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A Report from


Robin Griffiths

This was a customised trip for a small group of birdwatchers mainly from Lancaster and District Bird Watching Society. It was designed and led by Jeff Price of Ibis-Excursions, Copenhagen, and Scandinavian birding holiday specialists. The flights were, of course by Wild Wings. It was a two-centre tour based on the famous migration sites of Oland and Falsterbo.  Due to the mild autumn early migrants were still present whilst some of the later ones had not yet arrived.

 We left  a very wet Manchester airport at 10.40 hours arriving in sunny Copenhagen less than two hours later. Due to late booking we were unable to fly on to Kalmar on the southeast coast of Sweden. Instead we were driven across Southern Sweden, through beautiful farming country, which was also well wooded. The impressive coach list included Red kites, Common and Rough-legged Buzzards and Black Woodpecker.

Oland is a long  (100 Km.), narrow island lying off the southeastern coast of Sweden. A long modern bridge reaches it across a shallow strait. Our hotel for the first four nights was Hotel Skaner in Farjestaden just on the other side of the bridge. Small privately owned with exceedingly comfortable en suite rooms, very good food and alas as everywhere in Sweden very expensive beer.

Day 1 began still and misty, with a routine, which we followed for the next four days. A drive through small villages, farmland with stone walls, woods and open heath land to Ottenby, where there is situated one of the countries two permanent bird observatories and ringing stations. This one was founded in 1946, and is permanently manned each year from March to November. It is situated at the extreme southern tip of Oland around an old lighthouse, and as such it is the departure point for migrating birds passing down the Baltic coast of Scandinavia, as well as receiving eastern European migrants blown across the sea by the frequent south easterly winds. The whole tip of the island once a royal hunting estate  is now a nature reserve, and the observatory is run by the Swedish Ornithological Society. There are excellent facilities, in a group of buildings round the lighthouse and its shrubby gardens, including ringing laboratory, accommodation, shop and display centre, licensed restaurant and toilets.

Despite the murky conditions on our arrival, a White-tailed Eagle and a Peregrine were visible along the shore from the car park, to say nothing of hundreds of wildfowl and sea birds. The biggest surprise though was the large numbers of birders just there for what ever was about. To a man they were friendly, helpful, and fluent English speakers. The 300 Club members were particularly knowledgeable. This is an elite organisation, membership is only for birders with a personal Swedish list of three hundred plus, which I believe would be the equivalent of an U. K. list over four hundred. The club also runs its own paging service, (the only one in the country), of which our leader was an honorary member. This was to prove very useful later.

A guided tour of the ringing station was available so we were able to see the work in progress that morning, which was processing the current fall of passerines.  The majority were Goldcrests  (as they were the entire trip) which were everywhere, in the grass in the bushes and trees on walls and even on birders! In addition, most spectacularly, was a large number of eastern race, White-headed Longtailed tits. Treecreepers, Wrens and loudly protesting Robins were present in good numbers. Moving round the area too, were many Corvids including eastern race jackdaws with pale collars. As things quietened here, we moved first to the South Woods on the reserve, where as the sun broke through the raptor numbers began to build, Sparrowhawks and a sprinkling of Goshawks first; followed by gradually building numbers of Buzzards, both Common and Rough-legged. During the afternoon we moved up the east coast checking the fields for geese and cranes, and visiting the tiny harbours of Ossby and Grass Gardshamn to watch the movement seabirds; today, particularly long strings of low flying eiders. Crossing the island back to the hotel in the evening, a flock of cranes were feeding in a sugar beet field, as we watched more and more birds flew in until five to six hundred had arrived. Then the farmer's patience snapped and he drove out on his tractor to scare them off.

Day two began with a clear sky and a strong south-easterly wind, flocks of passerines and common cranes passing over the hotel at great speed. Because of the high wind, today's routine was changed to visiting the west coast at Risinghamn and Beijershamn, with its very tall viewing tower overlooking the shallow tide free coastline. Although at extreme range, here were the largest flocks of waders to be seen all week, Bartails, Dunlin, Common Snipe, Golden and Green plovers (Lapwing) , as well as all three swans. A pair of Ravens playing war games with a Goshawk provided the evening's excitement. Neither species seemed willing to give up and were last seen still mobbing each other as they disappeared behind a pinewood several minutes later!

Day three again murky and misty, began with Hawfinches and Crossbill spp., overhead in the trees round the hotel. At the observatory it was really very thick mist to begin with. None the less three of the five Long-eared Owls ringed that morning were seen overhead, flying from the gardens. Redstarts both Black and Common were the most noticeable new arrivals today. As ever Goldcrests were still everywhere with the usual flocks of finches, mainly Siskins, Bramblings, and Greenfinches on the salt marshes. Again the action quietened by midday. The pager indicated a Dusky Warbler, which was duly found feeding in a patch of roadside weeds.  One of the groups of Swedish birders mentioned a Pallas' Warbler in nearby Grass Gardshamn, where it gave excellent views, feeding undisturbed in a bungalow garden, despite the fifty or so birders surrounding it.

