Whilst in Finland in early June this year I went on an half-day birding trip organised by Finnature, based out of the town of Kuusamo. Kuusamo is pretty close to both the Russian border and the Arctic Circle. Being just south of the Arctic Circle, we were not quite in the ‘land of the midnight sun’, but it was pretty close! This meant that our ‘half day’ excursion started at 3AM!
An organised trip with Finnature is THE best way to see some of the northern European owl species that Finland is famous for. The Finnature guides and staff spend a huge amount of time in the late winter/early spring each year finding, watching and protecting nesting owls so that they can responsibly show them to visiting birders/photographers in the spring.
For my particular trip our guide was Antti Peuna, a young and very skilled Finnish ornithologist. At one point in the morning Antti took us deep into the Finnish forests to a felled area where a pair of Northern Hawk Owls (Surnia ulula) had bred. We could see one adult bird, distantly perched on top of a fir tree. We could also hear 2 or 3 recently fledged young owls calling around us, but where were they? Antti explained that, having recently left the nest, the young birds could either be sat on the ground or perched in a small tree fairly close to the nest tree. Eventually I spotted this juvenile Northern Hawk Owl hugging the main trunk of a tree not that far from us and managed to get some photos. Before we left, both adult birds made an appearance, so we got to see the whole family!