Eagle Owls and Goshawks in Snowy Finland




So i was lucky enough to get over to Finland in early 2023 to try get some images of the Northern Goshawk and the Eagle Owls. I went with a company called Finnature – a local based company that has been operating some such tours for the past twenty years now. I paid for two nights in the hides in the hopes of seeing the Goshawk and the Eagle owls. This is what i took away from the visit and the experience.

So the day starts around noon with a meeting with your guide – in my case it was Jari from Finnature. I met him at the Visitor Center just outside Liminka. Liminka is about 25 minutes from Oulu and the visitor center is about 6km outside Liminka. We drove 2km back to the hide locations – it is off road a little and if you are planning to head into town the following day for supplies take note of the twists and turns to get there and back again. Everything looks different in the dark compared to driving in in daylight. The hides are converted caravans and they are done really well. I was in one and another photographer was in the other. I setup the R3 with the 500mm in one window with the gimbal head and the R5 with the 100-500 in the other window with the ball head. There is a good field of view with regards to the perch in front of you and to the side areas where the smaller birds will feed.


Camera setup in Liminka eagle owl hides in Finland

Within an hour there was a Goshawk in and feeding. The day was dull in January and overcast so you are going to need a high ISO if you want to capture any action shots. 500mm is good on a full frame for this bird but not if there is fighting or wing spread action shots involved. Also you are shooting slightly below the perch so you are looking up towards it a little. You are also crouching in the chairs a lot if you plan to use the viewfinder. This was my approach as there was no power in the hides and I did not want to deplete my two batteries in the R3 in the first day. There was no way to re charge them. I used the viewfinder for most of the first day and did not review any image really. At the end of 24 hours i had 50% battery left and over 1100 images taken. I was confident now that I could relax a little going into the second day of shooting. I would not be taking as many images again as the first day was a novelty for me. The R5 handled well also again shooting over 1000 images off a single battery. The hides are warm so the cold does not adversely affect your batteries. However it is always good to have spares when in here for a few days. I brought a battery pack with me that will charge the R5 batteries if needs be – I could not get one for the R3 but it looks like i will be ok on both fronts anyways. I am careful when it comes to image review and leaving screens on etc at the start of a shoot – quick auto power off and prefer to use the eye finder as opposed to the touch screen. This gives me the most out a battery. I also record short videos where possible and again this saves on the battery.



Goshawk on a perch in Finland

The Goshawk left before 1600 and the owl came in for an hour to feed. There was still some light in the sky behind but not a lot. Jari said to turn on the lights on the perch around 1500 and we did . We needed them . Even with those lights on – you still need a high iso if you plan to shoot the owl moving around ie shutter speeds of 1/320+ will see you shutting 8000 iso or higher. I was shooting on the 100-500mm here for my aperture was 7.1 at 500m. Once you get some keeper images you can of course experiment and drop the iso and shutter speed yourself to try get cleaner sharper images. Once the owl left it turned out to be a long quiet night after that. There is a buzzer in the hides that alerts you when there is something on the perch – however the buzzer is low and you need to be a light sleeper in order to hear it. I don’t know if i heard it at 0400 or not – i woke up and the owl was there and i got 30 minutes of shots before it headed away. It was a quiet night according to Jari but i was still happy as i had two visits from the owl and the Goshawk was in also so for me it was win win. I went back to bed and got some sleep .





The following morning I got up around 0830 as it was still dawn outside and the light was only starting to arrive. I checked my cameras from last night and got a cup of coffee and sat down to wait. I did not have to wait long. 0900 and the Goshawk was back in and feeding. It transpired that she stayed for over 4 hours – with several mobs from other Goshawks trying to get her off the perch and the food so they could feed. A very loud and interesting morning . The small birds were at the feeders – blue tit, great tit, yellowhammers , finches , Jays, woodpeckers and there was even a squirrel in front of the hide I was in. I did see a willow tit also but did not get any good images of it unfortunately. I left the hide at 1500 and headed into town when the maintenance man was there cleaning up and putting out some new bait for the night. It was a dead hare. Most of the bait is roadkill from what i understand. I got into town – got a hot meal and some food at the supermarket and then headed back to the hides again. I forgot to take in my flask to get hot water for coffee and tea but i was ok. I got back to the hides and resettled by 1630. It was dark now and i turned on the lights on the perch. There was no action again till 0100. The owl was in but only stayed about 15 minutes. I got dressed and settled down to take some images and got a few before it flew off. I waited around but no return. The owl was back again at 04:00 but only stayed for 15 minutes or so. I went back to bed and the owl came back in around 0430. I stayed in the sleeping bag this time and got some shots before it flew off at 0445. Maybe i was spoilt the day before with the long visits – maybe this was more like the bird and how it behaves. I didn’t see the owl again for the rest of the trip. I got up at 0900 and the goshawk was waiting on the crossbeam over the perch. I turned off the perch lights around 0930 and got some shots and then got some breakfast. The light was to be nice this morning with some sun but cold today. Temperatures set to drop to -8 or -9 by the end of the day. Hawk stayed around till noon- then it knocked the hare off the perch before flying away. Two more hawks came in looking for food and only found scraps. I finished up around 1400 and loaded up the car and headed away – on to my next adventure – The Golden Eagles! .


