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SOUTHERN SWEDEN IN EARLY WINTER - Friday 15th - Sunday 17th November 2013

Friday 15th
Eight of the group met at the ungodly hour of 5.30am for our flight to Malmo Airport in Southern Sweden. After a delay in taking off, we were soon away flying over sites such as Abberton Reservoir and Mersea Island off the Essex coast.

We touched down in Malmo later than planned but this coincided perfectly with Jenny's flight from Stockholm that also was delayed. Once the formalities of sorting out the vehicle were completed, we loaded up the van and drove southwards noting COMMON BUZZARD, KESTREL and plenty of HOODED CROWS.

We stopped in an area that is especially good for raptors and this proved true with up to 20 RED KITES and COMMON BUZZARDS flying around. RAVENS were numerous and during our time here we watched three drake GOOSANDER fly over as well as BARNACLE and GREYLAG GEESE. In nearby woodland, a female NORTHERN BULLFINCH perched atop a dead tree and could be heard calling like a toy trumpet. A MEALY REDPOLL flew over giving brief views, but better still were a small flock of birds perched in Larches, which on closer inspection were PARROT CROSSBILLS and although distant, we could make out their large bills and thick bull-necked appearance.

Moving southwards we saw our first PHEASANT of the tour as well as more RED KITE. Heading on down the road towards Trelleborg we saw a large raptor coming head on and once it was alongside we could see it was a first year GOLDEN EAGLE. Quickly turning round, we gave chase as it motored purposefully northwards and luckily there was an ideally situated lay-by which gave us the chance to see this magnificent bird as it flew alongside COMMON BUZZARDS and HOODED CROWS, which it dwarfed.

Delighted by this we carried on our journey and from the moving vehicle saw a hovering ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD, but was unable to stop along the busy main road. It was then along the coast road where there were more BARNACLE GEESE and a small flock of DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE. We then enjoyed lunch whilst watching thousands of both BARNACLE and GREYLAG GEESE.

In nearby farmyard we saw TREE SPARROW, CHAFFINCH and a lone GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER before heading down to the water’s edge. Our journey was halted prematurely when a juvenile WHITE-TAILED EAGLE was spotted. Soon afterwards, we saw another three of these birds! We had some amazing views as they hunted along the water’s edge for ducks and geese, although unsuccessfully.

A scan of the bay produced good numbers of TEAL, MALLARD and WIGEON and a WIGEON x PINTAIL hybrid that looked very interesting indeed. An adult female HEN HARRIER gave good views as it quartered the reedbed before coming to our side of the water where it flushed a large number of TEAL.

With a cold wind blowing, we headed to Anna's Bakery for a hot drink and cake, before visiting the south and north ends of the Falsterbo Canal. It was a little quiet but we did see a few EIDER as well as RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, GREY HERONS, MUTE SWANS and a large pre-roost gathering of HOODED CROWS. The best bird was a female type BLACK REDSTART that flew in front of us as it fed on the rocky shoreline.

It was then off to the supermarket where we picked up supplies before checking in at our accommodation. With some time spare, we relaxed before meeting to complete the bird list and then headed off to the local town for a great meal which was well appreciated.

Saturday 16th
After a 7.00am breakfast, we loaded up and headed northwards. The weather was pretty murky with low cloud and drizzle as we took several back roads. One of the highlights was a first year GOLDEN EAGLE that flew along a ridgeline, giving good views as it did so. A ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD was seen briefly and there were plenty of FIELDFARES around.

At our first main stop we could see large numbers of geese present and close by were a small party of WHITE-FRONTED and three TAIGA BEAN GEESE giving good views. A scan of the area produced around 300 more WHITE-FRONTS and smaller numbers of BARNACLE GEESE. A real surprise was a GREEN SANDPIPER that flew up from a ditch and away.

Carrying on northwards, we didn't get far when noticing a massive flock of geese in a nearby field, containing around 1000 WHITE-FRONTS as well as a few BARNACLES and TAIGA BEAN GEESE. It was then into town for a facilities stop which proved fortuitous, because as soon as we parked, around 40 WAXWINGS flew through the car-park heading west, calling as they did so.

