21 March, 2011

Early spring birding in snow desert

Herring Gulls, stalking at fishermen
 Birds and birders here in north have to adapt to the fact that spring comes slowly and 99% of the landscape is covered with ice and snow. So, it's essential for both birds and birders to find all possible oases in this white desert.

The oasis in this case is naturally a place where birds will find something to eat. Roadsides with no snow, dung piles in the fields, dumps, open streams or rivers, feeding places, spots where fishermen leave garbage fish etc.

So, last Wednesday I went to search for these oases, with ultimate goal in my mind to find some new birds for this year. No Skylarks yet, but still I managed to find first 1 and later 3 Snow Buntings. The first one was in the dung pile in Kannistonmäki fields and the rest 3 were on the road side in Kuurila.

Fishermen were again on the ice of Rauttunselkä near Viidenummero. About 10 Herring Gulls, 3 Great Black-backed Gulls and an adult White-tailed Eagle were stalking at them, waiting for carbage fish.

Later I saw also 3 Whooper Swans and 10 Goosanders in small open water area near Valkeakoski, where local paper mill lets warm condensation water flow to nearby lake.

Dung pile, where I found the first Snow Bunting of this year
During weekend we got even more snow, about 10 cm. Perhaps during this week the spring really comes. Or not, we'll see...

14 March, 2011

Milkyway, Moon and owls

Last saturday evening I went birding at 23:00. I tried to get my sons with me, but this time they prefered 007's "The spy who loved me" movie. So I went alone and headed to forests east of Valkeakoski.

What a night it was, almost perfect indeed. Sky was clear and I could see the Milkyway above my head and the Moonshine was reflecting from the snow in silent taiga forest. Well, not totally silent - as this is the best time of year to listen for owls.

The first owl I heard was a very distant one, so I wasn't 100% sure of the species - it was either a Ural Owl or Eagle Owl. A bit later I heard a Red Fox calling and then two Tengmalm's Owls (aka Boreal Owl) and one Tawny Owl. Very nice !

I drove ahead, saw one European Hare, heard a possible distant Long-Eared Owl and finally a very active and loud Tawny Owl right next to the road. Shame that my boys didn't come with me. When I told them about my trip in Sunday morning, they required me to take them to owl trip next weekend. Let's hope that the weather is still fine then!

P.S. Four days later I tried with my son Roni to hear Eagle Owls and Eurasian Pygmy Owls right after sunset, when they are supposed to hoot. But not this evening, just dogs barking here and there... Perhaps too cold, who knows... Gotta try again when the weather gets warmer.

09 March, 2011

Migrating birds stopped at coast

Jackdaw in feeder today
Spring has started, no doubt about it. First Rooks, Stock Doves, Wood Pigeons, Northern Lapwings and Skylarks have arrived to Finland but almost all of them have stopped to southern coast. Only some waterfowls, gulls and Snow Buntings have continued to inland. Too much snow everywhere, only some open water in streams and rivers.

This means that we will probably have to wait for them still for weeks. But after that there will be a huge rush, and big flocks of birds in all those places where snow has melted away. I'm really looking for "a good old birding spring", like we had when I was a kid. During last 10 or even more years, the birds have disappeared to forests almost immediately after they arrived. Now we may have a chance to see them again in big flocks in fields!

Today I went birding with my younger son Roni. Highlight of the trip was 3 adult White-tailed Eagles on the ice of lake Rauttunselkä, south from Valkeakoski. There was also 3 Herring Gulls stalking at fishermen in Viidennumero. I hope they got something to eat, otherwise they have to return to Baltic Sea soon. Later we saw also a beatiful old male Goshawk. Shame that I didn't get a photo of it, it was so close and so gorgeous.

While waiting for migrating birds, I think I'll concentrate next on nocturnal birding and get out late in the evenings to listen for owls...

07 March, 2011

Spring is here again!

Viinikanlahti bay in Tampere 7.3.2010

The winter is over, in spite of the fact that we will get more snow in the end of this week. I heard the first Herring Gulls from my backyard already on 2nd of March and saw 18 of them today in Viinikanlahti bay, in Tampere. In addition to gulls, there was also 10 Goosanders, 2 Smews and about 100 Mallards. Smews and Mallards have been there over the winter, but Goosanders have arrived from south.

Today was also the first time when I tested my new scope while birding.  Zeiss 65 T* FL, excellent scope, I love it!

Soon here should be Snow Buntings and Skylarks, can't wait for them. Spring, hurry up, kick the rest of the winter away!