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Birding Engerdal, Norway

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The municipality of Engerdal (in the county of Hedmark) in eastern Norway is a municipality with very few people, a lot of wilderness and some of the Scandinavian specialities many birders from further south in Europe drool over. There are lakes, marshes, mountain tops and A LOT of woodland and forest.

Broad-billed Sandpiper
Broad-billed Sandpiper - at a "new" site and one of the best possible reasons to visit Engerdal

Ruff, Engerdal, June 2016
Male Ruff, Engerdal, Norway June 2016. Although this species is rapidly disappearing from much of Norway one can still find them in Engerdal

Engerdal seems rather unexplored by birders and I definitely get the feeling there is plenty just waiting to be found - it is without a doubt a place to visit if you want to find your own stuff! Although there are a number of nature reserves in the area I have only visited a few of them. There are undoubtedly many more localities waiting to be found but be prepared to put in a bit of effort - much of the woodland can appear quite birdless at times. In June 2016 a singing second year male Red-flanked Bluetail was found here!

I have barely scratched the surface of birding in the area but spent a fair bit of time out and about in various places - and learn more each time I visit this fantastic area. I know that I will find more good sites and more good species in the future. Hopefully this page might point you in the right direction.

One recommendation to purchase is at least one map - it WILL be useful - both in the field and in order to find promising locations. It may sound incredible but I have yet to visit Engerdal with a telescope - this is something I need to correct as a scope would help A LOT at a number of localities - especially the larger lakes.

The main roads are of surprisingly good quality and it can be difficult to stay under the speed limit at times. However, many places are served by forest tracks which can be of  a very variable standard and may play havoc with a normal car. Engerdal is a place where SUVs are actually useful! Even in early June roads may still be closed due to snow or because of damage caused by floods caused by the spring thaw.

Road closed, Engerdal, June 2017
Be prepared for closed roads even well into June......

Even in winter a number of the Scandinavian specialites can be seen. Tengmalm's Owl can be heard advertising territories from mid February onwards......

Broad-billed Sandpiper, Pine Grosbeak, Waxwing, Hawk Owl, Pygmy Owl,  Siberian Jay, Three-toed Woodpecker, Hazel Hen, Capercaille, Icterine Warbler and more besides are all good reasons to visit Engerdal.

Rock Ptarmigan, Engerdal
Rock Ptarmigan, Engerdal, June 2016
This species takes over from Willow Grouse at higher altitudes.

Sometimes one just has to slam on the brakes - Pygmy Owl, Engerdal, April 2019
Sometimes you just have to slam on the brakes and come to a stop!
Pygmy Owl hunting birds at a feeder in someones garden, Engerdal, April 2019

Crane, Engerdal, May 2021
Yet another reason to slam on the brakes (I leave a lot of rubber behind in Engerdal....)
Cranes are a regular sight in Engerdal, usually more distant than this bird posing in May 2021

Galtsjøen, Engerdal, Hedmark, October 2015
Galtsjøen, October 2015

Galtsjøen is covered in the "Birders guide to Norway" and is a nature reserve. It is always worth checking - I have seen a decent selection of wildfowl as well as Crane and Pine Grosbeak here. A telescope is highly recommended for scanning the lake.

Kvisleflået is a huge nature reserve consisting of open woodland, marshes and small lakes. It is the best place to go birding in Engerdal that I have visited so far and one of the few places I have put some effort into. To get the most out of this area a map and compass (or these days I should probably say GPS) is necessary as is waterproof footwear and mosquito repellent. Insects have not been too bothersome during my visits thus far but the potential is obviously there.

For me the main reason to go here is Siberian Jay - I have seen them easily on all but one of my visits. I have seen Crane in the immediate vicinity and it would not be surprising if they were also present in the reserve itself.

A nice variety of waders  breed in the area incuding some really special ones (that I haven't connected with yet!). The commonest waders in the area I have managed to cover thus far are Wood Sandpiper and Whimbrel. Greenshank and Redshank are also common.

Wildfowl in this area include Whooper Swan, Teal and Goldeneye.

Quite a few passerines breed in the area with Yellow Wagtail, Redstart and Whinchat being some of the more obvious.

