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A Birdwatchers Guide to: Finland

The South Coast



A map of the coast of southern Finland showing the main birding areas link to section Helsinki in Finland, Helsinki page link to section Laajalahti, Espoo in Finland, Helsinki page link to Nuuksio national park section link to Kirkkonummi and Porkkala  section link to Hanko section link to Virolahti section link to Turku section link to kurjenrahka national park section
A map of the coast of southern Finland showing the main birding areas.

The southern coast of Finland is the most densily populated and most heavily cultivated part of the country. Nonetheless the region has some prime birdwatching sites and several interesting bird species for the visiting birder. Good breeding birds include Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Boreal Owl, Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Greenish Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Parrot Crossbill in the forested areas. In more open and cultivated areas you can find species with a more southerly and easterly distribution like European Turtle Dove, Grey-headed Woodpecker, River Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Greenish Warbler and Ortolan Bunting.
An excellent place to look for owls and woodpeckers is Nuuksio National Park, only some 35 km northwest of Helsinki. This beautiful national park is also good for Greenish Warbler and Red-breasted Flycatcher and another major attraction for the animal lover is Russian Flying Squirrel, which has a very dense population here.
Porkkalanniemi, some 35 km west of Helsinki, and Virolahti, close to the Russian border, are probably the best places in Finland for watching the spring migration of ducks, geese and other waterbirds (Porkkalanniemi and the cultivated area between the peninsula and the town of Kirkkonummi does also hold several interesting breeding birds). Virolahti is also terrific for migrating raptors and good numbers of raptors can be seen migrating along the coast or heading north over land from Virolahti. The best place to watch the regular raptor migration is the birdwatching tower at Kurkela. Another site near Virolahti that is very good for raptors is Lake Väkeväjärvi. This used to be a very good site for Greater Spotted Eagle, as they bred just on the other side of the border. Nowadays the Greater Spotted Eagle is less regular around the lake, but is still the best place in Finland for this species. It is also one of the best places in Finland for other rare birds of prey that are fairly frequently seen here.
Another great locality for watching migrants is the Hanko peninsula, the southernmost tip of Finland. Here the first migrants arrive already in February, when most of the rest of the country is still in the middle of the winter, and interesting birds can be seen throughout the spring. Still the best time of the year at Hanko is the autumn, when good numbers of raptors and shorebirds in particular can be seen migrating south.
The southwestern region of Finland, around Finlands second largest city, Turku, is not so interesting with regard to eastern specialities as Helsinki and eastern Finland. There are however some interesting sites that can be worth a visit if you happen to be in this region, some as breeding sites for more southerly species and other sites can be good for migration wathcing.
The last site described here is Kurjenrahka national park, which hold some interesting forest species more common further north. You should consider going here if you are not venturing further east or north in Finland.



Nuuksio NP

(Nuuksion kansallispuisto)




A map of Nuuksio national park near Helsinki a larger version of the previous map
Map of Nuuksio national park near Helsinki

Nuuksio National Park is a fine wilderness area with good primeval forest only 35 km from Helsinki. It is an extensive area of rocky forests, dotted with small lakes, with fine stands of coniferous trees, swamps and wilderness. There is a fairly extensive network of trails through the national park and the adjacent recreational areas, and this park can thus easily be explored by the visiting birdwatcher.
Birds of the coniferous forest that are probably of most interest are grouse, owls and woodpeckers. Three species of grouse breed here (in good numbers); Hazel Grouse, Black Grouse and Western Capercaillie. Of the owls both Eurasian Eagle-Owl and Ural Owl breed here, but both are scarce, while Eurasian Pygmy Owl and Boreal Owl are much more common. Nuuksio NP is probably one of the best places around Helsinki for woodpeckers, as both Grey-headed and Black Woodpeckers breed here in good numbers, and there are even a few pairs of Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker. Eurasian Honey Buzzard breed in the park, and can sometimes be seen, while the waters should be checked for loons as both Red-throated and Black-throated Loon breed here.

a photo of an adult red-breasted flycatcher
An adult male Red-breasted Flycatcher.

There are also several interesting passerines in the national park, most notable are breeding Greenish Warbler and Red-breasted Flycatcher, but both rather scarce; the Parrot Crossbill, however, is fairly common here (although outnumbered by the Red Crossbill). There are also a few breeding pairs of Woodlark at Nuuksio, but more characteristic passerines in the forest are Tree Pipit, Common Redstart, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Wood Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Tit and European Crested Tit.
All of these birds are spread out through the park and can basically be seen everywhere (I do not have much specific info), but a few hints: 1. there are stands of more luxurious coniferous forest along streams connecting the lakes and below steep rockfaces. There are not many birds to be seen in this habitat, where only a little daylight reaches the forest floor, but it is the favoured habitat of Three-toed Woodpecker, Greenish Warbler and Red-breasted Flycatcher!; 2. the primeaval forest on the hill between the Högbacka parking and Haukkalampi pond are said to be the best birdwise. The hill is past a boggy area which you can reach by following the Nahkiaispolku trail from the car park at Haukkalampi. The total length of this trail is 2 km, partly through quite difficult terrain.
One last comment about Nuuksio NP; there are sizeable stands of aspens spread throughout the park, where a hollow tree may have tell-tale yellowish pellets at its base. These betray the presence of Russian Flying Squirrels (Pteromys volans), whose populations here in Nuksio are some of the strongest in the country. Not without reason has this animal been chosen as the emblem of Nuuksio!


