TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
7 - 13 October 2000
Jeff Price , Jamie McMillan
We arrived at Kalmar Airport in warm sunshine, the airport thermometer reading 18ºC. Jeff Price was waiting outside with two mini-buses and we were soon on our way having seen a welcoming flock of Greylag Geese over the Airport. We crossed over the impressive bridge onto Öland itself and stopped for a dusk watch at the central heath or Alvar, which has a mixture of Juniper and Potentilla shrubs. Here there were plenty of Yellowhammers and a few finches including several superb Brambling. Geese were calling overhead, and then over twenty Cranes flew over calling just to let us know that we were indeed in Sweden.
It was an overcast, calm dawn, and there were lots of birds passing over our hotel with a flock of Tree Sparrows right next to the car park.
After breakfast we drove straight down to Ottenby Bird Station. The car park here was bursting with birders' cars. Jeff told us there must be over a thousand birders here at the moment - possibly even more than on the Isles of Scilly at this time! Just by the roadside, a flock of Barnacle Geese gave us great views and were seemingly unconcerned by the mass of birders.
We went straight to the Bird Observatory itself, and it was soon clear that we were in a major movement of almost incomprehensible numbers of Goldcrests together with Robins. Needless to say the observatory staff were incredibly busy. There were mist-nets all over the place and the Heligoland traps had groups of people chasing birds in and running back to the bird station itself carrying small bags of birds. We were told that over two thousand birds were ringed yesterday, and there was likely to be more today. We watched some of the Goldcrest ringing in progress. Of the thousands ringed, one was a 'recovery' - with a ring that had shown it had come from Estonia, indicating that many of the birds were coming from an easterly direction.
We then went out and helped to drive a Heligoland trap, and were given several birds to hold. It was nice to see common birds like Chaffinch and Robin in the hand and of course the extraordinarily beautiful Goldcrest. In the garden itself the bushes were stacked with birds; even small bushes had half a dozen Goldcrests and the trees had maybe twenty or more Goldcrests per tree. A mist-net left just for a few minutes would have over a dozen birds trapped in it. We also saw Treecreepers in the garden; these were also on migration, and we got fantastic views of this, the pale northern race of our familiar woodland species.
After all this in-the-hand stuff we were keen to get in some more distant birdwatching, and as we walked out to the point Eider and various sea duck were flying past over the sea. Probably the most interesting passage was going on overhead, where raptors were on the move all the time; firstly Sparrowhawk and then two kinds of Buzzard. These were mostly Common Buzzard but at least ten Rough-legged Buzzard flew over during the course of the day. Jeff also had good views of Goshawk while I was watching more Goldcrests with the group.
We went back for coffee at a very nice café under the lighthouse and then headed back to the vehicles. Just north of the bird station is the first major wood and this again was full of birds. Here the autumn colours were magnificent as well, and the shelter of the trees had attracted the odd Swallow, a few Blackcaps and a flock of Woodlarks. In the centre of the wood was a rather dried-out pond and several Swedish birders were wandering around here looking for some rarities that had been found earlier that day.
After a short wait we eventually refound one of them - the Pallas's Warbler. The bird was moving about very fast in a sallow clump and was hard to see, but after about five or six appearances everyone had got good views of this delightful Asiatic jewel of a bird. The Swedes stampeding round the clumps of bushes didn't exactly help, nor did they help Jeff who also found a probable Yellow-browed Warbler by the pond, which was immediately chased away by the birders - one with a dog in tow!
We headed back to the vehicles for lunch in excellent warm sunshine and then headed up north along the east coast to explore. Out first stop at the 'dump-clump' produced the only Lesser Whitethroat of the trip, and then further along we saw an impressive flock of Golden Plover in a field. Further along still we had a sight which is now very rare in Britain: a superb mixed flock of finches and buntings in a stubble field. This consisted mostly of Brambling but there were also Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Yellowhammer in the flock, together with Starlings and the odd Fieldfare. Further along the coast we saw various duck along the shore and had a splendid flock of Barnacle Geese in another stubble field to end the day with.
A front had come in overnight producing heavy rain and it was still drizzling as we left again for the point. There was more wind blowing: a south-easterly four or five today. There were much fewer Goldcrest than yesterday, but there seemed to be more Robins and a few more Treecreepers giving excellent views.
