24 September, 2014

What a day! Geese from dawn to dusk and much more!

Typical flock of the day; Barnacle Geese
Believe it or not, it WAS cold!

As I told on Monday, the weather in Finland changed dramatically. And actually it changed in Tuesday even more dramatically than the weathermen forecasted. Northern wind turned out be not 7 m/s but 14 m/s and in gusts even more, almost a storm! Temperature dropped down to 0,5°C and the cloudy day turned to snow squalls... 

By the way, instead of a normal birder I must be an addicted birderfreak. No other appearance of birdwatcher get out for dusk to dawn to stare the sky when temperature is close to zero degrees Celcius and freezing gale and snow squalls from north rule the atmosphere. But... it was really cool to watch almost panic-like drag race migration towards south!

I woke up at 5:30, had a breakfast and packed everything. Soon I was on the top of nearby water tower of Jyräänmäki. It's a perfect spot for migration watching, located on the top of hill and offers 360 degrees view over the surrounding landscapes.

Sun had not even rose up, when the first flock of geese, 40 Barnacle Geese, flew over the tower, barking loud. Nice start, I guess the migration had begun already during the night. Soon I found more geese flocks; Bean Geese, Brant Geese and naturally many flocks of unidentified geese further away. During morning I saw totally 1285 geese. But it was not just the geese that were migrating this morning. I saw also 585 Common Cranes, well that's nothing when compared to numbers in South-West Finland where a migration of over 20 000 cranes were seen today! In addition to above, I saw also Arctic Divers (aka Black-throated Loons), Long-tailed Ducks, Scaups, lot's of Wood Pigeons, Pied Wagtails and Chaffinches. Nice morning, indeed, but after four hours I had to get something warm to drink and the lunch, so I headed home and made a hot cup of mulled wine and sandwich.

Goodbye Common Cranes, see you again in spring 2015!

So, what next? After couple of phone calls, I decided to go to Verhonkulma pier on the shore of lake Vanajanselkä. Another addicted birderfreak, my good friend Ilkka Hakala was already there and geese migration seemed to be even more active in that direction. When I got there, several flocks of geese were on the sight, cool! And it continued till the evening... The total number of geese in Verhonkulma today was 13 348 in 147 flocks!

Some of the Barnacle Geese preferred to migrate near the lake surface.

Of course there were lot's of other birds to see in Verhonkulma too, like two adult White-tailed Eagles, Common Scoters, Oldsquaws aka Long-tailed Ducks, 1 migrating Dunlin, Hen Harrier, Grey Herons etc.

By the way, the finnstick is absolutely mandatory in this kind of migration watching session, see the photo below. Imagine keeping the binoculars up by only with your hands for 12 hours...

Ilkka, finnstick and the day long migration watching session

This kind of migration days are one of the best events that Mother Nature can offer us. It's a shame that only few birders participate in these rare events. Birders, when nature offers it's best, get out and enjoy!

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