Arxiu de la categoria: Long-tailed Skua

Finland & Finnmark Tour 2022 Trip Report

Overview: Our 5th tour exploring Finland was dated a pair of weeks earlier than previous issues. The average temperature was low during the whole trip, and the early dates marked the tour, improving our chances for Grouses and Owls, but also making not possible to connect with some species including Terek’s Sandpiper, Common Rosefinch and Greenish Warbler. However, the early date provided us with better chances for both Steller’s & King Eiders and some interesting migratory species (Marsh Sandpiper, Greater White-fronted Goose, Purple Sandpiper), while the cold ambient was excellent to spot Grouses in the taiga forest. The number of Owls was extremelly high, especially aorund Oulu. Here, we counted a minimum of 20 Short-eared Owls in a single day!

All images in this trip report by tour leader Carles Oliver

  • Dates: 19th to 28th May, 2022
  • Number of participants: 8 +1 tour leader
  • Species along the tour: 171

Day 1. After meeting in Helsinki Airport, the whole group of participants landed in Oulu in the afternoon. The beggining of the tour was delayed as we had to wait for our bus to come, but even from the airport terminal we already had a good sensation about the trip since one of the very first birds to appear was Short-eared Owl flying above the parking of the airport. Other birds noted while waiting included the first of many Yellowhammers and Tree Pipits.

Once in our accommodation we had an early dinner, and after dinner we enjoyed some pre dawn birding in a localy location nearby. There we enjoyed the first displaying Ruffs along with several Wood Sandpipers and Common Snipes. A Greater Bittern was booming in the distance, and Reed Buntings were singing all around. This location, a lovely bay with an extensive bog plain around produced also 6 White-tailed Eagles, Marsh Harriers, Dunlins, 2 Greenshanks, Whooper Swans and hunting Short-eared Owls. Small flocks of Common Cranes were feeding in the fields nearby, the song of Pied Flycatchers emerged from the woodlands close to the sunset, and a male Whinchat joined them for a little while. In our way back to the accommodation European Starlings and Rook were both noted.

Male Ruff (Calidris pugnax) in full summer plumage
Lesser Whitethroat (Curruca curruca) was churring around our accommodation in Oulu

Day 2. A very early start to explore some typical places for some of the wonderful Owls living around Oulu. It was a really cold morning, with temperatures far below the average, arriving to -4ºC! Not far from our accommodation we had the first surprises of the day, as we had several Black Grouses displaying along the lane, some of them in the open fields, others flying away as our van recheaded them. We crossed several good spots a low speed, and we were granted we our firsts Western Capercaillies of the tour, including a wonderful male that showed out for us in the top of a pine.

Soon after we arrived to the first key place, where a Northern Hawk Owl had been hunting the last days. We didn’t have to wait long before the Northern Hawk Owl showed out of the forest, landing in the wires and allowing excellent views. The bird spent some time hunting around and we could all enjoy views of the bird hovering and diving on the grass in search of prey.

Black Grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) was the very first species of Grouse of the trip this year
Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa) crossing the lane right in front of our van
Northern Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula) offered consistent but rather distant views

During the morning we counted 20+ Short-eared Owls, that seemed to be everywhere! We always thought that we would be granted with a close view soon or later, but that never happened this time…

A second stop in the morning produced another wonderful moment of our group. A Great Grey Owl was seen standing up in a meadow by the our road, so we had a stop and enjoyed wonderful views on the bird moving in the field and even catching a prey before vanishing into the woods. Even if the stop was short, we again had 2 Short-eared Owls moving in the fields around!

We kept moving into the woodlands, with more Black Grouses here and there and eventually some Eurasian Woodcocks flying around until arriving to one of the several territories of Eurasian Pygmy Owls around Oulu. Coal Tit and Mistle Thrush were added to our list but a nice (pressumed) male stole the show when decided to stop really close to us in a dead branch. For 5 minutes, we all enjoyed great views on this tiny Owlet, and when decided to leave the spot, the Owl was still sitting on his branch, enjoying the very early morning ambient in the forest.

It was already mid morning, so we had a break to enjoy some coffee before going on with some more birding. Lesser Whitethroats were singing around, and the first of many Eurasian Bullfinches and Common Crossbills of the trip were also seen. But the best surprise of the stop was to enjoy more than decent views on a Black Woodpecker that was feeding around the area!

Eurasian Pygmy Owls (Glaucidium passerinum) inhabits spruce and fear forests, sometimes in high densities
Tengmalm’s Owl (Aegolius funereus) in its nest box around Oulu

Back into the boreal forest, we visited a nest box for Tengmalm’s Owl, and we also enjoyed good views on the bird taking out the head from its whole and watching us. From here, a short drive was mandatory to explore one of the typical corners for Ural Owl, and we were again granted with excellent views on a adult of this magnificient Owl! It was one of the tour participants who found the massive Owl roosting in a pine, and we had 15 minutes to admire and take some shots on the bird. Always respecting the distance so the bird was not disturbed.

After such a wonderful morning we drove back to our accommodation to have some rest. After lunch and rest, we visited a pair of places in the afternoon. Before dinner, we visited a corner near Oulu in the search of Terek’s Sandpiper. There, we enjoyed Common Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpipers, Arctic Terns, Whinchats and singing Skylarks, but no sign of the Terek’s Sandpipers.

The last stop in the afternoon was to explore the large belt of marshes South of Oulu. Here we had a good list of waders, but also enjoyed good views on 1 Marsh Sandpiper along with several Wood Sandpipers and some Common Greenshanks. We had good scope views on the Marsh Sandpiper but not long because it was all the time getting inside the many ditches around.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)
Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola), a very common nesting wader in Northern Finland

After this 2nd stop we drove back the small distance to our accommodation to get an early dinner. After dinner, everybody with still some energy went for a walk inmediatly around our accommodation. A new booming Greater Bittern was listened around as well as a good variety a good selection of waders that included two Spotted Redshanks, Eurasian Oystercatchers and Common Ringed Plovers to name a few. In the distance, we also had a small flock of Barnacle Geese (now nesting in different places along the Baltic See), Great Crested Grebes (the only ones along the trip) and 2+ Great Northern Divers feeding in the bay.

Day 3. Early morning start to explore a pair of spots before our midday transfer to Kuusamo. The first spot was to check a nesting place of Great Grey Owl around Oulu. After some searching in the place, we enjoyed wonderful views not only of the female in the nest but also on the perfectly camouflaged male nearby!

An impressive Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa), one of the most impressive sights along the tour!

A second stop was to done North of Oulu, and even before arriving to the location we had excellent views on a pair of Hazel Grouses feeding on the ground, very vocal and moving in the woodlands. Very happy after such a great success, we still scanned around the area looking for other goodies, but Eurasian Robin and Reed Buntings was everything that we could see. After this scanning we went to search for some of the Pallid Harriers nesting around. The different stops along the morning produced Short-eared Owls, White-tailed Eagles, Rough-legged Buzzards, 3 Hen Harriers, several Marsh Harriers and even a Black Kite and 1 Eurasian Hobby (both species pretty scarce in the area), but unfortunately we couldn’t contact with any Pallid Harriers. Special mention required for a lovely pair of Garganeys that were spotted in our final stop that morning.

