Finland and Norway, May 2019


A birding trip to Finland and Norway's Varanger Peninsula took us wa-a-y above the Arctic Circle, to the tip of northeastern Norway, while including some sight-seeing in Helsinki, and a side visit to Tallinn, Estonia


Finland and Norway


The main harbour area in Helsinki was a bustle of activity with a plethora of food and craft stalls


Helsinki harbour area


There was even the odd bird around (Black-headed Gull)


Black-headed Gull


Public transport was quite colourful!


Helsinki tram


There were also other modes of public transport


Cycling is popular


Some of the city's highlights were the Lutheran Temppeliaukio Church carved into solid rock (Church of the Rock)...


Rock Church


Rock Church interior


...the Eastern Orthodox Uspensky Cathedral...


Uspensky Cathedral


Uspensky Cathedral interior


...and the monument to Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius


Sibelius monument


From Helsinki, Tallinn is just a two-hour ferry ride across the Gulf of Finland in the Baltic Sea


Ferry leaving Helsinki for Tallinn


Tallinn's old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre


Tallinn's old town


Some of the original medieval city walls and towers are still standing


Medieval city walls


Typically, the streets are narrow with the buildings packed close together


Narrow street


Some merchants' houses remain - as evidenced by the "crane" used to raise merchandise to the upper floors


Merchant's residence/workplace


School tours in the old town are well organized, colourful - and safe!


School tour


More colour in the flower market nestled against the city walls


Flower market


Like Helsinki, Tallinn also exhibits some forms of bird life


Tallinn bird


Having completed the "cultural" portion of our trip, it was time to start birding in earnest. Leaving Helsinki, we travelled north, stopping at various birding hotspots in Finland, and then crossed the border into northern Norway


Finland birding tour


Some of the European species commonly seen included...





White Wagtail

White Wagtail


Great Spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker


Whooper Swans

Whooper Swans


The habitats we visited were quite varied...





Lakes and forest

Lakes and forest


(Cold!) Rivers



(Even colder) Arctic tundra

Arctic tundra


Sea coast

Sea coast


Having reached the Arctic Ocean, Carol tests the waters - before going for a swim?


Carol meets the Arctic Ocean
Carol meets the
Arctic Ocean

Download the video (15 MB):



For this birding trip, some of the specialties were the northern owls such as one that the group is attempting to digiscope...


What do you see?


...a Great Grey Owl


Great Grey Owl


And, in this nesting box...


Nesting box


...what do we have?


What do we have?


What is in there?


A Tengmalm's Owl (Boreal Owl) with chicks!


Tengmalm's Owl


Another bird that we saw was the...Brambling




The Neljän Tuulen Tupa cafe has a bird feeder operation out back and a few (hundred) Bramblings are usually joined by several other species in a feeding frenzy


Bramblings video   Bramblings video

Download the video:

bramblings.mp4 (56.8 MB)


Many of our accommodations were lodges - from the semi-rustic...


Rustic lodge brand new - with a rooftop "greenhouse"!


Ultra-modern lodge


The greenhouse was a great place to compile the day's bird list - while adding the odd species that flew overhead during the count!




Some more of the birds that we listed, including a few really special species, were...


Terek Sandpiper
(This was a "lifer" for most of our group - including the leader!)

Terek Sandpiper


Rosy Starling
(Another "lifer" - for everyone - including the leader yet again!)

Rosy Starling


Eurasian Dotterel

Eurasian Dotterel





Siberian Jay

Siberian Jay


Of course, we didn't only see birds. As we drove across the country there were many sightings of...


Reindeer on the road!




Solo Reindeer


Reindeer family


And, here is another species of mammal - with Mr. Spock ears - the Eurasian Red Squirrel


Eurasian Red Squirrel


Typical of all bird watching groups, each of the participants looks in a different direction!


Disoriented bird watchers?


But, they do find birds, such as...


Common Eider

Common Eider


Taiga Bean Geese
(but, note the Pink-footed Goose hiding out in back!)

Taiga Bean Geese


Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak


Willow Ptarmigan

Willow Ptarmigan


Temminck's Stint

Temminck's Stint


Bar-tailed Godwit

Bar-tailed Godwit





Remember those sea cliffs? They were the site for a nesting colony of Black-legged Kittiwakes


Kittiwake nesting colony


Black-legged Kittiwake


Kittiwakes video
Black-legged Kittiwakes

Download the video:

kittiwakes.mp4 (53.5 MB)


Kittiwakes were also nesting on buildings adjacent to the harbour in downtown Vardø


Nesting Kittiwakes


The coast also held some oddities, such as The Steilneset Memorial, a monument to 91 people who were executed as witches in the 1600's


The Steilneset Memorial


The inner structure has a window, a light, and an entry from the court records for each of the victims


Monument's interior


A separate part of the monument reflects the burnings at the stake


Burning at the stake


More modern oddities included "The Beast"
(Drakkar-Leviathan skulptur)...


Drakkar-Leviathan skulptur


...and, here is someone collecting the newspaper?


A modern oddity


But, look closely!


Look closely!


Getting around in Finland can be tricky, but if you can string a few words together...


Boat ramp!


Veneen - laskup - aikka = Boat landing place (i.e. boat launch/ ramp), but that's why you need a Finnish guide!

So, with that, it's time to say - kiitos! - to our birding guide Teemu Sirkkala (who was clearly well equipped to find birds!)


Teemu Sirkkala


And, it's also time for goodbye from us... Hyvästi