25 November, 2009

Trip report: Vancouver, Canada 29.10 - 3.11.2009

My trip to Vancouver was not a traditional birding trip, but a business trip, as I flew to Vancouver to participate in a congress. Anyway, I had enough free time to go birding too, so hopefully this trip report gives readers some hints how to find birds in the Vancouver area. At least from the Finnish point of view, Vancouver and its surroundings is a very interesting area, with several species that are hard to see in Europe. A car is almost mandatory and if you don't arrive by your own car, you can hire one from several car rentals either from airport or town centre. Please note also that waterproof boots or shoes would make your birding experience here much more enjoyable – it rains in this area often and a lot... Also a local guide is worth gold, see birdingpal.org to find one. And what comes to birders in this area – they are really spoiled in the number of birds and species that can be found in the area; there are about 400 species on the Vancouver checklist, two thirds of the Canada total of 625. For me this visit was perfect, both from professional and birder point of view. Learned new things in congress, got 46 lifers, unforgettable experiences and new friends.

Day 1. 29/10/2009

Arrived late in the evening; totally dark outside and heavy rain... so typical weather for British Columbia at this time of year. Just like in Finland. Not a very promising start...

Day 2. 30/10/2009

Photo-collage copyright Susan Lindenberge, please click the photo to see the whole collage

Woke up at 06:30, when some gull was calling outside my window. Definitely a big gull, sounded like our Herring Gulls, but with a bit different tone. But it was still too dark to identify the bird, even though it was relatively close to my room. After breakfast I went out to see what that gull was. It turned out be an adult Glaucous-Winged Gull (Larus glaucescens), the most common gull in the area, at least this time of year. Also several Nothwestern Crows (Corvus caurinus) were flying by. First two lifers ticked!

Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens)

Susan and Jim Lindenberger, a local birdingpal couple, picked me up from my hotel at sunrise. The weather was moist, slight rain, but fortunately it did not last long and the rest of the day the weather was simply fine.

At first, we headed to Stanley Park, which is an evergreen oasis of 400 hectares close to the Vancouver downtown core. It can be conveniently accessed by bus, car, or on foot from downtown. It is a birders paradise; over 230 species of birds are readily viewed and heard in its diverse landscape of forests, wetlands and seashore.

When we arrived on the border of the park a lone goose flew over the car - a Snow Goose (Anser caerulescens), a lifer and the first Snow Goose of my trip, but definitely not the last...  Also the first Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), a lifer.

At first we headed to Beaver Lake, which is a medium size pond in the middle of coniferous forest. For me the forest itself was amazing with all the majestic cedar, hemlock and fir trees. The first bird sounds I heard there were somehow really familiar to me... only later I realised that they belonged to Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa), a close relative to our Goldcrest (Regulus regulus). Also the sounds of Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapilla) and Chestnut-backed Chickadees (Poecile rufescens) were close to European Tits, especially to Willow Tit (Poecile montanus).

The walk inside the forest and along the shore of Beaver Lake gave me several lifers. In addition to Golden-crowned Kinglet and Chickadees, new lifers were Spotted Towhees (Pipilo maculatus), Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia), Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus), several Pacific Wrens (Troglodytes pacificus) and American Robin (Turdus migratorius). 8 more lifers! Susan fed the Chickadees and they came to her hand to get sunflower seeds. Also Towhees and Sparrows were very tame and curious. Other birds we saw there were 3 Common Ravens (Corcus corax), Great Blue Heron, lots of Nothwestern Crows and Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) and a pair of Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa).

Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens) on Susan's hand

Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)

Next stop was Lost Lagoon. This pond was different, less grass and more urban. Walk around the pond was successful; 8 new lifers and a closer look at many previously seen birds. Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus), Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola), American Coots (Fulica americana), American Wigeons (Anas americana),  Cackling Geese (Branta hutchinsii), subspecies Aleutian or Richadson’s, clearly smaller than the bigger ones later in , 3 Canvasbacks (Aythya valisineria),  Mallards, Glaucous-winged Gulls again, California Gulls (Larus californicus), some hybrid Gulls (probably californicus x glaucescens or occidentalis x glaucescens), Song Sparrows again, Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca), Dark Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), close look at both Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) and Golden Crowned Kinglet, 1 Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), 1 Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius) and Great Blue Heron. Very nice walk!

Left: Glaucous-winged Gulls (Larus glaucescens)
Right: some hybrid gull (Larus glaucescens x occidentalis ???)