This one was the first of many Western Capercaillies (Tetrao urogallus)
Mountain Hare (Leppus nitidus)

After lunch we drove to Kuusamo, where we did arrive in the late afternoon. En route, a stop was mandatory to enjoy the first of many females Western Capercaillies along the trip. All the clients enjoyed great views on this gorgeous female! Once in our accommodation, our guests enjoyed some free birding in the lake and forest around the hotel, enjoying good views on the nesting Goldeneyes, Black-throated Divers and Whooper Swans before dinner.

Day 4. Very early start that morning to explore the gorgeous boreal forests around Kuusamo. Before doing some walk in selected areas we had some “game drive” in some areas which are normally great for grouses. In about 30 minutes of drive we got 10+ Capercaillies and 2 Willow Grouses! We changed the area, and in a different lane we still got more Capercaillies (it looked like being everywhere) and 15+ Black Grouses, some of them lekking directly in the tarmac!

Black Grouses (Lyrurus tetrix) lekking in the road

After such a great start, we went to explore one of the most famous corners in the Kuusamo. This hill, with a good spruce forest in the top, is hosting some of the most wanted birds in the region. Unfortunately the rain was going to join us during the rest of the morning, but still we got 2 Bohemian Waxwings moving around and good views on 1 Red-flanked Bluetail while singing. The variety of birds was low, anyway. A further walk under the rain only produced Song Thrush and flocks of Crossbills passing away.

We had to wait until the stopped at mid-morning. Then we tried again the same spot, having good but good views on Parrot Crossbills and amazing views on 2 Siberian Jays that delighted the photographers in the group.

The boreal forests around Kuusamo
Siberian Jay (Perisoreus infaustus) within its amazing habitat

After our early lunch and a good nap, we went out to check out a pair of locations around Kuusamo. Our first stop produced excellent views on Mountain Hares, but also Eurasian Wigeon, Pied Flycatcher and Eurasian Woodcock singing around. But the best birds on this small grassland were a superb pair of Rustic Buntings that came to us, allowing excellent views by everyone in the group! After this stop we went to enjoy a colony of Little Gulls in the area, and we found more birds than ever before, allowing really close views on some pass by birds. Along with them, 4 Red-necked Grebes in full summer plomage were a wonderful way to end our afternoon.

This it turned out to be a good year for Rustic Buntings (Emberiza rustica)
Little Gulls (Hydrocoloeus minutus) have rather mobile nesting colonies in Northern Finland
Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea), the equivalent of Long-tailed Skuas for terns!

Day 5. Another really early start. After a wonderful breakfast, our first stop was to explore one of the best corners to enjoy Willow Grouse, and even before getting out of the van we were listening a bird singing around. After a short strall we got excellent views on a male singing from the top of a birch tree. 2 Rustic Buntings were also seen around, and the stop produced also a flock of migratoy Yellow Wagtails, and a male Eurasian (Northern) Bullfinch.

Willow Grouse (Lagopus lagopus) inhabits a wide range of habitats
Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus) keeps expanding its still tiny nesting range in Fennoscavia
While searching for forest specialties we were surrounded by some very obliging Siberian Jays (Perisoneus infaustus)
Scandinavian Willow Tit (Poecile montanus) showing the white edges in the wing
This superb Hazel Grouse (Tetrastes bonasia) was one of the birds of the day!
Another superb view on Rustic Bunting (Emberiza rustica)

The second stop of the morning was devoted to have better views on Red-flanked Bluetail, and after some walk, we had wonderful views on a lovely male, but also Common Redstart, another male Rustic Bunting, Northern Goshawk and extremely confiding Siberian Jays!

From here we still visited another area of boreal forest, still searching for Tree-toed Woodpecker. Unfortunately we had no luck with this specialty but we got our first drake Smew, but also Scandinavian Willow Tits. In our way back, another stop was mandatory as we spotted a pair of Hazel Grouses. After some waiting, we all enjoyed amazing views on the male while singing and performing for us at close range!

After a stop and a coffee it was time to go North. From Kuusamo we drove North, getting inside the Northern Circle Pole. After an en route lunch, our last stop of the day was to explore a gorgeous patch of spruce forest really close to Ivalo. In here, one of my favourite spots in Finland, we had a pair of stops but it didn’t take long before we had our first Siberian Tit appearing and showing in front of us! A second stop produced another pair, and along the we had 3 Capercaillies and really close views on Black Grouses (both males and females).

Part of the group enjoying the first drake Smew of the trip
Not many times you can enjoy Hazel Grouse (Tetrastes bonasia) in full sun light
Siberian Tit (Poecile cinctus) was a really desired bird for our group.
We got several superb views on Capercaillies (Tetrao urogallus) around Ivalo
Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) in full summer plumage
We were granted with really long views on a pair of Pine Grosbeaks (Pinicola enucleator)
We had another displaying Willow Grouse (Lagopus lagopus)
The group enjoying Pine Grosbeaks, one of them also visible in the image

A short walk around, even if it was at mid-afternoon, produced Siberian Jay, Bohemian Waxwing, Siberian Tit and Mealy Redpolls. But the very best birds of the afternoon were a pair of Pine Grosbeaks feeding, and the male even singing extremely close from the path. Our group enjoyed a 20 minutes long view in this amazing, and often extremely hard to find bird! In our way out of the area, we still had to stop again as 2 Willow Grouses were lekking in the dart road, and provided us, again, with unforgettable views!

Day 6. After the previous successful days, we decided to have a slightly later start today. After breakfast, we kept moving North towards to Norwegian border. In our way, we had a pair of stops to enjoy Rough-legged Buzzard and a pair of nesting Peregrine Falcons. Siberian Tit and Great Grey Shrike were other “en route” birds.

Rough-legged Buzzards (Buteo lagopus) reaches its best densities in the North Polar Circle

Once in Norway, we enjoyed excellent views on Rough-legged Buzzards and we had a mandatory stop in the road to enjoy some really close Moose. Keeping our way North, we had a stop in an estuary to look for migratory waders and geese. Here we had the only 2 Greater White-fronted Geese of the trip, and also 2 Tundra Bean Geese. The area was hosting some waders such as Eurasian Whimbrel, Sanderling, Ruddy Turstone, Dunlin in lovely full nesting plomage, Little Stints and the first Temminck’s Stint of the trip: a calling bird that was flying around the hide.

Getting inside Varanger is always a great experience, and soon we were enjoying great views on a number of White-tailed Eagles and Rough-legged Buzzards. A pair of Short-eared Owls were also noted, as well as the first of many Arctic Skuas. Before arriving to our accommodation we had some scanning in the bay around, and we were lucky enough to find 6+ Steller’s Eiders roosting along with Common Eiders, and including 3 drakes! While enjoying the birds, a close Temminck’s Stint feeding along Dunlins was also a nice adding! Happy with the scope views, we had a break and some members of the group decided to try closer views on the birds while exploring the meadows and coastline around our hotel.

A small flock of Steller’s Eiders (Polysticta stelleri) delighted us for most of an afternoon.

In the afternoon, the Steller’s Eiders were moved to the other side of the bay, so we drove and enjoyed excellent views on the birds while swimming and feeding, sometimes getting at close range of our group! Everybody was delighted with these magnificient birds as it was one of the main targets for most of our clients. Along with these beauties, the area produced the first of many Kittiwakes of the tour along with several Dunlins, Ruffs and some drake Bar-tailed Godwits.

Before dinner, we still had time to explore a first patch of tundra. Unfortunately it was windy so the number of birds was low. Still, we had good views on Meadow Pipits and European Golden Plovers but the best bird of the stop was a stunning Bluethroat singing his heart out!

