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FINLAND OWLS AND NORWAY

15–26 May 2022

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, Black and Eurasian Three-toed Woodpeckers, Siberian Jay, Siberian Tit, Red-flanked Bluetail, Parrot and Two-barred Crossbills, Pine Grosbeak in Finland and King and Steller’s Eiders, Gyrfalcon and Brünnich’s Guillemot in Norway.

Day 1 Scheduled flights from London to Oulu via Helsinki, arriving mid-afternoon followed by a transfer to a local hotel which will be our base for the next three nights. The hotel has a fantastic wetland behind it and, after checking in we will start our birding here. Species we should see include Western Yellow (Grey-headed) Wagtail, Whooper Swan, Common Goldeneye, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Garganey, Red-breasted and Common Mergansers, Little, Common and Arctic Terns, Temminck’s Stint, Eurasian Curlew, Little Gull, Common Crane, Eurasian Marsh-harrier, both Ruff and Spotted Redshank in full breeding plumage and, if we are lucky, maybe a Marsh Sandpiper. Our search for owls will start this evening and, hopefully, before retiring for the night we will have at least one species ‘in the bag’.

Days 2–3 The trees around the car park of the hotel are always worth a look and we should see European Pied Flycatcher, Redwing, Fieldfare and Mistle Thrush regularly during the course of our stay, giving excellent photographic opportunities. After breakfast on both of these days our search for owls will continue: Great Grey, Short-eared, Boreal and Ural Owls and Eurasian Pygmy-owl all breed close to Oulu in good years and are normally relatively easy to locate with expert assistance, but Northern Hawk Owl takes a lot more hard work! During the course of the two days we may also see Hen and Pallid Harriers, Terek Sandpiper, Eurasian Woodcock, Black and Eurasian Three-toed Woodpeckers, Common Redpoll, Black and Hazel Grouse, Eurasian Wryneck, Crested Tit and Red and Parrot Crossbills.

EXTENSION 1

Day 4 After spending the morning birding around Oulu, those not taking the extension will return to the airport for the flight back to London via Helsinki whilst those taking the extension will drive eastwards to Kuusamo, close to the Russian border, an exciting birding destination known for its natural beauty and our base for the next two nights. We will make several forest, lake and roadside stops along the way, looking for species such as Rustic Bunting, Smew, Velvet Scoter and (Red-spotted) Bluethroat, with the added bonus of further chances for Boreal Owl, Eurasian Pygmy-owl and Northern Hawk Owl. We should also start to encounter grazing Reindeer at the roadsides.

Day 5 Taking full advantage of almost round the clock daylight, we will start today with an early morning grouse drive to look for species such as Willow Ptarmigan, Black Grouse, Western Capercaillie and the elusive Hazel Grouse. An enviable number of eastern and northern species breed in the Kuusamo area and we will spend the remainder of the day looking for Grey-headed Chickadee (Siberian Tit), Siberian Jay and Red-flanked Bluetail, which occurs here at the extreme western edge of its range. We face an uphill climb to see this bird, but the track is fairly even and stepped for most of the way. We should also see Arctic Hares in this area. Other species we will be on the lookout for today include Black-throated Diver, Red-necked Grebe, Rough-legged Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Bohemian Waxwing Two-barred Crossbill, Little Bunting, Pine Grosbeak and Common Rosefinch.

Day 6 After a final morning spent birding in the forests around Kuusamo, those not taking the next extension will catch a flight back to London via Helsinki whilst those continuing north into Norway will overnight in Kuusamo.

EXTENSION 2

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 Brünnich’s Guillemot (also known as Thick-billed Murre). We will also drive to Hamningberg and visit other coastal sites to look for White-billed Diver, King and Steller's Eiders, Glaucous Gull, Red-throated Pipit, Horned Lark, Twite and Arctic Redpoll. Depending on the snow cover, we will wander inland on the barren fjells looking for Temminck's Stint, Arctic and Long-tailed Skuas, 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 hills, forests and marshes for Taiga Bean-goose, Northern Hawk Owl, Finland’s most northerly breeding Wrynecks, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Grey-headed Chickadee, Siberian Jay, Pine Grosbeak and crossbills. Overnight Ivalo.

Day 12 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 two leaders.

Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl

Recommended books available from NHBS