Introduction /  Timing and time needed /  Getting there /  Transport /  Weather /  Habitats /  Gen. /  Useful links /  Maps /  Sites /  Tape lures /  Costs /  Accommodation /  Itinerary /  Blow-by-blow birding account /  Systematic list /  Conclusion /

Uppland and Västmanland, Sweden

or Anyone seen any Three-toed Woodpeckers?

(with apologies to Chris Bradshaw)

April 7th-13th 2001

Simon Woolley and Julia Casson

A page of dynamic and exciting photos of our trip is also available.

Please send any comments or notes of errors to Simon Woolley

This is currently a lengthy document. PLEASE BE PATIENT! I will split it into a dozen or so much smaller ones when I have time (some time this week [writing 22nd April 2001!])

Click on these section headings to navigate, or scroll down :


  • We visited Finland and northern Norway on a birding trip in 2000, and used Stockholm as our 'gateway' into Scandinavia. We thoroughly enjoyed our brief stay in the vicinity of the Swedish capital, and decided to return to the area in 2001, not least to mop up a few specialities we'd missed last year.
  • The big 'lifer targets' for Simon were Pygmy Owl, Grey-headed Woodpecker and Parrot Crossbill, while, in addition, Julia still needed Capercaillie, Black Woodpecker, Three-toed Woodpecker and Nutcracker. All these species are feasible in the Uppland/Västmanland region.
  • In addition, we kept a weather eye out for White-backed Woodpecker, although this species is now sadly virtually extinct in Sweden. Just a bare handful of individuals is left, and it seems likely that the population will dwindle to zero in the very near future. More of this issue below, but suffice it to say at this point that we held out no real hope of seeing the species, despite visiting some possible sites.

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Timing and time needed

  • As ever, we were tied to school holidays, though in this case, that was no great problem. The end of March is probably the peak time for drumming woodpeckers, but the weather becomes progressively more dependable in April. Owls are quite vocal at this time of year, too, although getting to see them is much harder than in May or June, when the nights are shorter, and the birds have young to feed.
  • Migration is of course well underway at this time of year, but some surprising species (for British birders) are involved, and absent! Chaffinches had just arrived back in the woods, White Wagtail numbers were rising fast, the first Goldfinches were just in, and Mistle Thrushes and many other passerines were on the move. But there were no Chiffchaffs, no Willow Warblers, and few migrant waders on the coast.
  • A week is sufficient to visit the sites mentioned, and perhaps others besides, depending on one's luck with the target birds!

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Getting there

  • We flew with Ryan Air from London Stansted to Västerås Airport. Västerås (pronounced [roughly] 'Vestaross') is about 80km WSW of Uppsala, and about 110km WNW of Stockholm.
  • The tickets cost us £118 return each via the Ryan Air website (which qualifies you for a discount above and beyond their normal fare). It's possible that still cheaper seats might be available from time to time. The flight takes about 2 hours, and is of the 'no frills' type, with no free food or drinks. It's a bit like taking a bus, really!
  • Västerås airport is extremely small (smaller than Inverness), and will not be completed until June 2001. So while you'll be fine in future, we had the unedifying experience of collecting our bags from what can only be described as a muddy-floored chipboard shed. On the way back, the 'departures lounge' was again unfinished, almost unfurnished and bitterly cold.

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  • We hired a VW Polo from Europcar (booked in advance) at the rather expensive rate of £228. It is important at this time of year to ensure that your hire car is equipped with metal-studded tyres (dubbdäck), since many of the forest roads are still quite icy, especially early in the morning.

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  • Somewhat mixed! The first two days produced low cloud, fog and some rain, the middle of the week was lovely, with clear skies and still air (almost like spring!), and then snow arrived at the end of the week, with a covering and icy roads by the end of the week, when a very stiff NNE wind got up, reducing the air temperature (including wind chill) to at most -20°C! It's very cold in Sweden…

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  • The key habitat in the region is forest. Contrary to popular opinion, Sweden is neither wall-to-wall trees, nor all conifers.
  • First of all, in this region at least, there is lots of agricultural land. Much of the farming is at low intensity, and the pastoral landscape of cottages, woodpiles, rocky islands of trees in the middle of fields, against a background of dark trees, is charming and very rich in birds, notably farmland birds now scarce in much of Britain. It was a real highlight of the trip to see so-called 'common' birds in good numbers in the 'ordinary countryside', away from nature reserves.
  • Second, the forest is very varied and differs from place to place. Primary old growth forest is now very rare in southern Sweden, but can still be found at sites like Olas Skifte, Färnebofjärden NP and Fiby Urskog. This type of forest is immensely beautiful, but makes for tough birding - tracks are often tree blocked, there are swampy defiles, and growth is so dense that actually seeing the birds can be hard. But don't miss this great habitat.
  • Old growth forest is an absolute requirement, it seems, for just one species, the White-backed Woodpecker. The calamitous decline of this bird in Sweden has been the result of modern forestry leaving very little standing, dead, old wood in its operations. White-backed Woodpeckers seem to need numerous such trees, not just the odd one or two in an otherwise managed forest-scape, as will suffice for Black Woodpecker. It does seem as though the final, tenuous link between the (still healthy) south Norwegian populations and those of central and eastern continental Europe is about to be broken (forever?). And that is a real tragedy.
  • The best areas to see forest birds are often along the edges of clear-felled areas in more or less intensively managed forests. Look out especially for areas with mature aspen trees. We rarely see big, mature aspens in (at least southern) England - they are startling and attractive trees, and by all accounts crucial for species like Black and Grey-headed Woodpeckers.
  • The really heavily managed uniform-age forests, especially after the first thinning cycle, are much less attractive to the specialist species. However, clearfell areas, or recent burns, can be good for species such as Great Grey Shrike, Black Woodpecker and (alllegedly) Three-toed Woodpecker.
  • There are also some notable wetland sites in Uppland. Especially notable are Lake Tämnaren and Hjalstaviken. These are important sites for wildfowl, though at the time we were there, Lake Tämnaren was still completely frozen, so we were watching wildfowl on the surrounding fields and floods.
  • In fact, most of the more northerly lakes were still frozen over - come a month earlier, and you can walk, ski or even drive across frozen lakes to find your birds! Or come a month later, and hire a canoe!

