A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Finland Spring: Wolverines, Owls, & Wild-Wild Grouse 2023

May 14-27, 2023 with Eric Hynes & local guide Olli Vuori guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
Eurasian Dotterel was voted the favorite species of the tour and for good reason: it is stunning, it occupies really interesting alpine tundra habitat and it was a delightful group effort to find it -- thanks Vivian! Photo by guide Eric Hynes.

Our first departure to Finland in more than 20 years is in the books and what an adventure it was. Thanks for joining me on this new itinerary. Our journey was marked by many exciting sightings, enchanting forests, pristine shorelines, and predominately pleasant weather. Our tour had its share of teachable moments, as first runs often do, but the high points greatly outnumbered the challenges, making for an unforgettable trip. From endangered seals to dramatic raptors, from dancing shorebirds to rumbling bears, from numerous observation towers to countless skeins overhead...what an adventure we shared. Thank you all for choosing Field Guides and I hope to bird with all of you again someday.


—Eric Hynes

One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

GRAYLAG GOOSE (EUROPEAN) (Anser anser anser)

This otherwise unremarkable goose really shines in flight -- the frosty upperwing coverts are striking

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Our evening with this sow Eurasian Brown Bear and her yearling was unforgettable. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.

TAIGA BEAN-GOOSE (Anser fabalis fabalis)

We found a few while playing Where's Waldo in the huge Barnacle Goose flocks

BARNACLE GOOSE (Branta leucopsis)

The enormous flocks were mesmerizing

CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis) [I]

A few early on in the tour

MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor)

Only on two occasions

WHOOPER SWAN (Cygnus cygnus)

Finland's National Bird -- we saw this majestic beast almost daily. The really close birds on the second day of the tour, at the arboretum, were particularly memorable.

COMMON SHELDUCK (Tadorna tadorna)

Structurally, an interesting bird

GARGANEY (Spatula querquedula)

Not a common bird in Finland. The first one proved elusive but we finally caught up to an obliging drake at Oulu -- scoped from the tower

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

Most days in the south

GADWALL (COMMON) (Mareca strepera strepera)

Early and late in the tour

EURASIAN WIGEON (Mareca penelope)

Common throughout; sightings daily

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)



Just a few here and there

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Another species receiving multiple votes at the end of the tour was this Northern Hawk Owl, which participant Donna Pomeroy so expertly captured in flight. Shortly after this shot was taken, it grabbed a small mammal (vole?).

GREEN-WINGED TEAL (EURASIAN) (Anas crecca crecca)

Almost daily

TUFTED DUCK (Aythya fuligula)

Handsome drakes were seen daily

GREATER SCAUP (Aythya marila)

We had distant scope views at Lake Sompiojarvi

VELVET SCOTER (Melanitta fusca)

Very similar to White-winged Scoter

COMMON SCOTER (Melanitta nigra)

Europe's version of Black Scoter

COMMON GOLDENEYE (Bucephala clangula clangula)

More days than not

SMEW (Mergellus albellus)

What a gorgeous duck! We enjoyed multiple good looks in the Kuusamo region

COMMON MERGANSER (EURASIAN) (Mergus merganser merganser)

This seems like a candidate for a split from our North American subspecies


Only a few sightings; not nearly as numerous as the previous species

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

HAZEL GROUSE (Tetrastes bonasia)

We flushed several early on in the tour; Europe's equivalent of our Ruffed Grouse

WILLOW PTARMIGAN (Lagopus lagopus)

Plenty of cooperative birds in gorgeous breeding plumage toward the end of the tour up north

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We entered the blind focused on seeing bears but the birding turned out to be excellent as well. Multiple White-tailed Eagles were present and active for much of the evening. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.


Our first one was a beautiful female with her rusty chest but the absolutely colossal males were a sight to see

BLACK GROUSE (Lyrurus tetrix)

We saw lekking males on a couple occasions late in the evening, but we saw many more females foraging along the roadside.

