Skip to navigation, or go to main content.

WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Sweden: Fall Migration at Falsterbo

2023 Narrative

It was another excellent week of migration-watching and birding in southern Sweden, with our first full day on the Falsterbo peninsula proving to be perfect for a mass movement of finches: 60,000 Common Chaffinches, 10,000 Eurasian Siskins, and a supporting cast of several other species. Over the course of the week, we caught up with 137 species, including multiple birds characteristic of the region and Falsterbo in particular: a Pallid Harrier, three Red-throated Pipits, a Black Woodpecker, Crested Tits, Bearded Tits, white-headed Long-tailed Tits, multiple Firecrests two Hobbies, three White-tailed Eagles, a Great Grey Shrike, and a night-time Tawny Owl. Add that on top of a week with beautiful coastal scenery and plenty of good food, and it was a trip to remember!

IN DETAIL: After gathering at Copenhagen International Airport on Sunday 24th October, we crossed the Öresund Bridge into Sweden and headed straight for Trelleborg on Skåne’s south coast. There, we found a host of birds to kick our tour off with, including hordes of Greylag Geese, European Herring Gulls and Northern Lapwings. Three handsome European Golden Plovers dropped in, where they joined a Ruff and a Common Redshank and, in the nearby bushes, we enjoyed good views of our first Common Chiffchaffs as well as our only Lesser Whitethroat of the week.

After a delicious Chilean-inspired lunch (at a restaurant run by a former winner of Swedish MasterChef, no less), we got back to birding. On the pools close to the restaurant, we enjoyed close views of Common Greenshanks and Wood Sandpipers, as well as a migrant Great Spotted Woodpecker, which landed briefly in a small tree by the parking lot.

Checking into the hotel, some of the group were lucky enough to see our first Common Cranes of the tour: a party of that flew directly overhead. A wander north of the hotel saw us catching up with Common Redstart and Eurasian Curlew.

Our first full day on the peninsula dawned and, even from the short walk from the hotel to the van, it was apparently that today was going to be a good day for finch migration. We hotfooted it to Falsterbo lighthouse, where, before we’d even parked the car, flocks of migrating Common Chaffinches and Eurasian Siskins were evident, passing low over the golf course and along the coast. Over the next hour, we were mesmerised by around 60,000 migrating Common Chaffinches, 10,000 Eurasian Siskins, hundreds of Blue Tits and Meadow Pipits, and smaller – but still equally impressive – numbers of scarcer species such as Woodlarks, Common Crossbills and European Goldfinches. Raptors were on the move, too, with dozens of Eurasian Sparrowhawks, a European Honey-buzzard, and a Eurasian Hobby, which battled slowly into the headwind – a rare, prolonged sighting of this usually fleeting falcon.

From the lighthouse, we made the short walk to the southernmost terra firma at Falsterbo – Nabben. Here we continued to enjoy the wonderful migration, adding Red-throated Pipit (a duo migrating at close range) and Common Scoter to the list, as well as Common Pochard, Pied Avocet and Black-bellied Plover, all three of which were present on the lagoon.

After lunch, we headed to an area just north of the peninsula and onto the peninsula at Lilla Hammar. Here, we found several Great Egrets, a White-tailed Eagle, a Hen Harrier, a Yellow Wagtail amongst the much more numerous Whites, and our third Red-throated Pipit of the day. News was filtering through of a steady stream (well, eight) of Pallid Harriers passing through Falsterbo since we left, so the decision was made to head back onto the peninsula to find a 9th – a heady task, considering eight was the second-highest day total on the peninsula ever. Surely southern Skåne was empty of Pallid Harriers by now… but apparently not! Over the reed bed north of the lighthouse, with a juvenile Hen Harrier from comparison, we found a chocolate-orange juvenile male Pallid Harrier!

On Tuesday morning, migration slowed somewhat, but impressive number of finches and pipits were still passing over when we reached the reed beds at Flommen. We were treated to a close view of some birds that had been caught for banding, including a Common Reed Warbler and a male Blackcap. While standing at Flommen, we could hear a Black Woodpecker calling in the distance so, before lunch, we went to investigate at a likely spot – Falsterbo Park. Initially there was no sign of any Black Woodpeckers, so we settled down with some tea and coffee for a spot of raptor watching. This turns out to be particularly productive, with plenty of European Honey-buzzards, Common Buzzards and Red Kites passing overhead, as well as a single Hen Harrier and at least six Black Kites. Before we left for lunch, we checked one last time for Black Woodpeckers – and there was one! A male Black Woodpecker gave spectacular views as it drummed and called from the top of a dead tree just a matter of yards away from us. After lunch, we headed back to Trelleborg where, amongst the usual suspects, we found several Caspian Gulls and two Rock Pipits.

