Showing posts from May, 2016

Homeward Bound

Our last day in the central lowlands of Sweden and a welcome improvement in the weather, allowing us to enjoy a prolonged session at a large reed fringed lake without the need for multiple layers of clothing (one of our group confessed to being cloaked in seven layers yesterday). From a raised vantage point sheltered by farm building and stands of trees, we could scope the freshwater expanse at leisure; numerous pairs of eager eyes scrutinising any flying object meant not much got by us. 
Almost the first bird we encountered was a red kite that cruised by at roof top level allowing impressive views of what is apparently a rare sighting in this part of the country. Good start. Hot on the heels of the kite an immature peregrine made an appearance scattering the gulls and waders into a frenzy. This bird loitered around the northern end of the lake for some time periodically stooping at groups of wildfowl or flocks of multi-coloured ruff, which although not especially pleasing for the ha…

Cock of the Rock

After yesterday's inclement episode we thought we had seen the worst of what a Northern spring could throw our way. We were wrong. Today dawned grey and cold with a viciously biting wind and it simply got worse. Our drive to another section of the burnt forest to try again for the three toed woodpecker was made through wet snow, hail and driving rain: hardly what you would expect in mid-May. In these situations however the gallows humour tends to kick in, so with a stiff upper lip we staunchly faced the worst the weather could sling our way. Being able to retreat to a warm minibus helped.

For the day we had the services of another local birder who had intimate knowledge of the various woodpeckers and owls inhabiting the region. With the aid of a lure, broadcasting the sound of a drumming male, we were soon able to enjoy the brief sight of our target bird shuffling up the trunk of a dead pine. Great stuff and a life bird for me.

Onwards then to a day spent driving between various w…

The Burnt Forest

A fire raged through a vast area of the forest here in Vȁstmanland in 2014 causing immeasurable damage both ecological and financial. Strong summer winds whipped the blaze to an inferno which raged for weeks before it was eventually brought under control thanks to water carrying aircraft dragooned from France and Spain. Once the smoke had cleared and the devastation assessed (incredibly only one person lost their life), it was decided to designate a large proportion of the affected area as an eco-park and to let nature heal the wounds and green over the scars. Some two years on, the scene is still one of ranks of charred and blackened tree stumps, their singed roots wrapped around moss stripped boulders like a witch’s scrawny grip on the arm of her chair. Nothing has or will be done to clear the debris except to clear fallen trees from paths and roads; natural regeneration will be studied and valuable information gleaned from what transpires over coming decades.

We visited the area tod…

The Grey Ghost

Enveloped by the gentle calm at the gloaming of a warm May day we waited at the edge of a damp meadow bordered all around by thick sentinel forest; a group of expectant birders, hushed and vigilant. And as the shadows of the tall pines crept slowly across the sward, one of our company caught a glimpse of something distant fly slowly across his field of vision. Something large: something special. Fifteen pairs of binoculars scanned towards the far end of the open space in the direction of his pointing finger, but there was nothing now to be seen.

We moved along a track a few hundred metres, flanked all the way by towering pine and spruce, to recommence our watch from a more advantageous viewpoint. And there, after a short wait, the most beautiful of creatures drifted into view to perch atop a tree stump; a great grey owl, the bird we had been promised and the one atop everyone's most wanted list. What a magnificent bird it was too with its outsize facial disc housing piercing pale …

A Week in May

Back from New York to a freezing cold house, believable tales of snow and frost, huddling around the fire all day trying to keep warm and not succumb to jet lag. It could surely only get better. And thankfully it did. A lot better.
Sunday 1st May. The swifts have returned dead on time.
Tuesday 3rd May. A visit to RSPB Titchwell Marsh is always a delight and today whilst scanning through a patch of cut reed just east of the track I locked on to a cracking black-headed wagtail – a yellow wagtail of the eastern race feldegg.  I’d heard about this bird being seen the day before, but obviously nobody had so far seen it today. I alerted those around me to the bird, a real stunner, and as far as I can tell the news went ape. Nice to find something a little unusual. We watched this perky little chap for a few minutes until the frantic hordes began to wet themselves and then moved on.
Other highlights here were a flighty female ring ouzel, a gorgeous drake garganey and a rather confiding songthr…