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A Report from

Sweden and a (bit) of Norway, May 11th - 23rd 2006 ,

Geoff Dicker

If asked where in Scandinavia could you see: Great Grey, Ural, Hawk, Tengmalm’s & Pygmy Owls; Three-Toed, Grey-Headed and Black Woodpeckers; Wryneck, White-Tailed Eagle; Honey Buzzard; Pallid Harrier; Capercaillie; Black, Willow & Hazel Grouse; Caspian Tern; Great Snipe; Siberian Jay; Icterine Warbler, and Thrush Nightingale in one trip, Sweden may not be the first country to spring to mind.  However, during this trip I managed to see all of these species in addition to Collared Flycatcher.  It would have been impossible to find these birds without specialist assistance, so I organised the trip into four parts.  Firstly, a visit to the southern Swedish migrant hot-spot, the island of Oland, after which I was to join a short tour of the Black River Valley (Svartadelen) in  Central Sweden, organised by Wildwings  on behalf of Birdwatch magazine  Then a couple of days, including a guide for a day, around the Lake Annsjon area, aimed at certain more northerly species not generally available further south (Siberian Jay and Great Snipe).  The final part of the journey involved a scenic drive through Norway back to Sweden stopping of at the Rondane National Park.

My trip started well with a successful visit to the famous Black Grouse lek at Langdon Beck in County Durham en route to the ferry terminal at Newcastle bound for Gothenburg in Sweden.   The only birds of note during the crossing were a few Gannets, Fulmars, and Kittiwakes, with a Red-Throated Diver about 5 miles outside Gothenburg. 

You may have read that driving in Sweden is a pleasure – well mostly it is – except for Gothenburg on a Friday evening (the boat docked at 16.30)!


May 11th & 12th – at sea Newcastle to Gothenburg via Kristiansand (southern Norway).

May 13th & 14th – Oland island then drive to Vasteras.

May 15th – meet Wildwings group at Vasteras airport and then Bjornon, Skepplinge and Flackebo in Svartadelen.

May 16th – morning around Svartadelen, afternoon & evening excursion to Uppland province.

May 17th - western side of Svartadelen.

May 18th – Svartadelen morning and evening then back to Vasteras airport to drop off Wildwings group, late evening drive to Baltic coast north of Uppsala.

May 19th – morning at Ledsvar, afternoon drive to Lake Annsjon area.

May 20th & 21st – Lake Annsjon area.

May 22nd – drive through Norway and visit to Rondane National Park.

May 23rd – morning and afternoon around Kilsviken and Noton Arasviken reserves on Lake Vanern. 

May 24th – ferry back to Newcastle from Gothenburg.

I arrived about midnight and slept in the car at the nature reserve car park at Ottenby on the far southern tip of the Baltic island of Oland, which is incidentally connected to the mainland by a 6km long bridge.  When I awoke at around 04.30 the first bird that I heard was Thrush Nightingale singing full pelt in some bushes adjacent to the car park. As spring was seemingly several weeks behind the UK with scant leaf cover, the bird showed itself extremely well for half an hour before flying off into a garden. My other main quarry here was Collared Flycatcher, which breeds in small numbers in Ottenby Lund (Wood), a large strip of mixed woodland stretching from the bird observatory & ringing station in the west almost to the south-east tip of the island.  Walking from the car park through the larger sector in a south-westerly direction, the wood was full of birdsong: Redwing; Thrush Nightingale; Tree Pipit; Redstart; Icterine & Wood Warblers, and Turtle Dove being the highlights. Eventually, at the far end of the wood I came upon am area of mature oaks with nest boxes, where I found several male Collared Flycatchers amongst the more common Pied

There had been a small fall of Wrynecks, and I encountered three singing birds in the scrub either of the road leading to the lighthouse. It’s one of those fascinating aspects of birding abroad where birds occur in unfamiliar habitat: Lesser Whitethroat, for example, was located not only in familiar scrub, but also on the edge of woodland where I saw three birds pursuing each other around an oak tree! On Oland and throughout Sweden, it was far commoner than its close relative the Whitethroat, and found in a surprising range of habitats.  Tree Sparrows were also fairly common at Ottenby, associating with their more common congeners. Driving from site to site I also came across a male Montagu’s Harrier, and an immature male Hen Harrier quartering inland fields; the only passerines of note here were several Whinchats. The most surprising bird startled me as it rose from the woods at Ottenby as I walked back to the car park – a sub-adult White-Tailed Eagle!

Towards the lighthouse the sea and rocky bays produced: Eider Duck; Arctic & Little Terns; Barnacle Geese; Red-Breasted Merganser; Shelduck and an assortment of waders including some Avocets.  Several Grey Seals were also seen resting on rocks just of the point by the lighthouse.

Over the next day and a half I visited another two reserves.  The first called Beijershamm is on the south-western coast of Oland near to Vickleby. There were some good tower hides overlooking the Baltic Coast and some wet meadows.  Birds of note included: Marsh Harrier; Yellow Wagtail of the race thunbergii, also known as Grey-Headed Wagtail; Wood Sandpiper; Ruff; Grey Plover; Avocet; Knot; and several skeins of migrating Barnacle Geese.  Similar birds were noted at a reserve at Kappeluiden on the north-eastern part of the island, where I saw a single Spotted Redshank as well as several Sandwich Terns.  My real quarry at these last two locations was Caspian Tern, which according to the local birders to whom I spoke, is now rare and declining on Oland. 

