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Stephen Menzie from his non-birdtour a bird observatory,

May 27: Stephen Menzie from his non-birdtour a bird observatory,

It’s been a spring of changes for me, and not just for the obvious reasons. In early March, I moved from the UK to southern Sweden where I began work as the new manager of Falsterbo Bird Observatory. It’s an area I know well, having worked here as a bander in the past and, indeed, leading the WINGS fall tour – but, nonetheless, a permanent move abroad is always a much bigger step than three months here and there. My flight in landed in Copenhagen, Denmark, before I took the short journey across the Oresund bridge into Sweden. I was lucky. Very lucky. Had I arrived a week later, I wouldn’t have been able to cross the border.

It’s been well publicized that Sweden has taken a rather relaxed approach to the current global situation. Friends in Stockholm would beg to differ that the situation up there is far from normal – Swedes are good at social distancing, even without government enforcement; but, down here, away from the cities, life is, by and large, carrying on as normal. At least it is at the observatory. There are just a few of us working and living here and every morning is spent banding birds as part of the observatories 41-year systematic monitoring of migrant passerines.

2020 has been a fairly average spring – although average in Falsterbo means over 3,000 birds banded so far.

The bulk of these have been European Robins, above, and Willow Warblers.

Niceties amongst the usual fare has included a Ring Ouzel, a Grasshopper Warbler, both above, and an above-average number of Common Redstarts.

Of course, walking the net rounds all morning inevitably results in some birding, and notable sightings whilst ‘working’ having included a Eurasian Green Woodpecker, several Wrynecks, both above, a young female Hen Harrier, flocks of Western Yellow Wagtails (including many of the dark-headed subspecies thunbergi, above), White Wagtails, and Eurasian Sparrowhawks.

It’s not just birds that have been the focus of my photographic attempts. The small windmill outside the bird observatory building – which will look familiar to anyone who has been on my Falsterbo tour; it’s a great raptor watching spot! – has provide photo inspiration day and night, above.

Mid-May is two-thirds of the way through the spring season, but it’s just about now when we start to see some of the really exciting summer migrants arriving. Species such as Red-backed Shrike, which should be with us any day now. They’re one of those species that’s a joy to see at such close range but a nightmare to handle. Their nickname of ‘butcher bird’ is well deserved. Watch this space for further updates including photos of Red-backed Shrikes and butchered bander’s fingers…

Posted: May 27, 2020