Birding impressions from the Swedish tundra's in the 80's

John van der Woude  -  www.jvanderw.nl  

In the 1980's and early 90's we visited Northern Sweden several times for trekking in the tundra in summer. These trips were not planned as birding trips but while trekking we were watching birds all the time. Trekking (walking long-distance trails with all equipment and food) in the tundra of Swedish Lapland has three main advantages above trekking in most other areas in Europe: 1. you can drink practically all water you see, and there is a lot of water, 2. you can pitch your tent practically anywhere you like, 3. it will never be dark in summer, so you can walk on as long as you like, or hang around your tent at night. Add to this the pleasure of making fires of the abundant dead birch wood at the tree line, our favoured habitat, and you'll have a happy time. At least until there is a rainy day again.

The main tundra areas that we visited were the Padjelanta, Sarek, Sjaunja, Abisko, Vistas valley. This is all West of Gällivare and Kiruna, the two main cities in Swedish Lapland. We also went a few times to the tundra and forest area of Jämtland more to the South.

The best memories of the birds we met in these tundra areas were, in systematical sequence:

Whooper Swan - several in display in a broad marsh area of Sjaunja
Long-tailed Duck - some flights
Common Scoter - a family at the outlet of a tundra river into a lake
White-tailed Eagle - landing in a tiny birch tree in Sjaunja
Merlin - three young playing at a river bank opposite our tent
Willow Grouse and Ptarmigan - both often taken by surprise
Dotterel - met in the mist in the tundra at a few meters distance
Golden Plover - the most characteristic song of the tundra I would say
Jack Snipe - once singing all night near our tent in Sjaunja
Greenshank - the lady of the dark ponds
Wood Sandpiper - in large trees in stead of in Dutch ditches
Red-necked Phalarope - an excited group in a highly elevated small tundra lake
Long-tailed Skua - didn't like us but we liked him, often well approachable
Arctic Tern - finally an easy place for ID, there are no Commons in the Northern tundra
Hawk Owl - at the campsite of Abisko
Three-toed Woodpecker - at the SW exit of Abisko National Park
Meadow Pipit - always calling and waiting until we left
Redwing - often in the birch woods
Arctic Warbler - in the shrubs along the Rapa river where leaving Sarek National Park
Siberian Tit - at the campsite of Gällivare
Siberian Jay - near Kvikkjokk when coming down from Padjelanta through conifer forests
Redpoll - a large group of dozens at the tree line in Jämtland
Lapland Bunting - trying to hide so often in the low tundra but calling its jazzy song nevertheless

Of course there were more species but these ones stand out particularly.