I left Oland on Sunday afternoon and drove north to Vasteras airport to start the second leg of my trip noting several Common Cranes feeding in fields en route.

On Monday 15th May I met up with our Wildwings Guide, Daniel Green,, and the four other members of our group, Brian Hill, Richard Beard, Sam Clare and John Holtham.  Leaving my own car in the secure car park at Vasteras airport we soon set off birding.  Our first stop at Bjornon set the scene well for what was to come with a pair of Slavonian Grebes on the lake, which at one time had four Ospreys circling above it. The same site also produced a couple of Hobbies.  A walk into some woodland past a stately home produced two Hawfinch, three northern race Bullfinches, and the very pale Scandinavian race of Nuthatch.  Our second port of call was an unlikely looking pool in a field on a farm near Skepplinge, which upon closer inspection produced no less than

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Great Grey Owl by Brian Hill
fifty-two Wood Sandpipers, several Ruff & Ringed Plover, two Greenshank and a probable Temminck’s Stint.  Daniel then called our attention to a harrier sp. circling over a field.  The consensus, derived from its behaviour and wing pattern, was that it was a 2nd year Pallid Harrier, but with some features which could not entirely rule out Montagu’s.  Evidently, Pallid Harrier is a regular visitor to Svartadelen, and more common than Montagu’s.  There is a train of thought that Pallids are moving further west in search of breeding sites due to loss of suitable habitat further east; they are, for example, already breeding in Finland.   We continued to our guesthouse for the next few nights stopping at several other lakes including Flacksjon where we saw: Whooper Swan; Garganey; Goldeneye; Common Crane; Marsh Harrier; Hobby; Little Gull; Black, Common & Arctic Terns; and  heard several Thrush Nightingale,  together with a White-Tailed Eagle’s nest near Axholm. We checked into our accommodation at Flackebo,, and after a wonderful meal cooked by our landlady Elizabeth, who spoke perfect English with an American accent, we got down to business and discussed owls.  That evening we were to go out in search of Great Grey, but perhaps the most tantalising piece of information came with the news that a pair of Hawk Owls were breeding near to Uppsala and would we like to go on an excursion later in the week to see them?  Would we ……………..!  The previous winter had seen an influx of Hawk Owls into Southern Sweden and a pair had stayed to breed for the first time in 21 years.  In pursuit of our first rare owl we drove along tracks and past farmhouses to the site, stopping en route to look at a fine male Red-Backed Shrike, an obliging Elk (Moose); we also flushed a female Black Grouse.  Finally, we arrived at the Great Grey site and spent an agonising half an hour seeing very little.  On Daniel’s suggestion we moved to another more open area – again nothing.  Suddenly, Brian said quite calmly, “I’ve got a Great Grey Owl sitting on a fence over there.” After the initial, “twitcheresque,” panic with tripods and epithets flying, we all got on to the bird, and what a magnificent creature it was.  Over the next half an hour or so we drank in this wonderful bird, taking in every inch of its character, plumage and austere expression, watching it hunt and catch a vole.  Finally, it flew off into the pines, forever to be etched onto our memories. Before we left, several Woodcock flew over and around us performing their roding display flight.   Daniel didn’t on this occasion conjure up a Pygmy Owl, despite his excellent imitation of its whistling call.  We did, however, return happy, but tired, along the tracks putting up more Woodcock before retiring to bed and eagerly anticipating the next day’s events.

A fairly early start saw us at a Black Grouse lek site with 8 males still somewhat half-heartedly strutting their stuff; we arrived fairly late in the day for the full display and previous groups had seen over twenty birds.  Maybe we were still a little hung over on the Great Grey Owl, but some extra strong Swedish coffee set us up for the day.  Wood Sandpipers called all around giving their Woodlark like song from the tops of small trees.  On the way back from the lekking site, a tree-nesting Green Sandpiper flew overhead calling.  As this was grouse morning we drove further on into the forest, the tracks becoming ever rougher, and managed to flush two male Capercaillie, together with an all too brief glimpse of a probable Hazel Grouse.  An obliging and very noisy Wryneck provided something to get our optics fixed onto.  Most bizarre of all was the sound of singing Lesser Whitethroats and several Pied Flycatchers in a pine forest!  Another brief coffee stop - addictive stuff - by a mirror-surfaced lake produced a stunning pair of Black-Throated Divers and some delightful pale-headed continental race Long-Tailed Tits. We returned to the guest house for “brunch” before our next owl excursion, picking up White-Tailed Eagle and Marsh Harrier on the way.  We then drove onto Sala to pick up two ringing friends of Daniel’s, and another birder and photographer Lars, whom we had met the previous evening photographing the Great Grey Owl.  We then proceeded to be taken to see our next target species – Ural Owl.  We drove for a fair distance northwards to a wood where nestboxes had been put up for this species, known as, “Slaguggla,” or, “Strike Owl,” in Swedish, because of its fearsome reputation for striking out against intruders who get too near to its nest.  Even as the ringers climbed the ladder and looked inside the nestbox there was some tension as to whether the box would be occupied, but our fears were soon allayed as he brought out an amazing adult Ural Owl.  The bird’s somewhat benign facial expression belied its fearsome reputation, there being a hint of something more rudimentary and sinister in its cold, dark eyes.  After ringing and measuring the bird they let it fly back to its nest; the owl rested a moment in the nest tree giving us all a cold, hard stare.  We were then lucky enough to be shown a second nestbox and a second wonderful Ural Owl.  Both nests we were shown had eggs, proving the success of the nest box scheme.

