Sweden 2023

Mark Finn
March 25-31

This was the second year running that I had operated a tour to southern and central Sweden with the addition of two days in forests around Leksand. The birds around Lake Hornborgasjon were expected with an added bonus of a long staying Siberian Rubythroat nearby, The numbers of swans, geese and cranes had been held up by poor and cold weather further south but numbers remained high despite this natural barrier. Further north in the forests and lakes of Leksand we located Great Grey and Ural Owls in the boggy, forested habitats around Rattvik. In the forest areas we had exceptional views of Hazel Grouse taking in the morning sunshine and great views of several woodpecker species including Black and Grey-headed. The cold and snowy unseasonable weather had affected the birds and their movements thus making it more rewarding on this visit to find these wonderful birds of Northern Europe. The next visit is in late March 2024.

March 25th: Goteborg, Gatteron, Tjoloholm, Skovde
Daily 46 New 46 Running 46
Weather: Rather mixed with sunny spells and heavy rain showers. W wind 7c

All of the group arrived on the evening of March 24th and stayed at airport hotels. The following morning I picked up the minibus and headed towards Malmo to the visit the coastal reserve of Gatteron. Along the way Common Buzzard, Red Kite, Western Jackdaw, Hooded Crow and a steady flow of migrant Woodpigeons. Gatteron is a coastal reserve with several hides with a mixture of islands, meadows and reedbeds. From the main hide Common Moorhen, Common Coot, Mallard, Eurasian Teal, Common Shelduck and in nearby bushes Eurasian Tree Sparrows and a single Great Tit. A visit to one of the taller hides revealed high numbers of Black-headed and Common Gulls plus the early arrival of Lesser Black-backed Gulls. In and around the islands we found Common Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Eurasian Wigeon and a single Great Cormorant. On the grass islands the group located Pied Avocet, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Common Redshank and Eurasian Curlew. I drove down the road and stopped again to scan the old airfield which was being used by a large group of Barnacle Geese and Greylag Geese, Northern Lapwing, Eurasian Skylark and Meadow Pipit. It was time to head back north to Tjoloholm another coastal reserve south of Goteborg. The fields attracted migrant Whooper and Mute Swans, Common Kestrel and the commoner gulls and ducks. The best was a calling Black Woodpecker which was picked up by Jo as it landed high in a tree. It was time to head north to the provincial town of Skovde our base for the next four nights. Not much along the route although we added the uncommon and localised Rook.
Mammals: European Moose (2), Roe Deer (1) Brown Hare (2)

Whooper Swans

March 26th: Skovde Shooting Ranges, Klagstorp, Paradise Lake, Boterstena, Lake Onsen, Nilsmats Garten
Daily 58 New 28 Running 74
Weather: Frequent snow showers and sleet on a NE wind -2c

Overnight the clocks changed to summer time but the weather today was more wintery with frequent snow showers and a biting NE wind which was having an impact on migratory birds. The first thing today was to pick up KO from his home and our local guide over the next few days. Skovde Shooting Ranges were not being used today so I set off on the myriad of tracks running through coniferous forest and areas of meadows. On one field a significant number of migrant thrushes which included Fieldfare, Redwing, Common Blackbird, Song and Mistle Thrushes and the first Common Cranes of the tour. No sign of Black Grouse which has now almost disappeared from the area due to unknown reasons. Next stop was one of several feeding stations where we had close sightings of European Crested, Coal, Great and European Blue Tits, European Robin, Eurasian Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and the northern race of Eurasian Bullfinch. In the background we could hear a distant Black Woodpecker. A diversion at Klagsdorp added several Hawfinch and Common Goldeneyes displaying on the ponds. On the track towards Paradise Lake our attention was drawn to a flock of Taiga Bean Geese a rare sighting at this site plus a pair of Common Cranes. At Paradise Lake the open waters held Whooper and Mute Swans, Common Merganser, Common Coot, Eurasian Teal and Mallard. In the forest another feeding station added the scarce Willow Tit and nearby Northern Raven and a calling Eurasian Jay. Back to Skovde to pick up supplies and then onwards to visit the open meadows at Boterstena where we encountered the heaviest snow of the day. Birding was tough although we located flocks Woodpigeon, Stock Dove, Western Jackdaws, Hooded Crow and Eurasian Skylark. I decided to visit Lake Onsen for lunch which has a hide to shelter us from the worst weather. En route several more flocks of Taiga Bean Geese one of which held three Pink-footed Geese. The hide at Lake Onsen is always good for birds and today was no exception with sightings of White-tailed Eagle, Red Kite, Western Marsh Harrier, Common Kestrel, Grey Heron, White Wagtail and a pair of Common Reed Bunting. Later we made our way back to Skovde adding a few Bewick’s Swans among the Whooper Swans. The weather worsened so a slow drive back to base.
Mammals: Roe Deer (25), Red Fox (1), Pine Marten (1), Red Squirrel (4)

Common Crane

March 27th: Boterstena, Trollhallen, Trandansen (Hornborgasjon)
Daily 43 New 5 Running 79
Weather: Bright and sunny with a light N wind -6c

