A delay at Heathrow Airport meant a tight transfer at Helsinki Airport but we arrived at Rovaniemi for our 80 minute coach transfer to Luosto. It was grey and overcast as dusk fell but everywhere and everything was covered in loads of snow. I kept a look out for birds on the journey although I didn't expect to see much but I was in for a surprise with brief sightings of two new birds. The first was a great grey owl sat on a telegraph pole by the roadside as we sped by, a brief view and unfortunately it had its back to the road but its large size and large head were obvious. Ten minutes later and I saw another owl, this time a hawk owl and again perched on a telegraph pole by the roadside facing towards me but further back from the road. Its smaller and slimmer build with barred pale underparts were obvious again as we sped by.
|Luosto in the snow|
|The view from our balcony|
The next day while wandering through the snowy forest around the hotel I saw a songflighting greenfinch along with great tits and willow tits, the willow tits being of the Scandinavian race borealis with white cheeks and grey backs compared to the British kleinschmidti race. I have only ever seen willow tit once in the UK, many years ago in Norfolk, so it was nice to see them showing well feeding in the trees.
The following day a male snow bunting was seen briefly as it flew off when disturbed from outside the main entrance to the hotel. Another walk around the hotel area provided 2 new birds, the first being a black woodpecker flying through the trees giving a distinctive "kruck" call as it landed on a tree branch before flying off again and out of sight. Its all black plumage, large size and flappy, direct flight were obvious despite the poor view as it flew amongst the trees. The 2nd new bird were good views of 4 Siberian Jays showing well and appearing quite fearless as they preened in a pine tree close to the footpath. Great spotted woodpeckers were also seen and heard drumming and "chipping" in the trees.
|Great Spotted Woodpecker|
The only other birds seen were a single hooded crow regularly around the hotel and some magpies and more hooded crows on the coach trip back to the airport at Rovaniemi on the 28th March. And so a total of 11 bird species were seen, more than I had expected and with 4 lifers, not bad going.
Other signs of wildlife were found in the snow - Arctic hare footprints were seen everywhere and a flight print of a presumed willow grouse. Fungi were seen growing on the birch trees.
|Arctic Hare footprints (right) and Grouse footprints (left0|
|Willow Grouse snowprint|
|Fungus sp. on Birch Tree|
A selection of game birds were also seen but not in the way I had hoped for - being stuffed and for sale in a cafe near the hotel!
And so to the Aurora Borealis..... We were given mobile phones which would be sent a text if an Aurora was showing during the night but the weather was not ideal during our stay - it was sunny at times during the day but the nights were snowy and overcast. Some of our group reported seeing the Lights on the first night but by our fourth and final night we had not had so much as a glimpse. On our last night we went to a talk about the Northern Lights and we saw lots of photos and videos of the Lights but the lady giving the talk stated that we had a 99.9% chance of not seeing the Lights that night due to the snow blizzard going on outside! And so we went to bed - I did wake up at 01:30 and looked out of the window to see that it had stopped snowing but it was still totally overcast and so I went back to bed. However at 02:00 this happened .......
|Oh My God !!!!!!!!!!!!|
I had imagined the Aurora alert was some highly technical and sophisticated system but on asking the receptionist about it when I returned the phone on checking out of the hotel she told me the alert is triggered by the hotel night porter who checks out of the window regularly during the night as she goes about her duties and sends the text if the Aurora shows !
And so an amazing holiday - snow, toboggans, snowmobiles, husky sled rides and reindeer sled rides, some nice birds and the Aurora Borealis - brilliant!