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

Great Blue Heron (Ardea heroides)

After this we drove around the whole of Stanley Park along the Park Drive. Next longer stop was at Brockton Point, a cape between Coal Harbour and Burrard Inlet. Susan and Jim had heard that there should be Pelagic Cormorants here, but all we got in the scope were Double-crested Cormorants far away, until finally - just when we were about to leave, we saw a cormorant fishing very close to us. Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus)! Nice! There were also about 15 Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis) pretty close to us and just when we were finally about to leave, I heard an odd sound from the forest. A loud call, reminding me of something, but could not figure out what it was. Suddenly the bird flew past us, an adult Bald Eagle (Halieaeetus leucocephalus), so beautiful and magnificent and so close. I just stared at it and forgot to take photos... well, that happens to me too often, I just stop to enjoy birds and forget the photographing. Well, three new lifers from Brockton Point.

Prospect Point, near to the Lions Gate Bridge, was the next stop. From this point there's a great view over the Burrard Inlet. More cormorants, both Double-crested and Pelagic, gulls and crows, but not much more. Except one more lifer; a small flock of Bushtits (Psaltriparus minimus). From Prospect Point we drove towards Ferguson Point. Before the destination I spotted something interesting in a road side tree. Jim stopped the car and Susan and I jumped out. Red-Breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis), cool! Two more lifers this time.

American Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani

Great Blue Heron (Ardea heroides) at Ferguson Point

Ferguson Point was a bit similar to Prospect Point, high above sea level. Further in the southeast there was a big flock of Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata), a species that I had been waiting for years. Cool! Down on the beach I saw a wader; it was the American Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani), another lifer! And right above our heads, one more Great Blue Heron was walking on a tree branch. We did not spend much time here but drove closer to the Scoters. Very nice view, as you can see from the photo! In total there were about 530 Surf Scoters, 1 White-winged Scoter (Melanitta deglandi), a lifer also, 1 Common Loon (Gavia immer) and 6 Barrow’s Goldeneyes (Bucephala islandica) which was also a lifer to me.

Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata)

That's all about Stanley Park, the first “must see place” for birders visiting Vancouver. So, what next? Vancouver and its surroundings are located in a huge, I mean really huge delta of the Fraser River. The landscape is naturally very flat and the horizon is dominated by the nearby mountains. Most of the delta is nowadays farmland, lots of fields and pastures. But as you may guess, there must be also wetlands in this area. We drove over the wide fields where Hen Harriers aka Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus) and Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) were hunting. Common Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), that were introduced to North America late 1800s, were also common.

So, we drove south via Highway 99 from Vancouver and then turned southwest at Delta towards Ladner. There we turned northwest to Westham Island. The landscape was very similar as the coastal area of Ostrobothnia aka Pohjanmaa in Finland or Maatsalu area in Estonia. Totally flat, lots of fields and pastures, small forests here and there.

Somewhere in Ladner, I saw a flock of gulls on the roof of a warehouse and asked Jim to stop. Mostly California Gulls, some Glaucous-winged gulls and one very interesting looking 1st year gull. It was clearly larger than California Gulls, about same size as Glaucous-winged gulls. Still it was stockier, and it had a thick-tipped, slightly drooping heavy bill. The bill was black with pale base. Eyes were dark. Head, body and tail were dark brown but breast, throat and head were still somewhat lighter than back. Legs were dark gray with a bit of pinkish overtone. All matched to a new lifer: Western Gull (Larus occidentalis)! Nice! Especially as Glaucous-winged gulls interbreed here extensively with Western, Herring and Glaucous Gulls.

I mentioned in the start of this article that the lonely Snow Goose that I saw in Stanley Park was the first Snow Goose of my trip, but definitely not the last. When we arrived at Westham Island, I saw something white on the front left. Gulls in a field? No, thousands of Snow Geese. Difficult to count even from the photos but probably some 10 000 - 15 000 and more big flocks arrived all the time from north. And in addition to geese, we noticed a hawk flying around over the fields - Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), my favourite bird number one! Cool, I love this place!

Small part of the huge Snow Goose (Anser caerulescens) flock
Please click the photo to see it bigger.

Our target in Westham Island was the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. A rural remnant of the vast Fraser estuary marshes, the sanctuary is comprised of 344 hectares of managed habitat and estuarine marsh, preserving it as an area of crucial importance to the countless thousands of migratory birds. In all, over 268 species of birds have been sighted at the sanctuary.

The sanctuary was indeed a really cool birding place with hides and towers. There's also a warming hut where you can rest and eat. We had a lunch break there; Susan and Jim had supplied us with delicious food and beverage. Right next to the hut is a gift shop, with lots of bird related items for sale. Make sure you buy something, to support the sanctuary. In the gift shop we met Brian Self, who joined us later, after he had finished his daily work as one of the bird guides of the Sanctuary.

