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Disappearing Into Finnair: Finland 2022, birds, butterflies, dragonflies and big predators (1 Viewer)

1 August Monday 2

Familiar territory now, we’d stayed with Taru’s parents in 2009 and the summer cottage, a hundred yards down from the main house, was a nice place to be, though so close to the lake that we knew we’d get through a fair bit of mosquito repellent. That said, the mossies weren’t anything like as bad as on our previous stay: whether the gradual drying of Finland and lowering of the water table has anything to do with that is for climate scientists and ecologists to work out. There was still an invisible Corncrake calling in the field above the house and that provided the only real wildlife interest of the day.

We nipped into Savonlinna to check out tourist ferry timetables, shop a bit and have a coffee down by the harbour, where the campaign to grip John off with arty Saimaa Seals continued.

2 August Tuesday 2

Dave had put his trailcam out in a forestry block owned by the family overnight and took us to see a hoofprint trackway he'd found on the gravel track to the location. The weather was now hot and sunny and I noticed a lot of butterflies flitting about, so changed my targeting and went after them. Unfortunately the one I really wanted to photograph, a Camberwell Beauty, flushed when I was still out of range and shot off. It never came back. Silver-washed and Dark Green Fritillaries were nice but later on back at the house the Scarce Copper just next to the kitchen garden was a tick and a blaze of intense orange looking great through the camera lens.

Sadly the only hare I saw was Brown (introduced): on our previous visit there were Mountain Hares in the garden and fields. Not pleased.

3 August Wednesday 2

Golden Oriole calls faded out before I could track them down. I’d heard them here last time and not seen them, as well. I managed to photograph the Brown Hare and saw a Red Squirrel, which is also nice but it was far too quick for me.


Stone Saimaa Seal at Savonlinna harbour
Me and Maz at our new summer cottage
Elk cow hoofprint (there was an Elk calf track alongside, bit of a giveaway)
Dark Green Fritillary
Silver-washed Fritillary
Scarce Copper X 2
Brown Hare

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This is one of the better relaxed easy reading travel / birding logs.....well constructed. Please don't grip me off with Finnish F18s operating off forest roads.
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4 August Thursday 2

Maz and I had a half day away, driving to Linnansaari National Park for a cruise to try and see Saimaa Seal (Ringed Seals resident in the enormous freshwater Lake Saimaa). It was our second attempt, after a failure on the 2009 trip, but the guide exuded confidence and competence and we thought we had a good chance. Sadly it was another dip but we did get great views of Ospreys. An enjoyable trip.


Savonlinna Fortress the day before on a family boat trip round the local arm of Lake Saimaa. I like a castle. This one dates from the ping-pong history of Finland, owned successively by Sweden - Russia - Sweden - Russia - Sweden - Russia before the Finns made a break for independence in the confusion of the Russian defeat in WWI and the following revolution.

Not a Saimaa Seal: we investigated several possible sightings.....
Osprey nest on a rock in the edge of the Linnansaari National Park part of Lake Saimaa. The juveniles were airworthy.
Osprey having a closer look at us.
Another likely looking lump dismissed!
Baltic Gulls on a rocky islet.
Female Red-breasted Merganser roosting on another rocky islet.

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5 August Friday 2

Early morning and the lake (an arm of Lake Saimaa and once every few years host to a Saimaa Seal, just not when I’m anywhere near) mirror smooth with just an arrowhead of spreading wash from a line of summer plumage adult Black-throated Divers slipping past our jetty. I grabbed the camera and ran for it, getting some really pleasing pictures of the five-strong group.

As the sun warmed the clearing in front of our cottage I recorded Brown Hawkers, Ruddy, Yellow-winged and Vagrant Darters, and a single Downy Emerald all catching mosquitos and other insects from ground level to canopy top. Maz and I drove over to the track where Dave and I had gone with Max to put a camera trap out some days previously (it caught nothing all week) and found it held lots of butterflies: Maps, Silver-washed Frits, Scarce and Small Coppers, a Peacock, another Camberwell that wouldn’t stop, Comma and Red Admiral. It’s actually nice to see so much familiar stuff, gives you a bit of confidence that you might know what you are about. Map was a good trip tick.

