24 May, 2016

Twitching the Paddyfield Warbler

Paddyfield Warbler in Leveäkari, Pori
Photo by Petteri Hytönen

I've been birding so long that I don't get new lifers too often, usually just once or twice per year here in Finland. Now I got a chance, when Paddyfield Warbler settled down in Pori, Friday the 20th of May, thanks to Petteri Mäkelä who found it!

Still, it wasn't too easy to get there. I don't have a car at the moment, so I'm dependent on other birders on what comes to traveling to remote locations. In addition to that, most of the twitchers had already got this species previously and were not too keen to see it again. Fortunately the bird stayed there and finally on the evening of 23rd of May, Harri Slag picked me up and we were heading to Pori!

Harri Slag at Leveäkari

It was about a 160 km drive from Valkeakoski to Pori, we were listening good old blues and having a nice chat. Not much to see along the road, just those ordinary species, like Blackbirds, Woodcocks etc. Not until we arrived to Pori, the birds got a bit better, first we saw a male Merlin and soon a flock of about 10 Rooks, both new to us this year. Rooks are nowadays rare in Valkeakoski region and Merlin has been always small in numbers there.

Leveäkari, on the right is the reed bed where the Paddyfield Warbler was singing

The sun was almost settled down when we arrived to Leveäkari. Small group of other twitchers just left, "the bird is there and singing", they told. So no hurry. Lonely Whimbrel was calling somewhere on the shore, as did the Spotted Redshanks. Lot's of waterfowl, gulls and terns, evening was warm, this was a perfect evening.

When we finally arrived to the hotspot, the Paddyfield Warbler started singing immediately! Lifer for both of us! A long-waited species for me that I had kept "in bank". It was a marvelous singer, listen the excellent recording of Harry J. Lehto.

Lifer! Learned from the Swedes ;)
Photo by Harri Slag

I managed also to see the bird briefly, nice! We did naturally also identify lot's of other birds around the Leveäkari and the bay of Preiviikinlahti. There were for example Greylag Geese, Barnacle Geese, Red-throated and Black-throated Loons, two Arctic Terns, Long-tailed Ducks, lot's of Goldeneyes, Common Eiders, and many more.

Nice observation was also two Roe Deers, who were heading out to the sea, but returned back to shore after short swimming, when they realized that it was a "mission impossible" :)

Roe Deers heading to the sea

After listening the Paddyfield Warbler about half an hour and watching all the birds around us we left the Leveäkari and headed back to home, listening the good old blues again, and enjoying the "lifer coffee" at the  ABC station.

And finally at home, about 02:00, a small sacrifice to our beloved Sendari!

But what next, what will be my next lifer? Only Sendari knows... I have still several species "in bank", and many of these species arrive to Finland more or less regularly. Still, due to geography of this country, twitching them can be very challenging, as you can see from the list below. It shows all observations of species that would be lifers for me, which have been found this year in Finland:

30.4.2016 Pine Bunting, male in Fäliskär, Maalahti 
          (could not twitch, bird was in outer archipelago)

10.5.2016. Paddyfield Warbler in Jurmo, Korppoo
          (could not twitch, bird was in outer archipelago, ringed and released)

20.5.2016 White-throated Needletail in Haapasalmi
          (could not twitch, a migrating bird)

20.5.2016 Trumpeter Finch in Myrans, Siuntio 
          (could not twitch, delayed information)

20.5.2016 Paddyfield Warbler in Pori 
          >  LIFER 23.5.2016 

21.5.2016 Black-headed Bunting, female in Utö, Korppoo 
          (could not twitch, bird was in outer archipelago)

23.5.2016 Black-headed Bunting, male in Västra Norrskär, Mustasaari 
          (could not twitch, bird was in outer archipelago)

The rarity season continues and I'm hopeful to get another lifer soon.
Sendari, I'll sacrifice you more!

20 May, 2016

Dilemma of the carless twitcher

Paddyfield Warbler (Acrocephalus agrigola)
Photo: J.M. Garg, Wikimedia Commons
Goddammit! I dared to whine publicly that I haven't got any lifers this year and that Sendari has offered Pine Bunting, Paddyfield Warbler and White-throated Needletail for us Finns, but none of those three birds have been twitchable...

Only 10 minutes after I posted my whining to Facebook, I received a rare bird alert on my phone; Paddyfield Warbler in Pori, singing and visible! I sent messages to every direction, if somebody would go twitching it. Well, Joni Kautonen left from Helsinki (and I live in Valkeakoski), but it didn't help in my dilemma; I don't have a car at the moment, which makes twitching very difficult, especially when it's a question of species which is not a mega rarity and which has been already seen by many twitchers.

