Birding through Finland
26 May, 7 June, 2001

By Stefano e Daniela Fantini - Italy

Getting ready

The huge work of planning the trip began about seven months before taking off. During this time I have been collecting reports and info from any resource I could find. Obviously almost all brochures and info was written in English and I had to translate everything. I quickly gave up the idea of taking part of an organised tour because of the high costs. That’s why I had spent so much time in planning, contacting people, getting reservation and so on. We have chosen this time for the trip because we intended to get the best from spring singers and hoped to avoid mosquitoes.

We have not been very lucky with weather (often cloudy and sometimes raining and snowing), but we enjoyed very much the untouched Finnish wilderness and we got a very good day in Norway (Varanger). At the end we have had 135 species with more than 50 new for us.


I MUST thank many people who helped me in making my trip real. First of all, my heart-thanking for Patricia Galloway, who brought me the brochure by Finnair-Finnature. That pictures and words were inviting JUST ME there. Most of all I have to mention Simon Wooley and Bernhard Herren, whom supplied me with "golden" info, brochures and magazines about birdwatching in Finland. Another particular mention is for Reijo Anttonen & Kerstin, who gave us a very friendly welcome in Porvoo. Last (in order of time) our best thanks to Peter Rostin for the very peaceful and home-like accommodation in Kuusamo.

Then a big thank to
- all people who guided us in finding birds
Hanna and Janne Aalto (Parikkala area) hsoikkel@mail.student.oulu.fi
Heikki Seppänen (Kuusamo area) heikki.seppanen@nls.fi
Jari Peltomaki (Finnature guide) jari@finnature.sci.fi
- all of our contacts there: Ilpo Hall (Helsinki), Olli Karhu (Ivalo), Olavi Nyyssänen (Sodänkyla), Heikki Karhu (Ivalo), Harri Högmander (Jyväskylä), Alf Tore Mjøs (Norway)
- all contacts in and abroad: Pascal Boulesteix, Roberto Garavaglia, Menotti Passarella.

Bibliography and Internet resources
www.finnature.sci.fi, www.birdlife.fi, www.publiscan.fi, www.wakkanet.fi, www.saunalahti.fi, www.birdguides.co.uk/foreign/Finland.html, www.camacdonald.com/birding/birding.htm

www.ukolo.fi (Ivalo), www.matkaruka.com/varaus (Kuusamo), www.lomarengas.fi, lintulahti@co.inet.fi (Virolahti), www.wakkanet.fi, peurasuvanto@hotmail.com (near Sodankylä), Miekkaniemi Bed&Breakfast (Viitasaari), Helsinki Expert (Helsinki), Rastila Camping (Helsinki), Vestre Jakobselv Campground c/o Bernt Helmersen, Postboks 59, 9810 Vadsø - Norway

Useful magazines:
: issues no. 2/1996 (Värtsilä), no. 2/1995 (Aland), no. 1/1995 (Kuusamo)
Birding in Finland, by Dave Gosney 1991

The trip: from 26th May to 9th June

We left Italy early in the morning but we had been able to reach Helsinki only at 8,30 pm because of flight problems. In this way we lose the first half day.

27th May
Weather: cold and cloudy.
We left our Guest House (which I do not feel to suggest to anyone) in the centre of Helsinki and spent a couple of hours in turning around the town. At 11 am we took the boat for Korkesaari Zoo and already we have had some birding (Common Gull, Herring Gull, Hooded Crow, Swift, White Wagtail, Fieldfare Great and Blue Tit).
When we landed we quickly realised that some good new birds were near: Lesser Black-backed Gull, Barnacle Goose. During our visit we had also: Common Tern, Tufted Duck, House Sparrow, White Wagtail, Hooded Crow, Pied Flycatcher, Jackdaw, Oystercatcher, Common Starling, Fieldfare, Magpie, House Martin, Barn Swallow, Swift, Chaffinch and Blackbird. In the jails we saw Eagle Owl, Snowy Owl, Great Grey Owl, Ural Owl and Hawk Owl: we still did not know that it was our only opportunity to see them.