Brian, Susan and Jim

And what did we see there? Lots of birds, and many species were the same as we have here in Finland. Mallard was the dominant species, there were thousands of them around the area, my best guess is about 2000-3000. All other waterfowl were less numerous, but still there were enough of them to see; some 500 Northern Pintails (Anas acuta), about 50 Gadwalls (Anas strepera), 100 American Wigeons, 50 Green-winged Teals (Anas carolinensis), 10 Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata), 5 Wood Ducks, 3 Ring-necked Ducks (Aythya collaris), 3 Greater Scaups (Aythya marila), 2 Lesser Scaups (Aythya affinis), 4 Buffleheads, 50 American Coots, 1 Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus), 1 Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis), 1 Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) and 1 Horned aka Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus) … of the previous, the Ring-necked Duck and Lesser Scaup were lifers.

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)

American Wigeons (Anas americana) with Mallards

Birds of prey were also numerous; 1 lifer i.e. Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii), about 10 Red-Tailed Hawks, 1 Rough-legged Buzzards (Buteo lagopus), some 20 Hen Harriers, 1 Bald Eagle, 1 Merlin (Falco columbarius), and for my pleasure at least 2 Peregrine Falcons, an adult and juvenile. I really enjoyed watching the Peregrine hunting ducks several times from so close that I could easily see its eyes! And once again I just enjoyed, forgetting my camera…

Of other big birds there were some Canada Geese and Snow Geese flying by, 2 Black-crowned Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) were resting in bushes near the gift shop, in total about 5 Great Blue Herons here and there and what's the best: 14 Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) flew over and a bit later they landed by one of the many pools! Very nice!

Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis)
Waders were scarce. First we saw 1 Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicate) and later a flock of 8 Long-billed Dowitchers (Limnodromus scolopaceus) flew by us and later we saw about 28 of them resting in one of the pools. Both species were lifers for me and it was cool to see Dowitchers well.

Long-billed Dowitchers (Limnodromus scolopaceus) and Northern Pintails (Anas acuta)

Smaller birds were not very numerous. About 20 Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) were nice when they landed in nearby trees. I just wish I'd find one of those from Finland ;-). Northern Flicker showed itself to us fine. Lots of Red-Winged Blackbirds, some Chickadees, House Sparrows, Feral Pigeons but not much more.

Red-Winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus)

To sum up the visit to Reifel: A must see place, I got 6 lifers there and several unforgettable experiences! If I ever come back to BC, I’ll definitely visit Reifel again.

I already thought that I had seen everything this day, but how wrong I was… Brian took the position of the main guide when we jumped back in our cars and drove further south, but not far. Our last target was Boundary Bay. I expected some waders, well, ok, there were really “some”. Amazing place, Vancouver birders are really spoiled! In front of me were 30 000 Dunlins (Calidris alpina), some 5000 waterfowl, mainly American Wigeons and Northern Pintails, also Mallards, Green-winged Teals, Scaups and what else…? How to find birds from these masses? Especially when a Merlin attacks the Dunlins and all 30 000 waders get in to flight… In addition to that it was already late afternoon, sun was about to set, dark clouds covered the sky and it started to rain again…

Jim, Susan & Brian at Boundary Bay

But Brian did it. He picked from the wader mass first 8 Black-bellied Plovers (Pluvialis squatarola), a bit later 8 Western Sandpipers (Calidris mauri), and finally 2 Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca). Last two were welcome lifers for me!

Greater Yellowleg (Tringa melanoleuca)

Some information about Boundary Bay: it is a major stop-over on the Pacific Flyway, in the spring and fall, it attracts 50 different species of shorebirds numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Travelling between wintering grounds in South or Central America and nesting areas north in the high Arctic, shorebirds, waterfowl and songbirds stop to rest and feed. So far 333 species have been recorded; it supports more than 100 000 wintering waterfowl, the last Canadian nesting population of Barn Owls and one of Canada's largest winter populations of raptors, with 22 recorded species.

My visit to Boundary Bay was too short, but I’m more than happy that I could see at least a bit of it!
The day was perfect – thanks to Susan, Jim and Brian!

Day 3. 31/10/2009

To get fast out of downtown, I took the SkyTrain from Waterfront to Bridgeport, where I met Brian. SkyTrain is a bit misleading name, because more than half of the travel time, the train was underground. Nevertheless, it’s the best way to get out of town. I saw one more Bald Eagle from the train, near Bridgeport.

Our first target was somewhere around Delta, a green field where we were supposed to find Trumpeter Swans, but perhaps it was still too early in the morning, as they were not there. Not a good start, but rest of the morning made me forget this.

The main target this morning was Point Roberts, which is a cape to the south of Vancouver, pointing south, about 1 hour drive from Vancouver. Funny thing is that it’s a kind of isolated part of the USA, so there is naturally normal border bureaucracy when you go there. When we got rid of border control and were ready to jump into the car, I heard something that sounded like a woodpecker to me. It was somewhere in the forest, but fortunately it came out and we could see it well; a Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus). Nice! And the first lifer for me in Point Roberts.

Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Point Roberts

Brian drove straight to the shore, to Lighthouse Marine Park. I saw immediately two adult Bald Eagles on the pier; the other was eating a big fish. After that we concentrated on the sea. The sky was almost clear, sun was shining, but the wind was too strong. Big waves on the sea, it was hard to find anything from there. I was hoping for Alcids, especially Murrelets, Auklets or Puffins. After thorough search I found a flock of 18 Alcids. Both Brian and I stared at them through Brian’s scope, and the identification was clear: Common Murres (Uria aalge). Oh well... Alcids, but not what I hoped, this species breeds in Finland too. We continued the search and then I found another Alcid. Hmmm, looks different, yes, it was a Pigeon Guillemot (Cepphus columba). Lifer! Cool! But that’s all the Alcids this day; the sea was so rough that it was impossible to find birds that were far from shore. Closer to shore there were some waterfowl, like Oldsquaws i.e. Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis), Goosander aka Common Merganser (Mergus merganser), Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator), Surf Scoters, White-Winged Scoters, 2 Black Scoters, some Horned Grebes i.e. Slavonian Grebes (Podiceps auritus), some Red-necked Grebes (Podiceps grisegena), Double-crested Cormorants and at least 6 Brandt’s Cormorant (Phalarocorax penicillatus), which was a lifer for me. Further east there were more waterfowl close to the shore and there it was, one of the species that I had hoped to see; Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) and not just one or two, but 14 of them. Perfect! Oh, and almost forgot to tell about the Loons; Red-throated Loons (Gavia stellata) were numerous, I saw at least 6 or 7 of them, Common Loon was also common,  10 of them were in vicinity. For me the most interesting was naturally a Loon that flew by; it looked like Arctic Loon, but in this area it was naturally the Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica) – a lifer for me!

Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus)

Behind the shore wall there were thick bushes, with small openings between them. It was time to concentrate on passerines. For me this meant again new lifers; White-crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys), Golden-crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia atricapilla) and House Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus). In addition to those there were also Song Sparrows, Fox Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos, but those I had already met in Stanley Park. All these Sparrows were in mixed flocks so it was easy to compare and learn to identify them. While watching these Sparrows I saw yet another Sparrow, which was completely different than others. I saw it in good lighting only some 5-10 seconds but from very close distance, it was only some 5 meters away. It was much paler than other Sparrows in same flock, tail looked longer and had white outer tail feathers. It was streaked all over, except belly was whitish. And it had a white eye-ring. Unfortunately Brian did not see it but he supposed that it was a Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), uncommon species in this area in this time of year. I checked Sibley and the only possibility indeed is the Vesper Sparrow! Not bad!

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), female

House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus), male
From bushes we moved to the nearby village and Point Roberts Marina. There was a small pond, where there were 3 Buffleheads, 3 Hooded Mergansers plus about 10 American Wigeons. Brian drove to other side of the pond where there is a small field. We were tromping around a few minutes and there it was, the Wilson’s Snipe. This time I saw it much better than in Reifel. Nice!

What else did we see in Point Roberts? A flock of 20 Cedar Waxwings, about 7 Nothern Flickers, Eurasian Starlings, 1 Merlin, 1 Northern Harrier and 1 American Black Oystercatcher. We tried to find also Belted Kingfisher and Black Turnstone from the marina, but no luck with them.

And while driving back to Canada and Vancouver, I saw again several Northern Harriers, couple of Red-tailed Hawks and one Bald Eagle.

Excellent morning, thanks Brian!

Days 4.-6. 1–3/11/2009

Not much to see around Vancouver Convention Centre on the Waterfront. Glaucous-winged Gulls, Northwestern Crows, some Eurasian Starlings. Only highlight was the Bald Eagle flying past the hotel. In the late afternoon of 3rd, I was waiting for the Amtrak Thruway coach at Pacific Central Station. Continuous flow of  Northwestern Crows, totally hundreds of them, came from west and they disappeared somewhere to east, perhaps to Burnaby? This continued at least 30 minutes i.e. the whole time that I spent outside the station building. Two flocks of Canada Geese, about 30 birds, landed in the empty lot between National Avenue and Prior Street. Also lots of big gulls, probably Glaucous-winged, were flying around and resting on the station roof.

Continuous flow of Northwestern Crows (Corvus caurinus) on their road to somewhere east

I was hoping to see some owl during evening travel to Seattle, but no luck this time. But all in all, this was a great birding experience.

More information:

Stanley Park: Welcome to Stanley Park

Reifel: George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Boundary Bay: Birds on the Bay

Other locations: Birding Spots in Metro Vancouver Area

24 November, 2009

Plastic pushes albatrosses to the edge of extinction

So sad, shocking and alarming reminder of one of the reasons why albatrosses are in the edge of extinction. What can we do to clean out the oceans of our home planet from plastic?

