Having heard about the many Pygmy Owls, sighted in Denmark in autumn 1999, we decided to try our luck on this most-wanted species of ours. Through the Internet and e-mail, local birders informed us about a Hawk Owl, also a most-wanted, at Dagsås, near Varberg, Sweden. We wanted to combine these two species with some nice birdwatching, and we managed to do so. In all, we travelled some 2,800 kilometer by car, the Northernmost places visited being Dagsås (West coast) and Tosteberga (East coast).
Since the Hawk Owl and the Snowy and Pygmy Owls have been there for quite some time now, one can expect these birds to linger for a while (and new ones to be found!). So, for the remaining of the winter '99/'00, this report might give you a good chance in finding these sought-after birds. Places that are interesting each winter are, for instance, Fyledalen for big numbers of Red Kite, and Tosteberga for White-tailed (and maybe Golden) Eagles.
As said before, we travelled by car (Audi A4 Avant) and were able to drive fast in Germany (some 180 km/hr), thus shortening the time spent travelling. Once in Skåne, the southernmost province of Sweden, distances between birding sites were short, so we didn't have to drive a lot there.
Temperatures were moderate for this time of year: only about 2°C during the day, and maybe just below 0 during the night. Therefore, there weren't many White-tailed Eagles around: these come in bigger numbers when the wheather up north is really bad. Beware of the early time that the sun goes down: this is at about 16.00, but it doesn't get truly dark until about 17.30!
The following Internet pages are important when preparing a trip into Scandinavia:
Danish bird news is available on http://home5.inet.tele.dk/rolfc/. This page is updated at least once a week, and is in English. Bird news from Skåne (southernmost province in Sweden) is updated (almost) daily on http://www.skof.se/obs/sk.htm. Bird names are stated in English and Latin. Swedish pager news, available almost immediately, is found on http://club300.se/sokarlarm/sokarlarm.cfm. First comes the national news, and then the regional news (Regionallarm). The name of the province is stated, then the place and the number of birds involved. Unfortunately, all info is in Swedish, so one needs a translater. I'll give you three names to start with: Fjälluggla = Snowy Owl; Hökuggla = Hawk Owl, and Sparvuggla = Pygmy Owl. There are plans, however, to start giving the pager news in English. Swedish news, with bird names in Swedish and Latin, is found on http://www.club300.se/ under 'aktuella obsar'. It is updated about once a week. Finally, there is a site about Skåne bird sites: http://www.skof.se/lok/lokframe.htm. It deals with over 100 sites, but is unfortunately in Swedish. I had the part about 'Fyledalen' translated (no. 91) and so was able to get directions to the spot from where one can watch the Red Kites in this beautiful small valley.
People who helped us in preparing the trip were:
Pierre Unge (Malmö, Sweden), who sent us SMS-messages every time a new discovery was made in Skåne. His e-mail-addres is email@example.com. Other people who sent us valuable info on Sweden were Erling Jirle, Stefan Cherrug and Mikael Nord. Holger Schritt (Germany) sent us his site descriptions, which were very accurate (and can be found in this report). Danish news was kindly provided by Ole Post, Per Smith and Rolf Christensen. Finally, the Fyledalen part of the Swedish Skåne page was translated for us by Teus Luijendijk (The Netherlands).
Bertus de Lange
Kees de Vries
Left Alphen a/d Rijn at 20.30. Then Utrecht, Hengelo (21.35), Osnabrück (Germany, 22.25), Bremen (23.10), Hamburg (23.55), Lübeck (0.25)...
Arrived at Puttgarden 1.15. The boat for Rødby Havn (Denmark) leaves every hour: we left at 1.40. Arrival at Rødby Havn 2.30. The combined two-way pass for the Germany-Denmark and the Denmark-Sweden crossing cost us (with Scandlines) 290 DM: that is for a car and 4 persons. Kopenhagen (3.45), Helsingør (4.10), arrival at Teglstrup Hegn 4.25. 'Slept' in the car until 7 and walked the 5 minutes to the presumed Pygmy Owl-spot (see below) but didn't find it. Wheather was clouded, not very cold, no wind. The spot is an open mixed forest (with a lot of hurricane-damage), not very big, but big enough to miss a Pygmy Owl. This species is apparently not very active with overcast sky.