Birds in Nuuksio NP

Red-throated Loon, Black-throated Loon, Whooper Swan, Common Goldeneye, Eurasian Honey Buzzard, Hazel Grouse, Black Grouse, Western Capercaillie, Green Sandpiper, Common Cuckoo, Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Ural Owl, Boreal Owl, European Nightjar, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Woodlark, Tree Pipit, Common Redstart, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Wood Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Greenish Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Willow Tit, European Crested Tit, Brambling, Red Crossbill and Parrot Crossbill.


Other Wildlife
the emblem of Nuuksio national park showing a russian flying squirrel

As mentioned above, the most interesting mammal of Nuuksio NP is probably the Russian Flying Squirrel (Pteromys volans). But it is by far not the only one. Elk (Alces alces), European Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus) and White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are both common, and other, less common mammals, are the Pine Marten (Martes martes), Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) and European Lynx (Lynx lynx). On rare occasions even Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) have made forays into the park. Of smaller mammals the Northern Birch Mouse (Sicista betullina) should also be mentioned.


Information

At Haukkalampi there is a guide hut, with a guide on duty during the summer. They have the latest information about birds and mammals in the park and can also be hired for guided tours of the park.


Getting There

Take route 1/E18 out of Helsinki (towards Turku) and exit the highway at Hista toward ÄMMÄSSUO/KÄRINGMOSSEN/NUPURI/NUPURBÖLE (some 20 km west of Helsinki). Turn left onto Nupurbölevägen/Nupurintie/Route 110, and turn left onto Brobackantie/Brobackavägen after 1,5 km. Follow this for 10 km (this road changes into Nouxvägen/Nuuksiontie after 1 km). You can turn left here onto the Haukkalammentie/Haukkalampivägen road and follow this for slightly less than 2 km; you then get to the Haukkalampi Nature Information Hut. All the circular trails in the National Park start and end in front of the Information Hut.
For the Högbacka car park you continue on the Nouxvägen/Nuuksiontie road for another 2,3 km (name of road changes again to Kattilantie/Kattilavägen); you see the car park on the right side of the road.





Porkkala and Kirkkonummi

(Sw.: Porkala och Kyrkslätt)


A map of the Porkkala peninsula showing the main birding areas a larger version of the previous map
A map of the Porkkala peninsula showing the main birding areas.

Porkkalanniemi peninsula to the west of Helsinki is one of the best places in Finland to watch the 'Arctica' migration, i.e the short, but massive, migration of arctic wildfowl and shorebirds through the Gulf of Finland. On the best days in late spring tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of loons, geese, ducks and waders can be seen migrating through on their way to their arctic breeding grounds. The southernmost tip of the Porkkalanniemi peninsula is a very popular spot for watching this migration from late April to early June and again in September/October. What should not be forgotten is that the area between the town of Kirkkonummi and the tip of the peninsula is an interesting birdwatching area in itself. These localities are further described in this section.
The interesting avifauna of this region consists both of forest species, typically associated with the taiga regions further north in Finland, but also of more southerly species more typical for agricultural land. The first group include species as Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Boreal Owl, Eurasian Pygmy Owl, European Nightjar, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Woodlark, Greenish Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit and Parrot Crossbill. The second group Corn Crake, European Turtle Dove, Tawny Owl, Long-eared Owl, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Icterine Warbler, River Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Barred Warbler and Hawfinch. Other birds you can see in more maritime habitats here, like the reed fringed sea bays or the more open coastal habitats, are Grey Heron, Greylag Goose, Greater Scaup, Western Marsh Harrier, Spotted Crake, Water Rail, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Rock Pipit, Great Reed Warbler and Eurasian Reed Warbler.


a photo of a Caspian Tern
A Caspian Tern.

What follows are brief descriptions of the various localities between Kirkkonummi town and the tip of the peninsula. See Getting There below for driving information to these sites.

Saltfjärden:
Saltfjärden is the best place in the interior of the peninsula to watch the bird migration. The fields and meadows should be checked for migrants; particularily early spring you have a good chance of seeing migrants here in good numbers; swans, geese, pigeons and doves, skylarks and snow buntings can be abundant here then. If listening for owls during clear nights you might hear Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Boreal Owl, Long-eared Owl and Tawny Owl. Other breeding birds here are Common Crane, European Turtle Dove, Eurasian Collared Dove and Grey-headed Woodpecker.
A good place to watch the action is the Vårnäs bridge, this is in itself a good place to watch the visible migration and you have ample opportunities for parking here (which might be more difficult elsewhere in the Saltfjärden area). Another area nearby that can be good, especially early spring, are the meadows around Estby.