Photo © Chris Jordan

Thanks to Chris Jordan for allowing me to use his photo!

See more albatross photos at: http://www.chrisjordan.com/current_set2.php?id=11

and other photos at:

23 November, 2009

Dreaming of the Batumi Raptor Count

My dream, or to be honest, one of my dreams is to participate as a volunteer in Batumi Raptor Count. It is an international project for the study & conservation of the biggest autumn raptor migration bottleneck in the Western Palearctic.

See the BRC's webpage at http://www.batumiraptorcount.org/

Amazing records...

26 October, 2009

Not bad weekend, although I had no time for birding

Last weekend was very busy, so I had no time for real birding. Still I was lucky to see some nice birds. On Saturday, when I came back from Tampere with my boys, we noticed a small bird sitting on power wire in Mahlianmaa area. It was a Eurasian Pygmy Owl (Glaudicium passerinum), very qute once again - but unfortunately I had left my camera home.

On Sunday I did some shopping in Kuljun Kartano, a big department store north from Valkeakoski. This time only Roni was with me. He's just 10 years old, but very sharp eyed. When we drove back to home, Roni spotted between tree tops a big flock quite far. I pushed the pedal and we managed to reach the flock. About 300 Greater White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons), perhaps some Brent geese also. And soon after that Eurasian Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes) flew over the road just in front of our car. Very nice, and both species were lifers for Roni!

In Valkeakoski there is now several flocks of Bohemian Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus). They arrived about  a week ago, almost at the same time when the huge flocks of Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) departed.

By the way, White-fronted Geese were for me the 6th milestone of autumn migration this year. Still waiting for the Redpolls and the big flocks of Goosanders (Mergus merganser) and finally just before lakes get frozen, the big flocks of Whooper Swans (Gygnus cygnus).

 White-fronted Geese, in Estonia, 2008

24 October, 2009

Rare footage on Golden Eagles hunting reindeer calves

Golden eagles have been filmed hunting and attempting to kill reindeer calves. One eagle was filmed swooping down and grabbing a calf, while another pulled out of an attack at the last minute.

A BBC natural history film crew gathered the extraordinary footage along a reindeer migration route in northern Finland.

BBC claims that "it finally proves this eagle species does occasionally hunt reindeer". Well, at least here in Finland it's well known fact and scientists have prooved that reindeers form 7% of the diet of Golden Eagle.

Anyway - a very interesting footage. The footage is available at BBC Earth News.

08 October, 2009

5th milestone of autumn migration - Bohemian Waxwing arrived

Yesterday it happened, the first Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) flew over our backyard. But still no Common Redpolls (Carduelis flammea), which is a small surprise to me. I wonder where they are? Lonely European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) is still around, let's see if it's going to spend winter here - otherwise it should migrate soon to south. Too tired to write more this time...

07 October, 2009

The new European bird guide still postponed

UPDATE: Revised edition was published in 2015, check the differences between editions.


News from BIRDWG01 via Finnish "Lintuverkko" mailing list: The long-waited guide that was supposed to be published in November, is still postponed. Below is the whole message from Killian Mullarney, one of the authors (I'm publishing it here as well as I doubt that publishers are reading this blog).

Hello Angus,

Since I doubt that the publishers are seeing this, and I'm not aware that either of my co-authors subscribe to ID-Frontiers I thought I'd issue a brief response to your query. First things first - in spite of considerable effort having being made by all involved, this title will not be out in November. Quite why the publishers of certain editions have been announcing its imminent appearance for over two years is difficult to understand but I guess it has more to do with keeping prospective publishers of co-editions interested, than with provoking and frustrating the many birders who are keen to have it as soon as possible. Those of us involved in the work have known for at least the past twelve months that there was no chance of it being out before autumn 2009; alas, everything has not come together quite as planned so publication has been delayed by around 6 months. So far as I am aware, just about everything is ready now, printing will commence very soon and publication is
 currently scheduled for March 2010.

The number of pages has increased by about 10% in the revised edition. Twenty-four new spreads have been used both to alleviate some of the more crowded plates in the first edition, and treat around 40 additional species, the majority of which  are the result of taxonomic changes. Treatment of wildfowl, shearwaters, grebes, birds of prey, cranes, large gulls, pigeons, doves, owls, pipits, chats, thrushes, warblers, flycatchers, shrikes and North American passerines have all been extensively revised, with the addition of numerous new and improved images while, where necessary, distribution maps have been updated. To be honest, there is hardly a spread in the whole book that could not have been significantly improved in some way or other, but we have had to concentrate on the areas where we felt revision was most needed.

