The "Sorry Brian" Tour - A Visit From Ireland
A few months ago I was contacted by Brian McCloskey after he saw some shots of Hawk Owl from Helsinki.
He put together a cunning plan for himself, Cathal Forkan and Joe Proudfoot to avail of cheap flights to the city.
There was just one snag...Poor Brian had some last minute college exams sprung on him, meaning he could not travel...and thus the Poor Brian tour was born.
On Saturday I took Cathal and Joe out west, starting off at a Black Grouse lek. I was somewhat worried that perhaps we were too early in the year. When we arrived the bog was silent with no snow present and it was looking a bit of a washout. We moved back into the woods looking for Hazel Grouse. We had barely moved more than 70 meters when we heard the bubbling calls of male Black Grouse coming from behind us. Back to the bog and there we found 3 cracking males sitting up on some stunted trees.
Black Grouse - male
The lads in mid-tickage
From here we moved back along the path but had no luck with Hazel Grouse. We heard a whistling Grey Headed Woodpecker, but he refused to show for us.
Further west again, in Siuntio, a quick stop produced the next lifers for the guys as we watched a few Smew in a coastal bay, temporarily harrassed by a White Tailed Eagle.
We carried on west into Inkoo where Joe asked "Is there much chance of coming across a Hawk Owl randomly?".
Five minutes later Joe had picked up a roadside Hawk Owl in a random location.
Hawk Owl - Best Bird in the Universe
Hawkie Tickage - The tickage of tickage
It was then on to the Next site where we easily picked up Willow Tit, Crested Tit, Northern Treecreeper and, of course, the Nutcrackers.
We received news that a Great Grey Owl was showing at Viiki and so we set off back to the city, seeing our first Goshawk, sitting on a street light, as we drove on the ring road.
We walked through the woods at Viiki and arrived to see an absolutely stunning, active and hunting, Great Great Owl.
This was easily the best individual I had ever seen, immaculate in plumage and completely oblivious to us, at one point flying right at us, pouncing on a rodent just five feet in front of me. Astounding bird!
Great Grey Owl - a beautiful monster!
On Sunday we headed east to Porvoo, arriving at Tolkkinen feeding station just after dawn. Several birders were already on site and we were instantly treated to good views of both White Backed Woodpecker and Pygmy Owl in quick succession.
2 Black Woodpecker were also very welcome, but alas the hoped for Grey Headeds did not appear.
We then checked out a nearby wood for Ural Owl. Unfortunately this was a dense commercial plantation and viewing was not easy, but the lads did manage a couple of flight views of the Ural.
In nearby fields a long staying flock of Redpolls held all 3 types in it, and we were treated to a cracking view of a male Arctic, and a few more obscurred views of a couple more Arctics among the mealy and lessers.
A little up the road again we had brief views of a Rough Legged Buzzard on a pylon, but far superior views of another in fields by the motor way.
Rough Legged Buzzard
A Goshawk made it's way over these fields, giving good flight views and then it was back to Helsinki for the Eastern Black Redstart.
The redstart was even tamer than my last visit, and we arrived to find a ring of birders sitting in a circle in a ditch, whilst the bird hopped around their feet.
Spot the Eastern Black Redstart - Cathal Forkan
We then finished off the weekend on Viiki fields ticking off Great Grey Shrike for the lads, and enjoying good views of 2 Goshawks hunting and circling around the area, giving good experience views for the lads.
That was that for the guys, and their originally intended trip of nabbing Hawk Owl on a weekend city break, sees them head home with a goodie bag full of tickage.