Red-spotted Bluethroats (Luscinia svecica) can be really common in the bushland around the tundra

Day 7. Again a windy day in Varanger. The pre-dawn strall didn’t produce much because of the wind. After breakfast we went North to Vardo, where a small boat brought us to the bird colony in Hornoya. It is quite difficult to put down in words how an experience such as visiting Hornoya is. Tens of thousands of birds nesting, calling, yelling in cliffs. Waves of birds taking off from the roks to the sea: Guillemots (about 20% being “bridled”), Razorbills, Kittiwakes and wonderful Puffins nesting around! Atlanlic Shags a few inches away from you, nesting under rocks on the ground. Broken eggs of Auks on the ground, and the intense smell all around!

But Hornoya is also home for one of the easiest accessible colonies of Brünnich’s Guillemot, and once we were in the island, our first target was to find some of them. Even if not specially common, it didn’t take long before we had some of them nesting in the cliffs. Once located, we had some time enjoying the very close views on the Auks. We also had a confiding flock of Purple Sandpipers that catched our attention while a pair of Razorbills were mating only inches away from us! Rock Pipits were also seen around, catching insects but also exploring broken eggs while Great Black-backed & Herring Gulls were patrolling the area. Black Guillemots were scarce in the island this year, but we still got to see some around.

The impressive colonies of Auks in Hôrnoya
Guillemots (Uria aalge), about 25% of them Bridled, are the commonest Auk in the area
In Hôrnoya it is possible enjoy ridiculous views on Shags (Golosus aristotelis)
Brünnichs Guillemots (Uria lomvia)
Atlantic Puffins (Fratercula arctica) are the less common of the Auks nesting in Hôrnoya
Kittiwakes (Rissa Tridactyla) are everywhere!
Purple Sandpipers (Calidris maritima) in full summer plumage. Flocks of these beauties were still in the move going towards Russia
Razorbill (Alca torda), the most elegant Auk in Europe!
Here Common, Bridled and Brünnich’s Guillemots

In the distance we could the Greylag Geese nesting a close island, but our eye was permanently in the sky, looking for anything interesting to appear. 2 White-tailed Eagles were also patrolling the cliffs, and their movements produced waves of Auks leaving the nesting sites in search of shelter down in the ocean. We never saw any of the eagles catching an Auk, but they didn’t look in a hurry… Even if our main target in the sky never appeared (too early in the season?), we were granted with a pastby Glaucous Gull.

Back in the continent, we spend the afternoon exploring the tundra and the many bays between Hornoya and Hamminberg. The wind was still blowing, but even with it we soon had great views on some males Lapland Buntings. Several Arctic Skuas were also moving in this spot, already chosing the nesting site and being monitored by the White-tailed Eagles around. European Golden Plovers, Rough-legged Buzzard, Red-throated Pipits, Ruffs, Common Snipes, Wood Sandpipers and Common Ringed Plovers were also noted around. Along the bays we had several Long-tailed Ducks, but also Common Eiders, Tundra Bean Goose and large feeding flocks of Goosanders. Black-throated & Red-throated Divers were also seen in different locations.

Lapland Buntings (Calcarius lapponicus) were quite active all along the area
White-tailed Eagles (Haliaeetos albicilla) were a common view along the coast, including some very attractive adults
Small flocks of Tundra Bean Geese (Anser serrirostris) were seen in the typical places

But the best sighting on our way North were 2 impressive Humpback Whales really close to the coast. One of them was splashing its large pectoral fin in the water, and at times we saw both the pectoral and the tail fins out of the water! It looks like this behaviour is not uncommon during the mating season, when females can do it for quite long to keep the attention of the males!

Once arrived to Hamminberg, we enjoyed good views on Atlantic Gannets fishing close to the coast. Large flocks of Goosanders were in the move to the East while both Long-tailed Ducks and Black Guillemots were all around. Still, the strong wind made the sea watching quite unpleasant. In our way back, a nice Pomarine Skua was also noted and provided us with good views!

Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) was the 3rd species of whale seen in our tours exploring Finnmark!

Day 8. In the morning we explored a patch of forest were a pair of Northern Hawk Owl was nesting, but unfortunately we couldn’t find it. Still, we got excellent views on Bluethroat while Bohemian Waxwings were moving around. After this stop we moved to center of Varanger, to explore some tundra plateaus. As soon as arrived to the high lands, we had the first Long-tailed Skuas performing for us, chasing each other in long pursuits. They were just arrived, so it means a lot of activity to defend the best corners of the tundra.

A number of stops along the way produced a great list of birds including close ups to Temminck’s Stints, Shore Larks, Lapland Buntings, Bluethroats, Ruffs and 4+ mobile Snow Buntings in shinning summer plomage!

The extremely smart Long-tailed Skuas (Stercorarius longicaudus) within its tundra nesting ground
Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii) in full summer plumage

After this successful start in the tundra, we decided to explore the Northern patch of coast of Varanger. There, Atlantic Gannets were fishing all around along with large numbers of Black Guillemots and Long-tailed Ducks. Great Cormorants and Goosanders were migrating East in good numbers and flocks of Purple Sandpipers were noted doing the same. The dramatic landscapes of the area were also the perfect background for small flocks of Twites moving in the grasslands, and a nice pair of King Eiders (female and 2nd year male) that we found inside a flock of 20+ Common Eiders.

Back to the plateau, we had a pair of stops searching for Rock Ptarmigan before we found a wonderful pair of them. Everybody in the group enjoyed wonderful scope views, and some enjoyed a walk in the snow to have closer views and good shots on the Ptarmigans. In our way to our hotel we still had a last stop, since we found an obliging pair of Red-throated Divers feeding really close to our lane.

2nd calendar-year male King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) along with Common Eiders (Somateria mollisima)
Most of Varanger was still really icy!
Rock Ptarmigans (Lagopus mutus), the male still showing his winter plumage
Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata) in wonderful afternoon light
Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis) were scarce and very mobile!

Day 9. Morning stop in the plateaus in our way South to enjoy more views on Rock Ptarmigans, Snow Buntings and Shore Larks. Unfortunately we were a bit too early for Eurasian Dotterels, but the Long-tailed Skua spectacle was a wonderful reward anyway!

Almost in Finland, we had a last stop in Norwegian territory to scan for Gyrfalcons. Under the intense rain and wind we could only find a pair of Peregrine Falcons while pastby Merlin and Ring Ouzel were noted. Back into Finland, and despite the intense rain, we had a pair of stops in our way to the accommodation to admire close Smews and Bohemian Waxwings were noted again along the road.

During the afternoon, we were hit by the rain and the very strong wind. Still, we decided to explore a pair of corners targeting some specialties that had been scaping to us so far. After some driving, we arrived to one secret pool, were we enjoyed 10 minutes of plain weather, with Bluethroats, Reed Buntings, Yellow Wagtails around and confiding Wood Sandpipers. But the very best were 3 Red-necked Phalaropes landing in the pond quite close and offering some great views even under the incipient rain!

This drake Smew (Mergellus albellus) appeared in a smalls pond by the road
Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) was the very last specialty to appear in the tour, under the heavy rain!

Day 10. Early morning start to enjoy the bird feeders of our accommodation under the rain. Pine Grosbeaks offered great views as so it did the many drake Bramblings and 1 Red Squirrel. In our way to the airport for our morning flight, a very last female Capercaillie showed out as a wonderful way to end our 5th tour exploring Northern Finland and Finnmark!

Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator)

List of seen bird species during the tour:

  1. Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)
  2. Greylag Goose (Anser anser)
  3. Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)
  4. Tundra Bean Goose (Anser serrirostris)
  5. Taiga Bean Goose (Anser fabalis)
  6. Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis)
  7. Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
  8. Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
  9. Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
  10. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
  11. Pintail (Anas acuta)
  12. Gadwall (Mareca strepera)
  13. Garganey (Spatula querquedula)
  14. Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
  15. Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
  16. Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
  17. Common Eider (Somateria mollissima)
  18. King Eider (Somateria spectabilis)
  19. Steller’s Eider (Polysticta stelleri)
  20. Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)
  21. Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra)
  22. Smew (Merguellus albellus)
  23. Goosander (Mergus merganser)
  24. Red-breasted Merganser (Megur serrator)
  25. Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata)
  26. Black-throated Diver (Gavia arctica)
  27. Great Northern Diver (Gavia immer)
  28. Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)
  29. Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena)
  30. Greater Bittern (Botaurus stellaris)
  31. Atlantic Gannet (Morus bassanus)
  32. Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
  33. Atlantic Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
  34. Black Kite (Milvus migrans)
  35. Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus)
  36. Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
  37. Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)
  38. Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
  39. Rough-legged Buzzard (Buteo lagopus)
  40. Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetos)
  41. White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)
  42. Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
  43. Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo)
  44. Merlin (Falco columbarius)
  45. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
  46. Hazel Grouse (Tetrastes bonasia)
  47. Willow Grouse (Lagopus lagopus)
  48. Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus)
  49. Black Grouse (Lyrurus tetrix)
  50. Western Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus)
  51. Common Crane (Grus grus)
  52. Western Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)
  53. Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)
  54. Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
  55. Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)
  56. Eurasian Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)
  57. Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
  58. Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii)
  59. Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
  60. Little Stint (Calidris minuta)
  61. Sanderling (Calidris alba)
  62. Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima)
  63. Ruff (Calidris pugnax)
  64. Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola)
  65. Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
  66. Jack Snipe (Lymnocriptes minimus)
  67. Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)
  68. Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)
  69. Eurasian Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
  70. Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata)
  71. Spotted Sandpiper (Tringa erythropus)
  72. Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)
  73. Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
  74. Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis)
  75. Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
  76. Green Sanspiper (Tringa ochropus)
  77. Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
  78. Ruddy Turstone (Arenaria interpres)
  79. Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
  80. Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus)
  81. Pomarine Skua (Stercorarius pomarinus)
  82. Long-tailed Skua (Stercorarius longicaudus)
  83. Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus)
  84. Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
  85. Common Gull (Larus canus)
  86. Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
  87. Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
  88. Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)
  89. Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus)
  90. Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)
  91. Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)
  92. Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea)
  93. Common Guillemot (Uria aalge)
  94. Brünnich’s Guillemot (Uria lomvia)
  95. Razorbill (Alca torda)
  96. Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle)
  97. Atlantic Puffin (Fratecula arctica)
  98. Feral Pigeon (Columba livia)
  99. Common Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus)
  100. Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
  101. Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
  102. Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
  103. Tengmalm’s Owl (Aegolius funereus)
  104. Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa)
  105. Northern Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula)
  106. Ural Owl (Strix uralensis)
  107. Eurasian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum)
  108. Common Swift (Apus apus)
  109. Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)
  110. Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius)
  111. Skylark (Alauda arvensis)
  112. Shore Lark (Eremophila alpestris)
  113. Sand Marting (Riparia riparia)
  114. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
  115. Western House Martin (Delichon urbicum)
  116. Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
  117. Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)
  118. Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus)
  119. Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus)
  120. White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
  121. Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava thunbergi)
  122. Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)
  123. Dunnock (Prunella modularis)
  124. Eurasian Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
  125. Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica)
  126. Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus)
  127. Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
  128. Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)
  129. Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
  130. Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)
  131. Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)
  132. Eurasian Redwing (Turdus iliacus)
  133. Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus)
  134. Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula)
  135. Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
  136. Lesser Whitethroat (Curruca curruca)
  137. Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
  138. Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)
  139. Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)
  140. Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
  141. Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca)
  142. Willow Tit (Poecile montanus)
  143. Siberian Tit (Poecile cinctus)
  144. Coal Tit (Periparus ater)
  145. Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanisted caeruleus)
  146. Great Tit (Parus major)
  147. Eurasian Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris)
  148. Northern Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor)
  149. Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)
  150. Siberian Jay (Perisoreus infaustus)
  151. Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica)
  152. Western Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)
  153. Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix)
  154. Rook (Corvus frugilegus)
  155. Common Raven (Corvus corax)
  156. European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
  157. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
  158. Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
  159. Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)
  160. European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
  161. Eurasian Greenfinch (Chloris chloris)
  162. Eurasian Siskin (Spinus spinus)
  163. Mealy Redpoll (Carduelis flammea)
  164. Twite (Carduelis flavirostris)
  165. Common Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra)
  166. Parrot Crossbill (Loxia pytopsittacus)
  167. Eurasian Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
  168. Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator)
  169. Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)
  170. Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)
  171. Rustic Bunting (Emberiza rustica)
  172. Lapland Bunting (Calcarius lapponicus)
  173. Snow Bunting (Pletrophenax nivalis)

List of seen mammal species during the tour:

  1. European Hare (Leppus leppus)
  2. Mountain Hare (Leppus nitidus)
  3. Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)
  4. Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)
  5. Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus)
  6. Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)
  7. Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus)
  8. Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus)
  9. Moose (Alces alces)

Finland & Finnmark Birding Tour 2018 Trip Report

Dates: 11th June to 20th June, 2018

Tour participants: 4

 

Day 1. As usual in this tour, all participants assembled at Helsinki Airport for an afternoon flight to Ivalo. After a quiet flight we landed in Ivalo, deep inside Arctic Finland late in the afternoon and headed directly to our accommodation in a cold and rainy weather. After dinner we went for short walk around and connected with some common birds. Here we got our firsts Yellowhammers singing but also Fieldfares and Redwings. A nearby lake offered also good views on Tufted Ducks and a pair of Goldeneyes.

Day 2. We wake up again in a cold, wet morning with only 4ºC. An early start was mandatory to catch up with some of the key species we were looking for during our techinically first day of the tour. After some pre-breakfast in our accommodation we drove some miles South of Ivalo, where a patch of mature forest host some of the main targets in the tour. We left the highway and started exploring the canopies in search of some birds. Everything was really quiet as a slim rain was falling down. We drove some miles, checking some corners with little result but, at one point of the lane we stop the van as one wonderful female Capercaillie was standing up by the lane, barely 10 metres away of the van and totally in the out! We enjoyed very much of that view. We slowly went a bit back, and as not raining any more we could enjoy with the view of the bird really long. The wonderful bird was studying as for a pair of minutes and then slowly started to move into the forest walking on a bare slope. We still had time for improve the view and the shots as the bird stoped a last time to take a last glance on us before disappearing in the vegetation.

This female Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) was really close to be the first bird of the tour. Image by tour leader: Carles Oliver

Absolutely amazed of having a Capercaillie as one of the first birds of the trip we kept driving up. Here there is a moment when the forest become really mature, having good old trees around. We parked the car and walked around. Bramblings were singing around and a Common Snipe was flying over. Here, we had also some common birds in this kind of habitat including Tree Pipits, Redwings, Willow Warblers and Common Cuckoo flying over. Bramblings were especially active that morning and several males were singing, flying around and dispalyinhg. We just walked a bit along a path slightly going up the slope. Here we had a bird flying away from us, and as briefly stopped, we discovered a wondeful Ring Ouzel that unfortunately almost inmediatly took off and disappeared inside the forest. From the top of the slope we could scan around and from there we got a male Capercaillie standing up in the middle of the path, some 400 metres away from us! What a wonderful view. Unfortunately the bird was fast in disappear and, despite our efforts, we could not relocate that massive grouse. We kept scanning and got lucky since 3 Siberian Jays came out of the forest and gave us wonderful views while feeding on the top of the trees and moving aroung in the canopies. Few metres away, a wonderful Siberian Tit was calling so we took advantage and enjoy wonderful views.