So, in response to your last question "should owners of the first edition plan on an upgrade?" my answer would be a definite 'YES", but then I would say that, wouldn't I?!

Kind regards,

Killian Mullarney


05 October, 2009

Söderfjärden, paradise of Common Cranes

The meteorite impact crater of Söderfjärden is about 530 million years old. It is located about 10 km south of the center of Vaasa, and half of it is within the city of Vaasa, the other half in the municipality of Korsholm. Diameter of Soderfjärden is 5-6 kilometres and depth of 370 meters. The crater is filled with soil, so only the outer rim is visible. The whole crater is agricultral area, mostly wheat, barley and oat fields, but also pea - just for the Cranes.

The Common Cranes (Grus grus) rest in Söderfjärden every autumn, maximum number of 8559 Cranes was counted this year, on 24th of September. The best time to see lots of Cranes there seems to be between 10th of September and 14th of October, but naturally the best dates are weather dependent and vary every year.

During every evening, the Cranes make their evening flight. They move about 10-20 kilometers west, to overnight in the small islands of Bergö. It is a spectacular phenomenon, a must to see for every Finnish birder at least once during their birding career. I have been to Söderfjärden, but never in the autumn... But next autumn I will be there, with my whole family.

And who knows, perhaps next spring we will welcome the Cranes back to Nordic Countries in Hornborgasjön, in Sweden...

Both photos copyright Ami Jaskari - thanks to her!

01 October, 2009

Weather gets cold

While I'm writing this, Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) is calling in our backyard! Nice surprise, it's a long time since there has been any owls close to our home.

But back to what I was originally writing: During last weekend I saw still some insect-eating passerines, like European Robin (Erithacus rubecula), White Wagtails (Motacilla alba), Dunnocks (Prunella modularis) and Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), but after the weather turned cold, they all disappeared. Well, that's how it goes, but still I miss the summer...

I haven't had much time for birding lately, works at office and home have took so much time. Last real birding trip I had was on Friday the 25th of September, few hours before sunset. Not bad trip at all, I saw birds like Rough-legged Buzzard (Buteo lagopus), Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus), Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus), Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) and a big flock (ca. 200) White Wagtails (Motacilla alba), Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus) plus many others.

On Monday the 28th Common Cranes (Grus grus) left Finland. During whole day I received messages of thousands and thousands Cranes migrating south in Western Finland. Unfortunately I missed the whole migration... last flock I personally saw, was 6 birds in Pirkkala on Saturday.

And at the same time started the migration of Geese in Eastern Finland. Now there is tens of thousands Geese resting and feeding in the fields of East Finland, biggest amounts in Tohmajärvi where is right now about 60 000 birds, all of them Barnacle Geese (Branta leucopsis). Also one or two Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis) has been observed. I just hope that the Geese will take the western route when they leave....

Whooper Swans in the fields of Tarttila, Valkeakoski last Friday evening

21 September, 2009

Mystery bird - perhaps a Cockatiel

I went birding yesterday evening with Roni and our first stop was the small pumping station in the dell of Vanhakylä fields. There is quite often some interesting passerines in the fields around the pumping station, and our intention was to search for Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus), which would have been a lifer for Roni.

But sometimes the plans change... Around the pump is a tiny birch wood and when we approached it, we heard a loud "kreee - kreee - kreee" from tree tops. Sound was really pretty loud, we heard it well about from the distance of 100 meters. I thought first that there's some shrike in some tree top, but could not see anything. Soon we noticed that the bird is hiding inside tree tops. And suddenly it flew few meters, inside another tree top. About size of a thrush, very odd flight style, fast wingbeats, like Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) in their territories during spring. Not sure, but the bird had possibly a long tail. The situation was just too fast to make good observations, only few seconds, and sun was right behind the bird... It continued the loud "kreee" calls, but suddenly changed it to jingling sound, something that I had never heard. I was really puzzled... We tried to get even closer, but then the bird went totally silent - and disappeared like a fart into Sahara...

So, what was it? Behaviour was very similar compared to Monk Parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) that I saw in Barcelona, Spain, last year. But Monk Parakeets were bigger and even louder than this bird. After some phone calls, several e-mails and hours of listening parrot sounds from the net, I'm quite sure that the bird was a Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus), but I can not be 100% sure. Perhaps soon when the weather gets colder, it's behind someone's door or window, trying to get in, like it's relative last week in Lempäälä.

