Four days at Falsterbo, Sweden (Oct 4-7th)
Falsterbo is the southwesternmost tip of Sweden, pointing west towards Denmark. It has been known for its massive migration of birds for a long time and migration counts have been made since the 1940’s. Nowadays the migration is surveyed on a daily basis from 1st of Aug until 20th of Nov and all migrating birds are recorded. For the daily counts check the website of Falsterbo Bird Observatory.
Falsterbo is a world famous site also for raptor watching, with good numbers going through particularly in fall. Eurasian Sparrowhawks and Common Buzzards make up the bulk of the migration, but European Honey Buzzards and Red Kites are well represented too. All in all more than 20 species of raptors go through each season.
My reason for visiting Falsterbo at this time of year was to study the nominate form of Common Buzzard and the Red Kites, with additional hopes for Rough-legged Buzzard, Merlin, Peregrine and Hen Harrier. But, as often happens when you are relying on migration, you may easily draw a blank, and this is more or less what happened.
I had hoped for blue skies and light winds with thermals of raptors overhead, but was instead met by low clouds and strong winds and a very poor raptor migration. This is something you should be prepared for, but every time it happens it feels like a failure. After all, flight tickets, car hires and hotels don’t come cheap, but this is part of the game, maybe better luck next time?
Still, I did not end up empty-handed. We had nice encounters with local Red Kites following a tractor ploughing the fields, the graceful raptors descending down to feed on earthworms together with 2000 or so Mew and Black-headed Gulls.
And we did see Merlin, Peregrine and Hen Harrier, but no hoped for photos. The most impressive sight was to watch a near-adult White-tailed Eagle grab a Barnacle Goose in flight over a stormy sea and then bring the catch back to shore.
And, the migration was not that poor after all. On Sunday the 6th we watched a massive passage of finches, with more than 310 000 tallied for the day, supplemented by 1500 crossbills! And on Mon the 7th over 350 Sparrowhawks were counted, with many adults, as expected, this late in the season. But the hoped for buzzards and kites never appeared. When the sky cleared around midday on Sunday, there was a small attempt by the buzzards, and we had some 100+ flying west, but the weather changed too late in the day for any bigger movement to start.
Anyway, it was a good experience after all. I met some old Danish and Swedish birding friends learning a lot from them about the migration and the bird life of Scania, Sweden’s southernmost province.
Reaching Falsterbo is easy nowadays with the new 16 km long bridge (The Bridge from TV!) connecting Denmark with Sweden. Cheap flights to Copenhagen are easily arranged and with a hired car you reach Falsterbo in 40 minutes from the airport. Definitely worth a go. And good luck with the weather.
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- 10.9.13 / 11am