Short birding trip to Porvoo (Southern Finland)

 March 22 – 27, 2002

Natalie Groenez - Nico Geiregat

geiregan@meta.fgov.be


Introduction:

Our national airlines company (former "Sabena", now "SN Brussels Airlines") was in serious financial trouble last Autumn. At their new start they launched a special offer last Autumn: 100 euros for a return trip to a selection of European cities; offer valid till March 29, 2002.

As I had been searching quite a lot for Hazel hen in Belgium (always in vain), I immediately thought that this was the ultimate opportunity. One of these destinations was Helsinki: this seemed a good starting point... 

After some contacts with EBN-man Martin Helin ( Martin.Helin@RISSASOLUTIONS.COM ), we decided to examine the area around Porvoo ( www.porvoo.fi ), which was said to be quite good. We found some interesting e-mail addresses on the web site of the local Birdlife-group ( http://www.saunalahti.fi/~pslybnff/  ), and it turned out that Pekka Topp ( Pekka.Topp@securitas.fi ) was to be the man who could help us.

The cheapest car that we found was a Nissan Micra from the company  "Car rental Bevari Oy" (info@carrentalbevari.fi): 245 euros with a limit of 1000 kilometers, which turned out to be only just enough.

Report:

(Only the most interesting observations are mentioned, the best sites are described in detail below.)

Friday, 22/3:

In the afternoon we visited some areas around our youth hostel ( www.porvoohostel.cjb.net ) which was situated conveniently at the edge of the city. This is about the only cheap accommodation in the area.

Saturday, 23/3:

We met Pekka at 09:00h and we drove around together. We visited some interesting areas and he also pointed some others on the small but relatively detailed map that was in the Porvoo tourist brochure. During the next days Natalie and I were going to visit these places again and more thoroughly.

We seawatched for a while on the Pellinki island but soon realised that there was little to see with this cold wind coming from the north. We did see a distant Black guillemot though. As we drove north we stopped at the place called Norike. We had our first Hazel hens here: just flying off... I had hoped to see a little more of them...

Going further north, we stopped at a lake in Liljendal where we had 2 Whooper swans. Pekka showed a good place for White backed woodpecker but we only saw a Dipper flying by.

Next we visited "Bobcat rock" where Pekka had had about every species we were looking for. Unfortunately it turned out to be almost empty now.

Finally we tried to find a Pigmy owl on a location where it had been observed regularly lately, but  for the last week or so, all Pygmy owls were very inactive and so was this one.

Sunday, 24/3:

In the early morning Natalie slept a little longer and I went to Sikosaari (island just south of the city) from 04:30 till 07:30. There had been 2 Pigmy owls lately. Again I searched in vain.

At the Rita-dump, the Herring gulls just kept circling around and would not go on the ground, so I decided to return later.  In fact it is better to go there during the week. Just tell the guard that you are a birdwatcher and you can enter and enjoy the gulls! Nothing special to report here yet: it was some weeks too early for Baltic gulls of which I had hoped to see one or two early birds…

Next we went to Norike. Everything was silent until a huge male Capercaillie passed about 20 m. above our heads! At this time of the year Capercaillies are often on the highest rocky areas in the forest where there are not too many trees.

It ‘s presence is obvious if you find it’s droppings and we found quite a lot of these.  Pekka also said to look for trees where the needles have been eaten in the centre: the outermost branches and the top are to weak to support the Capercaillies, so these are not eaten.

 

After that, we went to Bobcat rock in order to prepare our early visit next day. As we arrived a male Capercaillie flew out of the high trees on the right of the road. In the evening, we drove around in search for owls and therefore we drove a route which Pekka had shown in a special book for birdwatching in Southern Finland (very interesting book, unfortunately you have to understand some finish).

We drove along the roads to Kerkkoo, Askola, Pukkila, Tiilää and Sarkijärvi. Only some Tawny owls and an Eagle owl (near Nalkkila) were heard. Owls turned out to be a hard job...

Monday, 25/3:

Bobcat rock near Lapinjarvi was a lot better then on Saturday, the best bird being a female Three-toed woodpecker at about 20 m. from us at eye level. The next stop was the White-backed woodpecker site near Liljendal. We visited it for the fourth time and finally we found the bird: a male terrorising every piece of manmade wood gave extraordinary good views.

At night we did the same route as on 24/3 in search for owls. Now we also had a Tengmalm’s owl not far away from the Eagle owl site.

