Finland: Owls, Taiga and the South May 2022

Blessed with an astonishing array of boreal breeding birds, there is nowhere quite like Finland in Spring but in a land where wilderness is vast and the birds thinly spread, up-to-date local knowledge coupled with expert guidance are essential if one is to enjoy any chance of seeing the region's many special birds. On this three-centre tour, we have again been lucky enough to secure both.

We travel in May, when both the weather and the birding in Northern Europe is at its best as the majority of Finland’s Summer visitors will have arrived, and Scandinavia’s owls will be busy feeding their young.

 

The most sought-after specialities and a major tour highlight are the ‘Northern’ owls. Our adventure begins at Oulu, a port on the shore of the Gulf of Bothnia and the best place in Finland to see breeding owls. Pride of place goes to the majestic Great Grey Owl, but Tengmalm’s, Eurasian Pygmy and Ural Owls also breed in these sub-Arctic pinewoods and most years, there are also Hawk Owls to look for. With a network of local guides to assist us, we shall spend some time exploring Oulu’s tranquil forests and meadows, where we have an excellent chance of seeing most (if not all) of these species, with a good chance that some will be at close range.

 

Away from the forests, the coastal bays and rivers around Oulu hold dainty Little Gulls, displaying Temminck’s Stints and, with luck, Terek Sandpiper.

 

We will visit Liminka Bay, Finland’s most important wetland for waterfowl and shorebirds. Ruff should be lekking in the meadows and sporting their colourful collars and tufts. Numerous migratory birds stop off here on their way to the Arctic and immature Common Cranes and Whooper Swans pass the summer months in this region. The ghostly Pallid Harrier and gorgeous Citrine Wagtail are two rarities that may be present and if they are around, we will devote some time to look for them.

 

After three nights near Oulu, we head northeast towards the hills and forests that straddle the border with Russia. Around Kuusamo, we can expect to encounter a feast of Eastern boreal specialities. The untouched Siberian taiga with its moss-laden spruce forests, lichen-clad upland pine forests and wild river valleys preserves a rich flora and fauna, including many rarities. Hazel and Willow Grouse, Capercaillie, Red-necked Grebe, Black and Three-toed Woodpeckers, Siberian Jay, Siberian Tit, Waxwing and Little and Rustic Buntings all breed. Over the years, we have also enjoyed an unrivalled track record for finding the exquisite but extremely localised Red-flanked Bluetail.

 

An extra highlight of Limosa’s Finland tour, our itinerary again has the benefit of two days in the South and we will spend these exploring the excellent forests, lakes and marshes around the capital, Helsinki. Our main focus will be to find Finland’s late arriving specialist Southern breeders, such as Blyth’s Reed, Greenish and River Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Thrush Nightingale and Common Rosefinch. Finland’s Southern forests also hold many woodpeckers and, if conditions are right at the coast, we may see large numbers of divers, geese and other waterfowl streaming North towards their Arctic breeding grounds.

 

David Fairhurst has led this trip on two previous occasions and our 2022 tour will be his third visit to Finland. He will be assisted as usual by one or more local guides and this will be the 27th Limosa tour to Finland.

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