Morsfjärden:
Characteristic birds of the Morsfjärden area, in the eastern section of the peninsula, are Grey Heron, Western Marsh Harrier, Water Rail and Tawny Owl. Another distinct feature of the avifauna here are the breeding woodpeckers; Black Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Grey-headed Woodpecker all breed here, an even White-backed Woodpecker is seen here from time to time
The winter ice at Morsfjärden melts earlier in the spring than in other areas nearby, and good numbers of waterbirds tend to congregate here at this time of year; particularily swans, geese and other wildfowl can be seen here then.

Lähteela Bird tower:
From this tower you have a view over the southern part of the peninsula and the surrounding waters. Some interesting birds that breed in this area are Black Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Eurasian Wryneck, Barred Warbler, Red-backed Shrike and Parrot Crossbill.


Birds around Porkkala

Saltfjärden:
Common Crane, European Turtle Dove, Eurasian Collared Dove, Stock Dove, Common Wood Pigeon, Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Boreal Owl, Long-eared Owl, Tawny Owl, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Eurasian Skylark and Snow Bunting.

Morsfjärden:
Grey Heron, Western Marsh Harrier, Water Rail, Tawny Owl, Black Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker and White-backed Woodpecker (rare).

Lähteela Bird tower:
Black Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Eurasian Wryneck, Barred Warbler, Red-backed Shrike and Parrot Crossbill.


Other Wildlife

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are very common on the peninsula and driving on the main road here early in the morning you should see several. European Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus) and Elk (Alces alces) are also common and are often spotted here, although not as abundant as the White-tailed Deer.
Russian Flying Squirrel (Pteromys volans) is quite common in mature, mixed forests in the southern part of the peninsula, but these shy animals are nocturnal by nature and are not often seen.


Getting There

Directions to Morsfjärden: Take route 51 westwards out of Helsinki or join route 51 from the western end of Ring road 1 (Kehä I). Follow route 51 to Kirkkonummi/Kyrkslät (about 24 km west of Helsinki) and exit at junction signposted HIRSALA/LÅNGVIK (exit 16). Follow this road for 6 km and turn left at junction signposted MEDVAST/STORMS. Continue for another 5 km to a bridge where you can park. You can explore the area to the right on foot (but be aware that it can be difficult to reach the shore if the water level is high). You can continue on this road to drive around Morsfjärden and after 3 km you get to another bridge; you can park just before this bridge and check this area. The vast reedbeds to the south of the bridge are said to be good for birds.
Directions to Saltfjärden: Continue on route 51 for another 2 km and take the first exit after the Morsfjärden exit (exit 17, signposted PORKKALANNIEMI/PORKKALA UDD 19). After 2 km you see meadows and fields ahead, mostly on the right side of the road; check this area carefully for resting migrants. You can stop after 4 km and check the area just around the river. By continuing on this road you can take a right turn after 6,5 km for the bridge at Vårnäs (about 1,5 km to the west). If you continue on this road for another 2,5 km you get to the meadows around Estby.
For the bird tower at Lähteelä follow the Porkkalantie road for 18 km after the exit at Kirkkonummi and turn left on minor road where it is signposted KJÄLLVIKINTIE/KJÄLLVIKSVÄGEN/LÄHTEELÄ ULKOILUALUE/KJÄLLVIK FRILUFTSOMRÅDE. Follow the signs to LÄHTEELÄ ULKOILUALUE/KJÄLLVIK FRILUFTSOMRÅDE where there is a car park.
For the southern tip of the peninsula, continue on the main road for another 750 m after the exit to Lähteelä. Take to the right here onto the Dragetintie road (unsurfaced) and follow this for about 600 m and turn right onto the Tullandintie/Tullandsvägen road and follow this for 2 km. Here you will see a small carpark to the right (if you cross a small bridge you have missed the carpark). From the carpark it is roughly a 1 km walk to the tip of the peninsula. There is a trail, occasionally a boardwalk, but the trail is not always well marked; just head south along the trail to the tip of the peninsula. In the migration season there will almost always be other birders there as well.



Hanko

(Sw.: Hangö)

A map of the western part of hanko peninsula a larger version of the previous map
A map of the western part of the Hanko peninsula.

