Northern Europe is one of the dream destinations for bird watchers. Great gray owl, Blue tail and King eider – these and other bird species are best found here in Europe. And all this in a wild and unspoilt landscape that is second to none. In addition, the midnight sun makes it possible to observe at any time of day. Adrian Jordi visited the best observation areas in Finland and Norway last July.
On foot, Adrian Jordi sets off deep into the pristine, untouched forests of Kuusamo in Finland. It is already late in the evening at the Russian border. There, where the sun hardly sets in summer. At a point that Adrian has determined ahead, he stops and keeps a lookout with the Leica Noctivid 10×42 binoculars. What he now has in focus is the breeding ground of a family of Great gray owls. He doesn’t have to wait long for the largest owl in Europe to sit majestically on a branch and observe the surroundings. Adrian captures this rare moment from a safe distance without disturbing. He does this by phonescoping, in pictures and video. The Leica APO-Televid 82 did its job on the first part of the journey. Because the Great gray owl is very difficult to find. The first highlight is in the box.
Leica and local support
“It is very difficult to find such species” explains Adrian. “Since I did not want to rely on chance, I contacted a local in the forefront of my trip. He had given me a tip on the location where the owl had been seen two weeks before. But the fact that it worked out so perfectly and that I was able to take such pictures is very special”. But Adrian not only discovered the Great gray owl in Kuusamo, but also the Blue Tail: “Here, too, I got the GPS point from my Finnish colleague. As I was searching the area with the Leica binoculars, I suddenly saw a small bird sitting on a dead branch. Orange flanks, a blue tail: Blue tail! This was also a rare highlight,” Adrian enthuses. He celebrated this discovery in style.
Before Adrian sets off on a birdwatching trip, he makes the necessary preparations. He researches existing species, how they behave, where and when they are best encountered. From this he makes a detailed list of the desired target species. “On this trip I discovered everything I wanted. Except the snowy owl, but it is extremely difficult to find”. In addition, among birdwatchers you can count on the support of colleagues, all over Europe. And last but not least, Adrian also packs the necessary material. The best available on the market: Leica. “On this trip I had the large Leica telescope, the Televid 82 with me. And, as always, the Noctivid 10×42 binoculars, equipment I can rely on one hundred percent. As a supplement to the normal photographic equipment, Adrian took photos and filmed with his smartphone through the telescope on this trip and took fantastic pictures.
In close contact with seabirds
Adrian’s journey was by no means over after the discovery of the Blue tail in Finland. A third highlight should follow. So he set off with his son to Norway, to the Varangerfjord. There in the Arctic, the tundra, he met his colleague Manuel Schweizer. Both are part of the Birders without Borders. One could think that no bird would get lost in the Arctic. But this is not the case. “The King eider, the Falcon, we have all seen them. There are really hard conditions there and we had to search the sea with the telescope, far out to sea. The Leica optics were fantastic for that”. Where the sun doesn’t set at all now, the birdwatchers also became nocturnal. We were out and about until well after midnight. And we took a boat to a bird island in the sea, the Hornoya. More than 100.000 sea birds came there to breed. Among them also the puffin and rare Thick-billed mummies. We observed some of the birds from a distance of 1-2 meters. An incredible moment. This island is a highlight of European bird watching”.
These were the special moments and experiences that Adrian mentioned right at the beginning of the conversation. But the journey to the north of Europe was so fascinating that an additional highlight comes to his mind while telling the story. “On the way back, in Lapland, on the Kaunispää mountain, we found this sparse tundra vegetation. And there we actually discovered the Mornell plover. It was a couple with its two young. Very close. They made no move at all to leave us. They are obviously not afraid of humans. When you stand so close to the animal with the Leica Noctivid binoculars, you simply see every detail. Absolutely fascinating”.
Over the Jura to Africa
Those who do not want to travel to the Tundra to observe this fearless bird can also try their luck in Switzerland, especially in the Alps and the Jura. There, the Ringed plover makes a stopover each August and September on its journey to the warm south to Africa. “Yes, exactly. On barren plateaus it sometimes rests. On the Chasseral or the Cassonsgrat for example”.
About Adrian Jordi
Adrian Jordi is an active birder, teacher and contributor to the BirdLife magazine Ornis for the Birder’s Corner. As president of the CH Club 300 he is committed to bird watching in Switzerland. In the ranking of the most frequently seen bird species in Switzerland he ranks 2nd. Adrian has made ornithological journeys to over 30 countries and is a very experienced tour guide with a focus on Europe, Africa and Asia and a deep interest in the Middle East and Tiger.