Birding trip South Sweden 17-24 Sep. 2004
John van der Woude  -  www.jvanderw.nl 
See also photo section  
See also additional info/photos of our trip in Sep/Oct 2006

Falsterbo and Öland in South Sweden are famous destinations for observing bird migration. Falsterbo is at the narrow, extreme south tip of Sweden, so millions of birds from the North (not only from Sweden) have to pass here. Öland is a very elongated and very scenic island along the east coast, and the south tip of it also acts like a funnel for migrating birds from the far North. We had visited both sites long ago, at the early start of the migration (August). This time we went in the 3rd week of September, which can be regarded as a good overall period both for numbers and for diversity of migrating birds. Of course, as at all migration hotspots, you need some luck, especially with the weather.

We went by car and entered Sweden via the new and very impressive bridge between Denmark and Malmö. We first went to Falsterbo for a few days, then to Öland for a few days, and then back again to Falsterbo for the final days. This way we had a chance of picking up different species and numbers at Falsterbo. Moreover, when driving back from Öland to the bridge to Denmark it is only a small detour to Falsterbo.

We camped both at Falsterbo and on Öland. The campsite ('Ljungen') at Falsterbo is right next to the best raptor watch site (just 100 m or so from our tent; the Ljungen heath). On Öland we camped behind the Ottenby youth hostel, which is only 3 km from the entrance to the south tip reserve of Öland.

 


Map of Falsterbo peninsula, showing the birding sites. This map (including the numbers) is at the Falsterbo lighthouse. North is above. Scale: distance between both 5's is about 1300 m.
Falsterbo village is at lower left, Skanör immediately above it.
1 = south tip (upper one is near lighthouse), uppermost 2 = wetlands west of Skanör, 
5 = Ljungen heath, 8 = the canal.
The campsite is left of the left 5. The large ICA supermarket is just N of the T-junction of the main roads SE of the uppermost 2.

 

Our daily routine at Falsterbo was as follows. Before sunrise we drove from the campsite to the tip, and parked our car at the parking place just in front of the gate of the golf course. You 'll find this spot best by following the signs for 'Fyr' (= lighthouse; one of these signs is at N55°23'37,3" E012°50'12,3"). Don't panic if the parking place is already full, just park at some reasonably wide spot along the road back into the village, despite the fact that it is not allowed. Everybody does it, and the signs probably are more meaningful during the busy summer period. And if you don't like this, drive back a bit further until a parking place near some shops. Now walk onto the golf course (see barrier in the photo section) via the public dirt road leading to the lighthouse. Around the lighthouse is a small wood, and just in front of it you can stay and watch the bird migration. However, most people walk on towards the extreme tip of the peninsula (and of the golf course): follow the track past the lighthouse, then take the trail along the western shoreline. At the south tip are several small low bushes giving shelter against the wind if needed. From here, just look to the North and watch the migration. We had days with about 50.000 finches (Chaffinch mostly). From here, also keep an eye open to both shorelines, both for waders as for migrating Sparrowhawks. And please be a bit quiet so others can hear their buntings etc.

After a few hours the migration often decreases, but meanwhile some more raptors may appear. We mostly left the place at about 10 a.m., and drove straight up to Skanör, the village directly North of Falsterbo (you may not be aware that there are two villages, it seems one). Here we often first went to the big and fabulous ICA supermarket (N55°24'43" E012°50'35") to buy food, and sometimes visited the bakery/tearoom a bit behind it. Then we sometimes went to visit some coastal birding sites just NW of Skanör. Mostly however we went back to the campsite for an early lunch at our tent, meanwhile still watching migrating birds overhead (nice additions to our tent list!). At about noon we then always walked to the heath next to the campsite, taking our camping chairs with us, and settled between the dozens of other birders at the border between the open birch wood and the open heath. A telescope is a must here, as many raptors pass at some distance, or should be picked up well before they are already overhead. The numbers of raptors and the side of the heath where they pass, vary with the weather (see maps below). However, generally it is always worthwhile to visit this spot near the campsite, around noon. If you don't see many other birders, then ask 'where they all have gone', because apparently other sites may be better then. It is said that the canal bisecting the peninsula is often a good place then, either at the north tip or at the south tip.

 


Maps (at the Falsterbo lighthouse) showing the raptor migration across the Falsterbo peninsula at different wind directions. 
Mark the position of Ljungen heath. 
These maps are also in the Wings over Falsterbo book.