Jeff's friend Bo put us onto a female Peregrine which was feeding on the shore and we had good views through the telescope. We headed north again stopping for excellent views of Barnacle Geese and Cranes, with also a small flock of White-fronts. There seemed to be more Rough-legged Buzzard up here and we had good views of several of these. A short stop at Stenåsa campsite failed to produce the rumoured Olive-backed Pipit but there were incredible numbers of Goldcrests including several feeding on the ground.
At Stenåsa there is an excellent birders' bookshop, Naturbokhandeln, where we headed for lunch. A flock of Cranes flew over and landed in the field opposite. After some time in the bookshop we headed onto a nearby side road, by now it was very windy and many birds were sheltering in the hedge by a ploughed field. These birds included a lovely Siberian Stonechat, very different in appearance to the Common Stonechats that we get in the U.K. and also a female/immature Redstart. We then headed back looking for geese and stopped for several flocks of Cranes and also looked through the flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover. We ended the day at a delightful little seaside settlement, Össby where we had our best views of Rough-legged Buzzard hovering low overhead in the gloomy light.
We awoke to much poorer conditions. The south-east wind had got even stronger overnight and there was quite steady rain. We decided to head north today and started with a long drive past many birdless fields. The villages here were celebrating the autumn by having pumpkins outside their houses.
Each gateway seemed to have at least two of these orange objects on the gateposts and several in tasteful little arrangements of pumpkins and melons. Just a few had halloween-type faces cut into them, but mostly they were just pumpkins.
We got to Kapel Udden Bay at about 10.30 am. Here there was almost a south-easterly gale, but the rain was holding off for the moment. This normally very productive bay was difficult to watch in these conditions but we managed to see large flocks of Dunlin and many Pintail.
After a long scan round Basil came up trumps by finding an adult White-tailed Eagle perched on one of the distant sand bars. Then two more appeared. It was a family group with two adults and the young. One of them suddenly flew low towards us scattering the gulls and then dropped very smartly onto an unsuspecting Black-headed Gull leaping up several times and diving on the hapless bird to kill it. The other two came across to look, and the adult pair left the gull for the young bird to feed on. As we watched first the male and then the female eagle suddenly took off and flew towards us going just a few hundred yards away in the bay, giving us absolutely stunning views of this most impressive of raptors.
It was getting very cold and windy now so we went to look for an open café without any success. The whole island seemed to be closed in the off-season so we resorted to our back-up thermos coffee in a car park on the sheltered west side. A walk to the shore here produced our only Oystercatcher of the trip and there were several Rooks which seemed to be quite scarce in the area. There was rain threatening and it started to come down now very steadily so we went for the long drive south.
We had lunch on the east coast at Bläsehamn, which translates as Windy Harbour, a very apt name with incredible waves out to sea and it was at least a force eight or nine rocking the buses. There was very little to see here except for the odd passing Common Scoter, but we headed south again past more stubble fields giving great views of White-fronts and Cranes. The Barnacle Geese were also showing very well further south.
It was starting to get dark as we continued to the Ottenby Youth Hostel where a 'twitch' was in progress. A walk around the edge of the field showed where the action was in the shape of about forty or thirty 'birders' who failed unfortunately to produce us the Radde's Warbler that had been seen there earlier. We did however get a few consolation prizes. There was a pair of White-tailed Eagles soaring over the wood, and as well as this Rosemary had found both Spotted and Red-breasted Flycatcher amongst a superb flock of the northern race of Long-tailed Tit. We ended the day looking through the Barnacle Geese down at the southern point and managed to find a couple of Brent Geese in amongst them.
It was still windy this morning but quite fine. Almost immediately along the road we saw several White-front and four Bean Geese. These were the rossicus race that seems now to have been split into a new species, Taiga Bean Goose.
As we headed down to the point we saw our first and only Wheatear of the trip. There were many Barnacle Geese here as well. At the point we had some nice sunshine and spent sometime sea-watching, seeing a few Guillemot, a Black-throated Diver and so on. There were a fewer small birds here, although a Treecreeper came and perched right next to us on a picnic table leg!
We then headed back into the shelter of the south wood where we had been to on the first day. There were many birds in the bushes around the car park including Bramblings, and we had female Redstart and several Woodlark on the ground. A young Goshawk flew over giving excellent views and we also flushed a Woodcock here. We then headed back in the vehicle along the point, with the aim The idea of having lunch in the shelter of the hide. Here we had wonderful views of a mixed flock of about three or four hundred Brambling and then had the amazing sight of a Woodcock flying around in broad sunshine and over the lighthouse itself. It showed its very russet colouration, particularly on the under-wing, to advantage.
