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A Report from

Sweden - July/August 1995,

Mike King

This was a family holiday with my wife, Bridgette and son, Michael, on my first visit to Sweden (although Bridgette had been before) I planned to watch birds and wildlife whenever I could. We stayed at Youth Hostels (which were all excellent) and with friends in Stockholm and at Ragvaldsträsk. The season presented little opportunity for owls or woodpeckers and this choice of dates was governed by the school holidays. This report concentrates on the birding I did on the trip. Over the fortnight we drove 1200+ miles.


            Sa  22nd July           Quedgeley, Glos to Dagnall, Herts
DAY 1    Su 23rd July            Dagnall, Herts to Harwich to North Sea
DAY 2    M  24th July            North Sea to Goteborg, Sweden to Huskvarna
DAY 3    T  25th  July            Huskvarna to Stockholm
DAY 4    W 26th  July            Stockholm (Visit Gamla Stan and the Palace)
DAY 5    Th 27th July            Stockholm (Visit the Vasa and Dalaro)
DAY 6    F  28th July             Stockholm to Uppsala to Skalbo (via Enaker and Kerstinbo)
DAY 7    S  29th July             Skalbo (Visit Furuvik)
DAY 8    Su 30th July            Skalbo to Ledskar to Sundsvall (via Gavle)
DAY 9    M  31st July            Sundsvall to Ornskoldsvik to Ragvaldsträsk (via Mosjön)
DAY 10   T   1st August         Ragvaldsträsk to Luleå to Umeå (Visit Gammelstadsviken)
DAY 11   W  2nd August       Umeå to Skuleskogen to Hudiksvall
DAY 12   Th 3rd August         Hudiksvall to Borlange to Orebro
DAY 13   F   4th August         Orebro to Kungalv (Visit Kvismaren and Brunnparken)
DAY 14   S   5th August         Kungalv to Goteborg to North Sea
DAY 15   Su 6th August         North Sea to Harwich to Dagnall to Quedgeley

DAY 1          Su 23rd July Dagnall, Herts to Harwich to North Sea

Weather : Dry, sunny and very warm

We set sail from Harwich on the 'MV Princess of Scandinavia' for Sweden at 4pm. As we waited to set sail the boat was besieged by a plague of ladybirds, there must have been thousands. In the sea we were surrounded by a couple of shoals of small jellyfish which numbered in hundreds. I don't know the reason for either of these irruptions, hot weather maybe? There was little to note in the way of birdlife. In Harwich harbour all five common species of gull were present, as were up to six Common Terns and a single Canada Goose.

The only other species of bird seen in the North Sea before nightfall were two Fulmars.

DAY 2         M 24th July North Sea to Goteborg, Sweden to Huskvarna

Weather : Cloudy at first but sunny later

I arrived on deck at around 7:30am to be greeted by a cloudy, blustery day with a Force 4 wind. Seawatching through the morning was much more productive. There were thirty Fulmars, five Guillemots, three single Great Skuas, a party of six Arctic Skuas, which were my first of the year, and five Common Terns. As we started to pass the rocky islets marking the way into Gothenburg (Goteborg) there were small parties of Eider, mainly females and young birds of both sexes, there were fifty in all. Also here were large parties of Mute Swans, a single Oystercatcher and a Cormorant.

The first notable bird once ashore was a Hooded Crow at Borås, the first I had seen since 1989 in Scotland. This far north there were no Carrion Crows. The only other notable birds on the way to Huskvarna were a pair of Ravens near Gullered.

Once we had settled into the Youth Hostel at Huskvarna we went for a short walk along the shore of Lake Vattern. There were two White Wagtails outside the hostel and two more on the shores of the lake. Here they replace our more familiar Pied. Other notable birds were a female Goldeneye, a female Goosander, a Tree Sparrow, a juvenile Pied Flycatcher and four Fieldfares, which were nice to see out of season.

DAY 3         T 25th July Huskvarna to Stockholm

Weather : Sunny and warm

I awoke at 4:30am and left shortly afterwards to walk the shore of Lake Vattern. Birds were everywhere and it soon became sunny and warm. Magpies and Hooded Crows were common, Tree Sparrows outnumbered House Sparrows and White Wagtails were everywhere but there were no Starlings.

