This tour is designed to try and see as many of the specialities as possible in just 5 nights and therefore keeping the price as competitive as possible. The itinerary covers the Oulu and Kuusamo regions where we have our best chance of finding most of the sought after owls and other specialities. Of course, owl numbers do fluctuate from year to year and are very much dependent on the rodent populations, so there is no guarantee that we will see all species. However, with the very best Finnature guides, their valuable experience and the latest information, we have the best chance!
Arrival to Oulu where our Finnature guide will be waiting to welcome us. Oulu is a port on the northeast shore of the Gulf of Bothnia and is situated barely 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Once we have checked in to our accommodation, we shall be out birding straight away where we hope to start off our owl quest! In recent years, Long-eared Owls as well as both Pallid and Montagu’s Harriers have been seen hunting close to the hotel! We may even try for a Tengmalm’s Owl if there is one breeding close to the hotel! For those unable to sleep, there is some good birding to be had just a short walk from our hotel where a good selection of waders and waterfowl can be found. Rarer species could include Marsh Sandpiper and Broad-billed Sandpiper as well as good chances of Garganey, Little Gull, Bittern, Spotted Crake and Common Rosefinch. Overnight in Oulu.
All of day 2 will be spent birding in the vicinity of Oulu. Oulu is “the place” for Owls. During these two days we shall be concentrating on finding the elusive Eurasian Pygmy, Ural, Tengmalm’s and Eurasian Eagle Owls. The more nomadic Northern Hawk Owl breeds in the area too and is present during most years. Short-eared Owls are present and some years even Long-eared Owl can be found from vast fields that surround Oulu. However, it is in the deep taiga forests, that the most highly prized owl can be found; the magnificent Great Grey Owl. Other possible forest species that will involve a litlle more patience to find include, Black Grouse, Capercaillie and if we are lucky the beautiful Hazel Grouse.
Oulu is one of the last places in Finland where the rare Terek Sandpiper still breeds. There are only few pairs breeding in Finland and this is one area where Finnature’s local knowledge really comes to the fore. Although lying on the threshold of Lapland, some ‘night singers’ are found in Oulu area in most years. There might be a chance to find Thrush Nightingale and Blyth’s Reed Warbler – and perhaps even Corncrake. Overnight in Oulu.
Oulu & Kuusamo Regions
We shall spend the early morning targeting any species in the Oulu area that we are missing and by lunchtime, we shall begin our journey further north and east to Kuusamo close to Russian border. Along the way we will stop to scan some of the extensive forest bogs and lakes. Kuusamo stands out as the top birding place in Finland where the annual national ‘bird-race’ is run. In Kuusamo we will experience the expansive taiga forests. Here, Goldeneye, Wood Sandpiper and Brambling are common, but the real draw are the highly sought after list of eastern and northern species: Red-flanked Bluetail, Rustic Buntings, Siberian Tit, and Siberian Jay. Other species might include Bohemian Waxwing, Great Grey Shrike, Red-necked Grebe, Common Rosefinch and Parrot Crossbill. An evening drive close to hotel will hopefully reveal the three grouse species of Capercaillie, Black Grouse and Willow Grouse. Overnight in Kuusamo
Early in the morning we will try for Red-flanked Bluetail. It is sometimes possible to see birds close to the road, but usually it involves a short climb up to Valtavaara Hill. It is quite steep and the birds are never guaranteed to be singing, but with perserverance, we have a good chance and the view is magnificent. The terrain is mostly easy to walk but will involve one or two steep uphill climbs, so a reasonable level of fitness is required for this excursion.
During the rest of the day we shall target the key species of this area, in particular both SIberian Tit and Siberian Jay, both of which should be found with a short walk into the vast areas of nearby forest. This part of Finland is also a good area for breeding Hawk Owls and we will of course make a particular effort to see these fantastic owls. Commoner species in the area will include wonderfully summer plumaged Red-necked Grebe, Black-throated Diver and Little Gull to name just a few! Overnight in Kuusamo
Kuusamo to Oulu
After some final pre-breakfast birding around Kuusamo targeting any species that we have missed, we shall then return to Oulu. We will make a number of birding stops en route and spend the rest of the early evening birding around Oulu.
Transfer to Oulu airport
A short transfer to the airport where this tour concludes. Those joining the Wolverine & Bear Tour will take a flight to Joensuu in time to meet the group the following day.