Just returned from a relatively unsuccessful trip abroad – Finland and Norway. I say unsuccessful, although perhaps that’s a bit unfair, as I did manage 11 lifers, 30 or so year ticks and some pretty good birds. Expectations were a lot higher however – over 20 further lifers were on offer, and I had a total target list of 60 species or so. Didn’t get the time to go for the night singers in the east (warblers and Corncrake) which was a main target group. No special owls (I’d hoped for at least one, although Short-eared was a year tick), and dipped various Varanger/northern/forest specialities. I put this largely down to a few basic reasons. Obviously ‘going it alone’ without paying for guiding was always going to make certain species difficult. Went a month or so later than I could have, which affected things, and the method of getting around was a big hindrance. The weather too, of course - got thoroughly soaked and had wet feet for over a week. Spent more time hitching, walking and sleeping than I did birding. At one point ‘lost’ 2 and a half days –trying to hitch out of northern Finland I only managed to cover 35 km in 2 short lifts over a 60 hour period – wondered if I was even going to make it to Tampere for my flight home! Did make it in the end though.
Started with a lift from Tampere to Varanger on the 20th of June with a Lithuanian group (mostly photographers) in their camper van, some useful birding along the way (along with some less useful dips). Visited Oulu and Kuusamo en route, along with a useful feeder near Kaamenan. Walked nearly 40 miles the first day (24 hour period) in Norway, which obviously had some knock on effect. Did 3 days in Varanger, dropped down to twitch an Arctic Warbler, then back up to Varanger for another day, finally getting King Eider (7 females (2 ad, 5 1st year) and 2 1st year males) and 12 Bean Geese. Attempted to leave the north (as described above), only had time for a brief look at Kuusamo and Oulu on the way south (dipped Bluetail and Terek Sand again …) Certainly feels like I failed to do some of the habitats any real justice at all (aside from those I didn’t even get to). Oh well. I enjoyed the trip overall, a bit knackered now though, and maybe my expectations were a little high. Didn’t prepare as well as I could have (only booked the flights on 9th June, then had to sort out gen etc) although I was aware that ‘northern birding’ was never going to be easy as 'southern birding' eg like Morocco etc. Some good birding highlights nonetheless. Will just have to make a return trip and do it properly one day ...
(Only) 145 or so species recorded –
Lifers – Willow Ptarmigan, Black Grouse, Three-toed Woodpecker, Parrot Crossbill, Long-tailed Skua, Arctic Warbler, Siberian Tit, Siberian Jay, Pine Grosbeak, Brunnich’s Guillemot and Arctic Redpoll.
Other year ticks – Rock Ptarmigan, Capercaillie, Short-eared Owl, Willow tit, Common Redpoll, Bean Goose, King Eider, Velvet Scoter, Pomarine Skua, Glaucous Gull, Puffin, Snow Bunting, Brambling, Rough-legged Buzzard, Dotterel, Long-tailed Duck and Red-necked Grebe.
Other good birds/highlights – Temminck’s Stint and Red-throated Pipit up north, all the waders on breeding territory, 31 spiralling Sea Eagles, 71 Red-necked Phalaropes, the landscape etc etc. No Dunnock though.
Mammals – Bank vole, Norway Lemming, Wood Lemming, Red Squirrel, Reindeer, Moose, Red Fox, Stoat, Mountain Hare, Hare, Rabbit, Mink (or something similar).
Flights – return flight to Tampere, including baggage, check in fees etc - £147.41. Lift up to Norway – 40 euros 'contribution'. Food, travel and accommodation in Finland – 29.90 euros. Food, travel and accomodation in Norway - 0.00 NOK. Return travel from Falmouth to London Stansted cost £52 or so. So the trip cost about £260 in total, which wasn't too bad, although doesn't really help the overdraft that much.