RING-NECKED PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus) [I]

A few in the Oulu area

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

HORNED GREBE (Podiceps auritus auritus)

Just a pair at Lake Saaperi

RED-NECKED GREBE (Podiceps grisegena)

Just a few sightings up north

GREAT CRESTED GREBE (Podiceps cristatus)

More sightings in the southern half of Finland

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia)

I didn't have to flag these birds as introduced, which is a nice change of pace

STOCK DOVE (Columba oenas)

The birds foraging in the plowed field at the research farm in Helsinki proved to be the only sighting of the tour

COMMON WOOD-PIGEON (Columba palumbus)

This impressively large pigeon was seen or at least heard almost every day

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Remarkably, participant Betsy Moles was able to snap this shot of this albinistic Reindeer as we were driving by.
Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

COMMON CUCKOO (Cuculus canorus)

Their distinctive call could be heard from far away. We heard way more than we saw but we managed to get a few in the scope

Apodidae (Swifts)

COMMON SWIFT (Apus apus)

Olli was particularly good at spotting these overhead

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

EURASIAN MOORHEN (Gallinula chloropus)

Heard in the marsh at the very first tower we visited on day one

EURASIAN COOT (Fulica atra)

Teri spotted one for us at Oulu in the marsh behind the hotel

Gruidae (Cranes)

COMMON CRANE (Grus grus)

These elegant birds were predominately seen in pairs but a few flocks were still moving north

Burhinidae (Thick-knees)

EURASIAN THICK-KNEE (Burhinus oedicnemus)

Great spotting Donna! Wow - this was definitely the most unexpected bird of the tour. It even got the Finnish birders excited.

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This was unquestionably the most unexpected find of the tour. This Eurasian Thick-knee was a spring overshoot -- way farther north than its normal range. Photo by participant Donna Pomeroy.
Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)

EURASIAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus ostralegus)

Darker than the American species

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

EUROPEAN GOLDEN-PLOVER (Pluvialis apricaria)

We caught up to migrants on a few days

NORTHERN LAPWING (Vanellus vanellus)

Reliably seen as breeders in every agricultural area we passed through

COMMON RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius hiaticula)

Only when we were still in the Helsinki area

LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius dubius)

More elongated structure than the previous species, with a yellow eyering

EURASIAN DOTTEREL (Charadrius morinellus)

Voted the bird of the tour and for good reason: gorgeous, cooperative, occupying a dramatic landscape, a memorable search effort and good spotting by Vivian

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

WHIMBREL (EUROPEAN) (Numenius phaeopus phaeopus)

For such a large shorebird in an open landscape, it was remarkable how that pair would disappear from view for prolonged stretches

EURASIAN CURLEW (Numenius arquata)

These massive shorebirds were seen most days; already paired up and on breeding territories

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This young Saimaa Ringed Seal was so curious about us. There are less than 500 individuals surviving in this isolated population.

BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (LIMOSA) (Limosa limosa limosa)

Arguably one of the world's most elegant shorebirds

RUFF (Calidris pugnax)

Wow. You read about and see photos of males displaying, but witnessing them fluffed up and strutting their stuff still managed to exceed expectations

TEMMINCK'S STINT (Calidris temminckii)

On the mudflats in Helsinki

EURASIAN WOODCOCK (Scolopax rusticola)

They seemed huge compared to woodcocks in North America. We saw quite a few in flight during our evening outing in the Oulu area

COMMON SNIPE (Gallinago gallinago)

Heard and seen most days of the tour

COMMON SANDPIPER (Actitis hypoleucos)

Occupying the same niche as Spotted Sandpiper in North America

GREEN SANDPIPER (Tringa ochropus)

The most memorable one for me was the one in aerial display overhead as we were waiting to be escorted into the bear blind

COMMON GREENSHANK (Tringa nebularia)

Along lake shores

WOOD SANDPIPER (Tringa glareola)

We seemed to find this species all over the place; whenever we were near water

COMMON REDSHANK (Tringa totanus)

Our best looks were right behind the hotel in Oulu

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Siberian Jays aren't flashy but they are fabulous -- charismatic and subtle beauties. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

BLACK-HEADED GULL (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)

Should be called the chocolate-headed gull

LITTLE GULL (Hydrocoloeus minutus)

Tiny and gorgeous. Observing the breeding colony on the small island in the lake outside of Kuusamo was thrilling.

