This section deals with two separate regions in central Finland. The first is the birdrich area around the city of Oulu at the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia. The main site here is Liminganlahti just south of Oulu; this area is recognized as the most important wetland in the country and justifiably famous far outside of Finland. Liminganlahti and Oulu used to have the largest breeding populations of Terek Sandpiper and Yellow-breasted Bunting in Europe outside of Russia. The Bunting has unfortunately disappeared completely from Oulu and the rest of Finland the last 10-15 years, and also the sandpiper is undergoing a serious decline, but does still breed here in small numbers. The best places to see it are on the Hietasaari island, just outside the Oulu oil terminal, or an industrial area just to the south of the city center. If these two species are declining there are also some interesting newcomers here in recent years; both Pallid Harrier and Citrine Wagtail have colonized this area and are a fairly regular sight around Liminganlahti.
Also included is some information about Hailuoto, a large island to the west of Oulu, and finally some information about Tauvo, a site south of Oulu and Liminganlahti, that can be good for migration watching.
The visiting birdwatcher should also be aware of the fact that the forested areas around Oulu can be very good for boreal species, particularily owls are very well represented. In fact you might see up to seven species of owl here in one day, including sought-after species as Ural Owl and Great Grey Owl! Unfortunately finding these birds without the assistance of a professional guide is nearly impossible, but many guides based in Oulu are available.
Another site further inland that is briefly covered here is the Hirvisuo bog, handily situated next to the main road between Oulu and Kuusamo. Hirvisuo holds some interesting breeding marsh birds and is well worth a stop when driving between Oulu and Kuusamo.
The second area covered here is the forests and wooded hills around Kuusamo in the east, close to the Russian border. The one eastern gem most people will be looking for here is the Red-flanked Bluetail, which is actually relatively easy to find near the hills of Valtavaara or Iivaara.
There are also numerous forest species that might be found around Kuusamo, including Northern Hawk-Owl, Siberian Jay, Grey-headed Chickadee, Two-barred Crossbill, Pine Grosbeak and Little and Rustic Buntings. Valtavaara and Iivaara are again among the best places to find these birds, although some species are erratic by nature and there are no sites where they a consistently seen. If you want to do some serious work on these forest birds, you should consider to do some trekking in Oulanka NP. Particularily the southern part of this beautiful national park can be good.
The lakes and bogs should also be checked for breeding ducks and waders and some of the most productive sites around Kuusamo are described here in some detail.
It should be noted that Kuusamo is very popular among Finnish birders and every year in June there is a national bird race here. These birders will be just too happy to share their information and if visiting in June it is thus easy to get the latest tips about interesting birds. Almost every year exciting rarities are found somewhere in this area and the parking at the foot of Konttainen hill (Valtavaara) is usually a very good place to get the latest news.
A last site covered in this section is Elimyssalo Nature Reserve, which is particularily well-known for its mammalian fauna. All Finnish large carnivores can be seen in this nature reserve, as well as other interesting mammals, like the Forest Reindeer. The usual range of birds typical of the taiga forest can be found here, but also interesting eastern species as Red-flanked Bluetail and Two-barred Crossbill.
Liminganlahti is a large bay on the west coast and probably the best wetland area in Finland. In spring huge numbers of swans, geese, ducks and waders use this area as a last stop, before migrating further north to their breeding grounds. The first migration starts at the end of March, with Northern Lapwing, Eurasian Skylark and Snow Buntings arriving, but the main migration generally starts around the end of April and continues well into June. In the last week of April good numbers of feeding geese, mostly Taiga Bean Goose, can be seen in the fields just to the south of the bay. Careful scanning of these flocks should also reveal other grey geese; Pink-footed Goose and Greater White-fronted Goose occur in small numbers, and rarer species still are regularily found here.
From early May good numbers of ducks start to appear and during the peak in May up to 20.000 birds might be present in the bay. Many of these also stay to breed, and the most common breeding ducks here are Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler and Tufted Duck. In early May the waders also begin to make an appearance, at first the Tringa waders and thousands of Ruffs, later in the month also good numbers of arctic waders, including Broad-billed Sandpiper and good numbers of Red-necked Phalaropes (a good place to see the phalaropes is Papinjärvi, immediately to the north of the airport, where they can sometimes be seen in large numbers). Many of these waders also breed near the bay, including the phalaropes. There is also a breeding population of Black-tailed Godwit here, the largest in Finland.
The extensive reedbeds around the bay as well as the cultivation around it are also good for raptors, both Western Marsh Harrier and Hen Harrier breed here, and in some years both Montagu's and Pallid Harrier breed in this general area and are regularily seen here. In April-May hunting Peregrine Falcons are often seen, and some Golden and White-tailed Eagles, as well as Rough-legged Buzzards, are seen migrating through.
Passerines are also seen on migration here and in early May good numbers of Bluethroats, Bramblings, Rustic Buntings and Lapland Longspurs can be encountered. Common Rosefinch and Ortolan Bunting both arrive late to Liminganlahti, but in June both can be heard singing. The visitor center at Virkkula and the area around Lumijoki can be good for the Ortolan Bunting. A new breeder in this area the past years is the Citrine Wagtail, which is now established here with several breeding pairs every year. The area around the Puhkiavanperä birdtower might be a good place for this eastern species.
Grouse can also be found in this area; in April and early May displaying Black Grouse can be seen (and heard!) in the fields around the bay, and the road to Sannanlahti is good for both Willow Ptarmigan as well as Western Capercaillie. The forest a few kilometers to the northwest of Sannanlahti is good for Hazel Grouse and also Eurasian Three-toed and Black Woodpeckers.
In autumn there is much less action at Liminganlahti as the migrants tend to pass this area; Siikajoki and the island of Hailuoto tend to be better.
In winter it is naturally very quiet, but should you for any reason be in Oulu between November and March, you might still see some good birds around Liminganlahti. Snowy Owl, Northern Hawk-Owl and Great Grey Owl can sometimes be seen hunting over the fields, and Bohemian Waxwing, Arctic Redpoll, Parrot Crossbill and Pine Grosbeak are often seen in winter. In invasion years you might also see good numbers of Two-barred Crossbills. In the coniferous forests you might find a Black or Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker and in March you might hear displaying Boreal Owl, Eurasian Pygmy Owl or Eurasian Eagle-Owls.
Because of the sheer size of Liminganlahti I give here some brief information about various access points (mostly birdwatching towers) to the bay. See Getting There below for driving information to these sites.
At the end I also have some notes about forest birding in this general area (actually forested areas between Liminganlahti and Raahe). Strictly speaking these localities do not belong to Liminganlahti, but are included here for convenience. This is also true for some of the towers/sites described below, they rather belong to Kempeleenlahti (situated between Liminganlahti and Oulu).
Visitor centre at Virkkula:
The tower near the information center can be very good for almost all species of Liminganlahti, particularily waders. This is the best place for Black-tailed Godwit around Liminganlahti, but also for many species of Tringa sandpiper and Ruff. This area might also be the best place for wildfowl in the autumn. Interesting breeding passerines include Common Rosefinch and (some years) Ortolan Bunting.