28th May
Weather: cold and cloudy (some rain).
Moved towards Parikkala, with a short stop at Porvoo (beautiful the old city!). We reached Siikalahti at 5 pm and we headed for the bird tower. Here we felt like to be home for the quantity of waterbirds, but we had other 6 new entries in our life list: Little Gull, Horned Grebe, White-backed Woodpecker, Smew, Whooper Swan. In the wood near the bird-tower we had a "Phylloscopus", which we identified only at home as Greenish Warbler.
We stopped at the tower for a couple of hours and we got also: Shoveler, Mallard, Coot, Garganey, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Black-headed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Cuckoo, Great Crested Grebe, Great Reed Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Chiffchaff, Marsh Harrier, Hobby, Yellow and White Wagtails, Bittern, Lapwing.
After having discovered all possible birds here, we drove towards Kerimäki in order to see the largest wooden church of the world. Unfortunately we reached the church some minutes after it has been closed. During the driving we added Great Spotted Woodpecker and Collared Dove.
How nice to practice birdwatching after 9pm with sun light!

29th May
Weather: cold and cloudy (some rain).
Janne told us to visit a small (very small) lake along the main road no. 6 at Särkisalmi. With great pleasure there we had close views of other new species: Red-necked Grebe and Red-breasted Merganser, along with Goldeneye, Common Tern, White Wagtail and Marsh Warbler.
From Särkisalmi we headed North-East on the road no. 6, to make a round trip near the Russian border (Kesusmaa, Rasvaniemi, Kannas). This itinerary gave us the possibility of getting Common Rosefinch, Red-backed Shrike, Sand Martin, Yellowhammer (very common everywhere), Whinchat, Brambling, Osprey, Curlew (also very common).
We spend the rest of the morning again in Siikalahti, but did not find any new.
At 3 pm we had been guided by Janne in search of new species: a wonderful sighting of Black Woodpecker at the nest feeding his three young, then a 25-member group of Cranes, completely satisfied our wishes.

30th May
The transfer to Oulu took almost the whole day.
We reached Liminganlahti at about 7 pm, but we had been not satisfied from that place, which is world-knew ad a bird paradise. Probably Spring still had not broke and we find there only: Whooper Swan, Black-Tailed Godwit, Redshank, Coot, Shelduck, Bean Goose, Mallard, Pintail, Shoveler, Wheatear, Marsh Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler, Pied Flycatcher.
At 9 pm we had appointment with a Finnature guide to spend the night searching for Owls. What a delusion! We have been carried out by the guide for the whole night without finding any kind of Owl. We even tried to contact Hazel Grouse with tapeplaying with no success. So our 1.000 FIM (!!) had gone for a Three-toed Woodpecker, a couple of Woodcock and a male of Capercaillie. Despite this, the night without darkness had been a great experience.

31st May
This day began very early. We left our useless guide at about 5 in the morning. We drive towards another bird tower in Liminka bay and had: Ortolan Bunting, Jay, Rook, Lapwing, many Curlews, Reed Bunting, Lapwing, Tufted Duck and a wonderful male of Red-breasted Merganser.
Unsatisfied of this important bird area, we took the car and drove until Kuusamo-Kitka, where we realised that we would very appreciated our staying in a wonderful cabin just on the lake. In few minutes here we had: Rough-legged Buzzard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Redstart, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Siskin, Greenfinch, Hooded Crow, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Common Sandpiper and Curlew.
In the afternoon we decided to explore the lakes to North-West of Kitka. In a round trip of about 20 km we found out: Smew (4 females and 2 males), a Capercaillie female, Goosander, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Wood Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtail, Redwing, Common and Arctic Tern, Ruff.

1st June
Cloudy but warm.
Following D. Gosney report, we reached the birdtower at Toranki Lake, but were deluded again. We could find there only Little Gull, Black-headed Gull, Teal, Wigeon, Goldeneye and a Marsh Harrier female. After that we headed for Koskenkylä and, at the end of the road we had: Yellow Wagtail, Bullfinch, Swallow, House Martin, Redstart, Common Crossbill, Chiffchaff. We decided to stop there some minutes and have lunch. What a good idea! A Great-spotted Woodpecker had chosen the same place to have lunch and showed itself at less than 3 meters while we kept shocked inside the car.
Getting back towards Kuusamo, we had been able to find the way to Kiurusuo (not easy to describe) and there we soon have a wonderful male of Black Grouse flying. After few minutes of stopping at the lake: a couple of Black-throated Loons, a pair of Arctic Tern and a pair of Common Scoter, Goldeneye, Cuckoo, Common Sandpiper and male Ruff.

