Monday, 26 August 2013

Falsterbo exceeds all expectations

I arrived home late yesterday from a fantastically satisfying and inspirational weekend in Falsterbo for a joint meeting of the Nordic Rarities Committees. This was the first meeting of its type and was to share experiences, look for common ways of working and to hear new ID criteria developed by some of the individual committee members. The real highlight though was that the one and only Mr. Lars Svensson held three presentations on new and challenging species groups. To hear him present and then grab the seat next to him at dinner (everyone else was too hesitant) was for a birder a truly orgasmic experience :-). We were also treated to some very thorough work on difficult species by some of the Swedes and were also visited by another leading ID expert, the Italian Andrea Corso. I will be writing an article on the meeting for the Norwegian Ornithological Societies (NOF) magazine so will not reveal everything here.
and God decreed that his birders should go out and find the birds formally known as Subalpine Warbler

We were inside from 0900 until 1700 each day but from dawn we were able to enjoy the migration spectacle that Falsterbo is famous for. Even though we were there on REALLY quiet days the birding still superseded what I am used to in Norway. Now, my Norwegian list is rather on the low side which is a product of living in Oslo and not really twitching but even so it was a surprise that in Southern Sweden I saw 7 species that I have never seen in Norway (although have seen elsewhere) of which four would be national rarities at home.
Spot the Buff-breasted Sandpiper with the bridge between Denmark and Sweden in the background
would be nice to see all these stripes in Norway

Black and Red Kite. They were only 20 or so metres from each other but I failed to get them both in the same (unmanipulated) shot

Rarest bird was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper (rustsnipe), followed by a fly over Tawny Pipit (markpiplerke)), Firecrest (rødtoppfuglekonge) and Black Kite (svartglente). I also had a Serin (gulirisk) which is also a national rarity in Norway but one I have seen. I will let you guess the three other species that I saw but have yet to see in Norway (it’s too embarrassing for me to write myself).
Even though things were quiet there was a constant stream of Yellow Wagtails (gulerle), Tree Pipits (trepiplerke), Swallows (låvesvale) and Sparrowhawks (spurvehauk) heading over to Denmark and as always visible migration was a joy to behold.

We also saw the way the bird Observatory at Falsterbo works and got to hear about the approach to ringing in Sweden. I have to say that the Swedes are really impressive and their methods, approach and reasons for ringing really does put Norway to shame. But then again I guess Sweden has always been a leading nation when it comes to ornithology. As a Brit it can be easy to think that the Brits lead the way but per capita the Swedes have surely had more influential ornithologists and top notch artists/illustrators.
It was also good to see many youngsters birding and ringing at Falsterbo and some clearly were already very knowledgeable. On the theme of young Swedes I can replay the weekends most embarrassing moment: I was speaking to one of the Swedish members, Hans Larsson, who had presented (very impressively) his work on separating Common (tårnseiler) and Pallid Swifts (gråseiler) which had uncovered that many previously used characters were downright wrong. Knowing that he was an artist I asked him if it was just paintings or whether he also illustrated in guides. He said he had illustrated a couple of small books of gulls, terns and skuas. “Oh really” I replied, “what gull book”? “Oh you know" he replied “Gulls”. My brain goes into overdrive....does he mean the major authoritative book of that name that first came out over 10 years ago, the one by Malling Olsen and Larsson ?...but surely he can’t be old enough to have been the artist for that book. “How old were you when you painted the illustrations?” I asked. “17” was the reply. Cue blushing, clearing of the throat and a sudden desire to change the subject. How much of an idiot did I feel?
Here are a few pictures from the weekend.
The participants. Desåite the males of the species displaying a fine array of breeding plumages it looks like this species is doomed to die out due to an inability to find a mate

Hans Larsson, a Sparrowhawk and Björn Malmhagen who leads the Falsterbo Bird Observatory and was the organisor of the conference

Falsterbo lighthouse which is where the ringing is done. In the background we see Nabben which is the tip of the perninsular where the migration counting is done. All good birding locations have to have a lighthouse

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