Lake Hornborga and the coastal area south of Goteborg offer some exceptional birding in late winter with thousands of cranes and geese heading towards their breeding grounds further north. Unfortunately this year was not ‘an owl year’ and many of the woodpeckers were not calling which made things a little bit harder at times. Despite this a wide range of birds were observed and I had Kent-Ove for company an accomplished Swedish guide with exceptional local knowledge.
March 23rd: Copenhagen, Getteron, Skara
Daily 36 New 36 Running 36
Weather: Generally sunny although misty in coastal areas. Wind S, 7c-11c
Our tour of Central Sweden started in the Danish capital of Copenhagen where we cross the bridge into Sweden near the town of Malmo. On the Danish side the common birds included European Herring and Black-headed Gulls, Eurasian Magpie, Hooded Crow and Western Jackdaw. The bridge crossing had several Great Cormorants resting on rock outcrops. Once in Sweden I headed north along the E6 which passes through large swathes of agricultural land dotted with marshes and small lakes. Birds of prey included Red Kite and Common Buzzard whilst wetter patches of ground attracted Common Shelduck, Northern Lapwing and many flocks of gulls. The air was alive with flocks of migrating Greylag Geese and our first party of Common Cranes numbering around 60 birds. Getteron was our main area of interest a wetland area close to the coast and an important bird area in Sweden. It was a slightly frustrating visit with mist limiting visibility. From the main hide we located Mallard, Tufted Duck, Eurasian Teal and a large party of Barnacle Geese. In the bushes good numbers of Eurasian Tree Sparrows and European Greenfinches were observed. A short walk to the double-decker hide added Common Goldeneye and Pied Avocet. It was time to head north via Goteborg to Skara our base for the next few days. The landscape started to change to rough fields, coniferous and mixed forest and several larger lakes. On arrival at Skara the hotel grounds added Great and Blue Tits, Common Chaffinch and Eurasian Nuthatch to our trip list.
Mammals: Roe Deer, Brown Hare
March 24th: Skara, Lake Hornborga including Trandansen, Ytterberg, Doppingen, Utloppit
Daily 56 New 27 Running 63
Weather: Sunny with light SW winds 4c/15c
After breakfast I met up with our local guide to explore Lake Hornborga and its extensive birding sites. In the hotel grounds the group added Eurasian Treecreeper, Fieldfare, Eurasian Skylark and European Goldfinch to the tour list. The first major birding stop was at Trandansen on the southern end of Lake Hornborga. On arrival we were greeted by thousands of Common Cranes feeding and resting on their northward migration with most going into Norway to breed. Careful scanning in the area produced a rarity in Red-breasted Goose plus Greater White-fronted, Greylag, Canada and Brent Geese. Several duck species were also present including Northern Pintail, Gadwall and Tufted Duck. Other species present were Great Crested Grebe, Whooper and Mute Swans and a few Common Starlings. A short distance up the road near the church was productive for an adult and juvenile White-tailed Eagle and several Grey Herons hiding in the marsh. It was time to move on towards Ytterberg and scan the lake for birds. On the foreshore surprise finds for the time of year in Dunlin and Common Ringed Plover. On the lake itself sightings of Red-necked Grebes which were giving their ‘pig like’ calls and the first sightings of Common Pochard for the trip. Lunch was taken at the picturesque location of Doppingen which was busy with birders and tourists. A walk around here added Black-necked and Slavonian Grebes plus several straggly groups of Smew and the commoner wildfowl. The last stop was at Utloppit with Common Kestrel and Northern Raven en route. On the submerged islands and branches Great Cormorant, Great Black-backed, European Herring and hordes of Black-headed Gulls. A very enjoyable day around one of the best birding areas of Northern Europe.
