Ural Owl, near Oulu by Chris Townend

Tour Dates: Thursday 9th – Tuesday 14th May 2024 (Oulu to Oulu)
Tour Price: £2,450pp plus flight
Estimated Flight Price: London to Oulu via Helsinki approx. £400 return
Deposit: £400 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £100 – £150
Minimum Number: 4 people
Maximum Group Size: 6 people

Target Species
Birds: Great Grey Owl, Ural Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Boreal Owl, Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Three-toed Woodpecker, Capercaille, Black Grouse, Hazel Grouse, Siberian Jay, Siberian Tit, Rustic Bunting, Little Bunting and Red-flanked Bluetail
Mammals: Mountain Hare, European Hare and Muskrat

Tour Summary
May is a busy month for Finnish birds as numerous migrants return to their breeding grounds and the forests and fields are filled with bird song. This tour is timed to maximise our chances of finding the most sought after species of this wonderful country. Our time will be focused on coastal bays and forests of Oulu and the vast Taiga forests of Kuusamo.

We start in Oulu where time is dedicated to look for Owls where we hope it is a good breeding year! In most years Great Grey and Ural Owl can be found with perseverance and in some years there are very good numbers. Boreal and Pygmy Owl will also be key targets, most often seen at or near one of numerous nest boxes. While looking for Owls, there will be good chances of finding other forest specialities like Three-toed Woodpecker, Capercaillie and Hazel Grouse. The coastal areas of Oulu make a change from the forest and we will look for numerous migrating waders and with luck we may find one of the few remaining breeding Terek Sandpipers.

Heading east towards Kuusamo, our attention focuses on eastern specialities in the extensive Taiga forests. Siberian Tit and Siberian Jay will be two of the key species to look for as well as Red-flanked Bluetail and both Rustic and Little Bunting. Northern Hawk Owls usually breed in the area and are always an impressive species to watch. Other distractions in the area should include Little Gull, Red-necked Grebe, Velvet Scoter and Black-throated Diver.

This is a short tour but packed full of quality species, so come and join us!

ACCOMMODATION: 5 nights in Finland
Comfortable Hotels throughout the tour.
2 nights in Oulu and 2 nights in Kuusamo and final night in Oulu
Inclusive Meals: Dinner on day 1 through to lunch on day 6.

Previous Trip Reports

DAY 1: Arrival – Oulu
After an afternoon arrival into the small and friendly airport of Oulu
we will head to our hotel just a few minutes drive and then head straight out birding! Much of the plan will depend on the latest news from our local guide and if there are any nearby Owls to see, we will certainly try to see them! Otherwise we will enjoy some birding just a short stroll from our hotel which overlooks Kempele Bay where species such as Common Rosefinch, Bittern, Spotted Crake and numerous waders are just some of the species that have been regularly recorded at this site. Overnight Oulu Hotel

Great Grey Owl, Finland by Chris Townend

DAY 2: The Oulu region
We will spend a full day birding the forests and coastal bays near Oulu. An early start is to be expected to ensure we maximise our time in the field!

The Oulu region is best known for its breeding northern Owls and although breeding numbers fluctuate from year to year, the regular breeding species we will be looking for are Great Grey, Ural, Boreal, Eurasian Pygmy and Short-eared Owl. Dependent on the year, the nomadic Northern Hawk Owl and Long-eared Owl sometimes breed in the area. The Owls will of course be our main target species but not our only target species!
Also in the forests we will look for Three-toed and Black Woodpecker, Capercaillie, Black Grouse and with luck, Hazel Grouse too

Boreal Owl, near Oulu by Chris Townend

To the south of Oulu, we will visit Liminganlahti – a large internationally important wetland reserve. Hundreds of young Whooper Swan and Common Crane spend the summer here and breeding species include Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, and Greenshank. At this time of year numerous migrants will also be passing through and we hope to find Spotted Redshank and Ruff in stunning breeding plumage. If we are lucky Broad-billed Sandpiper also pass through the site. The Terek Sandpiper is now a very rare breeding bird in Oulu and it is the last remaining breeding area for this species. We will certainly try for the species, but it has become harder to find in recent years.

The coastal meadows around Oulu can also be good for raptors. White-tailed Eagles and Marsh Harriers patrol the shores and meadows endlessly. Pallid Harrier, though still rare, is becoming a more regular breeder and Montagu’s Harrier is also regularly seen on migration. In addition to owls, woodpeckers, waders and raptors we also have a good chance of coming across a singing Thrush Nightingale, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, or even a Corncrake. Overnight Oulu

Willow Grouse, Finland by Chris Townend

DAY 3: Oulu – Kuusamo
We will have the morning in Oulu if we need to try for any species that we might have missed and then we will drive eastwards to Kuusamo. The journey east take around 3 hours though, we will of course make a number of birding stops en route at various forest bogs and lakes where we should find Little Gull, Velvet Scoter and Smew before arriving in the small city of Kuusamo near the Russian border. Dependent on our arrival time, we may try for Northern Hawk Owl on our first evening Overnight Kuusamo

Siberian Jay, near Kuusamo by Chris Townend

DAY 4: Kuusamo
Kuusamo is an exciting birding destination and is home to a number of eastern and northern specialties that breed here. We will have a full day to look for Siberian Tit, Siberian Jay, Black and Three-toed Woodpecker in the extensive Taiga forests surrounding the nearby area. Red-flanked Bluetail is another key species that we hope to find in the steep forests on the edge of Kuusamo. Early morning or late evening grouse drives are often successful with finding Willow and Black Grouse, Capercaillie and the elusive Hazel Grouse. We will also search for Rustic and Little Bunting near the Russian border. The nearby lakes and bogs are home to species such as Red-necked Grebe, Goldeneye, Smew, Wood Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank and Jack Snipe. Other species might include Brambling and Bohemian Waxwing and we will keep an eye to the sky for Golden Eagle and Rough-legged Buzzard which both breed here. In most years, Northern Hawk Owl and Boreal Owl breed in the Kuusamo area and these will certainly be key target species that we hope to find. Overnight Kuusamo

Northern Hawk Owl, Finland by Chris Townend

DAY 5: Kuusamo / Oulu
This morning we will have the morning to target stay species that we are missing in the Kuusamo region before returning to Oulu in the afternoon. This allows us plenty of time to maximise our chances for the specialities. Overnight Oulu

DAY 6: Oulu or Kuusamo – Oulu
If we are missing any owls, then this will be the priority for us today! We will also try for Three-toed Woodpecker is we have been unsuccessful to date. After lunch we can spend time enjoying migrants and waders on the coast, before heading to the airport for an early evening flight.

Pallid Harrier, Finland by Chris Townend

Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides

Leaders: Local guide only
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms at comfortable hotels, all meals, all entrance fees, ground transport and services of leader
Not included in cost: International airfare, travel insurance, drinks other than water and any airport/visa fees
Single Supplement: £240
Transport: Minibus throughout tour
Difficulty: Easy except for Red-flanked Bluetail site – Moderate
Most walks are on relatively flat forest trails, boggy in areas. Walk to the Bluetail site is a steep forest trail, though we will take things at a relaxed pace
Climate: Very unpredictable weather! Warm to cool and wet!
Tour Start Point: Oulu airport, Finland
Tour End Point: Oulu airport, Finland
Suggested Airline: Finnair

Red-flanked Bluetail, Kuusamo by Chris Townend