23–26 February 2014
This wonderful tour to Sweden is for a number of Scandinavian specialities including Golden and White-tailed Eagles, Northern Goshawk, Rough-legged Hawk, owls, woodpeckers, Eurasian Nutcracker, Siberian Jay and Pine Grosbeak. We will also have the opportunity to see several species of mammal including Elk and Red Deer and possibly Wolf or Beaver.
Day 1 We will depart from London on a morning flight to Stockholm. On arrival, Daniel Green, our English-speaking Swedish tour leader, will meet us. We will then transfer to Svartådalen (the Black River Valley), a couple of hours to the north-west. We will stop en route for hot drinks and food and to watch a garden feeding-station popular with Hawfinches and other species including Eurasian Bullfinch, Common Redpoll, Eurasian Nuthatch, Yellowhammer, European Greenfinch, Marsh, Great, Blue and Coal Tits, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Fieldfare, Eurasian Blackbird, Eurasian Jay and occasionally Hoary Redpoll, Eurasian Siskin or Brambling. We will then spend the remaining period before dusk looking for Eurasian Pygmy-owls, which are often seen perched in the tops of roadside Spruce trees. On our arrival in the small village of Sätra Brunn, situated in the heart of Svartådalen, we will settle into our first night's base: the Sätra Brunn Spa & Conference Hotel. The hotel consists of over a hundred red-painted wooden cottages and houses set in a large park where mature trees attract a wealth of woodland birds. We can use the hotel's spa facilities (inside or outside!) and gaze upwards through the steam into the starry, northern sky if we choose outside!
Day 2 After breakfast we will head out into the surrounding countryside for a full day's exploration of the valley, taking packed lunches with us. Svartådalen offers a pleasant patchwork of deciduous and coniferous forests, farmland, lakes and wetlands, frozen and snow-covered in winter but thawing by the time of our visit. We will explore this quiet landscape on winding roads passing by pretty red-painted wooden farmhouses. We will focus first on a search for Northern Hawk-owl. These owls can often be seen during the day perched in tree-tops or on telephone poles and can give excellent views and photographic opportunities. Later we will visit a forest feeding-station popular with both Eurasian Nutcrackers and Grey-faced Woodpeckers. These birds often show really well at close range, providing further opportunities for photographers and viewers alike. Here, we will also hope to see Crested, Coal and Willow Tits, Eurasian Bullfinch, Eurasian Nuthatch of the Scandinavian race, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Long-tailed Tit of the Scandinavian white-headed race. At dusk we will focus once again on owls, looking for Northern Hawk-owl and Eurasian Pygmy-owl as they sit atop their favourite lookout points and watch for voles. Throughout the day we will also look out for such winter visitors as Rough-legged Hawk and Great Grey Shrike as well as resident raptors including Golden and White-tailed Eagles and Northern Goshawk. Towards the end of the day we will drive north for a couple of hours to the Jädra Ås Herrgård (guesthouse) with its welcowelcoming open fire in its dining room and excellent home-cooked food. We will stay here for one night.
Day 3 The tiny village of Jädra Ås is surrounded by taiga forest and overlooks a river. After enjoying breakfast at our guesthouse we will visit the feeding-station at Okelbo for Siberian Jay and Grey-faced Woodpecker. As we watch the curious Siberian Jays, we will enjoy an outdoor feast by grilling some locally-produced sausages over an open fire. Hopefully satisfied with rewarding views and photographs of the Siberian Jays, and fortified by our al fresco meal, we will head back to the Black River Valley via the River Dalälven. Here, White-throated Dippers of the black-bellied race may be found and Eurasian Pygmy-owls sometimes occur by the roadside. Back at Sätra Brunn, we will settle in once again to our rooms in the hotel and perhaps cap the day with a pre-dinner visit to the spa.
Day 4 This final morning will be spent looking for White-tailed Eagles around Lake Fläcksjön, before venturing deep into the vast taiga forest where Black Woodpecker, Hazel and Black Grouse and Red Crossbill are amongst the birds that may be seen. Here we will also look for Northern Goshawk and Golden Eagle and have a small chance of finding Eurasian Capercaillie or Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker. During the tour we may well see some of Sweden's mammals including such common species as Elk, Roe Deer, Red Deer, Red Fox, Brown and Mountain Hares, Red Squirrel, Stoat, Weasel and Mink. There is even a possibility of one of the more elusive residents: Lynx, Wolf, Beaver, Otter or Wild Boar! If we have time, we may re-visit the forest feeders for further views of Crested Tit, Eurasian Nutcracker and Grey-faced Woodpecker or put in a final search for Northern Hawk Owl. We will also keep our eyes open for Bohemian Waxwing and even the occasional Pine Grosbeak, which can appear in any garden in the picturesque small villages of the valley. In the late afternoon we must drive back to Stockholm for our flight to London.
General Information The climate can be highly variable, from mild to very cold with some rain or snow possible. Accommodation and food standards are very good. Transport is by minibus. There are no special health requirements. A moderate degree of fitness is required for some of the walks. Photographic opportunities are excellent.
Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 12 with two leaders.