Liminka Bay: The Number One Bird Watching Spot in Finland

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Liminka Bay is the number one bird watching spot in Finland.

Or so says our guide Jari Peltomäki, one of Finland’s top wildlife photographers. He’s won the Finnish Wildlife Photographer award multiple times, along with a slew of other awards, so he knows what he’s talking being. After visiting Liminka Bay and experiencing it with my own eyes, I agree that he makes a strong case.

You can find over 200 species of birds in Liminka Bay, the largest bay in the Gulf of Bothnia. An impressive number of bird species nest in the brackish waters.

Adventure Travel - Bird Watching in Finland
Cows help keep the lands fertile and co-exist peacefully with the birds.

My Birding Experience at Liminka Bay

I visited in late August, which this far north the Finns consider being autumn. Birds had already started migrating south trying to beat the cold. In just over an hour, I saw a flock of 200 geese, 500 starlings, and a Caspian tern, the largest tern in the world.

The highlight of the day was spotting a white-tailed eagle! My birding group had planned to keep track of the number of different species. However, we got distracted and lost count somewhere around eleven. I know the bird count had we continued it, would have been much higher.

On the look out for a white-tailed eagle at Liminka Bay in Finland.
On the lookout for a white-tailed eagle at Liminka Bay, the number #1 place for bird watching in Finland.

I find birds fascinating, but admittedly am sh*t at identifying them by species – even with a good pair of binoculars. If you’re like me, here’ the #1 birding tip in Finland I can give you, passed on from Jari.

If you see or hear a bird but can’t identify it, assume it’s a Willow Warbler. There are 30 million of them. They’re the most common bird in  Finland.

Willow warbler, Finland's most common bird. Photo by Jari Peltomäki, used with his permission.
Willow warbler, Finland’s most common bird. Photo by Jari Peltomäki, used with his permission.

Owls I do know though.  I used to work with short-eared owls when I taught environment education at the Calgary Zoo. Birders will be pleased to learn that you can find up to eight species of them in Liminka Bay.

When trying to pin Jari down for the best time of year for birding in Finland, he remains indecisive between spring and fall.

The birds are more concentrated in spring. But they’re also in a hurry to get to their nesting grounds up further north. They’re less concentrated in fall but stick around longer.

There is no wrong time for birding in Liminka Bay between April and October. Every year in May there is a bird counting day. The record was 110 species spotted in a single day!

In fall, you can witness up to 10,000 common cranes migrating!

Black grouse. Photo by Jari Peltomäki.
Black grouse. Photo by Jari Peltomäki, used with permission.

Visiting Liminka Bay for Bird Watching

Regardless of when you visit Liminka Bay, you’ll want your first stop to be the entrepreneur owned and operated Liminganlahti Bay Visitor Centre. They have a fantastic interactive exhibition about birds in the area. It’s worth checking out before you start your actual bird watching.

There’s also a restaurant and hostel-style accommodation in large, clean rooms. If you’re planning on bird watching for more than a day, this is the place to stay for its location.

They can also organize guiding services for you. I highly recommend this unless you are an experienced birder and even then, I would still recommend asking for Jari. His passion and knowledge are unsurpassed. He’ll entertain you with stories of how he’s got some of his most epic award-winning wildlife shots. I won’t reveal all his secrets, but I will say this – it’s not easy!

Loved seeing the arrival of bird species by date at the Liminganlahti Visitor Centre.
Loved seeing the arrival of bird species by date at the Liminganlahti Visitor Centre.

 

Practical Info for Finland’s #1 Bird Watching Destination: Liminka Bay

Where to Stay

Liminganlahti Visitor Centre is the only accommodation nearby. Otherwise, you could stay in Oulu, approximately 30km north of Liminka Bay.

Getting to Liminka Bay

Oulu is the nearest airport. You will need to drive as this area is minimally developed for tourism (yeah!!!). Plus, there are five watchtowers around Liminka Bay. You need to drive to get between them, so I highly recommend renting a car.

Additional Activities Near Liminka Bay:

Visit the largest sand dunes in Finland in Kalajoki and take a boat trip to Maakalla, a fishermen’s island with a long history.

Further down the coast is the Kvarken Archipelago, Finland’s only natural UNESCO Heritage Site. It’s another excellent bird-watching spot in Finland – try doing it with a kayak, and you’re practically guaranteed some close encounters!

Other Wildlife and Adventure Activities in Finland:

I cycled across Finland which I enjoyed. You don’t have to do a trip as extensive as the one that I did to experience it. There are lots of shorter options. Wildlife lovers will enjoy bear and wolverine watching and searching for the highly endangered Saimaa Ringed Seal.

Finland is a great place to reconnect with nature and especially Liminka Bay, which offers the best bird watching in Finland.

Note:  My visit was made possible by Outdoors Finland. All opinions are my own. 

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