Back at the cottage I found a Lesser Purple Emperor sitting up in a tree – closed despite the warmth. Can’t have everything. Up by the big house Great Green Bush Crickets were in the woodland edge. Max and I had good views but Dave wasn’t quite quick enough.


Black-throated Diver X 3
High Brown Fritillary
Four-spotted Chaser

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Just checking you work John, brings back a ton of memories from my time in Russia. Yellow-spotted Emerald I only ever saw once in three years on my patch. Looked for the Seal on Lake Ladoga, not a sniff and despite seeing footprints and feeding marks on trees, never saw an Elk either, even on our trip to the Arctic we dipped.

I know Barry Reed too btw, we went to Taiwan together.
Those B-t Divers are a bit special!
Thanks Mike! I find it curious that you can find these flockettes of summer plumage Black-throated Divers (I saw it once on Loch Maree in Scotland, eight of them together, all full plumage). What's their motivation for sticking together - they don't seem to do it when wintering and presumably these are failed/non-breeders, but look at the plumage, they must be adults!

Seals in a lake? Count me in! I have just looked at the satellite image of that area and decided that I have to visit this on a boat.
My Finland list started before eBird. I did see osprey once, but no date. Also harrier, no date. So I only show some 50 on eBird where I really have 60. Will fix it this May. No Finnair involved, only SAS.
My Finland list started before eBird. I did see osprey once, but no date. Also harrier, no date. So I only show some 50 on eBird where I really have 60. Will fix it this May. No Finnair involved, only SAS.
Good. luck Tero, ‘who dares, wins’ and all that…….
6 August Saturday 2

A Small Pincertail on the driveway in front of the big house was a tick, a photo-tick (very co-operative subject, luckily) and absolutely the insect of the trip.

The Black-throated Divers were still about and a Goshawk floated briefly over the trees.

It was a kind of end-of-trip evening, cleaning up and then communal beers, as the rest of the gang were off home the following day. I wasn’t. I was heading North alone.


Black-throated Diver
Small Pincertail
Trusty steed

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Phase 3

7 August Sunday 3

Travel day for everyone, but I needed to be away first to hit the booking-in time at The Bear Centre 263 miles away, North of Savonlinna and somewhat East of Kuhmo. So I boarded the Corolla, waved a crocodile-teared farewell and set off for a week of proper wildlifing, keeping pretty much to the speed limits and enjoying the empty roads. Not much wildlife though, by the time I’d reached the centre and booked in. I was early enough to book an extra night in the hides but I figured one night’s decent sleep would be invaluable later in the week and opted instead for a wander round the centre, obeying explicitly the instruction not to go beyond the allowed point towards the hide area.

That’s the bear watching hide area: there is specifically a small birdwatching hide not far from the centre which anyone can use. It’s supplied with nuts and seeds but the one trouble with it is that it’s left to passing photographers to put them out and not resupplied routinely by the centre staff, so the supply is uneven and the birds erratic rather than inevitable. If there’s one thing that should change it’s that. Unless your stay has been preceded by a fanatical bird photographer liberally dispensing food you have to start attracting birds from scratch and it’s not very effective.

Anyway, there’s a ready supply of broken branches, cut stumps and so on for you to build your ideal perch before you load it up with goodies. Soon after I completed work I noticed a Red Squirrel hovering just out of reach and after sitting a while longer I was treated to forays by an adult and a juvenile. That at least was something I could work on during my stay. More wandering around got shots of juvenile Redwing and adult Fieldfare but both species were and remained very twitchy over the coming days.

The meal routine is pretty rigid, it has to be to fit with briefings, getting people in and out of the hides, sleeping during the day and the staff doing all their other jobs including transfers to and from the local airport. Tonight’s pasta bake went down a treat and I joined those going to the hides for their pre-walk out briefing – no harm getting ahead of the game information wise – before heading back to my room for an early night.


Bear Centre bird hide view
Red Squirrel
Redwing juvenile
Bear Centre sign - now that's what it's all about....

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