Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Finland's Owls

Finland is a wonderful country, with a small population and fantastic natural resources, including plenty of owl species! Owls were the focus of this latest Ornitholidays tour, and here are a few of our sightings. We saw 6 species, and I managed to photograph 5. The Short-eared Owl was the one that escaped, but at least that can be seen in Britain. The first (right) is a Great Grey Owl, here seen on its man-made nest in a spruce forest. (Yes - the nest was constructed just in the hope of attracting this owl).

Next is a Hawk Owl (left). This was the hardest to find, as there have been no nesting records this year. Voles were abundant last year in Northern Finland, but (just our luck) they are very scarce this year. However, it made our discovery of this bird all the more satisfactory. We concluded after watching it for nearly an hour that it wasn't nesting, just living a solitary life trying to survive. 
Smallest of all is the Pygmy Owl (right) - not surprisingly the photos are not to scale. This is smaller than a thrush, but a fierce predator on small birds. Our local guide Ari found it for us (just as he found most of the others) thanks to his great knowledge of the local area, and thanks to a network of other birders who all share their sightings by text messages or mobile phone calls. 

Next comes a Tengmalm's Owl - this is a juvenile waiting patiently in the nest box for the next vole. This is the only one of the 5 photos which was not taken through the telescope. It is about a month old, on the point of fledging. Its older siblings had already left the nest - so at least one area had a good vole year.

Finally, one of the most beautiful owls is this Ural Owl (right). It's a larger, paler relative of our Tawny Owl. This one had recently-hatched young in a nest-box nearby. These owls can be aggressive near the nest, so Ari had to move very slowly to avoid its displeasure. It watched us carefully, giving a quiet woof! - rather like a dachshund. We soon left it in peace. In mid-summer there's little chance for these northern owls to be nocturnal - it's light all round the clock. 

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