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Ural Owl by Geoff Dicker

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Hawk Owl by Brian Hill

After another long drive into a forest in Uppland County we set out to find the surprise bird of the tour – Hawk Owl.  Again not sure whether the birds would still be there we were all relieved when yours truly saw the female bird sat in a tree in a forest clearing.  On a beautiful evening we sat and watched this bird preening and guarding her nest for close on an hour.  The nest, it was pointed out, was a small hole in a tall, thin dead tree.  Our leader Daniel, who was a bit of a chef on the quiet, had gone missing whilst we watched the Hawk Owl, but we were then summoned to a Scandinavian forest-feast of griddled elk and reindeer with wild chanterelle mushrooms.  I told him that he could probably get £20 a portion for this if he opened a Swedish restaurant in London!  No sooner had we finished this excellent meal than Lars told us that the male Hawk Owl had taken prey to the nest.  Luckily for us he came back with a vole which he proceeded to eat and then drop whilst we looked on.  Other notables in the vicinity were a ringtail Hen Harrier that was chased off by the female Hawk Owl when it flew too close the nest, as well as a Black Woodpecker.  Elated we drove back and fell into bed at about midnight – we agreed to meet Daniel at about 0830 the next morning which was “Woodpecker Day.”

After breakfast and fortified by coffee we drove off to the west side of Svartadelen to meet Michael, another friend of Daniel’s, who was take us to look for ‘peckers and more owls.  The first area we visited

was known as Farna Ekopark, where Michael soon conjured up a very obliging male Three-Toed Woodpecker.  Very knowledgeable about his speciality birds, Michael explained the strange personal life of the “Three-Toed.”  Evidently, the female sits on the

eggs during daylight but when night falls the male kicks her out of the nest ensuring a warm comfortable bed for himself for then night!  We moved further on and came to another clearing where a male Grey-Headed Woodpecker soon revealed himself.  Almost immediately two Wrynecks started calling, and at one point we had a Wryneck in the same tree as the woodpecker.  Moving on Michael showed us a Black Woodpecker’s nest and we didn’t have to wait too long before the male showed himself at the nest hole.

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Three-Toed Woodpecker
Black Woodpecker  (photos Geoff Dicker)

The next stop, by a beautiful lake, where we were shown a Beaver’s dam (alas no Beavers!), was reputedly good for Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker; but as so often is the case in the UK, they weren’t playing ball!  Another pair of Black-Throated Divers, by far the most common diver species in this part of Sweden, was compensation though; a Crested Tit heard in the pines, however, refused to reveal itself.  The intensive tour continued as we set off for the next owl – Tengmalm’s. This species too benefits from nestbox schemes.  On the way to the first owl box, however, a couple of us spotted a small greyish bird sat on top of a rock in an area of old forest.  As Daniel reversed our minibus, some of us just caught a tantalizing glimpse of a Hazel Grouse sat on a rock before disappearing deep into the forest. Despite an intensive search and more whistling from Daniel, using what can only be described as a minute “pan-pipe,” the skulking grouse had gone.  Over the next few hours we visited three nestbox sites and saw in total twelve Tengmalm’s Owls (three adults and nine young): five eggs at the first site; six young at the second; and three young at the third. The books accurately describe these owls as having a startled expression brought about by their piercing yellow eyes. Again birds were ringed and measured, and at one point a brood of six youngsters sat in Daniel’s woolly hat to keep warm whilst Mum was processed.  The hat, however, would need an intensive wash after its temporary use as an owl nursery!  Time for dinner and another of Elizabeth’s heart-warming repasts.  Before that, however, Daniel produced a bottle of wine, Swedish of course, to have with local ewe’s milk cheese that resembled Roquefort and locally produced crisp breads, which were not at all like the pieces of cardboard that you can buy over here!. The wine made from cloudberry was very palatable and went extremely well with the cheese and crisp breads.  We soon made short work of this and the main course, a rich stew.

Tengmalm’s Owl by Geoff Dicker

Up to now the weather had been kind to us, mainly sunny but chilly and with little wind, but the clouds had thickened and it was drizzling steadily, but we still had one more owl to go – Pygmy.  We set out again and retraced our way to the Great Grey Owl site, stopping en route to try and summon up this diminutive owl at another possible location.  Despite Daniel’s best efforts in mimicking the owl’s call, we were just resigned to giving up when one began to call.  Daniel told us to get our scopes ready as it would probably perch on top of some pines just in front of us.  And that’s just what this Pygmy Owl did, although it looked somewhat bedraggled in the steady rain, the party all had excellent views of the tiny owl. So that was all of the target owls, and what’s more all were seen in size order from Great Grey, Ural, Hawk, Tengmalm’s and Pygmy.  On the way back to a peaceful night’s sleep we flushed several Woodcock feeding by the side of the forest tracks and another female Black Grouse.

