Owls and Taiga Itinerary
Arrival at Oulu airport. You will be collected from the airport and transferred in the minibus to the hotel, which is only five minutes drive from the airport. We will stay for three nights in a peaceful family-run hotel, where a lovely view of the Gulf of Bothnia stretchers from the hotel premises. We will eat our dinner at the hotel restaurant and, if time and energy allow, we will make our first excursion in search of our specialities. A guide with up-to-date local knowledge will accompany us throughout the trip to guarantee real chances of success in pursuit of our quest.
The province of Oulu offers, without doubt, the best opportunities for birdwatching in Finland. Although there are no extensive forests here, the area is well known for its breeding owls, which includes Eagle, Ural, Great Grey, Tengmalm’s, Long-eared and Pygmy Owl. Owl numbers fluctuate according to their food supply and if it is a good vole year, our chances of seeing them all will increase. We will spend plenty of time in the forests in search for the owls and have an excellent chance to see them at close range (late nights!). Other interesting forest species we might catch a glimpse of are Willow Grouse, Capercaillie, Black Grouse, Three-toed Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Parrot Crossbill and Rustic Bunting.
The vast areas of peatland around Oulu provide important nesting sites for Cranes, Bean Geese and waders such as the Wood Sandpiper, Jack Snipe and Broad-billed Sandpiper. The area is also the best place to see Little Tern, a rare species in Finland. The sandy beaches offer great resting sites for rare waders such as Temminck's Stint and Terek Sandpiper.
The west coast is typically a lowland agricultural area favoured by migrating waterfowl and waders. We will spend some time on the coast of Bothnian Bay, where big numbers of divers, scoters and Long-tailed Ducks should be seen. Long hours of daylight mean that we can continue birdwatching long into the night!
We will also visit the most important wetland in Finland, LiminganLahti, a wide, shallow bay dominated by vast, natural expanses of rushes, meadows, reeds and willows. Here, a boardwalk through wet grassland and shrubs leads to a raised viewing platform that overlooks the massive Liminka Bay. In addition, five observation towers in the area provide ideal vantage points of the bay, where waterfowl and shorebirds abound. Hundreds of Wood Sandpipers, Spotted Redshanks and Ruffs occupy the shore meadows. The Marsh Sandpiper, a rare species in Finland, can be seen here every year, and there are usually hundreds of young cranes on the fields surrounding the bay. The sight of a Crane or a Whooper Swan (the Finnish national bird) building its nest is something you will never forget. The Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier and Montagu's Harrier regularly nest and hunt in the area, and even the Pallid Harrier has been encountered. The bay is also an important area for bird migration and many interesting species can be found, including big numbers of Lapland Bunting. The fantastic views, the sunset, booming Bitterns, silent siluettes of Short-eared Owl, trumpeting swans and bursts of Rosefinch song will make our visit here particularly memorable.
We will drive eastwards through the beautiful northern landscape blanketed with forests and boglands, past lakes and rivers to a small town not far from the Russian border, Kuusamo. En route, we will stop at different localities in search of birds. The journey will last between 3-5 hours, depending on how much time we spend birding. We will stay for three nights in traditional Finnish cottage on the edge of expansive taiga forest and lake.
Kuusamo has long been regarded as a wilderness county, filled with lakes and forested hills. In the southern part of Kuusamo, there is a mosaic of varied natural forests, intersected with mires and fens, as well as small waterways. The variety of wildlife is high here and all the large carnivores found in Finland have been sighted in the area. Elk is fairly common and we will be extremely unlucky not to encounter a Reindeer. The forests, with some of the trees over 600 years old, offer good opportunities for watching woodland species such as woodpeckers, owls and grouse. The Flying Squirrel also lives here.
An undoubful highlight of our stay in Kuusamo will be a visit to untouched taiga forest in Oulanka National Park. Oulanka is the westernmost extreme of the taiga or boreal coniferous zone where lakes, river valleys, magnificent waterfalls, bogs and riverine meadows abound. It was established in 1956 and covers over 270 sq. km. In addition to the beard-lichen, thick-bossed spruce forest, lichen-clad upland pine forests, wild river valleys and aapa bogs, the park also preserves flora and fauna embracing innumerable rarities. Oukanka is home to some rare plants, such as Calypso and Lady's Slipper and over 7000 species of insects. The park is also the domain of the Brown Bear, but we will be very lucky to encounter this animal on our trip.
The nature conservation area in Valtavaara contains a good example of old taiga forest. Here, we can expect to encounter a veritable feast of eastern specialities including Siberian Jay, Siberian Tit, Waxwing, Black and Three-toed Woodpeckers, Black Grouse, Willow Grouse and Capercaillie. However, the most memorable aspect of the tour for some of us will be a sighting of the shy taiga jewel, the Red-flanked Bluetail, being at the western limit of its range here. Red-necked Grebe, Little Gull and Crossbills also favour this area and, with some luck, we can encounter a Pine Grosbeak or Hazel Grouse. Spotted Redshank, Jack Snipe, Temminck’s Stint, Wood Sandpiper and Broad-billed Sandpiper are found here on the bogs.
There are a few interesting lakes in the area and short visits to them should produce a good mixture of birds such as Black-throated Diver, Arctic Tern, Red-necked Phalarope, Goosander and Whooper Swan.
Today, we will drive back to Oulu to catch our flight to the UK.
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