20 April, 2008

Trip report: Stockholm, Sweden 10.-11.4.2008


This trip report is targeted especially to birders outside Europe and it gives hints ho
w to find birds in Stockholm if you have only very limited time to use (i.e. if you are in a business trip, conference or you are otherwise very busy). All you need is few hours of time, appropriate clothing, modern cellphone and your binoculars with you.

Like in all big cities, most birds in Stockholm are pretty tame and easy to photograph, like this 
Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) in Tantolunden park.

Day 1: 10th of April 2008

I arrived to Arlanda Airport at 6:30 in the morning. The easiest way to get in to the City center is to take Arlanda Express, one way ticket to this super fast train costs 220 SEK (about 23 EUR). I took this time a taxi, because I wanted to go straight to the hotel (and as I also offered a drive to Stockholm for couple of our customers). Taxi from Arlanda to Hotel Hilton Slussen cost 545 SEK (about 58 EUR).

During drive to Hilton, I saw the first birds along the highway; Wood Pigeons (Columba palumbus), Common Gulls (Larus canus), Herring Gulls (L. argentatus), Black-headed Gulls (L. ridibundus), Eurasian Jackdaws (Corvus monedula), Hooded Crows (Corvus corone cornix), Eurasian Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula), Goosanders (Mergus merganser), Common Pigeons (Columba livia) and surprisingly also the best species of the day: Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia) flew by in Riddarfjärden (not very common in Stockholm).

Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) in Tantolunden park.

Before my workshops started in Hilton, I had about an hour and half free time. Weather was not fine, slight rain and a bit windy. Anyway I decided to take a walk around the shores of Södermalm island, to see if there's gulls and waterfowls. I headed east along Stadsgårdshamnen and turned back at Tegelviksplan to Folkungagatan, then Fjällgatan and along Katarinavägen back to Slussen. Especially from Fjällgatan there is a very nice view over lakes Strömmen and Saltsjön, where I saw 5 species of Gulls: Lesser Black-backed (Larus fuscus), Great Black-backed (L.marinus), Common (L. canus), Black-headed (L. ridibundus) and Herring Gulls (L. argentatus). In addition to gulls there was also 2 fishing Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo). In Fjällgatan there is also nice backyards worth checking at Ersta Sjukhus (hospital) and Ersta Diakonimuseum. In those gardens I saw such common species as Blackbirds (Turdus merula), House Sparrows (Passer domesticus), Great Tits (Parus major), Blue Tits (P. caeruleus), Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebes), Greenfinches (Carduelis chloris), Eurasian Jackdaws (Corvus monedula), European Magpies (Pica pica), Wood Pigeons (Columba palumbus) and Common Pigeons (C. livia). In addition to those I saw also migrating flocks of Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) and several species of gulls on the roof tops or just flying by.

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) in Tantolunden park.

In the evening, between workshops and dinner, I had about 3 hours for birding. So, how to reach big parks and other birding hotspots in Stockholm? The answer is simple; rent a CityBike. CityBike has bike stands all around City center and the price is cheap; a three days card costs only 125 SEK (about 13 EUR). With card you pick a bike from any stand and return it back to any stand within three hours. If you need the bike for longer time, then you just pick a new bike for next three hours. Bike cards are sold in Tourist Center and all SL Centers, which are the Stockholm Metro Ticket selling points. I bought mine from Slussen SL Center and picked the bike from nearby stand.

My first target was Tantolunden park in Södermalm island. According to Svalan (a Swedish bird observation database) there had been recently for example Green Woodpeckers, a species that I had not seen since 1980's. With bike I reached the park quite easy - naturally with a help of Stockholm Map that I had grabbed from hotell. Very nice park, with lots of walkways, old trees and lots of birds. For me the highlights were 2 Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) and a singing Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), both small rarities in my normal birding area in Finland. Hawfinches were hiding silently in tree tops, but when I played Hawfinch calls with my cell phone, they answered immediately and I managed to see them well. In addition to those, there was also two White Wagtails (Motacilla alba), Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs), Greenfinches (Carduelis chloris), Great (Parus major) and Blue Tits (P. caeruleus), one European Robin (Erithacus rubecula), Wood Pigeons (Columba palumbus), Eurasian Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) and Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major), but no Green Woodpeckers, even though I played their calls with my cell phone.