We then headed north to the wood where we failed to see the Radde's Warbler yesterday. Here there were many Redwings and Songthrush in the trees and another two Goshawk overhead. We also flushed three Woodcock, including one which gave everyone extremely good views. As we were driving away here a harrier flew alongside the vehicle. As it banked we could see the rufous body and wing linings and turning again it revealed itself to be a rather small dark harrier with a very small contrasting white rump. I had also seen this bird head-on, noting the very strong facial pattern. It was most probably a juvenile Pallid Harrier, an extremely rare bird in Sweden but with several records from Öland every year. There were several other interesting features including an orange band along the upper wings and strikingly pale primaries on the under-wing.
The message on Jeff's pager at this point sent us up north to the Siberian Stonechat site for an unsuccessful try at Yellow-browed Warbler but we had several Cranes in fields which gave good views. On the way back in the gloom Jeff encouraged me to take the lead in the mini-bus. My reward was our first Collared Dove, our only record of this on the trip.
We awoke to rain again but at least the wind had dropped. It was very dark indeed as we set off for Ventlinge Woods on the west coast near the southern tip. This time we saw a flock of Whitefronts on the way. When we got there, there were a few birds offshore including Razorbill and many Goldcrest. However the rain drove us back to the vehicles and down to the point where we hoped to shelter in the café.
Here we waited for the rain to stop. When we ventured out, almost as soon as we looked at the garden a Swedish birder pointed up at a fabulous Pallas's Warbler. This gave splendid views in low branches. There was also a roosting Treecreeper here clinging tightly to a tree-trunk with its feathers flushed out in an effort to keep warm. It stayed put until two Swedish birders trying to get closer to the Pallas's Warbler managed to flush it.
It started to rain again and we went into the bird hut here to shelter. This gives great views out onto the shore but also back into the garden and very soon the Pallas's Warbler appeared again out of the window and we went out to get even better eye-level close views of this bird, at times hovering only feet away from us.
We then headed down to the hide and had a good scan of the Barnacle Geese goose flock with three Brent Geese there and also a passing flock of about twenty Little Gulls.
There seemed to be many Reed Buntings that had appeared today and were feeding in the short grass. We then headed back to the south wood again. A short stroll around the car park here produced glimpses of large floppy birds gliding from bush to bush. We had found a Long-eared Owl roost but they were proving very difficult to see. We decided to line up along the road hoping that some of these birds would show themselves but eventually Brian found one and I found another. They were jigsaw birds: on Brian's one we could see the wings and tail, whereas on mine just the head was visible. Piecing these together we literally got excellent views of various bits of Long-eared Owl! Again it was Swedish 'birders' that came up behind us and flushed yet another Long-eared Owl which flew up giving us fine views in flight.
It was clearing now and we headed into the woods for some more possible warblers. We didn't get these but were rewarded by getting good views of the northern race of Nuthatch and also the remarkable sight of a Goshawk chasing a Woodcock, low through the woodland.
We then drove north stopping for at a hugely impressive flock of about three thousand Barnacle Geese which included a few Whitefronts. It was a brethtaking sight when they all took off and landed one field away. A Merlin flying past was an excellent bonus. Further up at the dumper clump a group of Goldfinch and hundreds of Brambling gave us good views. We ended the day again at Össby where there were very few birds but we had our first and only red sunset.
We thought we had had all the weather could throw at us but this morning we woke up to thick fog! Having loaded up the vehicles we set off north to a site on the west coast that Jeff knew. When we got there we could hardly see the track that led down to it but could see the site had great potential. There were plenty of Goldcrest about and also a reed bed from which we could here the pings of Bearded Tits. A few of us glimpsed these. On our way back to the airport we came across the largest flock of Cranes of the trip; several thousand had massed in a field.
Öland had certainly shown us a huge variety of birds and weather during our stay. The potential of this place to produce a good birding trip in autumn or in late Spring is immense. I very much look forward to going back some day. Many thanks to Jeff for introducing us to this superb island and its birds.
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 4-5 w. past Ottenby on 8th.
Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica 2 w. past Ottenby on 9th with one on 11th.
Great CrestedGrebe Podiceps cristatus Several seen offshore on most days. Max c 20 off Össby.
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Seen offshore daily. Most at Ottenby.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Seen offshore daily. Many on rocks at Ottenby.
Mute Swan Cygnus olor Seen offshore daily.
Taiga Bean Goose Anser fabalis Flocks of up to 30 seen on 10th, 11th and 13th.
