New year birding 2016

Posted on April 4, 2016


Prelude: before New Year

Rehearsal tour got lame 11 species. Where are all winter visitors like gold crest (Regulus regulus, hippiäinen), bohemian waxwing (Bombycilla garrylus, tilhi) and hawfinch (Coccothrauster coccothraustes, nokkavarpunen)?

As shores are not having ice cover, white-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla, merikotka) are not hanging around. There are some reports of them from inland lakes. Should I have a look or not? It seems that waterfowls are gathering at lakes, too. Only birds on water I saw on pre-tour where nine whooper swans (Cyphus cyphus, laulujoutsen).

1st of January 2016

With a list of 12 stops, ordered to form a route a circular route around Salo, I prep a lot of coffee and some water and leave to spend a day birding. First stop: Omenojärvi, time of arrival 8.45. It’s dark. Not dark like you wouldn’t see anything at all, but dark like it is at winter when there’s some snow on ground, it’s cloudy and day has not yet risen. Years first sound of a bird are multiple common ravens (Corvus corax, korppi) and through the trees I can see two of them flying above the frozen lake. A third voice is audible from further away. After a short walk I come to the place where birding tower once was, and scan the frozen view with binoculars. It takes about 5 seconds to realize I am going to need a scope to identify big black figure sitting on ice on opposite side of the lake. I know already with quite some confidence what is there waiting for me. And with scope there is no doubt: my first good sight of a bird in 2016 is an old, handsome white-tailed eagle.

There’s another one nearby, a small one. Further to west I see four whooper swans, apparently trapped in ice. No free water around them, and they are partially submerged. Normally they can still find their way out. Maybe eagles are waiting if they don’t have enough strength to break the ice.

Add three common ravens and first stop is done. I sort of had high hopes for the next one, but Aneriojärvi, quite a nice birding spot most of the time, was a disappointment. I counted 100 western jackdaws (Corvus monedula, naakka), three yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella, keltasirkku) and an eurasian magpie (Pica pica, harakka). Oh, and there was a solitary white-tailed eagle sitting on ice at the middle of the lake. Sunrise took place and I went on to Muurla. Originally I had though to have one more stop on a small pond between Suomusjärvi and Muurla, but from judging the state of the two bigger lakes it was obvious Vilikkala pond would have been totally covered with ice and hosting no birds at all.

Muurlas Enäjärvi is not known for being a birding place, but it was conventionally on my way anyway and I knew I could get at least the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos, sinisorsa) from there. 36 of them were around the bridge and the scratching sound around some trees revealed an eurasian treecreeper (Certhia familiaris, puukiipijä). I was quite happy for that spontaneous find, treecreeper is not rare but not too easy to spot either. After that, I took an advice from my wife who told about the highest place in Salo which is very near to her office actually. I hadn’t heard about the place but could find it rather easily, and climbed up. It was quite a nice place, more than happy to see it and especially worth of the trouble when I heard some constant bird noises low in volume, slowly closing on my direction. The two goldcrests (Regulus regulus, hippiäinen) came finally so close that I could have grabbed a one with my hand.

On my way to the place I had high hopes again, there was this field place with big flooded areas, Tuohittu. I was almost going to skip that, as everything was frozen, but thought that if I’m not taking that road to south I might eventually end up at Salo center and especially to Halikonlahti, which I wanted to avoid as I can do that on another day with less time. Soon it became obvious that my trip to Tuohittu was very important as I saw a number of species I dared not to plan for.

I’m arriving the scene around 10:45 and ready to pass by. From car window it looks like fields are empty and with this moderate wind in an icy landscape you wouldn’t hear anything either. I decided to stop anyway and spotted some 40 european goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis, tikli) by the road. They are very beautiful and rather common, not guaranteed though so I considered this as a good sight. Scanning the fields around me I got a feeling that something is not right with those black spots far away. I step outside and with binoculars I see the spots are moving in strange fashion: they are not crooks or alike. I set my scope and it actually took a while to realize what am I spotting. 15 male black grouses (Lylurus tetrix, teeri) are having their lunch there on an open field. Nice!

