Sunday, September 20, 2015

Post #37 - Birding in Sweden, Part 2 of 2

As promised in the previous post, this edition will delve into the specific places I birded and the species I saw during the big Sweden trip - Let's get right to it! My trip started out in the southwest corner of the country at Falsterbo, a birding hot spot that I can most easily compare to Cape May, New Jersey (but take away all the people, houses, etc). Like Cape May, the peninsula funnels birds, most notably raptors, down a narrow strip of land before they are forced to cross a large body of water, the Delaware Bay in the case of Cape May and the south end of the Baltic Sea in the case of Falsterbo.

Falsterbo is the red pin

A more detailed view of Falsterbo

Despite generally crappy weather during my 2 day stay, I observed dozens of Honey Buzzards, Eurasian Sparrowhawks, and Eurasian Kestrels. Marsh Harriers and Hen Harriers were also present. Shorebirds included European Golden-plover, Common Snipe, Eurasian Curlew, Northern Lapwing, Common Ringed-plover, and Common Redshank; Garganey, Eurasian Wigeon, and Barnacle Goose rounded out the waterfowl. On the landbird front, swallows, swifts, tits, and wagtails were all in great abundance. For those thinking about visiting Falsterbo, you might want to coordinate your visit around the annual Falsterbo Bird Show in the fall. This 4-day event draws thousands of birders from all over Sweden (and beyond!), and a temporarily erected tent city houses information kiosks, optics and photography demonstrations, information on relevant conservation organizations, bird related art, and much more. I should here insert that almost everyone here speaks near perfect English; There is effectively zero language barrier. It was at this festival that I gave a talk (in English) about my bike trip to a large group of very attentive Swedish birders.

Bird show tents at Falsterbo

More bird show tents

Who, who, who, who let the dogs out?
More like, who, who, who, who let the owls out!  *cue rimshot*

Path at Skanör, a few miles north of Falsterbo.
Gathering rain clouds evident.....

Cows at Skanör

A few clear skies at Skanör

After departing Falsterbo/Skanor, I headed north towards Gothenburg for my next lecture. As I was driven on this leg by a local birder, we made a quick birding stop at Getterön Natural Reserve just south of Gothenburg. The stop was brief, but might have been my favorite of the entire trip. Though we only had half an hour, we observed hundreds of Graylag and Barnacle Geese, several dozen Common Cranes, and a lone White-tailed Eagle. However, shorebirds were the clear the stars of the visit. Eurasian Oystercatcher, Northern Lapwing, Common Ringed-plover, Common Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Eurasian Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Broad-billed Sandpiper, and Curlew Sandpiper were all present. It was a great opportunity to observe/study these species in their native lands as most of them they stray to North America at rare points (those italicized species are ones I personally have on my ABA list!). Birding around Gothenburg the following day I found Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Eurasian Skylark, Northern Wheatear, and Meadow Pipit, among others.

My third lecture was in Linköping (Lin-CHO-ping), east of Gothenburg. I managed a fair amount of birding between my various commitments that spanned 3 days. Birding in rural areas just outside of town I found Great spotted Woodpecker (very common but my favorite bird of the trip!), Lesser spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Nuthatch, Eurasian Blackcap, and Fieldfare. The highlight of the inland leg of my trip was certainly my visit to Tårkern, a large inland lake/marsh with thousands of waterbirds. In addition to more cranes, geese, and ducks, I added Bearded Reedling, a specialty bird of the preserve. More common species included Long-tailed Tit, Reed bunting, Eurasian Reed-Warbler, Yellowhammer, Eurasian Sisken, and Linnet.


Early morning view from observation platform

Me with the frog prince

Me, my hostess Terese, and Linköpink visit
coordinator Kjell

Linköping center

The next stop on my tour was the island of Öland in the southeast corner of the country. Öland is a bit similar to Falsterbo though even more rustic. Most of the action occurs at the south end of the island, at the lighthouse in Ottenby. I spent two full days on the southern half of the island. During this time I observed thousands of waterfowl and cormorants. New species on the first day included Horned Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser, and Common Merganser, European Pied Flycatcher, Lesser Whitethroat, Eurasian Wren, Parasitic Jaeger, Red-backed shrike, and Eurasian Hobby. The sure highlight was the appearance of 5 European Bee-eaters as were standing on the observation tower. A group of them actually nested in the area, but were presumed to have migrated as no one had seen them in a full two weeks. They were certainly striking; Unfortunately, they never came within 75 years of us, so photos were out of the question (basically the same story for all the birds I saw). The scenery around Öland was fantastic! There is a very active birding community on the island, and it appears to be the retirement destination of choice for Swedish birders. Anders, my host and high-up in Birdlife Sweden, moved to Öland with just that plan in mind.

View from observation tower

Rocky shoreline

BAAAAAHHH! Sheep everywhere

Ottenby lighhouse


Other birds observed around Öland during my stay included Arctic Loon, Common scoter, Eurasian Dotterel, Arctic Tern, Merlin, Stock Dove, Rock pipit, Coal tit, Marsh tit, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, and Greenfinch. Speaking of green, favorite bird of this part of the trip was the Green Woodpecker we saw feeding on a neighborhood lawn. I have looked for this bird many times in the UK but missed it on each occasion. Finally seeing this incredible bird was a nice cap on my time on the island. 

I returned to Falsterbo for one final day before departing. On that day, I managed 2 Black-tailed Godwits between yet further bouts of wind and rain. Apparently the weather this summer and fall has been terrible; My 3 rainy days split over 2 weekends at Falsterbo certainly confirmed this. The weather during the intervening week was great, so I did get a break from the gales and the gloom the weekends brought. 

On the whole the trip was fantastic. Though dodgy at times, the weather generally cooperated, and I spent many hours birding some truly beautiful areas. I will certainly return at some point, likely in the summer when I an photograph birds nesting on the tundra. If anyone is thinking about a Sweden birding trip, please feel free to contact me with any questions. I'll do my best to answer them or, if I can't, point you in the direction of someone who can!

Swedish Pancakes, just because......

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