Most of the typical species of Liminganlahti can be seen from Sannanlahti and this is a very good place to see Gadwall, Western Osprey and Caspian and Little Terns. Early in the spring Bewick's Swan is regularily seen here and the nature trail out to the tower often holds Willow Ptarmigans. Western Capercaillie can be found in the woodlands between Sannanlahti and Lumijoki and by following the road a few kms to the northwest you have some forested areas that hold Hazel Grouse.
This tower can be very good for ducks and waders and in this area you can often find Red-necked Phalaropes and Black-tailed Godwits. Eurasian Bittern can often be seen or heard here and the reedbeds here are also good for Bearded Reedling. On a visit to this tower in June 2014 I had both Citrine Wagtail and Pallid Harrier here.
This might be the best place to watch the birds of Liminganlahti as the species variation is greater than most other sites, particularily for ducks and waders. This is also a good place to hear the Eurasian Bittern. Still in the 1990's this was a good place for Yellow-breasted Bunting, and singing males could be seen an heard in the vegetation fringing the river. Sadly enough this species has disappeared altogether as a breeding bird in Finland since.
It should be noted that the wooden cause-way can be partly submerged in water and rubber boots might be needed.
This is a good site for swans, Smew and Montagu's Harrier. This is another trail that can be very wet!
This little lake just north of the airport does hold breeding Common Scoter, and sometimes large numbers of Red-necked Phalaropes and Little Gulls can be seen here.
Akionlahti is a small lake near the ferry terminal to Hailuoto island and could be checked if going to Hailuoto. The lake can hold hundreds of Little Gulls and also good numbers of terns. The waters and shores around the ferry terminal (a further 2km along the road) can also be worth checking.
The usual ducks and waders can be seen from this tower, as well as Black-throated Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Western Osprey, White-tailed Eagle, Common Crane and Caspian Tern. Sometimes even Terek Sandpiper can be seen on the shore. Bearded Reedlings can sometimes be seen in the reed-beds and over the woods you might see a Northern Goshawk. Eurasian Woodcocks are often displaying here in the evening.
There are some very interesting forest birds to be found in the forests to the south of Liminganlahti. Owls are of particular interest and breeding owls here include true taiga species as Ural Owl, Great Grey Owl, Boreal Owl and Eurasian Pygmy Owl. Other good forest birds that visiting birdwatchers are looking for here include Hazel Grouse and Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker. You could try your luck driving around on your own and hope to find some of these, I know of some birders that have tried the minor road from Lumijoki to Raahe via Siikajoki (road 813). But to be honest your chances of finding anything interesting are rather limited. Most birders contact local bird-guide companies, like Finnature, that can show the owls on their nests or on the nesting sites.
Birds in Liminganlahti
Early spring (Mar - Apr):
Whooper Swan, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Gyrfalcon, Northern Lapwing, Boreal Owl, Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Eurasian Skylark and Snow Bunting.
Late spring (May - Jun):
Taiga Bean Goose, Greater and Lesser White-fronted Goose, Pink-footed Goose, Peregrine Falcon, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Wood Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Bluethroat, Brambling, Rustic Bunting and Lapland Longspur.
Eurasian Bittern, Gadwall, Western Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Common Redshank, Red-necked Phalarope, Little Gull, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Little Tern, Citrine Wagtail, Bearded Reedling, Common Rosefinch and Ortolan Bunting.
Autumn (Aug - Oct):
Much the same species as in spring, but in lower numbers.
Winter (Nov - Mar):
Snowy Owl, Great Grey Owl, Northern Hawk Owk, Eurasian Three-toed and Black Woodpeckers, Bohemian Waxwing, Arctic Redpoll, Parrot and Two-barred Crossbill and Pine Grosbeak.
At Virkkula you have the Liminka Bay Visitor Centre, providing all needed facilities for visiting birdwatchers; Guiding services, an exhibition, café, restaurant and also accommodation. See their website for more information.
Generally speaking no permits are needed for birding Liminganlahti. Obviously, when walking out to the birdwatching towers you should stay on the boardwalks; you are not allowed to walk outside of the boardwalks or marked trails.
Food and accommodation:
Accommodation should not pose a problem; you have basic accommodation and a restaurant at the visitor centre in Virkkula and there are hotels in nearby Kempele. If that should fail there is a wide range of hotels in Oulu.
Oulu is easily reached with car, train or by flying; Oulu airport is situated at Oulunsalo between Oulu and
For the exploration of Liminganlahti you could start at the visitor centre at Virkkula, this is a good site in its own right, and here you can get the latest information about birds (you can also stay overnight here). To get to the visitor centre from Oulu follow the E8 highway south to Liminka and turn onto the 813 where it is signposted with LIMINKA 2, LUMIJOKI 12. Follow the 813 for about 7 km, where you will see an obvious sign LIMINGANLAHTI OPASTUSKESKUS. Turn right here and then left after 100 m, after 400 m you have the parking lot of the information center to the left. The E8 can also be reached easily from the airport.
To get to the tower at Sannanlahti you continue on the 813 for some 6 kms past the visitor centre at Virkkula and after crossing a small river after the village of Lumijoki turn right (signposted to KARI 1). Follow this road (Tiironperäntie) for 2 kms (last part unsurfaced) and follow a road to the left (Sannanlahdentie) that is signposted LINTUTORNI, SANNALAHTI for 2-3 kms where you reach a parking lot. From here you can follow a signposted trail to the tower (signposted LINTUTORNI). For Hazel Grouse you can follow the Sannanlahdentie road to the end and turn right onto Varjakantie. This road leads to the northernmost point of this peninsula and the coniferous forest beside this road holds the grouse.
Puhkiavanperä: If coming from Virkkula take the unsurfaced Letontie road to the right after 2,5 kms (4,0 kms before Lumijoki). Follow this minor road for 2,5 kms where you see a LINTUTORNI sign and where you can park. The sign is easy to miss, but the carpark is on the right hand side just before the road makes a sharp bend to the left. From the carpark you can follow a duckboard trail to the birdtower.
To get to the tower at the mouth of the Temmesjoki river, turn north from the 813 at Liminka (about 1 km from the E8 highway); here is a sign LIMINKA. After 3 kms you cross the Temmesjoki river, turn left onto the Temmesjoentie road immediately after the bridge (signposted LIMINGANLAHTI 5). Follow this road for 1,5 kms and turn left (signposted LINTUTORNI). Follow this road for less than 4 kms and park on a parking lot; here you can see an information board and a trail to the tower.
Papinkari tower: From the Temmesjoki river you can continue north and take the first road to the left onto Selkämaantie road. Turn left onto Lintulammentie road after 4,3 kms and again left onto Letontie road after 2,0 kms. Follow this road for about 4 kms and after the second bridge (over a ditch) you can park and follow an unmarked trail to the tower. If coming from Oulunsalo, follow the Lentokentäntie road for about 1 km and take the third exit at the roundabout onto Kylänpuolentie road. Follow this for about 2,5 kms and turn left onto Letontie road. The bridge where you can park is after about 1 km.
Papinjärvi: From Oulunsalo take the Lentokentäntie road (route 815) towards the airport and follow this for 2,5 kms. Take the first exit at roundabout onto Automaatiotie road and turn left onto Papinjärventie road after 650 m. Follow Papinjärventie road for 1,1 kms to where you see an unsurfaced road forking to the right; you can park here.