The Hanko Peninsula is the southernmost tip of continental Finland, about 130 kilometres (80 mi) west of Helsinki. The town of Hanko has a population of approximately 9.000 people. The soil is a sandy moraine, and vegetation consists mainly of pine and low shrubs. The winters here can be relatively mild and in some years the waters around the peninsula is more or less free of ice. This means that good numbers of waterbirds either winter here, or stay longer in these waters than in the rest of the country. Also the peninsula itself can hold good numbers of birds, unless the winter conditions are too harsh. Birds that can be seen here, even in the middle of the winter are Merlin, White-tailed Eagle, Common Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove, Eurasian Skylark, Eurasian Rock Pipit and Common Reed Bunting. Bewick's Swan is fairly regular in winter, among the much more common Mute and Whooper Swans.
Spring migration starts earlier here than in the rest of the country, some species already in February. The migration of waterbirds picks up in March, with thousands of eiders and good numbers of Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Long-tailed Duck and Common Goldeneyes. The huge flocks of eiders should be checked carefully as there are regular sightings of King and Steller's Eider in this time of spring. The gulls should not be ignored either, as early spring is the best time for Glaucous Gull. Check out the western harbour and rubbish tip for this species; the harbour is also good for Black-legged Kittiwake, a quite rare bird in Finland, but seen almost annually around Hanko.
Interesting breeding birds on the peninsula and the surrounding archipelago include Caspian Tern, Parasitic Jaeger, Dunlin (ssp. schinzii), Barred Warbler and Hawfinch.

This map shows the eastern part of the peninsula a larger version of the previous map
This map shows the eastern part of the peninsula.

The best time of the year at Hanko, however, is the autumn. From late summer migrating waders start to make an appearance and the most common species are Eurasian Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Temminck's Stint, Little Stint, Sanderling, Red Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit. There are also annual sightings of Great Snipe between Aug and Oct, and Jack Snipe is regular in Oct-Nov.
No matter how good Hanko might be for waders, the most interesting birding here in the fall is the migration of raptors that starts at the end of August. Very good numbers of raptors might be seen from different parts of the peninsula, but the most popular place to watch this migration is the Täktom meadows. The most numerous birds of prey are Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Hen Harrier, but there can also be good numbers of Western Osprey, Eurasian Honey Buzzard, Common Buzzard, Western Marsh Harrier, Common Kestrel, Merlin and Eurasian Hobby. Much less numerous, but quite regular, are Greater Spotted Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Montague's Harrier and Peregrine Falcon. Later in the fall there is also a regular migration of Rough-legged Buzzard and Golden Eagle, and from late October also White-tailed Eagle and Northern Goshawk.

a photo of a great snipe
Great Snipe is seen annually around Hanko. The best place is the meadows around Täktom bay.

Below is a short description of the different birdwatching sites on the peninsula. Included is also a short mention of another site further inland (Läppträsk, near the town of Karjaa/Karis) that you can consider visiting if you have the time. This is a birdrich lake with some interesting breeding birds.

Tulliniemi nature trail:
Tulliniemi nature trail (total 6,7 km) follows the western part of the southernmost tip of the peninsula (immediately to the west of the harbour area). The trail ends at the tip of the peninsula and this is the southernmost tip of mainland Finland. From here you have good view of the waters and the coast line and this is a good vantage point for watching the migration of birds following the coast. The trail also goes through more vegetated areas and these should be checked for migrating passerines.
Gåsörsudden sandbank is perhaps the most important part of the reserve and hundreds of swans, ducks and shorebirds can be seen on the sandbank or the waters around it.

Harbour area:
The harbour area is quite extensive, but you should focus on the fish harbour for gulls (see map). Glaucous Gull is a fairly regular occurence and sometimes even a Black-legged Kittiwake can be found here (rare in Finland). The western part of the harbour is also the best place for the numerous eiders, particularily in early spring. These should be carefully checked for King Eider and Steller's Eider.

Rubbish tip:
Another good spot for Glaucous Gull in winter/early spring is the city dump. The vegetation around the dump should also be checked for migrating/wintering passerines. Particularily finches can be numerous here and sometimes Arctic Redpoll and Twite is seen here.

Täktom meadows:
The open meadows near the village of Täktom is one of the best places in Finland to watch the migration of birds of prey. The open vegetation is, however, excellent for rare migrants and there are rather frequently sightings of national rarities here. Some of the more frequent, near annual, rarities here include White Stork, both Spotted Eagles, Great Snipe, Tawny Pipit and Richard's Pipit. One of the best vantage points here is around the small air field. You are not allowed into the air field, but you can check the bushes and the sky from just outside it.

Täktom bay:
Just to the south of the air field there is a bay which can be very good for waterbirds and waders. The meadows just around the bay is the best place in Hanko for Great Snipe, Jack Snipe and Richard's Pipit. Please note that you are not allowed to walk in this area in the breeding season (15/4-15/7).

Högholmen nature trail:
This short trail leads to a small hill where you have a good view over the surrounding waters and the waterbirds here. On both sides of the trail you have a shoreline which can be good for waders.

Svanviken:
The Svanviken bay has a bird tower where you get good views of the area and which can be good for waterbirds and waders. Late in the fall you can see the largest flocks of swans in this area from this tower.

Läppträsk:
This lake near the town of Karjaa (Sw. Karis) is said to be very good for a number of interesting breeding waterbirds, the most interesting probably Eurasian Bittern, Red-necked Grebe, Horned Grebe and Little Gull. This is also a locality were local rarities are seen fairly regularily, incl. Little Grebe, Gadwall and Black Tern.