COMMON GULL (EUROPEAN) (Larus canus canus)

Daily until we got up to the Ivalo area

HERRING GULL (EUROPEAN) (Larus argentatus argentatus)



This is the subspecies we found throughout the tour

LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL (HEUGLIN'S) (Larus fuscus heuglini)

This subspecies is at the pale-mantled end of the species complex. We had great looks at one while we were in the bear blind


A few times when we were on the coast at the start of the tour

LITTLE TERN (Sternula albifrons)

Only in Oulu

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

Just in Helsinki

COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)


ARCTIC TERN (Sterna paradisaea)

We saw some migrants on the southern coast

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There were so many sublime landscapes across Finland that it has been difficult to choose one image. Here is a placid bay on the north side of Lake Tohmajarvi. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Gaviidae (Loons)

RED-THROATED LOON (Gavia stellata)

On a lake when we were in the Kuusamo area

ARCTIC LOON (Gavia arctica arctica)

Plenty of good looks at this beautiful loon

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

GREAT CORMORANT (NORTH ATLANTIC) (Phalacrocorax carbo carbo)

Good numbers along the Baltic Sea

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

GREAT BITTERN (Botaurus stellaris stellaris)

Their distinctive display sounds were heard well but we never managed to spot one of those elusive creatures

GRAY HERON (Ardea cinerea)

Very similar to Great Blue Heron

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (HALIAETUS) (Pandion haliaetus haliaetus)

Not as common in Finland as one might expect

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

EURASIAN MARSH-HARRIER (Circus aeruginosus aeruginosus)

We had multiple good looks at this sexual dimorphic species

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What a face! The intensity of this Boreal Owl's stare made it clear it had an active nest in the box. I love the talon tips at the edge of the hole. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.

HEN HARRIER (Circus cyaneus)

Our only view of this species was WAY out over the marsh along the lakeshore near the end of the tour


Mostly birds in flight

NORTHERN GOSHAWK (EURASIAN) (Accipiter gentilis gentilis)

Recently published research has this super-species being split up. The birds we saw in Finland will be split from "American Goshawk" in the next checklist update. Our first bird was along the lakeshore near Russia, which got lots of ducks, shorebirds, and songbirds scattering in all directions. Watching the hunting bird from the blind was neat too

BLACK KITE (Milvus migrans)

This widespread species seems to be expanding its range in Finland

WHITE-TAILED EAGLE (Haliaeetus albicilla)

We witnessed this massive raptor on several days but none of the other sightings compared to the dramatic looks we enjoyed while we were in the bear blind

COMMON BUZZARD (WESTERN) (Buteo buteo buteo)

The extensive forests of Finland are less appealing than the ag lands for this open country raptor

Strigidae (Owls)

NORTHERN HAWK OWL (EURASIAN) (Surnia ulula ulula)

Definitely a highlight of the tour -- we savored an excellent experience with this remarkable raptor

URAL OWL (Strix uralensis) [*]

Just a distant, brief vocalization

GREAT GRAY OWL (LAPLAND) (Strix nebulosa lapponica)

The incubating (or brooding?) bird on the nest was so massive!

BOREAL OWL (TENGMALM'S) (Aegolius funereus funereus)

Pop goes the owl -- what a thrill to find an active nest

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The male Black Grouse had bold, striking plumage but the females were marvelously cryptic. Photo by participant Donna Pomeroy.
Picidae (Woodpeckers)

WHITE-BACKED WOODPECKER (WHITE-BACKED) (Dendrocopos leucotos leucotos)

This uncommon species is being carefully studied in Finland


The most conspicuous woodpecker in Finland by far

LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER (Dryobates minor minor)

That individual we saw well at our very first birding site proved to be our only encounter of the tour

BLACK WOODPECKER (Dryocopus martius martius)

This huge woodpecker was absolutely a tour highlight. First hearing them in the distance got our pulses racing and then to see them fly right over us and perch in the tree for scope views was breathtaking.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

EURASIAN KESTREL (EURASIAN) (Falco tinnunculus tinnunculus)

A fairly common sighting as we drove throughout the country

EURASIAN HOBBY (Falco subbuteo subbuteo)

We saw this particularly lanky and striking falcon in flight several times but the perched bird Betsy found for us was easily the best view.