After Tantolunden I cycled towards Årstaviken bay and Eriksdalslunden park. At bay I saw 2 Mute Sawns (Cygnus olor) , Common Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula), Eurasian Coots (Fulica atra), Lesser Black-backed (Larus fuscus) and Black-headed Gulls (L. ridibundus). In park there was again singing Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) and other common species I saw earlier in Tantolunden park.

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) seems to hide in tree tops - hard to 
take good photos of it... This one was in Eriksdalslunden.

From Eriksdalslunden I drove back to my hotel, to change clothes for dinner. No more birds this day...

Day 2: 11th of April 2008

Five hours of sleep, after that rise and shine. Woke up early, around 5 a.m. I had a bottle of energy drink (containing among other things coffeine, guarana and taurine) - it gave me a quick boost for sunny morning. Sun was rising at about 5:30 and I started hiking towards Djurgården at 5:20. Yes, hiking, because I was supposed to meet Birdingpal Martin Berg there at 06:00 and CityBikes can be hired only between 06:00 - 18:00 (return latest at 21:00). Walk from Slussen to Djurgården bridge took about 20-25 minutes. Later, when I returned to hotel from Djurgården, I chose again a bike instead of hike.

South Djurgården, also known nowadays as part of Ekopark, is the first urban national park in world. A very nice and large park, with lots of old oaks, perfect place for finding Green Woodpecker and other birds not so common in my regular birding area.

From Djurgården bridge I continued to park with Martin Berg, who is a relatively young, but perfect Birdingpal - I was really happy to meet him. So, our main goal this morning was to find Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis), and so we did. First two birds were found from the southern part of park, near place called Oakhill. My cellphone with Green Woodpecker sound played a major role to get the woodpeckers in sight after we first heard it's a call from somewhere far. For me it was really cool to see this bird after 20 years.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) in the colony of South Djurgården.

Our second object was to find Marsh Tit (Parus palustris). Well, we never found it from Djurgården, instead we saw lots of other birds. Djurgården seems to be also a perfect place to watch for example Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes), Nuthatches (Sitta europaea) and Stock Doves (Columba oenas). They were all common there, during two hours we saw 15-20 Hawfinches, about 15 Nuthatches and rouhgly 30 Stock Doves. In addition to those, on what comes to bigger birds, we saw one Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), some 20 Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo), about 50 Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea), about 50 Barnacle Geese (Branta leucopsis), couple of normal Canada Geese (Branta canadensis), one odd colored Canadale Goose (see the photo below) and 3 Greylag Geese (Anser anser). Smaller ones included such as Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major), one Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (D. minor), Blackbirds (Turdus merula), Fieldfares (T. pilaris), Song Thrushes (T. philomela), Redwings (T. iliacus), Blue (Parus caeruleus) and Great Tits (P. major), House Sparrows (Passer domesticus), Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs), Greenfinches (Carduelis chloris), Eurasian Siskins (C. spinus), 4 European Goldfinches (C. carduelis), European Robins (Erithacus rubecula), White Wagtails (Motacilla alba) and Eurasian Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris).

By the way, South Djurgården is a very large park (and the whole Ekopark even larger) , so be prepared to be there at least 2 hours. Bike is also very useful there, but if you like to walk in the woods, leave your CityBike locked in the nearest stand.

"White-headed Canada Goose" (Branta canadensis) in South Djurgården.

While cycling back to hotel from Djurgården, I saw the last species of this trip; 3 Tree Sparrows (Passer montanus) near Nybroplan.

At the end, a note from Martin Berg that may be interesting for non-Scandinavian birders: Although we did not see the White-tailed Sea Eagle (Haliaetus albicilla), it's quite common view in Stockholm sky.

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