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Sweden’s Taiga forests and wetlands around Svartådalen make for fantastic birding in the springtime. The Black River Valley of Västmanland hosts waves of migrating birds that arrive from late April, the number of species increase around the wetlands and in late May, and even the speciality species become common. Sweden in spring truly boasts an abundance of birdlife and photographic opportunities. Our focus for this trip will be on the magnificent owls, woodpeckers, and grouse species easily seen at this time of year.
On our Birding Tour Sweden, a four-day Swedish birding weekend, we will visit fantastic birding locations in the east of the country in avian-rich Svartådalen and the Black River Valley.
We first visit the wetlands around Ängsö Castle, looking for Slavonian Grebe, and then the Björnön (Bear Island) area in search of Icterine Warbler and Ortolan Bunting. Later we will go on a Great Grey Owl evening trip.
We will visit the Black River Valley, where will look out for Black-throated Loon and perhaps even encounter Spotted Nutcracker or Hazel Grouse. We will continue along the valley, and in its wetlands we will look out for Thrush Nightingale and Common Rosefinch as well as birds of prey, including Eurasian Hobby and European Honey Buzzard.
This tour will also allow us to get close to some of Scandinavia’s owl species when our local guide will take us on a ringing excursion, where we will be able to get involved in the ringing of chicks of Ural Owl and Boreal (Tengmalm’s) Owl, which breed in nest boxes in the area. We will have fantastic photo opportunities and will be contributing to owl conservation. Evening excursions will also be embarked on to see Eurasian Pygmy Owl and Eurasian Eagle-Owl.
In the woodlands around Svartådalen there will be opportunities to observe Eurasian Wryneck and many Woodpeckers, including Eurasian Three-toed, Black, and Grey-headed. Other smaller forest specialists to look out for include Crested and Willow Tits. In the meadows and reedbeds that intersect the beautiful wetlands you will watch out for species like Grasshopper Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Spotted Crake, Corn Crake, and Eurasian Bittern. In the waterways and wetlands Black Tern, Common Greenshank, Little Tern, Spotted Redshank, and Ruff will add to an already long bird list.
We will also visit the leks of the territorial Black Grouse and possibly see Western Capercaillie at sites in the forest. Other species we will watch out for at this time of year are the graceful Common Crane, Wood Sandpiper, and Common Cuckoo, as well as Western Osprey hunting over the waterways.
You may also wish to extend your stay by an additional day for a visit to coastal lagoons close to the Baltic Sea for Caspian Tern, Little Gull, and perhaps the impressive White-tailed Eagle and Montagu’s Harrier in the scenic Eagle Rock area. Hjälstaviken Nature Reserve in the Uppland region may afford you more good views of large wader flocks and perhaps a Red-breasted Flycatcher in the nearby forest.
For however long you decide to visit, one thing is for sure: Sweden will leave a lasting impression on you with its scenic beauty and serenity, and for the fantastic birding encounters you will enjoy.
Itinerary (4 or 5 days/3 or 4 nights)
Day 1. Västerås, Ängsö Castle, and Björnön
On arrival into Västerås Airport, Stockholm, we are met by our local bird expert and taken for a meet and greet refreshment stop over Slavonian Grebe in a small wetland are near Ängsö Castle. We will also visit adjacent Björnön (Bear Island) in search of Icterine Warbler. After the break we set off for an extra detour, especially to look for Ortolan Bunting. Before sunset we put ourselves in position to await the Great Grey Owls evening hunt. This will be an unforgettable experience that often provides breathtaking views of these stunning and obliging birds. Photographers will relish this experience to capture impressive pictorial memories. As Eurasian Woodcock flies to roost and the forest choir of thrushes and European Robin begins to silence, vocalizing Eurasian Pygmy Owls appear and announce their territory. After remaining to hear the sounds of the night, we head for our overnight stay and dinner.
Overnight: Fläckebo B&B.
Day 2. Svartådalen, Black River Valley
After breakfast we head to the Black River Valley to check out Black-throated Loon and possible chance encounters with Spotted Nutcracker and Hazel Grouse. At this time of year butterflies like Camberwell beauty, holly blue, and green hairstreak are also highly active. We will have a short stop along the way to look and listen out for newly-arrived Thrush Nightingale. Continuing along the Black River Valley and its rich wetlands, we will enjoy the scenery while looking for the locally breeding White-tailed Eagle, European Honey Buzzard, Eurasian Hobby, Black Tern, Western Yellow Wagtail, and Common Rosefinch, as well as wildfowl and waders of several species, depending on the dates.