Photo by Jim Bendon from Karratha, Australia, in Wikimedia Commons

From Vanhakylä we continued to Ahtialanjärvi lake, a birding hotspot in Lempäälä. Hundreds of waterfowl; Eurasian Wigeons (Anas penelope), Mallards (A. platyrhynchos), Eurasian Teals (A. crecca), Northern Pintails (A. acuta), Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula) and many more. But the more interesting ones for us were the shore birds: 13  Dunlins (Calidris alpina) and 8 Ringed Plovers (Charadrius hiaticula). According to Tatu Itkonen, who checked the lake by boat, there was totally about 950 waterfowls, 1 Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus), 1 Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus) and more, but those we missed. Anyway, this evening was very interesting...

17 September, 2009

Arctic Geese Skip Migration as Planet Warms

From Discovery News, by Michael Reilly:

"In the Fall of 2007, tens of thousands of small arctic geese called Pacific brant (Branta bernicla nigricans) decided not to go south for the winter.
For these long-haul migratory birds, it was a dramatic choice -- they usually spend the cold months munching their favorite eel grass in the waters off Mexico's Baja peninsula. But changes in Earth's climate have so affected them that the barren windswept lagoons of western Alaska are looking more and more appealing.
The trend is likely to continue, according to a new study, affecting not only brant but a host of migratory birds around the globe."

Read the whole article from Discovery News.

I just hope that the spectacular arctic geese migration, known as "Arktika" here in Finland, will not disappear...

16 September, 2009

Tromping around for passerines

This evening I was birding with Petro. We tromped around for passerines in the fields of Sääksmäki and Ritvala in Valkeakoski. Heavy rain showers disturbed us, but still we managed to find something.

This time the best area was definately Kalsorinvainio - Uitto - Pirjonnurmi from where we found about 30 Meadow Pipits (Anthus pratensis), 3 Skylarks (Alauda arvensis), 5 Reed Buntings (Emberiza schoeniclus), 1 Eurasian Siskin (Carduelis spinus), 1 Great grey shrike (Lanius excubitor) and 1 female Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus), which was coursing around the fields.

So, nothing really special but still I was pleased, it was good to get out after hard day at work.

14 September, 2009

First wave of Common Cranes

Yesterday I wrote about the milestones of autumn migration and mentioned that mass migration of Common Cranes (Grus grus) is one of those. Well, today the the first wave flew south, totally about 6500 birds. Here in Pirkanmaa county approximately 5800 cranes were seen.

Personally I missed most of this fun, but anyway, I saw a beautiful flock of 180 cranes at 18:38 right over our house.

So, there is still a lot of cranes to come. Perhaps already during next days. I just hope that I will not miss the main migration day when it's possible to see over 10 000 cranes. But I'm afraid it will happen once again in the middle of working day...

Fiji Petrel photographed for the first time at sea

Fiji Petrel (Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi), a species that once "went missing" for 154 years, has been photographed for the first time, flying at sea, near the island of Gau in the Pacific Ocean. Read the full story from Gunnar Engblom's Blog.

Photo copyright Hadoram Shirihai

13 September, 2009

Sunday evening birds

Busy weekend at home, not much time to get out until late in Sunday evening. Roni came with me and we headed to Valmarinniemi, a nearby cape of Mallasvesi - a big lake close to our home. There we saw some Gulls, Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator), Great Crested Grebes (Podiceps cristatus), Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) and a lonely Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus). Those were the only stationary waterfowls we saw. Not much migration either, just a a flock of 30 Eurasian Wigeons (Anas penelope) heading southwest. Nevertheless, it was a short and refreshing trip after time consuming jobs at home.

Some backyard observations from Sunday morning: In addition to first Bramblings (see my post below) there was also a Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) and 2 House Martins (Delichon urbica), possibly the last ones during this year - or then not, who knows...

Migrating Wigeons in Mallasvesi

3rd milestone of autumn migration - Bramblings arrived

This morning  there was two Bramblings (Fringilla montifringilla) in our backyard. Clear sign of autumn and the 3rd milestone during autumn migration here, at least when followed from our backyard.

Autumn migration starts here already in the last days of May / first days of June, when female Eurasian Curlews (Numernius arquata) leave their husbands and kids to move south. Their lonely calls can easily be heard even inside our home when they fly fast high in the sky over our suburb.

Second milestone is the migration of Black-headed Gulls (Choirocephalus ridibundus) in July, they leave in big flocks and suddenly most of them are gone, although some birds stay here untill late autumn. And now came the Bramblings. It's a rare breeding bird here in South Finland, but very common species further north, so it's easy to notice when they start their migration to south.

Next milestones that I wait, are the Common Redpolls (Carduelis flammea), Bohemian Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus) and especially the massive flocks of Common Cranes (Grus grus). Migration of Geese is definately one milestone in east, but here in west we don't see them much during "normal" years. After that there is still couple of milestones before winter;  first the big flocks of Goosanders (Mergus merganser) and finally just before lakes get frozen, the Whooper Swans (Gygnus cygnus) will leave. After that, it's a winter.