Siberian Jay
Siberian Jay are the easiest of the target species to connect with in Engerdal

Willow Grouse, Engerdal, June 2016
Willow Grouse, Engerdal, Norway, June 2016

Three-toed Woodpecker, Engerdal, September 2016
Three-toed Woodpecker are regular, if rather sparsely distributed in Engerdal

Tengmalm's Owl, Engerdal, May 2021
Tengmalm's Owl, Engerdal, May 2021
These birds were ringed under somewhat unfortunate circumstances, the male died having flown into a window but helpful neighbours provided extra food for the chicks and most at least left the nestbox:)
I  have a couple of sites I will be trying to keep an eye on in the future....

Juvenile Whinchat Male thumbergi Yellow Wagtail
Juvenile Whinchat, Kvisflået, July 2014 Male thumbergi Yellow Wagtails are a cracking bird! Kvisleflået, July 2014
Spotted Flycatcher Common Crane
Spotted Flycatcher are a common breeder in Engerdal, Pitcure taken in September in Øygarden Common Crane are a widespread species in Engerdal. Photo taken from the car at Kvilten, July 2014

Kvisleflået, Engerdal, October 2015
View of Kvisleflået from near Svarthammeren, October 2015

Roskarven, Engerdal, October 2015
View of the treeline towards Roskarven, October 2015
Picture taken from near Svarthammeren - on a day with hundreds, if not thousands of Fieldfare, were gorging themselves on the vast numbers of berries on the slopes

Just to the south of the nature reserve there is an area that contains a number of holiday cabins and has a good network of prepared cross-country skiing trails during the winter months. These trails pass some intruigingly named places which, when translated directly from Norwegian appear almost obscene. Despite the names of these placea this area (near Kvilten) is a fantastic place to see Siberian Jay - one of the relatively few species able to survive the winter here. I have explored this area almost exclusively on skis but the area is undoubtedly worth visiting during the spring and summer too.

Drevsjø / Vurusjøen
Vurusjøen is a productive lake which houses quite a few species.

Black-throated Diver, Engerdal
Black-throated Diver are widespread in Engerdal and good numbers can be seen on both Drevsjø and Vurrusjø

The highlight here must be the good numbers of Black-throated Divers that gather to feed on the lake - numbers can get into double figures at times. Crane can also be seen in the area.

During the autumn seaduck stop here on their way down from their breeding grounds - I have seen Greater Scaup, Common Scoter and Velvet Scoter here in October and Long-tailed Duck on lakes nearby at the same time.

Vurrusjøren, Engerdal, Hedmark, Norway
Dawn over Vurrusjøen, October 2015

This is just one of the places I have seen Pine Grosbeak in the autumn.

Heggeriset/ Engersjøen
This is the area in which I have spent the most time. Among Norway's real specialities I have seen here are Hazel Grouse, Tengmalm's Owl, Capercaille, Black Woodpecker and Grey-headed Woodpecker. There are definitely some more birds to see in the area. The surrounding hills seem attractive to a number of species including Hawk Owl (at least during autumn / winter) and Black Grouse.

Whooper Swans, Heggeriset, February 2015
Whooper Swans are present in Engerdal throughout the year - as long as there are areas of ice-free water.
This picture was taken at Heggeriset in February 2015

Even during winter Whooper Swans can be found on the few ice-free areas - such as the river running into the north end of the lake.

By April the lake (Engersjøen) houses a variety of duck and Whooper swans on ice free areas. In the summer Goldeneye and Goosander breed locally and the former are particularly common, small numbers of Black-thoated Diver are regular too. I have seen Osprey here during the summer months and Golden Eagle can often be seen soaring over the valley. Dipper are common around the lake and on the river.

Black-bellied Dipper
Black-bellied Dipper, Isteren, Engerdal, October 2014

A selection of woodland species, including Black Grouse and Capercaille are present on the slopes. Mistle Thrush, a localised species in Norway, are a regular feature. Later in the sping (at least up to an including late May) the fields next to the river may flood and become productive for a number of waders - largely the usual suspects but I have seen Great Snipe and Red-necked Phalarope here more or less side by side. The latter two species were no doubt migrants heading up to breed in areas still covered by snow.

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike, Heggeriset, Engerdal, October 2014

Singing Icterine Warbler, Heggeriset, Engerdal, June 2017
One of a couple of singing Icterine Warblers present at Heggeriset, Engerdal, June 2017

Engersjøen, June 2016

Dunlin, Heggeriset, Engerdal, June 2017
Dunlin occur as migrants and I have also seen them on breeding habitat on the tops. This bird dropped in at Heggeriset in June 2017

During the autumn some good migration can be observed here with big numbers of thrushes and finches moving through. I have had Crane, Waxwing and Great Grey Shrike here as passage birds in mid September - mid October.