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  • Wherever you go birding, the key resource is information, and, if possible, personal contacts. This is especially true with difficult habitat like boreal forest, and difficult species like owls. DO NOT attempt to bird this (or any other!) part of Scandinavia with anything other than very detailed gen. and preferably local help. You will almost certainly go home demoralised and disappointed. Birds are at very low density, and are often inconspicuous. Additionally, to the untrained eye, finding good habitat can be surprisingly hard.
  • We were immensely fortunate to have made contact last year by e-mail with Krister Mild. He initially encouraged us to plan this trip, and was unbelievably generous with his time and expertise prior to departure. He prepared an astonishing set of 40 or so hand annotated birding maps for us, and answered any number of questions by e-mail at length and with great patience. All of the information and birding exploits contained in this report are in very large part derived from Krister's amazing generosity. Thank you!
  • Krister was unfortunately due to be away from southern Sweden during most of our visit (sound recording Pine Grosbeaks and other species in the far north….grrrr!) , but he put us in touch with Ulrik Lötberg, an Uppsala-based birder.

We were delighted when Ulrik offered to go birding with us on day 1, and help us to find some of our target birds. He was joined by Niklas Lindberg, another local birder. At the end of our day, they very generously presented us with a copy of Fågellokaler I Uppland & Stockholms län (Bird Sites in Uppland and Stockholm Counties), of which Ulrik and Niklas were two of the editors. This book, although entirely in Swedish, was of great use to us during the rest of the week. We would recommend strongly that all visiting birders should get a copy. The book costs SEK 250 (about £17), available from Ulrik Lötberg, either via direct payment or into a postal Giro a/c, 22 87 04 -3.

  • We were supplied with a considerable amount of very sensitive and specific site information, on the understanding that we would not make precise details public. We respect the need to protect certain of the more sensitive sites, and hence have suppressed some information herein. Please do not embarrass either us or them by requesting more specific directions than are contained here for rare and sensitive species such as White-backed Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker and certain owls.

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  • Good maps are obviously important. We were fortunate on the large scale front, as Krister's map seemed pretty comprehensive, but for route planning, we ordered the relevant 1 : 250,000 'Red Maps' (Röda Kartan) from the Lantmäteriet, the Swedish equivalent of the Ordnance Survey. The key map was No. 12 (Uppsala) although the adjoining No. 11 (Gävle) was also useful.
  • Another place to look for maps is in digital format on the Internet. The Lantmäteriet website is a good place to start (they also have a complete aerial survey of Sweden online!), but you could also try Expedia, Mapquest or any one of several others.

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This section briefly covers the main sites visited, in roughly clockwise order from Västerås. Also included (in square brackets) are some sites we did not have time to visit, but which come highly recommended.

Lake Hallaren area - displaying Whooper Swans, other wildfowl, owls

  • 30km north of Västerås, drive east from Sala to Heby, then north on the 67. Turn off left to Enåker, and continue west until the road crosses the lake.
  • The woods and forest tracks c. 2km further west are well known to local birders as a good place to listen for owls.

'Tinnasets Nature reserve' (now part of the Färnebofjärden NP)

  • From Enåker (see above), drive less than 1km west, then north (right). Follow the road through Ekedal, and turn off right again at Hallarsbo (tiny hamlet). Drive for about 3km on a forest track and park at the designated site on the left. This area is very well known to Swedish birders as an excellent one for owls, woodpeckers and a good range of other forest species.

Skekarsbo Bird Tower

  • This tower gives fantastic views over the Färnebofjärden NP and the surrounding forests - though it is somewhat vertigo-inducing!
  • Drive north out of Tärnsjö and turn first left, following signs to the bird tower and bearing right at the obvious fork. The tower is set in the woods some 150m from the lakeside.

Gysinge area (just north of Färnebofjärden NP)

  • The rapids at Sevedskvarn and Gysinge itself are both supposed to be good for Dippers, though we saw none.

