Text and Pictures © Hanna & Janne Aalto
Parikkala Siikalahti is the best birdlake in Finland. It has a big amount of breeding birds and also a lot of birds are migrating through the area or visiting on the area when feeding. Siikalahti has been protected since year 1982. Earlier but still in early 80`s Siikalahti was planned to dry totally for farming land. Nowadays Siikalahti belongs to Finnish Park and Forest Service.
Parikkalas Siikalahti is located in Eastern Finland between the cities of Savonlinna and Imatra. It`s about 50km from both cities to Siikalahti. Siikalahti is an inner bay of big Lake Simpele and it`s only four kilometers from Parikkala village. And Russian border is as close as in 7 km.
You can find Siikalahti by driving the main road 6 and when you are at Parikkala there are signs to Siikalahti from the main road. You have to take Kaukola -road and after 3 km you can find Siikalahti parking place.
The best places (and also possible places to go) in Siikalahti are of course both birdtowers but also Northern sides small "harbour" and the road which go around Siikalahti. The main tower is 1 km from parking place and there leads a good wooden track. And new tower is on the damroad, continue the Kantola road 400m from parking place. Remember that Siikalahti is protected area so you are not aloud to leave the tracks or roads. But the protected are is quite small so if you want to move more in bushes and forests you can find areas boarders and a lot more information about the area from information center 200 meters from parking place by track.
Siikalahti is 5km long but only 1,5km wide. Siikalahti is not deep, there is only less than a meter water and it`s overgrowing very fast. That`s why there has been done a lot of work in last years. Former Siikalahti was a place where all Parikkalas wastewater were dumped which also increases overgrowing. Nowadays the waterlevel can be controlled by pumps which also takes care there is not too much water.
In sprigs the bay melts in April-May. And when there is first water areas there is already first ducks swimming.
Siikalahti is very important place to rest for birds which are migrating. Many species are landing to Siikalahti for days-weeks before they continue their migration.
The bay is leading migration because it is 5km long from South to North. So birds can see the bay and they are often flying over it. From the main tower there is a good view to South, East and West so in Spring you can see good migration there.
Many passerines and waders are migrating over Siikalahti but best migration days are when the arctic Geese are migrating. Unfortunately it depends on winds where are the Geese migrating but in some years it is possible to see thousands and thousand of Geese in one day. In spring 1999 there was in one day together 74000 Bearnacle Geese and Brent Geese migrating. And in these kind of days you can see also much more! In 21th of May in 2003 there was more than 30000 Geese (5 species) migrating but also there was local Baillion`s and Little Crakes, 9 migrating White Storks, 2 Red-footed Falcons and a migrating Red Kite in very same day!
In this small area there is 70-74 breeding species. Just outside the protected area there is still plenty of different species breeding. For example most raptors are just coming to catch their preys on this area.
Breeding species are for example Slavonian Grebes (about 20 pairs), Bitterns (about 7 pairs), Whooper Swan (1-2 pairs), Waterrails (more than 20 pairs), Spotted Crakes (more than 20 pairs), Woodpeckers and many many passerines! Most common birds are Sedge Warbler, Black-headed Gull and Reed Bunting.
Siikalahti is the best placein Finland to see rare White-backed Woodpecker. It is easiest in late May from the tower. It is then collecting something to eat and it`s flying from island to island. But this bird is very quiet so it can be very difficult to notice even it is in closest trees.
Siikalahti area is maybe most famous because of its nightsingers. In early June it is the best time to hear (and see) them. But don`t be too hurry, you can not hear many birds before midnight! Many birders (mostly foreigners) are going to hear these beautiful singers far too early. Most of the birds are beginning their song just before midnight. First beginners are Thrush Nightingales and soon Spotted Crakes, Bitterns, Waterrails and different kind of Warblers are continuing. And this consert lasts until early morning. Warblers are singing best between 3 and 5 a.m. and then is the only good time to hear Golden Oriols. Only some birds are possible to hear from the towers, so you really have to move on. River, Grasshopper, Great Reed, Reed, Blyth`s Reed and Marsh Warblers can be difficult to find if you don`t know what kind of biotops they are liking. Corn Crake can be found easily from almost any field. But also Baillion`s Crake, Little Crake, Quail, Booted Warbler, Savi`s Warbler and Lanceolated Warbler are possible birds to find, but then you really have to know when and where to search.
In July there is most birds in Siikalahti, when all breeding birds have their youngsters. Also first autumn migrants are already leaving their northern breeding places. Because of the machines which are taking care of the overgroving there is good places for waders to land, and it is possible to see several species of waders easily.
Because of the protection there is hundreds of ducks in Siikalahti by autumn. Many ducks are coming to moult and planning their trip to South. In Autumn there can be more than 1000 ducks and Coots...
Late Autumn before the bay frozens there can be hundreds of Swans. Last of them are leaving just when the bay frozens.
Siikalahti is really a good place to see rarities. Every year there is records of Little Crake, Red-footed Falcon and both Spotted Eagles. Also White-billed Diver, Black-necked Grebe, Baillion`s Crake, American Wigeon, Ruddy Shelduck, Lesser White-fronted Goose, Red-breasted Pochard and Black Stork has been recorded there. Red Kite has been seen twice but Black Kite has been almost daily in some summers. Pallid and Montagu`s Harriers have also been recorded like Steppe Eagle too. Marsh Sandpiper has been recorded few times and one of the most rare birds have been Collared Pratincola and third White-tailed Plover in Finland.
There is toilet (Also inva) in parking place. Near the information center there is a tenting place with cooking place and water place. In the tower which has two floors there is mailbox with book where is areas all better birdsightings. There is also a hide close the tower where birds can be seen closer and better also without telescopes and binoculars. To the another tower in damroad it is possibly to go by wheelchair too. At information center there is much information about the area and birds and also about plants. In Spring-Summer there is experienced quides working in morning-daytime, which are helping with any kind of situations.