Raptor watching often ended for us at about 3 p.m. Later in the afternoon we chose between varying destinations, sometimes at the peninsula itself (like at Skanör, see above) and sometimes further away, or we just stayed at the nicely wooded campsite if we had been longer on the heath. A scenic birding site at about 1 hour from Falsterbo is the Krankesjön (N55°41'24" E013°29'35"), a lake with good marshy borders amidst wood patches, and with old arable fields around.

This daily routine could go on for many days, thereby increasing your chances on really good migration days. Nevertheless, having a break of a few days at Öland gives renewed energy for doing Falsterbo for another couple of days. The drive from Falsterbo to the bridge to Öland is c. 300 km, about 4 hours. Try to arrive there a bit early in the afternoon, so you can do some birding at sites on the way down to the far South tip of Öland. These sites are practically all along the East shore where the smaller and quiter of the two southbound roads runs. We liked especially the Sandby 'artillery range' (N56°34'02" E016°39'52"; leave the main road at N56°34'43,2" E016°38'23,8") because of the nice mixture of seaside habitats, and the Stenasa Bad + Camping (deserted at this time). The latter site had some dense small woods that attracts migrating songbirds, and from the watchtower at the shoreline you can see some waders and seabirds. On a later day we also visited one of the few inland sites here on the Alvar, the dry calcareous plateau (few birds now except some Cranes). Driving along the east shore south, the youth hostel + campsite is at the last hamlet before the road turns west towards the entrance of the south tip reserve (Södra Udde). All along this road south you may see some groups of Crane in stubble fields.

The Ottenby youth hostel is cosy and clean, and the campsite behind it (a small meadow) had plenty space. As a camping guest you are free to use the kitchen etc. of the youth hostel. The location is in fact at the northern end of the woods which constitute the upper part of the south tip reserve. I believe there is even a trail from the campsite into the reserve woods.

 


Map of the south tip reserve (Sodra Udde) of Öland. The youth hostel (+camp site) is at the top right. The entrance is at the top left (at Ottenby kungsgard). The lighthouse is at the lower left (Lange Jan). Watch carefully for coastal and land birds along the road down to the lighthouse. Sandvik (lower right) is a bay with waders etc., best to be reached from the P at the lighthouse, across an interesting part of the salt marsh area. Do also try both P's for a walk into the forest (Ottenby Lund) and beyond into the Schäferiängerna. Upper left: road to Grönhögen (shops etc.)

 

It is the extreme south tip of the reserve (and so of Öland) that attracts birders above all. Here is the Lange Jan, the tall lighthouse, with a small grove with bird traps, and with a restaurant with toilets. You reach this on a 4-km paved road straight south from the entrance. The car park is close to the lighthouse. Walk slowly along the grove with the traps, past the lighthouse, and down to a small wind breaker near the sea shore. Here you will find other birders watching the migration, especially in October. September is also interesting here, but most Swedish birders visit Öland later in October, mainly because of a greater chance of finding rarities. We, in the 3rd week of September, found it great to be here at this south tip with only two or three other birders (one birder was counting here every day), especially after the large numbers of birders at the south tip of the Falsterbo golf course. In general, the more natural scenery of Öland compared to the seaside resort of Falsterbo is an extra reason for combining Falsterbo with Öland. The numbers of migrating birds are much lower on Öland, but the species diversity may be equal.

After a few hours watching the migration, you can visit several other interesting parts of this reserve (Södra Udde). From the car park (or from a car park further north, via the south end of the woods) you can make a long walk into the broad salt marshes bordering the eastern shore, with two bays. Here are many geese, ducks and waders, and the salt marsh can hold specialties and rarities. Another area worth a prolonged attention is the paved road. Drive very slowly, and scan both the (western) shore and the small bushes. A third area which we liked was the inside of the woods, especially from the northern car park.

Day-to-day report

16 Sep. 2004. Left home (just S of Amsterdam) at 14.30 h. The weather is much quieter now, after a few stormy autumn-like days. In Germany we followed highway number 1, and following this number made the passing of Hamburg an easy job. At the new AB Kreuz (highway intersection) Lübeck we turned right, then took the first exit (Genin) and drove N through Genin to the Etap hotel (N53°51'03" E010°40'57". See www.etaphotels.com for this convenient and relatively cheap stopover. However, with more time you might as well look for a local Gasthof (hotel/pension), as these are often also not expensive and have definitely more charm.

