Swedish bird migration at its best



"I really wanted to write to thank you for the memorable week in Sweden. It was excellent. Good weather, good birds and good company. You made sure that we saw all the birds and had a good time."......  Mrs E, Scotland, October 2006





Falsterbo is ranked alongside Gibraltar and the Bosphorus as one  of  Europe's premier visible migration sites. Its name is synonymous with spectacular bird movements, and in particular raptors.


Every autumn an estimated 500 million birds migrate through southern Scandinavia. The Baltic Sea is the first difficult hurdle they have to cross. By taking the shortest route across water, they increase their chances of survival. Many therefore follow the west coast of Sweden until they reach Falsterbo before crossing to Denmark. On peak days you can see thousands of birds migrating at Nabben, the south-western point of the Falsterbo peninsula. Most spectacular is the migration of raptors, but for sheer numbers, the finches take some beating. An incredible half a million Brambling and Chaffinches can pass through in a single morning! It is possible to sit and watch large flocks heading out over the Kattegat towards Denmark.


The beautiful island of Öland is a World Heritage Site with a prehistoric feel to the landscape. Indeed, ancient burial mounds and Viking rune stones are found dotted about the countryside. The limestone bedrock was scraped clean by glaciers, so thin soil or a lichen carpet provides a resting place for migrants. The observatory lighthouse at Ottenby provides the perfect setting to see passerines, wildfowl, waders and their attendant predators pausing briefly on migration.


Birds leaving Northern Russia follow a route through Estonia, island-hopping across the Baltic past Götland and Öland before moving on to mainland Sweden. Numbers at Öland can be incredible with large flocks of cranes and geese en-route to the Low Countries. So even though we visit in autumn, the visible migration at Öland involves seeing birds arriving on the island, in contrast to Falsterbo where we see them depart south.


Our tour is based at Falsterbo for three nights and the island of Öland for three nights. This places us at the best sites to observe nature's migration miracle.





Having arrived at Copenhagen airport we will drive for about two hours to Falsterbo, our base for the first three nights. After checking in at the hotel, we will spend the remaining daylight hours on the coast. The reedbeds can provide a safe haven for hundreds of buntings, warblers and hirundines. To experience the best of migration here we do not follow a set itinerary. Instead, we look at weather patterns and speak to observatory staff at the lighthouse to try to predict where the biggest numbers of birds will be.


We will venture out in the early morning to Nabben Point where the first flocks of Bramblings, Chaffinches, Starlings, Siskins, pipits and buntings will be heading out to sea. Observatory volunteers patiently sit and count them all and will point out any rarity they note.


Harriers and Sparrowhawks are early risers and often follow the passerine flocks out to sea. These birds may make frequent trial sea-crossing attempts, returning if conditions are not in their favour. They then spend time quartering the point in search of food. If birds are held up by bad weather we may find scarce species such as Lapland Bunting, Richard’s or Red-throated Pipits. Penduline and Bearded Tits can be seen sheltering in the reeds, and we have seen Black Woodpeckers in the lighthouse gardens!


Picking out Woodlarks from Skylark flocks or separating migrating Tree and Meadow Pipits is our challenge. This large diurnal passage is a completely new experience for many. Numerous rarities have graced Falsterbo over the years, but it is the migration spectacle that is most memorable.


A short distance inland, there is a large heath where raptors begin to thermal and gauge the weather before either heading out to sea or returning to hunt. Honey Buzzard, Common Buzzard, Red Kite and Sparrowhawk all move through in large numbers, with 15,000 of the latter being the average per autumn. Rough-legged Buzzard, Osprey, Goshawk, Peregrine, Merlin, Hobby and White-tailed Eagle are regular, while almost every raptor species regularly recorded in Europe has been seen here! Sightings of Pallid Harrier are increasing, and a ghostly male was our star bird one year.


If the weather is against them, the raptors move several miles inland to the 'Lake District'. If things are quiet on the coast, we will head into this area to search for them. Golden Eagles breed here and in the past we have seen them in the company of Red Kites, Rough-legged Buzzards and harriers. We have also found Crossbill, Nutcracker and Black Woodpecker in this area.



On day four we will drive north-east to the island of Öland for the second part of our trip. A bridge connects the island to the mainland and the journey takes about three hours.


Our accommodation is a wonderful converted farm, with home-cooked food served by our friendly hosts. It is a great place from which to explore the island.


The island is dominated by alvar heathland with scattered, stunted junipers. This UNESCO world heritage site, grazed since the Bronze Age, has inspired many bird artists and provides a temporary staging-ground for thousands of migrating cranes and geese. Around the coast, the meadows fall gently into the Baltic Sea, the shallow water providing roosting and feeding sites for waders, gulls and wildfowl. In turn these attract White-tailed Eagles, Rough-legged Buzzards and Hen Harriers, often in large numbers.