Lake Tämnaren

  • A large shallow lake, just a few kilometres east of Östervala, frozen in winter and early spring, with large areas of wet surrounding farmland, attractive to wildfowl, cranes and other birds.
  • The main problem is access. The best idea is to drive around the whole lake, taking any turn towards the lake and following it as far as you can. Very few get at all close to the lake itself!
  • The best areas during our visit were consistently those to the south and west of the lake, especially the road signposted off the Björklinge-Harbo road to Berga, and some of the roads on the northern shore. The location of birds apparently varies from year to year, depending on the water level, degree of icing, and land use change by farmers.

Östervala and around

  • Östervala is a pleasant small town with shops, a bank etc., about 15km east of Tärnsjö.
  • Drive north out of Östervala through Stärte to Upplands, and continue north until you reach a junction by a small house in the woods on the left (beyond the junction). Fork right, and drive for c. 5km until you see a lake on your left. Park here and explore the areas behind both this lake and the next one, 250m further on. There are access tracks beginning close to the bridge. This area is reportedly good for Three-toed Woodpecker.
  • Retrace your steps to the last junction mentioned (by the house), but now turn right (west) and follow the loop road back to Östervala via Horsskog. This loop is renowned locally for producing calling owls.
  • Depart Östervala as above, but take a right turn signed to Söderfors after about 1.5km. This road continues through open forests, dense forest, clearfells and other habitats for over 20km, and is well worth driving along slowly with frequent stops. Capercaillie use the gravel tracks in the morning especially, and species such as woodpeckers and Pygmy Owl can be encountered here. Try any or all of the side tracks, most of which are dead ends, or the road running east to Tierp via Djupa.

[Båtfors NR]

  • A site we didn't visit, but reputedly excellent for a range of forest species. Accessed south of the E4 motorway about 30km ESE of Gävle.


  • About 30km north-east of Tierp, and just north off the 76, follow signs to Ledskär, in the bay opposite Gröno. Good for waders and wildfowl, White-tailed Eagle etc.

[Florarna NR]

  • About 15km north-west of Österbybruk - reputedly an excellent area for woodpeckers, including Three-toed, and other forest birds.

Olas Skifte

  • A wonderful fragment of old growth forest. Take the 288 north-east out of Uppsala, then fork right onto the Hallstavik road, for about 28km. If you cross Lake Vällen, you've gone too far. Go back to the first house on the north side of the road, and turn right (north) up the track there. Drive for 2km and park on the right (car-park). The track starts slightly further north up the access track on the left, and runs west into the woods. Easily followed despite the dense forest - red-topped posts.


  • Go back to the bridge over Lake Vällen mentioned under Olas Skifte above, and take the first right after the bridge (c.1km later). Follow this road for about 6km, past the fishing lodge, and park on the right at a board and car-park. This is Pansarudden proper. Explore the waymarked tracks, but also check out all side tracks off the main forest road a bit further south, as far as Bennebolsbruk. The Ekdalens NR might also be worth a visit (just south of Pansarudden).

Sennerby Haken

  • A good spot on the east coast of the island of Väddo to observe sea ducks and migrating seabirds, plus passerines.
  • From Hallstavik, 60km or so east of Uppsala, follow the small roads south-east to Älmsta, and cross the bridge onto Väddo. Immediately, look for signs to Sandviken Camping, and follow the ever-smaller roads to the coast. Stop when you run out of road! Explore the small rocky headland and surrounding beaches.


  • This is a very bird-rich lake about 20km east of Enköping. The best places to view from are the bird hide accessed from the western shore (car park at Hårby), and the high fault ridge to the west. Wildfowl, White-tailed Eagle and other raptors should be present.

Fiby Urskog

  • A superb little remnant of ancient spruce/pine/aspen forest, with wonderful glacial rock formations at its heart. There is a well marked 2-3km trail.
  • Leave Uppsala to the south-west on the 55, then turn right onto the 72. Just after Vänge, turn off right (signed to Jumkil), and after c.2km turn right again (signed) to Fiby Urskog. There is a car-park and interpretation board.

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Tape lures

  • It is much more usual to use tape lures in Sweden (for certain otherwise difficult species) than in Briatin. We found this hard to accept at first, but soon realised that it is OK, for two reasons.
  • First, being realistic, and assuming you want to see these species in less than a month of searching, tapes really do help! Calling up a Grey-headed Woodpecker (which you can do, incidentally, almost as well by whistling!) is not too hard, if you're in the right place.
  • Second, the density of birders in this region is so much lower than in Britain, that responsible and selective use of tapes is surely not a major disturbance factor to the birds.
  • The key point is to think, to be discriminate, never use tapes if other birders are nearby, only use a tape when other approaches fail, and absolutely stop once the bird shows.
  • We (for the first time) took a portable 'Discman' style CD player with a tiny pair of AA battery powered Sony speakers. Perfectly adequate.

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  • Sweden is not a cheap country, but nor is it the financial horror story you might have been led to believe.
  • Petrol was hovering just under SEK10 per litre (£0.70), and so was rather cheaper than prices at home.
  • Supermarket prices (we self-catered) were broadly comparable, and the splurge we had from the Pizzeria in Uppsala only cost about SEK180 (£12.50).

