Destinations Magazine

The Number One Bird Watching Spot in Finland

By Expatgermany @Laurel_Robbins

Or so says our guide Jari Peltomäki, one of Finland’s top wildlife photographers who has won the Finnish Wildlife Photographer award multiple times, along with a slew of other awards. But after visiting Liminka Bay and experiencing it with my own eyes, I’ll admit he makes a strong case.

You can find over 200 species of bird in Liminka Bay, the largest bay in the Gulf of Bothnia. An impressive bird species nest in the brackish waters.

Cows help keep the lands fertile and co-exist peacefully with the birds.

Cows help keep the lands fertile and co-exist peacefully with the birds.

I visited in late August, which this far north the Finns consider to be fall. Bird had already started migrating south trying to beat the cold. In just over an hour, I saw a flock of 200 geese, 500 starlings, a Caspian tern, the largest tern in the world and the highlight of the day – a white-tailed eagle! My group had planned to keep track of the number of different species, but we got distracted and lost count somewhere around eleven, although I know the count had we continued it, would have been much higher.

On the look out for a white-tailed eagle at Liminka Bay in Finland.

On the look out for a white-tailed eagle at Liminka Bay.

I find birds fascinating, but admittedly am sh*t at identifying them by species – even with a good pair of binoculars. If you’re like me, here’ the #1 birding tip in Finland I can give you, passed on from Jari. If you see or hear a bird but can’t identify it, assume it’s a Willow Warbler. There are 30 million of them and they are Finland’s most common bird!

Willow warbler, Finland's most common bird.  Photo by Jari Peltomäki, used with his permission.

Willow warbler, Finland’s most common bird. Photo by Jari Peltomäki, used with his permission.

Owls I do know though – I used to work with short-eared owls when I taught environment education at the Calgary Zoo and you can find up to eight species of them in Liminka Bay.

When trying to pin Jari down for the best time of year for birding in Finland, he remains indecisive between spring and fall. The birds are more concentrated in spring, but they’re also in a hurry to get to their nesting grounds up further north. They’re less concentrated in fall, but stick around longer. Really there is no bad time for birding in Liminka Bay between the months of April and October. Every year in May there is a bird counting day and the record was 110 species spotted in a single day! In fall, you can witness up to 10,000 common cranes migrating!

Black grouse.  Photo by Jari Peltomäki.

Black grouse. Photo by Jari Peltomäki, used with permission.

Regardless of when you go you’ll want your first stop to be the entrepreneur owned and operated Liminganlahti Bay Visitor Centre. There’s a fantastic interactive exhibition about birds in the area that’s worth checking out before you start your actual bird watching. There’s also a restaurant and hostel style accommodation, but in large clean rooms. If you’re planning on bird watching for more than a day, this is the place to stay for its location. They can also organize guiding services for you, which I highly recommend unless you are an experienced birder and even then, I would still recommend asking for Jari. His passion and knowledge are unsurpassed and he will entertain you with stories of how he’s got some of his most epic award-winning shots. I won’t reveal all his secrets, but will say this – it’s not easy!

Loved seeing the arrival of bird species by date at the Liminganlahti Visitor Centre.

Loved seeing the arrival of bird species by date at the Liminganlahti Visitor Centre.

 

Plan Your Visit to Finland’s #1 Bird Watching Destination: Liminka Bay

Where to Stay

Liminganlahti Visitor Centre is the only accommodation nearby. Otherwise you could stay in Oulu, which is located approximately 30km north of Liminka Bay.

Getting to Liminka Bay

Oulu is the nearest airport. You will need to drive as this area is minimally developed for tourism (yeah!!!). Plus, there are five watch tours around Liminka Bay, but you need to drive to get between them.

Additional Activities Near Liminka Bay:

Visit the largest sand dunes in Finland in Kalajoki and take a boat trip to Maakalla, a fishermen’s island with a long history. Further down the coast is the Kvarken Archipelago, Finland’s only natural UNESCO Heritage Site. It’s another great bird watching spot in Finland – try doing it with a kayak and you’re practically guaranteed some close encounters!

 

Note:  My visit was made possible by Outdoors Finland, but all opinions are my own. 

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