Birds around Hanko
a photo of a drake stellers eider
Steller's Eider is often found in early spring between the far more numerous Common Eider.

Tulliniemi nature trail:
Common Eider, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Long-tailed Duck, Merlin, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, good for migrating passerines in autumn.

Harbour area:
Common Eider, King Eider, Steller's Eider, Glaucous Gull and Black-legged Kittiwake (rare).

Rubbish tip:
Glaucous Gull, European Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, European Goldfinch, Common Redpoll, Arctic Redpoll, Common Linnet and Twite.

Täktom meadows:
Western Osprey, Eurasian Honey Buzzard, Common Buzzard, Rough-legged Buzzard, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Northern Goshawk, Hen Harrier, Western Marsh Harrier, Common Kestrel, Merlin and Eurasian Hobby.

Täktom bay:
Eurasian Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Temminck's Stint, Little Stint, Sanderling, Red Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Great Snipe, Jack Snipe and Richard's Pipit (irregular).

Högholmen and Svanviken:
Much the same waterbirds and waders as can be seen at Täktom bay.

Läppträsk (Karjaa/Karis):
Red-necked Grebe, Horned Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe (rare), Eurasian Bittern, Western Marsh Harrier, Black-headed Gull, Little Gull and Black Tern (rare).


Other Wildlife

The Tulliniemi nature trail might be interesting for the keen chiroptologist; in the autumn migrating bats gather at the tip of the peninsula to rest and feed up on insects before flying over the sea when winds are favourable. Most of the bats probably fly to Estonia and Sweden for the winter, but Nathusius's pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii) fly even further; they spend the winter in France.


Getting There

Hanko is about 130 km from Helsinki and can be reached on roads 51 and 25, or alternatively E18 and 25.
For Tulliniemi nature trail you can follow road 25 through the town, here it is called Esplanaadi, to the very end. Here there are some harbour facilities and the road is blocked, but there is a large carpark. There are signs at the carpark giving directions to the nature trail, but basically you follow a track to the west until you get to the beach and here is the start of the trail. It is well marked. From the carpark you can also go down to the beach on the east side and here you can check the western harbour for ducks, gulls etc.
For the fishing harbour, you have to turn off the Esplanaadi where there are signs to LÄNSISATAMA, VÄSTRA HAMNEN. After you cross the rail track there is a large car park where you can park.
For the city dump you have to drive back along Esplanaadi for 5 km (as measured from the end of the road at Tullinniemi) and turn right onto the Hemming Elfvingintie road; this turn is signposted JÄTTEIDENKÄSITTELY, AVFALLSHANTERING ('garbage treatment'). After 500 m you have the city dump to the left. The road is blocked, but you can park here and explore on foot (only allowed if you stay on the road!).
For the sites on the eastern side of the peninsula you can follow Esplanaadi for 3,5 km, turn right onto Appelgrenintie road and take the first road left onto Täktomintie road. Follow this road for 5,5 km out of Hanko to the small air field. The best place to park if you want to bird Täktom meadows and Täktom bay is just outside the air field (you are not allowed to drive down to the bay).
For Högholmen, continue on Täktomintie road for another 4 km and you should see a car park to the right. This is the start of the nature trail. Svanviken is another 1,3 km on the same road, there is an information board at the beginning of the trail leading to the bird tower.
The town of Karjaa/Karis is on the main road about 50 km from Hanko. When coming from Hanko you have the lake to the right of the road (visible from the road). On the western shore of the lake there is a birdwatching tower.


Virolahti

A map of virolahti in southern Finland showing the main birding areas a larger version of the previous map
Virolahti is perhaps the best place in Finland to watch bird migration.

Virolahti is a bay on the south coast between Finland and Russia and is well-known as the best place in Finland to watch the migration of arctic birds. In the second and third week of May really impressive numbers of swans, geese, ducks and waders pass through here before crossing land on the Russian side of the border on their way to the White Sea and beyond. On the best days actually hundreds of thousands of these arctic birds can be seen flying east along the coastline. The passage also includes loons, jaegers and raptors, albeit in much lower numbers. The best places to watch the Arktika migration is from the Arktisen muuton torni bird tower ('Arctic migration tower') on Hurppu peninsula or Lakakallio observation point nearby. Hurppu is on the western shore of Virolahti bay, and the Arctic migration tower and Lakakallio are described further below, together with two other bird towers at Hurppu. On the northteastern edge of the bay, at Kurkela, is another tower which is the best place to watch raptor migration (might actually be the best place in all of Finland for watching raptors); this tower is also good for the Arktika migration though.
Some 17 km north of Virolahti is lake Väkevänjärvi which used to be the best place in Finland for Greater Spotted Eagle that breed just on the other side of the border. Sightings of the eagle are nowadays less regular than they used to be, but this is still a good spot for this Russian speciality. As it has turned out the lake is nonetheless a very good place to watch for rare raptors and other birds.


a flock of Long-tailed Ducks
A flock of Long-tailed Ducks.