The last day was to be a “clear up” day.  Our first port of call was an area of forest which held Nutcracker: it wasn’t long before we managed to summon one of these comical

birds in a forest ride. In the same area we had our first glimpse of Crested Tit as well as some pale northern-race Willow Tits.  We also checked out some nestboxes in an area by a winter feeding station, where we made bizarre and grotesque discovery in the form of a dead Coal Tit in a nest box.  From the marks on the bird it would seem that a predator, probably a Weasel, had got in and dispatched it.  In the same area we also heard the thin whistling of a Hazel Grouse, but again we couldn’t persuade the bird to show itself.  We went on to examine some more wader spots and this time found a site which produced over twenty Temminck’s Stints: another lake had a single Bewick’s Swan amongst the Whoopers; a single Black-tailed Godwit; a Knot; Grey & Golden Plover; Common, Wood and Green Sandpiper; a couple of Greenshank; Slavonian Grebe; Barnacle Goose; three male Garganey; Black Tern and Little Gull.  Other birds seem were: Common Crane; Wood Warbler; Thrush Nightingale; with over thirty “thunbergii” Yellow Wagtails noted on a ploughed field.  Our last site of the trip was an old sand-quarry near to Hogstena, which is well-known locally as a hot-spot for Ortolan Bunting and possibly Eagle Owl.  We looked at more fields en route hoping to find a Dotterel which often stop off, but we had no luck in this instance; a migrating Honey Buzzard being the best bird. Almost as soon as we climbed up the track into to the old sand quarry we heard the buntings singing along with the ubiquitous Yellowhammer, in fact we had very close views of five singing Ortolan Buntings, a bird once common in this part of Sweden, but which was now described as “local.”  We had no luck with the Eagle Owls though, finding just a few feathers, which suggested perhaps an intervention of a vulpine nature at some stage.  Daniel said that there had been birds calling earlier in the year, but they had obviously not stayed to breed.  On the way back some of the group heard a Grasshopper Warbler next to a stream.  We then returned for our “last supper” at Elizabeth’s before saying farewell to new found friends at Vasteras airport.  Stage three of my journey found me driving again towards the Baltic coast to a site known as Ledskar for my next target species Caspian Tern: one of my all time “bogey birds” in Britain and Europe.  The coastal visit had been planned as part of the “Birdwatch/Wildwings” trip, but we had all agreed on the Hawk Owl excursion instead.  However, Daniel had given me precise instructions of where to find my quarry.  Leaving the airport at around 21:30, I drove the 100 or so miles towards the coast and slept in the car until around 06.30 – then straight to Ledskar north-east of Uppsala, a reserve consisting of coastal inlets, wet meadows and forest.  Almost immediately I located at least a dozen “carrot-billed” Caspian Terns resting on the sand-bars – what a relief my “bogey bird” before breakfast! 

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Caspian Tern by Geoff Dicker

The area was excellent for a whole variety of birds including: Whooper Swan; Spotted Redshank; Temminck’s Stint; Ruff, Barnacle Goose; Common Crane; Wood Sandpiper; Greenshank; and Little Gull.  As I had a long drive north I left the coast at around lunchtime and headed towards my next destination over 300 miles away, Lake Annsjon.  Birds seen en route included a White-Tailed Eagle at Gavle, and at Lake Storsjon near Ostersund: Black-Throated Diver; Common and Green Sandpiper.   By the time I reached the Annsjon area I was feeling pretty “wiped out,” so the signs denoting cabins (Stugby) to rent for 320 Kroner at Dufeds, a village in one of the most fashionable skiing areas of Sweden, was extremely welcome; so I booked in for a couple of nights. 

Early, but not too early, next morning I made my way to Lake Annsjon.  The reserve surrounding this huge lake consisted of a seemingly deserted observatory at Handol.   The main part of the reserve, accessed from just by the railway station at Ann (pronounced “on”), provided a wonderful series of hides and platforms connected by a boardwalk, which continued for several miles across the boggy terrain.  The first hide visited provided the spectacle of over a hundred Little Gulls picking insects from the surface of the lake.  In the same area several Redshank and Ruff were behaving like phalaropes (too early for the real thing), swimming and pirouetting to catch their insect prey.  Further on the bogs yielded birds such as: Whimbrel; Curlew; Redshank; Ruff; Wood & Green Sandpiper; Common Snipe; and Golden Plover, with a few Common Crane, whilst Brambling, Pied Flycatcher and Redwing sang from the birch woods.  The lake itself produced: Black-Throated Diver; Slavonian Grebe; Velvet and Common Scoter; Scaup; Pintail;  Red-Breasted Merganser; Goosander; Goldeneye; Wigeon; Teal; Arctic Tern; and Little Gull.  On the way back to my Stugby cabin I was lucky enough to obtain excellent views of a pair of Hazel Grouse, which crossed the road right in front of my car.

Next day I was due to meet with Johan Raghall, a guide whom I had contacted through the bird observatory at Handol, or you can contact him directly though his own website - - in Swedish only, but his English is better than mine!

My main targets of the day were Siberian Jay & Great Snipe with an outside chance of Pine Grosbeak.  Johan took me to some beautiful old forest at Valadalen, reached by turning south off of route E14 at Undersaker, and driving until you come to a car park by a lake.  Here we walked some 6 kms. into the woods.