17 Sep. Left the Etap at 06.30 h and got the Puttgarden ferry of 07.45 h. At sea we saw a few groups of migrating passerines and one Sparrowhawk. In Denmark, it was easy to follow the direction for Malmö and the toll booth appeared to be at the Swedish side of the impressive bridge. Here we had to wait quite a while before we could show our combined ticket for the Puttgarden ferry + this bridge (which we had bought at the Puttgarden ferry), and in fact we could as well have bought separate tickets, because then you can drive quickly through an unmanned gate where you pay with your bank card (Cirrus) or credit card. We arrived at the Ljungen campsite of Falsterbo at 10.45 h (after having seen a Red Kite along the way down from the Malmö bridge), and had the tent ready at 11.30 h. We had a quick bite and walked in a few minutes to the heath where several birders had settled already for the raptor watch. We stayed here till 15.15 h and saw, among others, c. 100 Sparrowhawks, 50 Honey Buzzards, 4 Merlins, 150 Barn Swallows, and foraging Hobbies.

18 Sep. We woke up at 05.30 h and we were at the car park in front of the golf course at 06.20 h where we had the last parking space available. From here it was a 15 minute walk to the extreme tip of the peninsula. There, we first had a lot of Yellow Wagtail migrating, then Tree Pipit, Siskin and Chaffinch, in this order of appearance. The most numerous of these species was Siskin! Other species were, among others, Grey Wagtail, Linnet, Brambling (heard), Sparrowhawk of course (about 120 seen along the west shore), four Merlins, about 30 Honey Buzzards (later in the morning). At the shore, especially south of the south tip, were several waders of course. The migration decreased a bit after 10.30 h (except Honey Buzzard). We departed at 12.00 h, and at 13.00 h we were on the Ljungen heath again (like yesterday), where we had about the same species as yesterday, although in smaller numbers. Dutch friends took us to the Krankesjön site east of Lund (see photo section). From the splendid watch tower we watched 4 Hobbies foraging in the air all the time, and the 2 of 3 Ospreys were also active now and then. Right below our feet we saw a group of 'white-headed' Long-tailed Tits, so their white heads stood out clearly.

Sunday 19 Sep. A mild rain, and we decided that this would be a better day for driving (to Öland) than staying here at Falsterbo. We took it easy and left the campsite at 10.30 h only and even did some shopping at the large ICA of Skanör. We had a lunch stop at the gatukök (snack bar) of Bergkvara (halfway between Karlskrona and Kalmar), crossed the bridge to Öland at about 15.00 h. We took the eastern road down to the south. At Sandby 'artillery range' we noticed Snow Bunting, Golden Plover, Wheatear and others. Nearby at Stenasa is a famous naturalist book shop, which is mainly open in the weekend, and this shop has a large collection of world birding literature. At Stenasa Bad & Camping we saw Pied and Spotted Flycatcher (together on one branch!) and a large number of Goldcrest. The campsite of the Ottenby vandrarhem (youth hostel) had plenty of space.

Mon 20 - Wed 22 Sep. We stayed on Öland until Wed. 14.00 h and saw, amongst others, the following species on the sites mentioned above (but mainly of course at the Södra Udde reserve):
both divers (at sea), Brent and Barnacle, many Eider along the coast, both scoters (small groups migrating), Honey Buzzard (*about 25 migrating), White-tailed Eagle (about 7 along the coastline, adult + subadult + juvenile), the three harriers, Sparrowhawk (c. 50 migrating), Rough-legged Buzzard (c. 25 migrating, often low overhead at the south point), Osprey (1 migrating), Merlin (c. 4 migrating, one cought a Siskin above the lighthouse and flew on with it southward; it seems they eat it in flight, like a Hobby does with insects), Peregrine (1 along the east shore), 11 species of waders (mostly at Stenasa and at the east bays of Södra Udde; 2 Buff-breasted Sandpipers at their stake-out on the salt marsh Schäferiängerna), a few terns only, a few Guillemots and one Auk migrating, 3 dove species, Tawny Owl at the campsite, migration of small numbers of Swift, Sky Lark, House Martin, Barn Swallow, Tree and Meadow Pipit, Red-throated Pipit, Yellow and White Wagtail, Siskin, Linnet and Yellowhammer, and local occurrences of Redstart, Whinchat, Wheatear, Goldcrest, the said flycatchers, Red-backed Shrike (1 at Ottenby), Pied Crow, Tree Sparrow, Greenfinch, Redpoll, Snow Bunting, Reed Bunting.
On Wednesday we were back well in time on the campsite of Falsterbo, because we knew that the weather was good for an early start the next morning.