2nd June
Following again the D. Gosney report, we tried Valtavaara ridge. Even here the spring had not still arrived and so we found out no Bluetail or Parrot Crossbill. The only species we found were Siskin, Redstart, Raven, Goldcrest, Brambling. Nevertheless we got satisfaction from the beautiful landscape from Valtavaara ridge in a sunny day.

3rd June
In the early morning we left our comfortable cottage (thank you again, Peter!) and headed for Ivalo. A two-hour stop at Kiilopää gave us other two very good new species: Arctic Redpoll and Bluethroat, along with Redwing, Magpie, Brambling and Chiffchaff. No traces of Lapland or Snow Bunting.
We reached Ukonjärvi Camping at about 8 pm. A short walk around the camping produced: Arctic Tern, Rough-legged Buzzard, Common Sandpiper, Redwing, Curlew, Arctic Redpoll and Bluethroat again, Pied Flycatcher, Brambling and my first Waxwing (easy to approach).

4th June
From Ivalo, we reached the Norwegian border in a couple of hours and at about 12am got to Varangerbotn. We did not find anything special at the beginning of the bay, so we drove towards Nesseby. Along the road we had some stops to see: Eider, Steller’s Eider, Velvet Scoter, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Shelduck.
At Nesseby church pond we finally found just what was written in several reports: Red-necked Phalarope (3 pairs) and Ruff, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, White Wagtail, Kittiwake, Arctic Tern.
At Vadsø we soon realised that many new species were easy to find: Dunlin, Turnstone, Ruff and Wheatear were everywhere. Found many Purple Sandpiper and then Bar-tailed Godwit and Horned Lark. But the top specie we had that day is White-tailed Eagle. A wonderful sighting of an adult with a captured fish, mobbed by Hooded Crows!
The road that leads from Nesseby to Vardø follows the coast line and is very good for birdwatching.
12 Km after Vadsø there is an island named Ekkeroy. It has a Kittiwake colony and we found there also Black Guillemot, Meadow Pipit a group of seven Knots along with Eider, Steller’s Eider, Wheatear, Arctic Tern, Great Black-backed, Herring and Common Gulls, House Sparrow, Ringed Plover.

5th June
We had thought to reach Vardø and have a look at Hornoya Island, but a snow storm forced us to change our plans. During the driving we watched a pair of Rough-legged Buzzard (probably near their nest). We had also Whimbrel, Pomarine and Parasitic Skuas, White-tailed Eagle, Glaucous Gull, Snow Bunting.
In the afternoon (at about 6 pm) the snow had stopped and we were under a heavy cloudy sky. Getting back to Vadsø we added two new species: Red-throated Pipit and a wonderful Short-eared Owl. Once in Vadsø we decided to watch more accurately the birds near Statoil petrol station. We found there: Little and Temminck’s Stint, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Herring and Common Gull. All these species in a 15 meters shore.

6th June
The day after the sun was shining bright and we decided to try again to move northwards. We reached Hamningberg at about 11am. During the driving we had: Parasitic Skua, Snow Bunting, Lapland Bunting, Rough-legged Buzzard, Wheatear, Herring, Great Black-blacked and Common Gull, Arctic Tern, Kittiwake, Eider, Steller’s Eider, hundreds of Goosanders and a wonderful pair of Long-tailed Duck. In Hamningberg we looked out for about an hour. We found Black Guillemot, Gannet, Cormorant, House Martin, Purple Plover, Turnstone.
We headed back to Vardø and the boat took us to Hornoya. We landed in a bird paradise, where thousands and thousands of birds were nesting.
Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Brunnich’s Guillemots, Puffins and Razorbills were crying and flying all around. Shags were also nesting here. What a nice sighting! We had also: Great Black-backed, Herring and Common Gulls, Eider, Rock Pipit.

7th June
Time for birdwatching was ended. We spent the day in travelling southwards and in doing shopping at Napapiiri.

8th June
Our travel plan towards Helsinki included a stop at Viitasaari. While Daniela was having a rest I spent about an hour in search of birds nearby our Bed & Breakfast. With some "pishing" I could find out Fieldfare, Blackbird, Redwing, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Siskin, Pied Flycatcher and a Great-spotted Woodpecker. There was also Common Starling, Hooded Crow, Magpie, Swift, Swallow and White Wagtail. During my short walk in the pine wood I could quickly realise that mosquitoes were becoming very noising and I felt happy to move out from there.