What follows are more detailed descriptions of the sites mentioned above. See Getting There below for driving instructions.

Hurppu peninsula:
The main watchpoint for the arctic migration is the Arktisen muuton torni (translates to 'Arctic migration tower') near the southern tip of the peninsula. From the tower you actually don't have a view of the sea, but impressive numbers can still be seen flying overhead. If you want to see the sea you can walk down to the shore, but please note that the land around the cottages is private property, and you are not allowed to walk everywhere here without the permission of the landowner (does not matter if there is a fence or not). A better option is to head a kilometer or so to the west, to the area known as Lakakallio, which is a very good vantage point for migration watching. Actually you might have to go here anyway if the tower is too crowded...
There are also two other bird towers on this peninsula that focuses mainly on resting waterbirds. One is overlooking the Vilkkiläntura bay, which can be very good for resting wildfowl and waders. Early May you should check the swans here as Bewick's Swan can be quite numerous and later in the month Black Tern is a fairly regular visitor. The wet areas around the lake can hold River Warbler and Marsh Warbler. Nearby is another tower known as Kellovuoren torni, from where you have a view of the Virolahti bay.
While in Virolahti village you can also check out the grounds around the church, the graveyard is particularily interesting with breeding Tawny Owl, Eurasian Wryneck and Icterine Warbler, while during the early hours you can hear calling Corn Crake from the surrounding meadows. Two other characteristic breeding birds of this area are European Nightjar and Woodlark.

Kurkela:
At Kurkela there is a bird tower which can be very good for watching raptor migration. Birds that follow the coast on their migration regularily fly over Kurkela and here either migrate north over land or continue east over Russia. Many rare species of bird of prey have been seen from this tower.
Kurkela is also one of the best places in Finland (together with lake Väkeväjärvi) for Greater Spotted Eagle; this species breeds just across the border (at least some years) and are then regularily seen hunting over the forests around Kurkela. Eurasian Honey Buzzards are also common.

Lake Väkeväjärvi: Lake Väkeväjärvi was for years a very regular site for Greater Spotted Eagle as they bred just across the border. Currently this eagle is less regular here, but can still sometimes be seen. The lake can be checked from several bridges on the eastern side, and it turns out that this area is splendid for rare birds of prey; rarities in the past have included Steppe Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Short-toed Snake Eagle and Red-footed Falcon.

Please note that the lake is situated in the rather sensitive border area, and you are not allowed to walk on the land to the east of the road without permission from the authorities!


Birds around Virolahti
a photo of a Greater Spotted Eagle
A Greater Spotted Eagle.

Hurppu peninsula:
Whooper Swan, Bewick's Swan, Barnacle Goose, Long-tailed Duck, Common Eider, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Corn Crake, Little Gull, Tawny Owl, European Nightjar, Eurasian Wryneck, Woodlark, River Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Marsh Warbler and European Pied Flycatcher.

Kurkela :
Greater Spotted Eagle, Eurasian Honey Buzzard.

Lake Väkeväjärvi:
Greater Spotted Eagle


Getting There

Virolahti is some 170 km to the east of Helsinki and can easily be reached on the main E18 road. At the town of Virolahti turn right onto Virojoentie (road 3513) and follow this for 5,5 km. Turn left onto Kirkontie (road 3511) where you see signpost VIROLAHTI KK. After 5 km you get to the church, stay left here onto Hurpuntie and follow this for 3 km where you see a sign to ARKTISEN MUUTON TORNI. After 600 m you can park your car.
For Lakakallio turn right at the church (signpost to RÄNNÄLÄ, NIEMELÄ, EERIKKILÄ, HANSKI) and follow the road for 2 km. Here is a patch of cleared forest where a narrow, unsurfaced road continues to the left towards the shore. Follow this for about 1 km to the observation point.
For Vilkkiläntura and Kellonvuoren towers: immediately after the church turn left towards RAJAASEMA, HURPPU 4, TILLI, LINTUTORNIT. Follow this small road for 2 km and turn left (TILLI, VILKKILÄNTURA, VILKKILÄNTURAN TORNI). After 300 m you should see a parking lot; from here you can follow a boardwalk through the wet areas to the tower. For Kellonvuori tower turn left towards Vilkkiläntura and then immediately after the junction turn right onto a nameless sandy road and follow this for 900 m.
Directions to Kurkela: From the town of Virolahti continue on the main E18 road eastwards for 3 km and turn right onto the Hämeenkyläntie road. Follow this road for 6 km (the last part is known as Kurkelantie road); after you cross the narrow lake Kiiskijärvi the road bends to the right and the tower is to the left of the road here. You can follow this road for another 5 km to connect with the main road again, but this last part of the road can apparently sometimes be in bad shape and it might then be necessary to backtrack.
Directions to Väkevänjärvi: From Virolahti town follow the main E18 road for 5 km and turn left onto Lappeenrannantie road (road 387) and follow this for 11 km (the exit from the main road is 1 km from the end of the Kurkelantie road, see above). After 11 km turn right onto the Nurmelantie road and follow this for 4,2 km to a birdtower that can be seen to the left after the bridge. There is another bridge after 1 km from where you can also scan the area for raptors or other interesting birds.




link to ornitholidays.co.uk

Turku region

(Sw.: Åbo)

A map of Turku region in southwest Finland showing the main birding areas a larger version of the previous map
A map of Turku region in southwest Finland showing the main birding areas.

