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!

29 March, 2008

Scouts have arrived

Weekend, finally! Last night was a bit cold and there is lot's of snow everywhere, so only the first scouts have arrived to do some reconnaissance. So, no big flocks yet, but still I managed to find several new species for 2008.

During early morning, I drove about 100 km around Southern Pirkanmaa, checked many square kilometers of fields and open water locations. Here's some small highlights of the day:
in Viidennumero, there was one Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) resting on ice and Merlin (Falco columbarius) flew around looking for something to hunt. Merlin did not catch anything, but managed to scare the Northern Lapwing away, probably because Merlin has very similar silhuette like Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) has. A bit later I saw a migrating flock of 5 Common Woodpigeons (Columba palumbus) and 1 migrating Stock Dove (Columba oenas), which in this county is always a nice observation. At Konhonvuolle I saw also 9 Canada Geese (Branta canadensis). Two Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo) were also nice to see. So, not much yet, but still I'm happy at these observations - the spring migration has really started!

Common Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula) can be found already everywhere.

28 March, 2008

Common Chaffinch

I saw this morning my first Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) of this spring. Yeah, they are coming, although it looks still like mid-winter out there, some 15-20 cm of fresh snow everywhere. But it's already +2,4 degrees Celcius (at 11:20 a.m.) and the sun is shining so the snow will melt fast.

27 March, 2008

Spring is coming - finally!

Now it's coming, tomorrow the spring starts, really! It'll be a busy weekend in bird world, I guess... can't wait for Saturday!

26 March, 2008

Sign of spring in the middle of snow storm

Really bad weather today, even in the Finnish point of view. We are used to snow, but big blizzards are always bad - lot's of traffic accidents and some deaths.

I had to drive today from Valkeakoski to Helsinki. Usually it takes about an hour and 45 minutes, today it took 3 hours... When I finally left the highway and stopped in the end of ramp because of traffic lights, I cursed in my mind the bad weather. Suddenly I noticed something moving right outside my car - there were two European Greenfinches (Carduelis chloris) - and they we mating in branch of birch, in the middle of blizzard! At the same moment I forgot the winter - in spite of snow, it's really spring, the Greenfinches proved it!

In the evening, when I drove back home, I managed to see also my first Stock Doves (Columba oenas) for this spring; a flock of 5 were flying over the snowy fields of Nurmijärvi.

25 March, 2008

Second owl trip

Eagle Owl, photo by Kimmo Mäkiselkä
Yesterday evening I did the second owl trip this winter. Weather was fine, bit cloudy and almost calm - and not too cold, temperature was something around -3 degrees Celcius. This trip was much shorter than the previous one, about 1,5 hours. Already at the second stop I heard the first owl; Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) was calling somewhere quite close. After this it took about an hour before next owl; Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) again, calling somewhere very far. Well, I had expected to hear some more owls, but this is the way it works; you'll never know how active the owls are. Sometimes you'll hear a lot of owls, sometimes you'll hear nothing. So, 2 owls is not a bad result, in my opinion.

21 March, 2008

Reindeer fat, Black Woodpeckers and Starling

Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)Today we prepared food from reindeer leg; minced meat, sliced meat, roast, etc. As a by-product, I got big pieces of reindeer fat. It is a good diet for woodpeckers and tits, so I called to my birding friend Jussi Kallio and asked if I could bring the fat to his bird feeding site in Jutikkalanharju ridge. Jussi agreed, especially as there was currently no fat in feeding place, only seeds. So Petro and I did a short birding trip to Jutikkalanharju ridge and lake Saarioisjärvi.

After we had put the fat on place, we continued to Lapinnokka observation tower at Saarioisjärvi. While we were still on the ridge, we saw a male Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius). And then another. And third. And fourth. Wow, 4 Black Woodpeckers at the same time, that's nice! Two males and two females, obviously they had some territorial fight going on as they flew around and made a lot of noise. I tried to take some photos, but woodpeckers were too busy, they were moving all the time. No photos this time...

Lake Saarioisjärvi was still almost totally frozen, but the river was open. Nothing special there, just 6 Common Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula). After that we we drove to bridge of Uittamo, where Saarioisjärvi connects to bigger lake Rauttunselkä. These was again some waterfowls; 3 Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus) and 3 Goosanders (Mergus merganser). And one new species for this spring; Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). I really didn't expect to find a Starling yet as the weather has been so cold now, so it was a pleasant surprise.

Can't wait for a warmer weather and migratory birds... Spring, where are you ?

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

20 March, 2008

Big owls night

I had promised to take my sons Roni (8) and Petro (11) to owl trip during this early spring. Now, when the Easter vacation had started, the time was right. And the weather was almost perfect, no wind at all, totally calm, no overcast and full moon. Only a bit too cold, -6.1 degrees Celcius (21,02 deg. Fahrenheit), so I was a bit afraid whether the owls would be calling or not...

Our first stop was a success; male Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) was calling and my boys heard it well - they were both very happy at it. Well, and me too, of course.