Took the 10.10 ferry from Helsingør to Helsingborg (Sweden) (boats leave every 20 minutes or so), and then the highway ('E 6') towards Göteborg. Arrived at Dagsås 12.15, where we found the Hawk Owl almost immediately. For a site description, see below. It is a really quiet spot, no people and few birds. Left this place at 13.35, arriving at Glommen harbour 14.00. Here we left at 15.45, arriving at Malmö 17.30. We stayed at the Formula 1 Hotel (follow 'centre' until the highway stops: it is located next to the McDonald's), which cost 250 Swedish crowns per room (of three persons at most) (about 15$ a person when shared with two, like we did). Met with Pierre who gave us some info on which birds were around.
Got up at 6.30, left at 7.15. Arrived at Gessie Villastad (site for Snowy Owls, see below) at 7.40, still dark but some visibility. Both Snowy Owls were found easily, still hunting low over the meadows. They were seen perched next to each other, on the piles 100m from the foot path. Left at 8.30 and drove straight to Silvåkra (see below). There, at the birdtower next to the Krankesjön-lake, was the Pygmy Owl waiting for us. It was seen very well and could be approached up to 5m. The wheather here was sunny, but the wind was cold. We checked the Krankesjön and the Vombsjön, and the area in between for eagles. We also had a go at the Ilstorp Snowy Owl (see below), but didn't find it.
Left for Landön and Tosteberga at 12.30, and arrived there at 13.30. Wheather was very sunny and the landscape beautiful. No Golden Eagles, though. Left Tosteberga at 15.00, arriving at Fyledalen at 16.30. Sun was already down, but there was plenty light to see Red Kites coming in from all directions. At least 54 of them were in the air at one moment! Arrived at Malmö 18.15. Same hotel, and met with two Dutch videographers at the McDonald's, who had been filming both Hawk and Snowy Owl up close. (They did the same with Pygmy Owl, on Sunday...).
Got up at 6.30, left at 7.10 for Torekov, situated on a peninsula at the Swedish West coast. Arrived there 8.30. Normally a good place for Black Guillemot, we didn't find any, for there was thick fog everywhere. Nothing at nearby Skälderviken, where the previous day BG and Pygmy Owl had been reported. Took the 10.10 ferry to Helsingør (Denmark). Arrived at Nžstved, another place for a long-staying Pygmy Owl (see below) at 12. The park/forest in which the bird should be, was very crowded with people, and also with alarming songbirds, but these seemed to make that noise because of the birders. Nonetheless, a rather beautiful but big forest, so we didn't find the owl. The many Dippers at the waterfall were great, though.
Left Næstved at 13.25, arrival at Rødby Havn 14.30, ferry to Puttgarden (Germany) at 14.35, arriving there at 15.30. Hamburg (16.45), Osnabrück (18.30), Enschede (McDonald's), Alphen a/d Rijn (21.30).
For this species we had three locations: Teglstrup Hegn, near Helsingør (Denmark); Næstved (Denmark) and Silvåkra (Sweden). In the early morning of 14th, we tried at Teglstrup Hegn. We tried both places, marked with black dots on the map below.
But we didn't see nor heard the birds. Later we found out that the two Pygmy Owls, already present here for more than a month, had been heard that morning one kilometer away from where we were. According to the Internet, sometimes the birds will call between 7.30 and 8 a.m., when it's still dark. They are occasionally seen. For instance, on Sun 16th, no less than four were seen and heard here! This is the description of how to get to the site:
From the road intersection where road 6 (Hillerod-Helsingør) crosses road 213 (Espergarde- Alsgarde)(Exit no. 3 on the "E 47"/"E 55" highway Kopenhagen - Helsingør) one has to drive on road 213 towards Alsgarde about 5 kilometers. Arrive at a brand new round-about and turn right. The sign reads: "Nygard". After only a couple of hundred meters you are in the small village of Nygard and on your left you will see the sign: "Hellebaek 4 km". This is just across from the school building. Turn left.
You see a large white farmhouse at the corner - a riding center. After about 1000 meter you enter a military excercising and shooting area, but you are allowed, no problem. A bit further up the road you will see a large, farm-like house with a black roof and red walls surrounded with trees on the left side of the road. On the right side of the road you will find a parking lot. Park the car here.