To get to Vihiluoto drive one km out of Oulunsalo on the Lentäkentäntie road towards Oulu and turn left onto Vihiluotontie road and follow this for 650 m. Turn right onto Torpankuja and follow this to the end (300 m). If you are staying at Airport Hotel Oulu the hotel grounds go down to the shore of Vihiluoto. In fact you can follow the signs to the airport hotel when you want to find the way to the tower.
From Oulunsalo you can follow the main 816 road (Hailuodontie) for 10 km and you will see lake Akionlahti immediately to the right. After another 3 km you have the ferry terminal to Hailuoto island.
Although Liminganlahti bay is the main attraction in this part of Finland the city of Oulu also holds some good birdwatching sites. One is the Hietasaari island just west of the city center. On the seaside of the island are two good birdtowers from where you can see mostly waders, terns and gulls. These include Common Ringed Plover, Common
Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Little Gull and
Little, Caspian, Common and Arctic Terns. From these towers there are occasional sightings of Terek Sandpiper and the southernmost tower seems to be the best one for this species. Another option is to check the shore between the towers, which sometimes also produces this exceedingly rare wader. Other waders you might see here include Little Ringed and Common Ringed Plover, Ruddy Turnstone and Temminck's Stint.
Two very interesting places for birds in Oulu are not exactly the most piqturesque; one is an industrial area just south of the city center and the other is the city dump. These should not be missed though; the industrial area is the most reliable locality in Europe for breeding Terek Sandpiper (outside Russia, that is). There is a barren area near the Jääsalontie and Poikkimaantie roads junction where the sandpiper is sometimes seen. Between the junction and the shore is a lagoon from where the sandpiper has frequently been reported. If both of these sites fail, spend some time checking the shoreline leading southeast from the lagoon. If it is low tide you can see many shorebirds here and the Terek Sandpiper is sometimes seen. Other birds you can see here are Common Shelduck, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Common Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Ruddy Turnstone, Temminck's Stint and Little Tern.
Please note that this industrial area is officially named 'Nuottasaaren teollisuusalue', but it is mostly known as the 'oil terminal'. This should not be confused with the oil port on the southern end of Hietasaari.
The city dump should be checked for Lesser Black-backed Gulls of the subspecies heuglini ('Heuglin's Gull'), which is often seen here among the more common gulls. Eurasian Eagle-Owl is sometimes also seen here among the more common Short-eared Owls. The best bet for the Eagle-Owl is to check the lampposts around the dump at dusk.
Another site of interest is lake Pyykösjärvi just north of the city center (and close to the city dump). This lake can hold large numbers of ducks and among the ducks you can also see loads of Great Crested Grebes. Both Black-headed and Little Gulls are very numerous.
Just south of Oulu, at Kiviniemi (between the city center and Oulunsalo) is another tower from where you can see many of the same species as from Vihiluoto (see Liminganlahti section). This might be a useful spot if you are staying in Oulu and are short of time.
Birds in Oulu
Common Merganser, Common Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Common Snipe, Little Gull, Little, Caspian, Common and Arctic Terns.
Nuottasaari Industrial area ('Oil terminal'):
Common Shelduck, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Common Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Terek Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Temminck's Stint and Little Tern.
Western Marsh Harrier, Eurasian Oystercatcher, 'Heuglin's Gull', Eurasian Eagle-Owl and Short-eared Owl.
Tufted Duck, Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Crested Grebe, Hen Harrier, Little Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Arctic Tern.
Greylag Goose, Whooper Swan, Eurasian Wigeon, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Common Snipe and Common Whitethroat.
For the Hietasaari birdtowers: if you are arriving from the E75 highway (either from the north or the south) exit the highway at junction 10 and continue on road 20 towards the sea. If you are coming from Kuusamo you will already be driving the road 20 and you drive over the highway and further down to the sea. From junction 10/the highway continue for 1 km until you cross a river and bear left here on the Hietasaarentie road. After 750 m you cross another smaller river, take the third road to the right after the bridge (Vaaskiventie) and follow this to the end. Walk a few metres along the cycle track to the right and you will see the tower. The southern tower (near the oil port) can be reached by following this cycle track for about 1 km to the south. Or you drive back to the Hietasaarentie road, take right and follow this for another km to the (closed) entrance gate to the oil terminal. You can park your vehicle here and follow the cycle track westwards for 500 m to the tower.
For the Nuottasaari Industrial area, exit the main highway on exit 7 (look for signs to NUOTTASAARI) and follow Poikkimaantie road for about 3.5 kms to the junction with Jääsalontie road. You can park around here, for instance at a large carpark between the Poikkimaantie road and the shore.
Access to the city dump from the motorway: exit the motorway at junction 10 and take the direction for Kuusamo. At the first junction, follow the signs for Rusko. Take the 4th road on the right (the first after the railway line), signposted to Ruskonniitty. This is the dump.
If you take to the left after the railway line you get to Pyykösjärvi. Follow this road for a few hundred meters and you should see the lake to the right. Alternatively, if you are coming from the highway, again take exit 10 onto road 20, drive over the highway and continue for 500 m and turn right onto the Tulliväyla road. Follow this road for 1,5 km and you see the lake to the left.
For the bird tower at Kiviniemi, head south on the E75 and take exit 6 for Oulunsalo. Take to the right onto the Lentokentäntie after the exit and turn right onto Limingantie (road 847) after 500 m. Turn left onto Fiskarintie after 1,5 km and then immediately to the right (Vesalantie). On Vesalantie take the third to the left onto Villenranta and follow this to the end (150 m). If coming from the citycenter follow the Limingantie to the south for 4-5 km and turn right onto Fiskarintie and then follow the same instruction as above.
Hailuoto is a large island in the Gulf of Bothnia which can be reached by ferry from the mainland (the ferry is considered a part of the roadnet and thus free of charge!). It can be worthwhile to take the trip in order to see more maritime species or to watch the migration of arctic species (loons, ducks, geese).
Probably the best spot for migration watching is the westernmost point of the island, Marjaniemi. Some patient scanning of the sea here might reveal migrating loons, Velvet Scoter, Common Scoter, Long-tailed Duck and Caspian Terns.
From the main road you also have frequent access points down to the shores of the island, and the tower at Ojakylänlahti might be worth a stop. From here you can frequently see Greylag Goose, Common Shelduck or Common Crane and birds of pray you can expect to see hunting here are Western Osprey, Hen Harrier, Western Marsh Harrier and Short-eared Owl.
A little bit further is another tower overlooking lake Patelanselkä where you can see somewhat more southerly species as Northern Shoveler, Garganey, Common Pochard and where you can even hear booming Eurasian Bitterns or Spotted Crake.
Another site is just south of Patelanselkä, the beaches at Pöllä. Here Eurasian Oystercatcher, Little and Common Ringed Plover and Temminck's Stint are common and both Little and Caspian Tern are frequently seen over the sea.
Birds on Hailuoto
Black-throated Loon, Gadwall, Greater Scaup, Velvet Scoter, Common Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Caspian Tern, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Temminck's Stint, Spotted Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Little Gull and Eurasian Rock Pipit.
Greylag Goose, Common Shelduck, Common Crane, Ruff, Western Osprey, Hen Harrier, Western Marsh Harrier and Short-eared Owl.
Eurasian Bittern, Northern Shoveler, Garganey, Common Pochard, Spotted Crake and Little Gull.