Siberian Tit (Poecile cinctus) is one of the main targets for many birdwatchers visiting Finland. In 2018 there were many of them! Image by Carles Oliver

After such a wonderful start we decided to drive a bit along the tracks. It was still cold and cloudy but with no rain for long. Along the driving we got some Green Sandpipers singing here and a pair of Greenshanks. Common Snipes look like being everywhere. After some kilometers we enjoyed another wonderful moment as one male Black Grouse was standing inside the forest, 20 metres away from the minibus! We again enjoyed walk-away views on the bird, having different angles on it so everybody could enjoy the bird. Suddenly, a second bird appeared from a small ditch in the forest, feeding on the berries. This second male had not see us at all and when saw us flew us, closely followed by the first bird. Wonderful! Black Grouse is a quite difficult bird to get in June and we were not expecting to see this species along the tour at all! We still had a pair of stops along the track, having a total of 5 more Siberian Tits along this way!!

Black Grouse (Tetrix tetrix) is a bird that we don’t expect to see along the trip, but this year got incredible views! Image by Carles Oliver

Happy after this wonderful start we went for coofee before driving South for some more birding. After some nice and warm coffee we started our transfer South towards Oulu, but before we still had a short stop not far away from the highway, since one pair of Northern Hawk Owl had been seen around. We did a short walk around, doing an accurate scanning. Northern Hawk Owls use to stop quite in the out, many times on tree tops, but they also can be hard to find out. After about half an hour of scanning we got nothing and we were really about to withdraw when one of the tour participants found a wonderful young Northern Hawk Owl standing up in the middle of one garden. It was a quite grow up chick, already capable to do a short flight… We all have wonderful views on the bird. Some minutes later we managed to find a second chick, deep inside the garden. Suddenly a Great Spotted Woodpecker called around and the shape of an adult Northern Haw Owl passed above us to stop in a close wire, allowing really good views. We all enjoyed very much of this moment. The adult was really garding the area so we went a bit away to make them feel better. After some minutes the adult came closer to the garden and stopped in a tree top nearby. It was moment for us to leave and keep moving South.

Northern Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula), one of the most sought-after birds of the trip. Images by Carles Oliver

 

 

Glad with the wonderful morning we had all enjoyed, the transfer South was really pleasant. We did some stops in the way, anyway. The first exploration of he tour in a typical wader nesting place was quite productive. We got (distant) views on 2 Common Cranes, some summer plomaged European Golden Plovers, Reed Buntings singing, several Meadow Pipits and 2 Whooper Swans. The second stop was a bit less productive: 1 Western Osprey flying around plus a really interesting Little Bunting singing in the low rank vegetation! We scanned hard trying to find this really bird but unfortunately we never found it… The transfer also produced some typical roadside birds in the way of 1 White-tailed Eagle, Goldeneyes and Red-breasted Mergansers.

Once in our accommodation we had a good rest before having dinner. After dinner we took advantage of the wonderful light outside so went for a short walk. In the fields, some Rooks were moving here and there, being this species quite scarce in Finland. Skylarks and Reed Buntings were singing and we enjoyed of wonderful views in a pair of Pied Flycatchers nesting inmediatly around the parking place. 1 Common Rosefinch was also singing from the top of a tree, but didn’t allow any photo… We went then for a short walk in a close marsh. There we had wonderful views on some male Ruff showing stunning summer plomages, moving in the tall grass. Common Snipes were displaying all around and a Lesser Whitethroat showed briefly inside a bush.

A short walk introduced us until a platform. In front of us had a wonderful view on Liminganlahti estuary. Flocks of Pintails were in the marshes. Wigeons, Eurasian Teals and Whooper Swans were all common. More distant, a huge flock of 300+ Common Cranes were roosting in the marshy area. Little Gulls were flying over in what was a wonderful scene to be admired! Several waders were moving around. Wood Sandpipers, Green Sandpipers and Eurasian Curlews were spotted. Also a wonderful flock of 20+ Spotted Redshanks in wonderful summer plomage! This is species is the one which is leaving before the nesting areas, located more to the North. The flock we saw were probably males already in their way South! Back in the marshes, a proper scanning revealed a Short-eared Owl flying over, being “joined” by 2 Hooded Crows.

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) is a common breeder in Liminganlahti. Image by Carles Oliver

Happy after such a wonderful end of the day we just came back to our accommodation for a good rest.

Day 3. We wake up with in a wonderful sunny morning and went off our accommodation for an early morning birding. Our first goal was to explore a pair of lagoons offering potential good birds. In the short transfer to the lagoons we had some nice birds. 100+ Common Cranes were feeding in a farmland along with Northern Lapwings and Eurasian Curlews. In the highway South of Oulu we got a wonderful male Pallid Harrier flying over, something quite unexpected and celebrated.

Hundreds of Common Cranes were seen around Liminganlahti. Image by Carles Oliver

Our first stop was in a lagoon. A fast scanning produced Common Scoter along with Goldeneyes. Distant Whooper Swans were also noticed. A second scanning produced good views on 4 wonderful Velvet Scoters and also the only 2 Goldcrests of the trip in the trees around the lagoon. Our second stop was also quite successful. Parked by a busy road we searched in a pair of ponds. We didn’t wait long since 1 Terek’s Sandpiper flew inmediatly in front of us producing really nice views! After a little while, the bird went to the opposite side of the lagoon but then we got 2 more Terek’s close enough to enjoy good views and some more shots! This was absolutely great since Terek’s Sandpiper has become really rare in Finland with only a handful of pairs around Oulu! Around the place of the Terek’s we got other nice birds including Common Whitethroat and Common Rosefinch.

Terek’s Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus) has become extremely scarce in Finland. Image by Carles Oliver

Satisfied for this rather unexpected success we scanned a bit around and got some Sedge Warblers in a nearby reedbed. The water body and shores around were having Common Ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Common Redshank and Eurasian Teals. Before going to forest, we still had some time check the estuary itself, where we got several Little Gulls moving, a distant Greylag Geese, Western Osprey, and the very first Arctic Tern of the tour was delighting us with good views.

After such a great start of the day we moved to check for some owls. Not far away from Oulu there are several locations for many of the species living in the country. We first went to a place for Eurasian Pygmy Owl, located on a mature spruce patch. After few scanning we got absolutely amazing views on the bird as it was perched only three metres away from us. We enjoy it long views on this wonderful tiny owl and we left the place without disturbing it!

Eurasian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum) delighted us with wonderful views deep in a mature forest. Image by Carles Oliver

We then went to check a place for Ural Owl but we had no luck and the nest was empty…No signal at all on this bird at the location. But around there it was also a nest of Great Grey Owl so went to try this bird. In the way, we had 3 Eurasian Woodcocks flying from the lane and 1 Eurasian Nuthatch showing really well as we parked the mini bus. We spend quite a long time looking for the nest this massive arctic owl but we finally got lucky and enjoyed incredible views on the Great Grey Owl lying on the nest. The nest was located in a really low location so we were not expecting to see the bird that close!! We still had some time looking for the pair of the Great Grey Owl as it had to be roosting nearby but despite our efforts we could not find it at all.

This Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa) was always vigilant to our movements. We never came closer and failed to find the male, probably nearby. Image by Carles Oliver

After a short stop to have some coffee we kept going our route. A nearby place was having a pair of nest boxes for Tengmalm’s Owl so we went to check. The first nest box was damaged so could not host anything. Second nest box was apparently in good conditions but looked like having no owls inside. We neither saw any signal of activity below the nest box. We started the way back to the van when a several calls of Tits and Blackbirds came from the direction of the nest box. We fastly went to check and found a wonderful Tengmalm’s Owl stiking its head out of the nest box! What a wonderful sight, especially after thinking we were going to miss this bird!!! We had good views on the bird for a pair of minutes, when it went down in the whole and disappear. Happy after another wonderful sight we came back to mini bus.

Tengmalm’s Owl (Aegolius funereus), probably the most difficult owl in Europe, was offering rather typical views while blocking the entrance of its nest. Image by Carles Oliver

In the way we had good views on 2 Spotted Flycatchers and had 2 Song Thrushes flying as well as Eurasian Treecreeper. In a nearby field, a Common Kestrel was hunting. We still had plenty of time so we went on driving for a way until a new place where to try Ural Owl. And this time we got lucky.

A Scottish Pine forest surrounded by farmlands is hosting a nest box. In our short walk until the area Yellowhammers and Tree Pipits were singing all around. Eurasian Jay was also seen, being the only was sight of the bird in the tour! Once in the place, we proceed with a proper scanning around. We got 1 Eurasian Treecreeper but little more out of that. About to leave the area, we did a last, desperate scanning and then we got a wonderful adult Ural Owl standing deep inside the forest!

The massive owl was a wonderful view inside the deep canopy and could enjoy the bird long. We had time to scan around and actually found a grown chick of Ural Owl closer to us, inside an area of young trees. This was already wonderful and really celebrated in the group! After enjoying the birds a good while we went back to the minibus to keep going on.

Ural Owl (Strix uralensis) proved to be, once more, a tricky bird. Image by Carles Oliver

 

We had good views on a passing Pallid Harrier in the early morning while driving towards Oulu so we decided to go back to that area and scan for eventually have better views. In the way, we got excellent views on Black-tailed Godwits in one of the very few nesting places in Finland! Once in the place we scanned the large fields and we fastly got noto ne but 2 males Pallid Harriers in diferent areas of the field! One of the birds moved our way and we had chances for some nice shots, despite the wind! 2 Short-eared Owls were also hunting in the area and were a nice add to our day list (5 owls in a day, not bad at all!).

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) is a scarce nesting bird in Finland. Best populations to be found around Oulu. Image by Carles Oliver

 

It is a poor imatge but views on Pallid Harriers (Circus macrourus) were superb. Image by Carles Oliver

After this wonderful day we just had a 90 minutes transfer to Kuusamo. In the way we had first views on Black-throated Divers in splendid summer plomage. Once where arrived to the hotel we went for a good dinner and a long rest.

Day 3. This day we were concentrated around Kuusamo, where a number of key species can be seen. We had a really early start to look for Grouses. We drove around expecting to connect with some of them but we were unlucky that morning and we could not find any. We did a number of stops and enoyed good views in both Smew and Surf Scoter. Goldeneyes and Tufted Ducks were widespread. While enjoying one male Surf Scoter we got 2 Siberian Jays moving really close to our minibus and a pair of flocks of Common Crossbills feeding around and the common view of Mealy Redpolls flying around.

Siberian Jays (Perisoreus infaustus) can be really tame, once you find them! Image by Carles Oliver

We then went to explore Parikaala, one of the best places where to try Red-flanked Bluetail. Just arrived to the parking place we got a good views on a small flock of Parrot Crossbills moving up in the canopies. A walk around produced good views on Tree Pipits as well as the only one European Crested Tit of the trip! In our walk we were joined by the distant call of a Black-throated Diver and the display flights of Wood Sandpipers. After some walk we started looking for Hazel Grouses in one of their favourite corners. We carefully scanned around hoping to see the bird grazing or resting on a tree branch, No results until the clear call of a male came to us. It was not specially far away. More scan. Little walk. The bird was calling a second time. We waited long in the place, hoping for a movement to come out from the canopie but, unfortunately, it never hapenned.

Few minutes later a different song came to us. 1 Red-flanked Bluetail was singing around. We scanned the tree tops around and got distant views on males singing from a tree top! We tried to get closer but far before we arrived the bird was down again….

 

We kept going up and enjoyed really good views in a pair of Bohemian Waxbills feeding on berries in a small tree. 1 Scandinavian Willow Tit passed by, calling, and god good but brief views on the bird. But then everything went fast because 1 Tree-toed Woodpecker was calling in the distance. We gather until the area where the bird was calling and scanned around. Nothing. Moved to small elevation giving us a good view from where to scan the area and then we got the bird in a tree and inmediatly took off flying to out left, allowing really good views in flight! The bird went away quite far so we walked dow and track the area. Its call came out several times but we never could reconnect with the bird…

Numbers of Bohemian Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus) had dropped since our visit in 2017. We hardly saw 10 individuals in the whole trip. Image by Carles Oliver

We then decided to try again the corner where the Red-flanked Bluetail was singing and this time we were lucky as the bird showed up really well, singing out from the top of a tree. This area is normally having different males (we counted no less than 6 in 2017) but this year it appeared to be only one… Happy after this successful views we went the way back to the car. Around the parking place the flock of Parrot Crossbills were still visible alowing good views.

This was the only one Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus) for us this year. Passerines overwintering in Asia proved to be really scarce. Image by Carles Oliver

After this productive morning we went for a good and early lunch and some rest. The afternoon came soon and before going for dinner we went for some birding not far from our accommodation. We were to enjoy some water birds in one of the many lakes near Kuusamo. Fieldfares, Hooded Crows and Redwings were all common views. The short track to the platform was having a close Little Bunting singing around and we were soon enjoying good views on this scarce bird!

Intimate views on Little Bunting (Emberiza pusilla) near Kuusamo. Image by Carles Oliver

From the platform we could enjoy Whooper Swans but also close views on Black-throated Divers, Goldeneyes and displaying Common Snipes.

Day 4. This day we had a really chilly and wet morning. Went to a different spruce area hoping for more Red-flanked Bluetails to be but, unfortunably was really windy. We only got some Bohemian Waxbills and 1 Scandinavian Willow Tit. Still, we decided to spend some more time by the road hoping for some activity. Song Thrush was singing and a Common Crossbills. A single Willow Warbler was singing in the canopy. Weather was stil cold and unfriendly but then we did lucky as suddenly 1 Three-toed Woodpecker passed by our side, allowing good views in flight and going inside the dense canopies! We scouted all the area around but the windy conditions were not the best to find anything on the trees. After some more time in this area we decide to leave for some warm coffee!

After a good warm coffee we just started moving North but stopping in a nice lake inmediatly North of Kuusamo. Once more we got excellent views on Whooper Swans, with Greenshanks and Reed Bunting singing around. 2 White-tailed Eagles were seen flying around and a small flock of Common Terns were feeding in the lake. Goldeneyes, Red-breasted Merganser and Tufted Ducks were all seen but the bird that was really celebrated was one wonderful Red-necked Grebe in nesting plomage, showing really well by the opposite shore of the lake.

