A decade on, we made a very brief trip back to northern Finland, this time with our good friends Steve and Teresa Isaacs.
A mad dash at the end of half term got us to Heathrow (just!) and after a connection in Helsinki we landed in the half-light in Oulu shortly after midnight. We then quickly transferred to the familiar surroundings of Liminganlahti Visitor Centre/guesthouse for the first leg of our trip.
Two days and nights here - the distinction is unimportant at this latitude! - produced most of the expected species: Common Crane, Common Rosefinch, Little Gull, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits, Whooper Swans, Garganey, Short-eared Owl, Black-throated Diver (four on a lake and a flock of150+ mixed divers, Common Scoter on territory, and Arctic and Caspian Terns. We also had a day's owling with Finnature starting at 3am, with Pirita, who did some epic driving as we snoozed. She successfully showed us Pygmy Owl, Hawk Owl, Great Grey Owl (out of the nest at last!), Hazel Hen, Black Grouse and a pair of spectacular Black Woodpeckers, although we sadly failed with Ural and Tengmalm's Owls - good thing we had seen them before!
We then drove to Kuusamo, and still further to our wonderful cabin at Isokenkaistenklubi, right beside a lake within 5 miles of the Russian border. Exploration of the forests and lakes in this area (including the famous Valtavaara Ridge and Oulanka National Park) turned up most of what we wanted to see, notably several singing male Red-flanked Bluetails, Capercaillie, lots of Black Grouse, Willow Grouse, Siberian Jay, Moose, Arctic Hare and the stunning Calypso Orchid.
We did spend not one but two six-hour sessions in a bear-hide deep in the forests overlooking a swamp, but unfortunately saw no bears as it was a bit too early in the season. However, we did see 10 White-tailed Eagles feeding on the bait carcasses, plus stacks of Wood Sandpipers, Ravens and a few other bits and pieces. Yet another return trip is probably required!
We returned, sleep-deprived, but highly satisfied with our haul.