Tuesday, 26/3:

In the early morning (04:30) I went for a walk south of the youth hostel along the "1551” and “1552" till 08:30. Natalie is not that much of a birding fanatic, so she stayed in bed again. A nervous male Hazel hen flew around me from tree to tree as I was imitating it’s calls. Well, it seemed interested, even if my imitation was pretty poor.

Next we went again to the Rita-dump with only Herring and Greater black-backed gulls. Along the road to Virvik we had (for me) the nicest observation: a male Hazel hen singing and feeding on small hazel buds gave splendid views.

We then drove to Emäsalo island as it turned out that it was hard to find a good sea watch point on Pellinki because about every road ends at private property with a summer cottage. At the ultimate south of Emäsalo there is a military zone, but just east of it, there is a path which leads to some rocks which must give good results when the weather conditions are better. There wasn't much movement at that moment though.

In the evening I had a talk with Pekka who told that it was better to focus on Ural owl now rather than on Pigmy owl: Pigmies had been very silent and on the other hand he had heard of a very active Ural owl (best in the morning) near Takametsa.

Wednesday, 27/3:

So for our last hours in Finland we did a last attempt and left at 03:00h for a night trip to Takametsa. It was even better than we hoped: at 4:40h both an Ural owl and a Pigmy owl started to call.  Satisfied we drove back to our hotel for some hours sleep.

Last event: as I was putting our bags in our little Nissan, I had a Goshawk flying over the Youth hostel.

Some site descriptions:

Pellinki:

The island had some White-tailed eagles wintering, but we did not see any. Is is also a good place for Hazel hen. Finding a good place for seawatching was difficult. You get there by ferry (for free).

Norike:

Situated east-northeast of Epoo. After some 100 meters you pass some higher rocks on the right which are good for Capercaillie (1). If you drive further, you cross an open farmland with a farm. Continue left and take the first road again to the left. Explore the area where the road stops (2). (And don’t get lost)

 

White-backed woodpecker site:

(I don’ t know whether this place is reliable in other years, but we had it there while we were visiting it for the fourth time) Leave the “E18” highway near Forsby and continue along the “6”  to Kouvola for about 10 km. until you see a factory named “TEAMPAC” on the left. It has three green towers. Take the following road to the left (sign “SÄVTRÄSK”) and take the next road to the left, leading to a parking space and a small river with some trees along it. Explore this area for dippers and the woodpecker.

 

 

Bobcat rock:

Leave the “E18” highway near Forsby and continue along the “6”  to Kouvola for about 18 km. until you see a gas station named “A”. Go to the left just before this gas station and continue this road (“1771”) for about 4 km. then drive to the right (road ending with “…kartanon” or something like that) and drive through the forest and along an open space on the right (the tall trees that are there are good for Capercaillie). At the end of the open space, there is some place to park your car. On the left, you have “Bobcat rock”.

 

Rita dump:

Coming from the centre of Porvoo, follow the “170” in the direction of Ilola. Just before you drive under the “E18” highway, take the small road to the right and then the first to the left (fences closed during weekend) and drive on until you see the guard’s building.

See map for “Norike”

Owl route:

Follow the blue line on the map and stop from time to time.

 

Conclusion:

Our main goal (Hazel hen) was not too hard to find. However it seems for most of the other species you do need some more local information about the best places to visit and even then it’s not too easy. For example, we only had one three-toed woodpecker, one White-backed woodpecker, one Ural owl, one Tengmalm’s, one Pigmy and one Eagle owl while we were birding all the time, so birding there has to be rather intensive and it’s hard work walking in rocky forests with 20-30 cm. of snow, but in that environment it‘s certainly worth it!

Many thanks to Pekka who really helped a lot.

Birdlist:

(here and there I added some more information)