One of the first birds that we saw was a Yellow Wagtail calling from a pine tree, whilst Wood Sandpipers and Greenshank called from the more boggy areas!   On the walk up to a clearing where we came upon some more Reindeer the woods were fairly quiet; Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Redwing, a Parrot Crossbill, a female Black Grouse and a Willow Grouse, being noteworthy.  A Three-Toed Woodpecker was heard drumming, the tell-tale signs of “ring-barking,” being evident on a nearby spruce.

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A spruce tree at Valadalen “ring-barked” by a Three-Toed Woodpecker to extract sap – photo Geoff Dicker.









But where were the Jays?  We tried an area of forest adjacent to the clearing where Johan had seen Pine Grosbeak, but with no luck.  After lunch Johan suggested that we try back near the lake for the Jays.  Just after we passed a Swedish family out for a Sunday walk, a movement by the path caught our attention and there were two beautiful Siberian Jays appearing like the “spirits of the forest,” that legend has them to be.



Siberian Jay by Geoff Dicker






Strangely, Siberian Jays are said to be attracted by the sound of human voices, so a big thanks to this anonymous Swedish family!  These birds enthralled us for the next forty minutes or so as they swooped and glided almost silently from tree to tree, showing off their orange outer tail feathers, rump and upper-wing patches; the rusty-red contrasting markedly with the softer browns and pinks of the remaining feather tracts.  Only occasionally did they make the odd soft contact call.  Suddenly, they quietly disappeared into the forest, the encounter leaving me somewhat spellbound.  Even Johan, who had seen them many times before, said that he always stops to pay his respects to the “spirit bird,” whenever he comes across them.  My guide tried his best with another site for Pine Grosbeak, which failed to reveal themselves – one for my next Scandinavian adventure!  It was getting late so we drove back to the bird observatory at Handol, where we had some food, noting a road-side Willow Grouse en route.  I left Johan to collect his things together for his journey back home to Ostersund, and agreed to meet him later for a trip to see Great Snipe.  In the meantime I made another short visit to the hides at Lake Annsjon, species noted were: Little Gull; Arctic Tern; Red-Breasted Merganser; Goosander; Goldeneye; Whimbrel; Curlew; Green Sandpiper; and Slavonian Grebe.

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A view across Lake Annsjon – photo Geoff Dicker

After meeting Johan by a roadside track near to Enafors at around 10 pm, we drove up to an electrical sub-station where we left the cars and proceeded to climb towards where the Snipe would hopefully be lekking – hopefully as the weather was showing signs of changing with dark clouds gathering.  We walked straight uphill for what Johan, a young fit man in his mid-twenties, described as 1.5 kms, but to an old unfit ‘fella’ in his early fifties, it seemed that he had got the decimal point in the wrong place!  Eventually after a good forty minutes we arrived at the site, a boggy area on the side of a mountain, in fairly good light as the weather was holding off.  Almost immediately we started to hear the quiet croakings of the Great Snipe, and soon began to pick out the odd bird running between tussocks.  As the night progressed the birds became more and more animated, giving us stunning views of their bizarre lekking behaviour, during which they blow out their breast whilst raising their body until it looks as if they have grown a leg extension.  Next comes a bubbling, twittering call; the display culminating with a fan of their tail revealing the white outer feathers. The motivation behind all this effort is to attract the female of the species, who may or may not be flying overhead; their arrival from winter quarters being later than that of the dandy males. Johan said that this particular lek, which is one of a number in the immediate area, has been extensively studied.  It normally holds up to fifteen males, and seemed fully subscribed during this visit.  After an hour and a half, it began to get quite misty, so with the calls of the Great Snipe and other night-birds, notably Black and Willow Grouse, ringing in our ears it was time to descend to the cars, several roding Woodcock keeping us company during the downhill trek.  Johan said that he thought that he heard a distant Bluethroat calling, but my old ears didn’t pick it up, obviously the result of too much Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley at high decibel levels during a misspent youth!!  After saying goodbye and thanks to Johan I drove over the border and into Norway, through the toll-tunnels under Trondheim, stopping for a sleep in the car at a lay-by on the E6 some thirty mile south of that city.

Clouds gathering at the Great Snipe lek – photo Geoff Dicker.

The final part of the trip was to be a drive though Norway stopping off at any likely birding sites en route. It would have been ideal had there been a site for White-Backed Woodpecker on the way down, but I was in the wrong area.  The countryside changed almost immediately that I crossed the border into Norway with snow-capped mountains and partly frozen lakes.  I decided to visit the Rondane National Park having read about a visit on Stephen Burch’s website.

His directions were spot on and I followed the track to Doralseter accessed from route 27. I drove as far as the green and yellow gate, which was locked, and parked there.  Unfortunately, the weather – wet and windy - was against me and I failed to find any Siberian Tits or Siberian Jays.  The best birds here were: Willow Grouse; Willow Tit; and Pied Flycatcher.  At the right time of year the birch and upland areas of the Rondane and Dovrefjell National Parks hold such birds as Bluethroat, Lapland and Snow Buntings, Long-Tailed Skua, Rough-Legged Buzzard and a few pairs of Gyrfalcon, but you would need to do a lot of trekking to find these birds.  There is evidently, according to my Swedish guide Johan, a small isolated population of Siberian Tit just over the border in Sweden at a place called Karingsjovallen near to Lake Rogen. 