Black-throated Divers (Gavia arctica) are a common view in Finish lakes. Image by Carles Oliver

Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula) are the commonest ducks in most freshwater lakes in Northern Finland, along with Tufted Ducks. Image by Carles Oliver

After this great stop we kept driving North for some 90 minutes, until we crossed a patch of wonderful ancient spruce forest. This is also a good place were to stop so we did so to take a look. Bramblings and Redwings were all around along with Tree Pipits. A pair of Bohemian Waxwings flew over and 1 Common Cuckoo was heard singing nearby. Many Willow Warblers were singing around, some of them really road by road. In the low vegetation in the left side of the road we got something bigger moving and we were grateful to see 3 Pine Grosbeaks feeding on berries few inches from the ground. The birds came down to the road picking on the dart. The birds allowed us to come closer and we got excellent views in on them three bu thre group really enjoyed the male, showing really nice colours.

A small flock of Pine Grosbeaks (Pinicola enucleator) was feeding on dart in a minor road. Image by Carles Oliver

Back to the car we kept moving and scanning. Some more miles North we had to stop again, this time because of a small flock of Parrot Crossbills feeding also on the dart! After these happy findings we kept driving North for a pair of hours to arrive back to Ivalo, where we sleeping some miles of the town.

Day 5. This day we went to explore some bog areas for waders West of Ivalo. Here large areas are occupied by shallow water marshes. The dense vegetation around hosts several interesting species. We arrived early morning and scan around. Some really nice Wood Sandpipers were singing and displaying around and the sound o the displaying Common Snipes were constant. Some Mealy Redpolls passed by, calling. Then a small bird flew from the grass around to end a close tree and we found ourselves enjoying the very first Red-throated Pipit of the trip. The bird allowed good views, despite being a bit inside a small tree. Happy after this good start we kept scanning and found a Jack Snipe displaying in the sky, passin over us over and over and allowing excellent views. We did a small short walk in the marshy area and easily got 1 Red-spotted Bluethroat running in front of us. After some metres of run the bird just turn so everybody in the group had excellent views.
We still had some time around with the wonderful Jack Snipe still flying above us, displaying and diving into the dense vegetation. 2 Greenshanks were also singing in the bog and 1 European Golden Plover was also noted.

Red-spotted Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica svecica) was also a really celebrated bird in the group. Image by Carles Oliver

After such a good start for the day we went for a short walk in a nearby hill. Up in this hills the tundra dominates the landscape and it is possible to find really exciting species.

The short walk was dominated by dozens of Meadow Pipits singing and showing in the short grass lands. European Golden Plovers looked like being everywhere and 1 Eurasian Whimbrel was noted close to a small mountain pass.

From here we got an impressive view on this area of Scandinavian Alps, some sumits still with snow in the distance, while the Eastern part of the view was blocked by the rocky scarpment of a nearby peak. The scan around the area produced more European Golden Plovers and 1 Eurasian Dotterel showing really well in the Western part of the meadow. We tried to approach when something really floating passed over us: 1 Long-tailed Skua!

Long-tailed Skua (Stercorarius longicaudatus), a really smart bird both on the ground and in flight. Image by Carles Oliver

The bird just flew over to stop in some 100 metres away, in a tiny hill stiking up from the grassy plain. We had incredible views on the birds when a second individual came from the same side and both birds went to the sky for a full dispaly of flights, dives and
chasing. After this incredible sight we came back to the Dotterel. If was not there any more. A bit of scan was necessary to relocate the bird, but we all got it again in the bins, now definately more far away. We tried to approach but unfortunately the bird flew along with 2 European Golden Plover and we lost track of them.

Still having some time before lunch we decided to go a bit closer of the rocky scarpment, expecting species related with this kind of landscapes. We scanned all around with little feedback and were about to leave when 1 Snow Bunting appeared from somewhere! The bird just landed close to us, allowing some nice views while the bird was feeding.

Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis) typically favours the contact area of rocky scarpments with tundra grasslands. Image by Carles Oliver

Happy after this nice morning, we just went down for a nice lunch. But prior lunch we had a stop in a stop lagoo, where a nice flock of 17 Red-necked Phalaropes was feeding. Wonderful, some of them beautiful females! Along with them some male Ruffs but also Eurasian Teal. Bluethroats were singing around, including a brief view on a male. Here we also got a small flock of Arctic Terns in their way to nesting sites. Already really close!

All the group was delighted with the intimate views on Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus). Image by Carles Oliver

Some male Ruffs (Philomachus pugnax) were at its best. We enjoyed a good variety of plomages. Image by Carles Oliver

After lunch we did a pair of stops in different ponds and bog but we did not have any other result out of the firsts Arctic Redpolls of the trip! 2 birds flying and perched low in a small tree that gave us really good views.

The rest of the afternoon we just took advantage of the feeders in our accommodation to enjoy excellent views on Pine Grosbeaks. The feeders also attrack large numbers of Mealy Redpolls and some Bramblings. The feeders also attrack Pied Flycatcher, Greenfinches, Common Redstart and Red Squirrels.

Day 6. Early morning once again to go North, into Norway. Still, before crossing the border we had a good stop along the way. A extensive area of bog is having small populations of Broad-billed Sandpiper. Here we had Wood Sandpipers, Ruffs, Golden Plovers and Common Snipe displaying. 2 obliging Siberian Tits were also a good addition along with Common Waxbills and distant Great Grey Shrike and 1 Black Grouse flying across. Unfortunately we had no contacts on the main target there…

Feeders are the best option to enjoy close views on Mealy Redpolls (Liniaria flammea). Image by Carles Oliver

One of the nine Siberian Tits (Poecile cinctus) seen during the tour. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Along the road we had some stops: Common Crossbills (always worth checking) but also Rough-legged Buzzards and Tufted Ducks were seen.
Once in Varanger we did a short stop in Nesseby. Here we had excellent views on a flock of Red-necked Phalaropes and some Ruffs. Common Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Dunlin were also nice addings to the trip list. Beyond Nesseby flocks of Red-breasted Merganser and Goosanders were seen on the fjord. Also large flocks of Common Scoters (200+) along side Surf Scoters.

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) keeps good densities in Lapland bogs. Image by Carles Oliver

Kittiwakes were already a common view, with flocks of hundreds of them moving along the coast, along with Herring, Great Black-backed & Common Gulls. Along the road we had firsts views on nesting Parasitic Skuas, sometimes allowing really close views! Along the shore, White-tailed Eagles were a common views, sometimes alone but sometimes congregated in small flocks.

Rough-legged Buzzards (Buteo lagopus) are a common view in the lower areas of Varanger. Image by Carles Oliver

Our way to Vadso produced a nice surprise in the way of 2 Tundra Bean Geese resting by the road! This was a rather unexpected finding! Oystercatchers & Common Eiders were already everywhere, even along the acess bridge to Vadso. A short walk in the area produced wonderful views on Common Redshank singing but also lovely views on Arctic Redpolls and Red-throated Pipit feeding around. Some elusive male Ruffs were also spotted in the tall grass, althought they were reluctant to show properly. The small lagoon was having some Red-necked Phalaropes and the place produced good views in the only one Pomarine Skua of the trip!