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  • There is lots of accommodation available in Sweden, but much of it doesn't open until May! We were keen to self-cater if possible, given the anti-social hours we intended keeping, and found ourselves two really good places to stay. In Scandinavia, many camp sites have cabins (stuga) to rent by the night - these stugby sites are a real boon. The standard varies (as we found last year) from the palatial to the garden shed-like, but we were fortunate that both the stugbys (stugbies?) we used had decent sized, and very warm cabins


  • Our first three nights were at Östa Stugby & Camping, on the eastern side of the Färnebofjärden National Park (SEK600 (c. £42) for the first night, SEK500 (c. £35) for each subsequent night - a flat rate for the cabin, not per person). The cabin was massive (designed to sleep 6-8 people!), warm, and came with lots of hot water and a well-equipped kitchen. The setting, among pine trees and beside the vast frozen lake, was a real bonus. Also, only about three of the 40 or so huts were occupied. Although Östa is in a slightly out of the way spot, it gives good access to all the sites around Färnebofjärden NP, Östervala and Lake Tämnaren.
  • Our second stugby was Fyrishov Camping & Stugby, on the north-western outskirts of Uppsala (SEK575 (c. £40) per night, flat cabin rate). It's right next to 'northern Europe's largest indoor water activity centre' (if my Swedish translation serves me right…), and staying at the stugby entitles you to half price entry! The site is very well signposted from the orbital 55 road and other main road intersections. The cabin here was much smaller (could sleep four OK), but still quite comfortable, and extremely warm, with the added bonus of tame Fieldfares right by the door. Fyrishov was a bit busier than Östa, but still only about 10% occupied. Very easy indeed, and well placed for forays to Olas Skifte, Pansarudden, the eastern Baltic Coast and Fiby Urskog.
  • It is worth mentioning here that almost everyone in Sweden speaks good, and in many cases excellent English. And if you have a bit of German and a bit of a brain, working out signs and other written Swedish is not impossible either!

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  • 7th April : 1030 Ryan Air flight from London Stansted to Västerås airport. Drive to Östa, local birding near stugby/camping.
  • 8th April : Tinäsets NR, Färnebofjärden NP, forests north of Östervala, Lake Tämnaren area
  • 9th April : Forests north of Östervala, Gysinge area, Lake Hallaren and Hallarsbo
  • 10th April : Forests north of Östervala, Ledskär, Killskar, Östervala area
  • 11th April : Fiby Urskog, Pansarudden, Sen, Olas Skifte
  • 12th April : Olas Skifte, Pansarudden, Lake Tämnaren
  • 13th April : Fiby Urskog, Hjalstaviken, Västerås area. 1730 return flight.

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Blow-by-blow birding account

Day 1

After arrival, we picked up our hire car and drove straight to a supermarket right by the airport, to get together our provision for the first few days. Hooded Crows and pseudo soemmeringii Jackdaws suggested we were overseas! We then drove north via Sala and Heby, stopping to make contact with Ulrik for tomorrow, and checked in at Östa stugby. Fog was closing in, and in the couple of hours we had before dusk, we birded locally by the campsite, picking up Goosander, singing Redwing and Fieldfare, and our first drumming Woodpecker - just a Great Spotted!

Day 2

We met up with Ulrik and Niklas in dense fog at 0600 at the village of Enåker, and went straight into the forests in search of Pygmy Owl and woodpeckers. The weather was far from ideal, and our first couple of hours produced more tantalising moments than birds! We saw evidence of Grey-headed, Black and Three-toed Woodpeckers on tree trunks and wood and nests, and heard a Capercaillie flying off, Black Grouse displaying and a Black Woodpecker drumming. And yet we only saw some ghostly northern Willow Tits, Green Sandpiper displaying, some good sized flocks of Redpolls and Siskins, and a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Ulrik's best efforts with the Pygmy Owl tape were having no apparent effect!

Our luck changed for the better in forest clearings north of Östervala. Just a few seconds of the Grey-headed Woodpecker tape were enough to lure a territorial pair up high into the bare branches of a small grove of mature aspens. They gave superb views for some minutes, though our attention was more than a little distracted by not one but three Black Woodpeckers materialising in response to the drumming! We were clearly on the boundary between two Black Woodpecker territories, as the birds engaged in lengthy and noisy flight calling, with a fourth bird calling in the semi distance. Fantastic stuff!

We then moved on to some clear-felled areas a little further north, where Ulrik has set up a feeding station for woodpeckers. We scored again with Black Woodpecker, this time with a female giving excellent perched views. Also a Great Grey Shrike showed well, if a little distantly.

By now, the weather was deteriorating, and we opted for some 'car birding' around Lake Tämnaren. Ulrik had been keeping tabs on the productive fields for some time, and very quickly we were watching large mixed flocks. Taiga Bean, Greylag and Canada Geese and Whooper Swans dominated, but we also picked out at least 4 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans, 3 Pink-footed Geese, 1+ Tundra Bean Geese, a White-fronted Goose and smaller numbers of dabbling ducks, including Pintail and Gadwall. Over 100 Cranes strutted and leapt about amongst the wildfowl, while flyovers included 2 Rough-legged Buzzards, several Common Buzzards, a pair of Smew, 2 Hawfinches and many Goosanders. Passerines were mostly limited to thrushes and finches, but a scattering of Tree Sparrows, Reed Buntings and White Wagtails enlivened proceedings.

