Monday, March 12, 2007

Anser Finland/Azure Tit 9-10 March 2007 trip report

Anser Finland trip report 9-10 March 2007

Eight of us left for Stansted at 0100 and flew out to Finland via Ryanair. We arrived at Tampere later than expected and quickly organised our car hire before picking up Peter Uppstu just outside the town. We headed straight for Uurainen and arrived at the snow-bound car park in the village. The first feeders were next to us in the garden where we were allowed to park, Crested and Northern Willow Tits were a welcome distraction. We split up each with walkie talkies to cover the feeders at each house. After ten minutes the Azure Tit arrived on a feeder at no.69. It fed for a minute or two but only myself and two other British birders got on it before the rest of the party got there. It flew off as they arrived and didn't re-appear for what seemed a long time. It showed briefly and again dissapeared, despite it snowing I was sweating now but eventually we all saw it many times as it went to and from the feeders. Peter and I got talking with a local girl who lived 1km from where we were watching the bird, she was interested in what was going on and I explained why we were there and how we had not even had breakfast, had drove overnight and straight from the airport. About 40 minutes later she came sledging over the hill with coffee, sandwiches, biscuits, paper cups and all the provisions that a group of Eurobirding nutters could need. I also managed to try out the sledge a few times and enjoyed myself immensly but for some reason the others were more into the coffee and the bird!
I forget her name at the moment but it was a such a kind gesture and she was offended when I offered to pay and had to trick her into taking a payment, we were all very grateful. She is pictured handing out provisions below. After everyone enjoyed the bird we headed off to try to fit in some more species but ran out of light. We drove around the forest tracks NE off Tampere listening for owls and were rewarded with 2-3 Tengmalm's calling for a mate. Eagle and Pygmy Owl were also heard recently but the drizzle was probably affecting their behaviour.

We arrived in Tampere, ate in a Turkish pizzeria and retired to our budget hotel at 11.00pm to try to get some sleep. Up again at 0530 and off to look for more birds. We made a u-turn on the main road to access a missed service area entrance for breakfast and the occupants of car number two saw two Hazelhen on the track next to the car. We had breakfast then tried to see them again but there was no sign. We then saw a Black Woodpecker fly over the car and were all soon watching it in a clearing and perched up on a lone standing tree. Our main target was Siberian Jay so we pressed on to the forest. The tracks were heavily snowed up but we got through and saw a male Black Grouse that flew across the road from the birches. A male Capercaillie was located adjacent to the cars and gave us great views before eventually flying off. The jay stakeout gave us more tits, Common Crossbills, Northern Bullfinches and Siskin were noted. No sign of the jays.

Heading back to Tampere we saw three Whooper Swans, first spring arrivals on some open water. A garden feeder was our next stop and we eventually saw a male Grey-headed Woodpecker as well as Yellowhammers and Redpolls. Peter made many calls and we decided to try for Sibe Jay at another site. We were met by one of the forest conservationists who took us to his feeding station and two Siberian Jays performed on/off for us for 20 minutes. Treecreeper and Great spotted Woodpecker were also seen as well as the tit species again. Back on the road and we decided not to try for Willow Grouse and to head for Pori for the Steller's Eider. We saw this bird well near the seawall and also added Goosanders, White-tailed Eagle, Glaucous Gull (four in the bay) and c30 Waxwing. We had a flight to catch so had to leave. More Waxwings were seen from the car and a Ural Owl flew across the road on the way. We said goodbye to Peter, caught our flight and arrived in Glos at 02.20 on Sunday morning. A stop at Cambridge services added Barn Owl.

I had a great but tiring time with all that went. Thanks to all seven chaps that joined me for this trip for your company and in donating over 120 euros to the ancient forest protection charity that the last 7-8 pairs of Siberian Jays so rely on in this part of Finland. Lets hope they can stop the felling. Please e-mail if you have spotted any omissions or mistakes, I am still a bit tired so there must be some and will edit it if possible in future.
Special thanks to Peter who worked hard for us, was so good humoured and taught me how to speak in English a bit better.

Siberian Jay image by Neil Smart all other images M.J.McGill

A Finnish nurse tending to the patients Crested Tit on a feeder
Northern Willow Tit
The female Steller's Eider near Pori