Eurasian Oystercatcher, Little and Common Ringed Plover, Temminck's Stint and Little and Caspian Tern.
Great Cormorant, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone and Red Knot.
Please see www.Hailuototourism.fi for detailed information about the island, including accommodation, ferry timetable etc.
Food and accommodation:
There is one hotel on Hailuoto, at the Marjaniemi lighthouse, several cottages that can be rented and other more basic options available.
Please see the link above for full details.
From Oulunsalo follow the Hailuodontie road (816) for 13 kms to the end for the ferry terminal. On Hailuoto follow the only main road on the island to the end of the road at Marjaniemi (29 km).
For Ojakylänlahti follow the island's main road for 17 km from the ferry terminal and turn left at crossing signposted ULKOKARVO 4. After 800 m you cross a stream, turn left immediately after the bridge onto a narrow road and follow this for about 1 km. The condition of this road is rather bad so you should consider parking near the bridge and walk the rest.
For the tower at Patelanselkä follow the main road for another 3 km to crossing signposted KAATOPAIKKA and turn left here. Follow this road for 1,3 km and you see the tower just to the south of another stream; you can park near the tower.
After about 22 km from the ferry terminal is a crossing signposted PÖLLÄ 5, turn left here onto road 8162 and follow this for about 5 km to an airfield. From here the road is blocked, but you can follow the road to the left for about 500 m down to the shore and park here. You can explore this area on well-marked trails.
An area to the west of Oulu and Liminganlahti that can be quite interesting is Tauvo. This is another place that is good for migration watching, actually one of the better localities in this part of Finland; not only
waterbirds pass through in good numbers, but also migrating raptors and passerines. The woods around Tauvo and Siikajoki do also hold good forest birds, although admittedly very hard to find without a local guide.
For migration watching head out to the harbour of Tauvo. On favourable days good numbers of Greater Scaup, Velvet Scoter, Common Scoter and Common and Red-breasted Merganser can be recorded. In late April particularily the migration of White-tailed Eagles and Rough-legged Buzzards over this area can be impressive while May is better for loons and waders. Parasitic Jaegers and Caspian Terns are also regularily seen and in early June you have a fair chance of seeing Long-tailed Jaegers passing by.
The woods behind the harbour holds Lesser and Great Spotted Woodpecker, European Crested Tit, European Pied Flycatcher, Common Redstart and Common Rosefinch. More interesting is that good numbers of migrant passerines also stop over here, particularily in spring. There is a bird ringing station here and the most common species they ring are Willow Warbler, Common Redstart, European Pied Flycatcher, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Spotted Flycatcher. They also have good numbers of birds as Bluethroat and Common Rosefinch, while Boreal Owl, Eurasian Wryneck, Thrush Nightingale, Icterine Warbler and Red-backed Shrike are scarcer, but still annual.
The forests between Tauvo, Olkijoki and Siikajoki are pretty good for forest species; by driving here in the early hours of the morning you might see Black Grouse and Willow Ptarmigan and even Northern Hawk-Owl in some years. With extreme luck you might even come across Ural Owl or a Great Grey Owl, both of which breed here. The chanches of you stumbling across these scarce owls in this huge area on your own are pretty slim, but see Liminganlahti section for details about professional guides that can take you to the breeding sites.
Birds at Tauvo
Tauvo Harbour, incl. woods:
Greater Scaup, Common Eider, Velvet Scoter, Common Scoter, Common and Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated and Black-throated Loon, White-tailed Eagle, Rough-legged Buzzard, Ruddy Turnstone, Dunlin, Parasitic and Long-tailed Jaegers, Caspian Tern, Boreal Owl, Lesser and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Wryneck, Thrush Nightingale, Common Redstart, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Icterine Warbler, Willow Warbler, Bluethroat, European Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, European Crested Tit, Red-backed Shrike, Common Redpoll, Eurasian Siskin and Common Rosefinch.
Tauvo - Siikajoki forests:
Northern Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon, Black Grouse, Willow Ptarmigan, Hazel Grouse, Common Crane, Eurasian Woodcock, Common Snipe, Northern Hawk-Owl, Ural Owl, Great Grey Owl, Short-eared Owl, Boreal Owl, Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Common Redstart, Whinchat, European Pied Flycatcher, Eurasian Bullfinch, Red Crossbill and Parrot Crossbill.
Tauvo Birdstation has some information (unfortunately only in Finnish) on www.pply.fi and they have a blog with the latest sightings and bird ringing numbers.
Food and accommodation:
There is no accommodation available in Tauvo (not much else either, it is a tiny village), you're nearest options are in Raahe, Liminka and Kempele. Raahe is closer to Tauvo than Liminka or Kempele (about 25 kms to the south), and here there are several small hotels or you can hire an appartement.
In Raahe you also have a few restaurants and other eateries/cafés.
If coming from Oulu/Liminganlahti on the E8, turn right onto Lumijoentie road at Liminka (same exit as if going to the visitor centre at Virkkula) and follow this road through Lumijoki and Siikajoki. After 42 kms turn right onto Tauvontie road and follow this to the end (7 kms). You can (time allowing) drive on the minor roads in this area and thus enlarge your chances for an encounter with some of the more difficult forest species.
Hirvisuo is a vast bog close to road 20 between Oulu and Kuusamo (some 40 kms northeast of Oulu). Bird densities here are typically low, but some interesting breeding birds can be seen here, including Black-throated Loon, Taiga Bean Goose, Eurasian Hobby, Merlin, Western Capercaillie, Common Crane, Short-eared Owl and Great Grey Shrike. None of these are numerous, though. Rarer still are Broad-billed Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Jack Snipe and Red-necked Phalarope.
More common birds are Black Grouse, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel and Ruff, while charachteristic species in the surrounding woodland are Tree Pipit, Common Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Common Redpoll and Brambling. The bog can be watched from a bird tower close to the parking lot. An even better option is to venture into the bog on a naturetrail starting and ending at the carpark; the trail is about 1 km long.
Birds at Hirvisuo
Black-throated Loon, Whooper Swan, Taiga Bean Goose, Eurasian Teal, Northern Pintail, Eurasian Hobby, Merlin, Common Kestrel, Black Grouse, Western Capercaillie, Common Crane, European Golden Plover, Northern Lapwing, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Jack Snipe, Red-necked Phalarope, Short-eared Owl, Tree Pipit, Common Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Common Redpoll and Brambling.
Hirvisuo is named after the Elk (Alces alces) which lives in the reserve by mire ponds and in the area's forest islets. Hirvisuo is also an important summer grazing area for (feral) reindeer (Rangifer tarandus).
You can find more information about Hirvisuo on the website of Metsähallitus (a state-owned enterprise that administers state-owned land and water in Finland).
Food and accommodation:
There is no accommodation or restaurants available around Hirvisuo, your best options are in Oulu, about 45 kms to the southwest or around Pudasjärvi, 40 kms to the northeast.
You can get to the southern part of Hirvisou bog (with the carpark, birdtower and naturetrail) by taking road 20 (Oulu - Kuusamo). The nature reserve is some 43 kms to the northeast of Oulu, immediately to the north of the road and is signposted. If you come from Kuusamo you will have the reserve on the right hand side about 40 kms after Pudasjärvi.
