12th - 18th February 2007

Monday 12th – Margaret and myself set off for a weeks holiday in Finland flying with Ryanair from Liverpool and arriving early in Tampere at 6.30pm. After collecting the hire car it was out into the snow on a clear cold night, we headed south down the highway clear of snow, and found a hotel in Hameenlinna for the night.


Tuesday 13th – An early start as we met our guide Mika Bruun for the day near Hyvinkaa at 8 am. The first stop of the day was a well known site for Great Grey Owl, we started to search the trees around the clearing for any roosting birds but all we could find were eight Common Crossbills and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. We then headed to a nearby field to look for Ural Owl but a walk around just produced three male Black Grouse.

As the snow started to fall Mika had one more field for use to check, just a kilometre up the road. As we pulled up on the roadside Mika started to scan the clearing and within a few seconds he spotted a magnificent Great Grey Owl perched on a small spruce tree. Wow, what a huge bird, giving excellent views as it was scanning from the tops of small trees. As we got closer to the bird it carried on hunting as if we were not even present and then it pounced into the snow unsuccessfully. Also present was a pair of Grey-headed Woodpeckers calling from the treetops and then when the snow started to ease the owl flew into the surrounding trees.


Great Grey Owl

After getting the target bird of the trip we went in search of Pygmy Owls around all the local feeding stations but all we could locate were ‘borealis’ Willow and Crested Tits as well as 3 more Grey-headed Woodpeckers and a group of six Arctic Redpoll flew overhead. Return visits to look for Ural Owl were unsuccessful but the Great Grey was back hunting in the clearing. After a good days birding we drove north seeing a flock of 16 Black Grouse, one Black Woodpecker flew over and two Elk (moose) just south of Jyvaskyla. 


Willow Tit        &        Crested Tit


Willow Tit        &        Elk

Wednesday 14th – Another cold and cloudy morning as we arrive at a house near Uurainen where we split up to watch two different feeding sites. The most common birds present was a flock of 70+ Mealy Redpoll, several Willow, Great, Coal and Blue Tits. After half an hour Margaret and a Finnish birder had a very brief visit of the target bird an Azure Tit that has been present for a few weeks. I rushed back but to late and then after a long hour the tit flew back and dropped onto the floor below the feeders. The smart bird visited a total of five times in three hours. Also feeding here was a Red Squirrel and amongst the redpoll flock there was a cute Arctic Redpoll.  


Azure Tit


Arctic Redpoll


Red Squirrel        &        Coal Tit

After a great morning we had a long drive north to Oulu, arriving at dusk we just had time to locate some berry trees. We started at a known site for grosbeaks in the southeast of the city locating a group of Waxwings having a late feed. We then visited the Hospital and easily found two immature male Pine Grosbeaks at a small car park but it was now late and after a few minutes they flew off presumably to roost and we left to find a hotel.


Pine Grosbeak


Thursday 15th – A very cold  (-15oC) morning but the skies were clear and we were excited at the hope of photographing some grosbeaks. First stop was back at the hospital but all we could find were a few Waxwings and then we searched all the known sites around the city with no luck. Will we have any more luck with Siberian Tit? Eventually we managed to find the feeding station at Kaukovainio and soon had two superb ‘asiatica’ Nuthatch’s coming to feed along with Northern Bullfinch but no sign of a Sib Tit.


'asiatica' Nuthatch

Back on the hunt for grosbeaks, we checked every rowan tree we could find but the only results were low numbers of Waxwings, Hooded Crows and Jackdaws. No joy from a quick seawatch either apart from miles of snow. We ended up back looking for Siberian Tit and didn’t have long to wait before we had close views. Suddenly all the birds started alarm calling and then a Goshawk landed briefly in a tree above our heads. Giving up on Grosbeaks we travelled south and stayed the night at Viitasaari.

Siberian Tit

Friday 16th – This morning we headed for a site near Saarijarvi that Mika mentioned but a stop nearby found alarming Crossbills and Willow Tits, then we heard a Pygmy Owl call. After a while we managed to attract the wonderful little bird nearer.

Pygmy Owl

We then got to the feeding station where there were good numbers of Willow Tits again, a Crested Tit and up to six shy Northern Bullfinches. Then the target bird a brilliant Siberian Jay dropped in at the food just feet away before having a little quiet sing. It was now time to head for the airport and once at Tampere we stopped for some fuel when we suddenly realised that we could not find our passports! We carried on to the airport where we managed to find out that we had left them in our hotel room from last night, oops! So we rearranged our flights for Sunday night and drove back to Jyvaskyla for two more days holiday.


Siberian Jay

Saturday 17th – A quiet day today after collecting the passports in the morning we went for another look at the Azure Tit but there was no sign in an hour and there were too many birders for any hope of achieving and better photos, but the flock of 70 Mealy Redpolls were still present. We thought the best plan would be to drive south and then tomorrow we could check the Hyvinkaa area again. The only new bird seen on the journey was a Great Grey Shrike and we stopped the night at Lahti where there was a large flock of Jackdaws.


Mealy Redpolls (Arctic lower right)

Sunday 18th – The weather was now milder (0oC) with some snow showers and when we arrived back at the Ural Owl field we heard a Black Woodpecker singing and then a pair appeared in the trees close by. After looking for the Owl we went to the clearing where we saw the Great Grey earlier in the week but the bird had not been seen since Wednesday.


Black Woodpecker        &         Northern Bullfinch

Hearing that the Hawk Owl had been seen ok yesterday we went to Helsinki and started to walk around the lake were it’s been present since December but could only find a pair of Northern Bullfinches. When a local birder pointed us up into a garden were the excellent Hawk Owl was perched high in a tree. After watching it for an hour or so it suddenly flew across the garden where it started to listen to a particular spot of snow. After sussing out where the noise was coming from the bird dropped onto the snow about 6 metres from use, what a tremendous bird, but unfortunately the attack was unsuccessful.



Hawk Owl

We left the bird perched back in the large trees and tried once more for Ural Owl but just had views of a male Grey-headed Woodpecker. It was now dusk and time to head to the airport again! The flight back home was on time and we had enjoyed the holiday greatly.

Grey-headed Woodpecker

Mark Breaks

All Images taken by Margaret and Mark Breaks, Copyright - © Breaks Bird Photography