We were fairly exhausted by now, and headed home for a bite to eat and some rest, but braved the rather gloomy conditions again later in an attempt for owls north of Östervala. Well, we didn't score at all! Nothing but silent, damp forests. However, we were rewarded with a few Woodcocks, and better still two Moose, crossing a small forest track just 30m ahead of the car.

Day 3

Acting on a tip from Ulrik, we headed for an area of spruce and adjacent clearfell a little north of Östervala, in search of Three-toed Woodpecker. We arrived by 0615, and the better weather and presence of drumming Black and Great Spotted Woodpeckers encouraged us. A pair of Cranes displayed noisily on a frozen lake, and a Goshawk showed briefly perched in a tree before vanishing silently into the trees. We searched diligently, tried the tape from time to time, and listened with strained ears - but nothing showed. A small group of Long-tailed Tits (of the gorgeous white-headed form caudatus) brightened up the trip south again, but we again dipped on Three-toed Woodpecker in another wet spruce forest later in the morning. Oh dear!

We flushed a female Capercaillie from beside the road on the main forest track near Djupa - the birds apparently come to the roads to eat gravel while the forests are still frozen up. It wasn't a great view, but at least Julia had it unblocked at last! A brief adult White-tailed Eagle over the trees was also a touch frustrating. We settled for still more excellent views of Cranes along the roadside, and some huge flocks of Redpolls.

In the evening, we rejoined the fray for Pygmy Owl, and tried the well known owl haunt of Hallarsbo, near Östa. After enjoying the spectacle of 150+ displaying Whooper Swans on Lake Hallaren, we silently trekked along forest tracks and wooded roadsides, trying the tape from time to time as the light failed. Success! But we only heard the bird call a few times - nothing would persuade it to emerge. And as night fell, our attempt for other owl species drew another blank - nothing but silent trees and distant Cranes.

Day 4

Back to yesterday's Three-toed Woodpecker site by the lake - it was a much brighter morning, and if anything even more woodpeckers were drumming. But again, despite two hours of searching, we dipped once more. We slowly made our way around various forest tracks again, and kept failing with the Pygmy Owl lure. Were we cursed? Was this species actually considerably harder than we thought? We returned to Ulrik's Grey-headed Woodpecker site, and saw the birds again, only in even better light and at even closer range. That lifted the spirits a good deal, but not as much as a blue VW estate stopped at the end of the track! It was Ulrik again - what a bit of luck to bump into him in these huge forests. With him were Prunilla and Albin, who has Grey-headed Woodpecker on his life list at the age of three months….and I've had to wait 30 years!

We told him our tale of woe, and he took pity on us, taking us to one of the Pygmy Owl territories where we'd failed on Sunday. But he had higher hopes now the weather was better. He played his tape at what seemed a deafening volume. Perhaps 30 seconds passed, and then there it was, perched up in the top of a spruce! Superb. The Pygmy Owl was having a hard time (as usual, apparently), surrounded by a halo of mobbing passerines. But he gave a fantastic display, flying about, calling, bobbing and weaving and waving his tail. A really brilliant bird!

With much raised spirits, we headed north to the Baltic coast at Ledskär, a lovely coastal inlet with expansive mudflats and grassy islands. We were soon seeing new species, especially waders, and two Arctic Terns which must have been fresh in. But the show was stolen by two giants - a cracking Caspian Tern (one of the first arrivals of the spring), and two White-tailed Eagles sparring over the woods. Add in Small Tortoiseshell butterflies for a touch of spring, and you'll understand why we enjoyed our lunch!

We briefly checked the Killskar area to the east (another adult White-tailed Eagle), and then headed south towards Uppsala (via another Eagle and considerable numbers of cranes, geese and swans moving north) to check in at Fyrishov.

After our evening meal, we drove back up to the Östervala area for yet another owl attempt. It was bitterly cold in the still forests, and again we heard no Pygmy Owls. But our target this time was to hear an altogether bigger species - Eagle Owl. We waited patiently for what seemed like an age, until, finally, the male started calling, a deep booming hoot in the middle distance. There was, sadly, no possibility of seeing the bird, so we crawled home, exhausted!

Day 5

So of course we got up at 0500! We headed this time for Fiby Urskog, a wonderful but tiny remnant patch of ancient spruce/pine/aspen forest just west of Uppsala. We worked the woods really hard, but again Three-toed Woodpecker proved impossible, though we did have many Great Spotted Woodpeckers and several Black Woodpeckers drumming. With this site proving blank, we headed further east to the Pansarudden area, reportedly another good spot for Three-toed Woodpecker. We didn't find any! We were even frustrated by a flyover Crossbill sp. - it was just too high to see properly, and the call left us in the dark as to its species.