The weather continued to be changeable as I headed back through Norway to Gothenburg to catch the ferry back home.  My last day was spent back in Sweden on the edge of the huge Lake Vanern; where I visited a series of reserves know as Noton Arasviken and Kilsviken.  These are found by taking the only westerly turning in the village of Nybble from route 64 on the north-eastern corner of Lake Vanern. 

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A view across a reedbed at Kilsviken – photo Geoff Dicker.








There were some good trails passing through woods and fields, with hides overlooking the lake and reedbeds. The bird highlights here included: Great Bittern (heard calling); White-Tailed Eagle; Marsh Harrier; Black Woodpecker; Wryneck; Common Tern; Goldeneye; Wood Warbler; Whinchat; Pied & Spotted Flycatchers; Redwing and Tree Pipit.  The area is supposed also to be good for Red-Breasted Flycatcher and Common Rosefinch; the time of year being probably too early for the latter.  Moving on to a lay-by on the just outside Gothenburg for a sleep before catching the ferry home, the last bird I noticed was the distant song of a Thrush Nightingale, which is where I started twelve days earlier in Oland. 

The voyage home was fairly uneventful, if a little choppy in places, and I fell into my cabin for a long, comfortable sleep after consuming a bottle of red wine with dinner; my quasi-teetotal trip to Scandinavia having come to an end!

As a footnote, if anyone wants any further information about the trip please feel free to drop me an e-mail at although I am not able to give precise details of sites for breeding owls etc; firstly because it would be inappropriate, and secondly because I couldn’t remember exactly how to get to most of them anyway, as all were located well off the beaten-track along farm and forest tracks.


Slavonian Grebe – a pair at Bjornon; also seen on lakes in Svartadelen and at Lake Annsjon.

Great-Crested Grebe – several seen on lakes in Svartadelen and at Ledsvar.

Red-Throated Diver – one seen at sea some 5 miles outside Gothenburg.

Black-Throated Diver – fairly common on lakes in Svartadelen; pairs also seen at Lake Storsjon and Lake Annsjon, and on several lakes in central Norway.

Fulmar – common particularly off southern Norwegian Coast.

Cormorant – widespread at coastal sites.

Northern Gannet – a few noted off the coast of southern Norway and Sweden.

Great Bittern – one heard at Noton Arasviken.

Grey Heron – a few at Svartadelen and at Lake Annsjon.

Common Crane – several noted from the E22 road north of Gavle, and then seen regularly at Svartadelen where they breed, also at Lake Annsjon.

Bewick’s Swan – one noted from a herd of Whoopers in Svartadelen.

Whooper Swan – a large heard of forty plus noted at Svartadelen, and several at Ledsvar.

Mute Swan – mainly seen on the coast outside Gothenburg, and on Oland.

Barnacle Goose – large skeins on migration seen on the coast at Ottenby (Oland) and few on lakes in Svartadelen.

Canada Goose – several in Svartadelen.

Greylag Goose – noted on Oland, and in Svartadelen.

Mallard – common.

Pintail – a few on Lake Annsjon.

Gadwall – a few at Ottenby and in Svartadelen.

Wigeon – common in Svartadelen, Lake Annsjon, with a few migrants around the coast on Oland.

Shoveler – a few at Ottenby and in Svartadelen.

Teal – fairly common in Svartadelen and Lake Annsjon.

Garganey – several males on Lake Flacksjon and other lakes in Svartadelen.

Goldeneye – seen at Bjornon, Svartadelen, Ledskar, and Lake Annsjon.

Scaup – a pair at Lake Annsjon.

Tufted Duck – common.

Pochard – a few at lakes in Svartadelen.

Velvet Scoter – several at Lake Annsjon.

Common Scoter – a large raft of migrant birds at Lake Annsjon.

Red-Breasted Merganser – seen on Oland at Ottenby, Beijershamm and Kappeluiden, and Lake Annsjon.

Goosander – several migrant birds noted at sites on Oland, and breeding birds in Svartadelen and the Lake Annsjon area.

Shelduck – common on Oland and at Ledsvar.

Marsh Harrier – fairly common in Svartadelen and around Kilsviken & Noton Arasviken.

Montagu’s Harrier - an adult male on southern Oland.

Hen Harrier – a sub adult male on south Oland, and an adult female at the “Hawk Owl” site north of Uppsala.

Pallid Harrier – a second year male hunting in fields at Skepplinge.

Common Buzzard – one wing-tagged bird over Ottenby Woods (Oland); a few seen around Svartadelen.

Honey Buzzard – a single bird heading north near Hogstena.

Sparrowhawk – singles seen at Ottenby (Oland), and Svartadelen.

White-Tailed Eagle – a sub-adult flushed from the woods at Ottenby; also seen in Svartadelen including a nest near Axholm; one flew over the road at Gavle north of Uppsala; another seen from the car park at Noton Arasviken.

Osprey – four in the air together over the lake at Bjornon and several others noted in Svartadelen.