Thu 23 & Fri 24 Sep. Both days were mainly spent at the above-mentioned sites of the Falsterbo peninsula, with the said daily routine. The migration was marvelous, esp. on Thursday. I quote some numbers for this day from the Falsterbo birding web site (http://www.skof.se/fbo/index_e.html - Archives, kept in detail for one year):
Sparrowhawk 1746, Merlin 20, Barn Swallow 794, Grey Wagtail 14, Chaffinch/Brambling 42280, Siskin 3980.

These are figures for the extreme south tip only. From noon we stayed at the Ljungen heath again, and we witnessed the migration of many raptors, among them c. 70 Red Kites!

The Friday was a bit less, also for the raptor migration in the afternoon. So at about 14.00 h we decided that we could as well leave Sweden now, and break up the journey back to Holland by camping somewhere on the island of Fyn in Denmark. This large island is connected now to both the western part of Denmark as the eastern part by bridges, and you pass Fyn if you don't take the Puttgarden ferry but go from Sweden to Germany all the way by car. We found a campsite (Baringskov, Baring, West Fyn) nicely located in a clearing amidst forest at the northern shore, but the terrain was rather wet now.

Sat. 25 Sep. In the morning we had marvelous weather at the campsite and we added a few species to the 'tent list', like Crossbill and Hen Harrier. We left the place around noon and were just in time at the yearly party of friends in the eastern Netherlands.

 

Links etc. Falsterbo

http://www.skof.se/fbo/index_e.html - Birdwatch - Where - clickable map Falsterbo peninsula.
There also: When - graphs of migration periods per species, in 10-day periods.

(Swedish crowns: 100 SEK = 10,84 euro)

http://www.skof.se/fbo/index_e.html
- Sales - Wings over Falsterbo book + how to order, but also for sale at Fyren (lighthouse) during the weekends from end August till end October. SEK 210 (+ 110 or 80 when by post).
From this book:
http://www.skof.se/fbo/sales/nybok_pdf/Pileland_Sk_e.pdf - map + description of
nine birding sites in Southern Skane outside Falsterbo. Enlarge this view!
E.g. Krankesjön (wetland and open woods), Fyledalen (raptors).
http://www.skof.se/fbo/sales/nybok_pdf/Lokaler_web_e.pdf
- map and description of birding sites
near Skanör, the village north of Falsterbo.
http://www.skof.se/fbo/sales/nybok_pdf/Fagelaret_web_e.pdf
- text about migration periods.

Camping: open till end of September, Skr 160 (200 with electr.) for tent + car, shower SEK 5 per 4 minutes. Plenty of space in September, no need for reservation.
tel. (+46) 40-47 11 32, ljungenscamping@telia.com

Use of kitchen is free, and there is a TV with an extensive weather forecast at 18.50 h on TV4.

Other accommodation:
Vellinge community turiste@vellinge.se
and see http://www.skof.se/fbo/index_e.html - Accomodation - Private rooms. Also for the rooms in the bird observatory.


Links etc. Öland

Ottenby youth hostel + campsite tel. (+46) 485-662062
SEK 120 campsite.
Beds/rooms: http://www.ottenbyvandrarhem.se/ - English - Prices (also for private room).
Open all year, but reception only open 08.00-10.00 and 17.00-20.00.
Use TV4 in the kitchen (18.50 h) for the weather forecast.
Shops etc. in Grönhögen, 4 km NW of Ottenby (7 km from the youth hostel). Small shop also far up along east coast, but easy to combine with visits to birding sites there.

http://www.sofnet.org/ofstn/Engelska/index.htm - Ottenby Bird Observatory, incl. restaurant, which is open around midday, till end of September I believe.
Via the left bar you can find the observation archives, but these are only in Swedish.
Translation is possible via www.travellingbirder.com.


Some nice Swedish food specialties (at e.g. ICA supermarkets:)

Filmjölk (Fil): thin sort of yogurt drink.
Tunbröd: the soft variety of knäckebröd.
Leksand knäckebröd: small triangles (blue wrapping).
Bregott: half butter.
Lingonsylt: jam of cowberry/lingonberry; ICA house brand: 800 gram jar c. 3 euro.
Squeeze tubes with e.g. cheese spread in several tastes, or a caviar mixture, etc.
Gravadlax: the better salmon (slices in plastic).
Senapssil: herring in mustard sauce (in small jars).
Cashew nuts: apparently the staple food at drinks.
Beer: lättöl = lightest; mellanöl = middle; starköl = 'strongest': 3.5%... (not bad!).
Pyttipanna (e.g. deep frozen): hotchpotch of small pieces of vegetables+potatoes.