Max van Waasdijk and I arrived at Arlanda airport around midday. We were met by Jelmer Poelstra and his Opel Vectra – our mobile home for the next couple a days – at the arrival hall and immediately drove to the forests near Ostervala, one hour north of Uppsala. Jelmer told us that he had been very busy lately so for him this was the first time in a long while that he visited his local patch.
These forests are not a national park so it is always surprise whether stakeouts from last year still deliver quality birds… Because Sander Smit would arrive around midnight we decided to do some scouting for signs of our target species. This would make looking for them the next morning that much easier.
On the way to the Ostervala we saw a couple of Rough-legged Buzzards (Ruigpootbuizerd), Common Cranes (Kraanvogel), Taiga Bean Geese (Taigarietgans), Ravens (Raven) and Hooded Crows (Bonte Kraaien); all scarce birds back home in the Netherlands.
Common Crane, by Max van Waasdijk
At the Ostervala forests we stopped at a good sight for Hazel Grouse (Hazelhoen); no birds present, but fresh grouse-droppings indicated that the birds were in the area! At two different Capercaillie (Auherhoen) leks from last year it was the same case: fresh droppings, flattened moss and even two male birds that we could only hear as they took off with crashing wing beats. Promising signs indeed! Three-toed Woodpecker (Drieteenspecht) however would be a bit of a hassle as a tree with a breeding pair from last year had unfortunately been logged down.
Hazel Grouse droppings
After this preliminary round we drove to a Great Grey Owl (Laplanduil) sight ‘just’ 2 hours away near Vasteras. This huge highly prized northern owl was on top of our hitlist for this trip so we could definitely feel the tension accumulating in our stomachs as we neared the site. We arrived around sunset and totally unexpected stumbled upon a fucking awesome Great Grey Owl hunting for voles a mere 20 meters away; ridiculous! While we stood totally perplex we decided to just start clicking away at this grey beast, which resulted in some pretty mouth watering pics…
Great Grey Owl, by Max van Waasdijk
and my own crappy phonescope-pic…
Max and Jelmer scoping the owl
After this spectacle we drove for another 5 kilometers to a site which held a calling Ural Owl (Oeraluil) last year. As darkness set in we couldn’t hear any Ural Owls, but to our huge surprise we heard another Great Grey Owl hooting away in the forests! A fantastically low booming hoot that few birders are ever lucky enough to hear in real life! Nevertheless this was a excellent start for Max, Jelmer and I, but when we picked up Sander from the airport and showed him the pics of the owl, the pain in his eyes made us promise that we would of course go back to this site later during the trip. Even in our wildest dreams we could not anticipate what lied ahead….
For the whole set of photos from our Sweeping Sweden trip check maxbirding