Bird List

  1. Black-throated Loon, Gavia arctica, Strolaga mezzana
  2. Horned Grebe, Podiceps auritus, Svasso cornuto
  3. Great Crested Grebe, Podiceps cristatus, Svasso maggiore
  4. Red-necked Grebe, Podiceps grisegena, Svasso collorosso
  5. Gannet, Morus bassanus, Sula
  6. Cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo, Cormorano
  7. Shag, Phalacrocorax aristotelis, Marangone dal ciuffo
  8. Bittern, Botaurus stellaris, Tarabuso
  9. Whooper Swan, Cygnu cygnus, Cigno selvatico
  10. Bean Goose, Anser fabalis, Oca granaiola
  11. Barnacle Goose, Branta leucopsis, Oca facciabianca
  12. Shelduck, Tadorna tadorna, Volpoca
  13. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos, Germano reale
  14. Pintail, Anas acuta, Codone
  15. Shoveler, Anas clypeata, Mestolone
  16. Wigeon, Anas penelope, Fischione
  17. Teal, Anas crecca, Alzavola
  18. Garganey, Anas querquedula, Marzaiola
  19. Pochard, Aythya ferina, Moriglione
  20. Tufted Duck, Aythya fuligula, Moretta
  21. Eider, Somateria mollissima, Edredone
  22. Steller’s Eider, Polysticta stelleri, Edredone di Steller
  23. Common Scoter, Melanitta nigra, Orchetto marino
  24. Velvet Scoter, Melanitta fusca, Orco marino
  25. Long-tailed Duck, Clangula hyemalis, Moretta codona
  26. Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula, Quattrocchi
  27. Smew, Mergellus albellus, Pesciaiola
  28. Goosander, Mergus merganser, Smergo maggiore
  29. Red-breasted Merganser, Mergus serrator, Smergo minore
  30. White-tailed Eagle, Haliaeetus albicilla, Aquila di mare
  31. Osprey, Pandion haliaetus, Falco pescatore
  32. Marsh Harrier, Circus aeruginosus, Falco di palude
  33. Rough-legged Buzzard, Buteo lagopus, Poiana calzata
  34. Hobby, Falco subbuteo, Lodolaio
  35. Capercaillie, Tetrao urogallus, Gallo cedrone
  36. Black Grouse, Tetrao tetrix, Gallo forcello
  37. Coot, Fulica atra, Folaga
  38. Crane, Grus grus, Gru
  39. Oystercatcher, Haematopus ostralegus, Beccaccia di mare
  40. Ringed Plover, Charadrius hiaticula, Corriere grosso
  41. Golden Plover, Pluvialis apricaria, Piviere dorato
  42. Lapwing, Vanellus vanellus, Pavoncella
  43. Knot, Calidris canutus, Piovanello maggiore
  44. Purple Sandpiper, Calidris maritima, Piovanello violetto
  45. Turnstone, Arenaria interpres, Voltapietre
  46. Dunlin, Calidris alpina, Piovanello pancianera
  47. Temminck’s Stint, Calidris temminckii, Gambecchio nano
  48. Little Stint, Calidris minuta, Gambecchio
  49. Wood Sandpiper, Tringa glareola, Piro piro boschereccio
  50. Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos, Piro piro piccolo
  51. Redshank, Tringa totanus, Pettegola
  52. Black-tailed Godwit, Limosa limosa, Pittima reale
  53. Bar-tailed Godwit, Limosa lapponica, Pittima minore
  54. Curlew, Numenius arquata, Chiurlo maggiore
  55. Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus, Chiurlo piccolo
  56. Woodcock, Scolopax rusticola, Beccaccia
  57. Red-necked Phalarope, Phalaropus lobatus, Falaropo beccosottile
  58. Ruff, Philomachus pugnax, Combattente
  59. Pomarine Skua, Stercorarius pomarinus, Stercorario mezzano
  60. Parasitic Skua, Stercorarius parasiticus, Labbo
  61. Black-headed Gull, Larus ridibundus, Gabbiano comune
  62. Common Gull, Larus canus, Gavina
  63. Herring Gull, Larus argentatus, Gabbiano reale nordico
  64. Lesser Black-backed Gull, Larus fuscus, Zafferano
  65. Great Black-backed Gull, Larus marinus, Mugnaiaccio
  66. Little Gull, Larus minutus, Gabbianello
  67. Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla, Gabbiano tridattilo
  68. Glaucous Gull, Larus hyperboreus, Gabbiano glauco