Go back along the road 50 meters and turn LEFT down a gravel road (this is going south). After only some 50-60 meters you pass between two small ponds. Go on and enter the forest, after some 250 meters. In the forest you just go 50 meters and find a fine gravel road. Turn right (going west). On your right hand you will see quite a few large trees felled by the recent hurricane. Next you will walk between a larger lake on your right hand and a smaller on your left. You are now very close. Just passing the lakes you are there. If you go on another 50 meters you will see some large stones more or less on top of each other on your right hand. Go no further. The Owl is most often seen and heard between these stones and the lake. (This was the spot we tried, but failed).
Another spot that has been located is more difficult, but only 200 meters from where you are now. As you pass the lake on your right hand you can find a much smaller forest track on your left hand leading upward through the conifer trees. The road is rather wet and damaged by military jeeps. It leads over a ridge. It is wet and rather muddy. After some 200 meters you will find a small patch of birch trees and the Owl is said to be heard in there - but in any case would be difficult to see at this location. (If one follows this path for several 100 meters more, on the right hand there will be a rather large clearing: this is the place where the owl(s) are heard and seen mostly - so the black dots on the map indicate the places where they are only occasionally seen!).
This bird is found near the back of Næstved Central Hospital (Sygehus in Danish). You have to find a stream, called "Ellebaekken". There are signs pointing you to the Næstved Central Sygehus. At the waterfall in this stream, up to 11 Dippers have been seen. (We tried this Pygmy Owl between 12 and 2 p.m. on the 16th, but failed. The forest/park behind the hospital is quite large: stay close to the fence at the back of the hospital. Standing with your back to the hospital, and following the path to the right you will find a small clearing, where the bird has been seen most, according to a local birdwatcher. There are a lot of songbirds around: these may indicate the whereabouts of the owl by alarm calls).
In Sweden other Pygmy Owls were discovered in Kristianstad and Beddingestrand.
Take the "E6" towards Varberg. We used the exit "Tvååker" (south of Varberg). Drive through Tvååker towards Åkulla. Find your way to Dagsås. After you reached Dagsås you come to the junction where the left turn leads to Varberg and the right/straight road to Åkulla (sign: Åkulla 10).
After this turn you drive 200 meters and then you turn left (north) onto a dirt road. You drive for about 150 meters until you reach a couple of houses. Then you take right and drive 300 meters. This is the place where the Hawk Owl usually sits on the telephone wires.
Just before you reach the field with the wires you see a small forest on your right with some parking spaces and a creek in front. The bird can also be in this forest, halfway up the trees. (We saw it on top of a birch in this forest, but after half an hour the bird flew to the wires to hunt from there).
Further down the road (ca. 300-400 m) towards the lake is another forest on the right with walking-tracks. Local birders reported 2 Pygmy Owls at the entrance area on 6th January 2000.
Take the "E6" Highway from Malmö to Trelleborg. South of Malmö exit at "V. Klagstorp". Drive into the village Tygelsjö, don't turn anywhere but drive straight through the village and follow the road all the way until you see a village entrance sign "Gessie". Don't enter Gessie, before that sign make a right turn signposted as "to Gessie Villastad". Follow the road for ca. 2 km until you reach the village "Gessie Villastad". Drive through that village until you see the 90° bend. Exactly from that curve is a footpath leading towards the sea. Follow the footpath for ca. 300-400 m. (At dawn, we saw the two Snowy Owls on the right side of the path sitting on the fence-piles, just about 100 meters away).
A local birder informed us about another Snowy Owl, also present for quite a while, near the village of Ilstorp. This village is found some 15 kilometers SE of Silvåkra, just SW of Sjöbo. Go East on the road, from the small white church of Ilstorp: after about 1 kilometer a white sign on the left indicates a road going right. Take this turn, towards the small airfield. In the fields roughly between the church and the airfield this bird has been seen mostly, but irregularly. (We only tried this spot for about half an hour: no Snowy, but a nice large group of Taiga Bean Geese was found).
