Monday 12 June 2017


I am recently back from Finland, where I co-led the Ornitholidays tour. We spent most of our days in the Oulu and Kuusamo areas, just south of the Arctic Circle. We were surprised by the lateness of the season: Oulu Bay was still  full of ice on 20 May, and many inland lakes were still frozen. One result was that Waxwings were more visible than usual - they were an everyday bird for us in the north. 

My co-leader Pirita worked very hard to find us the special birds we hoped to see. Here, at a sunny lunch break near Kuusamo, we were discussing where to go next. Unfortunately, a shortage of voles in the area made owls hard to find. We had one spectacular success.....
Pirita led us unerringly into a pinewood where this magnificent Great Grey Owl was spending a solitary spring, with no mate and few rodents to eat. Luckily it was settled in its daytime roost and not perturbed by our presence. I took this photo on my phone, through the scope.

The spruce and pine forests of the Kuusamo area are renowned for grouse populations: this male Capercaillie allowed a close approach. With snow only just melting, they were having a late breeding season this year. 

The Siberian Jay is often elusive in June since they retreat into spruce forests to breed. They survive all the year in the far north, becoming confiding around human habitations, like their close cousin the Grey Jay (or whiskyjack) in the Canadian north. 

Finland is a land of thousands of lakes. Where they were beginning to thaw, large numbers of duck often gathered on the ice-edge. The birches were still not ready to bud even in late May.  

Most of the duck were Teal and Goldeneye, with smaller numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers and Goosanders. There was antagonism among the drake Smew for territory, while the chestnut-headed females took no notice and continued preening. The wild songs of Greenshank and Wood Sandpipers were regular accompaniments to these scenes. Many thanks to Ross and Alan for the photos that were not mine.