10 January, 2011

Winter Bird Race 2011

Whooper Swan

The 14th Winter Bird Race of Valkeakoski Birders was held on Saturday the 8th of January. Weather was not too bad, some -10° Celcius, overcast and not too windy. Our race team "Mega-Akaan Nuijamiehet" was the same that we have had for many years; Ville Työppönen, Heikki-Pekka Innala, Jonne Mäkelä and undersigned.
In this case "Nuijamiehet" refers not only to ancient Finnish Cudgel War, but also to men who dip out on many birds ;-)

The race time was 6:00 - 16:00, basically 10 hours. Sunrise was at 09.32 and sunset at 15:26, so the actual time for race was much shorter. Still, we started at 7:00 and headed to back country forests, in hope of the hooting owls. Forests were silent, only sounds we heard there were some barking dog, distant snow plough and the wind. So we turned back to town, to wait for the first birds to wake up and appear at feeders. But before that we got our first species, at 08:18, still at dark; Ural Owl (Strix uralensis) was sitting on the telephone/electric wires on the roadside of Haapasaari fields. Very good species in this race and in fact it was an ace for us!

Great Crested Grebe
The waterfowl were scarce again. Like last winter, the drainage of water in lakes has been minimal this winter and most of the open water locations were again covered with ice. Still we managed to find a Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus) from Viiala and Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) from Lempäälä. Not to forget Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), only common waterfowl in these latitudes during winter.

After 274 km drive and 9 hours we were tired but happy. Last year I promised that we will take the gold position back to us! And so we did, we won, with 35 species! In addition to Ural Owl, we got four other aces; a flock of 16 White-tailed Eagles (Haliaetus albicilla),  4 Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus),  Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus) and adult male Sparrow Hawk (Accipiter nisus).

Total number of all species observed by all teams was 41, just one less than last year but 15 less than two years ago. Looking forward for the next winter, will it be warm or cold?

White-tailed Eagles, Common Ravens and Hooded Crows