Two female Goosanders were on the lake and later I saw a female with seven juveniles. The air was alive with Sand Martins, at least 200, from a colony on the cliff-like bank of the lake's shore.

Then came the best birds of all, a pair of Black-throated Divers, not thirty yards away from the shore and in pristine black, grey and white summer plumage. I watched them for a long while enjoying this superb wild encounter. The are surely the classiest of all water birds in my opinion.

Rounding the corner from the divers I found a flock of 38 Great Crested Grebes. Then both Sparrowhawk and Kestrel made unsuccessful passes through the swirling flock of Sand Martins. On the sports field above the lake I found three Oystercatchers. In a nearby copse I found three Nuthatches which were somewhat different in appearance to our British race in that their breasts and underparts were white but still having chestnut vents. Also in and around this copse was a Marsh Tit and four Siskins.

On my way back to the hostel I found a Hobby in a large tree which had successfully caught a Sand Martin and was eating it clutched in one taloned foot like an avian lollipop. This was probably some of the best close views I have ever had of a Hobby. Two juvenile Pied Flycatchers rounded off the walk and I headed home for breakfast and the northbound trip to Stockholm.

The only birds of note on the journey were several Hooded Crows, two Common Buzzards and a Yellowhammer singing at the services. Other wildlife seen today was six Brown Hares, two Roe Deer and ten Fallow Deer.


DAY 4 W 26th July Stockholm (Visit Gamla Stan and the Palace)

Weather : Hot, bright and sunny

On a day spent at Helena's in the suburbs of Stockholm and visiting the city itself, opportunities for birding were few and far between. Birds of the local park included two more 'white' Nuthatches, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, another three Hooded Crows and a Tree Sparrow. It was also a surprise to find three Brown Hares running along the pavements in a suburban area with little grassland.

DAY 5         Th 27th July Stockholm (Visit the Vasa and Dalaro)

Weather : Hot and sunny

Another day spent in Stockholm with a visit to the Vasa (a wooden sailing ship recovered from the depths in immaculate condition, highly recommended!). NB, Retyping my notes six years on I should have paid more attention to the Lesser Black-backed Gulls in Stockholm Harbour.

In the evening we drove out to the coast at Dalaro. On the way a flock of 100 Greylags at Stegsholm may well have been wild birds. Good numbers of Hooded Crows seemed to be everywhere. Near Dalaro Roe Deer crossed the road with reckless abandon, we saw seven in all. In England we have the wild animal road signs and never a sign of deer or anything else, here the signs really need to be heeded.

At Dalaro itself notable birds included two Fieldfares, a Spotted Flycatcher, fifteen Eiders, six White Wagtails and lots of Common Gulls.

DAY 6 F 28th July Stockholm to Uppsala to Skalbo (via Enaker and Kerstinbo)

Weather : Hot and sunny

Today we left Stockholm and headed north, first to look for birds in the Uppsala area, before meeting Helena and her children, Barzan and Evin at Osterbybruk to travel on together to her family's summer house at Skalbo near Klintbol.

The highlight of the journey north was a Honey Buzzard at Knivsta. I later saw singles at Enaker and Kerstinbo. A Starling at Uppsala was surprisingly the first we had seen in Sweden. We headed on out towards Enaker and despite a detailed map I was frustrated that we could not find the entrance to the Tinaset reserve. The local people did not speak English and did not know Tinaset anyway.

Nevertheless the area around here was beautiful with meadows full of flowers, a river, lakes and quite a few birds. The best of these was Red-backed Shrike, a life tick for me, and two together here were males. I noted a blue-grey cap, black mask over the eyes, white below the mask, rufous back and wings, dark legs, pinkish/off-white breast and belly, black tail with white sides and a hooked beak. By the end of the day I had seen five males and two females, which included a pair on the edge of the garden at Skalbo. What an incredible garden bird!

