This tour takes us to the edge of the Arctic Circle where hundreds of lakes, vast taiga forests and river valleys offer some of the most sought-after species in Europe.
Our two centre holiday will start in Oulu searching for breeding owls which may include Eagle, Ural, Great Grey, Tengmalm’s and Pygmy as well as other delights such as Terek Sandpiper, Pallid Harrier and much more.
Moving eastwards to the Russian border, we expect to encounter a veritable feast of eastern specialities in the extensive taiga forests. Red-flanked Bluetail, Rustic and Little Buntings, Siberian Tit and Siberian Jay amongst others make this a once in a lifetime opportunity for some brilliant birding. One of the highlights of this tour is an evening visit to observe the mighty European Brown Bear which is present in good numbers close to the Russian border.
Tour Leaders: Steve Grimwade and Finnature Guide
Maximum Group Size: 12
We fly from London Heathrow to Helsinki, then take a short internal flight to Oulu to meet our local guide and travel to our hotel. After checking in we will have an excursion to search for local specialities.
Days 2 – 3
The Oulu area is known as one of the best areas for owls in Northern Europe. Whilst breeding numbers fluctuate from year to year, breeding species include Great Grey, Ural, Eagle, Tengmalm’s, Eurasian Pygmy and in some years both Short-eared and Long-eared Owls.
In the same areas we can expect to see forest species such as Black Grouse, Western Capercaillie and Black and Three-toed Woodpeckers whilst other birds include Northern Goshawk, Crested Tit, Hazel Grouse and Wood Warbler.
Just south of Oulu we visit the large wetland reserve at Liminganlahti that is home to a multitude of waders and wildfowl including hundreds of Whooper Swans, Ruff in stunning breeding dress, Red-breasted Merganser and Garganey. Temminck’s Stint perform their butterfly display flight and with luck, we may see Broad-billed Sandpiper. On our last tour we saw Gull-billed Tern, a rare vagrant to Finland!
Terek Sandpiper, Pallid Harrier and Citrine Wagtail are rare breeding birds to the area, the former at its only known breeding site in Finland. White-tailed Eagles are a common sight flying over the wetlands along with Western Marsh Harrier. On boggy edges we can expect to see breeding Common Crane as well as the exquisite Bluethroat of the red-spotted race.
Although lying on the threshold of Lapland, some ‘night singers’ are found in Oulu most years. We will make an (optional) excursion to look for Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Thrush Nightingale and perhaps even Corn Crake or River and Marsh Warblers.
After breakfast we drive eastwards through the beautiful northern landscape with forests and bogs, lakes and rivers to Kuusamo, a small city close to the Russian border and only 37 miles from the Arctic Circle. Stopping en-route at an impressive wetland area will give us the chance to find Smew, Western Osprey, Common Scoter, Bluethroat, Common Rosefinch and Whimbrel amongst others.
Days 5 – 6
Kuusamo is one of the finest birding sites in Finland with an enviable number of breeding northern and eastern species such as Siberian Tit and Siberian Jay as well as Rustic and Little Buntings, Arctic Warbler, Two-barred Crossbill, Pine Grosbeak, Black Woodpecker, Rough-legged Buzzard and Bohemian Waxwings – just to make your mouth water!
Nearby lakes and bogs are home to species such as Red-necked Grebe as well as Jack Snipe, Broad-billed Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank in its dusky breeding plumage. Vast forests surrounding Kuusamo are excellent habitat for grouse and an early morning drive will be taken searching for Willow Ptarmigan, Black Grouse, Capercaillie and the elusive Hazel Grouse.
We will visit Oulanka, a large natural reserve bordering the Panaajärvi National Park on the Russian side of the border where small numbers of the stunning Red-flanked Bluetail breed and this and the stunning view from Valtavaara Hill will be a highlight of the tour.
Northern Hawk Owls breed in the area, along with Little Gull, Red-necked Grebe and Parrot Crossbill plus many more and this amazing area is home to an extensive variety of wildlife including Wolverine, Flying Squirrel and the delicate Calypso Orchid, the emblem of the national park. A visit will be made to observe European Brown Bears at close range near to the Russian Border and will be a night to remember!
We leave Kuusamo after breakfast and make our way back to Oulu stopping off in search of any missed species along the way before arriving at the airport. Early evening, we catch our flight home to the UK via Helsinki after what will be an amazing trip!
Flights from London to Oulu via Helsinki
Full board accommodation for 6 nights
All ground transport in Finland
Evening visit to Brown Bear Hide
Full guiding throughout
Drinks and items of a personal nature
Lunch on day 1
Fairly intense with full days birding plus optional morning and evening excursions
Expect between 130 and 150 species
Ground Price: £2400
*Air Price: £350
Total Tour Price: £2750
Single Supplement: £250
*Please see our tours page regarding flight costs