We took a walk down to a large lake where a small flock of GOOSANDER were present, as well as plenty of GOLDENEYE. A scan in the distance produced up to four WHITE-TAILED EAGLES and three GOLDEN EAGLES which although distant, gave reasonable views. RED KITES were constantly in view and then we saw one of the GOLDEN EAGLES being mobbed by a female GOSHAWK, which appeared to enter the bird’s territory. We rounded off the session with a female HEN HARRIER, performing at close range.

Habitat in the area was a mixture of coniferous and deciduous woodland, giving us the chance of a few passerines. GOLDCRESTS were the most numerous, but despite hearing CRESTED, MARSH and LONG-TAILED TITS, they kept out of view!

After lunch we visited an area of wet meadows which didn't disappoint, with up to 10,000 BARNACLE GEESE present and a ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD that gave good views as it flew across fields. In the distance we could see three WHOOPER SWANS but these soon departed. A quick check of the lake we had visited earlier gave us 70 GOOSANDERamongst a large mixed flock of wildfowl, containing WIGEON, TEAL, POCHARD, TUFTED DUCK and two female SCAUP. During our time here we had good views of flyby WHITE-FRONTED and BARNACLE GEESE as well as WHOOPER SWANS. The highlight was an adult WHITE-TAILED EAGLE that we watched hunting and just when we thought it was going to come away empty taloned, it swooped down and caught a duck, before flying off to enjoy its lunch. Just as we were leaving, a party of 20 BEWICK'S SWAN flew into some wet pools.

Continuing our journey westwards across another area of wet meadows, these produced another few thousand BARNACLES and as well as WHITE-FRONTS, GREYLAGS and TAIGA BEAN GEESE. On the wet pools were a mixed herd of wild swans containing WHOOPER and a family party of two adults and a juvenile BEWICK'S SWAN. A 'Borringe' type COMMON BUZZARD was seen flying over fields before disappearing.

The day concluded with a visit to another lake but it was rather quiet except for two female HEN HARRIERS, 200+ CORMORANTS, GREY HERONS and thousands of GULLS. Also several SISKINS flew over before heading off to roost.

It was then back to base as it became dark and we had some time to shower and relax before meeting for the bird list and once again heading off for our evening meal.

Sunday 17th
We awoke to find much brighter conditions and after a breakfast that included Peter making omelettes and Steve using various Gherkins on his toast, we headed off towards Falsterbo. We made our way along the coast road and could see the small party of DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE, that on Friday were present in a field of winter wheat and there were also good numbers of MEALY REDPOLL migrating southwest. With this being a good sign, we arrived at the Falsterbo Golf Club car-park feeling good vibes. Our first SPARROWHAWKS of the tour were seen and these gave spectacular views as they fed overhead. Other raptors included an impressive male GOSHAWK drifting south and then an adult PEREGRINE, quickly followed by a juvenile that hung in the wind over our heads, which was simply stunning!

The raptors migrating were very much an unusual sighting and it felt more like September rather than November, especially when we sheltered from the cool westerly wind! COMMON BUZZARDS were seen in reasonable numbers, as were ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARDS that again gave good views. A possible MERLIN was seen briefly but not well enough to properly identify, which was frustrating.

It wasn't just raptors moving during our time here, but thousands of WOOD PIGEONS as well as MEALY REDPOLLS, SISKINS, GOLDFINCHES, PARROT CROSSBILLS, BULLFINCHES of the larger northern race and three HAWFINCH which were quite a surprise to see as very few are reported here. JACKDAWS, HOODED CROWS and several ROOKS migrated out across the sea and scanning through the numerous WOOD PIGEONS provided us with up to 100 STOCK DOVE.

At times there were so many birds in the sky we just didn't know where to look! However, the excitement didn’t end as we found around 40 WAXWINGS migrating southwest as well as YELLOWHAMMERS, LINNET, GREENFINCHES and then a couple of HEN HARRIER moving low across the golf course. Scanning northwards found us a small party of WHOOPER SWAN and larger numbers of both GREYLAG and BARNACLE GEESE.

