw were some Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs), Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) and Woodpigeons (Columba palumbus). The weather was probably too bad, there was rain approaching from south west, wind was chilly and visibility was less than 10 km.
Local forest birds instead were more interesting; 3 Black Woodpeckers (Dryocopus martius), Hazel Grouse (Bonasa bonasia) - first for this year, Redwing (Turdus iliacus), 3 singing Eurasian Treecreepers (Certhia familiaris) etc.
After leaving the forests I headed to nearby fields and open water locations - but they were today almost empty, nothins special to mention.
But during evening I heard from our backyard a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor), first for me during this year. Well, two new birds for 2008, not so bad day though.

04 April, 2008

First Redwing and new backyard species

Blackbird singing
I already thought that this day will end without any new species for this year - but no, just before sunset the first Redwing (Turdus iliacus) started singing near our home, together with Blackbird (Turdus merula) and two Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris). In addition to those, 3 Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) flew over our house - a new backyard species for me. Nice evening.

03 April, 2008

Big flock of Lapwings, Cranes, Marsh Harrier...

Three new species for this year today; first a migrating male Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) in the morning, seen from my office window. During work hours I saw also a Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) hunting Common Pigeons (Columba livia) - it's always cool to see Goshawk in action!

In the evening I took my boys Petro and Roni with me and we did a 2,5 hours trip to southern fields of Valkeakoski. In Kannistonvainio there was a big surprise waiting for us - a flock of 290 Northern Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) ! That's the biggest flock I've ever seen in southern parts of Pirkanmaa county - very nice, indeed. While counting the Lapwings, a European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) started to sing behind us, first for this spring.

From Kannistonvainio we continued to Saarioispuoli and Kuurila, where we hiked around the fields, trying to find passerines, but did not succeed, it was already too late, only one Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) was found from the bushes. Fortunately a flock of four Eurasian Cranes (Grus grus) came from north and landed in front of us. By the way, Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus) are now very common, you can see them almost everywhere; feeding in the fields, resting on the ice, swimming in open water.

Osprey Pete is coming home

Pete in flight (Photo: Juhani Koivu)
In summer 2007, the Finnish Museum of Natural History, the Osprey Foundation, and UPM started to collaborate on a project to monitor the life of a male Osprey with the help of a new generation of Argos-GPS satellite transmitters. Professor Pertti Saurola continues as the scientific leader of the project.

So, Pete is finally on the way home - I already thought that it died in Senegal as it did not move anywhere in a week. It was possible to follow Pete's migration at his map page, which was later removed from the net. The final destination is in Lempäälä, very near where I live so it's very exiting for me to follow Pete's migration.

02 April, 2008

Rough-legged Buzzard

No time for real birding today, but still I saw one new species for 2008;
Rough-legged Buzzard (Buteo lagopus) migrated to NW in the center of Tampere - I saw the buzzard from my office window.

I saw also some other migrating birds, like White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) and Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus). Hopefully tomorrow evening I have some time for real birding...

01 April, 2008

Just a little bit from Wagtail...

"One month to summer from Skylark, half a month from Chaffinch, just a little bit from Wagtail, no day from Swallow" says old Finnish proverb. Well, that was just a quick and dirty translation, it sounds much better in Finnish...

Anyway, I saw this evening the very first White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) of this year, when I went to winter swimming in Apianlahti beach. It was really nice to meet this species after winter - it's hard to understand that only few days ago here was a blizzard and lot's of snow...

Commute birding

My commute to work takes about from 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on what combination I choose. Usually I walk part of the way and then take the bus. But today I took the car, as it needed washing - it was covered with mud and dust, like almost all cars during this time of year. So, naturally the own car gives you a freedom to stop where ever you want - and see more birds compared to what you can see from bus window.

The morning was warm, +5 degrees Celcius, so I expected to see some new species for this year. And so I did; the first one was Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) in the fields of Vanhakylä. Second one was 2 migrating Geese (Anser sp.) over the highway in Uusi-Eurooppa. More new migrants were found from Viinikanlahti bay near my office; 6 Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula), 3 Common Pochards (Aythya ferina), 18 Eurasian Coots (Fulica atra) and 2 Great Crested Grebes (Podiceps cristatus). There was also lot's of other birds in Viinikanlahti, for example 110 Common Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula), 2 Canada Geese (Branta canadensis), Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus) again and many others. Oh, and in addition to these migrants I saw again a male Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix) near Ideapark - it was there also yesterday.
Altogether, a good start for a work day!

31 March, 2008

Office birding

Fortunately I have a very nice view from my office window, so I can't avoid seeing birds also during work hours. This morning the weather was bit foggy, but when the fog disappeared, there was a lot of move in the sky. Within few hours I saw for example Northern Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus), Common Skylarks (Alauda arvensis), Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus), Common Woodpigeons (Columba palumbus), 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), Common Gulls aka Mew Gulls (Larus canus) and Black-headed Gulls (Choirocephalus ridibundus). Well, nothing special indeed but not a bad observations during phone meetings and writing documents...

30 March, 2008

The first flocks arrived

Nothern Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus)Today's birding trip started quite late, due to fact that I had promised to take my sons birding with me. Last night was relatively warm, some 2-3 degrees Celcius and it had rained too, so the snow has started to melt fast - and the results are visible: big areas of snowless ground every here and there!

If yesterday there was only first scouts visible,Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) then today had the first flocks arrived - we saw for example a flocks of 37 Northern Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus), 70 Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis) and 14 Common Woodpigeons (Columba palumbus). In addition to those we dig up couple of Common Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) and one Common Skylark (Alauda arvensis). At Jutikkalanharju we found 3 species of woodpeckers; 2 Black Woodpeckers (Dryocopus martius), 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major) and the highlight of the day: Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus). Good birding trip again!