Day four was the last morning on Oland, before leaving, for the mainland. It was too misty to bird at the observatory, so we were not disappointed to hear that an early Snowy Owl had been found on the east coast.  A large mature female sitting on a wall top fifty yards from the road for all to see, a good bird to end with on Oland.

The next hotel was in Sjobo a small market town in southern Sweden, half an hours drive from the coast, set in well wooded and intensively farmed country of rolling shallow glacial valleys well sprinkled with lakes, noted for wintering geese and breeding raptors.

Day five was again very windy, too strong to do much at the Falsterbo Observatory, which is sited in the overgrown grounds of a lighthouse, but this time not accessible to the casual birder. From a car park it is reached across a golf course, inhabited by some hostile golfers, who were rumoured to delight in hitting passing birders.

Falsterbo is a largely residential peninsula separated by a canal from the mainland. An important birder stop is within one hundred meters of the access bridge, 'Annie's Bakery' for superb Danish pastries and coffee!  Just beyond is a large area of heathland surrounded by woods.  It is an excellent vantage point to watch the raptors stacking up as they await the weather conditions to improve before attempting to cross to mainland Europe. There were no eagles, today, but forty Grey Herons flew south. The afternoon was spent inland searching for geese, largely unsuccessful, but a Golden Eagle, one of the twelve breeding pairs in the area, was found at Nessby Holm.

Day six was again murky. So the observatory was left out of the itinerary. First stop was Vomb, a wide flat arable area used as a wintering ground by large flocks of geese. Whitefronts, Barnacles and a few Greylags were feeding not too far from the road, on the other side of which a female Hen Harrier was quartering the beet.  Further on the road passes into a military area, but access is allowed to the reed fringed lake of Krankeschon, and another two storey viewing tower, from which all the Lancastrians became nostalgic when first a flock of bearded tits flitted above the phragmites, and then two female Marsh Harriers cruised the lake edge. 

On to Fyledalen for a roadside picnic, whilst watching another pair of eagles across the valley. No birding trip is complete without a visit to a dump and the day ended at Ystad town dump where the large number of gulls almost went unnoticed because of the spectacular Red Kites. It is from this area that the birds for the British reintroduction scheme originated.

Fortunately Copenhagen airport was less than an hours drive away, our plane was scheduled to leave only in the evening, leaving plenty of time for the best part of a day for birding. It was breezy but bright and sunny with possibly the best visibility of the week. Falsterbo first stop, the car park full of cars from as far away as Germany and Holland. Quickly across the golf course, check the observatory recent sightings list and then a half-mile walk to join all the other birders migration watching. It was a marvellous experience. High up were several, hundred strong flocks of wood pigeons and stock doves,

Below them were both species of buzzard, twenty to thirty visible at any time. Below that small mixed flocks of finches including Twite, Mmeadow Pipits, Woodlarks, the ubiquitous Goldcrests and even one or two misguided resident Nuthatches caught up in the general frenzy of excitement. Below the passerines flying low over the ground and straight out over the sea, were a constant stream of Sparrowhawks. Even a small party of the whiteheaded Long-tailed Tits whirled past. But Annie's Bakery was calling, before another visit to the heath. Today the Swedish birders were out in force. A long line of them were sitting on campstools gazing up at the raptors circling constantly overhead. Alas there again none of the possible but uncommon eagles were present, but a late lunch in another part of Nessbyholm, lived up to its reputation. First our first inland sighting of a Sea Eagle, over a wood, followed by a pair of juvenile Golden Eagles playing together in the air. A superb end to our trip.

We were back home in Lancashire before 22.00 hours with a group list of one hundred and twenty five species.

Black throated diver
Great crested grebe
Grey heron
Mute swan
Bewicks swan
Whooper swan
Bean goose
Tufted duck
Long tailed duck
Common scoter
Velvet scoter
Red breasted merganser
Red kite
Hen harrier
Marsh harrier
Pallid harrier
Rough legged buzzard
Whitetailed eagle
Golden eagle
Grey partridge
Water rail
Ringed plover
Golden plover
Bar tailed godwit
Spotted redshank
Black headed gull
Common gull
Herring gull
Great blacckbacked gull
Lesser blackbacked gull
Sandwich tern
Stock dove
Collared dove
Snowy owl
Long eared owl
Black woodpecker
Green woodpecker
Lesser spotted wood.
Gt. spotted woodpecker
House martin
Tree pipit
Meadow pipit
Rock pipit
White wagtail
Black redstart
Song thrush
Mistle thrush
Pallas's warbler
Dusky warbler
Beareded tit
Blue tit
Great tit
Coal tit
Long tailed tit
Great grey shrike
Hooded crow
Tree Sparrow
House sparrow
Reed bunting
Snow bunting

Robin Griffith


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