Wednesday 31 May 2023

Sculthorpe Moor , half term family events day - 31st May 2023

 The last day of May and still no real consistent warmth to make conditions less difficult for the birds. We were on site at 6am, with DKH, erecting 8 nets in wooded and reedy areas. The demonstration started at 9am and the 30+ visitors saw a good range of species over the three hours.

The birds seen by the visitors included residents such as Wren, Robin and Dunnock as well as summer migrant Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Sedge Warbler.

Measurement of a tail feathers width indicates that this bird is an adult, consistent
with the number of black bars on the outermost greater covert also indicative of an adult bird.

It was unusual to have captured no juvenile birds by this stage of the breeding season. Another indication of a spring that's slow to get going. Last bird of the day was a Jay captured as nets were being taken down.

Total: 23 (5)

Wren - 1
Robin - 2 (1)
Dunnock - 1 (1)
Song Thrush - 1
Sedge Warbler - 6
Blackcap - 2
Chiffchaff - 3 (2)
Willow Warbler - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 1 (1)
Reed Bunting - 1
Treecreeper - 2
Jay - 1

Monday 29 May 2023

Norfolk Rivers Trust, Ingoldisthorpe - 29th May 2023

 A first visit to plan how best to work the site. As it was rather windier than we would have liked we only put three nets up and started three hours later than usual, still catching a few birds of a nice range of species.

Sedge Warbler



Total: 10

Wren - 2
Sedge Warbler - 2
Whitethroat - 3
Goldcrest - 1
Blue Tit - 1
Chaffinch - 1

Sunday 28 May 2023

A farm in west Norfolk - 28th May 2023

 Another check for Lapwing young with three very well grown chicks caught and marked for the scheme.

No 15 was found first and although the largest chick
processed to that point was actually smaller than the next two.

No 16 actually flew a short way on release. Not altogether sure 
why it sat tight

No 17 was most advanced with change to post juvenile plumage.

We also checked the nest boxes put up for Tree Sparrow. Of the 12 sections one held Great Tit too small for ringing and another, a brood of ten Blue Tits, only days from fledging.

One of the very high, very full old nest boxes has Tree Sparrows nesting but they were totally out of reach.

The final pullus was an Oystercatcher. The two siblings managed to evade us.

Oystercatcher Chick


Lapwing - 3
Oystercatcher - 1
Blue Tit - 10

Sculthorpe Moor - 25th May 2023

 A slow, slow day when we only just crept into double figures. The forecast of sunshine all day never materialised and even the three girls that are now grazing in the beaver enclosure with the sheep all lay down as the chilly wind kept the temperature feeling well below the expected 15 degrees with a distinct possibility of rain. Despite the clouds we completed the session with Jay being our most interesting capture and Chiffchaff the leading species.


Total: 7 (5)
Jay - 1
Wren - 0 (2)
Robin - 1
Dunnock - 1
Chiffchaff - 4 (1)
Goldcrest - 0 (1)
Great Tit - 0 (1)

Finland Kuusamo - 20th May 2023, Kuhmo night of 20th/21st May and travel to Oulu and last evening at Oulu 21st May 2023.

 Having eaten pizza at 3pm the previous day and having only an assortment of snacks to see us through to the morning, after leaving the bear hide we opted for one last try at Valtavaara before getting breakfast. This time we had glimpses of Three-toed Woodpecker although Bluetail remained elusive, probably with most birds not yet back on territory.

The Red Squirrel, grey coloured in winter is
 shedding the thicker coat for summer red.

Interesting lichens and mosses can be found on the trees there.

Being a Saturday even fewer places were open. We couldn't wait for the French Cafe to open at 11m and ended up with a burger before travelling the 311km to Wildlife Safaris Finland.

Along the way we encountered between Suomussalmi and Kuusamo, a piece of spatial art that speaks to passers-by according to the artists website. The work has become the symbol of Korpi-Kainuu. In question is the small-by-little refined piece of spatial art 'Silent People'. A mute crowd of near on 1000 human figures in a field.

They looked like scare crows to me.

 We arrived at Kuikka Basecamp. From there we were driven another 10km to the hides. We were the only visitors that night and it felt a little unnerving as we drove passed the Finnish markers for no man's land towards the border with Russia.

The hide had three areas for sleeping and fabric covered panels for cameras to be 
used without disturbing wildlife. It would get very cold over night.

The toilet again had a black polystyrene seat and emptied beneath the hide.

Ravens were first to the carcass

Black Kite

A Brown Bear was the first mammal to the carcass

It did its best to take the carcass away

We could see a Wolverine visit the carcass in the dark 
- challenging conditions for my camera.

