Text and Pictures © Hanna & Janne Aalto
Parikkala Siikalahti has been 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 all birdtowers but also Northern sides small "harbour" and the road which goes around Siikalahti. The main tower is 1 km from parking place and there leads a good wooden track. New Kasinniemi bird-tower is next to the information center. And on the damroad the is one more low tower, 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 area is quite small so if you want to move more in bushes and forests you can find areas borders 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 the past. Former Siikalahti was a place where all Parikkalas wastewater was 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 or 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. In autumn dam-road is better as it has visibility to north too.
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 tens of thousands of Geese in one day. And on these kind of days you can see also much more!
In this small area there is 70 tp 75 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 Bitterns (about 7 pairs), Whooper Swan (several pairs), Water Rails (more than 20 pairs), Spotted Crakes, Woodpeckers and many many passerines! Most common birds are Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting.
Siikalahti is the best place in Finland to see a 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, Water Rails 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 Orioles. 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 Baillon`s Crake, Little Crake, Quail, Booted Warbler, Savi`s Warbler and Lanceolated Warbler have been found, but then you really have to know when and where to search and also have luck.
In July there are 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 were good places for waders to land, and it was possible to see several species of waders easily. Unfortunately it has been too long from the last time something was done in Siikalahti so waders don't have any place to land anymore.
Because of the protection there are hundreds of ducks and geese 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 tens of thousands of geese..
Late Autumn before the bay frozens there can be hundreds of Swans. Last of them are leaving just when the bay freezes.
Siikalahti is really a good place to see rarities. In the past there were every year records of Little Crake but it has been rare recently. Red-footed Falcon and both Spotted Eagles and even Steppe and Eastern Imperial Eagle have been seen. Also White-billed Diver, Black-necked Grebe, Baillion`s Crake, American Wigeon, Ruddy Shelduck, Lesser White-fronted Goose, Red-breasted Pochard, White-winged Tern and Black Stork has been recorded there. Black Kite has been almost daily in some summers. Pallid and Montagu`s Harriers have also been recorded. Marsh Sandpiper has been recorded few times and one of the most rare birds have been Collared Pratincola and the third White-tailed Plover for Finland.
There is a toilet (also inva) in parking place. Near the information center there is a tenting place with cooking place and water place (but water is not drinkable). 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 and to KAsinniemi it is also easy to go at least to the ground-floor. At information center there is much information about the area and birds and also about plants.