PEREGRINE FALCON (EURASIAN) (Falco peregrinus peregrinus)

Overhead with other raptors at Lake Saaperi

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

SIBERIAN JAY (Perisoreus infaustus infaustus)

This subtle beauty was very cooperative; they remind me so much of their close cousin: the Canada Jay in North America

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Ruff are one of the most unusual and dimorphic shorebird species in the world. The variability of the plumage of males, exemplified by the contrasting males in the bottom of the image, is distinctive, as well as their larger size compared to the smaller Reeve (female) at the top. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.

EURASIAN JAY (EURASIAN) (Garrulus glandarius glandarius)

We drove by this species on a roadside but when we circled back the individuals had moved off the shoulder and out of view


Common and widespread

EURASIAN JACKDAW (Corvus monedula monedula)

Many flocks

ROOK (Corvus frugilegus frugilegus)

This unusual Corvid has patchy distribution in Finland

HOODED CROW (HOODED) (Corvus cornix cornix)

Common and widespread

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax corax)

The nominate race

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

WILLOW TIT (WILLOW) (Poecile montanus montanus)

We finally caught to a few outside Kuusamo

GRAY-HEADED CHICKADEE (Poecile cinctus lapponicus)

It took a special trip to a nest box outside of Ivalo to find this uncommon species

EURASIAN BLUE TIT (Cyanistes caeruleus caeruleus)

Pretty bird

GREAT TIT (GREAT) (Parus major major)

Most days

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The longer bill and the streaking on the sides of the breast help separate this White-backed Woodpecker from Great Spotted Woodpecker. We were thrilled to catch up to this declining species. Photo by participant Donna Pomeroy.
Alaudidae (Larks)

EURASIAN SKYLARK (EUROPEAN) (Alauda arvensis arvensis)

Their aerial displays were impressive

Acrocephalidae (Reed Warblers and Allies)

SEDGE WARBLER (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)

Thick in the marsh behind the hotel in Oulu

BLYTH'S REED WARBLER (Acrocephalus dumetorum)

Heard but I am not sure anyone got their bins on one

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia riparia)

Not many

BARN SWALLOW (WHITE-BELLIED) (Hirundo rustica rustica)


COMMON HOUSE-MARTIN (WESTERN) (Delichon urbicum urbicum)

Good looks on multiple days

Phylloscopidae (Leaf Warblers)

WOOD WARBLER (Phylloscopus sibilatrix)

We had great looks in the birch forest just outside of Joensuu

WILLOW WARBLER (Phylloscopus trochilus trochilus)

Definitely the most conspicuous warbler of Finland

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This gorgeous Willow Ptarmigan was one of many we spotted in the Sompio Strict Nature Reserve. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.

COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (COMMON) (Phylloscopus collybita collybita)

Distinctive song

Sylviidae (Sylviid Warblers, Parrotbills, and Allies)


This nondescript species was heard more than seen

GREATER WHITETHROAT (Curruca communis communis)

An edge species we found more readily than the previous species

Regulidae (Kinglets)

GOLDCREST (EUROPEAN) (Regulus regulus regulus)

Heard in the conifer forests on our first morning walk

Certhiidae (Treecreepers)

EURASIAN TREECREEPER (Certhia familiaris familiaris)

Also heard in the forest around Hotel Nuuksio

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

EURASIAN WREN (EURASIAN) (Troglodytes troglodytes troglodytes)

This sprite is the nominate race in Finland

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris)

Less common than in North America

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Participant Donna Pomeroy shared this image of a Black Woodpecker -- one of the top vote-getters at the end of the tour.
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

MISTLE THRUSH (Turdus viscivorus viscivorus)

We finally got looks at this large, spotty thrush near the end of the tour

SONG THRUSH (Turdus philomelos philomelos)

Heard and seen well

REDWING (EURASIAN) (Turdus iliacus iliacus)

Lots and lots and lots

EURASIAN BLACKBIRD (Turdus merula merula)

A thrush, not an Icterid

FIELDFARE (Turdus pilaris)

The American Robin of Finland

Muscicapidae (Old World Flycatchers)

SPOTTED FLYCATCHER (SPOTTED) (Muscicapa striata striata)

Tough to see "the spots"

EUROPEAN ROBIN (Erithacus rubecula rubecula)

Tiny and vocal

THRUSH NIGHTINGALE (Luscinia luscinia)

What a fantastic song but geez it was tough to get a look

EUROPEAN PIED FLYCATCHER (Ficedula hypoleuca hypoleuca)

Seen well most days

COMMON REDSTART (COMMON) (Phoenicurus phoenicurus phoenicurus)

The singing male atop the spruce in Koli National Park was amazing

WHINCHAT (Saxicola rubetra)

Ditch bird

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Participant Betsy Moles captured the historic Naranka wilderness farm homestead splendidly.