Eventually we dragged ourselves away and wandered along the edge of reed-fringed pools that yielded CANADA GEESE, TUFTED DUCK, GOLDENEYE, WIGEON and MALLARD. As we reached the end we joined other birders, including Nils Kjellen who is chief counter for the Sveriges Ornitologiska Förening.

Nils and his team count every bird that migrates past or over Nabben from 1st August to 20th November and so far this season they have counted over 3 million birds which is simply amazing!

A check out on the sea produced a small number of EIDER and at least two drake LONG-TAILED DUCKS, one of which gave reasonable views as it flew northwards. The only other notable species were a few RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS. Star bird as far as Steve was concerned was a CURLEW, because during the previous two days he had managed to mis-identify one on two occasions, much to the mirth of fellow clients.

With migration slowing around 11.00am, we opted for a coffee break in Anna's Bakery and enjoyed a shot of caffeine washed down with a delectable cake or two. From here we drove inland noting around 15 COMMON BUZZARD and smaller numbers of RED KITE. Parking in an area of woodland we took a walk along the road and it was great to see both NUTHATCH and TREECREEPER of the northern races, as well as MARSH, BLUE and GREAT TITS. Small numbers of SISKIN, MEALY REDPOLL and a single GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER were seen in the damp woodland.

Whilst David, Bill and Jenny stayed watching the passerines, Steve took the rest of the group further along the track, but didn't get very far as several hunters were shooting deer close by. Judging by the closeness of the gunshots it seemed best not to hang around and the group soon retired to the van! Lunch was then enjoyed, whilst several RAVEN, RED KITE and COMMON BUZZARDS circled over us.

With a few hours of daylight remaining we spent time at a lake, covered with over 1000 wildfowl of various denominations including GADWALL, TEAL, MALLARD, GOLDENEYE, POCHARD, TUFTED DUCK, PINTAIL, SHOVELER, GREYLAG GEESE, BARNACLE and WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, MUTE SWANS and hundreds of WIGEON. Earlier in the week an American Wigeon had been present but with no sign since. Diana did well to find a redhead SMEW and our first of the tour.

Kathy saw a strange duck out on the water with a white breast but when Steve looked through her scope he couldn't see the bird, but luckily, in view happened to be the AMERICAN WIGEON! We all got on it as the birds suddenly became alert and we could see why - two adult WHITE-TAILED EAGLES!

Of course every bird took off on the water with complete pandemonium as the eagles flew through. Eventually everything came to a rest and Steve managed to find the AMERICAN WIGEON at most closer range, before all the ducks blitzed off the lake again as the eagles took off, but were harassed by the local RAVENS and they alighted in a close tree.

Down the ducks came and there once again was the AMERICAN WIGEON amongst the hordes of WIGEON. With light starting to fade we finished up overlooking an area of fields and woodland and soon picked out a ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD sitting on a fence post. It was rather quiet although a few COMMON BUZZARD and RED KITE were seen. As the light dropped, several BLUE TIT came into nearby bushes to roost and then Geoff heard LONG-TAILED TITS and we glimpsed three of these white-headed beauties before they simply disappeared, presumably to roost.

Over to the east an amazing bright moon rose up from the land and as we were taking photographs, a WHITE-TAILED EAGLE flew across the front of the moon which was stunning!

With time to spare before heading to a local restaurant, we took a drive along several forest tracks, which provided us with several sightings of BROWN HARE. We stopped at several points to try and listen for owls but drew a blank.

It was then off for our evening meal, which was very welcome and then after getting some fuel we headed to the airport. After re-packing our bags we completed the bird list and then checked in. Time went quickly as we were entertained by Peter's crossword which seemed to have mostly risqué clues....

We boarded the plane and the engines started but a message from the Captain came through that there was a problem with a transponder, so we were advised to leave the plane whilst they shut down all systems and attempted to restart. We all queued up once again and stood hoping that everything would be OK. After an anxious wait, we could see the thumbs up from the tarmac and commenced boarding again.

This time everything went to plan, but we landed at Stansted thirty minutes behind schedule after what had been a long day. We said our goodbyes after picking up our luggage, we’d had a really enjoyable tour with birds and laughs a-plenty throughout!