We were, to be quite honest, feeling a bit down and bird free by now, so we headed further east still to the Baltic coast at Sennerby Haken for some guaranteed birds! We were not disappointed - the bay was full over Eiders, with a good scattering of Long-tailed Ducks, and a few Red-breasted Mergansers and Common Scoters for good measure. Eight summer-plumage Black-throated Divers migrated past to the north at close range, and an extra bonus came in the form of a cracking breeding plumaged Scandinavian Rock Pipit.

On our way back home, we checked out Olas Skifte, yet another wonderful little patch of old growth forest in a sea of lower quality woods. It looked fantastic - but could we find Three-toed Woodpecker inside? No! We retreated and saved our energy for the next day.

Day 6

We woke up to snow! Gamely, we battled on, and drove out to Olas Skifte for a second try. It looked even more beautiful in the snow, and a brief view of a male Hazel Hen along the access track kept us in optimistic mood. Great Spotted Woodpeckers drummed away, and Green Woodpeckers called…but guess what we couldn't find? You guessed right.

We followed the noise of rowdy passerines into the wood, hoping to find a mobbed owl - but it was just Jays picking a fight. Nevertheless, by a real stroke of luck, we did flush a Ural Owl at close range from a low spruce tree. The long-tailed look and milky coffee colouring showed well as it drifted off silently into the trees.

Down the road at Pansarudden, we again thrashed spruce patches and clearfells and windfalls and swamps, but still Three-toed Woodpecker eluded us. We did flush a Woodcock, and had excellent views of some more big redpoll flocks, containing some really superb spring plumaged Mealies.

Back to Uppsala for lunch, and we spent an hour or so at Gamla Uppsala, the Viking settlement and group of burial mounds on the northern edge of town. We performed a gore-laden and bloodthirsty pagan ritual sacrifice of nine Uppsala university students to the mighty god that is Tretåig Hackspett, and invoked his appearance, booking him for the following morning.

We needed some birds to look at, and as the weather was getting still worse, we headed back to Lake Tämnaren for some wildfowl. Although the numbers were down a bit (except for Cranes - 250+) after the clear weather mid-week, there was still plenty to see in the blizzard, including 2 Bewick's Swans among the Whoopers, 2 Pinkfeet still present, now 2 pairs of Smew and a brief ringtail Hen Harrier. A garden feeder in the village of Viby was another highlight, producing swarms of finches, both sparrows and other passerines.

By now, the snow had set in again, and it was time for a retreat to our cabin and a big night in with MTV and pizzas. We had planned to spend this evening in a hide at a Capercaillie lek, but the conditions meant that that was, quite simply, off the agenda!

Day 7

It was even colder this morning, with black ice and lying snow. We headed off to Fiby Urskog, more in hope than expectation, and again thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful old forest, now dusted with snow. As we entered an old area of flooded spruce, a brief drum caught our ears up to the left….could it be our target, the elusive Three-toed Woodpecker? We had a brief glimpse of a woodpecker flying away up to a dead tree, and out of sight. We tiptoed around the back of the tree - the bird hopped out of sight to the other side. We paused, breath held.

It was a Great Spotted Woodpecker, of course. We never did see a Three-toed Woodpecker!

Time was pressing, so we headed on towards Hjalstaviken, an important wetland reserve between Uppsala and Enköping. Now it really was cold. There was an icy north wind blowing, and with wind chill the effective temperature was down somewhere around -18 or -20°C…..ouch!

Julia sat this one out, but the now frost-bitten member of the group went for it and braved the 1km walk to the hide. This turned up trip ticks such as Tufted Duck, Pochard, Shoveler and, more impressively, an Osprey and a male Marsh Harrier, both of which looked as though they'd rather have been back in the Med. or North Africa! Also, a huge adult White-tailed Eagle terrorised all the wildfowl on the lake into flight.

Time pressed even more, so it was time to pack the bins, and do a bit of 'ordinary tourism', at the ancient Viking burial mounds outside Västerås. Well worth a look on the way to the airport. And that was that, except…..

…on arrival back at Stansted (c.1930 UK time), we performed the ritual 'where's the car?', 'it's over there, isn't it?', 'no, it was by the ticket machine' routine. Until, that is, I dropped all my bags on hearing a sibilant little call from above my head. Surely not? I looked straight up, and there were four superb Waxwings perched on a lamppost! Unbelievable!

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Systematic list

Black-throated Diver

Eight migrating north past Sennerby Haken

Gavia arctica


Great Crested Grebe

Singles at Lake Hallaren and near Sennerby Haken, and a pair displaying at Hjalstaviken

Podiceps cristatus


Great Cormorant

Thirteen noted at various sites

Phalacrocorax carbo


Grey Heron

Thirty recorded, with most near Lake Tämnaren

Ardea cinerea


Mute Swan

Recorded in small numbers daily, max. 10 near Lake Tämnaren

Cygnus olor


Whooper Swan

Up to 250 around Lake Tämnaren at the start of the week, but many of them had cleared out by the end of the week. Perhaps over 100 at Lake Hallaren. Also numerous small groups and pairs on flooded fields and small lakes

