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The Åland Islands (Swedish) or Ahvenanmaa (Finnish) comprise more than 6,000 islands lying about midway between Finland and Sweden. The vast majority - all but one uninhabited islet - are in Finland; the remaining islet (Märket, the westernmost of the Åland Islands) is divided equally between Finland and Sweden. Although mainly part of Finland, the language most spoken on the islands is Swedish.
The habitats vary from bare rock on the smaller and more outlying islands to woodland and farmland on the larger. Many islands have reeds and other vegetation growing on their shores, typical of the brackish and almost tideless Baltic Sea. Many of the islands are under some form of protection including Ramsar Site, National Park, Nature Reserve and Bird Sanctuary status.
The birds here are varied and include several exciting species difficult to see in Finland. This is one of the best areas for White-tailed Eagle in the country and there are also Osprey, Northern Goshawk, European Honey Buzzard and Northern Hobby, Great Eagle Owl and Tengmalm's Owl. Others include Western Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse and Black Grouse (on Kökar), many waterfowl species, waders and seabirds including Caspian Tern and Arctic Skua.
Passerines found on the islands include Spotted Nutcracker and Thrush Nightingale, and warblers including Grasshopper Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Icterine Warbler and, on the eastern islands, Barred Warbler. Increasingly, River Warbler and Blyth's Reed Warbler are seen in summer on the islands and autumn brings regular Pallas's Leaf Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler and Dusky Warbler.
Unfortunately the birds on these islands are well-spaced and no single island will produce all the specialities. Thrush Nightingale is found mainly on the western islands as are the Caspian Tern. However, Föglö in the south-east is one of the better areas with a small number of regular wintering Steller's Eider. This species winters in larger numbers to the south of Åland around the islands of Lågskär and Nyhamn.
Signilskär in the west of the archipelago is another important area and the site of Finland's oldest bird observatory. Breeding here are auks, gulls and Caspian Tern.
Birds you can see here include:
Great Crested Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Great Cormorant, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Greater Scaup, Common Eider, Steller's Eider, Velvet Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, European Honey Buzzard, White-tailed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Common Buzzard, Northern Goshawk, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Osprey, Common Kestrel, Merlin, Northern Hobby, Peregrine Falcon, Hazel Grouse, Black Grouse, Western Capercaillie, Common Pheasant, Water Rail, Spotted Crake, Corn Crake, Eurasian Coot, Oystercatcher, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Northern Lapwing, Dunlin, Common Snipe, Woodcock, Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Arctic Skua, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Caspian Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Common Guillemot, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Common Cuckoo, Great Eagle Owl, Tawny Owl, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Tengmalm's Owl, European Nightjar, Common Swift, Wryneck, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Skylark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Richard's Pipit, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Blue-headed Wagtail, White Wagtail, Common Wren, Dunnock, Eurasian Robin, Thrush Nightingale, Common Redstart, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Bohemian Waxwing, Yellowhammer, River Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Barred Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Pallas's Leaf Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Wood Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Willow Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Common Treecreeper, Red-backed Shrike, Common Jay, Common Magpie, Spotted Nutcracker, Jackdaw, Hooded Crow, Northern Raven, Common Starling, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, European Goldfinch, European Greenfinch, Common Redpoll, Eurasian Siskin, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Brambling
History and Use
Areas of Interest
Access and Facilities
As these islands are popular with tourists accommodation is plentiful, even on the smaller islands and they are easily reached by air or ferry from Turku. Alternatively the visitor can reach the islands by air or sea from Sweden. There are numerous inter-island boat services.
Content and images originally posted by Steve