Finnish Focus On...Ural Owl

Ural Owl is easily one of the most beautiful species available in Finland.
One of the commoner species of owl breeding here, they are secretive in nature, often only detected in spring if you can get close enough to hear their soft territorial hoot at night.

Occaisionally, like most owls, we get a couple resident around the city in winter, though they can often be difficult to connect with, blending in against trees or buried in a spruce.

Ural Owls are a very peaceful looking species, often described as having a "Dopey" appearance, though we know that they can be utterly ferrocious when protecting their nest.

The Finnish name, Viirupöllö, translates simply as "Streaked Owl", an unimpressive name for such an incredible bird.

This is my favorite kind of view of this species, really setting the scene of true finnish forrest, the quintessential wise, silent guardian of the woods.
Like most owls, their intricate plumage in terms of their overall appearance, is mirrored…


Saturday was a snowy day and we elected to stay home and engage with the big garden birdwatch.

This is what it's all been leading up to. Mountains of food laid out for hungry birds, drawing in species from the surrounding countryside.

In the end we did pretty well seeing 17 species in the hour with the following counts.

105 Yellowhammer
5 Jay
6 Magpie
40 Blue Tit
25 Great Tit
1 Robin
1 Coal Tit
12 Greenfinch
12 Tree Sparrow
6 Blackbird
2 Chaffinch
1 Goshawk
2 Raven
1 Hooded Crow
2 Treecreeper
2 Bullfinch
6 Great Spotted Woodpecker

There were some notable dips, however, with our flock of Long Tailed Tits failing to make an appearance, our Grey Headed Woodpeckers being no shows, not a single White Tailed Eagle soaring around and no calling Black Woodpecker in the bay.

Some of the counts were excellent though, with our Tree Sparrow flock doubling in size and our Yellowhammer flock jumping from 70+ to 105 during the hour, and a count of 125+ recorded later in the day. With more snow forecast this week…

Shiver Me Timbers

January, as it so often does, sees Winter tighten it's grip on the landscape as temperatures plummet.

Thursday saw 20+ cm of snow fall overnight, followed by a temperature drop to -11°C with a forecast -20 on the horizon.

Mid-week I managed to nip out for a bit more year ticking, nabbing Black Bellied Dipper at the usual local spot.

He was a bit on the skulky side, but will likely be there for the whole winter. 
On Saturday I headed into the city. A Parrot Crossbill had been frequenting the seafront and was overdue a visit.
This area has a great track record for the more unusual crossers overwintering, probably due to the fact that, with just 5 pines and a few larch trees present, it makes it a little easier to find them than in the vast forrests of the countryside. 
This cracking female Two Barred was a handy number a couple of years back.

I showed up at Cafe Carusel and the bird was present and handy with two female common Crossbill. 

It really is that easy sometimes. A hot cup …

Winter Yearticking

Yesterday we headed down for second helpings of the Shorelarks, this time with Hanna and Lyra in tow.

Took a little while to refind them, as there had been a slight compacting of the snow, exposing more stubble for them to hide in.

Eventually a Great Grey Shrike flushed them, and we enjoyed good views.

Due for a visit with the grandparents, we made our way to Espoo, stopping off at Suurpelto for Rough Legged Buzzard. 
This 2CY bird was giving itself up as it hunted around the fields. Absolute stunner.

What a bird.

It was then time for some Hawk Owl action. A quick spin down to the coast and this rather grumpy looking bird gave itself up.

"I will destroy you and all that you love, human!"