Lapland Journey – 10,000 Birds

By David Tomlinson

In the event you’re an avid lister, then one of the best recommendation I can provide is to not go to Lapland in late autumn, as you gained’t see many birds. Throughout every week primarily based 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 buddy 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 traditional time to see this most spectacular of pure phenomena.

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

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

I’m certain that these Finnish Magpies get pleasure from slightly rivalry with the equally thuggish Hooded Crows. Each these birds know the place to search out meals, and presently of the yr 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 probably to search out grub, so that is the place you’re most probably to see them. Enterprise just a bit method out of city and each Magpies and Hoodies develop into a uncommon sight. In distinction, Widespread Ravens seldom come into city, however you’re certain 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 just uncover the true sounds of silence. It’s absolute: for a lot of the time there isn’t 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 chook in these northern forests that seeks you out, relatively than the opposite method spherical. Siberian Jays realized 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 more likely to verify 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. It’s possible 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 pals with the Jays we encountered. 

Keep in mind the sunflower seeds

Siberian Jays could also be simple to see, however that different chook with Siberian in its identify, the Siberian Tit, proved far more of a problem. We finally discovered a pair in Pallas-Yllästunturi Kansallispuisto Nationwide Park. (Don’t ask me the right way to pronounce it. Finnish names are sometimes toungue-twisters). They had been very energetic and an actual problem to {photograph}. Willow Tits – now a rarity again residence in England – proved to be far more frequent 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. Mockingly, 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 timber, 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 chook. We noticed pairs or single birds on a number of days, however most had gone south. Most poignant was a single younger chook on an virtually frozen river. Juveniles normally stick with their mother and father 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 instances, and Purple Squirrels every day, although disappointingly the bulk sported gray relatively than purple fur. Reindeer, after all, had been all over the place, together with the center of city. As for the aurora, sadly they by no means confirmed up, giving a great cause to return once more in the future.

Reindeer cow
A gray Purple Squirrel

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