On Wednesday, day 4, we headed north of Malmö to start the day at the Swedish agricultural college’s Alnarp campus. The campus consists of a mature woodland and arboretum and is a haven for woodland birds. Before we’d even left the parking lot, we enjoyed close views of several Blackcaps feeding on berries in a hedge. Carefully checking the Yews and coniferous trees, we found five Firecrests. Elsewhere, we encountered Eurasian Nuthatches, a Eurasian Treecreeper, plenty of European Robins, and a brief Green Woodpecker. Next, we drove the short distance to the coast at Lomma. Here, in the shallow, sandy bay, we found a flock of Dunlin, two Caspian Gulls (including a Czech-ringed bird), a single Red Knot and, offshore, a Razorbill.

After lunch on the university campus, we headed south via the centre of Malmö. A brief stop added Common Moorhen to the list – which, unlike its North American equivalent, the Common Gallinule, is happy to strut around out in the open. A little further south, just out of the city boundary, we stopped at Klagshamn. A host of waterbirds were present in the bay, including three (very) distant Dark-bellied Brants.

Day 6, September 28th, we headed inland, first to the Vomb area. Within moments of stepping out of the vehicle, we were treated to point-blank views of our too woodland target species: Marsh Tit and Crested Tit. Often, these species can take a little searching for, so this quick find put us well ahead of schedule. We used to available time to head to the Krankesjön. In the woodland by the car park, we found a mixed tit flock, including many Long-tailed Tits – like little snowballs with long tails, and perhaps the cutest bird of the tour! A little further on, we struck gold: a flock of about 15 Bearded Tits picking gravel off the boardwalk. We enjoyed unobscured views of these usually elusive birds for a good ten minutes or so.

One more stop before lunch – the grand riding stables at Flyinge Kungsgård, where we caught up with 16 White Storks, including a pair making a very late (or very, very early?) nesting attempt. We headed to Dalby in search of ‘Malmö’s national dish’ – falafel – via a quick stop to see a Viking rune stone. After lunch, we briefly visited the forests around Vomb again before returning to Krankesjön, this time to the observation tower. Our luck continued, with a fly-over Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and our second Eurasian Hobby of the trip. Just as we were leaving, we found two Yellowhammers in the car park.

The day wasn’t over yet, though; after dinner, we headed out into Falsterbo park with a thermal-imaging scope and a torch. After a short while, we had eyes on our target: a Tawny Owl, which showed well in the tree above us and then flew straight over our heads.

We started early on Friday morning with a pre-breakfast walk to the coastal trig point west of the hotel. Here we found a host of shorebirds, including our first Bar-tailed Godwits of the tour and a single Black-tailed Godwit.

After breakfast, we drove to the north end of Knösen, where we found a flock of migrant Goldcrests, before we returned to the Skanör harbour area, where we were treated to great views of Common Greenshank and Common Snipe, as well as close looks at ten Spotted Redshanks.

In the afternoon, we went inland to the area around Skurup. On the lake at Näsbyholm, we found hundreds of Greylag Geese and Common Pochards, with dozens of Red Kites and a fly-by Hen Harrier also present in the area. By the quaint town of Gärdslöv, a stop to look at a melanistic Common Pheasant led us to a sunflower field full of finches – mostly Chaffinches, but with several tens of Bramblings, too. Finally, we stopped at a viewpoint where two White-tailed Eagles were present.

On our final day, we started at Falsterbo lighthouse, where we were able to peruse the observatory shop and enjoy a cinnamon bun. A strong westerly wind meant that most activity was on the sea this morning, with large flocks of Common Scoter and Common Eider, as well as five brief Velvet Scoters. Despite the wind, there was still a reasonable passage of finches overhead, predominantly Common Chaffinches. Ahead of lunch, we too a look around the southern end of Knösen, close to the new cemetery and an area known as Robert’s Dunge. Here we encountered what, relatively speaking, might have been the rarest bird of the trip – although it wasn’t a new bird for the list. It was a Marsh Tit, a bird that is less than annual at Falsterbo with just six banded in the observatory’s 43-year history. In the same patch of wood there was a Firecrest and, on the other side of the horse paddocks, a Great Grey Shrike was perched on top of a solar panel.

After our last lunch on the peninsula, we decided to make the most of the strong southerly winds with some seawatching off Malmö. Several Razorbills passed by, including some at close range, as did half a dozen Caspian Gulls, our only Lesser Black-backed Gull of the trip and, diving offshore, ten or so Northern Gannets. A migrating Merlin dashed by just as we were leaving – a fitting end to a blustery day and an exceptional week of migration-watching in and around Falsterbo.

In total, 137 species were seen by the group during the week – a new record for the trip.

All that was left was for the group to decided on their ‘bird of the trip’ – and it was a tough choice, with several fine candidates. Crested Tit, Bearded Tit, Black Woodpecker and the impressive migration of Common Chaffinches all made the top 5, but the winner once the votes had been counted up was Falsterbo Park’s Tawny Owl.

Updated: n/a