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This year's tour to Finland and Norway proved exceptionally challenging. A very late spring combined with a shortage of voles meant that most of the owls either failed to breed or moved further north and east to breed. In March and April there was plenty of food and it looked like being an exceptionally good owl year with even the possibility of Snowy Owl breeding for the first time in many years. A late cold snap however, changed all that and even at the end of May, many lakes were still frozen and the remaining owls and woodpeckers were either late breeding or didn't even start! Despite this setback however, we did succeed in gaining exceptionally good views of both Great Grey Owl and Eurasian Pygmy-owl in the normal areas but for Boreal Owl and Northern Hawk Owl we had to venture a lot further north. Ural Owls bred in far lower numbers than normal and proved difficult to gain good views of and Red-flanked Bluetails arrived around two weeks later than normal and eluded us completely. There was plenty of compensation however, both Grey-headed Chickadee (Siberian Tit) and Siberian Jay gave good views and a pair of Pine Grosbeaks were found on a feeder close to the Finland/Norway border. A summer-plumage White-billed Diver and breeding Gyrfalcons were found in Norway as was an adult male Steller's Eider, subadult male King Eiders and plenty of Thick-billed Murres. Little and Rustic Buntings were only just arriving midway through the tour and Hoary Redpolls hadn't even started to think about breeding. It is always difficult to judge the timing of tours and groups before us in Norway had found some roads impassable such was the lateness of the spring. Nevertheless, we did exceptionally well with only Red-flanked Bluetail and Rock Ptarmigan missed and we even avoided mosquitoes until the last morning!

Siberian Jay

Siberian Jay