Today we would leave Uppsala and head northwest towards the wild mountain range at the border with Norway. First however we made a stop at the Ostervala forests to look for one bird in particular: Hazel Grouse (Hazelhoen), the most elusive of all the northern grouses.
These cool birds are renowned to give birders a runaround for their money so we were quite aware of the difficult task that laid ahead…
At our first stop we noticed a strange song coming from the canopy of the spruce-forest at the side of the road. Jelmer proved his expertise on bird sounds and immediately ascribed the song to a Parrot Crossbill (Grote kruisbek). After running a bit of tape we soon enjoyed prolonged views of this bull-necked Crossbill giving its distinctive alarm call from atop a spruce.
Now it was grouse-time! Jelmer decided we had the best chance if we slowly walked through the boggy forest and now and then stopped to listen for its striking song. Just 15 minutes in we heard a high whistle: Hazel Grouse! We froze and Jelmer started taping. First the bird seemed right above us, then left of us and then behind us; clearly it was playing hide-and-seek. Suddenly Max picked up the bird zipping through the canopy and seconds later we enjoyed great views as it peered down on us from a branch 20 meters away, nice one Max!
Hazel Grouse, by Max van Waasdijk
At a one of the Capercaillie (Auherhoen) leks we flushed two males and this time we could actually just get our bins on them. A Black Grouse (Korhoen) lek produced a male bird distantly feeding in willow tree; 3 species of grouse in one morning, not bad!
A Black Woodpecker (Zwarte specht) was the last goodie for this morning session before we headed northwest.
Our trusty old Opel Vectra survived the 500 km long journey northwest and around 4 PM we arrived at our hotel in the small village of Idre. Here it was 10 degrees colder with snow covered taiga all around us, which made for a stunning scenery.
Beautiful scenery, by Sander Smit
We drove straight to a cabin 50 kilometers north of Idre – with a stunning Moose (Eland) holding us up for half an hour – that last winter held our main target: Siberian Tit (Bruinkopmees). This northern taiga specialist reaches the southernmost limit of its distribution here in the northwestern mountains, however they are unpredictable and far from guarantied…
Moose, by Sander Smit
The distinctive Scandinavian subspecies of Eurasian Nuthatch, by Sander Smit
The first signs were bad. The owners of the cabin hadn’t seen the birds this winter which mend we had to search for them somewhere else, somewhere else in the immeasurable taiga around us…