Day 1: Wed 22 January 2020 – Arrival in Finland
On arrival at Oulu airport we will meet our guide and drive for less than an hour to check into our first base. There may be time to explore before dinner and we can also consider night photography, as will be done every evening if there is a chance of Northern Lights. We stay for our first two nights at the renowned Villa Finnature, in Muhos, near Oulu.
Day 2: Thurs 23 January 2020 - Eagle Photography
Taking an early breakfast (but not too early this time of year) we position ourselves at sunrise in the Eagle Hide for the day. This spacious hide is well designed and very comfortable for a day's session: comfy office chairs, heating and two shooting openings per photographer give excellent chances to focus on the most important target - the eagles! Other feeders for passerines just outside the hide could attract Great Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Jay, Crested Tit, Northern borealis Willow Tit and finches. But it’s the raptors we’ve come for and our local guides have made huge efforts to maintain feeding of the wintering Golden Eagle population for over a decade. Several individuals can be present together and we’ll witness and hopefully photograph much more than the usual soaring birds as territorial squabbles unfold. A fantastic day at close quarters with these powerful birds!
Day 3: Fri 24 January 2020 - Northern Owls and forest species
Most of today will again be spent locally around Oulu, and if either Hawk Owl or Great Grey Owl are present we will make every effort to search for them. The nomadic, wandering nature of these hunters mean they cannot be guaranteed but in good vole years individuals can be faithful to winter feeding territories giving better chances. A good alternative and equally worthy for photographers can be found at specialist forest feeding hides and our Finnish colleagues have several where species such as Goshawk, Crested and Willow Tit and finches perhaps including Yellowhammer may be encountered. While touring the forests there’s always a chance of finding something unplanned such as a scarce woodpecker or in influx years Pine Grosbeak – you just never know! Late afternoon we relocate north-east to Iso-Syote on the edge of the Syote National Park with one eye on night conditions in the hope of an Aurora.
Day 4: Sat 25 January 2020 - Iso-Syote Fjell
Our focus will be on landscape photography, with the option to capture the sun rising over beautiful winter scenes of trees loaded with heavy snow. We then spend time at a Reindeer farm where we can feed and take close pictures of the semi-domestic herd. If interesting birds, especially owls are available in the area or nearby we’ll spend time searching for them. Lunch with a twist will be taken at nearby Taivalkoski at the oldest known store in Finland before driving to one of the most famous birding destinations in the country, Kuusamo. We checkin for a four night stay in the beautiful log cabins of Chalet Aurora at Oivangin Lomkartano in Kuusamo
Day 5: Sun 26 January 2020 – Kuusamo area
Kuusamo, close to the Russian border, and the surrounding area are likely to give another excellent chance for northern Owls. If wintering, they may be seen and photographed hunting effortlessly by day over open ground or in forest clearings and local knowledge will be paramount if we’re to find them. The area also holds pairs of the Scandinavian form (Black-bellied) of Dipper and where water flows freely we’ll spend time with them, also visiting spectacular landscapes during the day such as Kuntivaara fjell and Kayla. We return to our accommodation in beautiful log cabins where the Northern Lights may be photographed if active from just outside the front door!
Day 6: Mon 27 January 2020 – Golden Eagles take two!
A second opportunity with these magnificent beasts as we spend the day in heated hides within the Oulanka National Park. While waiting for the resident pair to come into feed, smaller feeders can attract other birds with Black Woodpecker. Siberian Jay and Siberian Tit among the range of possibilities. This hide in Oulanka can be fantastic - many birds visit and the day usually flies by. Usually many Siberian Jays visit the feeder during the day and they offer a great and beautiful target to practice for flight shots. A sudden appearance of a Black Woodpecker, and the busy tits on the smaller feeders - there are rarely dull moments in this hide!
Day 7: Tues 28 January 2020 – Riisitunturi National Park
After breakfast we drive out to the most famous of all winter landscapes in Finland. Deep within the Riisitunturi National Park we walk with snowshoes (or along a ready-made path if preferred) through hilly terrain and snowy forest. The landscape and snowy scenes are breath-taking and the atmosphere eerie as it feels like we’re on the edge of the world. Time will also be allocated to a Siberian Jay feeding site where we enjoy a picnic lunch as these cheerful birds come in for theirs! A great photo opportunity with other forest species likely to feature too.
Day 8: Wed 29 January 2020 – Kitka River and Departure
Sadly our final day, but there will be one last chance to fill up the memory cards with a visit to the free-flowing Kitka river. Picturesque winter scenery and an old restored mill provide interest and (Black-bellied) Dippers can be found here too – will we get that perfect last shot!? Dragging ourselves away we must now leave this wonderful country and head home via Kuusamo airport.
Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather conditions and availability of bird species quoted. We cannot guarantee any of the quoted species, but our expert guides will do their utmost to ensure best possible photography opportunities during the tour.
Please also be aware that this is specifically a photography tour, and so some Finnish bird specialities which occur may not be looked for. Heatherlea lead several trips to Finland catering for a variety of interests so please also see our Finland, spring birding and/or our NEW! Finland and Northern Norway holidays. Also please see Sweden in Winter for birders.