  69. Common Tern, Sterna hirundo, Sterna
  70. Arctic Tern, Sterna paradisaea, Sterna codalunga
  71. Caspian Tern, Sterna caspia, Sterna maggiore
  72. Puffin, Fratercula arctica, Pulcinella di mare
  73. Black Guillemot, Cepphus grylle, Uria nera
  74. Guillemot, Uria aalge, Uria
  75. Brünnich’s Guillemot, Uria lomvia, Uria di Brünnich
  76. Razorbill, Alca torda, Gazza marina
  77. Wood Pigeon, Columba palumbus, Colombaccio
  78. Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto, Tortora dal collare orientale
  79. Cuckoo, Cuculus canorus, Cuculo
  80. Short-eared Owl, Asio flammeus, Gufo di palude
  81. Swift, Apus apus, Rondone
  82. Black Woodpecker, Dryocopus martius, Picchio nero
  83. Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos major, Picchio rosso maggiore
  84. White-backed Woodpecker, Dendrocopos leucotos, Picchio dorsobianco
  85. Horned Lark, Eremophila alpestris, Allodola golagialla
  86. Sand Martin, Riparia riparia, Topino
  87. Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica, Rondine
  88. House Martin, Delichon urbica, Balestruccio
  89. Rock Pipit, Anthus petrosus, Spioncello marino
  90. Meadow Pipit, Anthus pratensis, Pispola
  91. Red-throated Pipit, Anthus cervinus, Pispola golarossa
  92. White Wagtail, Motacilla alba alba, Ballerina bianca
  93. Yellow Wagtail, Motacilla flava (thunbergi), Cutrettola
  94. Waxwing, Bombycilla, garrulus, Beccofrusone
  95. Bluethroat, Luscinia svecica svecica, Pettazzurro
  96. Redstart, Phoenicurus phoenicurus, Codirosso
  97. Wheatear, Oenanthe oenanthe, Culbianco
  98. Whinchat, Saxicola rubetra, Stiaccino
  99. Redwing, Turdus iliacus, Tordo sassello
  100. Fieldfare, Turdus pilaris, Cesena
  101. Blackbird, Turdus merula, Merlo
  102. Sedge Warbler, Acrocephalus schoenobaneus, Forapaglie
  103. Reed Warbler, Acrocephalus scirpaceus, Cannaiola
  104. Marsh Warbler, Acrocephalus palustris, Cannaiola verdognola
  105. Willow Warbler, Phylloscopus trochilus, Luì grosso
  106. Chiffchaff, Phylloscopus collybita, Luì piccolo
  107. Greenish Warbler, Phylloscopus trochiloides, Luì verdastro
  108. Goldcrest, Regulus regulus, Regolo
  109. Spotted Flycatcher, Muscicapa striata, Pigliamosche
  110. Pied Flycatcher, Ficedula hypoleuca, Balia nera
  111. Great Tit, Parus major, Cinciallegra
  112. Blue Tit, Parus caeruleus, Cinciarella
  113. Willow Tit, Parus montanus, Cincia bigia alpestre
  114. Red-backed Shrike, Lanius collurio, Averla piccola
  115. Magpie, Pica pica, Gazza
  116. Jay, Garrulus glandarius, Ghiandaia
  117. Jackdaw, Corvus monedula, Taccola
  118. Rook, Corvus frugilegus, Corvo
  119. Hooded Crow, Corvus corone cornix, Cornacchia grigia
  120. Raven, Corvus corax, Corvo imperiale
  121. Common Starling, Sturnus vulgaris, Storno
  122. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, Passero
  123. Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs, Fringuello
  124. Brambling, Fringilla montifringilla, Peppola
  125. Arctic Redpoll, Carduelis hornemanni, Organetto artico
  126. Greenfinch, Carduelis chloris, Verdone
  127. Siskin, Carduelis spinus, Lucarino
  128. Bullfinch, Pyrrhula pyrrhula, Ciuffolotto
  129. Common Crossbill, Loxia curvirostra, Crociere
  130. Common Rosefinch, Carpodacus erythrinus, Ciuffolotto scarlatto
  131. Reed Bunting, Emberiza schoeniclus, Migliarino di palude
  132. Snow Bunting, Plectrophenax nivalis, Zigolo delle nevi
  133. Lapland Bunting, Calcarius lapponicus, Zigolo di Lapponia
  134. Ortolan Bunting, Emberiza hortulana, Ortolano
  135. Yellowhammer, Emberiza citrinella, Zigolo giallo


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