Kestrel – surprisingly uncommon, a couple seen around the lakes of Svartadelen; birds also seen around Lake Annsjon.

Hobby – four seen at Bjornon, and fairly regular in small numbers around Svartadelen.

Pheasant – a few seen around Svartadelen.

Black Grouse – several females flushed from tracks around Svartadelen; eight males seen at a lek site in Svartadelen; two females seen around Valadalen.

Capercaillie – two males flushed from forest tracks in Svartadelen.

Hazel Grouse – brief glimpses of two birds around Svartadelen with another heard; a pair seen crossing route E14 west of Dufeds.

Willow Grouse – two birds at Valadalen; one bird at Rondane National Park in Norway.

Water Rail – one heard from Lake Flacksjon in Svartadelen.

Coot – fairly common on Oland and around Svartadelen, although not seen further north.

Ringed Plover – a few birds at Beijershamm (Oland); several at Skepplinge in Svartadelen.

Grey Plover – a few migrants around Svartadelen.

Golden Plover – migrant birds at several sites around Svartadelen; breeding birds seen around Lake Annsjon.

Lapwing – breeding of farmland around Oland and Svartadelen.

Dunlin – several small flocks seen on Oland and around Svartadelen.

Avocet – fairly common around Oland.

Oystercatcher – common at coastal sites on Oland, also southern Sweden and Norway (e.g. Kristiansand harbour).

Black-Tailed Godwit – just a single bird seen at Svartadelen.

Curlew – seen at Beijershamm (Oland) and breeding around Lake Annsjon.

Whimbrel – several breeding birds seen around Lake Annsjon.

Great Snipe – at least fifteen lekking birds seen above the village of Ann.

Common Snipe – birds heard drumming at several locations around Svartadelen, also noted at Noton Arasviken.

Woodcock – many roding birds seen at owl sites and the Great Snipe lek near Lake Annsjon.  Several birds flushed from forest tracks in Svartadelen.

Green Sandpiper – several forest breeding birds seen in flight, also noted from Lake Storsjon and Lake Annsjon.

Wood Sandpiper – very common – seen at Beijershamm (Oland); around Svartadelen with 52 birds on a flooded field at Skepplinge, and around Lake Annsjon and Valadalen.

Ruff – passage birds seen on Oland and at Svartadelen; breeding birds noted around Lake Annsjon.

Greenshank – passage birds at several sites in Svartadelen and at Ledsvar: breeding birds noted around Valadalen.

Redshank – common at coastal sites and wetlands throughout.

Spotted Redshank – singles at Kappeluiden (Oland), and at Ledsvar.

Common Sandpiper – several around Svartadelen; Lake Storsjon and Lake Annsjon.

Red Knot – a small flock at Beijershamm (Oland); and a single bird in Svartadelen.

Temminck’s Stint – a group of thirty plus birds at a lake in Svartadelen; twenty-four birds at Ledsvar.

Great Black-Backed Gull – fairly common around the coast and on Oland.

Lesser Black-Backed Gull (race fuscus or Baltic Gull) – noted around Oland, Gothenburg and Kristiansand (Norway)

Herring Gull (race argentatus) – common around the coast particularly on Oland.

Common Gull – common around the southern coasts, seen from the ferry.

Black-Headed Gull – common throughout.

Little Gull – small numbers around Svartadelen; 107 birds noted on Lake Annsjon.

Kittiwake – noted around Kristiansand (Norway) and on the approaches to Gothenburg.

Sandwich Tern – several seen at Kappeluiden (Oland).

Caspian Tern – around a dozen birds coming and going at Ledsvar in the Baltic Coast.

Common Tern – several positively identified at Ottenby (Oland), and at Noton Arasviken.  Arctic Tern – common around the lakes of Svartadelen, and on Lake Annsjon.

Little Tern – a few breeding on Oland at Ottenby and Beijershamm.

Black Tern – fairly common around Svartadelen.

Woodpigeon – common throughout.

Turtle Dove – a couple flushed from woods at Ottenby (Oland).

Stock Dove – fairly common on farmland around Svartadelen.

Collared Dove - one seen from the main E6 highway in Norway.

Great Grey Owl - one bird seen at Svartadelen.

Ural Owl – two birds seen at nest sites north of Sala.

Northern Hawk Owl – a pair seen at a site north of Uppsala.

Tengmalm’s Owl - three adult birds and nine young seen at nestboxes at forest sites around Svartadelen.

Pygmy Owl – one bird seen at the Great Grey Owl site in Svartadelen.

Cuckoo – several birds noted on Oland and around Svartadelen.

Great Spotted Woodpecker – the most common ‘pecker.’

Black Woodpecker – birds seen at the Hawk Owl site; at Farna Ekopark; also heard around Svartadelen and at Noton Arasviken.

Three-Toed Woodpecker – one male at Farna Ekopark; a calling bird at Valadalen.

Grey-Headed Woodpecker – one male at Farna Ekopark.

Wryneck – three birds heard at Ottenby (Oland); one seen very well in forests on Svartadelen; two seen at Farna Ekopark; one heard at Noton Arasviken.

Skylark – fairly common on Oland, around Svartadelen, and at Ledsvar.

Woodlark – two near to a Tengmalm’s Owl site on the west side of Svartadelen; one in song at Ledsvar.