After breakfast I headed back towards the meadows and wetlands at Boterstena which was a different world from yesterday’s snow and poor visibility. From a vantage point we could see a pair of White-tailed Eagles flying over a forest. In the fields the group located similar birds to yesterday with the addition of a Tundra Bean and Greater White-fronted Geese. In gardens several bird tables and feeders held the familiar garden species of southern Sweden plus a single European Goldfinch feeding on the roadside edge. I picked up KO in Skovde and travelled to the town of Trollhallen which was once famous for making Saab cars. The main target here was a wintering Siberian Rubythroat returning for its second year running. It made us wait for almost three hours before eventually showing well in front of us on the ground. I ended the day at Trandansen a part of Lake Hornborga with a hide overlooking marshes and flooded fields. The group had very close views of Mute and Whooper Swans, Mallard, Common Teal, Northern Pintail, Common Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and best of all calling and dancing Common Cranes.
Mammals: Roe Deer (50), Fallow Deer (4) Brown Hare (1)

Siberian Rubythroat

March 28th: Skovde, Rodja, Herrtorps Varn, Utloppit, Trandansen, Fageluddan, Ytterberg
Daily 62 New 12 Running 91
Weather: Sunny with an N wind -1c

The usual species were around the hotel gardens with the addition of a Eurasian Siskin. The first stop today was at Rodja which is the rubbish dump for the town of Skara. On the way the fields held a wide range of thrushes and Long-tailed Tits were also seen. On arrival at the dump the group located Red and Black Kites, White-tailed Eagle, Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Black-headed, Common and European herring Gulls, Northern Raven and hordes of Hooded Crow and Western Jackdaw. A drive towards the old mill at Herrtops Varn added the localised European Green Woodpecker, Dunnock, Goldcrest and Eurasian Wren. At the mill a pair of Grey Wagtails was on the weir. A diversion to Utloppit produced a pair of distant Smew, Tufted Duck, Common Goldeneye and Greylag Geese in the wet meadows. Trandansen was visited with similar birds to yesterday and then onto the centre at Fageluddan. Careful scanning of the lake revealed Great Crested and a single Red-necked Grebe, Common Pochard and Common Shelduck among the more numerous species. Ytterberg had little of note until a field bordered by bushes had a finch flock which included a few Bramblings which are scarce in numbers this winter. I finished the day at Trandansen with great views of Common Cranes, swans and wildfowl.
Mammals: Roe Deer (10), Brown Hare (2), Red Fox (1)

March 29th: Skovde, Tallberg, Hundhagen, Insjon, Rattvik
Daily 29 New 4 Running 95
Weather: Heavy snow followed by sunny spells on a SW wind -8c +3c

To my amazement the day started with heavy snowfalls which made the first half of the morning difficult driving wise. It took much longer than normal to reach the village of Tallberg. On arrival the snow had cleared and we met up with Staffan to visit an area near Insjon. The woodland and bird feeders here attracted many birds including Black, Grey-headed, European Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, European Crested, European Blue, Great and Marsh Tits and European Robins. As dusk started to fall we made a visit to old woodland and wet meadows south of Rattvik. At first birds were few and far between until a visit to meadows dotted with old huts was visited. Luck was with us tonight as a Great Grey Owl was observed flying at low height in search of rodents. On exiting the area an Ural Owl was also observed on the tree edge offering us good views. It is rare to see both species in the same area. A long day due to weather conditions but the ending was great for us all.
Mammals: European Moose (3), Roe Deer (25), Red Deer (1), Badger (1), Brown Hare (1), Red Fox (1)

March 30th: Tallberg, Ljusbodarna, Gryssen, Ejen, Limjon, Hundhagen, Dragsanborna
Daily 35 New 9 Running 104
Weather: Clear, sunny and cold on a light SW wind -18c +3c

We made an early start to visit the remote village of Ljusbodarna.  Our first stop was at a mix of mature forest where we heard the distinctive drumming of European Three-toed Woodpeckers. Also present in the area were Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Common Crossbill, Eurasian Nuthatch, Eurasian Treecreeper and Great Tit. Beyond this point we only located Eurasian Jays. Driving slowly around the tracks and scanning ice-free lakes added Whooper Swan and Mallard. At another stop we were privileged to watch a male Hazel Grouse at close range by the road edge with the female slightly further into the forest. On a distant ridge a Golden Eagle showed briefly with a Northern Raven giving chase. On the way back a stop for a pair of White-throated Dippers on the river. I returned to base and then out again at 1500 hours to visit different areas of the region. Limjon was affected by ice and snow so a return visit to Hundhagen was made with observations of Common Redpoll and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk flying overhead. Our last stop was at Dragsanborna which held little of note apart from Common Goldeneye, Whooper Swan and Black-headed Gulls in areas free of ice. After dinner a return to the extensive forests where we heard Ural, Eurasian Pygmy and Boreal Owls. The temperature started to drop quickly as I returned back to Tallberg.
Mammals: Roe Deer (2), Red Squirrel (1), Mountain Hare (1)

Hazel Grouse

March 31st: Tallberg, Ljusbodarna, Goteborg
Daily 29 New 2 Final 106
Weather: Cold and sunny with light SW winds -11c + 3c

Our final day in Sweden started with a return visit to Ljusbodarna and a slow drive along snowy and icy tracks to the village. On the corner similar species to yesterday and further down the road brief views of Black Grouse. This species is common here but I think the cold weather and snow has restricted them. At the village the group observed Black, Grey-headed, European Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers and heard the distinctive drumming of Three-toed Woodpeckers. It was time to leave and head back to Goteborg for our last night. I went on the Inland Road 26 which was delightful as it passed vast forests, lakes and small settlements. Our route passed near Skara where the fields were building up with flocks of cranes, swans and geese. Goteborg airport was reached with the hotel on site a welcome ending to a great trip to Sweden.
Mammals: Roe Deer (4), Red Fox (1)

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