Our local guide will take the group on a Ural Owl ringing excursion, where we will have close encounters with these owls. In April incubating females are ringed, in May it´s time to ring the chicks before they leave the nests. This can be an interesting experience, as the parents can often appear, sometimes aggressively and close, but it will present us with a great opportunity for photos as well as making a detour into owl conservation. In the evening after dinner we will head out in search of Eurasian Pygmy Owl or Eurasian Eagle-Owl on an evening excursion.
Overnight: Fläckebo B&B
Day 3. Svartådalen
Today we will be up early to lock for Eurasian Wryneck and the several species of Woodpeckers that inhabit this area, including Three-toed, Grey-headed, and Black. Our second conservation experience will be to get involved in the ringing process for Boreal (Tengmalm’s) Owl, which breed in nest boxes that have put out for them. This will be an excellent opportunity to obtain really close views and to photograph these charming little owls. We will also look for the impressive Black-throated Loon, Western Capercaillie, and Northern Goshawk, which also breed in the area, as well as for Woodlark and Parrot Crossbill. We will have an al fresco Swedish breakfast and will get back for lunch to the B&B around noon. Here we can have a short walk around the grounds to see what other species are around.
There will be a relaxed evening excursion around the beautiful wetlands of Svartådalen with Black Tern, Little Gull, and species like the immaculate, summer-plumaged Spotted Redshank, Ruff, CommonGreenshank, and more. Eurasian Bittern, Corn Crake, Spotted Crake, and Grasshopper and Marsh Warblers will all be among the highlights of today’s list.
Overnight: Fläckebo B&B.
Day 4. Svartådalen and Grouse lek
This morning we will rise early to go into the forest in search of lekking Black Grouse on a large bog. These birds are very territorial at this time of year. Other species common to this area at this time of year include large numbers of graceful Common Crane, hunting Western Osprey, and waders like Wood and Green Sandpipers. In the afternoon we will venture out again, this time on the lookout for smaller avian species in the surrounding forest, including Crested and Willow Tits and Common Cuckoo, as well as woodpeckers that appear frequently. Transfer to Västerås Airport and end of services, or overnight at B&B.
Overnight: Fläckebo B&B.
Optional Extra Day 5. Baltic Sea (Coastal Lagoons), Hjälstaviken Nature Reserve
We will visit the coastal lagoons along the Baltic Sea (Uppland), with Caspian Tern, Little Gull, and several species of waders, as well as the impressive White-tailed Eagle and perhaps Montagu’s Harrier. We will visit the scenic Eagle Rock area and search for Red-breasted Flycatcher in the surrounding forest. On the way back, we stop at the birding hotspot Hjälstaviken Nature Reserve – a wetland lagoon with Little Gull and Black Tern – on our way back. Transfer to Västerås Airport. End of services.
Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors.
Finland for bird photography:
About Finland I can tell you that we had very good opportunities to take photos. We got superb photos of species such as Western Capercaillie, Black Grouse, Hazel Grouse, Great Grey Owl, Ural Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Pygmy-Owl, Short-eared Owl, Common Goldeneye, Whooper Swan, Common Crane, Parrot Crossbill, Red-flanked Blue-tail, Rustic Bunting, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-necked Grebe, Siberian Jay, Siberian Tit, Willow Tit, Honey-buzzard, Temminck’s Stint, Common Redshank, Baltic and Little Gulls, Eurasian Jackdaw, Hooded Crow, Arctic Tern, Common Cuckoo, Three-toed Woodpecker and Pied Flycatcher.
We also take nice photos of Dotterel, Black-throated Diver, Ruff, Sedge and Icterine Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Fieldfare, Eurasian Wryneck, Common Redpoll and some other birds.
We missed Terek Sandpiper (we saw it but we can’t take any photos) but another group took very good photos of it before we arrived to the place where the bird was.
To me, it has been an excellent trip to take photographs, plenty of good chances. Undoubtedly it has been the best trip I have made ever in Europe from this point of view.
Luis Mario and Belen Velasco – Spain