Kuusamo is a small town (pop. 16.000) in eastern-central Finland, close to the Russian border. There are several sites just outside town, mainly the lakes Kuusamojärvi and Torankijärvi, that should be checked, both for the usual waterbirds, but also interesting species as Arctic Warbler and Little and Rustic Buntings.
In this section I mainly detail sites around the town (two sites a little further away are also included); information about Valtavaara and other sites in the Kuusamo region are to be found in later sections below.
A good place to start is the bird tower overlooking Lake Torankijärvi; during the spring migration Whooper Swan, Taiga Bean Goose, Greater Scaup, Common Scoter, Smew, and Long-tailed Duck can be seen resting on the lake. Birds you might see here in summer are Red-throated Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Common Pochard and Common Merganser. Little Gulls are common here and sometimes hundreds can be seen picking insects from the surface. By carefully checking the vegetation near the shore around the sewage plant or the museum area Little Bunting shouldn't be too difficult to find. Another place that might produce both Little Bunting and Rustic Bunting is the narrow landbridge between Torankijärvi and Kuusamojärvi near Taivallahti bay (near the bird tower).
It is also possible to continue past Torankijärvi out to Tolpanniemi where you have a nice view over Kuusamojärvi. This can be a good place for the usual waterbirds and careful scanning might reveal Black-throated Loon and Red-necked Grebe. Hazel Grouse and Rustic Bunting has also been reported here. Another good spot at the shore of Kuusamojärvi is at Säynäjäperä, where the main E63 road approaches the western shore of the lake. This is possibly the best spot in Kuusamo for Red-necked Grebe. More important is the birch wood on the opposite side of the road, this is a very good spot for migrating Arctic Warblers and both Bluethroats and Little and Ortolan Buntings are regularily seen/heard here. This is also a good spot for Willow Ptarmigan.
Across the bay from Kuusamo is Kantokylä which can hold some southern species, such as Eurasian Skylark, Common Starling, Common Linnet and Ortolan Bunting, but occasionally also turn up rarities (like Siberian Stonechat, several years). This site is probably only worth a stop if you are driving to Kiurusuo, one of the best bogs in Kuusamo. The best birds at Kiurusuo are breeding Broad-billed Sandpiper and Jack Snipe and more common breeders are Common Crane, European Golden Plover, Ruff, Spotted Redshank and Whimbrel.
Another place worth a look is the city dump which (as usual) can be good for gulls. Careful checking of the Lesser Black-backed Gulls should reveal one or more 'Heuglin's Gulls' and sometimes Glaucous Gulls. Black Kite has also been seen here, but is rare. Other birds that might turn up are Northern Goshawk and Merlin and occasionally migrating waders like Red-necked Phalarope. Northern Ravens are common.
Some 10 km north of town along the Kemijärventie road (E63) you find lake Nissinjärvi. This lake sometimes offer very good birding with sightings of Smew and other waterbirds and breeding Western Osprey and Velvet Scoter. White-tailed Eagle can sometimes be seen over the lake and the surrounding woodlands can hold some interesting forest species like Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Bohemian Waxwing and Grey-headed Chickadee.
Birds around Kuusamo
Red-throated Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Whooper Swan, Taiga Bean Goose, Great Crested Grebe, Northern Shoveler, Common Pochard, Greater Scaup, Common Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Long-tailed Duck, Common Merganser, Eurasian Coot, Little Gull, Garden Warbler, Eurasian Blackcap, Icterine Warbler, Rustic Bunting and Little Bunting.
Northern Goshawk, Merlin, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Heuglin's Gull, European Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Glaucous Gull, Mew Gull, Black-headed Gull and Northern Raven.
Black-throated Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Eurasian Teal, Great Black-backed Gull, Western Yellow Wagtail and Rustic Bunting.
Red-necked Grebe, Willow Ptarmigan, Short-eared Owl, Bluethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Arctic Warbler, Little Bunting and Ortolan Bunting.
Eurasian Skylark, Common Whitethroat, Common Starling, Common Linnet and Ortolan Bunting.
Common Crane, Northern Lapwing, European Golden Plover, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Jack Snipe and Whimbrel.
Velvet Scoter, Smew, Western Osprey, White-tailed Eagle, Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Tree Pipit, Bohemian Waxwing, Fieldfare, Redwing, Brambling, Eurasian Siskin and Red Crossbill.
The Kuusamo Tourist Centre Karhuntassu is located near the E63/20 roundabout and thus handily located if you are going out to check Lake Torankijärvi. In the information centre you basically get all the information you will need about Kuusamo, the surroundings and local tourist services. There is also a Nature Photo Centre dedicated to the famous nature photographer Hannu Hautala.
The website of the Tourist Centre is www.ruka.fi/en/kuusamo-info.
Food and accommodation:
Kuusamo is a major centre for tourism in Finland and finding food and accommodation of all categories should not be a problem of any kind.
Road connections to Kuusamo are good; coming from Oulu follow road 20 all the way to Kuusamo, while if you are coming from the north turn onto the E63 at Kemijärvi. Likewise if you are coming from Kajaani in the south, follow the E63 to Kuusamo. Kuusamo also has an airport (Kuusamo Lapland Airports).
To get to Torankijärvi follow signs towards the city center (KESKUSTA) from the roundabout between roads 20 and E63 and turn right at the first crossroad. After the crossroad is a signpost LINTUTORNI 3,5 km, KIRKON RAUNIOT 3,5 km. After 3,5 km you have a carpark on the right-hand side with signs to the tower (the ground can be wet, so a good pair of waterproof boots might be useful). The Taivallahti bay is the bay you have to the south of the road a few hundred meters before the birdtower, about where the small pylons cross the road. One road (Anninniementie) leads to the shore and two hundred meters further a narrow track also leads through the vegetation here; both places should be checked for Rustic and Little Buntings, which are seen fairly regularily here. To get to the museum (Kuusamon kotiseutumuseo) you can follow the road for another 3,5 km and you will see the museum to the left. Alternatively follow the road from the E63/20 roundabout for 1,7 km and turn right onto the Kitronintie road and follow this for 1 km (you then approach the museum from the opposite direction). Tolpanniemi is the outermost point of the same peninsula that actually encloses all of Torankijärvi. To get there continue eastwards from the museum to the end of the road (3,8 km) or follow the road from the birdtower to the junction with Tolpanniementie road (1,5 km), turn right here and follow the road to the end (another 1,7 km).
The city dump: From the E63/20 roundabout, drive about 6 kms towards Oulu on route 20 until you see an unsurfaced road to the left signposted 'KUUSAMON JÄTEASEMA' (small, black signpost). The dump is to the left on this minor road. Outside opening hours you can park on this road after 750 m and get in to the dump here.
To get to Säynäjäperä follow the main E63 road southwards from the E63/20 roundabout; after 1,6 km you have a bridge over the Säynäjäjoki river. You can park here and check the lake to the left or the birch wood to the right.
For Kantokylä and Kiurusuo head north from the E63/20 roundabout and follow the E63 for 2,5 kms. Turn right onto the Kitkantie road and turn left onto the Muikkutie road after 110 m. Follow this road for 8,5 km for the village of Kantokylä and another 18 km to Kiurusuo. For access to the marsh there is a track going left just after Kiurusuo (thus the eastern side of the lake).