Other notable birds included two Ravens, two Common Buzzards, two Whinchats, a Redwing and a Green Woodpecker at Skalbo. I also saw two Foxes and a Brown Hare.

In the evening as we dined on reindeer meat and lots of wine it was both exciting and frustrating to hear many Common Cranes coming in to roost beyond the forest but being unable to see them.

DAY 7         S 29th July Skalbo (Visit Furuvik)

Weather : Sunny and warm but cloudy

I got up at 3:45am to explore the forests and lakes surrounding the summer house. The birding was good with some of the less common species seen but none of the really rare target species, the time of year was just wrong.

Two species shared top billing for the morning, the first being Crested Tit of which I saw two. These were the first I had seen since Scotland in 1989. Their soft trilling was easily picked up and led me to them.

The other star bird was a female Parrot Crossbill seen in a low pine at a range of only about six feet. The huge bulging bill, large head and flat crown together with its bulky build distinguished it from Common Crossbill of which I saw a fine red male later. In a small scrubby area near a farm the birds were excellent with as well as the crossbills, Siskins, fifteen Fieldfares, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher and five each of Great Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker as well as many commoner species.

Back at the summer house a male Black Redstart in the garden was excellent as were three Whinchats.

During the day we visited a pleasure park at Furuvik. The wildlife highlights included an adult Elk, with full 'hat rack', at Lövastabruk, ten Tree Sparrows at Furuvik and also here a female Goldeneye on the Baltic with five ducklings. If you ever visit Furuvik don't swim in the outside pool here, it may look inviting in high summer, but it is absolutely freezing. The Swedes are hardier than us Brits.

A Common Sandpiper and two Common Terns were on a lake near the summer house on our return.

DAY 8         Su 30th July Skalbo to Ledskar to Sundsvall (via Gavle)

Weather : Hot and sunny

I rose early again at around 4:30am, on what was to be probably the best birding day of the holiday. A low mist hung over the fields prior to the hot sun burning off the mist to bring a scorching day.

As I left the house a singing Redwing was the first bird I saw but I could immediately hear a loud yelping call, which I did not recognise. It did not take all my powers of identification when a black crow-sized bird flew up out of the mist and landed on the side of a telegraph pole in the middle of the field where it drummed loudly. It was a Black Woodpecker, one of my top target species. Its head was hammer shaped in profile but I was not able to detect red on the crown because of the poor early morning light. I watched it for a minute or two before it flew off into the woods calling loudly. A major life tick for me!

Still ecstatic about my success I walked about 100 yards around the corner and was pleased to see two Common Cranes in the next field. I watched them for a while until they too flew off. I also heard others calling.

I threaded through the trees of a pine copse and was startled when a large bird took off and crashed off through the branches. Thinking about this in retrospect and reading about this crashing take-off I am certain that it must have been a Capercaillie. It was large and dark and probably a male. I didn't tick it though!

When I arrived in a clearing at the edge of the wood I looked up to see what I nearly dismissed as a gull approaching. However I was amazed to find on closer inspection that it was an adult Long-tailed Skua complete with tail streamers. It flew over my head fairly low and I was able to note its dark cap, narrow wings, pale breast darkening towards its belly and its long tail streamers. Wow!

Birds were everywhere, as were mosquitoes, I got over 100 bites in two days and ended up sweltering in hat and coat done up to the neck. I think mosquitoes love the smell of repellents.

The birds included Fieldfare, Tree Pipits and White Wagtails

A small forest lake had two Common Sandpipers, a Common Tern and a female Goldeneye with five juveniles. Also near here was a pair of Whinchats and a single male. A Siskin flew over followed by a Common Crossbill. At the farm was a superb Red-backed Shrike family, male, female and two juveniles. Many other birds were around this area including juvenile Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Marsh Tit, Willow Tit, a pair of Bullfinches, the male of this northern race much brighter than our British race, and both Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

After breakfast we packed up, said our goodbyes to Helena and the children, and headed north for Sundsvall.

