Finland Birding Tours

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The Republic of Finland (“Finland” hereafter) forms a huge part of Scandinavia, in northeast Europe, with national parks consisting of extensive taiga forest and attractive lakes dominating the landscape. At 130,678 square miles (338,455 square kilometers), Finland is the 8th largest country in Europe and is also the European Union’s most sparsely populated country at 41.4 people per square mile (16 people per square kilometer). Finland’s capital, Helsinki, sits in southern Finland and is a modern and grand city of 1.5 million people. Helsinki boasts stunning and pretty architecture in the northern European style and has plenty of attractions to visit.

The first people arrived in Finland in around 9000 BC and agriculture began in the region around 3000 BC. From the 13th century AD, Sweden began colonizing parts of the Finnish coastline and as a result Finland became an integral part of Sweden in this period. In 1906 Finland became the first country in Europe to allow all adult citizens the right to vote. Prior to the First World War, Finland was under Russian control with this ending in 1917 thanks to the Russian revolution. A little-known fact is that during World War Two Finland fought both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany to retain independence, which she did at some cost. In the 21st century Finland is considered one of the world’s most developed nations and has ranked first in the World Happiness Report in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Finland’s length of 720 miles (1,160 kilometers) results in a varied landscape. The country runs from its northern tip at 70° N latitude to its southern tip at 60° N and the changes in the landscape and climate are stark along this distance. Beginning in the north one can find a tundra climate, with northern Finland sitting just inside the Arctic circle. It is here that the coldest temperatures are found, with -45°C (-49°F) not uncommon in a winter that can last for 200 days. The majority of central Finland is subarctic in climate. It is in this area that our combined Finland and Norway tour begins as we take in the vast taiga forests and many thousands of lakes in the region. South Finland possesses a humid, continental climate, with the warming effect of mainland Europe and the presence of the Baltic Sea meaning that the south can have surprisingly mild summers for this latitude. It is in the south of Finland that most of the country’s 179,000 islands are found.

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During our tour we will take in the vast wilderness and its wonderful wildlife. The important wetland of Liminganlahti, part of the Oulu region wetlands, and the Oulanka National Park will be particular highlights (a veritable shorebird and wildfowl paradise), as well as our first taste of the expanse of taiga forest which spreads northwards. The services of our excellent local guides give us fantastic chances of finding the specialty birds of Finland. Oulu and Oulanka are two of the 100 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Finland and these are vital sites for the birdlife of the country. As we head north, we will see the habitats change until we make the long journey across Lapland to Norway and the second leg of our combined Finland and Norway tour.

According to International Ornithological Congress (IOC) taxonomy, Finland has a bird list of 495 species (IOC v10.2), as of September 2020, of which 26 are globally threatened and quite a few are species at the northwesternmost limit of their breeding range. The list of highlight species of our Finland and Norway tour is extensive. Therefore, we have broken down the highlights into different regions that we will visit.

In the Oulu region wetlands we hope to come across a large number of shorebird (wader) species (including rare breeders such as Ruff, Spotted Redshank, and Terek Sandpiper). In addition, Common Crane, Caspian Tern, Black-throated Loon, Pallid Harrier, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, and Citrine Wagtail are all highly prized target species.

Moving north into the deep forests around Ivalo we will look for Hazel Grouse (Hazel Hen), Western Capercaillie, White-tailed Eagle, seven owl species (Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Ural Owl, Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Great Grey Owl, Boreal (Tengmalm’s) Owl, Tawny Owl, and Long-eared Owl), Black Woodpecker, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Siberian Jay, Spotted Nutcracker, and Parrot Crossbill.

Moving even further northeast in Finland and the start of the true taiga habitat, we can find rare European breeding species such as Bohemian Waxwing, Grey-headed Chickadee (Siberian Tit), Arctic Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail, Pine Grosbeak, Arctic Redpoll, Lapland Longspur (Bunting), Little Bunting, and Rustic Bunting.

Crossing into Norway we can expect many of the species above plus more birds of prey such as Rough-legged Buzzard, Short-eared Owl, Snowy Owl, and Gyrfalcon.

Many more fantastic birds are likely (see the detailed itinerary here for more potential highlights); Finland’s avifauna is sure to captivate and astonish in equal measure. During our tour around Finland we may also come across large mammals such as Moose (Elk) and (European) Brown Bear.

The mystery and feeling of being immersed in nature are incomparable on the European continent and bird watching in Finland is loved by all visitors. Combined with a visit to the wonderful Varanger Peninsula in Arctic Norway, this tour promises the spectacular at every turn, while giving you an authentic Scandinavian experience with fantastic food and welcoming people.

Finland and Norway: Owls, Taiga, and Fjords June 2021

Finland and Norway: Owls, Taiga, and Fjords June 2021

2021-06-03

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