Friday 26 May 2023

Finland, Oulu area - 14th to 16th May 2023.

 We arrived at the Airport Hotel, Oulu conveniently sited a brief drive from the airport in the late afternoon. The hotel is just a short walk from the shore of the shallow coastal bay of Liminganlahti and has, in its grounds, a tower for viewing the bay and surrounding area. We had a walk around this area on the first evening as daylight persists until late into the evening. We were looking forward to our self drive bird and mammal watching trip organised through Finnature.

Pied Flycatcher song could be heard everywhere. The trees tend not to be very mature 
and nest boxes can be seen wherever there are trees.

Fieldfares sing and display to each other as snow has only just thawed
 and spring is starting very late this year.

Our first day was spent walking trails around the bay shore and viewing from the several birding towers. 

Pairs of Goldeneye are a regular sight.

The snow and ice is not yet completely melted.

The bay was as calm as a mill pond with Whooper Swans and many ducks.

Nest boxes adorn the Silver Birch trees.

It takes a while to get used to hearing the Redwing summer songs that 
we don't hear in the UK.

Some views were distant, but there is so much of the landscape left for nature.

Chris negotiates a boardwalk out to one of the towers. 

From this tower at Myllyoja we were treated to no less than four Snipe drumming around us.
Waders including Ruff in breeding plumage, Shelduck, Goosander and Mergansers. 
Here Willow Warber armuch more common than Chiffchaff.

Green Hair-streaks were out in force, favouring conifers in the absence of Hawthorn 
or Bramble where we are more likely to see them in the UK.

Trees are still bare and the grass brown 
due to snow cover up until very recently.

The next day began with a 2:30 am alarm to meet the Finnature guide for our owl trip. This wasn't the experience we expected. We were a party of 6, two of which had massive expensive cameras and long lenses. We were quite clear that our priorities were Ural, Great Gray and Pigmy Owl but a lot of time was spent manoeuvring the van for optimum shots of grouse to the point that we could not see the birds at times. None of my grouse shots are worth showing from this tip as our windows were fixed and I had to shot through glass.
Great Gray Owl on old Goshawk nest.

Slavonian Grebe - rather too much callback for my liking, three times
with it right in front of us.

Ortolan Bunting

A stretch of trees where we looked for Grey-headed Woodpecker. 
We went back a second time but all views were fleeting.

You will notice that the last three birds were not owls, the reason we were on the trip. These trips have been marketed as owl trips at Bird Fair and referred to as owl  trips for many years.

Female Ural Owl

Box containing 3 Ural Owl chicks

That viewing went well, but we were running short of time. We had tried at one Pygmy Owl site with no luck. We had not been to the box and no male appeared to callback. The guide took us back there again and still no luck. He could have tried a second box, but it was a distance away and there was a Tengmalm's Owl to visit. On arrival at the Tengmalm's Owl the guide went straight towards the box and flushed the bird inside. It would not be encouraged out with the guide resorting to cap and stick tactics. 

That's the box. Not impressed by the method of getting the owl to come up.

So, we got 2 of a possible 6 owl species. We didn't have Northern Hawk-owl to try for, fair enough and we missed Short-eared Owl. Not a good result and when asked for help we were blanked and told it wasn't an owl trip. Very disappointed by our first experience of Finnature. I unfortunately had a fall on sticks after struggling to get out of the back of the minibus before the Great Grey Owl. I went on to struggle with pain and swelling of my leg all week and have since developed cellulitis and am now on antibiotics.

The tour finished just after 11am. We powered through the rest of the day, visiting sites locally. At the Liminka Bay Visitor Centre it looked as though the tide was out with birds mainly dista, but there are no tides here. Water is displaced according to wind direction and strength.

Huts in the bay are sometimes cut off by the waters.

Camberwell Beauty, a little ragged but doing well for having
overwintered in sub zero temperatures.

Cranes are common on the farm fields.

Next day we would move on to our second location.