Tundra Bean Goose Anser serrirostris Up to 6 seen in flocks of Whitefronts on 11th and 12th.
(Greater) White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons Increasing as the week progressed. Seen from 9th, with max 200- on 12th.
Greylag Goose Anser anser Up to 20 seen on 4 days, but no common.
Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis One of the most impressive sights of the trip were the huge flocks of Barnacle Geese, many giving close views. Noted daily with max 3000 on 12th.
Brent Goose Branta bernicla Up to 11 seen on 4 days, usually mixed with Barnacle Geese.
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna Up to 100.
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope Up to 100 noted daily.
Gadwall Anas strepera Flock of 30 at Ottenby on 8th, with 4 there on 11th.
Common Teal Anas crecca Up to 50 noted on 4 days, mostly around rocks on shore
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Seen daily, including many small flocks offshore.
Northern Pintail Anas acuta Up to 50 seen daily. Most at Kapel Udden.
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata Up to 30 seen daily, mostly at Ottenby.
Common Pochard Aythya ferina A few at S. point; most on flooded quarry at Grönhogen
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula Flocks of 50 at S. point; up to 100 at Grönhogen.
Common Eider Somateria mollissima Common offshore - over 100 seen each day.
Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis Five distantly off S. point on 8th.
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 5 - 10 in high winds off Bläsingehamn, 10th.
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula Common offshore. 50 - 100 seen daily.
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator Common but scattered along shore.
(European) Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus One over S. point on 8th - a late record
White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla Superb views of 2 ads + imm. at Kapel Udden on 10th; preying on Black-headed Gull. 2 ads. Seen over N. Lund later that day.
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus An adult male seen alongside road N. of Stenåsa on 10th. A Ringtail over N. Lund later that day.
Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus An imm showing characteristics of this species seen briefly but close at Ottenby on 11th.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus Seen daily. Max 10 on 8th.
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis Seen on 4 days. Most sightings in and around S. Lund, where max 3 sightings on 11th. One seen chasing a Woodcock on 12th.
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo Up to 30 seen daily including impressive flock of 18 over S. Lund on 8th.
Rough-legged Buzzard Buteo lagopus Up to 10 daily seen on 4 days - Best view of one hovering low over Össby.
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Only seen on 2 occasions in the southern farmland.
Merlin Falco columbarius 5 sightings during the week in the south.
Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo One juv. At Enetri on 8th.
Peregrine Falco peregrinus A female feeding on the shore at Ottenby on 8th was the best sighting - 2 others seen during the week.
Grey Partridge Perdix perdix One across the road at Möcklemossen, 7th.
(Common) Pheasant Phasianus colchicus One on west coast, 13th.
Common Crane Grus grus Noted every day except 8th. Seemed to be increasing during the week with largest flock over 500 seen on W. coast, 13th.
Common Coot Fulica atra One amongst the Tufted Duck at Grönhagen
(Eurasian) Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus Just one on west coast at Köpingsvik, 10th.
(Northern) Lapwing Vanellus vanellus Up to 80 seen daily on the fields, but no real evidence of movement.
(European) Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria Up to 500 seen daily; including flocks on the move at Ottenby.
(Eurasian) Curlew Numenius arquata 3 seen at Ottenby on 8th and 11th.
Common Redshank Tringa totanus One at Ottenby on 11th.
(Eurasian) Woodcock Scolopax rusticola 5 seen on 11th, when an arrival had occurred overnight. One seen over the lighthouse at midday; one being chased by Goshawk, 12th.
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 6 over Möcklemossen on 7th; 12 over W. coast on 13th.
Red Knot Calidris canutus One at Ottenby on 11th.
Little Stint Calidris minuta One at Kapel Udden with Dunlin on 10th.
Dunlin Calidris alpina Flocks of up to 50 seen at Kupel Udden and Ottenby.
Common (Mew) Gull Larus canus Seen daily.
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus Seen daily.
Herring Gull Larus argentatus Seen daily.
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3 at Kapel Udden, 10th. Otherwise singles at Ottenby on 3 days.
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus Seen daily.
Little Gull Larus minutus Flock of 20 going W. past Ottenby on 12th.
Guillemot Uria aalge C10 E. past Ottenby on 11th.
Razorbill Alca torda One off Ventlinge on 12th.
Stock Dove Columba oenas Up to 100 seen daily, usually mixed with Woodpigeons.
Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus Large flocks passing through - often several thousand seen in a day.
(Eurasian) Collared Dove treptopelia decaocto One seen by Jamie's minibus at S. Möckleby, 11th - it's on our list!