Mammals: Roe Deer
March 25th: Skara, Skovda Shooting Ranges, Klagstorp, Boterstena, Lake Onsen
Daily 69 New 24 Running 87
Weather: Sunny spells with a cool SW wind 2c/14c
An early departure this morning with a dawn visit to the Skovda Shooting Ranges which is used by the Swedish military. A drive around the gravel tracks failed to find Western Capercaillie although this was compensated somewhat with a female and first year European Moose running across a field. A scan across an open field area revealed a pair of Black Grouse, and in the adjacent forest drumming Black and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Next on the agenda was the first of three feeding stations within the forest and a nearby village. The first one attracted Great Tit, and in the tall trees Coal Tit, Common Redpoll and a singing Song Thrush which had recently arrived for the breeding season. The lakes around Klagstorp held Whooper and Mute Swan, Common Goldeneye and Common Merganser. The next set of feeders held several Hawfinches and a calling European Green Woodpecker and Eurasian Nuthatch. On the track to Skovda the group added Stock Dove and Redwing in an area dotted with old deciduous trees. In Skovda a break for refreshments and then onto the village of Boterstena the entry point to a steppe like habitat for wintering and passage birds of prey. The strong wind was not helping sightings but eventually Common and Rough-legged Buzzards and Common Kestrel were seen. Beyond a barn an area of fields attracted a mixed flock of geese including Canada, Greylag, Pink-footed, Greater White-fronted and best of all dozens of Taiga Bean Geese. On the way to Lake Osten a pair of Eurasian Jay was disturbed from the road. After visiting a few viewpoints we ended up at a hide overlooking the lake and out of the wind. This area proved to be excellent for birds and sightings with up to three White-tailed Eagles, Tundra Bean Goose, Great Egret, Western Marsh Harrier and an elusive Common Snipe. Large numbers of Eurasian Teal and Eurasian Wigeon were also present and feeding busily in the grass and shallow water areas. On the way out of the area a farm with a grain pile had House and Eurasian Tree Sparrows and Yellowhammers. Due to the windy conditions I decided to revisit the bird feeders where we added Eurasian Bullfinch and Eurasian Siskin to the tour list.
Mammals: Roe Deer, Fallow Deer, European Moose, Bank Vole
March 26th: Skara, Trandansen, Falkoping, Herrop Varn, Lake Kloster, Lake Hornborga
Daily 52 New 6 Running 93
Weather: Sunny with a brisk SW wind 2c/8c
This morning I headed back to Trandansen to check out the migration of cranes and other wildfowl. On arrival an increase in the Common Crane counts up to around 12000 birds. A decrease in some species was offset by the arrival of Northern Shoveler and a single Bar-headed Goose. A group of Twite was a bonus numbering around 60 birds before flying north. A check of several areas around Falkoping added a single Eurasian Eagle Owl and on a small lake Red-necked Grebe and the commoner water birds. In the afternoon a visit to Herrop Varn where the river and weir habitats produced little of note apart from a calling Grey Wagtail. I decided to make a diversion to Lake Kloster where a male Garganey showed well this being the first sighting of the spring. At the end of the day a visit to Lake Hornborga to see if anything new had arrived on the wind direction. The answer was no on this occasion so back to base for our final night in Sweden.
Mammals: Roe Deer
March 27th: Skara, Getteron, Morups Tange, Copenhagen
Daily 56 New 6 Final total 99
Weather: Sunny with a cold W wind 2c/7c
Checked out of the hotel and travelled west towards Goteborg and south to Getteron where the skies were clear giving a great vista of the area. Scanning the area produced over 12,000 Barnacle Geese and over 120 Pied Avocets. The commoner water birds were also around with newly arrived Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a single White Wagtail. An adult White-tailed Eagle was hunting which scattered birds in every direction before landing uncomfortably on a fencepost. A visit to the point added Common Eiders in the bay and a recently arrived Northern Wheatear perched on a pile of seaweed. In the scrub Meadow Pipits and flyover Common Redpolls. Time was getting on a bit so I picked up lunch and headed towards the coastal reserve of Morups Tange which is dominated by its lighthouse and a series of shallow lagoons. The usual birds were around the beach and shore and to my surprise up to five Garganey feeding in the pools. Offshore Common Redshank and Red-breasted Merganser were observed. It was time to head back to Copenhagen and our flight back to the UK.
Mammals: Roe Deer, Red Fox, Common Rabbit