For Nissinjärvi simply follow the E63 for 12,5 kms from the E63/20 roundabout and find a safe place to park. You now have the lake to the right and the lake can be scanned with a telescope from the road.
Most of the bird guides operating from Oulu (and listed above in Liminganlahti section) are also very familiar with the Kuusamo region and should definitely be able to assist as well.
Valtavaara is a place that many European birdwatchers know as the site for Red-flanked Bluetail in Europe. Although the Bluetail can be found here relatively easy in early June (weather permitting!) it should be noted that Valtavaara has many other good birds on offer as well; an early morning walk around the Valtavaara ridge could produce good birds as Hazel Grouse, Western Capercaillie, Eurasian Three-toed and Black Woodpecker, Greenish Warbler, Siberian Jay, Pine Grosbeak and Two-barred Crossbill. Birding Valtavaara is rather hard work, though, and it can sometimes even be frustrating! To bird the Valtavaara hill properly you will have to do a rather strenous walk through the forest and across the hill at a very early hour and the bird densities are, as always at these latitudes, low. However, if you persevere, the rewards can be great!
Most birders start their exploration of the hill at the Konttainen carpark. The most famous birds here are a group of very tame Siberian Jays that have grown used to be fed here by the visiting birdwatchers (It has even been reported that sometimes they will eat from your hand!), but they are not always present. Occasionally also the Grey-headed Chickadee can be seen here. The carpark is also a good place to localize the Red-flanked Bluetail as they can often be heard here, they are frequently singing from the tall spruces on the steep hillside next to the road. From here you can also often hear singing Greenish Warbler from the surrounding forest.
From the carpark a steep trail leads up the Konttainen hill (good trail, for a large part a wooden stairway). This hill can be very good for birds, check the forest from the trail and on top of the hill. The forest on the hillside is good for the Bluetail, but also Hazel Grouse. From the top of the hill you can try to localize the singing bluetails (almost always singing from the top of a spruce) and you have a chance of finding Bohemian Waxwings and Pine Grosbeaks.
From the same parking you can climb up the Valtavaara hill on the south side of the road. Starting from the car park you can follow a well-marked trail up the hill and you might well encounter Western Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse, Three-toed Woodpecker, Grey-headed Chickadee or Pine Grosbeak here. The best strategy might be to venture off track here and walk through the forest on the eastern slope of the hill. The western flank of the hill can best be explored from the main track or the forest immediately around it; this is the haunt of the Red-flanked Bluetail and listening carefully you might also find Greenish Warbler, or more southerly species as Winter Wren, Eurasian Treecreeper or a Dunnock. Pine Grosbeaks and Siberian Jays are also frequently seen here and occasionally also Eurasian Pygmy Owl or Boreal Owl. You should also listen carefully for the nasal call of the
Two-barred Crossbill as Valtavaara is probably the best place in Finland (and Europe) for this species.
Walking back to the Konttainen carpark you should also check out the shores of Lake Konttaisenjärvi as finding Rustic Bunting here is a very distinct possibility, as well as possible Hazel Grouse and Greenish and Wood Warblers. The lake can best be explored from a short circular trail (1,5 km) that starts at the main road (start of trail is well-marked, see sign for 'Sinipyrstön pyrähys').
Birds at Valtavaara
Great Spotted Woodpecker, Red-flanked Bluetail, Greenish Warbler, Grey-headed Chickadee and Siberian Jay.
Hazel Grouse, Bohemian Waxwing, Red-flanked Bluetail and Pine Grosbeak.
Western Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse, Northern Goshawk, Green Sandpiper, Eurasian Woodcock, Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Boreal Owl, Black and Eurasian Three-toed Woodpeckers, Eurasian Hobby, Siberian Jay, Eurasian Jay, Goldcrest, Greenish Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail, Song Thrush, Winter Wren, Eurasian Treecreeper, Dunnock, Bohemian Waxwing, Grey-headed Chickadee, Pine Grosbeak, Eurasian Bullfinch, Red Crossbill and Two-barred Crossbill.
Hazel Grouse, Greenish Warbler, Wood Warbler and Rustic Bunting.
The Kuusamo Tourist Centre Karhuntassu serves the area around the ski resort of Ruka, including Valtavaara Nature Reserve (see Kuusamo section above).
The website of the Tourist Centre is www.ruka.fi/en/kuusamo-info.
Food and accommodation:
The nearest accommodation is to be found near Ruka ski resort.
To get to Valtavaara follow the main E63 north out of Kuusamo for 30 km (measured from the E63/20 roundabout). Turn right onto road 8694 (signposted to JYRKÄNKOSKI 26) and follow this for 4 km. You now have the Konttaisen carpark to your left. From here a trail leads to the top of Konttainen hill (and beyond), but the trail to Valtavaara begins on the opposite (southern) side of the road. You can follow a well-marked trail all the way to Ruka (about 8 km), but you can probably do better by following the forest edge on the eastern slope and eventually find a way to the top of Valtavaara hill and then either follow the main trail back to the carpark or wander through the west slope of the hill to Konttaisjärvi and back. Please note that the western slope is quite steep so care should be taken here.
Oulanka National Park
The Oulanka NP is a wonderful place where you can spend days hiking through the wilderness. Even if you are short on
time you can explore some of the shorter trails, say a few hours worth of walk, to experience the scenery or some of
the good birds here. Generally speaking, if you want to see the birds of the bogs, like Whooper Swan, Taiga Bean Goose, Common Crane and numerous waders, you should spend time in the northern and northeastern parts of the national park. If, however, you aim at the forest specialities you can do better by concentrating on the southernmost parts of the park, particularily the area around Juuma.
A good place to start is always the national park information center, where you have several short, circular trails (5 - 8 kms) that are well worth to explore. Birds you might see around the information center are Hazel Grouse, Bohemian Waxwing, Grey-headed Chickadee and Parrot Crossbill. From one of these trails you also have a view over the Kiutaköngäs rapids, which is a safe place for White-throated Dipper, and more and more frequently also Grey Wagtail. If passing through to Liikasenvaara, a small village between the national park and the border, you should visit the Neidonkenkä café. Good food/coffee is available and, even more importantly, news about the local birds.
Another place you should definitely not miss is Juhtivaara hill just outside the national park and next to the Russian border. The hill is reachable by car and you should stop here frequently and scan the surroundings for raptors. Raptors you might see hunting here are Western Osprey, Golden Eagle, Rough-legged Buzzard, Common Buzzard, Northern Goshawk, Hen Harrier, Eurasian Hobby and Common Kestrel. Northern Hawk-Owls are also regularily seen here. A walk in the old forest at the top of the hill could produce Western Capercaillie, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Bohemian Waxwing, Grey-headed Chickadee, European Crested Tit, Parrot Crossbill and Rustic Bunting. In the lake both Velvet Scoter and Smew breed and Great Grey Shrikes are also frequently spotted in these surroundings.
Around Juuma you have the opportunity to make short walks on well-marked trails for the exploration of the forest here. You can also cross the river on several suspension bridges and continue the exloration here. Forest birds that are quite common at Juuma are Western Capercaillie, Northern Goshawk, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Siberian Jay, Bohemian Waxwing, Grey-headed Chickadee and Pine Grosbeak.
Another site that might be worth a stop driving to, or coming from, the national park is lake Ahvenjärvi. This marshy area is particularily good for waders and Common Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Temminck's Stint and Jack Snipe can all be seen here.