Long-eared Owl Asio otus One of the highlights of the trips was finding a roost of these at S. Lund on 12th. A least 5 birds present.
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major Singles on 2 days at S. Lund.
Green Woodpecker Picus viridis Singles at S. Lund and W. coast.
Wood Lark Lullula arborea Excellent views of a flock of at least 14 birds on the open ground at S. Lund. Seen on 3 days.
(Eurasian) Sky Lark Alauda arvensis Noted daily: Especially numerous on 9th, when thousands present in the fields.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Up to 7 seen on 4 days, 8th - 12th at S. Lund. Possibly the same 7 'blocked' by the weather.
White Wagtail Motacilla alba Up to 5 seen daily.
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis Seen daily.
Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus A few around the S. Point.
(Winter) Wren Troglodytes troglodytes A few seen daily.
Hedge Accentor (Dunnock) Prunella modularis One or two daily - mostly around Ottenby lighthouse gardens.
(Common) Blackbird Turdus merula A few seen daily.
Fieldfare Turdus pilaris Up to 30 seen daily.
Redwing Turdus iliacus Seen daily, with hundreds arriving overnight on 11th and 12th.
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos Seen daily, approx same numbers as Redwing.
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus Two at S. Lund on 8th.
(European) Robin Erithacus rubecula Ottenby is one of the world's Robin migration capitals - nonetheless the thousands present on 9th were staggering!
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus Two on 9th at N. Lund; one on 11th at S. Lund.
Siberian Stonechat Saxicola torquata mauri One at Stenåsa, 9th.
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe One at Ottenby, 11th.
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca One at Enetri, 8th.
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita Up to 20 seen daily at Ottenby and in the southern woods. Some very pale birds may have been tristis, the Siberian Chiffchaff.
Pallas's Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus One in S. Lund on 8th. Another seen superbly in the lighthouse gardens on 12th.
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla Up to 10 seen on 4 days around the lighthouse and S. woods.
Goldcrest Regulus regulus Almost incomprehensible numbers - certainly in the tens of thousands - present on 8th; lower numbers later in the week, but still the commonest bird by a long way.
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata Two at N. Lund, 10th.
Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva One at N. Lund, 10th.
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus At least 5 splendid northern-race birds in N. Lund on 10th.
Great Tit Parus major Seen daily.
Blue Tit Parus caeruleus Seen daily.
(Eurasian) Nuthatch Sitta europaea 4 of Scandinavian race on 12th in S. Lund.
Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris Up to 30 seen daily. The pale northern race was migrating through, often seen at very close quarters - roosting on treetrunks, even clinging to picnic tables !.
Rook Corvus frugilegus Seen at Kalmar and Köpingsham, on W. coast.
(Black-billed) Magpie Pica pica Seen daily - many on 9th, when a flock of 14 seen at S. Möckleby.
(Eurasian) Jackdaw Corvus monedula Hundreds seen daily. Many of the pale-collared eastern race.
Hooded Crow Corvus corone Up to 50 seen daily - seemed to increase later in the week.
Common Raven Corvus corax Up to 10 seen daily.
Common (European) Starling Sturnus vulgaris Up to 500 seen daily.
Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella Widespread, seen daily. Most at Möcklemossen on 7th, with c100 present at roost.
Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus Seen on 5 days. Max 30 on 12th, with many at Ottenby that day.
(Common) Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Seen daily.
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla Numbers increasing during the week with impressive flocks at Enetri and Ottenby totalling over 200 on 12th.
(European) Greenfinch Carduelis chloris Similar numbers to Brambling, with c200 at Ottenby on 12th.
(European) Siskin Carduelis spinus Seen daily, with flock of 20 - 50 + moving through constantly.
(European) Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis A few seen each day. Max 5 on 11th.
Common (Mealy) Redpoll Carduelis flammea A few overhead each day, often mixed in with the Siskin flocks.
(Common) Linnet Carduelis cannabina Up to 20 seen at Ottenby on 3 days.
House Sparrow Passer domesticus Seen daily.
(Eurasian) Tree Sparrow Passer montanus Seen daily - probably more numerous around buildings than House Sparrow.
Brown Hare Lepus europaeus Seen on 2 days
Fallow Deer Dama dama Seen around Ottenby on two days
Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus Seen at Stenåsa and Ottenby.
Common Pipistrelle Bat Pipistrellus pipistrellus Seen around the hotel
BUTTERFLIES & MOTHS
Fox moth caterpillars