Otus asio tours

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JUNE 6-18, 2010
This holiday combines the bird-rich forests, lakes and marshes of Finland with the tundra and coastal fjords of arctic Norway in the land of the midnight sun and northern lights. We will look for species that are difficult to find elsewhere in Europe as well as Siberian specialties whose ranges creep into northern Scandinavia.
Day 1 Sunday June 6: The tour begins at the Helsinki International Airport where we will take an afternoon flight to Oulu located on Finland’s east coast on the Gulf of Bothnia. We’ll transfer to our hotel (5 minutes away) and relax and unwind after the long journey. We’ll have an orientation session and then enjoy a traditional Finnish dinner. Night in Kempele.
Day 2-3 Monday-Tuesday June 7-8: Oulu is best known in birding circles for its breeding Terek Sandpipers around the harbour area. Other species to be found here include Little Ringed Plover, Ruff and Eurasian Woodcock. This area is also excellent for breeding owls and we’ll spend a good deal of time in the surrounding forests looking for Eurasian Eagle-owl, Ural, Great Grey and Tengmalm’s Owls and Eurasian Pygmy-owl. With the help of our local contacts we’ll have an excellent chance of seeing all off these at close range! Other possible forest birds include Capercallie, Black Grouse and Three toed-Woodpecker. We’ll also visit Liminka Bay, Finland’s most important wetland and the westernmost breeding site for Yellow-breasted Bunting. The area has seven observation towers from which we can search for Finland’s breeding waders including Spotted Redshank, Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit. Nights in Kempele.
Day 4 Wednesday June 9: This morning we’ll drive northeast to the small city of Kuusamo located very close to the Russian border. The drive will take most of the day but will take us through a picturesque boreal landscape decorated with bogs, lakes and coniferous forests of spruce, pine, birch and aspen. As we drive we’ll keep an eye out for Rough-legged Hawk, Siberian Jay and Little and Rustic Bunting. Night in Kuusamo.
Days 5-6 Thursday-Friday June 10-11: The hilly terrain surrounding Kuusamo is in stark contrast to the flat western coast and the taiga forests here are the only places in Europe to see Siberian rarities such as Red-flanked Bluetail, Siberian Tit and Jay and Little Bunting and Rustic Bunting. The hike for Red-flanked Bluetail is steep but the views at the top are well worth the trouble. The area also hosts four species of grouse, all of which we have a good chance of seeing. On one day we will visit Oulanka National Park, a 104 square mile tract of Siberian taiga that was established in 1956. A nice variety of mammals occurs in the park and with luck we could see reindeer, brown bear and moose as well as birds like Parrot Crossbill, Dipper, Bohemian Waxwing and White-winged Crossbill. Nights in Kuusamo.
Day 7 Saturday June 12: Today we’ll take another long but scenic drive which will carry over the Arctic Circle to the town of Ivalo in Lapland near the Russian town of Murmansk. This drive will provide a fascinating glimpse into the native Lapps reindeer tending culture. Of course, we’ll also stop for any interesting birds along the way with White-tailed Eagle a good possibility. Night in Ivalo.
Day 8 Sunday June 13: We’ll continue our northward push and eventually cross the Teno River and enter Norway. The land is dotted with many bogs and lakes that provide excellent chances to see breeding waterfowl like Smew and Arctic Loon. The Teno is one of Eurpoe’s most important salmon rivers and we will follow its course until we reach it end at a delta in Norway. Here we will find an Arctic Tern colony and have a good chance of seeing several varieties of seals. The area also has breeding Gyrfalcons and we’ll keep a sharp eye out for one of these elegant northern raptors. From the delta we’ll travel over the tundra to the small Norwegian harbor town of Batsfjord located on the Varanger Peninsula. The open landscapes allow for excellent viewing and we may see Rock Ptarmigan, Eurasian Dotterel, Long-tailed Jaeger and Snowy Owl. Night in Batsfjord.
Day 9 Monday June 14: Today we’ll visit another Norwegian town, Berlevag, which is also located on the Varanger Peninsula. While enjoying the spectacular arctic scenery we’ll spend time checking the sea for birds like Great Skua, Steller’s Eider, Thick-billed Murre, Yellow-billed Loon and Glaucous and Iceland Gulls. Away from the coast we can look for Hoary Redpoll, Snow Bunting, White-tailed Eagle and other exciting species. The Varanger Peninsula has some unique and interesting geographical features including some desert-like areas of boulders and rock, coastal meadows and large tidal flats created by moraine deposits. We can be certain that if the birding is quiet the rugged coastal vistas will keep us from being bored! Night in Batsfjord.
