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Birdwatchers scan the skies for elusive signs of spring

Eager birdwatchers at the Hanko bird watching platform are waiting impatiently for the spring migration of birds to start. Despite the mild weather, there are no signs that birds are starting to return to Finland from their winter climes.

Tutkimusavustaja Aatu Vattulainen Hangon lintuasemalla.
There are 460 species of bird in Finland, but 7 have not been seen since 1950. Image: Yle

Aatu Vattulainen has been an active birdwatcher at the Helsinki Ornithological Society Tringa’s Halias observation tower in Hanko for 20 years. Even though Finland’s weather has been unseasonably mild this spring, its migrating birds are still enjoying their winter sojourn in the south and show no signs of an early return.

“Sure, some of the more early birds have arrived, but not as many as one could imagine. There have been many sightings of the Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) for this time of year, but this is perhaps the only anomaly,” says Vattulainen.

The old proverb says that the first sign of summer is when the first Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis) has been sighted in Hanko, but this year it seems their arrival will lag. One flock of European robins (Erithacus rubecula) and yet another of over one hundred swans (Cygnus) have stayed in Hanko throughout the winter.

Hanko peninsula station opens to the public

The Halias bird observation station is located in the nature preserve area at the tip of the Hanko peninsula. For the time being, no one is allowed there without a special permit, due to the adjacent port. The situation will change later this year, when the area is opened to the public. Bird station regulars have several scruples about lifting the restriction.

“In a way, it’s understandable that people want to come here, as the landscape is beautiful. But how people will behave is another matter all together. They will have to comply with the rules that are in force, like people can’t just walk anywhere they please,” says Vattulainen.

Massive flocks of migratory birds

Visitors to the Hanko peninsula are sure to see some unforgettable natural sights. Several rare birds have been spotted over the years, along with huge migratory flocks of the Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) and the Common Crane (Grus grus). In the autumn, the entire peninsula is black with birds of prey, delaying their migratory journey until the last possible minute.

“Surprises are always in store, and that’s perhaps the best part about it. You never know what kind of show Mother Nature will put on for you when you walk out the door. It’s a new adventure every day,” Vattulainen says.

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