12 September, 2009

Court confirms that spring hunting in Malta is in breach of EU law

Great news from south! The European Court of Justice two days ago delivered its judgment in a case concerning the spring hunting of birds in Malta. The judgment clarifies that spring hunting may only be permitted under certain strict conditions strictly proportionate with the aim of conserving bird species. The Commission had taken Malta to court for failing to provide adequate protection for birds, and had also applied for special interim measures to ensure that spring hunting did not continue while the case was being considered.

Read more from europa.eu. and see also press release of Birdlife Malta !

09 September, 2009

"The New Shorebirds" project launched

Interesting news from Gyorgy Szimuly

He has launched with his colleagues a new project:
"The New Shorebirds"

The book should be ready for publishing on 20th of August 2020.

I'm really looking forward to this book, although it will take a long time untill I get it in my hands.

More information will be found later from Gyorgy's blog.

07 September, 2009

Conan goes birding !

Late Night with Conan O'Brien - Late Night Favorites: Birdwatching - Video - NBC.com

Now this is a classic, a must to see for every birder!

Pallid Harrier photos

Here's some photos of the other Pallid Harrier that has been in Kylmäkoski during last days. Thanks to photographer Jani Vastamäki for allowing me to publish these photos! Klick the photos to see bigger version.


06 September, 2009

Not just one, but two Pallid Harriers!

Roni, scoping the Pallid Harriers
Today I did a new raptor trip with Roni. We started from fields of Metsä-Paavola and Käyrälä, saw there 3 Hen Harriers (Circus cyaneus), Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus), 2 Eurasian Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) and Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus). Not a bad start, but did not find the one we were looking for. Yes, we tried to re-find the Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) we saw yesterday, to get even better look at it and get perhaps also some photos. The Pallid Harrier was here yesterday evening, but not now, perhaps it was again few kilometers north from here.

So we headed to fields of Kurisjärvi. At first the place looked empty, but soon we saw first Kestrels, in fact 7 of them and then a harrier... yes, there it was again, the juvenile Pallid Harrier. But it was still too far for getting good quality photos, shame. It flew around the fields and landed. We lost it for about 10 minutes, but suddenly it popped up again, with another harrier following it. I thought first that the other one is Hen Harrier, but when I took another look at it, I noticed immediately that we had not only one, but two juvenile Pallid Harriers! Cool! And it was in fact Roni, who first realised that those hawks looked exactly the same. Not bad from 10 years old birder!

In addition to Pallid Harriers and Kestrels, the fields of Kurisjärvi offered us also a Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) and Marsh Harrier. Not to mention all other smaller birds...

05 September, 2009

Pallid Harrier

Yesterday evening I received a call from my birding friend Ville Työppönen. He had found a Pallid Harrier from Kylmäkoski! So close - but so wrong time, as I had to do some bat research same evening in Pirkkala. So I had no chance to go twitching. This morning was also fully booked, because I had promised to take my older son to wall climbing course in Tampere. Oh well, my bad luck again...

Or so I thought. But Lady Luck was on my side this time. At 11 a.m. I received a rare bird alert; the hawk was still there! It took still several hours before I was able to push the pedal and drive to Kylmäkoski. My son younger Roni was with me, he was very excited to see this bird as well.

When we arrived to large fields of Kurisjärvi, we found out immediately that there's lot's of birds of prey in the area. First one was old male Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus), then Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). Suddenly I noticed that there's was a bigger hawk gliding near the Kestrel, It was far, but it looked very promising, definately a Harrier, but was it Hen Harrier or Pallid... could not say it's 100% sure yet, but the bird looked so interesting that we started to follow it. We jumped back in the car and drove about 1 kilometer. And there it was, pretty close to us, in good light, a juvenile Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)!

Lifer! Yes! For both me and Roni. It took "only" 27 years to see this bird...

Later we saw also Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo), another Hen Harrier, Marsh Harriers (Circus aeruginosus) and more Kestrels. In addition to those, nice flock of about 40 Yellow Wagtails (Motacilla flava) and some 200 Eurasian Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Kurisjärvi - Käyrälä fields are just now really worth visiting!

International Vulture Awareness Day 2009

International Vulture Awareness Day 2009

16 August, 2009

Blue tits embrace "aromatherapy"

Blue Tits use medicinal plants to disinfect their nests, scientists have discovered.

The birds line their nests with aromatic plants such as mint or lavender, which kill bacteria.

Read more from: BBC - Earth News - Blue tits embrace 'aromatherapy'

14 February, 2009

This blog has been in hibernation but will wake up, I promise

Hi all!

A long time has been gone sice I last updated this blog. All is well here in far north, but I've been just too busy in other areas of my life. Anyway, I've been birding every now and then, I'll write about my previous birding trips during this year, so please be patient.

- Olli -