Arctic Birds

There are obviously many species of bird passing through here so it is a bird lovers' delight. The best time of year to visit for this reason is probably between mid May and the end of June. Hetta has two bird observation towers near to the village and others in the wilderness areas.

People visiting from abroad are generally interested in the Whooper Swans (Finland's national bird), Siberian tits, Siberian jays, and the various eagles, falcons, hawks and owls that are found here. White-tailed Eagles, Golden Eagles, Rough-legged Buzzards, Ospreys, Hawk owls, Tengmalm's Owls and Pygmy Owls and more rare Snowy Owls, Great Grey Owls and Gyr Falcons can all be spotted in the wilderness. Also Long Tailed Skua, Waxwing, Bluethroat, Arctic Tarn and Black-throated Diver are found in Enontekiö. Willow Grouse are one of the emblems of the region since they have brought income to the people living here and been part of their traditional ways of life for many years and Capercaillie, Black Grouse and Ptarmigan are three of the other forest hens that are common in the area.

There are two bird-watching towers in the vacinity of Hetta: Yrjö Kokko Bird Watching Tower and Sotkajärvi Bird Watching Tower.

Yrjö Kokko bird watching tower is situated approximately 10 km east of the village, by the side of road 956. The tower (and an adjacent lean-to shelter that many cyclists use as a temporary lunch stop) is situated by a pool where the river Vanhajoki flows into the River Ounasjoki. While there visitors can also learn more about the birdlife in Joentekiäinen, the quiet pool in the River Ounasjoki and about Finnish writer and scientist Yrjö Kokko by reading the boards there.

Sotkajärvi bird watching tower is situated at Sotkavuoma about 18 km from Hetta. This is an excellent bird watching spot during both migration and nesting time. The tower is situated on the shore of Lake Sotkajärvi by road 93m, between Hetta and Palojoensuu. Lake Sotkajärvi is a great bird wetland and so many interesting sightings have been made there that bird sighting competitions are frequent events. This tower also has an adjacent lean-to shelter and both the shelter and lower platform of the tower are accessible by wheelchair.

The landscape and vegetation in the Hetta Area are very diverse. There are old pine forests as well as vast mires, both barren and lush lakes and fells. In late April/early May you can head to Yrjö Kokko bird watching tower to watch as the first swans, ducks and geese arrive. Bird feeders are busy places as birds, such as the Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis), the Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea) and the Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) migrate to the area for the summer and join the birds already there.

After winter when ice melts bird watchers should head quickly to Sotkajärvi bird watching tower. At Lake Sotkajärvi there have been sightings of almost all the water birds which nest in Finland and of those which regularly migrate through Finland. There have also been sightings of several rarities such as the American Wigeon (Anas americana) and the Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis).

Towards the end of May there are birds almost everywhere and during summer we recommend visitors hike into the Enontekiö wilderness or south of Hetta to Pyhäkero Fell for bird watching excursions. At Pyhäkero you can find most of Finland’s fell birds such as the Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta), the Eurasian Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus), the Long-tailed Jaeger (Stercorarius longicaudus) and the Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus). In Hetta Village some of the lead singers during a summer morning’s concert are the Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus), the Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca), the Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus), the Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) and the Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla), but occasionally one may hear the song of Lapland’s version of the nightingale the Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica).

As winter nears and the area’s shallow lakes freeze, you should point your binoculars in the direction of the unfrozen spots in Lake Ounasjärvi. In his time the Finnish author Yrjö Kokko wrote about the area’s Common Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula), Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis) and Smews (Mergellus albellus), but with some luck among the normal species found at the lake you may be able to spot a rarity such as the Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) or the Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo). The Periläkoski Rapids, located between Lake Ounasjärvi and Lake Periläjärvi, is also an interesting bird watching destination. Finland’s most northern sighting of a Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) was made on the rocks along the shore of the rapids where it was wandering around amongst a flock of White-throated Dippers (Cinclus cinclus).

Many of the bird species that inhabit the Hetta Area at different times of year may come as a surprise to visitors. The rarest birds seen in Hetta are the Bee-eaters (Meropidae), the Great Skua (Stercorarius skua), the Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) and the Dusky Thrush (Turdus eunomus).

The closeness of the Arctic Ocean brings its own twist to the area’s bird population; thus adding the Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) and the Little Auk (Alle alle) to the list of birds seen there. Even during the darkest part of the year in mid-winter there is life in the area. Between 2002 and 2005 twenty-two species were sighted during winter on the bird watching route, which runs through Hetta Village. The most populous species seen were the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), the Great Tit (Parus major), the Common Magpie (Pica pica), the European Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) and the Eurasian Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula). Of Lapland’s common bird species, for example the Willow Grouse (Lagopus lagopus), the Siberian Jay (Perisoreus infaustus) and the Siberian Tit (Parus cinctus) are of course seen regularly during winter in the Hetta Area. Species such as the Carrion Crow (Corvus corone), the Willow Tit (Parus montanus), the Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus), the Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) and the Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) can be found in small numbers in urban spots during winter.

Here is the website where you can look at the latest bird sightings in the area.