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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Sweden: Fall Migration at Falsterbo

2019 Narrative

IN BRIEF: Based in the village of Skanör, at the north end of the Falsterbo peninsula, we were well placed to explore everything the area – and further afield – has to offer. Falsterbo is one of Europe’s prime migration sites although, as with every migration site in the world, weather plays a part in the levels of birds passing through. Unfortunately for the group, the remnants of Hurricane Dorian had just made landfall in Europe and we spent the first we days struggling to stand upright in the strong westerlies that it brought with it. Still, the birds continued to migrate, albeit in lower numbers than usual, with finches, pipits and other small passerines heading south over Falsterbo.

IN FULL: The first day was spent taking a rapid familiarisation tour of the Falsterbo peninsular – from the grassland meadows at Knösen in the north to the lagoon and dedication migration-watching wind-shelter at Nabben in the south. A late Red-backed Strike was the standout bird of the day’s walk, along with first views of many European species such as Barnacle Goose, Jackdaw, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Grey Heron, Stock Dove, Eurasian Kestrel, and a mix of shorebirds. A Pallid Harrier – an increasing but still scare migrant through Falsterbo – was a nice surprise for all.

With strong winds and few places to hide from the weather on the peninsula, we spent two days further inland – the first of those two days was spent exploring the southern coast, where we caught up with a variety of seaduck such as Greater Scaup, Common Eider, Common Goldeneye, and Common Scoter. Of particular note was the number of Eurasian Wigeon passing by – a constant stream all morning. Migration was in full swing even here with pretty much everything we saw – from the ducks to the gulls to the numerous land birds – all making their way southwest along the coast. A ‘grey ghost’ male Hen Harrier battled its way west offshore, hugging the waves, while scores of Eurasian Sparrowhawks sailed along the coast, sometimes passing within just yards of us. Occasionally one of the sparrowhawks would stall mid-air before twisting and turning in pursuit of a migrating Chaffinch or Meadow Pipit. At Smyghuk harbour, Sweden’s most southernly point, we enjoyed great views of our first Robin of the trip as well as catching up with a Rock Pipit on the harbour walls. Exploring some horse paddocks, we finished the day with exceptional views of Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Eurasian Tree Sparrow and, finally, some Meadow Pipits on the ground.

The second of our two days away from the peninsula was spent exploring the area around Krankesjön and Vomb, a bird-rich lake northeast of the town of Lund. En route, we found plenty of Red Kites, Common Buzzards and Common Kestrels – most likely a mix of local birds and migrants that were hanging back ready to leave via Falsterbo when conditions became better. We also jammed in on five White-tailed Eagles, which gave great views as they circled overhead. Several Ospreys were also seen. The lake itself held hordes of Gadwall, Greylag Geese and Mute Swans, while 17 Great Egrets represented pretty much the entire Swedish population of the relative newcomer to the Swedish breeding bird list. The area is famous for Bearded Tit and, although we could hear at least one bird calling from close by, it stayed low in the wind conditions and had to go onto the list as ‘heard only’. After a hearty lunch, we explored some of the woodland that fringes the lake – Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Nuthatch, Eurasian Treecreeper and Marsh Tit were all added to the list.

With the weather now relatively improved, we spent the following day at the southern end of Falsterbo peninsula. We were lucky enough to be able to view some of the birds caught for banding, including Song Thrush, Robin and Goldcrest, before we took a walk to the famous migration-watching spot of Nabben. Its position at the very southern end of the peninsula means that any birds heading through Falsterbo eventually get funneled through this spot. On this particular day the migration primarily consisted of Chaffinches and Meadow Pipits. A Red-breasted Flycatcher was seen briefly in one of the rose bushes, a Peregrine sped by, and a juvenile Hen Harrier flapped past at close range. Offshore, Common Scoter and Dark-belled Brant were heading by. The real action, however, started when we were having lunch. We decided to sit outside – slightly risky, perhaps, given the dark clouds on the horizon; but it paid off. Raptors began to appear overhead. Red Kites, Eurasian Sparrowhawks and, primarily, Common Buzzards. Hundreds of them. Amongst them a Black Kite, an Osprey and a White-tailed Eagle. After lunch we moved to the Bird Station where we could enjoy the raptor migration without having to worry about our soup going cold. Here we enjoyed more of the same, plus Rough-legged Hawk, a single European Honey-buzzard and, best of all (at least by Falsterbo terms) a Greater Spotted Eagle. The evening finished with some song-bird migrants: Northern Wheatears and Whinchats in the fields north of our hotel.

The next day, in comparison, was rather quiet, and one got the feeling that most of the birds might have ‘cleared out’ the day before. Nonetheless, we continued to explore the area. We spent some time in the morning at the reedbed banding station, getting in-hand views of Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Whinchat and others. In the afternoon, in a sheltered spot near to the hotel, we found a mixed flock of Common Chiffchaff, Blackcap, and, best of all, two Spotted Flycatchers. We left the peninsula in the afternoon in preparation for heading to Malmö later that day. Along the south coast we caught up with a flock of European Golden Plover (seen on previous days in flight but this time settled in a ploughed field) as well as some final looks at species such a Red-breasted Merganser, Great Cormorant, Common Greenshank and Northern Lapwing. We spent the night in Malmö before taking the short trip across the bridge to Copenhagen airport.

As usual with Sweden, and despite the challenging weather conditions, we were not disappointed – the comfortable hotel, the tasty Nordic food, and the variety of birds made for an enjoyable week all round.

-Stephen Menzie

Created: 16 October 2019