On the way we stopped at the huge wetland area of Ledskar. This was wonderful, it was hot and sunny now, and the sky a cloudless azure blue. The birds here were terrific too. Immediately I found a flock of seventeen Caspian Terns, fifteen adults and two juveniles. Another much wanted lifer. I noted that they were a large, almost Herring Gull-sized tern with a large red 'banana' bill that was dark at the tip. They had black caps, shaggy at the neck, forked tails and pale grey back and wings with white underparts. In flight the wings were long and pointed with dark undersides to the primaries. The flight consisted of slow measured wingbeats. They had a deep raucous call. The juveniles had speckled caps.

Next to the terns was a party of twenty Common Cranes, which drank, bathed and preened in the hot midday sun. Beyond them was a flock of 200+ Greylag Geese. Waders milled about amongst the terns and included six Wood Sandpipers (the most I had ever seen together), a summer-plumaged Grey Plover, six Redshanks, a Greenshank, two Spotted Redshanks and Lapwings. A male Marsh Harrier quartered the reed beds and shimmered silver in the heat haze. In a small copse I had good close views of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, the kind of views you rarely get in Britain. A nasal 'chep' alerted me to a large greenish warbler in a hedgerow feeding on berries. It was my first Icterine Warbler. I noted the following points : a large warbler, long-billed, dull olive-green/brown above and pale below, no eye-stripe and a square-ended tail, often standing tall, a nasal 'chep' call and gave one or two brief song notes. Finally two Hooded Crows were here, also on the way to Sundsvall, two were at Gavle and twelve at Gharp.

We spent the night at a Youth Hostel at Sundsvall.

DAY 9 M 31st July Sundsvall to Ornskoldsvik to Ragvaldsträsk (via Mosjön)

Weather : Hot and sunny

I got up early and took a stroll around the wooded hills of a rather smelly (wood pulping factory) Sundsvall. I again had excellent views of a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. The other important sighting I had was of a summer-plumaged Brambling in the woods among Chaffinches. Other notable species were a Fieldfare, two Hooded Crows, four Siskins and two juvenile Pied Flycatchers.

After breakfast we continued heading north for Ragvaldsträsk, noting on the way six Hooded Crows, six White Wagtails and a female Goldeneye with three juveniles at Mosjön. On our arrival at Helena's parents' house a flyover Redpoll was notable.

I spent the evening being gripped off by two delightful elderly people who told of, not only Wrynecks in the garden in May, but also an adult GREAT GREY OWL and three young on the garden fence!!!

DAY 10 T 1st August Ragvaldsträsk to Luleå to Umeå (Visit Gammelstadsviken)

Weather : Hot and sunny

Unable to sleep I arose around 3am and took a walk around the surrounding woods and fields. It was broad daylight and had not been dark all night. Immediately as I entered the woods I spotted a Red Squirrel on the path in front of me, it quickly raced up a tree and vanished. I saw a few notable birds on my walk, which included three Fieldfares, two Willow Tits, three Redpolls, nine White Wagtails, four Siskins, two Hooded Crows, two Whinchats and a Redwing.

Taking our leave of Erich and Maria we set off on the drive north to Luleå. After lunch in Luleå, a quiet town only about 80 miles from the Arctic Circle, we drove to the nature reserve at Gammelstadsviken.

The paths here were crawling with baby toads and you had to be careful before each footstep. We climbed up a tower hide with excellent views across the lakes. Both male and female Marsh Harrier were hunting over the reed beds. A lone Whooper Swan was at the water's edge. Out on the lake were six Pintails, a female Goldeneye and some Wigeon. A Ruff fed at the fringes and three Arctic Terns fed over the lake. Returning to the woods I could hear the thin whistle of a Hazel Grouse (which I recognised from my birdsong CD - All the Birds of Britain & Europe) and I was lucky enough to see one briefly as it flew across the path in front of me. I noted a fairly small brown grouse flying on down-turned wings. I could not relocate it despite extensive searching.

Unfortunately we decided we would not have the time to continue north to the Arctic Circle, much to my disappointment, Bridgette had been before, so we set off back south.

