Falsterbo is the best-known Swedish birding hotspot for visual migration, especially raptors. We have been going now for 3 years and this year’s birding trip was planned for the last week in September like last year. The main blue tit migration happens during this period as well as that of many raptors, passerines and wildfowl. We had been informed that an irruption of blue tits was expected this year in Sweden.
We spent four days at Falsterbo with weather broken on most days with some bright spells. The wind direction varied from SSE to SW as we moved through the week. South-westerly wind direction is optimal to ensure birds pass directly over Nabben which is the best viewing point at the southerly tip of the peninsula. On most years we would spend the majority of our time at Nabben but this year, in addition, we planned to move around to different areas and cover more ground. This is especially important if the wind or weather conditions generally don’t suit watching from Nabben. We usually stay at the observatory where the accommodation is good and you get to meet lots of birders, ringers etc.
Up at 5.40am and straight out to the point at Nabben which overlooks a shallow saline lagoon. A long sandspit south of the point is called Måkläppen, which is closed to visitors between 1st February and 31st October. Ducks, waders and gulls can be viewed in the lagoon easily from Nabben. The day started off with a (very) large number of blue tits migrating first thing in the morning. I had told the person travelling with me that it’s not that uncommon to see flocks of 50 blue tits at a time migrating from Nabben across the sea…..at Nabben on the 24th we saw flocks of hundreds of blue tits at a time migrating and landing in low shrubs in front of us. So many blue tits that at times they started landing on us for a split second until they realised that they were in the wrong place! 2,700 migrated officially from Nabben that morning. In addition to the tits large numbers of chaffinches and bramblings were migrating (19,400 to be exact). We had 4 nutcrakers attempt migration only to turn back at the last minute. Something Ive never seen at Nabben which is an open area with low Rosa rugosa bushes is woodpeckers. We had a female lesser spotted woodpecker come and perch in the open not 2 metres away and look at us. What a beautiful bird - she decided not to migrate and went back across the golf course to the trees. Then we had the spectacle of a black woodpecker trying the same thing only to decide not to migrate (This same bird was seen the next day also but it didnt migrate). Raptors seen that morning were many hen harriers (7), red kites (>400), 6 black kite, 12 honey buzzard, 25 marsh harriers, >1000 sparrowhawk, 25 rough legged buzzard, >600 common buzzard, a few hobbies, merlin and osprey. Sighting of the day at Nabben was a juvenile Golden Eagle that came out briefly on to the golf course but decided that it wouldn’t migrate and headed back inland. We also had a very close ‘flyby’ when a juvenile white tailed sea eagle came in from the lagoon to Nabben. Out at sea we had black throated diver and velvet scoter with large flocks of eider coming through constantly – what a magnificent bird. Wind died during the day and so did migration and we found ourselves back at the observatory before long thinking of all the great birds we saw and enjoying the camaraderie of the Swedish, Dutch, Slovenian and Danish birders staying at the observatory. We had good views of a tawny owl at the observatory also.
We were at Nabben by 6.20 for what would be an amazing migration spectacle that you have to see to really appreciate the scale. From first thing enormous numbers of tits came towards us at Nabben in a constant flow. From where we were at Nabben looking northwards 400 metres to the ringing station at the lighthouse the sky was filled with blue tits (the fourth best day ringing record ever for blue tits at Falsterbo with a staggering 1219 blue tits ringed not to mention the 70 goldcrest and others making a grand total of nearly 1500 birds ringed). Migration slowed dramatically in late morning with sparrowhawks down to a trickle (during good sparrowhawk migration there is a constant flow of birds past Nabben). We decided to drive to Ljungen (also known as The Heath) to see were the raptors building up there. At Ljungen (notable for its raptors) we had 15 Red Kites, 46 Sparrowhawks, 4 marsh harriers, 6 rough legged buzzards, 44 buzzards (4 very pale birds) and 2 hobbies. The highlight at Ljungen had to be 2600 cranes migrating in large flocks. From Ljungen we then moved to Flommen and we searched the gardens and the golf course for passerines. Here we had in excess of 600 blue tits in the trees with 2 spotted flycatchers, redstart, whinchat, tree pipits, chiffchaffs, a male lesser spotted flycatcher and a very late wryneck. We retreated back to the observatory at 6ish as we were quite wrecked from all the walking. Sitting at the observatory we had black woodpecker, tawny owl, an osprey and one roe deer! An amazing days birding overall!
Out at Nabben it was clear from early on that migration was not going to be ‘strong’ today so we decided to move off to Flommen for more passerines and to check the meadow pipit flocks on the golf course and wetland areas for Richards pipit. On the way we got a call from the ringing station that they had caught a male lesser spotted woodpecker so we rushed over to see it in the hand – it’s very nice seeing these birds scuttling up a tree but seeing them in the hand really shows you how small these woodpeckers really are. After a few pictures of the bird and seeing it being released we finally headed for Flommen.
The ever present sparrowhawks kept ‘lifting’ all the pipits and wagtails which made searching a little more difficult but on the golf course we had 100+ meadow pipits with 40 yellow wagtails – no richards pipit. Marsh harriers patrolled the reed beds and moved onto the golf course at times. In the gardens we had lots of chiffchaffs, spotted flycatchers, reed warbler, redstart, nutcracker, tree pipits and amazingly a male lesser spotted woodpecker in the exact same tree as yesterday! On the marshy ground we had spotted redshank, snipe and myriad of ducks and geese. We got back to the observatory early and relaxed. These long days birding were taking their toll on the feet!
Heading home today but we managed to get a small bit of birding done – it wasn’t hard to leave for the airport as migration had stopped for the most part – small numbers (relatively) of birds were ringed at the Lighthouse but we managed to see a few bits and pieces before we left.
We were disappointed not to see any pallid harriers this trip but there’s always next year!
Straight up from Falsterbo to Copenhagen took us just under 50 minutes without too much excessive speed! Another successful trip to Falsterbo under the belt – next year we will probably vary the trip date so that we can see different species.
White tailed eagle
Rough legged buzzard
Lesser spotted woodpecker
Black throated diver