I have just returned from a brief but very enjoyable 2 days bird photography trip to one of my favourite locations, the Black River Valley area of Svartådalen in Southern Sweden. I have been to this stunning area 5 times before since my first visit in 2003 when I visited as a guest of the Swedish Tourist Board to help promote the area and to see the potential for birding and photography trips in the region with fellow UK bird photographer Steve Young. It was here I met Daniel Green, an excellent Swedish guide with a deep understanding and knowledge of the region, it’s wildlife and birds. Daniel is a keen conservationist, has a good sense of humour and runs trips throughout the region and further afield within Sweden. To see more about the area take a look at his website: www.birdsafarisweden.com . Birding can be incredible here with regular highlights of such birds as Nutcracker, Black Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Pygmy Owl, Ural Owl, Tengmalm’s Owl, Great Grey Owl, Siberian Jay . . the list goes on! I have always visited in Winter and early Spring, though birding in late Spring and early Summer can be equally as rewarding with trips into the mountains for Bluethroat, Ruff, Great Snipe, Dotterel, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Gyr Falcon . . . to name but a few.
I was particularly keen to spend time at one of the forest feeding stations as well as a different site for finches, including Hawfinches. I utilised every minute of daylight available as I was only in Sweden for 2 short January days, where it gets light by 9am and dark again by 3pm. The first day I spent in the forest, where the first bird I saw was a Nutcracker which came down to feed on hazelnuts just a few metres away. These birds are a real Swedish forest speciality and it was incredible to be stood in the cool, clear air, knee deep in snow, listening to a Nutcrackers sub-singing in the pines above me – quality time in beautiful Swedish habitat. The second day, further afield, I spent in a canvas hide photographing finches and my most wanted – Hawfinches! I was in the hide before light and left after dark, pleased with the days photographic opportunities despite the increasing wind, though I struggled after the first couple of hours with painfully cold feet! The double bridgedale socks and sheepskin rug on the ice underfoot were good but failing me after the first 4 hours in one spot! The hope of a Hawfinch putting in an appearance kept me going and I was rewarded with several very brief visits from 3 handsome adult male birds in pristine plumage. Here are a few of my favourite images from a small but very sweet Swedish excursion . . . .