Falsterbo – Kiruna – Andøya

18 11 2013

“I am a big Lady Gaga fan”

– Aron Anderson

End of the season in Falsterbo, time to come back to Barcelona, the city that can be considered my wintering range. In the last weeks, some people has asked me what do I think about Sweden. Well… bearing in mind that, apart from 2 seawatching days in Båstad and another one-day trip in March to Vombs Angar, Skryllegården and Hackebergasjon (in central Skåne), I’ve been the whole 8 months in the Falsterbo Peninsula, so it was impossible for me to give an opinion about Sweden. Hence, when Aron suggested that I should join him on his way to Kiruna (Norrland) my answer was yes.

The plan in the beginning consisted in renting a car in Malmö and driving all the way to Kiruna, stopping at some places to do some birding targeting the northern species that I’ve missed in Falsterbo. However, after realizing how expensive was to rent a car if you are not Swedish, the trip ended up in a 6-hour train from Malmö to Stockholm + a 14-hour train to Kiruna. Then, we were gonna burrow a car and carry on north, up to Andenes in the Norwegian island of Andøya. This guy down here is Aron in the train, and he is extremely happy for either going back home or the big burger he’s just eaten:

photo

As soon as we arrived to Kiruna, I realized it was something completely different. I wouldn’t say the real Sweden, but admittedly the image of Sweden that we have in the south of Europe. Snow, forest and frozen lakes. Also some nice birds, mainly visiting feeders, like this Siberian tit.

cinctus

cinctus2

Without more time for birding the area, we departed to Norway and we didn’t stop until we spotted a Northern Hawk owl sitting in the top of a tree, some kilometers before Abisko National Park. Even this is probably the only species of “northern owl” that I had seen before (bizarrely together with Snowy owl), still an stunning bird.

surnia

Surnia2

A walk in the National Park didn’t produce anything but a flock of Willow tits, nice landscapes and a warming cup of coffee in Aron’s former work place.

It was already dark night when we crossed the border, a step obviously accompanied by Aron’s classic quote “welcome to Norway, fucker”. The weather forecast made me forget about Northern Lights: it was meant to be raining/snowing all day long the day after. Maybe even more worryingly, the birding was going to be hard. Of course, when you’ve been ringing for one month in a row, need a day off and there’s rain forecasted, it’s always wrong. In the other hand, when you only have 2 days for exploring such an amazing place like Andøya, the forecast is right and the birding hard.

However, we managed to see some good birds: there were several Little auks around Andenes harbor, Greater scaup, Black guillemot, Red-throated diver… but no sign of neither King eider nor Yellow-billed diver. We decided to check as many harbors as possible, so we started with Bleick, a small village in the west coast of the island. No northern specialties again, but hundreds of Purple sandpipers feeding in the seaweed.

maritima

maritima2

Since the west coast didn’t look so promising, we decided to cross to the east. The central part of the island is just stunning. Pure tundra surrounded by high snowed mountains. The rain was annoying, but this landscape must be seen in a cloudy day. The icing on the cake was an adult female Gyr falcon sitting in a mossy rock. I would never forget this image!

rusticolus

The day finished with the feeling that there were loads of birds in the island, but the weather and the lack of information had led us to miss the good stuff. The forecast for the day after was promising: really strong westerly winds and cloudy, but no rain. The whole Lofoten archipelago was in orange alert due to the winds, but, as usual when this happens, we were happy.

Andøy

The first thing we did early in the morning was to check Andenes harbor again. As soon as we arrived, we realized it was a completely different story to the day before. There were at least 40 Glaucous gulls of all ages, big flocks of Long-tailed ducks, a similar number of Little auks than the day before and a female King eider among some Commons.

hyperboreus

Seawatching in the west coast was almost impossible due to the strong winds and the lack of sheltered places. Hence we crossed again to the east coast, where the sea was completely flat and the birds easier to spot. From the tiny Myre’ harbor, apart from a surprisingly high number of Slavonian grebes, the highlight of the day was a flock of 8 King eiders (sadly all females again) and a stunning landscape.

andoy

Time to head back to Kiruna, under a strong snow shower and already thinking about coming back to Andøya. The island offers very good birding possibilities. The lack of information (almost no reports at all in November) and the bad weather conditions forced us to invest one day in exploring the island looking for the best places. Of course, the already limited number of light hours doesn’t help neither. However, the number of birds (mainly sea-ducks, auks, gulls and divers) is impressive and with good weather conditions it’s probably possible to see most of arctic specialties. The landscape, as in the rest of the Vesterålen archipelago, is impressive, in my opinion especially in winter time.





Just before winter

4 11 2013

“I read, much of the night, and go south in winter.”

– T. S. Eliot

Nobody knows what’s going on with the weather this year. After an extremely dry October, the Skanian winter finally started with the wind storm that hit the peninsula last week with winds up to 50 m/s. The conditions looked promising for seawatching, but the highlights from Båstad only included a Great northern diver and 2 Sooty shearwaters. These, together with a Pallid swift twitched late in the afternoon, made the Swedes happy, but I couldn’t avoid a bit of disappointment due to the lack of Little auks or Yellow-billed divers, my 2 target species for the day.

After this, we’ve not got a single day without wind and/or rain, what means almost no ringing. The long-term forecast for the next weeks looks awful, so who knows if the ringing this season is already over. However, there are still a lot of birds around, and some of them particularly interesting: the trumpeter call of Northern bullfinch is everywhere, as well as some intriguing Redpolls. We only need a calm day to find something good!

Just before this sudden change, we managed to see some good birds. The resting bird counts at Knösen produced some nice species such as Lappland bunting, 21 Bewick’s swans and some Taiga bean goose Anser fabalis fabalis.

Anser fabalis fabalis

Cygnus bewickii

The ringing was also very good, with hundreds of birds everyday and some interesting species suck as Twite and Great grey shrike. Just enough to realize how subtle is the moult limit in Twite and how a homeyeri should not look like.

twite

This Twite had moulted only GC9. The difference can be noticed mainly in the tip of the feather: more buffish in the moulted feather and whiter in the retained juvenile. The centre of the feather is also blacker in GC9.

twite wing

The Great grey shrike we caught was just an excubitor, but, keeping in mind I had only handled meridionalis before, this bird was the closest I had ever been to one of these exciting eastern taxa. Enough for coming back home ready to read some literature and realize our bird got too much black in the secondaries and in the 2 outernmost (R5 and R6) tail feathers. Nice bird nonetheless!

excubitor

excubitor tail

That’s it… We can only wait for the sun to bring us some nice birds and landscapes again:

brantas








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