Day 10 Tuesday June 15: Today we’ll drive to the “end of the earth”: Hamninberg, one of the northernmost points in Europe. The landscape here ranges from wild to serene with a mix of rocky moonscapes and sandy beaches. The arctic birds here are fearless and we should have close range views of Yellow-billed Loon, King Eider, Northern Gannet as well as mammals like Gray Seal and possibly Beluga Whale and Harp Seal. Other possibilites will include Red-throated Pipit, Bluethroat and Horned Lark. Night at Varanger Fjord.
Day 11 Wednesday June 16: If the weather permits, we’ll travel by boat to Hornoya Island Nature Reserve. The preserve hosts 150 pairs of Shags, 25,000 pairs of Black-legged Kittiwakes and several thousand breeding Atlantic Puffins. Other northern alcids found on the island include Razorbill, Black Guillemot and Thick-billed Murre. This sight is a photographer’s dream and offers wonderful opportunities to increase your library of bird photos. We’ll take time to walk to the island’s highest point where we’ll have a breathtaking view of the Arctic Ocean. In the afternoon we’ll return to Varanger Fjord making birding and photography stops along the way. Night in Varanger Fjord.
Day 12 Thursday June 17: After breakfast we’ll begin driving back to Ivalo. If we have time we’ll stop at the Siida Museum in Inara where the exhibits explain the culture of the indigenous Sami. This group has eked out an existence in Lapland for generations using an economy largely based on reindeer herding and fishing. After visiting the museum we’ll continue on to our hotel in Ivalo. Night in Ivalo.
Day 13 Friday June 14: After an early breakfast we’ll drive south about 3.5 hours to Rovaniemi where we’ll catch an early afternoon flight to Helsinki. The tour will end upon our arrival at the Helsinki airport.
TOUR COST: The cost for this tour is $4900 USD per person from Helsinki. This includes all meals from dinner on Day 1 through lunch on Day 14, accommodations for 12 nights, airfare from Helsinki to Oulu and from Rovaniemi to Helsinki, airport transfer in Oulu, all ground transportation during the tour, guide service, entrance fees and boat trip to Hornoya Island. It does not include airfare from your home to Helsinki and return, airport departure taxes, alcoholic beverages, special gratuities, phone calls, laundry or items of a personal nature. The single supplement for the tour is $575. You will be charged a single supplement if you desire single accommodations, or if you prefer to share but have no roommate and we cannot provide one for you.
REGISTRATION: The deposit for this tour is $500 per person. The deposit is payable by check which should be mailed to Otus asio Tours at 900 Hillsborough Road in Chapel Hill NC 27516. A completed registration form and signed waiver agreement must also be sent in order for the registration to be complete and accepted. Full payment of tour price will be due 90 days prior to the departure date (March 10, 2010). Final invoices will mailed in February 2010.
REFUND POLICY: The refund policy is stated on the registration form/waiver agreement.
TOUR SIZE: The tour will be limited to 10 participants with two leaders.
TRIP INSURANCE: We strongly suggest that you purchase trip insurance in the event that you have to cancel your registration. Many companies have requirements that the insurance be purchased before, or shortly after you register. Please check with the seller on their requirements before purchasing a policy.
AIR TRAVEL TO HELSINKI: There are regular daily flights to Helsinki from JFK in New York on American Airlines and Finnair. These flights depart in the evening and arrive in Helsinki the following morning. We can help with hotel bookings in Helsinki if you do decide to arrive before the beginning of the tour.
BAGGAGE: We suggest that you pack in two small duffelbags, or one duffel and one medium-sized suitcase, plus your carry-on bag. As a precaution, please pack your travel documents, binoculars, medications, basic toiletries, and a change of clothes in your carry-on bag.
HEALTH: There are no unusual health hazards. Mosquitoes are not likely to be a major problem as they are only present in small numbers in northern Norway. In Finland they could be more numerous and some people may find them distracting.
CLIMATE: The weather can be extremely variable at this time of year, but nice weather usually predominates. In the south it is likely to be warm and sunny but may change to cloudy with rain or fog very quickly. Temperatures normally vary from 7°C to 20°C (45°F to 68°F) during the day with only slightly lower temperatures at night. In the north weather is cool or even cold, and at night below-freezing temperatures are normal, while daytime temperatures usually vary from 0°C to 10-15°C (32°F to 50-60°F). Periods of strong wind, fog and showers are likely in coastal Northern Norway.
DOCUMENTS: A passport valid for at least six months beyond your planned departure from Finland is required. Visas are not required for United States citizens.
INFORMATION: For further information about this tour contact Jan Hansen at 919-942-8320 or at otusasiotours@bellsouth.net.

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