Birds of the Swedish Winter

The amazing goshawk which delighted the photographers in front of their hide photographed by Robin Lowry during the NaturesLens Golden Eagles of the Swedish Winter Photography Holiday

Ok, let me start by talking about the elephant in the room for the 2020 Birds of the Swedish Winter tour! On this tour, the golden eagles did not visit us, even though they were in the area. There could be a few reasons why this may have happened. We know that one of the male area eagles had gone missing & we believe it may have sadly died. We are patiently waiting to see when another young male eagle takes over its territory. Also, the weather could be some of the reason too, by not being cold enough. The temperature was above zero for a lot of the time, which is too warm for some of the eagles that live in this area to be hungry to come in & feed. There are around five different golden eagle nest sites within this territory. With so many potential eagles to visit, it was extraordinary not to see any at all here on this trip. Sadly, the eagle not showing up has happened only once before around 8-9 years ago during the 35 years Conny has been monitoring & watching the eagles, so it’s uncommon for this to have occurred.

NaturesLens plan this trip for when the eagles are the most likely to come down to the hides which are early March.
Previously, during the 2019 trip the eagles turned up every day, & on some days they turned up once in the morning & again in the afternoon.
There is a silver lining to our seemingly ‘bad luck’ though. With no eagles coming in, other wildlife started to turn up in abundance. We had a mighty female goshawk with us for a good couple of hours, red squirrels would visit every morning, & we had one of the closest encounters with a red fox, the likes of which only happens once in a blue moon!
Let’s get back to my blog about this holiday of actually seeing & taking incredible images of the wildlife in a snowy landscape of Northern Sweden.
Our journey started in London, a few of us met at Heathrow airport for our flight to Stockholm & the connecting flight to Skellefteå & finally on to our accommodation by car. The journey went without a hitch, well almost! One of our guest’s bag didn’t arrive at Skellefteå airport, but fortunately, he had his camera bag with him, sadly he had a few items missing. I managed to sort everything out for our first photographic day, & the next day his bag was at the house we were staying at, so all was good. This is one of the duties of a guide, to make sure we help & take as much stress out of a trip as possible when things sometime don’t go according to plan!
Day One – This was spent photographing anything that moved. It was good to get it out of everyone’s system! But during the latter part of the day when everyone was more relaxed, I noticed a big ‘wildlife shaped’ object had arrived. Too small for an eagle but large enough to be a raptor. As I looked closer, I could see it was a Juvenile female goshawk that had flown in. Wow! We gently took a few images as she fed – you can see these below but also above at the top of this blog posting. She came closer, & she was with us for almost 2 hours in the end. What an encounter, & that doesn’t often happen at all!
After that, it was time to get picked up, taken back to the house & for us to be treated to a home-cooked meal. Bedtime was soon upon us as we had an early start of 4.30 am for breakfast & to be in the hide by around 5.15 am before it got light. The hide is heated, & it was my job to make sure everyone was nice & toasty & to stoke the fire on occasions to make sure it was warm enough which would be the pattern for the rest of our trip.
Day Two – Once in the hide at around 5.15 am, we waited for the sun to rise. It wasn’t long before we were treated to a very friendly red squirrel that would sit & eat, then move around & appear somewhere else nearby, giving us some great opportunities for beautiful images. Approximately 10 am the snow started to fall, & we began to get some ‘Christmas card’ images of the smaller birds, like the fantastic bullfinch & great spotted woodpeckers. Then we had our most memorable encounter of this trip—a stunning red fox.
The fox stayed a distance away to start with, which is normal. In the wintery landscape with the snow falling, the red fox was looking incredible, & everyone had a massive grin on their face. Then the fox started to move towards the hide.
This is very uncommon. In fact, the last time a fox came close to the hide was December 2019! Everyone got some unique close-ups which hardly anyone else gets, so day two was awesome!
Once back in the house having our evening meal, the conversation was all about the fox! It was soon bedtime because again we had an early start of a 4.30 am breakfast & then a short trip in the car to the hide so we would be in there by 5.15 am.

Days Three & Four – Both days were sunny days warm for Northern Sweden, about 1 or 2 degrees above freezing. We were still hopeful an eagle would show up, but alas this is wildlife, & nothing can be guaranteed. We were treated to the red squirrel again, this time as the sun rose.

This gave the images a beautiful warm glow against the snowy floor. Another species which is hard to predict if it will be around is the grey-headed woodpecker.
Both the male & female, which are not always common to see here, put on an excellent show for us by moving from an old birch tree to other areas giving us great views & photographs.
There were also lots of bullfinches, greenfinches, willow tits, great tits, blue tits, great spotted woodpeckers, red poles & jays to keep us occupied too. We decided to try & get some of these smaller birds in flight which is much harder than eagles! We all had some success, & with the amount of activity from the birds, there was always something to photograph. We stepped outside to capture images of the starry night sky from the house we were staying in on a clear evening after dinner too.
After day 4 in the hide was over, & again the day was filled with lots of active wildlife to photograph throughout the whole day, it was back to the house to have our last evening’s lovely home-cooked meal & discuss the entire trip. It’s fair to say that everyone did have a fantastic time, even though it was slightly disappointing the eagle didn’t show – well it did on a trail cam the day we were leaving. Leaving the area knowing this was bitter/sweet. Still, at least a female golden eagle is doing fine, & myself & the guests didn’t mind as we had had some extraordinary encounters, not many people get to experience. There is always next year, I guess!
Join Conny & Robin, both veterans of the Swedish Winter, both members of the NaturesLens guiding team, from the 2nd-7th March 2021 in Skellefteå on this 5-night photography tour to Sweden.
You will spend full days in the hides, making the most of the changing light conditions throughout the day to take the most spectacular photographs of the visiting wildlife.

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