Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Pyhantunturi and the hills of Kiilopaa and Kaunispaa 9th/10th and 13th June

Continuing North I drove through Sodankyla and back down to the ski village of Pyantunturi, I'd missed a turning that could have shortened my journey but not to worry.
I chose a parking spot just outside the village by a lake with 50 Whoopers on it, very picturesque but I'd forgotten how noisy a herd of Whooper Swan can be and they trumpeted on and of thought out the night, by 3am I'd had enough and decided to make an early start. 
Whooper Swans - note to self - don't park overnight near them!
I was intending to walk the nature trail by the ski resort and I was glad a did, beautiful ancient pine forest gave way to wet woodland and open bog all in the space of about 5km. 
The nature trail at Pyhatunturi
At 4am it was so peaceful with just the birds and me. Wood Sandpipers displayed on the marsh and Greenshank called from the tree tops! It really was a beautiful walk but again no sign of the Rustic or Little Buntings which are sometimes found there.
Wood Sandpiper
Greenshank - calling from the trees
Back in Sodankyla and drove to Lake Kelujarvi again searching for the elusive buntings but again without success. 
My next stop were the two hills of Kiilopaa and Kaunispaa. I walked up Kiilopaa late in the day first and saw nothing, apparently an early morning visit is called for. I parked up at Kaunispaa and in a short walk around midnight had brief views of two Dotterel in flight, these were my target for the following morning. It was T Shirt weather when I arrived but the weather changed overnight and it was just above freezing the following morning with a mist on the hill. I delayed my walk until about 07:00 by which time it had brightened a bit. It wasn't long before I could hear the pipping calls of the Dotterel and I located first one pair then two more. 
What beautiful birds these are and it was a real treat to be able to sit so close and watch them. At one point the female sank low to the ground then started to rotate - she was creating her nest scrape! 
Dotterel - female making nest scrape
I watched them for several hours, occasionally there was interplay between the three pairs when one must have come too close to anothers territory resulting in a brief dispute.
I returned to Kiilopaa on the 13th June planning an early start but my phone packed in and the alarm never sounded so it was 06:30 when I rose not 04:00 as planned. Walking up the hill I met another Finnish birder who had made the early start and had been rewarded with Ptarmigan and Willow Grouse but both had disappeared. The Ptarmigan was a male still in all white plumage and with most of the snow gone he should certainly stand out if he was around. It took an hour but eventually he was located and I got some nice photos with a range of backgrounds but with a very overcast sky. 
Although I walked for a further 10km there was no sign of the Willow Grouse, but surely I'll see these further north.
On the 12th June I tried again for Little Bunting on the outskirts of Ivalo and finally with success! I located a pair just off the Murmansk Road on the outskirts of town the male was in song but the female was also present so they had perhaps not completed a nest yet.

Little Bunting
That afternoon I made another search for Siberian Tit, and I was clearly having a good day as I located several birds on the Kuttur Guhtar Road west of Kiilopaa. 
Siberian Tit
This is probably not the best time to look for them as half the population is sitting on eggs and the other half are probably less vocal then earlier in the Spring. Still it was great to finally catch up with them.

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