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Migrating Sparrowhawk at Falsterbo, Sweden

Falsterbo, Sweden
Arguably the best place to bird in Europe, Falsterbo requires no introduction to European birders. Although not particularly noted for rarities it is a migration fanatics dream. A very family friendly birding destination, at least early in the season when the rest of the family can enjoy the wonderful sandy beach. There is also a golf course and all manner of other activities in the area. The city of Malmø is within easy bus or driving distance.

This locality is best known for the fantastic autumn migration of raptors - 1000s can be seen in a single day. However, there is MUCH more to Falsterbo than just birds of prey. Visible migration of passerines and wildfowl, plenty of waders....this place has it all!

Two of the commonest raptors at Falsterbo: Honey Buzzard and Common Buzzard
Honey Buzzard Common Buzzard
Typical dark juvenile Honey Buzzard, Falsterbo, September 2015 Common Buzzard, Falsterbo, September 2015

I have visited Falsterbo a number of times over the years between July and October and always had excellent birding. Apart from the birding the opportunity to meet other birders from all over Europe is another attraction of this locality. My first visits were in 1982 and during my first day of birding there on 01 September 1982 I had two lifers - Red-throated and Tawny Pipit. Since then I have never looked back.

During one recent trip (my shortest ever visit with just one afternoon and one morning in the field) I saw over 90 species without even trying - and missed out on plenty of the common species seen both the day before I arrived and the day after I left. I am often asked about the best time to visit - there is no good answer for this as it all depends on which species one wants to see.

Birding Falsterbo
There are plenty of choices for birding in the area; once there you need never leave. Although there are some excellent localities a short drive inland I much prefer to hire a bicycle and have a more relaxing experience rather than merely increase the already large list of species to be seen. There are plenty of cycle paths in the area and this really is the best way to see the area in my opinion.

I almost always start the day at "Nabben", the southernmost point on the Swedish mainland, arrive early to make sure you get a good place to stand and the best of the migration. Even if the migration is quiet there is still plenty to see - large numbers of terns, waders and waterfowl rest in the area.  An incredible observation at the Nabben from 07 July 1962 was an elephant seen swimming south, rounding the headland and disappearing into the Baltic....

A few hints for birding at the Nabben :
1) If you are with friends and talking a lot stay away from the official counters - they don't need the distraction.
2) A few Swedish birdnames may help - "labb" for skua and "lom" for diver. Keep an ear out for these names....
3) Don't wander around the golf course! Keep to the paths - much safer and less irritating to others.

View over Ljungen (the heath), Falsterbo Path to Nabben, Falsterbo
View over Ljungen (the heath), Falsterbo, September 2015 The "new" path to Nabben as seen from the lighthouse
Migrating Brent Geese, Nabben, Falsterbo Raptors, Ljungen, Flasterbo, September 2015
Migrating Brent Geese, Nabben, September 2015 Mixed flock of raptors, Ljungen, Falsterbo, Spetember 2015
This is what it is all about - these birds are mostly Red Kite and Common Buzzard

One can spend the whole day here but I generally leave and do other things in the afternoon. This can be one of a number of things depending on the weather. The most usual thing to do is to go and sit in the sun at the heath (Ljungen) and watch migrating raptors; a great place to sit and eat a late lunch. Another raptor alternative is "the canal".

Should the weather not be suitable for raptors then one can explore the wetlands or woodlands that surround the area - there is plenty to choose from. 

Eurasian Curlew Sparrowhawk
Curlew, Nabben, September 2007 Sparrowhawk, Nabben, September 2007
Black-headed Gull Great Cormorant
Black-headed Gull, Nabben, September 2007 Cormorant (sinensis), Nabben, September 2007

Be careful.....
Taking your children to Falsterbo may condemn them to a life of birding. Staying at the observatory in the company of the ringers and other keen birders at an immpressionable age can result in long term and irrepairable birding interests. During my visits in the early 80's I went out each morning with the ringers to the "Flommen" where I was allowed to assist; at the time it was great fun and extremely educational - something which I should be very grateful for. However, it did mean that I can no longer live a normal life with interests that other people can relate to.....

The bird observatory
Staying at the bird observatory is one of the cheapest forms of accomodation in the area. One of the advantages of staying here is its proximity to Nabben (half an hours walking will get you there). The atmosphere is very "birdy" - early to bed and extremely early out and about in the mornings; evenings are spent talking about birds and birding, catching up on the latest news and so on. There is no TV in the sitting / dining room.....thankfully!

Apart from the potential dangers of exposing your children to the full on birding environment of the bird observatory the only negative point I have is that the beds are a little on the short side if one is over 1.9m tall.....

Male Wigeon Mute Swans in flight
Male Eurasian Wigeon, Nabben, September 2007 Mute Swans, Nabben, September 2007
Migrating Sparrowhawk, Nabben, September 2015 Migrating Stock Doves, Nabben, September 2015
Migrating Sparrowhawk, Nabben, September 2015 Migrating Stock Doves, Nabben, September 2015

Publications, information and books
There are a number of books and other publications available about birding in Falsterbo - see the link below for further details. "Wings over Falsterbo" is a superb book to have both prior to and after a trip. The website also has a selection of latest sightings and observations that is well worth a look.

I have a number of books and other publications about Falsterbo, the most recent is the 50 year anniversary special issue. Unfortunately only available in Swedish, it contains gems from the history of birding at Falsterbo including extracts from the daily log. Thankfully the only reference to me or my family in there is a picture from 1984 when we ate the Swedfsh speciality of rotten herrings. The author has been very kind in ommitting a couple of other more regrettable episodes......

Click on the following link to go to the Falsterbo bird observatory web pages:
Falsterbo bird observatory

The lighthouse at Falsterbo A very quiet day at the heath, Falsterbo
Falsterbo lighthouse viewed from "nabben" The heath is the most popular location for watching raptors

There is a good choice of accomodation in the Falsterbo area ranging from the campsite and the bird observatory to hotels. The main advantage of the campsite is its proximity to the heath; the campsite can sometimes be full in the summer but there is usually plenty of room in the autumn. Theft by humans is not common and the only things I have had go missing have been due to foxes - one stole the last of my food during a summer visit and, on another occasion, a fox made off with a pair of hiking boots, one of which was found well chewed up and the other was never relocated....

There are a few restaurants, pubs and a fast food kiosk in Falsterbo itself.

Apart from optics and cameras you will benefit from some of the literature available from the SOF website (link above), in addition the following two books will help things along considerably:

Getting there
Malmø is the closest city, although travelling to Copenhagen may often be a better (or cheaper) option. For birders visiting from Norway the train is another good option.

The train from Copenhagen (from either the city centre or the airport) leaves every 20 minutes and costs leass than 150 Danish Kroner for a return ticket.

The bus from Malmø to Falsterbo now leaves from the bus terminal, right next to the train station (no longer from just over the canal from the train station!) and runs very regularly - an excellent service.

The lighthouse at Falsterbo Birders at dawn, Nabben
Falsterbo lighthouse viewed from "nabben", the golf course in the foreground Birders at dawn, Nabben
Migrating Red Kite, Falsterbo Rough-legged Buzzard, Falsterbo, September 2015
MIgrating Red Kite, September 2015 Rough-legged Buzzard, Ljungen, Falsterbo, September 2015

Migrating Hobby, Falsterbo
Migrating Eurasian Hobby at "Nabben", September 2007

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