Siberian Jay terrain, Kuhølen in Engerdal, Hedemark
Siberian Jay landscape, Kuhølen in Engerdal, Hedmark, February 2015 - at least four Sibe Jays and a Black Grouse were seen during a brief pause during a skiing trip here.

This is a locality that is not in "A Birdwatchers Guide to Norway" and a typical example of how easy it is to find one's own places with the aid of a map. It looked good on the map and is good in reality.

This area is much more open and the trail here goes right at the tree limit. For numbers of birds this is the best place I have visited thus far - without finding anything really special. There are higher tops surrounding the valley which I have not yet had the chance to explore.
Brambling, Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat, Wheatear, Meadow pipit and of course Willow Warbler are the commonest species here. Several species of wader breed here including Wood Sandpiper and Whimbrel.

During the autumn the number of species to be seen in Rødal drops considerably but quality can make up for quantity. Autumn passage birds observed here have included Hawk Owl and Rough-legged Buzzard.

Hawk Owl
Hawk Owl are a possibility in Engerdal - at least during autumn and winter. They seem to favour areas on, or close to, the tree line. This particular picture was taken in Øygarden, October 2014

Hawk Owl, Engerdal, September 2016
Hawk Owl, Engerdal, September 2016

Mountain tops / upland
On higher ground above the treeline a variety of wildfowl along with Ptarmigan and other upland species can be found. Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Tufted Duck and Wigeon are the commonest of the breeding ducks. One of the commonest waders on the tops is Golden Plover.

Long-tailed Duck, Engerdal, June 2016
Male Long-tailed Duck, Engerdal, June 2016

Although it is possible to travel to Engerdal with public transport the nature of the birding means that a car will almost certainly be necessary.

Røskdalsknappen, Engerdal
There are always new places to find / explore - here is one of the latest "new" places - Røskdalsknappen.
Amazing views and good potential to watch visible migration
Picture from October 2019

Overnight accomodation:
There is a variety of accomodation available in the area.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl are always a nice surprise, Engerdal, July 2014

Female Capercaille, Engerdal, May 2021
Capercaille, Engerdal, May 2021

Waxwing, Svarthammeren, Engerdal, October 2015 Scaup, Vurrusjøen, Engerdal, October 2015
Waxwing, Svarthammeren, Engerdal, October 2015 Greater Scaup, Vurrusjøen, Engerdal, October 2015

Hazel Grouse, Engerdal, March 2018
Typical view of Hazel Grouse, Engerdal, March 2018
I regularly manage to get quite close to this species but an unobstructed photograph is another matter....

Publications, information and books

Links to other websites covering Engerdal can be found below:

Engerdal and Femund

Other wildlife

A wide variety of fish live in the lakes and rivers. I have caught Grayling (harr), Trout (ørret) and Char (røye).

Elk are numerous - tracks and signs are everywhere and they can be seen in the woods if one is quiet. Flocks of tame Reindeer are common in the area around Drevsjø. Roe deer are the commonest mammal I encounter during my birding trips. Beaver are obviously a common species but it is not easy to see the animals themselves despite the fact there is evidence of them all over the place.

I have seen Otter at Heggeriset, even in the depths of winter when the vast majority of fresh water is frozen.

Bear and Wolf are all present - although I have yet to be lucky enough to see them.

Beaver, Engerdal, June 2017
Beaver, June 2017

It is easy to see where Beavers have been busy!
Busy Beaver, February 2019

Elk, Kvisleflået, Engerdal, Hedmark
Elk can move surprisingly quietly at speed through the woods. This one suddenly rushed past as I approached some Siberian Jays

Red Squirrel
Red Squirrel, Heggeriset, April 2014

Red Squirrel, Galtsjøen
Red Squirrel, Galtsjøen, September 2016

Fox cub, Engerdal, Norway, June 2020
Fox cub near Guttulia, Engerdal, June 2020
One of three cute cubs seen hanging around on the verge.

Mountain Hare, Engerdal, Norway, May 2021
Mountain Hares, Engerdal, May 2021
In May some individuals have changed to their summer coat while others are just that bit more visible:)

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