Thursday, 15 December 2011

Scandinavian scorcher

After a hectic rush of e-mails back in April I finally received confirmation that I was to be heading out to Sweden to work for 5 months; my role entitled Bird Surveyor/Head Bird Ringer. In all honesty I was a little pessimistic about this, maybe I was running before I could walk? However, 10 days after receiving confirmation I was on a flight and Stockholm bound.

It was the 18th of April when I departed the UK, seems a long while ago now after the rioting during the summer, the many deaths and huge headlines. It was however only 9 months ago. A train journey from Stockholm Airport led me towards my home for the next 5 months; Örebro. Here I was met by Magnus Persson, my partner in crime for the first 2 months of my stay. We made our way from there to Kvismaren Nature Reserve.

Magnus and me set about some of the survey work the morning after my arrival. Various surveys were to be done: Wetland bird surveys (WeBs), Farmland Bird Surveys, Breeding Bird Surveys (BBS), Sedge and Reed Warbler Surveys, Ortolan Bunting Studies, Starling surveys, Pied Flycatcher study, Black-headed gull surveys, Lapwing census, Marsh Harrier Nesting surveys and the primary task Hooded Crow Surveys. These surveys took up masses of our time, 14 hour days were not uncommon and many hours alone staring into hedges or reed beds became the norm! Much time in the field however produced many birds and this was especially a good time for me to catch up with some new species. Three-toed and Black Woodpeckers were amongst the nicest finds for me but also a feldegg – Yellow Wagtail was a nice result. Kvismaren Bird Observatory 137

                                                Kvismaren from Öby Kulle.

As the time rolled on into May the leaves on trees began to open and Kvismaren changed from a sleepy wintry scene to a blossoming haven for birds, migrants began to arrive and many birds were in good voice. I added Icterine, Marsh, Blyth’s Reed, Great Reed, River and Savi’s Warbler to my “life list” within 2 days of each other and from there the fun really began. I saw the rise and falls in the number of migrants and I came to appreciate bird migration on a whole new scale! We were joined by another member of staff or two whom focused primarily on the Great Reed Warblers that use Kvismaren as a breeding stronghold.

The Surveys dried up into mid June and it was time for Magnus to leave and me take charge of the place – by now the surveys were in their final stages and the writing up was well under way. My work load easing I had a little time to recoup myself in readiness for a long ringing season.


Kvismaren Bird Observatory 053             Above a picture of the elevator net erected at the southern tip of Ässön.

By June the 22nd I had cleared/re-built or created all of the net rides at 3 main sites (75 net rides).  I was joined by a couple of assistants at first, Zsombor Karolyi and Helena Hedkvist. These 2 helped immensely with the prep work and on June 23rd we began ringing. The Ringing season ran through from June 23rd to September 30th and we caught a little over 6000 New birds in this period; ringing was carried out during most days though some bad weather did hinder us in the mid/back end of September. I would like to thanks all those whom were involved throughout the season: Assistants - Zsombor Karolyi, Helena Hedkvist, Rebecca Knutsson, Jalle Hiltenen, August Thomasson, Philip Bertrand, Kristine Richardsson, Gittan Matsson, Heather McGinty, Magnus Friberg, Anders Petersson, Tage Ashing, Johannes and Monica Wearn, Deborah Arlt and Daniel Hedenbo. I would also like to thank Assisting ringers Peter Villanyi and Simon Valle who’s professional approaches and skills made it an utter pleasure to be out ringing. A special mention should go to a true friend and a massive help throughout his two visits to the station during the season Martin Carlsson – Martin came to me first in July with a vast knowledge of the birds and wildlife in Sweden however he had never seen many of the species we were set to catch. His enthusiasm to learn and better his knowledge was second to none and by his second visit Martin had gone from an inexperienced handler to an adequate ringer of birds, his transformation was truly amazing and I dare say we shared some amazing times together so Martin – Thanks very much for being my most dedicated assistant and great company throughout.


Kvismaren Bird Observatory 162                                            Martin Carlsson.

We broke many ringing total records due to our enthusiasm and I dare say that if the weather had been better we could have smashed a few more. Particularly special species for me to ring included Barred, Marsh, Icterine, Savi’s and Great Reed Warbler, Red-Breasted Flycatcher, Pygmy Owl and Goldeneye amongst others.

Pygmy owls 2                                              Pygmy Owls –Photo: Martin Carlsson.

September the 30th flew in and I said goodbye to Martin and Kvismaren and I had planned to be going home, however I decided whilst in Sweden I should visit the infamous Falsterbo and so a 2 week venture there ensued.

My first day at Falsterbo was unreal – I was greeted by a thick mist hanging low over the gold course and the car dodged birders on the way to ringing hut in half light. Song Thrushes and Robins ticked from every bush within the small garden and the staff were saying how today was the first “fall” of the Autumn. The first net-round came and we took 250 birds from the nets, mainly Robins and Song Thrushes but a scattering of Wrens, Goldcrests and Chafflings too. A smirking member of staff then appeared from the haze with one hand behind his back mumbling Pärluggla – I racked my brains and figured it out. TENGMALM’S OWL!!! This was a mega (lifer) for me and having been gutted about missing it in the north I was glad to finally catch up with one up close down here. As the morning rolled on more than 600 birds were caught and another lifer in the form of Serin appeared in a net. The 3rd and final lifer for this day was Short-Toed Eagle. After the Tengmalm’s appearing in the net during daylight in the garden we decided to try and catch owls at night! By the time we’d finished setting the nets I had another Tengmalm’s Owl in my hands. We caught around 10 (New) that night, truly unforgettable.

Falsterbo Bird Observatory 036

                                                Tengmalm’s Owls at Falsterbo

My 2 weeks wore on at Falsterbo and not only was I welcomed and Mentored by the amazing team here I also saw some mega migrations, caught some mega birds and met some amazing people. The Migrations here honestly have to be seen to be believed.

Again I planned on being home mid October as I’d now been away for 6 Months but instead I took a job as Ringer at Gedser Fuglestation in Southeast Denmark and here I again was welcomed by an amazing group of people and birds. Throughout the month long stay here I logged some nice birds and again gained some ringing “ticks”. Yellow-Browed Warbler and Great Grey Shrike had been bogey birds for me when it came to ringing and finally getting to grips with them was nice! Also Serin and Woodcock were nice in the hand and amazingly a Barnacle Goose I managed to catch by hand! A dozen Owls were caught during my time here split equally between Long-Eared Owls and Tengmalm’s and this was again a lovely opportunity to see such birds! The main highlight in Gedser for me was the Sparrowhawks and we caught over 60 in 1 Month!

Kvismaren Bird Observatory 224

                                   Juvenile female Sparrowhawk - Falsterbo

The 15th November flew round and it was time to head home – relaxed yet exhausted from a fascinating experience. I met many great people and shared many good times. The fond memories and great birds will never be forgotten and I truly wish to visit these places again! Thanks again to all whom I worked with during my time here and a special thanks to Bo Nielsen and Jan Sondell for employing me whilst at Kvismaren, Måns and Lennart Carlsson at Falsterbo and Rune Skjold Tjørnløv and Hans Lind at Gedser.


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