Cygnus cygnus


Bewick's Swan

Four among Whoopers at Lake Tämnaren early in the week, and two still there at the end of the week

Cygnus columbianus


Taiga Bean Goose

Common throughout, with flocks of up to 400 in several areas, mostly around Lake Tämnaren

Anser fabalis


Tundra Bean Goose

At least one near Lake Tämnaren among large numbers of its commoner relative

Anser serrirostris


Pink-footed Goose

In southern Sweden, birders try to pick Pinkfeet out of Bean Geese flocks, rather than the other way round! Three and then two on successive visits to fields south of Lake Tämnaren

Anser brachyrhynchus


White-fronted Goose

One with other geese south of Lake Tämnaren

Anser albifrons


Greylag Goose

Up to 150 on most days

Anser anser


Canada Goose

Present throughout, in somewhat lower numbers than Greylag Goose

Branta canadensis


Eurasian Wigeon

About 100 noted at various sites, with most at Lake Tämnaren and Hjalstaviken

Anas penelope



Two with other wildfowl south of Lake Tämnaren

Anas strepera


Common Teal

About 100 noted, mostly near Lake Tämnaren

Anas crecca



Up to 50 seen daily

Anas platyrhynchos


Northern Pintail

Two south of Lake Tämnaren

Anas acuta


Northern Shoveler

A pair at Hjalstaviken

Anas clyptea


Common Pochard

18 at Hjalstaviken

Aythya ferina


Tufted Duck

16 at Hjalstaviken

Aythya fuligula


Common Eider

About 350 offshore at Sennerby Haken

Somateria mollisima


Long-tailed Duck

About 30 offshore at Sennerby Haken

Clangula hyemalis


Common Scoter

3 offshore at Sennerby Haken

Melanitta nigra



Over 100 noted, mostly in pairs on smaller lakes and rivers

Bucephala clangula



A pair in flight south of Lake Tämnaren, and two pairs on the river there later in the week

Mergellus albellus


Red-breasted Merganser

Six at Killskar and two males offshore at Sennerby Haken

Mergus serrator



Seen daily in varying numbers, max. 50+

Mergus merganser



One at Hjalstaviken

Pandion haliaeetus


White-tailed Eagle

One subadult over the forest near Djupa, two at Ledskär, another at Killskar, another north of Uppsala, and finally a superb adult at Hjalstaviken

Haliaeetus albicilla


Hen Harrier

A ringtail near Lake Tämnaren

Circus cyaneus


Marsh Harrier

A male at Hjalstaviken

Circus aeruginosus



Three singles noted

Accipiter nisus


Northern Goshawk

One, probably a female, perched up in trees north of Oster

Accipiter gentilis



A total of 33 noted, often in pairs displaying over woods

Buteo buteo


Rough-legged Buzzard

Three noted - two near Lake Tämnaren, and another over the trees at Fjarn

Buteo lagopus


Black Grouse

Heard only on several occasions

Tetrao tetrix



One heard in flight at Tinnasets NR, and one flushed from the roadside near Djupa

Tetrao urogallus


Hazel Grouse

One flushed from the roadside very close to Olas Skifte

Bonasa bonasia


Common Pheasant

One heard and another seen near Hjalstaviken

Phasianus colchicus


Common Crane

Common throughout, with large migratory flocks in evidence in several areas. Also many local breeders evident, paired off and sometimes displaying

Grus grus


Common Moorhen

One at Uppsala, and two at Hjalstaviken

Gallinula chloropus


Common Coot

Several at a pond just east of Uppsala, and 30 at Hjalstaviken

Fulica atra



Four at the coast near Sennerby Haken

Haematopus ostralegus


Northern Lapwing

Common - up to 100 daily

Vanellus vanellus


Ringed Plover

Four at Ledskär, and one at Hjalstaviken

Charadrius hiaticula


Common Redshank

Two at Ledskär

Tringa totanus


Green Sandpiper

22 displaying birds seen over various forests and bogs

Tringa ochropus


Eurasian Woodcock

Seven roding individuals seen, and one flushed from open forest at Pansarudden

Scolopax rusticola


Common Snipe

Upwards of ten drumming males noted

Gallinago gallinago



Two at Ledskär

Calidris alpina


Common Gull

A few inland, and 100+ at a colony at Sennerby Haken

Larus canus


Herring Gull

A few inland, and 50+ at Sennerby Haken

Larus argentatus


Lesser Black-backed Gull

Four noted (form intermedius)

Larus fuscus


Great Black-backed Gull

Four recorded

Larus marinus


Black-headed Gull

Up to 200 at various sites

Larus ridibundus


Caspian Tern

One freshly arrived at Ledskär

Sterna caspia


Arctic Tern

Two at Ledskär

Sterna paradisaea


(Feral) Rock Pigeon

Just ten noted, and only on one date

Columba livia


Stock Pigeon

This species is not common in Sweden in winter - six noted on two dates

Columba oenas


Common Wood Pigeon

Very common, with a marked wave of 500+ migrants on Day 2

Columba palumbus


Eagle Owl

One heard at night at a site north of Oster

Bubo bubo


Ural Owl

One flushed in daylight at Olas Skifte

Strix uralensis


Pygmy Owl

After much searching, listening and hunting, we finally saw a calling male, with Ulrik's help, not far from Djupa