Along the trip we enjoyed some good views on Arctic Redpolls (Liniaria hornemanni), always a wonderful bird to see. Image by Carles Oliver

Red-throated Pipits (Anthus cervinus) replace Meadow Pipits in the tundra areas in Finnmark. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Our attention was concentrated in trying to find Steller’s Eider (had one around in 2017) but no luck this time.

The final drive to Vardo still produced a Short-eared Owl by the road so another stop had to be made. Once arrived to our accommodation we got a good rest before dinner. After dinner, we still had 1 hour to enjoy the midnight light. A short drive was done and got excellent views on Little Stint, Temminck’s Stint, Horned Larks, Red-throated Pipits, Parasitic Skuas and a wonderful male Lapland Bunting!!! What an amazing end for the day!

A stop was required as this Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) was hunting by the road. Image by Carles Oliver

Parasitic Jaegers (Stercorarius parasiticus) nest in low tundra plains, not far away from the shore. Image by Carles Oliver

White-tailed Eagles (Hieraaetus albicilla) are always a superb view. Image by Carles Oliver

Day 7. This day we didn’t go for a really early start but have some time to recover. Our boat to Hornoya was our first appointment so after breakfast we went to the dek. Here we had a good scan around while Arctic Terns were flying around us. Black Guillemots were also a good attraction, but being a bit elusive this time. A second year Glaucous Gull was found roosting in one of the buildings at the other side of the harbour, providing with good views in the scope.

Once in the Arctic Ocean we were soon enjoying with thousands and thousands of Guillemots were carpeting the Ocean. Razorbills were also numerous and Puffins were also moving around in good numbers. As approaching the island, the noise and the smell becomes more intense. Here, 250.000+ are nesting in a huge colony. Atlantic Shags were also all along the shore, always in the big rocks protecting the island. Even before arriving to the island we got some Brunnich’s Guillemots showing really well along with other auks.

This is what you can expect when approaching Hornoya. 1000s of Guillemots but, can you find the Brünnich’s Guillemots in the imatge? Image by Carles Oliver

Once in the cliffs, Brunnich’s Guillemots tend to nest quite high so it makes more difficult to have excellent views on the birds. Still, with a bit of patience, the whole group enjoyed great views on them. A walk around easily produce ridiculous views on Atlantic Puffins. Several Parasitic Skuas were flying around, patrolling in search of a easy prey. Along with them and the hundreds of auks in the sky we also got 1 Gyr Falcon patrolling above the colony of Herring Gulls. Gulls were not happy about the presence of the predator and they made sure the Falcon to notice about! We had a good sight and the bird disappeared in the massive movement of birds in the sky. As the group was a bit disperse taking photos, not everybody enjoyed the Falcon. We hoped for the bird to reappear, but never happened. We kept enjoying the magnificient concentration of birds and also picked up really good views on Rock Pipit (littoralis) and really close views on Black Guillemot.

Atlantic Puffins (Fratercula arctica) and Razorbills (Alca torda) in Hornoya. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Brünnich’s Guillemot (Uria lomvia) was really celebrated for our clients. Image by Carles Oliver

 

General view of part of the colony at Hornoya. Image by Carles Oliver

Great Black-back Gull (Larus marinus) predating on Atlantic Puffin. A belt of predators surround the colony. Image by Carles Oliver

Black Guillemots (Cepphus grylle) avoids the big colonies and nest in small parties. Image by Carles Oliver

Scandinavian Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus litorallis). a good adding for the list. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Once back in Vardo we went for lunch. In the afternoon we went along the coast, expecting some nices species. We again got nice views on Lapland Buntings, Temminck’s & Little Stints, Shore Larks & Whooper Swans in the tundra. In the coast, the firsts flocks of Long-tailed Ducks were seen along with Common Eiders and Red-throated Divers.

Temminck’s Stints (Calidris temminckii) were once the commonest wader in most of coastal tundra in Varanger. Now they have become scarce. Image by Carles Oliver

Lapland Buntings (Calcarius lapponicus), always a wonderful bird to see in summer plomage. Image by Carles Oliver

Day 8. This day we drove even more North to explore the Northernmost fjords in Varanger. Along the way we stopped several times. Roadside birding in this part of the world can inlcude Long-tailed Skuas but also Rough-legged Buzzard, Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, Red-throated Diver and others.

Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea), a urban bird in Varanger! Image by Carles Oliver

A selected stop in the higher plateau produced 3 Snow Buntings along with Dotterel, Tundra Bean Goose, Long-tailed Duck, Lapland Bunting, Golden Plover and Eurasian Curlew. A proper scan around allowed us to find the first Rock Ptarmigan of the trip! A short drive and we were having really close views on the bird, still showing a good number of white feathers.

Tundra Bean Goose (Anser rossicus) was also really celebrated by our clients. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Male & female Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus), a really nice finding. Image by Carles Oliver

 

Always worth to check the lakes when being in Varanger, Scaups (Aythya marila) can be around. Image by Carles Oliver

 

During the afternoon we arrived to coast. Here we had more scanning, this time in the shore. Several Common Eiders were roosting and feeding and we were lucky enough to find 1 female Steller’s Eider feeding along with them! We approached the group and everybody had excellent views on them despite the misty ambient!

An adult female Steller’s Eider (Polysticta stelleri) was showing really well despite the difficult weather conditions. Image by Carles Oliver

After enjoying long this lovely duck we just went to our accommodation for some rest and good dinner.

Day 9. This day we spent the morning in exploring a patch of coast producing good birding most of the times. But before we had a second visit to the Steller’s Eider, being now really more far away than the afternoon before. We also had another stop in the way, this time to explore a nice landscape for grouses. And we were right in our thoughts since we had 2 Willow Grouses flying around, one of them stopping for some seconds on a rock before disappearing in the grass! A brief view, but worth it! We scanned around trying to relocate them, but was impossible.

This female King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) didn’t stole the show despite the fog in our last full day of the tour. Image by Carles Oliver

Kept going our way. Once in the patch of coast, the area was totally foggy. We just kept driving until the closest village, where we had a coffee. The fog was not going to disappear so we moved to shore to scan for birds. A small corner looked like interesting and we cheeked all Eiders around, and we were lucky since a female King Eider was among them! This was one of the most celebrated bird of the tour, along with Steller’s Eider!! We had a good time enjoying this bird, most of the time sleeping but sometimes active and moving along with 2 Long-tailed Ducks and Common Eiders.

As it was foggy we started drive back until we found a window without fog. Stop and check. Beside the car, 2 Twites flew off up to the cliffs! In the sea, we fastly saw several Northern Fulmars moving along the coast. About 30% of them were of the beautiful blue form. There were still some fog. We did some scouting looking for Yellow-billed Divers, but never found them… and only got Black-throated Divers. Instead had several flocks of Common Eiders and Long-tailed Ducks. Also some Manx Shearwaters moving up and down. One of the tour participants found 1 Fin Whale moving close to coast. Wonderful spot!

After some more scanning in a pair of Windows in the fog we just drove South for a final overnight near Ivalo, where we arrived for some rest and a good dinner.

Day 10. Final morning of the trip and still some time to check for some birds. It was rainy and really chilly but went to a corner offering good chances for buntings. We waited under the rain but nothing happened for long. We were really about to leave when, suddenly, a bird came out of the vegetation to stop in a nearby tree and started singing: was 1 Rustic Bunting!

Light was poor and we were all wet and cold but this very last minute sight was absolutely worth it!!!

After this we just drove to the airport to take our flight home. Never tired of birding in Lapland. Join us!!!