Now I just wish that this Paddyfield Warbler will settle down and stay in Pori longer than this evening and that I find somebody who would like to go to Pori with me...

Sendari, please don't let me get dipped out on this Paddyfield Warbler!

18 May, 2016

Battle of Towers 2016 in Tykölänjärvi northern tower

Early morning view to the lake Tykölänjärvi
Photo by Tom Eklund

On Saturday 7th of May it was again time for friendly "Tornien Taisto", in english "Battle of Towers", for the 23rd time, arranged by BirdLife Finland, encompassing 300 bird watching towers throughout the country and over 2,300 people. The battle pits the Finland's bird watching towers against each other to observe the greatest number of bird species in the space of eight hours, from 05:00 to 13:00. This year’s winners were the towers in the western coastal cities of Kokkola and Pori, where over 110 birds were identified.

The inland tower with the highest count of bird species, 96, was located at Sysmäjärvi Lake in the eastern city of Outokumpu.

Over 220 bird species were reported in all this year, with a rare sighting of a small gull native to Siberia and the Arctic the most noteworthy sighting of the day. Ross’s gull (Rhodostethia rosea) was sighted at the Röyhynsuo tower in south-central Janakkala.  It has only been seen eight times in Finland prior, the last time in 2012.

Whinchat near our tower

Our battle started in chilly weather, but lot's of species were still singing around us. Five Black-throated Divers (Gavia arctica) were calling in nearby lake Mallasselkä, two male Grey-headed Woodpeckers (Picus canus) were calling to each other, the other on left side of tower and the other on the right side. Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus), Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) and many more. After first hour our count was already 50 species!

The new tower of Tykölänjärvi
Photo by Tom Eklund
And when the sun climbed higher, the weather got warmer and finally we had to reduce clothing. It felt like a summer! We got new species almost till the end, of course not with the same speed as in the beginning but the final result was a pleasant surprise for us: 78 species, our best ever result! We could have got even one more if my old IPhone 4 had not ran out of battery: Ville found two Long-tailed Tits close to the tower when he was guiding a visitor group, he tried to call me, but failed... 

We had also a secret weapon in this battle....

Our secret weapon gave us two species: Eurasian Wren and Wood Warbler :)

Here is our full list:

  1. Taiga Bean-Goose (Anser fabalis)  2
    goose sp. (Anser/Chen/Branta sp.)  152
  2. Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  
  3. Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)  12
  4. Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)  4
  5. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  16
  6. Eurasian Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  6
  7. Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)  5
  8. Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)  4
  9. Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)  10
  10. Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)  6
  11. Black-throated Diver (Gavia arctica)  6
  12. Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)  30
  13. Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)  3
  14. Great Bittern (Botaurus stellaris)  1
  15. Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)  3
  16. Eurasian Marsh-Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)  1
  17. Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)  1
  18. Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana)  1
  19. Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra)  4
  20. Common Crane (Grus grus)  4
  21. Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)  9
  22. Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)  3
  23. Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)  1
  24. Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)  13
  25. Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)  1
  26. Ruff (Calidris pugnax)  12
  27. Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)  5
  28. Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)  10
  29. Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus)  8
  30. Mew Gull (Larus canus)  10
  31. Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)  6
  32. Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)  3
  33. Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)  1
  34. Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)  10
  35. Stock Dove (Columba oenas)  1
  36. Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus)  30
  37. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor)  2
  38. Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)  2
  39. Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius)  2
  40. Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus)  2
  41. Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)  2
  42. Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo)  2
  43. Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)  5
  44. Common Magpie (Pica pica)  4
  45. Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)  20
  46. Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix)  10
  47. Common Raven (Corvus corax)  3
  48. Skylark (Alauda arvensis)  2
  49. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  2     plus 5 unidentified martins or swallows
  50. Willow Tit (Poecile montanus)  1
  51. Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)  10
  52. Great Tit (Parus major)  10
  53. Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)  1
  54. Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)  1
  55. Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)  6
  56. Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix)  1
  57. Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)  2
  58. Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)  1
  59. Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)  1
  60. Robin (Erithacus rubecula)  8
  61. Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca)  1
  62. Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)  2
  63. Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)  1
  64. Blackbird (Turdus merula)  6
  65. Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)  10
  66. Redwing (Turdus iliacus)  4
  67. Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)  8
  68. Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  5
  69. Dunnock (Prunella modularis)  1
  70. Western Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava)  3
  71. White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)  2
  72. Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)  3
  73. Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)  4
  74. Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)  8
  75. Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)  10
  76. Greenfinch (Chloris chloris)  3
  77. Siskin (Spinus spinus)  1
  78. Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)  3

Next year we don't have to think a second where we will battle :)