Driving forward I spot two eurasian jays (Garrulus glandarius, närhi) by the road. After the road enters woods, I spot big black vertically aligned bird on a wooden electirity wire pole. Bird departs, I stop the car at once and pursue in hopes to get another sight although I already know what I saw. There is only one black bird who is a woodpecker of that size. Can’t see black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius, palokärki) no more but after spending a moment in woods I hear a peculiar tit sound: european crested tit (Parus cristatus, töyhtötiainen). Lucky one as it is normally living quite a careful life. I saw one and hear another one and I’m ready to go.

Saarenjärvi turned out to be a small disappointment. I saw again a white-tailed eagle, this time it took off while I was switching from binoculars to spotting scope but was able to watch it flying to west. Other than that, the long lake-river body hosted only 30 crooking swans and a crook. I switched to another part of the same water, to Latokartanon koski ford. I had kept it quite certain that I’d get white-throated dipper from here, but no. After spending a half an hour all I could see were two mallards, three male eurasian bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula, punatulkku) and 20 great tits (Parus major, talitiainen).

I decided to change Förby in favour of going to Strömma, as it looked like sea water would not be frozen yet, which would mean there would not be pockets of free water forcing birds together. It wouldn’t matter really if I’d save more than 30 minutes of driving by just going to the secondary seabird place. Strömma had the compulsory common merganser (Mergus merganser, isokoskelo) that I had counted on, so a good choice. But before I got there, I scored a sweet one from a golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos, maakotka) who gave very nice show by circulating around above me and the nearby forest for about 10 minutes.

By 13:45 it started to get dark, so I had only a limited amount of changes to use rest of the day. I decided to stop on my way in Mathildedal, as I had seen eurasian siskin there for a number of times. Did miss that, but got something better. Harbour had some gulls: two european herring gulls (Larus argentatus, harmaalokki) and a third one, which quite did not fit in the picture. Different bill, finer stature, smaller size. I had to check online if common gulls (Larus canus, kalalokki) had been seen herearound and yes it seemed to be small in number but a known sight still. A third, juvenile herring gull was staring at me when I celebrated yet another lucky point for the starting year.

Still thinking about white-throated dipper, I stopped by Sahajärvi, only to realize I’m following a wrong lead as dippers were not spotted two weeks ago here but in Kirjakkala. I added another two goldcrests from Sahajärvi but left quickly on. Kirjakkala ford had nothing, but when I was about to leave, I realized the nearby two houses had a massive feeding on their gardens. I stopped for a good time to observe the mass of the birds and was able to add Common blackbird (Turdus merula, mustarastas), eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus, pikkuvarpunen), eurasian siskin (Carduelis spinus, vihervarpunen) and blue tit (Parus caeruleus, sinitiainen) on my list of yearly species. This was all very good as I did not have to make a choice in city birding whether to go to Halikonlahti to see feeding or to try to find doves.

I was on Enola, place famous from its collared doves population, at 14:50. No doves anywhere, notable not even the common ones. I figured out that last nights new year fireworks might have seriously scared them up. It came to my mind that I had paid no attention to spot a pheasant, another species which might get bad feelings about explosions. I was thinking about this when I saw a strange decorative item in a pigmit pine cutted in a shape of big ball. It turned it’s head and I recognized it to be a real animal, a head of male common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus, fasaani) hiding in a place which it probably thought to be the safest. Gotcha!

As the very last thing I drove a small route around further away in Enola and saw a glimpse of flying pigeons in front of me. I embarked and after a quarter of getting my view right inside a giant black spruce I spotted one pink pigeon with a collar. Judging from the first sight I decided there were five eurasian collared doves (Streptopelia decaocto, turkinkyyhky) hiding inside.

Tried to get common pigeon while driving home but by 15:20 it was already too dark. Very, very nice day nevertheless.

27 species for the first day. In this darkness and coldness I’d say that is an acceptable record. I’m happy for every sight but especially the ones I didn’t expect, most notable being the golden eagle.

I’m missing a handful of very common winter species from my list, so theoretically in Salo you could make a few more species on 1st of January, perhaps up to around 50. Maybe some year, with a team? Happy new year!