After this first owl it took quite a long time before we heard the next one. We stopped in many places where should have been owls, but tonight they were all mute.

But finally we found what we were looking for; the Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa). For me this was an exiting moment - I had never before heard the call of Great Grey Owl, though I have seen this splendid owl several times.

So we managed to hear two of the three biggest owls of this continent - not a bad owl trip, although it would have been fun to hear more species. I was also waiting to see Aurora Borealis, but no luck with them tonight, maybe next time then.

My sons want to hear more owl species, so perhaps we have to make another owl trip during Easter still.

P.S. the night was not as dark it may look at the photo above; the moonlight reflected from snow so it was relatively easy to see around even without torch.

17 March, 2008

Rock Dove? No. Common Pigeon? No. Feral Pigeon... no, but a Rural Pigeon !

Rock Dove, Common Pigeon, Domestic Pigeon, Feral Pigeon (Columba livia) - a beloved child has a lot of names. Anyway, what comes to the name Common Pigeon, here in Valkeakoski it's not anymore common, for example Common Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) is much more common. It used to be common earlier, when big flocks lived in factory areas. But nowadays factories have managed to expel them, unfortunately, as I really enjoyed watching how Northern Goshawks (Accipiter gentilis) hunted pigeons. Often the hawks lurked in the top of very high factory pipes, in the height of over 100 meters. From there they dived at the pigeons, and often they were very succesfull. Very spectacular shows indeed.

Rock Doveis also a bad name for this bird in this part of world, because it does not live on rocks here. How about Feral Pigeon then ? Well, this bird was never domestic animal here, so it can not be "feral". But definately it could be "Urban Pigeon" in most parts of the world - and here in Valkeakoski it is "Rural Pigeon", as the biggest population lives in countryside.

This particular pigeon was sitting on the top of the barn in Saarioispuoli yesterday. I've never noticed earlier that this bird could be so handsome. Don't know about the sex of this individual, but somehow it gives a very "male look".

16 March, 2008

Return of winter

Winter came back few days ago and most of the early migrants turned back to south. Weather report says that this cold weather will continue still over the Easter...
Anyway, I did today a nice birding tour around southern parts of Pirkanmaa county with my older son Petro. The highlights of the day were certainly two White-tailed Eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) in icy lake Rauttunselkä, some 15 kilometers south from our home. In addition to those we saw also several Swans, both Whooper (Cygnus cygnus) and Mute Swans (Cygnus olor), 3 Eurasian Collared Doves (Streptopelia decaocto) in Viiala, 2 Common Redpolls (Carduelis flammea), 3 Common Ravens (Corvus corax), 6 Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) and many others. Most of them we saw very well and we got also several nice photos.

Eurasian Collared Doves (Streptopelia decaocto) in Akaa, Viiala

12 March, 2008

Spring migration started...

...and I'm stucked at work. Frustrating, so frustrating... especially as mornings and evenings are still too dark to go birding. Yesterday I called to my birding friend Jussi Kallio, as I knew that he had free days off from work - and I guessed that he must be out birding somewhere. And so he was. During the short call he saw a flock of Northern Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus), Rook (Corvus frugilegus), Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus) and Common Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus). And I have to stay at work... Damn!

09 March, 2008

Nice surprise today evening

Nice surprise today evening in Viidennumero. I was driving to Hämeenlinna to take my younger son to swimming school. In Viidennumero we saw a big flock of gulls, standing in the edge of ice and open water. Mostly European Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus), about 100 of them. There was also some 17 Great Black-backed Gulls (Larus marinus). And when I was about to leave, I saw it: a 2nd year Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus), a small rarity from Arctic seas. Very nice, it's always cool to find rarities by myself.

About half an hour later I checked also the gulls of Hämeenlinna, but nothing special there, just on a rough calculation 800 Herring Gulls and 3 Great Black-backed Gulls.

Snow has started to melt today - it's really wet outside, and warm. I can't wait for the next week, I'm sure that many migratory birds will arrive now!

08 March, 2008

Second last day of this winter ?

It's still a real winter out there and the nesting box is waiting for the new residents, I wonder who will reserve it this year, Great Tits (Parus major), European Blue Tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) or Pied Flycathers (Ficedula hypoleuca)? Well, we'll see. But this is probably the second last day of this winter, as day after the tomorrow the winds turn to south and temperature starts to rise. The weathermen have promised so warm and lots of rain, that all or at least most of the snow will be gone. Bye bye winter, and welcome spring!

06 March, 2008

Crested Lark

I drove today to East Finland, because of a work trip to Lappeenranta. It's a pretty long drive from home to Lappeenranta, about 3 hours / 250 kilometers, so I decided to take a short break in Lahti. Not for a coffee, but for a quick twitching - as there has been a Crested Lark (Galerida cristata) wintering in Lahti. It was really nice to see this species for a long time - last time I saw a Crested Lark was in May 1985 in Cañaveral, Spain. This individual was very tame, I got several nice photos of it.