FINLAND AND NORWAY
21 May–2 June 2017
Finland’s bird-rich forests, lakes and marshes, Norway’s tundra, the Varanger Fjord and the Arctic Ocean form the backdrop to this exciting tour. Target species will include Hazel Grouse, all five northern owls, Eurasian Three-toed and Black Woodpeckers, Siberian Jay, Grey-headed Chickadee, Red-flanked Bluetail and Pine Grosbeak in Finland and King and Steller’s Eiders, Gyrfalcon and Thick-billed Murre in Norway.
Days 1–3 Scheduled flight to Helsinki, then an internal flight to Oulu on the west coast of Finland for a three-night stay. Oulu is best known in birding circles for its breeding Terek Sandpipers around the harbour area. Other species to be found here include Little Ringed Plover, Ruff and Eurasian Woodcock, while there is a good chance of Little Tern. This area is also excellent for breeding owls and, in a good rodent year and with the help of our local contacts, we should see Eurasian Eagle-owl, Ural, Great Grey and Boreal Owls and Eurasian Pygmy-owl. Another place we will visit while in Oulu is Liminganlahti Bay. From the tower hides on the reserve we will look for one of Finland's rarest breeding waders, Black-tailed Godwit.
Days 4–6 We will head northeast to Kuusamo near the Russian border for a three-night stay. Taking full advantage of almost round-the-clock daylight, we will make a 'grouse drive' looking for Eurasian Capercaillie and Black, Hazel and Willow Grouse. Other species we will search for in the extensive taiga forests are Rough-legged Hawk, Black and Eurasian Three-toed Woodpeckers, Siberian Jay, Red-flanked Bluetail, Bohemian Waxwing, Grey-headed Chickadee (Siberian Tit), Pine Grosbeak, White-winged Crossbill and Little and Rustic Buntings.
Day 7 Continuing north to the forests and wetlands around Ivalo, where we will stay for one night, we will look for Whooper Swan, White-tailed Eagle, Common Crane, Wood and Broad-billed Sandpipers, Jack Snipe, Short-eared Owl and Northern Hawk Owl.
Days 8–10 Heading north from Ivalo we will reach the town of Utsjoki on the River Teno, the border with Norway. Long-tailed Duck and Common Goldeneye can often be seen amongst the icebergs here and, on a nearby hill, we will look for European Dotterel and Rock Ptarmigan. Continuing north, we will eventually reach the Varanger Peninsula. With its rocky coast, bird islands and sweeping tundra, Varanger Fjord and Varanger Peninsula offer many excellent birding spots. We will take a half-day boat trip to the large seabird colonies on the islets of Reinoya and Hornoya, breeding sites for Thick-billed Murre. We will also drive to Hamningberg and visit other coastal sites to look for White-billed Loon, King and Steller's Eiders, Glaucous Gull, Red-throated Pipit, Horned Lark, Twite and Hoary Redpoll. Depending on the snow cover, we will wander inland on the barren fjells looking for Temminck's Stint, Parasitic and Long-tailed Jaegers, Lapland and Snow Buntings and Bluethroat. At Nesseby and Vadsoya we may see flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes and the magnificent Gyrfalcon. Three nights in Vardo.
Day 11 Today we will return south to Ivalo in Finland, from where we will explore the forests and marshes for Taiga Bean Goose, Northern Hawk-owl, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Grey-headed Chickadee, Siberian Jay, Pine Grosbeak and crossbills. One night in Ivalo.
Day 12 This morning will be spent in the forests and hills near Ivalo looking for any species we may have missed and also for some of Finland's most northerly breeding Eurasian Wrynecks. In the afternoon we will drive back to Oulu for the night.
Day 13 Morning flight to Helsinki, where we connect with our return flight to London.
General Information The pace of the tour is moderate with easy walks involved. Scandinavia as a whole has a very high cost of living so, if you like alcoholic drinks or want souvenirs, please bear this in mind. Clothing and footwear suitable for fell-walking and adverse weather should be brought. Owls are always an important feature of this tour but, because they are cyclical, depending on the rodent populations, no particular species can be guaranteed. With our local contacts, however, there is a good chance of seeing several of the owls.
Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 7; maximum group size: 14 with 2 leaders.