Lapland Journey – 10,000 Birds

By David Tomlinson

If you happen to’re an avid lister, then the perfect recommendation I can provide is to not go to Lapland in late autumn, as you received’t see many birds. Throughout every week based mostly in Äkäslompolo, a small Finnish city a few hundred kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, we struggled to get to 27 species. To be trustworthy, it wasn’t simply birds that we (birding good friend Martin and my spouse Jan) had come to see, as our goal was the Northern Lights, the aurora borealis: the chums whose home we had been staying in had assured us that late October was a basic time to see this most spectacular of pure phenomena.

Pallas-Yllästunturi Kansallispuisto Nationwide Park, and never a chicken in sight

The aurora is a night-time present, so the times, already moderately brief, had been spent in search of birds. Many of the summer time migrants had lengthy gone. A single younger White Wagtail we discovered on the primary day seemed a bit forlorn, and it proved to be the one one we noticed. Far more conspicuous had been these birds that had no plans to go south. Tree sparrows (see header {photograph}) had been widespread on the town, however not within the surrounding countryside. The identical was true of Eurasian Magpies. They might not have been probably the most quite a few birds in Äkäslompolo, however they had been actually probably the most conspicuous, swaggering throughout the grocery store carpark as in the event that they owned the place. (If you happen to’re planning to go to, Äkäslompolo has an excellent grocery store which even sells chicken seed, in addition to Reindeer in each method you may think about, from steaks to smoked.)

I’m positive that these Finnish Magpies get pleasure from a bit rivalry with the equally thuggish Hooded Crows. Each these birds know the place to search out meals, and right now of the 12 months it’s normally supplied by man  as there’s not a lot to be discovered within the frozen countryside. Cities like Äkäslompolo are the place they’re most certainly to search out grub, so that is the place you’re most certainly to see them. Enterprise just a bit method out of city and each Magpies and Hoodies grow to be a uncommon sight. In distinction, Widespread Ravens seldom come into city, however you’re positive to come across them within the countryside. 

Hooded Crows stealing the Reindeers’ lunch

It’s not till you’ve walked in a snow-covered northern forest that you simply uncover the true sounds of silence. It’s absolute: for a lot of the time there is no such thing as a sound in any respect. The blanket of snow absorbs sound like a sponge soaks up water. You battle to listen to something, for although there could also be birds right here, they take some discovering, for they’re few in quantity in addition to selection.   

Siberian Jays search for you

There’s, nonetheless, one chicken in these northern forests that seeks you out, moderately than the opposite method spherical. Siberian Jays discovered way back that man generally is a supply of meals, so if there are Jays round (and they’re normally in pairs or small flocks) then they’re prone to examine you out. These northern Jays are a delight, their delicate brown plumage enhanced by they rusty purple underparts, tail sides and rump. In contrast to Eurasian Jays these are quiet birds. Chances are you’ll not hear them coming, however all of a sudden they’re swooping throughout you. We carried sunflower seeds in our pockets, quickly making associates with the Jays we encountered. 

Keep in mind the sunflower seeds

Siberian Jays could also be simple to see, however that different chicken with Siberian in its title, the Siberian Tit, proved far more of a problem. We ultimately discovered a pair in Pallas-Yllästunturi Kansallispuisto Nationwide Park. (Don’t ask me how one can pronounce it. Finnish names are usually toungue-twisters). They had been very energetic and an actual problem to {photograph}. Willow Tits – now a rarity again house in England – proved to be far more widespread and extra co-operative when it got here to images.

Siberian Tit – a problem to {photograph}
Willow Tit, the most typical tit within the northern forests

There are grouse in these forests, however they don’t seem to be simple to search out. Our single sighting of a Western Capercaillie was of a hen flushed by Jan. Sarcastically, she didn’t see it, but it surely flew over Martin and me, and we had a quick view because it rocketed over our heads. The one Willow Grouse we noticed flew throughout the street in entrance of our automotive, however there was a complete flock of them, stuffed, within the native memento store, on the market at 40 euros every. We did higher with Black Grouse, discovering birds perched in tops of road-side birch bushes, consuming the buds.

Stuffed Willow Grouse, on the market for 40 euros
Blackgrouse feeding on birch buds

Whooper Swans, straight-necked and yellow-beaked, are Finland’s nationwide chicken. We noticed pairs or single birds on a number of days, however most had gone south. Most poignant was a single younger chicken on an nearly frozen river. Juveniles normally stick with their dad and mom for the primary  winter, however he (or was it she?) had clearly been left behind. 

A lonely Whooper Swan. Its household will need to have flown south

Discovering mammals is at all times a problem: we noticed Purple Foxes a number of occasions, and Purple Squirrels day by day, although disappointingly the bulk sported gray moderately than purple fur. Reindeer, after all, had been in every single place, together with the center of city. As for the aurora, sadly they by no means confirmed up, giving purpose to return once more sooner or later.

Reindeer cow
A gray Purple Squirrel

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