Seawatching in Sweden

4 09 2013

“We’re in the half light,
None of us can tell
They hide the ocean in a shell.”

– Half Light, The Arcade Fire

After almost a week with a very poor catch in Flommen, the strong westerlies encouraged us to go seawatching. There were several different target species depending on who you ask. For Michael the prize was a Cory’s shearwater, but Marc and me were happier with the Black guillemots. Instead of going to a cape, Michael thought it was a better idea to go to Båstad harbor, where we could get a proper shelter for the rain and the wind and better views of the birds.

It turned out to be a very good decision and after a few hours of seawatching we had seen all 4 European species of skua, some Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Little gulls, Arctic terns, Black and Common guillemot, Black-throated and Red-throated diver and around 80 gannets. Some birds flying just over our heads!

Cephus grylle

minutus blog

rissa blog

Fulmarus glacialis

In the afternoon, and after a revitalizing meal at Linnea’s (what an impressive place where she lives!), we finally went to Kullaberg, a point a bit further south of Båstad. Our expectations were quite high.  If the bay was plenty of birds, there might had been thousands passing throw the point. Admittedly, the birders that had spent the morning in Kullaberg had seen less stuff than we did, but the afternoons, at least in Spain, are usually better for seawatching.

Even it was very nice to see such a beautiful place, the sad reality was that there was almost nothing migrating. I didn’t understand how was it possible! All the usually migrating seabirds couldn’t have suddenly appeared just a few km north and inside of a bay…


After looking at some maps of the area and weather diagrams for wind and pressure, everything made sense. Both Sunday and Monday, we got strong westerlies of about 15 m/s, but they lacked the northerly component.





All the birds we saw in the Bay had probably been pushed by the wind and had accumulated there due to its big entrance heading pure West. Despite their several attempts (most of them were flying south), the birds we saw were probably not actually migrating. Most of them were 1cy, weaker and less experienced, and these facts combined with the strong winds made it hard for them to exit the bay. As Michael pointed out, the risk of doubling counting in this place is high since probably the majority of the birds are just hanging around the bay. In the other hand, the Point of Kullaberg is heading NW and so does the bay north of the point. Moreover, the island of Kalvskärlid, placed in the NW point of this bay, makes the entrance smaller. Therefore, a subtle difference in wind components can be reflected in seabirds’ occurrence and a proper assessment of the weather before deciding for one place or another can be the key for a successful seawatching.





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