The birds of Finland that most European birdwatchers would consider to be the most important and interesting tend to be found in the eastern and northern parts of the country. The further west you go the number of specialities decrease and many birders would find Turku, Finland's second city in the southwest corner of the country, much less interesting. This said, there are still some sites near Turku that are worth exploring and considering that many people visit this region for family vacation or on business trips four different sites in the Turku region are described. These sites can be good, both for general birding as well as for some of the eastern specialities, like River Warbler and Blyth's Reed Warbler.
The four sites are: 1.) Ruissalo, an island just outside the city centre (near the harbour), which holds some interesting breeding birds; 2.) Paimionlahti, a wetland at the mouth of the Paimio river, about 30 km east of Turku. Paimionlahti is good during the migration seasons, but also for interesting birds breeding in the surrounding farmland; 3.) Halikonlahti, a wetland at the mouth of the Salo river, is about 50 km east of Turku. The bay, and particularily the waste water treatment plant here, is one of the best places in Finland for shorebirds, but it can also be good for migration watching, particularily in the spring. Both Paimionlahti and Halikonlahti are well-known in Finland as places where rare birds are frequently discovered; 4.) Mietoistenlahti, appr. 30 km to the northwest of Turku, is best known as a good place to watch the migration of waterbirds and shorebirds in the spring.
The four sites are described separately below and another site relatively close to Turku with interesting forest birds (Kurjenrahka NP) is described in the following section.


A map of Paimionlahti and Halikonlahti wetlands east of Turku a larger version of the previous map
A map of Paimionlahti and Halikonlahti wetlands east of Turku.

Ruissalo
Ruissalo is an island just outside Turku city centre which is very popular with local people as a recreational area. There are however some good oak forest in the northern part of the island that holds some interesting breeding birds. Chief among these is Grey-headed Woodpecker, but other local birds are Tawny Owl, Stock Dove, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Thrush Nightingale and Icterine Warbler.
There are also two birdtowers on the island where you have good views of the surrounding waters. See below under 'Getting There' for directions to the forested areas and the two towers.

Paimionlahti
Paimionlahti is said to be one of the best places in southwest Finland for watching the migration of various birds as loons, ducks, geese and birds of prey. One of the best places to watch this migration is from a hillside on the western side of the bay, but alternatively you can watch the action from a car park near the bridge over the Paimionjoki river.
The surrounding farmland can also be checked for birds as Grey Partridge, Corn Crake, Stock Dove, Long-eared Owl and Common Grasshopper Warbler.


a photo of a Grey-headed woodpecker
Grey-headed Woodpecker.

Halikonlahti
Of the sites described in this section Halikonlahti bay, near the small town of Salo, is the one furthest away (about 50 km west of Turku). On the other hand it is probably also the best of the four and it is particularily well renowned for the waders. The best spot appears to be the wastewater treatment plant near the mouth of the river.
Particularily in the spring the mouth of the river is also a good place to watch the bird migration, while both spring and fall migration seasons reguarily turn up rare migrants, not only waders.
Birds you can expect around and in the bay include Eurasian Bittern, Western Marsh Harrier, Water Rail, Spotted Crake, Tawny Owl, Long-eared Owl, Common Grasshopper Warbler, River Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Marsh Warbler and Great Reed Warbler.

Mietoistenlahti
Mietoistenlahti is known as a good place to watch the spring migration of water- and shorebirds, apart from this there is not a lot of interesting birds here. Local breeders include Red-throated Grebe, Eurasian Bittern, Western Marsh Harrier and Water Rail. The best place to watch the birds of this bay is from a vantage point on the western side. Please see below 'Getting There' for details.


Birds in Turku region

Ruissalo:
Tufted Duck, Common Pochard, Tawny Owl, Stock Dove, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Thrush Nightingale, Eurasian Reed Warbler, Wood Warbler, Icterine Warbler and Eurasian Blackcap.

PaimionLahti:
Red-throated Loon, Black-throated Loon, Grey Partridge, Corn Crake, Stock Dove, Long-eared Owl, Common Grasshopper Warbler and Common Linnet.

Salo, Halikonlahti:
Eurasian Bittern, Western Marsh Harrier, Water Rail, Spotted Crake, Common Moorhen, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Red Knot, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Temminck's Stint, Eurasian Collared Dove, Tawny Owl, Long-eared Owl, Common Grasshopper Warbler, River Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Eurasian Reed Warbler and Great Reed Warbler

Mietoistenlahti:
Red-necked Grebe, Eurasian Bittern, Western Marsh Harrier, Water Rail, Spotted Redshank, Red Knot, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint.