NORTHERN WHEATEAR (EURASIAN) (Oenanthe oenanthe oenanthe)

Good looks from the first tower

Bombycillidae (Waxwings)

BOHEMIAN WAXWING (Bombycilla garrulus garrulus)

Thankfully, our only encounter was with a very cooperative pair

Prunellidae (Accentors)

DUNNOCK (Prunella modularis modularis)

A subtle beauty

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (GRAY-CHEEKED) (Passer domesticus domesticus)

A few here and there

Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)

WESTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL (THUNBERGI) (Motacilla flava thunbergi)

Wow -- what a bright belly

WHITE WAGTAIL (WHITE-FACED) (Motacilla alba alba)


MEADOW PIPIT (Anthus pratensis pratensis)

More sightings as we got farther north

TREE PIPIT (Anthus trivialis trivialis)

Singing from atop a tree seemed very appropriate

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I think this female Western Capercaillie was hoping we couldn't see her but that lovely rust-colored breast was hard to ignore. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

COMMON CHAFFINCH (COMMON) (Fringilla coelebs coelebs)

Common and widespread

BRAMBLING (Fringilla montifringilla)

This was a targeted species for more than a few of you, so I was pleased we saw it so well during the last few days of the tour

COMMON ROSEFINCH (Carpodacus erythrinus erythrinus)

The Oulu bird was the best view

PINE GROSBEAK (EURASIAN) (Pinicola enucleator enucleator)

We finally caught up to this beautiful finch at feeders while we were enjoying delicious fish stew during the last lunch of the tour

EURASIAN BULLFINCH (EURASIAN) (Pyrrhula pyrrhula pyrrhula)

Gorgeous and obliging on several occasions

EUROPEAN GREENFINCH (Chloris chloris chloris)

Only a few sightings but seen well

COMMON REDPOLL (FLAMMEA) (Acanthis flammea flammea)

The display flights were neat

PARROT CROSSBILL (Loxia pytyopsittacus)

What a bill!

RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra)

Heard and eventually seen well on several days

EURASIAN SISKIN (Spinus spinus)

Almost daily; more colorful than Pine Siskin

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Crisp and tiny, Little Gulls were exciting to see repeatedly. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Emberizidae (Old World Buntings)

YELLOWHAMMER (Emberiza citrinella citrinella)

A good-looking bunting

REED BUNTING (Emberiza schoeniclus schoeniclus)

It was a treat to watch the males sing and sway on the reeds of pretty much every marsh we visited

RUSTIC BUNTING (Emberiza rustica rustica)

Thankfully, our first cooperated nicely


EUROPEAN BROWN HARE (Lepus europaeus)

The giant bunny in the south

NORTHERN (BLUE) HARE (Lepus timidus)

The frosty bunny up north

EUROPEAN RED SQUIRREL (Sciurus vulgaris)

MUSKRAT (Ondatra zibethica) [I]

RED FOX (Vulpes vulpes)

One van got to see one before it ran off


Our evening in the blind watching that sow and yearling will burn bright in my memory for the rest of my life

RINGED SEAL (Phoca hispida)

The subspecies in Lake Saimaa was isolated after the last glacial period with only several hundred remaining. Our boat cruise was a special treat and then to have that youngster come right up to us was fantastic

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We were all smiles atop Ukko-Koli Hill, with Lake Pielinen in the background, in Koli National Park. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.

WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus) [I]

Introduced to Finland in the 1930s; a few were seen by some of us in the south

MOOSE (Alces alces)

Cow and calf running through the marsh was memorable

CARIBOU (Rangifer tarandus)

Fascinating cultural importance

ROE DEER (Capreolus capreolus)

A few of us saw some individuals while we were driving


VIVIPAROUS LIZARD (Zootoca vivipara)

A reptile that far north was surprising

Totals for the tour: 150 bird taxa and 11 mammal taxa