Birds in Oulanka NP
National Park information center:
Hazel Grouse, Grey Wagtail, Bohemian Waxwing, White-throated Dipper, Grey-headed Chickadee and Parrot Crossbill.
Velvet Scoter, Common Scoter, Smew, Long-tailed Duck, Western Osprey, Golden Eagle, Rough-legged Buzzard, Common Buzzard, Northern Goshawk, Hen Harrier, Eurasian Hobby, Common Kestrel, Western Capercaillie, Northern Hawk Owk, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Bohemian Waxwing, Grey-headed Chickadee, European Crested Tit, Parrot Crossbill and Rustic Bunting.
Western Capercaillie, Northern Goshawk, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Siberian Jay, Bohemian Waxwing, Grey-headed Chickadee and Pine Grosbeak.
Northern Goshawk, Common Crane, Common Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Temminck's Stint, Common Snipe and Jack Snipe.
The elk (Alces alces) is common in the national park. Of the large carnivores the bear (Ursus arctos) inhabits Oulanka National Park, but the wolf (Canis lupus), wolverine (Gulo gulo) and lynx (Lynx lynx) are rare.
The Oulanka Visitor Centre can provide you with all the information you need about the national park.
See www.nationalparks.fi for further information (opening hours, contact information etc.).
Food and accommodation:
Near the Visitor Centre there is a camping. If you prefer a little more luxury you should head back to Ruka, where there are many more options available.
For the national park information center drive north out of Kuusamo on the E63 and turn right onto Sallantie road (road 950) after 36 kms. Turn right onto Liikasenvaarantie road after 6,5 kms (signposted LIIKASENVAARA 27) and follow this road for 13,5 kms and you will have the information center to the right.
You can also follow this road all the way to Liikasenvaara for the Neidonkenkä café, or follow this road for 9,3 kms and then turn right onto another road if you are heading towards Juhtavaara. From this junction it is about 9 kms to Juhtavaara and lake Juhtajärvi. Please note that this road can sometimes be in a rather bad condition!
To get to Juuma from the information center, drive back on the Liikasenvaarantie road for about 10 kms and then turn left onto the Riekamontie road and follow this to the junction with Juumantie (9,5 kms). At this junction there is an information board about Juuma. If you are coming from Kuusamo you can follow the E63 road for 33 kms and then turn right onto the Juumantie road and follow this for about 12 kms to the same junction with the information boards.
Ahvenjärvi is about halfway between the main E63 road and Juuma and can most easily be reached from the Juumantie road. From the main road follow Juumantie for 6 kms and turn left onto Säkkiläntie. After 900 m continue on Tikkuniementie and after a further 500 m you can take the first or second road to the right down to the lake.
Vuotunki and Antinperä
Vuotunki is a lake which can hold interesting waterbirds and the area around the birdwatching tower can be good for buntings. Carefully checking the lake from the tower might reveal Black-throated and Red-throated Loons, Velvet Scoter and Smew in addition to the more usual waterbirds and Western Osprey, Hen Harrier and Eurasian Hobby can often be seen hunting here. With some luck you might also find a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, or even a Boreal Owl, in the area around the tower. Rustic Buntings are often seen here.
Any place around Vuotunki and the village of Jyrkänkoski with fastflowing water should be checked for White-throated Dipper, which is quite common here. The small hydroelectric plant at Myllykoski appears to be a certain site for the dipper. The agricultural fields around Vuotunki often hold feeding Taiga Bean Geese, mostly in the night, and during the early hours you might also expect to see hunting Short-eared Owls here.
If driving to Vuotunki from Kuusamo Antinperä is a worthwhile stop for waders; from the tower here you might see Spotted Redshank, Temminck's Stint, Red-necked Phalarope, Broad-billed Sandpiper and Jack Snipe, as well as more common species as Common Greenshank, Eurasian Curlew and Ruff. The two most interesting waders here might be the Broad-billed Sandpiper and Jack Snipe, remember that these birds are mostly displaying in the middle of the night. This is another lake where Western Osprey is frequently seen. Antinperä can also easily be reached from Ruka.
Birds at Vuotunki and Antinperä
Taiga Bean Goose, Velvet Scoter, Smew, Black-throated Loon, Western Osprey, Hen Harrier, Northern Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover, Little Gull, Boreal Owl, Short-eared Owl, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Hobby, Great Grey Shrike, White-throated Dipper and Rustic Bunting.
Whooper Swan, Western Capercaillie, Western Osprey, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Eurasian Curlew, Ruff, Temminck's Stint, Red-necked Phalarope and Jack Snipe.
From Kuusamo, the fastest route to Vuotunki is to follow the main E63 north from the E63/20 roundabout for about 3 kms and then turn right onto the Paanajärventie road (road 8690). Follow this road for 30 kms and you arrive at Lake Vuotunki (after passing Kuusamo Lapland Airports this road is named Vuotungintie).
Directions to Antinperä includes driving through the wilderness on minor, unsurfaced roads (the condition of these roads are generally speaking good, though). If you want to include Antinperä on a trip to Vuotunki a more practical route than the one describe above is to turn left onto the Rukajärventie road from the main E63 road about 16 kms north of Kuusamo (again measured from the E63/20 junction. Follow Rukajärventie for 2,6 kms before turning right onto Matosuontie road. Follow this road for about 5 kms, keeping left at junction onto Särkilammentie road. After 2,5 kms you should see a black sign to Antinperä. Turn left here and park; you can follow a boardwalk to a hide from here.
To get to Vuotunki from here you can now continue on this road for 3 kms, before turning left onto Suolavaarantie road and after another 2,5 kms turning right onto Tahkolanrannantie road. After about 4,5 kms you get to Virkkulantie road (route 8694); this is the main road connecting Valtavaara/Konttainen to the west and Jyrkänkoski/Vuotunki to the east.
Iivaara lies some 35 kms south of Kuusamo and is a very good locality for the Red-flanked Bluetail. Even if you have seen the bird at Valtavaara, this site is certainly worth a visit in its own right as some eastern specialities as Two-barred Crossbill and Rustic and Little Buntings seem to be easier here than elsewhere (the top of the hill is also easier to reach than at Valtavaara).
To the north of Iivaara, near lake Rajalampi, there is a parking lot and this area should be checked for both Rustic and Little Buntings as both are seen here frequently. Sometimes even Grey-headed Chickadee can be seen here and Siberian Jays are frequently seen in the woods.
A well-marked trail starts at the car park and here you can cross a small river on a footbridge. The path leads all the way up to the top of the hill where there is a shelter and a fireplace. Here this trail connects with the main, circulair trail (Iirinki, 9 kms) that starts and ends at the carpark near lake Ahvenjärvi.
The best places for the bluetail are said to be about two-thirds up the hill and the top of the hill. As always early morning is the best for the bluetail, say 2.30 am - 4.30 am, although some reports indicate that they can be heard throughout the day (in that case presumably less frequently). Other good birds that can be seen around the top of Iivaara are Western Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse, Bohemian Waxwing, Pine Grosbeak, Parrot Crossbill and Two-barred Crossbill.
