And so 2021 comes to a close. Another year of Pandemic birding, flown past at what seems like light speed, but nonetheless memorable.
The year started out well with a female Pine Bunting popping up in our local town. This bird proved very easy to see and hung around a considerable amount of time, allowing for several visits. A really nice "experience" bird to get to grips with.
Pine Bunting - Female
The winter continued, cold and clear, providing good birding conditions for the regular Finnish fare, particularly in our garden, which did well for things like Pygmy Owl and Black Woodpecker, whilst a drumming White-Backed Woodpecker at Villa Elfvik was a real treat.
"Pedro" - Our garden Pygmy Owl
The end of March brought the spring flocks of geese, which meant as usual I got to enjoy watching Taiga and Tundra Bean Geese side by side, as well as picking out scarce Bewick's Swans (now a rarity in Ireland).
Tundra Bean Goose
Taiga Bean Goose
April saw us visiting Hanko for some spring migration, finding some scarce Rooks and my first self found King Eider here.
Into May, and visible migration really began to pick up, especially from our garden, with top notch garden birds being encountered.
Black Kite - As garden list ticks go, this is right up there.
Birding around our summer house in Hameenkyro was also pleasant producing good birds such as Red-Necked Phalarope.
The star bird for May was a nearby male Collared Flycatcher which was a Finnish tick for me. It was many years since I saw my last Collared Flycatchers, so I very much enjoyed this one.
June rolled around, providing the usual opportunities to find Nightsingers, best of which was this cracking River Warbler at Suomenoja.
The star bird for June was a garden bird and arguably the rarest bird we have ever had from our garden, a jammy flyover Bee-eater, found in exceptional circumstances.
July was a very lazy affair, as what are now typical high temperatures hit, forcing us to spend our days by the lake at our summer house, swimming and enjoying barbeque.
I did, however, manage to find a 3CY Caspian Gull, which I was well chuffed with.
August produced a reasonably good Pallid Harrier season. I had already found a couple of Spring birds from the garden (including a stunning adult male), but it's always great to see the juvs coming through and finding some of my own again was icing on the cake.
Pallid Harrier - Juvenile
September produced yet more Pallid Harriers, including this bird from the garden.
However, my best find came in the form of a Caspian Gull which was the first for Siuntio county. This was a very enjoyable find, in that at first it was a difficult bird to get to grips with, being distant in a heat haze.
However, somewhat surprisingly, I was actually able to refind the same bird, further south in Siuntio the following day, where it gave much better views. It was also unusual in the sense that it was only one of two I have found away from dump scenarios.
Caspian Gull - A crisp juvenile
October produced my first lifer of the year, with Finland's second Brown Shrike (Finland has now had 3 Brown Shrike...amazingly all in 2021) turning up at Vikki. A quick afternoon trip produced prolonged, good although slightly distant views.
November produced what was arguably the bird of the century, for Finland, if not for the entire Western Palearctic, an Ancient Murrelet at nearby Porkkala. A quick lunchtime twitch was required for this one, and I just made it for what was the last 10/15 minutes of it's short stay. What an absolute mind-bender.
Ancient Murrelet - Wowza
November also allowed for twitching a late 1st Winter Caspian Gull in Turku when down that direction for a family meet-up. I don't often get to see this species well progressed into winter plumage, most gulls of course having made their way west/south, so this was a real treat.
Caspian Gull (rear bird) - 1st Winter
In December we looked forward to a long overdue family get-together, with my parents arriving in Finland for Christmas and seeing their granddaughter for the first time in two years.
This of course meant getting some good birds for the Don of Irish Birding whilst he was here. Great to be able to get the ould fella a few decent ticks during his stay.
We started out with a recently found male Black-Throated Thrush in nearby Espoo.
Black Throated Thrush - rare in Finland, but utterly mega in Ireland. A great one for any Irish birder to connect with and a real looker too.
Next on the agenda, his bogey bird, White-Backed Woodpecker. We headed down to Porvoo for the day in a pleasant -12°C to a reliable feeder which produced a male and female.
These performed amazingly well, with the male even giving his distinctive drum on several occasions.
White-Backed Woodpecker - nothing beats finally connecting with a bogey bird.
We then enjoyed a nice family lunch in Porvoo with some tame Waxwing onlookers.
Christmas was spent in the usual gorging and lazy fashion, though we did head out to see a local Hawk Owl. No winter trip to Finland is complete without one!
Hawk Owl - The Best Bird in the Universe.
A quick stop at Laajalahti failed to produce any woodpeckers or owls (My Grey Headed pair failed to appear in the garden for the entire trip!), but a surprise Hazel Grouse was an amazing find for Don. Not a typical suburban species whatsoever!
Hazel Grouse - beautifully ornate. Probably the most underrated bird in Europe in my opinion.
Returning to the in-laws place, we were amazed to find at least one Hawfinch in the garden (though it sounds like there was two in the video). A garden tick in this location and a good scarcity for the trip list.
Hawfinch - what a bill!
Mistle Thrush - 1 of two birds we found on Christmas day. Very unusual to have them in winter.
Don's final tick of the trip, and taking things somewhat full circle for the year, was the Pine Bunting female, returned for a second year to the same garden in Masala.
A bit tougher viewing this year but we managed some good, brief views in the end. A great bonus bird for the trip.
Of course, no winter trip here would be complete without some Nutcrackers. And so we made our way to the regular Lohja feeder to enjoy them and their supporting cast.
Nutcrackers - absolute stunners.
Crested Tit - delightful chittery things
Another species it simply wouldn't do not to see on a winter visit, Pygmy Owl. A quick patrol of the neighborhood around the house found a bird being mobbed by the local tit flock. Easy peasy.
And so that is that. 2021, done and dusted and ended on an excellent high note with 3 lifers for the Don of Irishbirding.
Here's hoping 2022 is just as good!