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  • Photograph of Great Grey Owl

    The impressive Great Grey Owl by Dubi Shapiro.

    FINLAND and ARCTIC NORWAY

    Photograph of Hawk Owl

    Photograph of Wolverine

    Hawk Owl and Wolverine, both in Finland, by Chris Townend.

    Best Wildlife in Finland and Arctic Norway

    Mammals
    Brown Bear, Elk (Moose), Reindeer, Muskrat, Red Squirrel, Roe Deer, Brown and Mountain (Arctic) Hares, and Grey Seal. Also a chance of Wolf, Wolverine, (Eurasian) Beaver, Siberian Flying Squirrel and (Saimaa) Ringed Seal (in Linnansaari National Park).

    Birds
    (Eurasian) Eagle, Great Grey, Ural, (Northern) Hawk, Tengmalm’s (Boreal), (Eurasian) Pygmy and Short-eared Owls, Common Crane, (Western) Capercaillie, Black, Hazel and Willow Grouse, Golden and White-tailed Eagles, Gyr Falcon, White-billed Diver (Yellow-billed Loon), King and Steller’s Eiders, Terek Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, Long-tailed Skua (Jaeger), Brunnich’s Guillemot (Thick-billed Murre), (Atlantic) Puffin, (Bohemian) Waxwing, Red-flanked Bluetail, Siberian Tit, Siberian Jay, Arctic Redpoll, Parrot Crossbill and Pine Grosbeak, as well as Black-throated and Red-throated Divers (Loons), Red-necked Grebe, Whooper Swan, (Taiga) Bean Goose, Common Eider, Long-tailed Duck (Old Squaw), Common and Velvet (White-winged) Scoters, (Rock) Ptarmigan, (Eurasian) Dotterel, Temminck’s Stint, Jack Snipe, Broad-billed, Purple and Wood Sandpipers, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Great Skua, Arctic Skua (Jaeger), Little Gull, Arctic Tern, Common Guillemot (Murre), Black Guillemot, Razorbill, Black and (Eurasian) Three-toed Woodpeckers, Red-throated Pipit, (White-throated) Dipper, Thrush Nightingale, (Red-spotted) Bluethroat, Fieldfare, Redwing, Blyth’s Reed, River, Marsh, Icterine and Greenish Warblers, Pied Flycatcher, Brambling, Twite, Mealy Redpoll, (Red) Crossbill, Common Rosefinch, and Lapland, Little, Rustic and Snow Buntings. Also a chance of Rough-legged Buzzard (Hawk), Snowy and Long-eared Owls, Shore (Horned) Lark and Two-barred (White-winged) Crossbill.

    Photograph of King Eider

    Photograph of Steller's Eider

    King and Steller's Eiders photographed by Simon Colenutt from the floating hide in Batsfjord port, Varanger, Norway.


    Best Sites for Wildlife in Finland and Arctic Norway

    Photograph of Pine Grosbeak

    A fine male Pine Grosbeak photographed in the Pasvik Valley, Norway, by Simon Colenutt.


    Best Times for Wildlife in Finland and Arctic Norway

    Bears usually emerge from hibernation from mid-April onwards and those that visit the feeding stations where the hides are may head there first, for an easy meal, since they are hungry! Numbers then build up to early June when there is usually a fall in numbers during the rutting season when eating is not a priority. The bears return in July, usually until mid-August, and peak numbers usually visit the feeding stations around mid-July. By late July it can become too dark in the middle of the night to see and photograph the bears, although they may be around for several hours before the middle of the night. June-July is the peak time to see Wolves and Wolverine (especially late June to mid-July).

    Fortunately the best time for bears in spring coincides with a good time to look for most owls which are easiest to locate in March-April when they are calling and easiest to see, with the help of the local guides who have located their nests during the early spring, in May-June (Beware! Some owls are very aggressive in defense of occupied nests, notably Ural). However, the first half of June, when bears become more elusive, is the best time to look for the widest range of birds, since some summer visitors don't usually arrive until early in the month. Early June is also before the main mosquito season which usually lasts from mid-June to early August, with peak numbers from late June to mid-July.

    During the northern winter there may be as many as 15,000 Steller’s Eiders and 5000 King Eiders around Varanger in Arctic Norway with some usually remaining into spring, but only a few, mainly Steller’s, remain until June. White-billed Diver is also mainly a winter visitor to the Varanger area although a few usually remain through the spring and summer.

    Recommended Books etc. for Finland and Arctic Norway

    A Complete Guide to Arctic Wildlife by R Sale. Helm, 2006.

    Collins Bird Guide by L Svensson et al. Collins, 2010 (Second Edition).

    Birds of Europe by L Jonsson. Helm, 1999.

    Finding Birds in South Finland by D Gosney. Easybirder, 2010 (book and/or DVD).

    Finding Birds in Lapland by D Gosney. Easybirder, 2010 (book and/or DVD).

    Mammals of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East by S Aulagnier et al. Helm, 2009.

    Mammals of Britain and Europe by D McDonald and P Barrett. Collins, 2005.

    Collins Butterfly Guide by T Tolman and R Lewington. Collins, 2009.

    Butterflies of Britain and Europe: A Photographic Guide by H Aarnio et al. A & C Black Publishers, 2009.


    Apps etc.

    Collins Bird Guide.

    Where to watch birds in Europe & Russia by N Wheatley. Helm, 2000.

    Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Europe? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Trip Reports for Finland and Arctic Norway

    Many trip reports, some for Finland and Arctic Norway, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Finland and Arctic Norway. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Finland and Arctic Norway' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in Finland and Arctic Norway

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation in Finland and Arctic Norway

    Some Organized Tours to Finland and Arctic Norway

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and they are popular with people with partners with different interests. Individuals, partners and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more for a custom tour than an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours to Finland and Arctic Norway include the following. Many of these also offer custom tours.