Birds at Iivaara
Western Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse, Northern Goshawk, Siberian Jay, Grey-headed Chickadee, Goldcrest, Red-flanked Bluetail, Common Redstart, Bohemian Waxwing, Little and Rustic Buntings, Pine Grosbeak, Eurasian Bullfinch, Parrot Crossbill, Red Crossbill and Two-barred Crossbill.
Food and accommodation:
The nearest accommodation is in Kuusamo. Next to the carpark at lake Ahvenjärvi you have Iivaaran Eräkartano where you can make arrangements for dining at their wilderness restaurant, using their traditional sauna or for outdoor activities.
Iivaara is some 35 kms south of Kuusamo and is easy to find. Follow the main E63 road south from the E63/20 roundabout for about 6 kms and turn left onto the Lämsänkyläntie road (866). After another 6 kms turn right onto the Hiltusentie road and follow this for 18,5 kms (this road is unsurfaced). After 18,5 kms there is a road to the left (Suokannanvaarantie), take this, but turn immediately to the right onto a smaller (and rougher) road and follow this to the end and park here (this last road is less than a km long). At the car park is a walking bridge over a small river and you can follow this track all the way to the top of Iivaara hill.
Alternatively, in stead of parking at the northern carpark, follow the road for another 3 kms and park near lake Ahvenjärvi where you can start directly on the main trail up Iivaara hill. The car park is visible from the road and cannot be missed.
Elimyssalo Nature Reserve
The birdlife in Elimyssalo Nature Reserve consists of birds of old-growth forests, marshes/bogs and lakes. The proportion of birds of prey is significant and one interesting species here is the Black Kite, which breeds here annually and is regularily seen. Other regular raptors here are White-tailed Eagle, Western Osprey and Eurasian Hobby.
The stands of old trees and holes in standing dead trees as well as rotting trees provide good conditions for hole-nesting, insect-eating birds, as woodpeckers and tits; the Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker occurs here as well as the more common Black Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Examples of species found in old-growth forests are Western Capercaillie, Eurasian Pygmy Owl and Great Grey Owl. Even Eurasian Eagle-Owl can be seen or heard in the national park. Also Hazel Grouse and Willow Ptarmigan thrive in the area. Inhabitants of the north, the Siberian Jay and Bohemian Waxwing might also be seen while you trek through this area, while two more easterly species here are the Red-flanked Bluetail and the Two-barred Crossbill (irregular).
If you want to explore this nature reserve there are several trails of varying lengths to choose from in Elimyssalo. The area has a total of 24 km of hiking trails and the easy-to-walk, clearly signposted trails take you through a tapestry of bogs and heaths. Wetland areas along the trails have duckboards.
The best place in the reserve for Red-flanked Bluetail is said to be Levävaara hill in the southern part (near the southern parking at Saari-Kiekki). Again, if you need this fantastic bird, you should start as early as possible (basically in the middle of the night). If you have time and are not only aiming for the Bluetail you should make the relatively short walk to lake Elimysjärvi as the oldest and most pristine forests are found here. This seems to be a good spot for Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker and Two-barred Crossbill has been reported here. Hazel Grouse seems to be fairly common around Levävaara and Elimysjärvi as are Western Capercaillie and Black Grouse.
This part of Finland is rightly famous for the large carnivores: the big four (Brown Bear, Wolf, Wolverine and Lynx) can all be seen here. All are of course shy and more or less nocturnal, so your best shot at them would be at dusk or dawn. At the height of the summer you might have enough light also in the middle of the night.
Although you might have chance encounters with these magnificent animals by trekking in (or outside of) the nature reserve or by slowly driving along minor forest roads at night time there are also several companies in Kuhmo that can help you. These companies have hides where they put out bait for the animals and succes in seeing some of these is almost guaranteed. See 'Information' below for details.
Birds in Elimyssalo
Taiga Bean Goose, Whooper Swan, Black Kite, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Hazel Grouse, Willow Ptarmigan, Western Capercaillie, Black Grouse, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Common Crane, Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Great Grey Owl, Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Great Spotted and Black Woodpecker, Bohemian Waxwing, Red-flanked Bluetail, Siberian Jay and Two-barred Crossbill.
Elimyssalo is famous for its abundant fauna. All large carnivores encountered in Finland - Brown Bear (Ursus arctos), Wolverine (Gulo gulo), Wolf (Canis lupus) and Lynx (Lynx lynx) - have found a place in Elimyssalo. If you move quietly in early summer, you may see a wild Forest Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus) feeding in a bog. From the Saunaniemi shelter, you can see Canadian Beaver (Castor canadensis) or a Muskrat (Ondatra zibethica) and under the large aspens of the Härkövaara Hill, you can find Russian Flying Squirrel (Pteromys volans) droppings.
Elimyssalo is home to both southern and northern species of shrews and voles. Also common are Mountain Hares (Lepus timidus), Red Squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris), Red Foxes (Vulpes vulpes), Otters (Lutra lutra) and Pine Martens (Martes martes).
The Visitor Centre Petola in Kuhmo provides information about the nature of this region. The visitor center focuses on the four large carnivores, but there you can also get information about the Forest Reindeer. The visitor center can also provide you with practical information about trekking in the wilderness of the Kainuu region.
There are at least three companies that have hides for the big four in the Kuhmo area:
Wild Brown Bear Centre specializes in Bear, Wolverine and Wolf photography safaris. The Centre has a total of 21 different hides. They can also offer accommodation.
Wildlife Safaris Finland operates a total of 14 hides around Elimyssalo; some of these are for large animals, others are dedicated to birds. WSF also have a lodge near lake Kuikkajärvi.
Boreal Wildlife Centre has hides near Viiksimo, just outside Elimyssalo. There you might see Wolverines, Bears and Wolves and Elk, Canadian Beaver and Forest Reindeer are also frequent visitors. The company also offers accommodation.
Martinselkosen Eräkeskus: Further to the north, in the municipality of Suomussalmi, is another small company specializing in bird and mammal watching/photography. Brown Bear and Wolverine are regular visitors here, and interesting birds of prey are Black Kite and White-tailed Eagle.
Food and accommodation:
The nearest accommodation is in Kuhmo, where you have one hotel (Hotelli Kalevala) as well as a small selection of cheaper possibilities (B&B's).
The safari companies listed above can also provide food and accommodation.
Elimyssalo can be reached from the town of Kuhmo. To reach the southern Saari-Kiekki starting point for the hiking trail, take the Kuhmo - Hukkajärvi road (No. 9121) from the centre of Kuhmo and drive 42 km eastwards, after which you should turn left (to the north) onto Juntintie Road. Drive 13 km and turn right (to the east), following the signposts to the Elimyssalo Nature Reserve. The parking area is at the end of a 1 km long forest road.
To reach the northern Viiksimo starting point, take the Suomussalmi road (No. 912) from Kuhmo and drive north for about 30 km, after which you should turn right to Viiksimontie Road. After about 30 km, you will reach an old border guard station. Turn right to the forest road. After about a kilometre, there is a signposted forest road turning right (to the south). The starting point for the trail is located at the end of the road.
NB! Please note that the Juntintie road to the southern starting point is not always accessible in winter! The Viiksimontie road in the northern part is kept open in winter, but the forest road to the starting point of the trail is not!
The easternmost part of the nature reserve is within the border zone. The border zone (which is well marked with obvious signs) is very sensitive and you are not allowed within the zone without a special permit. Do not neglect this!