The wildlife viewing and bird watching here in Northern Sweden over the last few weeks can only be described as fantastic.
The new arrivals, displays and encounters with a huge number of species as the ice and snow retreat to reveal pine forest, lakes and grassland has been a welcome respite from the havoc created by the Coronavirus.
In Europe, Sweden is certainly the country that has continued as close to ‘normal’ with day to day life. Schools for under 16s remain open, as do gyms, shops, restaurants and swimming pools. Social distancing guidance exists but living your life has been done under guidance from the government NOT via restrictions and enforcement.
With its low population density, remoteness and high quality medical care here in Northern Sweden with the freedom to live our lives without curfew or enforced house arrest we consider ourselves fortunate.
Unfortunately, being in the tourism business reliant upon air travel we have been hit with a slew of cancellations of people very disappointed at not being able to take their much looked forward to vacations.
So, I present this blog post with photos I have taken over the last couple of weeks so that you can see what could have been (and will be hopefully next year), as you re-book to visit us. Many Swedes will be holidaying at home this year and may be inspired to visit us and some of you may be fortunate enough to manage to reach us from overseas as restrictions are eased. For us in this part of the world infection rates are low, life goes on very close to normal and the hospitals are quiet.
Lets start with something very Swedish – the moose. While absorbed by Netflix I looked out of our house window last week to see mum moose with her twins in our garden munching on grass and shoots. Mum was acting bossy, encouraging the youngsters to go feed with gentle headbutts! This is a precursor to mum forcing her twins to go fend for themselves and leave her side as she prepares to calve again. The Moose stuck around in the garden for four evenings and have now met up with two other adults in our forest.
Those two big adult moose decided to cross the road in front of my wife driving the kids to school. A reminder to take it easy on the roads with speed!
Sweden has the highest moose population density in the world, meaning it offers the best chance to see them anywhere in the world. Here in Northern Sweden the moose numbers are at their highest for all of Sweden. This means we are where you are most likely to witness wild moose worldwide.
Now for something cute. A Red squirrel has made her Drey (twigs/leaves/hay/grass nest) on a wooden beam in our barn. It is very rare to find a Drey, as they are usually built high up and well concealed in trees. To find one in a man made building is super rare. We await the arrival of her little ones. Here’s a photo of mum.
The Vindeln River went ice free as per this photo I took in late April and now in May all the snow has gone too. Hoping for White-tailed eagle to breed here again this year.
Back to our grassland next to our house now for the welcome Spring arrival of Cranes, which breed on site every year.
Here’s a Curlew; the regional bird for us here in the county of Vasterbotten. A ground nesting bird that we have a lot of all around us.
We always have good numbers of Golden Plover among them, plus Lapwing, gulls and Whooper Swan.
As ever Goldeneye ducks, Teal, Wigeon and Mallard have arrived. Black-throated diver and Red-breasted Merganser too.
Witnessing the strange sound of displaying drumming Snipe over our newly cut forest the past few nights was a terrific experience. I had four non stop for an age!
Now to our bird feeder. We have LOTS of Great-spotted woodpecker and this is one of many that are ever present on our feeder.
We have way too many different birds to post photos of them all so here are my current two favorite spring migrants (photographed by me from my kitchen window – just like the woodpecker above).
And a Robin Red Breast because they are often voted Britain’s favorite bird! Soon I expect to see the similar and sought after Red-breasted flycatcher here too.
Of course, the Capercaillie and Black Grouse have been dancing in the forest. One memorable morning I witnessed over 100 Capercaillie in a field roadside while driving in late April this year. I reversed to get photos and they all promptly flew away! Alas, they are shot so a stealthy approach is vital.
This male Black Grouse was a little braver. He really did look in tip top condition.
Alas, the ladies seemed unimpressed and appeared to be waiting for a taxi roadside! Better luck next time brother. It was the roadside females which caused me to stop while driving by and witness the whole show.
Next we have an update on raptors and owls. Hobby arrived here early and Sparrowhawk remain all year and are ever present attracted to the huge number of birds on our feeding stations. The number of Kestrel seen is ever growing and soon I will pay more attention to them to differentiate and find Merlin.
A female Hen Harrier has been marauding over the Redwings, Fieldfare, Jackdaw and Hooded Crows creating general panic and mayhem around us.
A very large Goshawk has been acting in a similar manner. Recently, it has been circling daily and I managed to get this photo. I hope for a perched photo!
The Short-eared owl have arrived as they have every year. These are much easier to view hunting and landing for long periods of time. Here it is hunting. Silent and what a great experience to witness.
Not long before the Osprey arrive. The Pygmy owl perched on my bird table a few times when it was colder but have melted away into our forest again. I hope to see them soon.
Finally, to the most welcome arrival of some very rare Lesser White-fronted geese. The Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus) is at present one of the most endangered bird species in the Palearctic and WE HAVE EIGHT!! All eight have clearly partnered up to give four visible pairs.
The Nordic breeding population was in 2009 estimated at only approximately 20 breeding pairs and there has been a sustained, statistically significant, negative trend in the population in the period 1990-2008. This continued a long-term decline, from an estimated 10,000 individuals in the early 20th century.
You can find out more about the species decline and reintroduction project at https://piskulka.net/
All of the birds we have are colour ringed and I shall be passing on their details to aid the project.
To document everything we have seen recently would take an age, so I hope you like my selection.
That’s all for now folks.