DAY 11 W 2nd August Umeå to Skuleskogen to Hudiksvall

Weather : Hot and sunny

After nearly running out of petrol, finding all the petrol stations shut at nine, and spending an extremely uncomfortable night in the car at Umeå, we headed south, stopping at Skuleskogen for breakfast.

Skuleskogen was a rest place by the main road where wooded cliffs rose from the roadside to the 'Viking's Cave' near the top. We scaled the cliff following rocky paths to the top where a café served welcome ice-cream and cold drinks. The temperature was about 30°. There were plenty of birds here including a swirling flock of twenty Hooded Crows, a bright male Bullfinch, two Fieldfares, a Willow Tit and as we descended the other side by cable car (worth every penny) two Ravens.

As we returned to the car park three Honey Buzzards showed well in the blue skies above us. We spent the night at the beach-site Youth Hostel at Hudiksvall. Here a Caspian Tern flew noisily amongst the bathers. Note/ paddling in the Baltic, even in high summer is freezing.

DAY 12 Th 3rd August Hudiksvall to Borlange to Orebro

Weather : Cloudy and mild , showers then heavy rain

A bad day spent entirely on the road in order to make up time and cover a huge distance while the weather was inclement. On the way to Orebro notable birds were few but included six White Wagtails, five Hooded Crows, a Sparrowhawk and a Honey Buzzard at Sandvikken. We stayed the night at Orebro youth Hostel (a converted hospital, we had a ward to ourselves). In the garden were three juvenile Pied Flycatchers and a Green Woodpecker.

DAY 13 F 4th August Orebro to Kungalv (Visit Kvismaren and Brunnparken)

Weather : Cloudy but very warm and sunny

I rose early and headed out for the wetland reserve of Kvismaren. On the way to the reserve I saw two Common Buzzards and a couple of Hooded Crows. There were also many White Wagtails. When I arrived at the reserve I headed for a large tower hide. On the top floor a group of Swedish birders were ringing. They invited me to watch while they fitted three very noisy juvenile Red-backed Shrikes with rings and later took me on a tour of the nets. The most interesting catch was a juvenile Pied Flycatcher.

There was excellent birding to be had from the hide. First was a superb adult summer-plumaged Red-necked Grebe close to the hide. I noted its chestnut neck, grey cheeks and bright yellow-based bill. Then a Bittern flew up from the reeds and across the reserve. Apparently this small reserve supports twenty pairs and yet a similar reed-filled reserve in Britain is lucky if it has a single pair. Why?

A female Sparrowhawk fly low over the reed bed and four Wood Sandpipers fed around the reed bed fringes. Many small birds were around the car park including my second Icterine Warbler, six Tree Sparrows, a juvenile Yellow Wagtail and a Fieldfare.

After breakfast we walked around Brunnparken where notable birds were two Tree Sparrows, a Nuthatch and two White Wagtails.

We then left for the long drive to Kungalv on the outskirts of Goteborg (Gothenburg) where we would spend the night at the Youth Hostel before catching the ferry back to England. There were several notable birds on the journey, at Vretstorp a female Marsh Harrier, at Solle a super male Red-backed Shrike and on small lake at Livered fourteen female/juvenile Goosanders, a single Snipe, ten Wood Sandpipers (eclipsing the six at Ledskar) and a Black-tailed Godwit.

DAY 14 S 5th August Kungalv to Goteborg to North Sea

Weather : Hot and sunny

I walked around the village and castle before breakfast. Notable birds included ever-present Hooded Crows and White Wagtails, a female Goldeneye on a small pond, three Nuthatches, six Fieldfares and a juvenile Pied Flycatcher.

After a couple of hours exploring Goteborg and taking a boat trip around the harbour we caught the ferry home.

Leaving the harbour there were fifty Mute Swans, twenty-one Eiders (all females/juveniles), a Common Tern and a Cormorant. During the first hour of the voyage there were 284 Fulmars and a young Gannet, which went past the ship, then I stopped counting.

DAY 15 Su 6th August North Sea to Harwich to Dagnall to Quedgeley

Weather : Hot and sunny

Nine Fulmars were the only notable birds seen on the journey home.

© Mike King 2001 The Gloster Birder

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