Soon after it had left Chris picked up some movement way back against the treeline. Those trees are on the Russian side of the border and that's where the animals seemed to have come from. In the dark it was possible to see the pale grey figures of 4 Wolves. They gradually approached the baited area.

The wolves appeared to be two adults and two yearlings

The palest animal spent a lot of time sniffing around the area, 
possibly ensuring that the Wolverine had gone.

They never approached the carcass with just the darker adult female risking a bite before they moved off into the nearby woods. 

As the sun arose birds began to return

A Wolverine was again seen on the carcass.

Ravens kept their distance.

While the Wolverine fed a single Wolf appeared but kept well away.

The Wolf smelt around all the areas where the previous four had been spending time.

Eventually it tore off an entire limb as it ripped into the flesh, and left.

The Wolf headed off in the direction that the four had gone.

Then when we were sure there were no animals close by we left our hide.

Most of the others were much smaller, probably equipt just with chairs for shorter viewing sessions.

And we started to make our way back to the main roads, first negotiating
 the barrier of the Finnish nomansland.

As we travelled the smaller forest roads we saw more Taiga speciality species.

Female Black Grouse

White Wagtail

Trees were coming into leaf as our trip progressed.

Golden Plover

Hazel Hen

We'd arranged to meet up with Sami & Janna, Finnish ringers working on Black-tailed Godwit and Lapwing projects. We first met them when in Georgia in 2016. Chris had asked for their help in seeing Pygmy Owl and we went out on a box check for one of Sami's colleagues. The usual routine is to site three boxes close together then the resident owl has a choice of three possible nest sites. This owl had chosen the last box checked.

Pygmy Owl female on eggs.

The boxes are hollowed out tree trunks with the cavity placed so that the front wall
 is thicker than the other three sides.

Thanks to Sami we had finally seen Pygmy Owl. After the box check we celebrated with a very traditional Finnish meal in a very old, very rustic restaurant that we would never have found on our own.

So, finally we have managed to see all the Northern owl species.

Friday 26 May 2023

Finland, Brown Bear watching, Kuntilampi Karhu - Night of 19th/20th May 2023

The drive to Karhu seemed the most remote part of Finland that we'd driven through. There were very few petrol stations, stores or centres of habitation. As we neared the viewing centre we became part of a convoy all headed in the same direction. There were quite a lot of people  although most were only doing the evening viewing and we were split into groups and directed to various hides. We were in the largest building complete with bunk beds, rather archaic heater and toilet. The toilet was a necessary curiosity, essential when spending 14 hours without the possibility of leaving the building. It was clear, however, that nothing put down the toilet actually went anywhere.

Bait was put out to ensure a visit from bears, mostly they believed crossing out of Russia.

Salmon bait attracts more than the bears.

We started with some 10 and a guide in our hide and settled down to wait. First there were waders, ducks, gulls and eagles to watch.

Herring Gull Omissus subspecies and Baltic Gull

Juvenile White-tailed Eagle with darvic that we couldn't read

Ruff in breeding plumage

Common Snipe

Spotted Redshank

The first bear to arrive was a young female with a light honey coloured coat. She set about finding a lot of the salmon that had been hidden away from the gulls in holes in the ground and in trees. She seemed wary of the forest, or something in it and left after some 10 minutes.

This was the only bear seen by the evening only viewers who left at 10pm. After that just 5 of us were left in the hide. We decided not to use the heater although the temperature soon dropped as the sun sank in the sky.

The sun had still to drop below the horizon after 10pm.

Another young female came by at 10:15pm

She found a few morsels and soon left. There was another bear
just within the treeline and she seemed keen to keep her distance.

This male bear emerged next and had been loitering at the forest
 edge while the previous female fed.

He began foraging but was soon joined by a paler coloured bear.

I thought there may have been trouble when the second bear turned up but 
the first bear acted submissively, although paced about a lot and seemed quite frustrated.

Here he hugs a tree that had held salmon taken 
by the honey coated female.

When he decided to leave, the second bear followed him closely.

There is a brief appearance from a bear that sports a two tone coat, 
possibly part way through moulting at 11:20pm

This may have been the two bears interacting together early, 
but not certain 12:20am

A single bear came in at 02:40 am and foraged beyond where the bait had been placed. It was
 finding food, possibly plant matter. It was now getting lighter and the gulls were back.

There was a bit of a lull after this bear and most people in the hide got some sleep. I stayed on a couple of chairs,catnapped and checked any sounds that drifted across the clearing. 

At 04:50 am this big fella strolled in.

He seemed more aware of the hide than any other bear that we'd seen.

There were no bears over the next hour so we decided to leave, knowing all the time as we walked to the car that several bears could be nearby.