Eagle owl on perch in Finalnd in early January



Goshawk in early morning light





Scottish Hides – 4 Day Trip


Hides – 4 DAY TRIP

In August 2021, myself and a few friends headed over to Scotland to spend a few days in the wildlife photogrpahy hides with Alan in Kirkcudbright. The travel time is around 8 hours heading from Limeick to Kirkcudbright. It takes around 4.5 hours to get to the ferry port in Belfast and sail with StenaLine over to CairnRyan and then around 90 minutes to get to Kirkcudbright. The crossing is just over 2 hours if memory serves.

We spent three full days in the differnet hides and they were all long days but fully enjoyable. It was the first time for some of the team to see and use these others – other had been there before. The setup is second to none – Alan puts a lot of time and effort into running this setup and you can see his attention to detail in everything he does here. At the time of this trip COVID was still on everybodies mind and this was especially hard on Alan when people could not travel and he needed to keep feeding the animals. You could see he still had a very active setup going around the area once you stepped into the hides.

The first day we went to the reflection pool for the squirrel as well as the Sparrowhawk hide – the Kingfishers were not active at the time we were there. We were 5 people so we had  to split up to fit everyone in the different hides. Alan thought one of the pair was killed and was looking to see if he could find out more. That evening we headed out to the Pine Marten hide. This was a good hours drive away – late in the evening – and a late quite one in the woods. I tihnk we got home around 01:30 that morning after a no show from  the Pine Marten.

The second day we switched around and did the opposite hides to the day before and in the evening we went to get some shots of the Badgers. Then that night it was off to the Pine Marten again and some went back to the reflection pool for the squirrel – but this time it was for badger and tawny owls.

Third day we tried for a new kingfisher spot in the afternoon and some sparrowhawk in the morning and then Pine Marten in the evening . This time the Pine Marten did show but he was very fast and just appearing and disappeared very quickly. Nice to see under the lights but he did not hang around once he found the food.

All in all a great trip – always something new to shoot when visiting Alan and always good to catch up with him . Be sure to check out the gallery for the rest of the images.


Ballyfin Hides


Hides – A DAY TRIP

In August 2021, after coming back from a trip to Scotland to Alan’s hides in Kirkcudbright, I heard about some hides a little closer to home in the woods near Ballyfin in Co. Laois. I reached out to the owner via Facebook and got a prompt reply re my questions – namely when there was time to get into the hides and also how much would it cost.

I was told that it would cost 70 euro per person per day to use the hide and hopefully get to see the Pine Marten.I agreed after chatting to Richard and organised a day and time to head up. I left limerick that morning around 06:30 and got up there for around 07:45 and met Richard and another photographrer that was using the hides for the day. We drove a few minutes to the parking area where we left the cars and walked into the hides. It was only a few minutes walk to the hide itself. Richard put out some food and showed us where everything was re the setup and then headed away.


The hide can be cold – even in the summer time due to the concreate construction – so it is best to have a few layers that you can adjust as you get too hot or too cold. Once the cameras were setup we sat down to wait. I used my tripod with a gimbal head and my 500mm fixed lens on it and through the other window I had a 70-200 for closer shots of the small birds at the reflection pool.

Overall it is a nice setup – I have antoher post coming showing distances from 100mm and 500mm so you know what to expect with regards to range. The steup is good and there are plenty of small birds constantly feeding in there as well as jays, magpies, crows etc. The pine marten did make a quick visit around 12:30 for around 5 minutes  – found the food that was hidden under stones etc and that the magpices had not alreadt taken – and then left again .

Below are the rest of the images from the vist – and while it was a short visit it was lovely to see a wild pine marten in natural day light during the summer. I will go back again to visit – thats for sure – and try out the other hides that Richard has in the area.

Richard has said that there was a sparrowhawk in the area and it did make a few attempts at catching some of the small birds but did not stick around any of the times it came through. The first few times it missed but on the final pass it did manage to catch a chaffinch and flew back into the woods.