1. Aalscholver / Phalacrocorax carbo / Great cormorant
2. Knobbelzwaan / Cygnus olor / Mute swan
3. Wilde zwaan / Cygnus cygnus / Whooper swan
            23.3: Liljendal: 2 ad.
            27.3: Emäsalo: 1 ad. flying over
4. Canadese gans / Branta canadensis / Canada goose
5. Wilde eend / Anas platyrhynchos / Mallard
6. Smient / Anas penelope / Wigeon
7. Kuifeend / Aythya fuligula / Tufted duck
8. Eidereend / Somateria mollissima / Common eider
9. Ijseend / Clangula hyemalis / Long-tailed duck
10. Brilduiker / Bucephala clangula / Goldeneye
11. Nonnetje / Mergus albellus / Smew
12. Grote zaagbek / Mergus merganser / Goosander
13. Steppebuizerd / Buteo buteo (vulpinus) / Buzzard
14. Sperwer / Accipiter nisus / Sparrow hawk
15. Havik / Accipiter gentilis / Goshawk
            27.3: Youth hostel: one flying southeast.
16. Torenvalk / Falco tinnunculus / Kestrel
17. Auerhoen / Tetrao urogallus / Capercaillie
            24.3: Norike: 1 male flying over.
            24.3: Lapinjärvi: 1 male flying away from the tall trees at the right as you arrive in the open area.
18. Hazelhoen / Bonasa bonasia / Hazel hen
            23.3: Norike: 1 or 2 couples flying off.
            25.3: Pellinki: 2 seen flying off and another male heard.
            26.3: Stensböle: 1 seen in trees and 1 calling male heard.
            26.3: Virvik: 1 seen and 2 calling males heard.
19. Fazant / Phasianus colchicus / Pheasant
20. Meerkoet / Fulica atra / Coot
21. Kokmeeuw / Larus ridibundus / Black-headed gull
22. Stormmeeuw / Larus canus / Common gull
23. Zilvermeeuw / Larus argentatus (argentatus) / Herring gull
24. Grote mantelmeeuw / Larus marinus / Great black-backed gull
25. Zwarte zeekoet / Cepphus grylle / Black guillemot
            23.3: Pellinki: 1 ind.
            26.3: Emäsalo: 2 ind.
26. Holenduif / Columba oenas / Stock dove
27. Houtduif / Columba palumbus / Wood pigeon
28. Bosuil / Strix aluco / Tawny owl
29. Oeraluil / Strix nebulosa / Ural owl
            27.3: Takametsa: 1 calling at 04:40h.
30. Ruigpootuil / Aegolius funereus / Tengmalms owl
            25.3: Nalkkila: 1 calling at about 08:30h.
31. Oehoe / Bubo bubo / Eagle owl
            24.3 and 25.3: Nalkkila: 1 calling at about 08:00h.
32. Dwerguil / Glaucidium passerinum / Pigmy owl
            27.3: Takametsa: 1 distant bird calling at 04:40h.
33. Zwarte specht / Dryocopus martius / Black woodpecker
34. Grijskopspecht / Picus canus / Grey-headed woodpecker
            23.3: 1 ind. along the 1611 between Askola and Tiilää.
35. Grote bonte specht / Dendrocopos major / Great spotted woodpecker
36. Witrugspecht / Dendrocopos leucotos / White-backed woodpecker
            25.3: Liljendal: 1 male giving splendid views at the known site.
37. Drieteenspecht / Picoides tridactylus / Three-toed woodpecker
            25.3: Lapinjärvi: one female on the western slope of Bobcat rock.
38. Veldleeuwerik / Alauda arvensis / Sky lark
39. Waterspreeuw / Cinclus cinclus / Dipper
            23.3 and 25.3: Liljendal: 1 and 2 ind. at the White-backed woodpecker site.
40. Roodborst / Erithacus rubecula / Robin
41. Merel / Turdus merula / Blackbird
42. Goudhaan / Regulus regulus / Goldcrest
43. Koolmees / Parus major / Great tit
44. Zwarte mees / Parus ater / Coal tit
45. Pimpelmees / Parus caeruleus / Blue tit
46. Kuifmees / Parus cristatus / Crested tit
47. Matkop / Parus montanus / Willow tit
48. Taigaboomkruiper / Certhia familiaris (familiaris) / Tree creeper
49. Klapekster / Lanius excubitor / Great grey shrike
            26.3: Porvoo: 1 ind. in the reed bed along the Porvoo river
50. Ekster / Pica pica / Magpie
51. Gaai / Garrulus glandarius / Jay
52. Kauw / Corvus monedula / Jackdaw
53. Roek / Corvus frugilegus / Rook
54. Bonte kraai / Corvus cornix / Hooded crow
55. Raaf / Corvus corax / Raven
56. Spreeuw / Sturnus vulgaris / Starling
57. Huismus / Passer domesticus / House sparrow
58. Ringmus / Passer montanus / Tree sparrow
59. Kneu / Carduelis cannabina / Linnet
60. Grote barmsijs / Carduelis flammea (flammea) / redpoll
61. Putter / Carduelis carduelis / Goldfinch
62. Groenling / Carduelis chloris / Greenfinch
63. Sijs / Carduelis spinus / Siskin
64. Goudvink / Pyrrhula pyrrhula (pyrrhula) / Bullfinch
65. Kruisbek / Loxia curvirostra / Crossbill
66. Sneeuwgors / Plectrophenax nivalis / Snow bunting
67. Geelgors / Emberiza citrinella / Yellowhammer

Nico Geiregat

geiregan@meta.fgov.be