Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Viiksimi to Kuusamo 5th - 8th June

I had always planned to travel north via Oulu. If there had been owls around I intended to do a Finnature trip but owls were apparently almost non-existent this year. I got a message from Jan as I drove north to say one Great Grey Owl had been found in the Oulu area but I didn't fancy an organised trip for one owl.
It was overcast and cool when I arrived in Oulu and I drove straight to the Jaasalontie Road area which is famous for its nesting Terek Sandpiper, one of perhaps only 5 pairs in Finland. As luck would have it there was a British couple in a camper parked overlooking the pools where the Terek sometimes feeds. 
The famous Terek Pool at Oulu but without Terek, the little area of mud had disappearedby the following morning
The lady had seen the bird on the spoil tip area where they breed and a walk before had seen it on the pools where we were now looking. Not there now though so I walked up to the spoil heap. no sign there either.
Rather than spend the whole evening there I drove down to the Liminganlahti reserve, just down the coast, there is overnight parking, 5€ if you want electric. By now it was raining, more news from Jan that there had been several Pallid Harrier sightings in the Oulu area so I scanned the fields but without success. It was warmer, about 10C but still raining in the morning so I did I quick tour of the boardwalk to the tower hide; plenty of Ruff, Pied Flycatcher and Lesser Whitethroat in the bushes but all the geese which are here in the winter had gone north. I went back to try again for the Terek Sandpiper but in the persistent rain my heart wasn't really in it. If you want to see Terek Sandpiper go to Hong Kong or somewhere in the far east is my advice. I decided to carry on to Kuusamo.
Quite a few of the lakes were still frozen as I headed north but those that were ice free often had Black-throated Divers on them. 
Black-throated Divers were appearing on many unfrozen lakes
I drove up to the famous bird feeders at Konttainen which immediately washed away my blues from Oul, the sun was back out and within minutes of stopping I had seen Willow Tit (of the northern race borealis) at least 4 Siberian Jay, a new bird for me, but best of all a Red-flanked Bluetail singing in the woods behind the feeders.
Siberian Jay
I did my best to track the Bluetail down and eventually got sufficient views to confirm it was a second calendar year male, so brown like the female with only a cast of blue on the rump and tail. Still a Bluetail is a Bluetail so I wasn't complaining.
I slept in the feeder car park, this far north the sun didn't set so there was no darkness and I was glad of the blinds on the camper to give some semblance of night time.
I rose around 04:30 and walked round Konttainen Wood up to the top of the hill. Found the Siberian Jays at the top but couldn't relocate the Bluetail. I crossed the road to walk in the equally famous woods of Valtavaara, a female Goshawk swept past carrying prey. I went as far as the lake but without hearing anything new then walked back and drove round to the ski resort of Ruka to enter Valtavaara from the south. As I was approaching the lake again I heard the distinctive song of the Bluetail again and managed to get some photos of another second calendar year bird. 
Red-flanked Bluetail - second calendar year male
Whilst trying to get a bit closer I disturbed a male Capercaillie which clattered of from just a few metres away giving me quite a start. Back at Konttainen the male there was in full song again. There is a camp site near by but there were no signs to say it was open but apparently it was but there was only me in residence. The owner indicated that he had yet to put the sign outside which he duly did and another camper appeared, showing the importance of advertising!
Willow Tit - Poecile montanus borealis
I found a Willow Tits nest on the campsite but the light was poor and the photo results disappointing I wanted some decent shots to show how grey they are compared to British birds and as a comparison with Siberian Tit - when I finally found one.
The following morning was clear again and the temperature rose to a very pleasant 24C. I drove back down to Kuusumo to stock up on food and have a look around lake Toranki, there was still ice on the Kuusumo end but the southern end was clear and held a nice flock of 50 Goosander and my first pair of Velvet Scoter of the trip. As I was trying to photograph a pair of Black-throated Diver a Beaver swam past just metres from me but as soon as he saw me he dived not to be seen again.
Velvet Scott - male
I checked the bushes looking for Rustic or Little Bunting but without success but came across a nice Whooper Swan sat on its nest.
Back at the feeders to Bluetail was still in song, a couple of young Finnish birders thought that had had as many as 5 in the area.

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