Glaucidium passerinum


Great Spotted Woodpecker

Frustratingly common - 30+ heard and/or seen

Dendrocopos major


Black Woodpecker

Five seen and a further 10 or so heard

Dryocopus martius


Green Woodpecker

Two heard, and another seen at Sennerby Haken

Picus viridis


Grey-headed Woodpecker

Two superb individuals seen at a site north of Oster, and another a few kilometres away. Also perhaps two or three others heard

Picus canus


Sky Lark

22 noted, and seen daily

Alauda arvensis


White Wagtail

41 noted, and seen daily

Motacilla alba


Meadow Pipit

Seven noted on four dates

Anthus pratensis


Rock Pipit

One at Sennerby Haken (of the Scandinavian form littoralis)

Anthus petrosus


Great Grey Shrike

One in a clearfell north of Oster

Lanius excubitor


[Bohemian Waxwing

Sadly not seen in Sweden, but a big bonus was four in the Pink Elephant car park back at Stansted Airport

Bombycilla garrulus]


Winter Wren

About seven noted

Troglodytes troglodytes


Hedge Accentor

About 4 heard singing

Prunella modularis


European Robin

About 20 heard and seen

Erithacus rubecula


Common Blackbird

Seen daily in varying numbers

Turdus merula



The commonest and most obvious thrush - 100+ on some days

Turdus pilaris



Many heard singing in the forests, and lots on passage in surrounding fields

Turdus iliacus


Song Thrush

Seen daily, but always in single figures

Turdus philomelos


Mistle Thrush

This species is very much a forest bird in Scandinavia, but on passage, can gather in agricultural areas. The largest such flock we saw was of about 30 birds

Turdus viscivorus



Seen in small numbers on every day bar one

Regulus regulus


Long-tailed Tit

Seven noted on two dates (of the beautiful white-headed form caudatus)

Aegithalos caudatus


Willow Tit

Nine seen, of the ghostly pale Scandinavian form ?????

Parus montanus


Coal Tit

Three seen on two dates

Parus ater


Crested Tit

Nine noted in coniferous forest areas

Parus cristatus


Great Tit

A common bird

Parus major


Blue Tit

Rather less common than the above species

Parus caeruleus


European Nuthatch

About 10 heard and seen (of the pale northern form ?????)

Sitta europaea


Eurasian Treecreeper

20+ noted on five dates

Certhia familiaris



Noted almost daily

Emberiza citrinella


Reed Bunting

About 25 noted, mostly at wetland sites, but also some in forest clearfell areas

Emberiza schoeniclus


Common Chaffinch

Common throughout, with large feeding flocks in fields and many singing males in the forests

Fringilla coelebs



About 20 seen among feeding Chaffinch flocks

Fringilla montifringilla


European Greenfinch

A few seen daily, max. 20

Carduelis chloris


Eurasian Siskin

Seen daily, with some very large flocks of passage birds, and many singing males in the forests

Carduelis spinus


European Goldfinch

Three seen near Hjalstaviken on the last day of the trip

Carduelis carduelis


Common Redpoll

At least 100 seen every day, with several flocks of 100+ in the forests near Djupa 9th April, a day when over 1000 were seen

Carduelis flammea


Lesser Redpoll

A few mixed in among the predominant Common (Mealy) Redpolls. Only very extreme examples could be assigned with any confidence to either form at any distance

Carduelis cabaret


[Crossbill sp.

Two single Crossbills flew over at Pansarudden, but defied specific identification

Loxia sp.]


Common Bullfinch

Thirteen noted on 5 dates

Pyrrhula pyrrhula



Two flew overhead near Lake Tämnaren

Coccothraustes coccothraustes


House Sparrow

The scarcer sparrow, with about 10 seen in a very few gardens

Passer domesticus


Tree Sparrow

Some pleasing flocks in gardens and woodyards, max. 25

Passer montanus


Common Starling

Common, with many large flocks in agricultural areas

Sturnus vulgaris


Eurasian Jay

About 20 noted in forest areas

Garrulus glandarius


Black-billed Magpie


Pica pica


Eurasian Jackdaw

Very common, with many large flocks in fields. Distinctly different in appearance from British birds, with a strong whitish mark on the side of the lower neck, but perhaps not sufficiently well-marked to be described as classic soemmeringii

Corvus monedula



Only present in and around Uppsala, where there were several active rookeries

Corvus frugilegus


Hooded Crow

Very common throughout

Corvus corone


Common Raven

About a dozen noted in scattered localities, always alone or in twos

Corvus corax




112 species


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Very, very, very hard work, not at all warm, tiring, some moments of exasperation and deep depression in certain forests, and some fantastic birds! Definitely, definitely worth the trip, but not one to countenance if you actually need a holiday, as such!

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need any help, advice or assistance with a planned birding trip to this area, or if you have been and would like to compare notes.

And if anyone has an absolutely rock solid Three-toed Woodpecker site this side of Scandinavia or Poland, we'd love to hear about it…..please!

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