Also around at the time of our visit there was a female Steller's Eider at Beddingestrand and a first-winter male Pine Bunting, present at/near a feeder near Göteborg. Its site description is:
NW of Göteborg. Follow signs "Hisingen", "Torslanda", "Öckerö" on Road 155. After several kilometers there is a round-about with a left turn to Andalen and Sandvik. First comes the right turn to Andalen, don't turn here, drive further and take the right turn to Sandvik. Save time and drive into that "Sandviksvägen". You can park 100 m before house no. 34. Behind the house is a feeder, sometimes the bird visits that place. Seems it is feeding on the ground, but the floor around the feeder is not visible from the road. The house-owners don't like birders anymore to enter their property. Beside the feeder is a tree where most birds land before going down to feed. Here one can see the bunting. But opposite the no. 34 across the road is a belt of bushes. Here the Pine Bunting sometimes lands in late afternoon to rest and clean itself. (We did not try for this bird ourselves, but it was seen by Holger Schritt a week before our trip. Whether this bird is twitchable the whole winter, nobody knows.)
Glommen harbour is a nice and small fishing harbour, with lots of large gulls around, either in the harbour or on the beach and rocks just S of it. We saw the 2nd winter Glaucous Gull, present there for over two months, and supposedly a 1st winter Iceland Gull also frequents the place. Later we found out about a possible/probable adult winter Kumlien's Gull that has apparently been visiting this site for the past three winters. When checking the 220+ Common Eiders, about 1 km S of the harbour, we found an adult male King Eider. We drove up to the lighthouse and could see it very well. This species is quite common on migration, but is not seen regularly during the winter (along the W coast, that is).
The Vombsjön/Krankesjön area holds good numbers of Red Kites (we saw about 1 every km or so). White-tailed Eagles should be around, as should the occasional Golden Eagle. Between the 100's of Taiga Bean Geese, occasionally a Lesser White-fronted Goose is seen. The lakes themselves hold not many (species of) ducks, but the Bearded Reedlings heard at the Krankesjön might be a good species for Sweden. Just W of the Vombsjön is a wet field with several 100's of Whooper Swans that we could watch up close from a dirt road.
The (E) coast at Landön and Tosteberga is rocky, with small rocky islands. There are mixed forests nearby, and meadows with fairly big groups (300 on average) of Taiga Bean Geese. There should be a feeding place for eagles here somewhere, but we couldn't find it. Remarks about it made by local birders were contradictory. We didn't check out this place beforehand, but heard about it at Ilstorp. Although we had come for the Golden Eagles, it wasn't disappointing, for we saw several White-tailed Eagles and large numbers of Long-tailed Ducks. The latter were only seen far out at sea, though.
Fyledalen is a small river valley, created by the 'Fyleån'. It has rather steep sides, aligned with big trees (oak and birch among others). This is the place where a couple of pairs of Golden Eagles breed, and they also stay in winter. This is also the place to be for large numbers of Red Kites that sleep here communally. And several White-tailed Eagles also spend the night here. Mornings are probably best, because the birds of prey can be seen when they leave the trees in daylight. A local birdwatcher told us that no less than 300 Red Kites come here every evening! Sometimes they all sleep together, but they can also spread out through the valley in smaller groups. The group we saw consisted out of at least 54 birds. They start coming in when the sun is already down, but, as stated before, the light will only fade slowly.
Directions are taken from http://www.skof.se/lok/lokframe.htm. This site is, unfortunately, in Swedish.
To get to Fyledalen, follow road no. '19' for about 7.5 km NE of Ystad (situated at S coast). 1.1 km after Tomelilla (and the bridge crossing the Nybroån) take the turn towards Lyckås. One arrives at the S part of Fyledalen. Keep on driving until Lyckås' castle and follow the 'Fyledalen' sign. The S part can be viewed from the road, about 900 m N of Lyckås' castle, where there's an opening in the trees. Eagles and kites prefer the E part, especially when there are W winds. Three km past (N of) Lyckås, where the road crosses the river towards Tomelilla, is a concrete plate on the left hand side. The view from here is excellent. This is also the place from where we watched the Red Kites. To see eagles, it is probably best to be there early in the afternoon, or in the morning.
Torekov and the peninsula S of it, Kullen, are said to be good in winter for Black Guillemot. Because of lack of time and, more importantly, thick fog, we were not able to explore these sites thouroughly.
Canada Goose Branta - canadensis ssp.
(Too) common at several wetlands, such as Gessie; Vombsjön and near Næstved
Common Pheasant - Phasianus colchicus
Recorded in Sweden and Denmark.
Leiden, 17th January 2000
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