Getting There

From Turku city centre turn south onto Tuontitie/Exportvägen road and cross the bridge to Ruissalo island. Turn right after 800 m onto the unsurfaced Marjaniementie/Marjaniemivägen. On the right side of this short road is a birdwatching tower where you have a good view of the visible migration and the surrounding landscape. Surrounding this tower is a very nice oak forest that you can explore by foot.
For Paimionlahti head east out of Turku on highway number 1/E18 towards Helsinki and take exit 10 toward Kemiö/Kimito/Sauvo/Paimio after 23 km. Turn right onto Kravinkuja road after the exit and then right again onto Valtatie road after 500 m. After about 500 m you get to the small bridge over Paimionjoki river and there is a car park on either side of the road immediately to the west of the bridge. To get to the best viewpoint here you can continue on the Valtatie road for 1,7 km past the bridge and turn left onto Hirvonpääntie road and follow this for another 1,7 km. Here there is a rocky hill to the left where you have a good view over the bay and any action in the sky.
For Halikonlahti continue on highway E18 for another 21 km and take exit 13 and turn right onto Vaskiontie road. Follow this road for 7,4 km and turn right onto Satamakatu. You can follow this road for about 1 km and you should see the water treatment to the right. You can safely park here and explore this area.
For Mietoistenlahti follow highway E8 out of Turku for 7,5 km and exit the highway onto Kustavintie (route 192) towards Kustavi. Follow Kustavintie for 21 km and turn left onto Saarentie road (immediately after crossing a small river). After 2,1 km there is a small unsurfaced road to the left, the Saarenrannantie road. You can follow this for about 500 m and park your car here (small car park to the right). From the car park you can follow a small track through the meadows and a small wood near the shore. Here you find a small rocky area where you have a good view over the surroundings.



Kurjenrahka NP

(Kurjenrahkan Kansallispuisto)

A map of Kurjenrahka national park a larger version of the previous map
A map of Kurjenrahka NP.

Kurjenrahka national park is a rather small national park 35 km north of Turku. What makes this national park interesting is a nice selection of forest species, including Northern Goshawk, Eurasian Hobby, Black Grouse, Western Capercaillie, Ural Owl and Boreal Owl and also a population of Red-breasted Flycatcher. Rather surprisingly there are two species of bird here that normally occur further north in Finland, namely Willow Ptarmigan and Rustic Bunting. Further considering that the park has an interesting selection of small and large mammals (see below) and it should be clear that there are reasons enough for a visit, certainly if you are not planning to visit any sites further north or east.
Like in many other Finnish national parks there are several well marked nature trails in the park and there is also a well maintained network of cooking shelters, tent sites, cabins for rent etc. Near Savojärvi and in the southern part of the park there are also birdwatch towers where you get good views of the landscape.


Birds in Kurjenrahka NP

Kurjenrahka NP:
Common Crane, Taiga Bean Goose, Northern Goshawk, Eurasian Hobby, Common Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Black Grouse, Western Capercaillie, Willow Ptarmigan, European Nightjar, Ural Owl, Boreal Owl, Black Woodpecker, Woodlark, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Rustic Bunting.


Other Wildlife
a picture of a Eurasian Otter
Eurasian Otter can be seen at lake Savojärvi.

One shy and difficult animal that you might see in Kurjenrahka NP is the Russian Flying Squirrel (Pteromys volans). The best places to look for them are the mixed, decidious forest patches bordering the bogs. They tend to favour alder trees for food, but they also need fir trees for shelter.
Another interesting animal in Kurjenrahka is the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra), Lake Savojärvi in the northern part of the national park is said to be the most reliable place with at least one territorial pair. The national park also has a small population of Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx) and there are also irregular reports of both Wolf (Canis lupus) and Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) here. It should be mentioned that you probably need extreme luck to seen any of these three carnivores during a random visit to the national park. The Elk (Alces alces), European Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus) and White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are all much more common and with some luck you could see all of them here, dawn and dusk are probably the best times of the day to see any of these.


Information
the emblem of Kurjenrahka national park

Information:
At lake Savojärvi there is an unmanned information center ('Kurjenpesä') open daily from 8:00-20:00.

Permits:
Like national parks in Finland in general you don't need any permits for visiting Kurjenrahka, but be aware that parts of the park is off limits for a couple of months in the spring. Mostly this is from 15th of April to 15th of July (breeding season!), but in the Lammenrahka area just north of lake Savojärvi you are not allowed to enter between 15th of January and 15th of July.


Getting There

Kurjenrahka NP is about 35 km to the north of Turku. To get there head out of Turku on the main E63 road towards Tampere/Tammerfors and follow this for 17 km. Take the exit toward Eura/Säkylä/Paattinen/Lieto and turn left onto Tammentaantie. Follow this for 20 km and turn left onto Kuhankuonontie; the car park is on the left after 650 m.