The waders that bred in the fields now feed by the shore alongside Pintail, Wigeon, and Barnacle and Brent Geese. Red-backed and Northern Grey Shrikes may be seen chasing tired migrants such as Redstarts, Red-throated Pipits, Lapland Buntings, Pied Flycatchers and Goldcrests.


Ottenby is a famous observatory lighthouse at the southern tip of the island where birds seek shelter in poor weather. On a previous visit, two Long-eared Owls sat in a small tree being mobbed by the small birds that had only just accompanied them across the Baltic! Further north, we estimated a thousand Robins in the small garden at Segerstad lighthouse. Although there was a single Red-breasted Flycatcher there, it was the sheer numbers of the common species that was the highlight.


Mergansers, eiders, scoters, cranes and thousands of geese can be seen moving along the coast. While many pass by offshore, it is also possible to see species associated with a sea-passage, such as Black-throated Diver, fly overhead. Little Gulls may rest on the point, pausing during their migration south. White-tailed Eagles are thriving, and follow the wildfowl flocks, singling out tired stragglers. To see a pair dwarfing the granite erratics where they perch, whilst surrounded by nervous geese, is a rare privilege.


Of course, large movements or falls of birds are dependent on weather patterns and so nothing is completely predictable. Last year we saw Pectoral Sandpiper and Steller’s Eider; the year before is was Buff-breasted Sandpiper almost within touching distance! It is the discovery of the unexpected that makes birding at this time of year so exciting.


On day seven we will head back south, in good time for our evening flight home.



At Falsterbo, we usually make a pre-breakfast excursion, returning for breakfast after 8am. On Oland, breakfast will normally be taken at 7am. Basic fitness is all that is required. Full days will be spent in the field and short/medium length walks will be undertaken regularly. There will be no uphill walking.



Full board accommodation is provided with three nights at a perfectly situated hotel in Falsterbo and three nights at the Gammalsby Garden Hotel, a charming converted farm, in Öland. All rooms have en suite bathrooms. Packed lunches will be taken every day.



All birdwatching excursions with expert leader, full-board accommodation, soft drinks at meal times, local transport by mini-bus, reserve entrance fees, international flight and airport taxes.



Our optional travel insurance, payable at the time of booking. Items of a personal nature, alcoholic drinks, laundry.



Return flight from Manchester to Copenhagen, using the scheduled services of Scandinavian. Outbound flight departs mid- morning, return flight arrives back early evening.



6 nights:


Principal leader:


Maximum group size:


Cost with discount

(if you book before

7th June 2008):


Full Cost:


Single supplement:




Insurance premium:



20th to 26th September 2008


Phil Palmer


7 clients with one leader or

13 clients with two leaders



£1190 per person sharing


£1290 per person sharing






£26 due at time of booking

(£39 for age 65 to 69)

(£52 for age 70 and over)



The photographs below were taken on our tours.

Thousands of Brambling and Chaffinches leave Sweden each Autumn. We can see hundreds flying overhead in the right conditions.

Dark morph Honey Buzzard, Ottenby lighthouse, Oland 2007

This Peregrine had been ringed in Finland before migrating to Oland where it chased this Ruff.

After missing the Ruff, it was mobbed by this gull as it gasped for breath above our heads. Ten minutes later it was trying to kill a Grey Plover!.


One of two Black Woodpeckers that tried to leave the country in 2007.

Falsterbo is famous for the massive number of migrants that pass through each autumn. Here, we see a gathering of Buzzards over the lighthouse.

Cranes at dawn - This shot was taken at dawn from the leader's bedroom window in 2006

On this tour, it is possible to wake up to the sound of trumpeting cranes - we even heard them while in the shower!

The Baltic coast of Öland.

A typical Öland windmill

One of thousands of Sparrowhawks that head out to sea from Falsterbo.

This Montagu's Harrier was resting in a field on Öland.

Merlins pass through Öland and Falsterbo in Autumn

In the right conditions views of Honey Buzzards are superb at Öland and Falsterbo.

The Hobby often takes advantage of the massive numbers of passerines gathered at Falsterbo.

A typical Öland farmhouse provides a wonderful base from which to go birding.

Falsterbo lighthouse is the oldest in the Baltic and synonymous with the Scandinavian migration spectacle.

Black Woodpeckers occasionally visit the lighthouse garden.

Berries grow on the ancient flower-rich alvar land of Öland.

Cranes on Öland.

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