Swift – a few noted throughout, although they had not yet arrived further north.

Swallow – just beginning to arrive in the north during my second week.

House Martin – seen on Oland where there were nesting around the ringing station at Ottenby; a few also noted around Svartadelen.

Sand Martin – only seen on Oland: two at Beijershamm and several around the lighthouse at Ottenby.

Meadow Pipit – seemingly quite uncommon: a few seen around Oland, and in farmland around Svartadelen.

Tree Pipit – one in the woods at Ottenby (Oland); several noted from pine forests around Svartadelen; also at Noton Arasviken. 

Yellow Wagtail (race thunbergii - also known as Grey-Headed Wagtail) – breeding birds noted at Beijershamm and around Svartadelen; several groups of migrant birds noted from fields around Svartadelen. One singing from a pine tree by a lake at Valadalen was unusual!

Pied “White” Wagtail – quite common except in the north.

Northern Wheatear – seen on Oland; around Svartadelen, and at Ledsvar.

Redstart – birds noted from Ottenby Woods (Oland); around Svartadelen; also at Valadalen.

Whinchat – noted from Oland; Svartadelen; and Noton Arasviken.

Robin – seen on Oland and around Svartadelen.

Thrush Nightingale – two birds seen well at Ottenby; several heard around Svartadelen at Lake Flacksjon; a distant bird heard just north of Gothenburg.

Blackbird – a few on the west side of Svartadelen, also noted at Ledsvar but not elsewhere.

Song Thrush – fairly common throughout.

Mistle Thrush – fairly common throughout.

Fieldfare – very common particularly in built-up areas.

Redwing – seen at Ottenby (Oland); Valadalen, Lake Annsjon and Noton Arasviken.  Much more a woodland bird than Fieldfare.

Grasshopper Warbler – a single bird heard by some of the group at the sand quarry near to Hogstena.

Reed Warbler – common in reedbeds throughout.

Blackcap – common except in the north.

Garden Warbler - quite common except in the north.

Whitethroat – seen only on Oland.

Lesser Whitethroat – much more common than its predecessor, found in a variety of habitats such as: scrub, oak and pine forests.  Not seen in the north though.

Willow Warbler – abundant.

Chiffchaff – common throughout.

Wood Warbler – seen at Ottenby Woods (Oland); a few around Svartadelen; common in woodland around Noton Arasviken.

Icterine Warbler – three birds seen well at Ottenby Woods (Oland). This species is evidently regular at Svartadelen, but had not arrived during our visit.

Goldcrest – a few noted from forests around Svartadelen.

Wren – a few noted around Svartadelen, but not common.

Nuthatch (pale northern race) – first seen at Bjornon, then a few around Svartadelen.

Spotted Flycatcher – birds seen at: Ottenby Wood (Oland); Svartadelen; and Noton Arasviken.

Pied Flycatcher – seen everywhere in a variety of habitats and elevations.

Collared Flycatcher – five sightings of two or three male birds in the south-west corner of Ottenby Woods (Oland).

Red-Backed Shrike – one male seen in Svartadelen, and another near to Uppsala.

Great Tit – fairly common throughout.

Coal Tit (pale northern race) – seen in most pine forests.

Blue Tit – fairly common throughout.

Marsh Tit – a couple of regular birds around our lodgings at Flackebo in Svartadelen.

Willow Tit (pale Scandinavian “Boreal” race) – quite common in pine forests around Svartadelen; Lake Annsjon, and Rondane National Park (Norway).

Crested Tit – several noted around Svartadelen.

Long-Tailed Tit (white-headed continental race) – several noted around Svartadelen.

Magpie – fairly common throughout.

Nutcracker – one bird seen around Svartadelen.

Jay – a few single birds noted at Ottenby (Oland), and around Svartadelen.

Siberian Jay – two birds watched at close range from old woodland at Valadalen.

Starling – seen on Oland and around Svartadelen.

Hooded Crow – common throughout.

Jackdaw – very common except in the north.

Raven – birds seen on Oland; around Svartadelen; and Ledsvar.

Rook – quite a rarity! One bird seen on Oland near Vickleby, and a few noted around Svartadelen.

Hawfinch – two birds seen at Bjornon.

Chaffinch – common throughout.

Brambling – several birds seen around Lake Annsjon in birch woodland.

Goldfinch – quite common, although not seen in the north.

Greenfinch – common throughout.

Siskin – several birds seen in pine forest throughout.

Bullfinch – (larger northern race) – seen at Bjornon, and around Lake Annsjon.

Linnet – a few seen around Oland and Svartadelen.

Common Crossbill –several birds at Farna Ekopark.

Parrot Crossbill – a single bird at Valadalen

House Sparrow – fairly common on Oland and around Svartadelen.

Tree Sparrow – one small flock seen at Ottenby (Oland), and a few birds around Svartadelen.

Dunnock – seen around Svartadelen; Ledsvar; and at Lake Annsjon.

Reed Bunting – several birds seen on Oland; Ledsvar; and another bird in the Rondane National Park (Norway) at a fairly high elevation.

Ortolan Bunting – five birds seen at an old sand-quarry near to Hogstena.

Yellowhammer – quite common with birds being seen in a variety of habitats such as woodland and pine forests; not seen in the north.

169 species seen or heard.


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